Getting By

Last week was a rough week.

Monday, we learned that our friends’ unborn daughter has been diagnosed with open spina bifida with a probability of added complications.

Thursday night, we got the shocking and heartbreaking news that an old friend of mine died unexpectedly. She was in her late twenties.

In between, I worked on the sewing project from hell, cleared out two clogged drains in one day, and ignored my writing.

I spent a lot of time with my head buried in books, trying to find some relief in fiction. I read through close to a dozen novels in one week. I’m honestly seriously embarrassed and ashamed by that confession.

We adjusted fairly smoothly and quickly to this new life here, a seminary family, and I think I forgot that it’s still hard, and that there’s probably a good reason for why I feel tired all the time.

The good thing – the grace learned from seven years of waiting for seminary – is that we as a family have finally learned to stop living as though life is going to start sometime in the future, when everything has settled down and things are calm and smooth, and instead to be in the here and now, experiencing life as it happens. It may be messy and exhausting and frustrating at times, and I may still miss out on a lot of it because boy do I not function well without sleep, but at least we’re in it, not on the outskirts waiting.

Joy turns six tomorrow. Six. Five seemed ridiculously older than four, and six even more so than five. And in the midst of everything else we’ve got happening, we carved out time this weekend to go out for a celebratory breakfast, and then take a hike through the woods. Tomorrow she gets her presents and cake (we like to stretch birthdays out as long as possible around here). A few moments of calm and rejoicing amidst the storms around us.

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It’s good. We’re good.

(also, Sunday night right before bed Joy came proudly out of her bedroom to read me a story she wrote and illustrated herself titled “Kristen and the Dragon,” and you guys, I was planning on teaching things like story structure etc later on this year but but she instinctively gave it a beginning, middle, and end, and I was so proud I almost cried when she read it to me. THAT’S MY GIRL.)

Things Learned

Important news out of the way first:

Magic Most Deadly is now available through Nook, and the paperback version is available through Amazon. iTunes has proven … challenging, so I’m still working on that.

The Goodreads giveaway is still going – it’s open until the 10th, so go enter if you haven’t done so yet!

If anyone would like an autographed bookplate for Magic Most Deadly, just send me an email with your name and address, and I’ll send one to you, free of charge. If you want to send me your actual physical copy of the book to autograph, I’ll do that, too, but I’ll have to ask you to pay for the shipping on that.

So then! There’s the housekeeping done (if only real housekeeping could get taken care of that easily).

My first week of being a “Real Author” with a “Real Published Novel” has passed, and I’ve learned some important things.

1) I don’t like self-publishing for the sake of self-publishing. By which I mean, I understand and appreciate what self-publishing allows me to do. I do not like messing about with figuring out formatting, hunting for a cover designer (even when I find a good one!), uploading the book to each seller, marketing myself, etc.

There’s nothing wrong with any of those things. I just get frustrated with the time doing them well takes away from actual writing. I don’t have a whole lot of time to devote to writing as it is (okay, and I do waste some of it just because I am SO TIRED these days and so much of my free time is spent on cat naps or comfort reading), and I get twitchy when I have to sacrifice my writing time to business time.

It is a business, and I get that. I’m not complaining. But I felt it was a rather important discovery for myself – that I do the self-publishing because it is the best choice for me right now, but I don’t have to love it. I love what it does for me. I’m not crazy about the process. And that’s okay.

One of the other things I’ve learned is that even being a published author doesn’t change a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. Dishes still had to get washed, laundry still had to be done, schoolwork taken care of, meals made, friends visited with, insomnia dealt with, life lived.

On the other hand, accomplishing a goal you’ve held since second grade is pretty damn awesome even if it isn’t earth-shattering, and I’m not gonna lie. Last Monday, I felt more like a rock star than I ever have and likely ever will again.

(Unless my fairy godmother suddenly gives me the ability to skate at the level I’ve always dreamed of, and I get to join Stars on Ice. And Scott Hamilton, Kurt Browning, Torvill & Dean, and Kristi Yamaguchi are all in it again as well. So yeah, not likely to happen.)

The only other matter of interest from this week is that I finally broke down and joined Instagram. Yippee! I’m trying not to go too crazy with it.

How was this first week of October for all of you, friends?

You Matter

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. TWLOHA is doing a campaign this year titled “You Cannot Be Replaced.”

I’m not a big fan of open messages in general. Especially ones that are meant to be encouraging. Because most often, they end up depressing me MORE, and making me feel even more faceless and anonymous.

“Hey you,” on Twitter, @ nobody. “Yes, you. You are loved.”

Really? How do you know? You don’t even know who I am! If you really wanted to make me feel loved, take the time to find out my name and what I’m struggling with.

OK, yes. I have issues.

But I love this campaign. Because every single person, whether you or I or anyone else knows them or not, is unique and CANNOT BE REPLACED. This message? This one does give me hope, even if it is anonymous.

I believe in a Creator who purposely and carefully forms each and every human being on this earth. He knows every one of us by name. He has a story for each of us. He cares for each one of us. He DIED for each one of us. Not a faceless mass of humanity, but each individual person, those long dead and those not yet born included. He loves us.

He loves you.

He loves me.

And that makes each one of us precious and irreplaceable.

I know this, but I don’t believe it every day. I struggle a lot, actually, with feeling secondary, merely good for filling others’ needs, and could easily be replaced by a robot, because me as Louise, my individual personality and character and self-ness, doesn’t matter.

But that’s a lie.

God delights in me as a person.

And no matter what else, even if you strip everything else I do and am away, I have value because of that. Because he made me and he loves me. Because of him, I can stand tall and value myself.

I cannot be replaced.

And neither can you.

None of us can be.

We all matter.

Dredging the Deep

Funny, when I had absolutely no time to blog, posts kept popping into my mind right and left. Now that I’m back to a regular schedule, the well (as I posted on FB) has run dry.

But look! Pretty photos!

Riding the carousel at Boston Commons

Riding the carousel at Boston Commons

Live music in the Public Gardens

Live music in the Public Gardens

We found the Mallard family!

We found the Mallard family!

Grace picking blueberries
Grace picking blueberries

Joy looking for the best berries

Joy looking for the best berries

Filled our baskets with blueberries, on to the blackberry patch!

Filled our baskets with blueberries, on to the blackberry patch!

 

We’ve been having Adventures.

We also survived our first week of school, and now I get to change the schedule completely since we’ve seen what does and doesn’t work. Namely, starting at 9:00 is not going to happen until the girls are able to make their beds in less than thirty minutes.

And I’m trying not to fret over this whole book cover thing. My biggest problem here is that what I want, I can’t afford and do not have the know-how to be able to do myself. What I can afford, or can figure out to do on my own, I don’t really like. This is a dilemma.

But! Luckily the extra time I’ve had to work on Magic Most Deadly has been useful, allowing me to go through it one more time and put in some extra tweaks to make it just a little bit better. Also it has allowed  me to put off formatting a bit longer, so hurrah!

(Sometimes I think I’m not really cut out for this indie path. But then I think about dealing with traditional publishers, and I think well, even these stresses are better than that.)

I’ve also been journaling almost every morning, and that has been good. I am also giving Anna Karenina a fourth try, and am halfway through (further than I’ve ever made it before) and seriously wondering why people love this book so much. Can anyone clue me in? I mean, I don’t hate it, but I don’t understand the great, deep passion so many have for it. And after I finish this, should I try War and Peace, or move on to Dostoevsky (and if so, which one)? So many questions.

In addition to all this, I’ve been grieving deeply over Syria, which doesn’t exactly inspire me to write fun, fluffy blog posts.

So. That’s a little bit of what life has been like for me this past week. How about you?

 

We Are Here

So. The move is done.

We packed up the truck and car on Saturday. Sunday after lunch we got here, and by Sunday evening all our things were inside. I put together the girls’ bunkbeds (Carl came along toward the end to assist – I was so tired everything was taking twice as long as it should, and Grace had already fallen asleep atop her toy chest, and Joy looked rather as though she wished she could do the same), they slept in real beds, and the rest of us spread mattresses wherever we could find box-free space and just dropped.

Things are slowly starting to come together. All our furniture is put back together. Some boxes are unpacked. My kitchen is put together. The set-up will change, but at least it is usable. The kids are starting to get their feet under them.

I am still dazed and exhausted, but starting to see some glimmers of light. I knew moving from our lovely spacious house to a small two-bedroom apartment was going to be hard. I knew that, no matter how much we downsized, we would be cramped. But the reality has been harder to wrap my head around than I expected. (It doesn’t help that what Carl thinks of as “cozy” I find claustrophobic.)

We met so many nice people on Sunday, who carried bookcases and boxes and welcomed us with warmth and kindness. They’re all kind of blurred. Just as the goodbyes to our dear friends who helped us load everything into the truck on Saturday are blurry. At some point, the memories will settle, and the present will start to sort itself out. Right now, it’s all still a bit overwhelming.

I walked across the parking lot and up a small hill with the girls this morning so they could play on the playground. I could almost imagine myself doing that with pen and paper, getting some stories down while they run and play. I put school books on shelves this afternoon and could almost imagine sitting at the kitchen table doing school with them. I washed dishes and could almost imagine making bread, preparing meals that require more than two steps, using my cookbooks and recipe boxes again.

Nothing is quite real yet. But it’s getting there.

Tomorrow we’re going on a hunt for groceries, and possibly see if we can find the local library. That ought to help.

(I have pictures, but I haven’t yet found the box that holds my cord to get them from my camera to my computer. Maybe by the next post.)

Responsibilities and Inspirations

The thing about being an independently-published author (or at least journeying toward that goal – Magic Most Deadly, is so, so close to being ready!) is that you still have to be responsible about your writing.

By which I mean, if you have two books planned for this year, and two more planned for next, and you know that you are a slow enough writer it will take you all year to get those books written and ready for publication, you cannot, no matter how much you want to, hare off on a side trail and write something completely different. Because you have responsibilities just as surely as if you have a contract with an outside publishing house.

Which is why I am not writing that heavily female, POC, straight-up high fantasy quest-and-battle novel I want to write after seeing this, and reading this and this.

But I want to.

And so I am jotting down notes and character ideas and possible plots in my handy-dandy notebook here and there, as I think of it, and maybe, just maybe, once my self-imposed contracts are up, the spark will still be there and I will be able to write it. Or there’s even the possibility that I might be spurred to write these stories that much faster, so I can get to that one sooner.

In any case, it’s always nice to have inspiration bubbling, even if one can’t go chasing every will-o-the-wisp idea that floats across one’s path. Not, in any case, if one wishes to be that responsible writer one is trying so hard to achieve.

Seriously, who hasn’t read LOTR and wanted to see Eowyn get her shot at adventure? She would be an amazing protagonist.

 

(I am also, in trying to be responsible, not taking up my Welsh language studies again. Though that has more to do with homeschooling/packing/moving/I have no time for a new time-consuming hobby than it does with writing!)

Disorganized

I am the least organized person I know.

I like things to be neat and organized and tidy and simple, but when I try to make them that way myself … chaos ensues.

(Curiously enough, when I was department manager at the hardware store, I did NOT have that problem. I ran one dept and assisted with two others, and kept all of them in STUNNINGLY organized condition, better than almost any of the others in the entire store. Which is odd. And the only time/place in my life where that has happened.)

Yesterday was my birthday, and my husband cleaned the kitchen for me after dinner. Except he didn’t just clean, he tidied and organized and threw things away and rearranged other things and picked up items that had been on the counters for so long I’d stopped even seeing them, and at the end of the night, I stood there thinking, “huh. I could have done any of this at any time, but it never even occurred to me. Why not?”

Part of my problem is that I’m scatter-brained. Just ask anyone who knows me. My parents used to joke that they always knew how I’d spent my day by following the trail of shoes, books, and teacups through the house. I just never even noticed I was leaving them behind! It’s even worse when I’m cleaning – I hop from one thing to another to another without ever finishing any task, ending the day by feeling exhausted and accomplishing nothing. I am really bad at time-management – I have a beautifully written schedule pinned on my fridge, and I never, ever manage to follow it. (In my defense, we haven’t had one week since October where all four of us have been healthy. It’s been a sick, sick winter, which makes it nearly impossible to stick to any kind of a schedule.) I always have marvelous, and even reasonable goals, and then I get derailed almost immediately.

Part of the problem is that there’s just SO MUCH that I want/need to be doing. Keep the house clean and running smoothly. Raise the kids. Teach the kids. Write. Self-publish. Sew. Cook all the meals (from scratch). Skate. Learn to draw so I can teach the kids. Study. Along with raising and teaching the kids, train them to become independent adults. LAUNDRY. And oh yeah, have a relationship with my husband and try to make time for friends as well. Not to mention make sure I get that bit of alone time each week so necessary for my introverted soul.

I know a lot of people manage to juggle all those things effortlessly. I’m still figuring it out, and dropping almost ALL the balls constantly in the process. I think I spend more time picking the balls off the ground than I do tossing them through the air!

Add to all that the very deep desire to NOT live a mundane life, to do more than just muddle along. One of my deepest fears is that when I die, what’s going on my tombstone is “Well, at least she tried.” This life is so short, so precious, I don’t want to spend it flustered and frustrated and frittering it away! I want to really live, to taste every moment. No, I’m not buying into the lie that says “you have to enjoy every minute of while your kids are small/while you are young/while whatever it is the speaker currently wants you to feel guilty about not savoring.” I’ve fallen down that pit before, and I won’t go back.

But neither do I want to, as I mentioned before, spend my life just muddling along, half-heartedly attempting many things without really enjoying or living anything.

So, any advice for this scatter-brained, introverted, disorganized, mummy-wife-and-mother-and-writer on how to stop wasting my time, and start making the most of my days?

Have at it in the comments!