Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nothing to Write Home About

Nothing profound happened today. Nothing at all. I woke up, got ready, fed Iain, took him to school, came home, cleaned my house, did some schoolwork, picked up our Christmas Cards, ate lunch, went to the bank, went to Target, replied to some emails, picked Iain up, played trains, fixed dinner, gave Iain a bath, read some stories, and watched Private Practice.

See. Nothing interesting.

So, I need to figure out what to write when the day doesn't provide much material. Should I write a short story, reflect on something I read, present a dilemna, post pictures, or just let it go?

For today, I'm letting it go. Nobody wants to read filler, and at the moment, that's all this is!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Advice Poll

Can someone please give me a simple way to say, "I'm not interested." I've been on several first dates now, and I have yet to master the art of "Thanks, but no thanks."

The first time around, I said yes to the second date before I realized that it might be unwise to date someone who within the first twenty minutes of meeting him confessed to having anger issues and a restraining order against him. When he followed up on my "yes.", I took the easy way out and sent him an email saying I didn't think I was "ready to date."

The second time around, I spent eight hours with the guy, enjoying the conversation and the company but had to admit that I just wasn't attracted to him. When he called to ask me out again, I tried to be honest and say that either I wasn't ready or he wasn't the right one. That obviously didn't work too well, becuase he conitnues to call and invite me to art shows and B-52 concerts.

Last Sunday, I went out with a guy who was just plain boring. Nice to look at, but boring. He texted me Tuesday morning, and I've yet to respond. I don't want to hurt his feelings.

Really, why is this so hard? I really have a hard time being honest if I think it might make someone feel bad. But, leaving them hanging is just plain rude and leading them on is worse.

So, here is my question foor you, the reader...

When someone contacts you following a 1st or 2nd date, and you know you're not interested, how do you respond AND how do you muster the courage to do it?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Weird Checker

Just days before Thanksgiving, a new Whole Foods opened down the street from me. As a foodie, there aren't too many more exciting discoveries. Depending on how you look at it, the gigantic, two story, block-long structure featuring amongst other things a wine and tapas bar, custom nut roasting and candying counter, massage room, and 300 ft. butcher case is either an insult to the art of gastronomy or an orgasmic adventure in a culinary paradise. Regardless, I chose to do my Thanksgiving shopping there, knowing that the produce would be fresh, the meat Prime, and the cheese nothing short of spectacular. As I loaded the goodies onto the conveyor belt, the redheaded checker asked me how many people I was having over. "Just twelve," I replied, "but this is the first time I'll be doing it on my own so it's still intimidating." "All family?" she asked.

I suppose I could have simply said No and left it at that, but my "no" including a few too many qualifiers, and after several attempts to avoid the inevitable, I ended up explaining that my husband had died and that this was my first year hosting a holiday without him.

Her response was, "I can sense that he is here with you now, though. You must be overwhelmed with how much he loves you."

Um, thanks. I smiled sheepishly and looked away hoping she wouldn't realize my sudden, awkward shifting. Not only did I feel like she was stepping into risky territory, I also felt ashamed and embarrassed at my inability to confidently affirm her assertion. Was Dalton there with me now? Could she see him? What was he doing? Is it against my faith to think these things? She continued, giving me a weird sort of psychic reading in the checkout line at Whole Foods while I stood there, frozen with a forced smile on my face. I left; feeling completely bewildered and ticked off. If Dalton really was near me, why did she get to sense him when I couldn't? And, if he wasn't, why was this crazy woman saying this to a grieving wife. It didn't make me feel better either way.

I've always secretly envied those people that were able to sense their loved one's presence after he/she died. For a long time, I told myself that this sort of talk was contrary to my Christianity, but then I read A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken, an Inkling and close friend of CS Lewis, and realized that he claimed that his wife stayed with him for two years after she died. So, if Dalton or my mom weren't communicating with me, what did that mean? Didn't they love me? Were they ok? Was I too closed off to the spirit world? Was I ok? It was even worse when a friend or coworker would have an encounter with one of them. I mean, who was I, chopped liver? And now, the checker was sensing Dalton's hand on my shoulder and I was oblivious.

Truth be told, I have been having more "encounters" with Dalton. I use the term loosely because they have mostly been dreams. However, since I rarely remember my dreams, anything vivid enough for me to recollect is worth noting. In the past few months, I have had three or four that woke me up and compelled me to write them down. Mostly, they are happy dreams, full of peace and joy. Dalton and I are both in the present time. We talk and laugh and comfort one another, but there is a sense that he is somewhere physically, spiritually, and emotionally that I can't yet be. Weird, I know, but true. Most of these dreams also include some kind of admonition or guidance from him about what I'm doing and feeling, so maybe it's just my own mind trying to accept the loss.

Tonight, I took Iain out to look at the Christmas lights in and around Hastings Ranch. This section of Pasadena, about 4 miles from our house, displays the largest neighborhood commitment to Christmas decor that I have ever seen. Iain and I drove at least 20 blocks and still hadn't seen it all at the end of the night. Not only does the individual homeowner dress up his home, but the sidewalks feature giant Santas, snowflakes, angels, snowmen, etc, and every house has a Christmas tree in their driveway.

This is when I finally sensed Dalton's presence. I was driving around, talking with Iain about the lights, the decorations, and the meaning of Christmas, when Dalton broke into our conversation and said, "I'm proud of you. I'm proud of the job you are doing with Iain, the joy you have in your life, the woman you have become." It was short. The feeling of his presence only last a couple of minutes, but it was significant. And, I hope, I really hope that it wasn't just my own mind trying to accept the loss.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Although I am committed to writing in the blog every day, my creative energies are tapped out. I had a great day writing for the novel and will now be settling down for a little light reading. Specifically, I am reading "The Year of Living Biblically: One Man' s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible." It's a pretty creative concept, and so far, a compelling read. I'll keep you posted.

Tomorrow, remind me to tell you about the day of ideas.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Slowing Down

I am fascinated by myself right now. Not in a "Gee, I'm great." kind of way, but in a "I wonder what's going to happen next" sort of way. I feel a bit like a science experiment.

There is so much space in my life right now. It's full of gaps and pokets that I can fill with whatever I choose. And, I have the time to consider the question of how to fill them and how I feel about them. I also know this is a completely priveleged circumstance and one which isn't likely to endure. So, I want to pay attention and make notes so that I can remember it later.

Unfortunately for me, the tedious process of recording observations was always the weakest link in my scientific endeavors. I liked the hypothesizing, the analyzing, the process of coming to a conclusion, and the conclusion itself. But the observation tested my patience, required discipline, and seemed like a necessary but boring step in the experiment.

Since this is the observation stage of my experiment, my days seem very slow and require a lot of attending to my emotional state.

I wake up and leisurely read stories with Iain, fix breakfast, get ready, and drive him to school. Then, I look at my day, reviewing the big goals and the appointments, and prioritize them. Today's list looks like this:

A1 Planning and Solitude
A2 Advent Devotional and Prayer
A3 Schoolwork/BMGT 408 Assignment (1.5 hours)
A4 Write for book and blog (2 hours)
A5 Clean house/finish laundry (1 hour)
A6 Dryel (.25 hours)
A7 Chiropracter (I fell and tore two shoulder ligaments)
A8 Read (1 hour)
B1 Bills
B2 Christmas Cards
B3 Respond to Match Emails
B4 Festival Chart
B5 Gift List
C1 Call Katie about Borrowing Jeep for Tree and Ikea
C2 Set up Appt. with Attorney for House Contract
C3 Schedule Painter for Front Door

I have a production meeting for the film I'm helping out with at 8am, a counseling session at 9:30, and I'm taking Iain to Chuck E Cheese at 5. Otherwise the day is open.

And, while there is more on the list than I can accomplish today, it still seems slow and introspective. Prayer is slow. Schoolwork is slow. Writing is very slow.

All this space gives my emotions a chance to come to the surface and I not only feel them, but have time to figure out why they might be there. It's not only helping my writing, but I think it's making me a better friend.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

How to Tell a Story?

I am running into trouble. I want to write a story about my day, but the process is making me feel very exposed. Yes, I have been exposing myself online now for over two years, but this is different. For some reason, it's acceptable to struggle when life is tragic, get angry when circumstances are devastating, and be prideful when the burden is so heavy. But today's story is not tragic and my life is pretty normal. I went to church, ate lunch alone, and went on a first date. Consequently, divulging my inner thoughts feels immodest and indulgent. I am embarrassed by myself.

Regardless, I can't possibly be the only one who thinks these things. In fact, I suspect that great writing is great in part because its characters are so unashamedly real that they are endeared to the reader not in spite of but because of their flaws. I can really get behind that for a fictional character. Not so much when the protagonist is me.

Let's put it this way: try writing down your thoughts and feeling for a day and see how many people you want to have read them. I used to disregard that suggestion by thinking, "OK. What's the big deal? I'm an open book. Honesty and kindness are easy for me." HA! Even that little thought is embarrassing. How prideful! Sadly, I only realize the arrogance when I put it out there for others to read.

Here's a snippet of what I started to write about today...

Another couple of pounds had disappeared, and her favorite A-line skirt buttoned easily. She paired it with her knee-high black platform boots, and wondered if it was too flashy for church? "No." she thought. "There's nothing immodest; it's just a little louder than I usually wear. And, besides, I feel confident and fun, so why not?" The attitude worked well for her that morning...

Let's just stop there. This is my CHURCH! And, a lot of you reading this blog probably saw me this morning. I don't know that I really want you to know that my boots made me feel more confident or that my skirt fit better today than it did last week. But, it paints a good picture of the real me, and that's invaluable in story.

Anyway, I haven't solved this problem yet, and it is part of a larger concern I am considering as I begin to write. How do I be true to who Dalton and I are and still look at my friends after they read the book?

I'm optimistic that an answer can be found.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Something else Dalton and I had/have/had/have (I rewrote it four times) in common - we never practiced at anything. For both of us, we were either good at it the first time, or it wasn't worth doing. Frankly, this is a particularly dreadful character trait. Arrogant. Lazy. Undisciplined. It wasn't very kind to our clarity of purpose either. Only very rarely would either of us acknowledge a desire to attempt something that we might fail in. Instead, what we did, the jobs we held, the projects we undertook, the interests we pursued were dictated by aptitude rather than longing.

I am going to give practicing a try.

I am going to write.

Uugh. There is such potential failure in that statement. Actually, I'm not even sure what failure would look like, but since I also can't define what success would look like, the whole enchilada is a risky proposition.

I just know that I want to do it.

I resigned from my position at the church and as of October 27, I am officially unemployed. Instead of writing, I have spent the past month buoying the stock value of The Container Store, filing my 2005 (hey, it was a rough year) taxes, discovering that Dalton actually managed to teach me a thing or two about cooking in the last decade, and planning how my schedule would look once I finally got around to doing what I quit to do in the first place. There are a lot of lists. Not so many manuscripts.

But my month is up, and it's time to learn the art of practice.

My aim is to write something every day. Actually, I want to write two things everyday - something for this blog and something for the book. Some days they will be one in the same, call it a 2-for-1.

And for now, no questions about the structure of content of the book, please. That's what the practice is for.