A Coffee and Catch-up Time

Hey there. Do you have time for a quick cup of coffee?   🙂   Me too!

I know, it’s been ages, and I’m a terrible friend for not keeping in better touch. Forgive me? Aww–Thank you! You are so very kind.

I know you must have lots to tell me, what with the holidays just over. I have a few things, too. You go first–no, me? Oh, okay. But then you promise to tell me all the things!

Let’s see… well, our first Christmas with a grand-baby was wonderful. She’s at just an age where she discovers new things constantly, whether it’s rolling over, or her fascinating toes, or how to make delightful sounds. She flirts with everyone, has a very definite personality, and I laugh out loud at her endeavors and antics! She is a joy–something I knew but had forgotten in the intervening years since mine were so tiny.

Our son came home from far away. This made me very happy, not just because I missed him, but because this was the first time he got to meet his little niece in person. They bonded almost immediately, and it made my heart glad to see him as smitten as the rest of us.

We have decided to travel in the fall. Hubs and I are going to tour a bit of Italy with dear friends, and we began settling things last weekend. All four of us are excited and can’t wait for our adventure!

Before that, though, we are going to revisit Marathon Training! Since the first marathon was plagued with injury, we hope to repeat the process injury-free. I know, I know! How crazy we are! But in a good way! It’s something we get to do together. Hubs and I want to live a long time, and race-training keeps us fit and healthy. We haven’t quite decided which race, but it will be before the Italian Holiday.

And lastly, I have continued to write (though just barely) and began editing–copy-editing, to be precise, but I have found yet another love. The detail-work of making sure a manuscript is error-free (or nearly so) delights me, as does helping someone bring forth their creative child. I have even added the title ‘editor’ to my business card, as I grow more confident in my abilities for copy- and line-editing.

Next time, I’ll tell you more about the music, maybe more about reading and writing, but for now, please tell me how you are, what you’re up to, and what you’re excited about. I am so glad you met me here. Let’s talk again soon!

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Trust Issues

I always thought trusting God was primarily for spiritual and emotional things. And whenever it was for physical things, it was for serious stuff. Crisis, illness, basic necessities of life. I didn’t know I felt this way until last week. I thought I thought trusting God meant all the time, for everything. Except that I wasn’t trusting him with my own physical health, as if He couldn’t possibly be interested in whether or not I wanted to finish a silly race, so why should I bother turning over that ITB injury to Him, or the foot injury that reappeared out of the blue?

And that’s when I found out I have trust issues. Oh, I trust Him for lots of things, don’t get me wrong. I do. But…not everything. Because, well, I do hate to be a bother.

Last week, I had a little freak-out. As I said in my previous post, Hubs and I are training for a marathon. (As I sit and type, that race is 27 hours away.) 4 weeks ago, my IT Band flared, out of the blue, and I immediately sought medical help. Good for me, you might say. Yet, I was focused entirely on whether I could run and finish this race. Me, me, me. I started getting better, it’s true, and I began to think that, yeah, I probably could finish. And then, a foot injury that had plagued me over the winter, but which I had thought ‘cured’ flared. OH NO–two injuries. Can I do this? I can’t do this. But I trained so hard, and I don’t want to let down Team Bennett, and…do you see all the ‘I’ in those sentences? Me, me, me, indeed. And I knew.

I couldn’t do it. Not on my own. As I lay trying to sleep late one night, I felt a swift, here-one-moment-gone-the-next warm calm sweep over me. And though it lasted a nano-second, I heard the Holy Spirit reminding me: Isn’t your word this year Trust? How long’s it been since you paid attention to that word? I have a challenge for you. Why don’t you just trust Me with this one?

He had a point. And I had some soul-searching to do. If Trusting God is what I profess, why had I not trusted Him to take care of this? Did I really believe that God doesn’t care about my goals? I mean, I know I’m not winning any prizes for this (though I did pay for a medal and tee-shirt) but it’s something I really want to do. God delights with us when we achieve our goals, and when we glorify Him in all things. Both these things, and they are not mutually exclusive. They ought to go hand in hand!

A few verses, which have come to me steadily over the course of the week from various sources:

I can do all things, through Christ, who strengthens me. -Philippians 4:13

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. -Isaiah 40:31

I shall say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress! My God whom I trust!” -Psalm 91:2
Let it be known that I plan to finish the race, Hubs at my side, in less than 36 hours (I think I did math. hard to know at almost 3 in the AM) But know also that when I do, I am chugging under strength given to me by my Lord, and not under my own. He will take care of me, no matter what. Thanks be to God.
It is late. this is not edited. But in the interest of defying Timidity and Fear, I will hit publish and clean it up later.
///
Monday morning, 6:40
A little update. We finished, and we finished strong, through hurt and discomfort, close to our goal time. We are proud owners of the title Marathoner, and I thank God for His strength, and for reminders throughout the race that He held us. 
Now, off to previously scheduled appointments with my massage- and physical-therapists. 

Warped

My husband are are a little over 2 weeks away from our first marathon. We’ve been training all summer, and things have been going well. Sort of… A couple weeks ago, I was blindsided with an IT Band injury. I racked my brain for signs previous to the first Saturday blowout, but I don’t think there were any. I researched, looking for a quick fix before I decided to be smart and hire a physical therapist. My first appointment was Monday and I have another today (Thursday). My injury is on its way to healing (I have to believe this or I will wallow in despair) and after the race I can take as many weeks as it needs to fully recover.

Anyway… As I was talking over my training regimen with the PT, and with a few friends variously over the past month, something strange has come to light.

My brain has forgotten what an accomplishment a marathon can be is. I forgot where I started, just a few short years ago. If I think on it, I do remember how proud I was (and rightly so) for my hiking mileage, earned two or three miles at a time.

My vocabulary now includes odd phrases like “a short five miles” or “an easy eight”, and spending a Saturday morning with my husband on a long run (mileage anywhere from twelve to fifteen miles, or more the last few weeks) doesn’t seem like a big deal. When, actually, it is.

If you had asked me even two years ago, I would have called you crazy for suggesting I could accomplish such a thing as a half-marathon (which I completed a year ago October), much less a full 26-mile race. But here I am (we are, actually, for it’s my hubby’s first marathon, too) and we have worked so hard, I can almost taste the medal.

Which is why I am suddenly aware how warped my thinking has become. 🙂

Perhaps a better way to phrase it is changed. My thinking has changed, and I now hold myself to a higher standard. I know I can run longer, so no more excuses when I don’t feel like it. I know I can run faster (at least for those ‘short’ runs) so fine, I will run faster. Unless I want to be lazy, but at least I know it for what it is! 🙂

It’s funny to think about what we’re good at (and a great exercise, by the way) from a stranger’s point of view. Something that becomes everyday-ho-hum to us, something that has lost its mystery and awe. But think about it. Each of us has something that makes others say, “WOW! You can do what? You did that?”

What, in your life, has warped your thinking? In what way do you hold yourself to a higher performance standard? Are you a marathoner, a cyclist? Do you rock the knitting world? Dance like Fred or Ginger? I’d love to know!

Data Processing (Book Trivia, Part 2)

Writers are often asked things like, “How’d you name your characters?” and “Where’d you come up with that idea?” When I’m asked, my answer is often along the lines of, “I don’t know. The characters simply told me, and that’s how it is.” Which is usually the case. The second installment of Book Trivia is about

PROCESS

How’d you come up with the big idea?
Would it disappoint you to know that I don’t really come up with ideas? Or, I never feel like they’re my own ideas. As stated above, the characters told me and that’s how it is. Sure, I might have a thought… but it’s less like my own idea, more like something I was told and then remembered. For instance, as I wrote Book 1, I began to “fall for” Robert, a supporting character. And his story emerged. It was as if someone had once mentioned this guy she knew, and told me all about him, and I only needed to remember what she’d said. And write it down.

As a matter of fact, sometimes as I’m writing I think, “NO! What are you doing?! That’s a terrible idea!” and also, I have been known to get mad at characters who don’t do what I want them to do. Miranda has a not-so-great idea which causes a little tension in Book 2.  Back when I was writing the first draft of Book 2, I wrote in my journal, “I hate Miranda. How could she screw things up so badly with Robert? … And I hate crying. These stupid people break my heart. And now I feel sorry for Miranda. She knows how badly she screwed up. and her heart is breaking too, so I’m sitting here crying at my computer, feeling all her feels. devastated.” *edited for brevity–there was a LOT of vitriol involved that day. 🙂

How do you get started at all?
Well, I see a scene in my head, and try to describe it. I just start writing and whatever happens, happens. I might think I know what is going to happen, but I’m sometimes surprised–or perturbed, or even horrified–at the direction a scene or character takes.
Some writers are Plotters. They have an idea and from that kernel, they begin an outline. As they see the story, they take notes, building a plot. They basically know what’s going to happen from beginning to end–not necessarily each detail, but the biggish plot-points. At least, that’s what I’ve heard. 🙂
I’m what is known as a Pantser. (Writing by the seat of my pants.) I write Romance, therefore I know these few things:
1. Boy and Girl meet
2 (or 3). They fall in love
3 (or 2). There are misunderstandings
4. Despite the misunderstandings, all comes round right and ta-da!
5. Happy-Ever-After (HEA).
I’m okay with this! Though I have flirted with plotting occasionally, it’s just not my type. I start at the very beginning, maybe write a little bit about Boy and Girl to get to know them a little, but then, as soon as I “see” the first scene, I’m off. And I just keep writing until I find my–I mean their–HEA. I’m only 3 books into this writing thing (mid-stride on the third) but I have never once known exactly  how it was going to end, or how we’d get there. I like that. I like that the story is as much a surprise to me as to the reader.

Well, that sounds easy! Why doesn’t everyone do that?
BWAHAHAHA! easy… yep. I might have left out a few things… like how I stop if I get stuck (or most recently, how I stop if I don’t like the direction of the story. Dumb stubborn do-it-their-own-way characters). And the crying and self-doubt. The self-editing multiple drafts, and then further rounds of editing by trusted other eyes. More crying… Yeah, I left those parts out. Because drudgery is not glamorous. (And when I cry, my face gets all red and puffy. I wouldn’t like you to see all that. 🙂 )

Oh, well then, why do you do it? It sounds like a pain.
My dear friend, you have no idea. It IS a pain! Just like raising kids. Or puppies. And it’s glorious and wonderful, and, yep, painful. There’s so much that doesn’t make it onto the final printed page; just like in life, there are so many moments that don’t make it to our photo album. The messiness, the tantrums, even the stillness… and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

 

I’m Sorry

Oops, I hurt your feelings. I’m sorry.

Oops, I didn’t mean to run into you. I’m sorry.

Your cat is sick? I’m sorry.

You’re angry/frustrated/irked at your life? I’m sorry.

You dropped your books. I’m sorry.

You spilled your (extra large) drink all over me. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry…

I say it a lot.

Not just occasionally, I mean a LOT. I recognize that the phrase ‘I’m sorry’ is also used to mean ‘excuse me’ and that sometimes we say ‘I’m sorry’ when expressing condolences (I’m sorry for your loss) or when commiserating with someone who’s down. I use it that way, too.  And if something happens, through no fault of my own, which causes you embarrassment, or pain, or frustration, I’m sorry for that.

Are we having an argument? I’m sorry. Even if you are clearly in the wrong (for the sake of this post’s argument), I’m sorry. Whatever I did to cause this tension, I’m sorry. Even if you have been deliberately rude, or mean. I’m sorry.

There isn’t anything wrong with apologizing when one is in the wrong, when one has made a social blunder, or even to express condolence. As a matter of fact, it’s social lubricant. It’s a good thing. Relationships work well when we take responsibility for our actions, apologize and move on.

However…

I started this post because I remembered something that happened last night, and it reminded me of this unfortunate habit I have. Saying I’m sorry when I have nothing to be sorry for, and when, sometimes, I am the one who should be receiving the ‘I’m sorry’.

Last night my husband’s alarm went off. It’s was an ungodly hour, like 1:30 AM or somesuch. But it wasn’t the radio alarm. No, it was an annoying beep which morphed into beep-beep, then into a panicked beepbeepbeepbeep. It was enough to send someone over the edge. He valiantly tried to fix it, but it was late/early, and it was dark, and the clock is newish, and…well, I’m better at seeing in the dark. So I scooted over, meaning to help, and quickly turned off the alarm. And he sat back on the bed, right on my leg. ouch. guess what I said? I’m SORRY! I’m helping, and he sits on me (It’s okay, Honey, it didn’t really hurt) and I’m apologizing…

Not the first time it’s happened. Won’t be the last. The other day, he dropped a glass. Give you one guess what the first words out of my mouth were. Sweet Hubby calls me on it, too. He and both my kids have told me I say it too much. They are right. I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better.

So if you hear me apologize unnecessarily, maybe you could nudge me. I’m trying to stop. It’s kinda like learning how not to breathe…but I’ll get used to it. I catch myself now. And with help, maybe by the time I’m fifty I’ll be cured. Fingers crossed!

The Name Game (book trivia part 1)

Writers are often asked things like, “How’d you name your characters?” and “Where’d you come up with that idea?” When I’m asked, my answer is often along the lines of, “I don’t know. The characters simply told me, and that’s how it is.” Which is usually the case. On the other hand, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes I get to choose, and I like to make choices that amuse me. Just for fun, I thought I’d share a bit of ‘behind the scenes’ trivia on my second novel. The first installment is on the most-asked-about topic:

NAMES

Main characters reveal themselves to me already named. For better or worse, I don’t get to choose those. I might finagle them, but often it’s just best to leave well enough alone, as evidenced by my struggle with Miranda, the heroine of More Than You Know.

  • The surname Adama was chosen by my husband while he was on a Battlestar Galactica binge. In book 1 (If You But Knew), Mark Adama was meant to be a minor character. But then book 2 began to form, and I was stuck with it. Luckily, it’s a cool name.
  • Miranda gave me fits. I knew who she was: Miranda Rogers, Mark’s recently-divorced younger sister. But because of that maiden surname, I really really wanted to rename her. Why couldn’t she be Stephanie or Christine–Miranda Adama is a tongue twister! Alas, nothing else seemed right. But a nickname stuck in my ear, and Mimi Adama seemed a perfect solution. However, her ‘married’ last name didn’t quite fit . (Does Mimi Rogers sound familiar? Think Hollywood and Tom Cruise.) My Mimi reverted to Miranda for the 15 years post-wedding, though once back in her hometown, most people start calling her Mimi again, despite her insistence on Miranda.
  • Robert is another character who was named in my first book, and it’s all his fault that we have a book 2 to begin with (thank you, Robbie). I fell in love with him, and he needed to find his HEA. Although it isn’t much mentioned, his last name is Campbell. Robert’s parents reveled in their Celtic heritage, and saddled him with quite a mouthful: Robert Jameson Buchanan Campbell. Sounds like a laird of some craggy bit of the highlands, doesn’t he? Robbie Campbell is so much easier. And doesn’t Robbie sound like a rollicking fun sort of guy? I only wish I’d gotten to see him in a kilt…

The minor characters are where I get to have some fun, or where I’ll ask others for ideas and input. I may not tell someone they’re naming a character, but that’s the fun part! (Beware if I ask you a seemingly random question–the information might end up in a book!)

  • “Friend”-ly Cameos: EA Kim is named for an actual EA that works with my Hubs. Todd is the middle name of a friend who wanted to be a baddie in one of my books. Russell, Warren, and the chicken video lady (who goes unnamed) are nods to a few of my writing group buddies.
  • Miranda and Amy love a certain best-selling novelist, and I had to come up with a fictional author. Luckily, I had one up my sleeve. When I first began writing, I chose a pen-name, intending to use it instead of my given name. Fast-forward a year, and I was too giddy about my work not to share it under my own name, and the pen name went by the wayside. But then I needed an author, so Gillian McGregor stepped up to the plate. 🙂
  • Stacy… fully inspired by the songs 1985 and Stacy’s Mom (yeah, she should rightly have not been named Stacy, but it’s such a great name!)
  • Ben and Harold: I didn’t get to name them. They introduced themselves to me, monikers already in place. But I thoroughly adored them, and wish I’d gotten to spend more time loving on these boys. Perhaps in another book…one never knows!

 

Did I miss anyone whom you’re curious about? I’m happy to answer other questions. (I love talking about my books and characters!)

Haven’t read More Than You Know yet? Links are on the Books Page (see bar above) for the format of your choice.

Kindness & Generosity

In a effort to “write with honesty” and to “write from the heart” (catchphrases/buzzwords I learned from the internet) I thought I’d give this topic another go. I actually had the title, and nothing else, a year ago. I suppose I figured the title would trigger a post, so I didn’t take notes or write anything in the draft.

The title is taken from an article my hubs told me about, regarding successful relationships and what makes them work. Guess what the top two traits are? Yup, Kindness and Generosity. Now, in honesty, I haven’t read the entire article for a while. So, if I say something that disagrees with it, take it with a grain of salt, and pick the stance you like better. Or pay more attention to the article. They did all the research, after all.

The other day month, I wrote a post on finding one’s superpower. and a comment by a friend prodded me on toward this one. Funny how all these things coincide, isn’t it?

Anyway, meandering aside, Let me tell you what I’ve learned in my few years of marriage. And you can take that with a grain of salt, too. I mean, aren’t I cute–married 22 years, and I think I’m an expert… oh, wait. I am…

Kindness

I think it ought to go without saying that one should be kind to one’s spouse. But it bears repeating. Be kind to each other.

I’m not talking about bending over backward to do whatever they want at the expense of your own sanity and self. I pray you do not have a relationship that is such a one-way street. I’m talking about basic courtesy. Are you going to the kitchen for a glass of water? Offer to bring one back for your Love. Did you see something in the store that reminded you of your spouse? Pick it up for them, or perhaps take a photo and send it to them (I presume, I admit, that most of us text nowadays) if purchase isn’t feasible. Did your spouse just spend 2 hours in the grocery store with the kids? Meet him/her at the door and unload the car. Or take the kids to the park to run while your spouse enjoys a moment of blessed silence while unloading the car at leisure. Little things, huge helps.

Listen when your spouse speaks. Really listen. Acknowledge their efforts, their feelings, their jokes, their being. You might be surprised (or perhaps not) how discouraging it is in any relationship to feel ignored or marginalized. And how it warms the heart and strengthens bonds to feel as if you really matter to someone. Be Kind. Make sure your spouse knows that he or she really matters to you!

Generosity

Whatever you do (that is kind), do with a generosity of spirit, with such graciousness and sincerity, that whenever your spouse speaks of you, it is with the warmest affection, and they will be deemed the luckiest of people to have found their soulmate. (Soulmates are a topic for another post, but I believe they are more often made than found.)

From the article itself, an essential quote:

“Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. “My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.” That’s how kindness works too: there’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.”