Friday, September 29, 2006

ugh. Just UGH!

Do you ever have so much to do that your life seems like it's running away from you on quick little feet, running much faster than you ever ran, even in that winning-the-50-yard-dash dream you have ever time you see the Olympics on television? Yeah, like that. But faster.

You have things that you MUST do, like breathe. You obviously make time for breathing, right? Then there are the things you really should do if you hope to keep functioning, like eating and sleeping. Sometimes you manage to both eat AND sleep on the very same day. Those are good days. Then there are those other things that must get done. Like laundry, so you don't show up at work in the same smelly clothes you wore the day before, and people turn up their noses as you walk by... And showering, again, to avoid those turned up noses. And buying groceries, so your children may also eat something besides YOUR Quaker rice snacks. And actually going to work, so you have money for said rice snacks. And paying bills, so you don't have to sit around the house in the dark because your power has been turned off, yet again, because you forgot to mail the damn check on time. And being a taxi-driver, so the rest of your community doesn't realize what a slug you are because you just don't want to drive 30 miles, yet again, to drop your children off at yet another function. You getting the picture yet?

There are things that you may want to do every day instead. Like if you are me, then what you really want to do every day is stay in your very confy jammies that you got from your very best friend, snuggle up in your very warm bed, and read. All day. Stopping only every hour or so to inhale some java that your children have left quietly at your bedside in the hopes of gaining your favor and allowing them to have yet another ice cream bar. Really though, as long as they are relatively quiet (their quiet is ALWAYS relative, let me assure you!), they could do just about anything if I am in a book. Yes, I get that into my books. Always have, and God willing, always will.

Or, again if you are like me, you may want to write. Well, that used to be me. I used to want to write all the time. Lately though, I've been so discouraged about my writing. My people have taken a vacation. I hear no voices lately. This troubles me on a very basic level. And frankly, it scares the crap out of me.

I have two stories going right now. One is very hard for me, because it deals with a woman and her relationship with her mom. It's hard to write, but when I started it, I knew I had to get it out of me. This woman was talking to me all of the time. I mean, she used to SCREAM at me at the most inopportune times, like during church, or during sex. And no, there is no correlation for me between the two, I'm just illustrating the times when her voice called my name, and she insisted that I pay attention.

My other story is much funner, at least on the surface. It's about four women and their relationships with the men in their lives, and with each other. This one is lighter in some ways, but also deals with some heavy stuff. I started this one while working on the first one, really as a way to distance myself from the first story, because the first one was really putting me through the wringer.

But now? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Big fat goose egg on the flow. I mean, I sit at my desk. I have my computer turned on. Some days, I even open up one, or both, stories. I have every intention of writing. I want to write. But I just can't. I have outlines. I know where these stories are going. I know how they will end. I've seen the endings of both in my head. I've heard conversations from all of my peoples. But the fun is just not there for me, because ... well ... because of all of that other stuff. You know, the stuff I was talking about in the first few paragraphs? All of that basic, every day, LIFE stuff seems to have stolen my joy for writing. Life is my joy stealer. Shane would laugh at my choice of words, but he'd know what I mean.

Despair over this had taken a pretty big hold on me. I was fairly certain that I would just have to pack it in, throw in that towel, and admit defeat. Tell everyone that I'm a big fake. I can't write. I can't do it. I'm not good enough. I'm not dedicated enough. I am a fraud.

And that made me sad. Not just a little blue, like you get when the ending comes to Casablanca, and you realize that no, not even this time, will Ingrid Bergman stay behind with Humphrey Bogart. I'm talking full blown dog-just-died-the-day-after-i-lost-my-job-and-the-car-got-repossessed-and-now-i-must-live-in-a-dumpster distraught. See, I love to write. But since big bad L I F E is a joy-joy-joy stealer, what could I do?

Well, I changed my mind. I'm going to sit my butt in my chair, and I'm just going to write. Because I can. And frankly, once again, I've been inspired by... (ok, you know what's coming already, don't you?)... yeah, Joshilyn Jackson. I read her blog, Faster Than Kudzu, today. Ok, who am I kidding, I check it about 10 times a day just to see if she's posted, because she's my idol, and I want to grow up and BE her, right? You all know this already, it's nothing new. I want to write...not like her, exactly, but like her. If that makes sense. You, over there in the corner, stop shaking your head. I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. I want to have my stories flow out of me, onto the paper, and from the paper, into the hearts of women. I want to be able to touch people. No, not like that, now stop it already. You know what I mean. I want to be sunlight and rainbows and bacon cheeseburgers, and all things right and pretty in the universe. But on paper. So please, go on over to Joshilyn's blog, right here, and read about the time she's had with her latest masterpiece. It's been rough for her, to say the least. And she just walked away from it, for a season. But she's back, OH LORDY is she back. And her post made me cry. Not those fake crocodile tears that lead to ice cream around my house. But I sat here at my desk and weeped buckets, or at least rivers of mascara. Because I know what she feels like, though not on as grand a scale, I'm sure. And she's so eloquent. Plus, she's pretty. But it made me see that even people like HER go through the rough stuff. That's part of writing. Yet even if I walk away from it, the stories will still be there in my soul. They will still beg to get out.

And you know what? When I stopped trying to make them come, I heard this whisper. It was one of my girls. She was giggling a little, in that way your best girlfriend does when you finally realize something that she's known for ages. And she said, ever so quietly, "I'm glad you finally get it, NOW WOULD YOU PLEASE LET ME FINISH MY STORY?!"

Yes, ma'am.

Oh, just go...

on over to the book blog and enter the contest already!

Yep, that's right. We're running our monthly contest. This one has to do with banned books. So click on over there and tell me what your favorite book from the Banned Book list is. Go on, get over there.

There is a PRIZE for this, people. Seriously, some lucky person is going to win a $20 gift certifcate to their favorite major bookseller. All you have to do is comment (or blog and link) about how any of the books on the banned books lists had an impact on your life.

It's so easy, really it is. The contest is over in 2 short days.

Couldn't you use $20 for books right now?

Friday, September 22, 2006

What's wrong with that book?

I got an e-mail from my darling husband a week or so ago. He knows how much I LOVE to read. He knows that reading, to me, is as important as breathing. There are some days when I can do nothing, and I do mean NOTHING, until I have finished a book. He knows that my book taste is not restricted to any specific genre, though he also knows that I do have a few favorite authors. Basically, he knows that I love him, and I always will, but BOOKS, dear friends, are the magical things that keep me sane and happy most of the time. He accepts this, and we get along great.

However, his e-mail disturbed me greatly. It contained this link here. The link will take you to a Google page that contains 42 books that have been either banned or challenged in the 20th century. Well, 42 books, that's not a big number, right? Here's the kicker: Those 42 books are on the list recognized by the Radcliffe Publishing Course of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century. That was so shocking to me. How can almost half of the 100 best novels of the century be either banned or challenged? I still am in such emotional turmoil over this that I can't put my feelings into words. However, I thought that those books must have been banned or challenged quite a while back. I mean, who on earth could imagine banning something like "Brave New World", or "Of Mice and Men" these days? Well, if you click this link, you'll find that some of these books have been banned and/or challenged as recently as 2004. That's right, I said 2004. In this country! If you're not as shocked and appalled as I am, shame on you!

Banned Book Week starts tomorrow, September 23, 2006. It is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Please join me in taking a moment to appreciate these wonderful books this week. Pick one up and rediscover the magic of a story. Read one and fall in love all over again. Yes, some of them may not be to your taste or liking, but there is something very special in ALL books. A writer put a piece of their heart and soul into these creations. Even if you don't think a specific book is great, you can't deny that the writer is a magical person.

Here, for your information and enjoyment, is a list of those 42 banned or challenged books. Any typographical errors are mine, because these books deserve more time and attention than a simple cut and paste. I'm typing them all in, one by one. They deserve no less. And please, head over to the book blog this upcoming week and enter our contest. The prize is a $20 gift certificate to the book seller of YOUR choice.

Keep Reading!

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Catcher In the Rye, JD Salinger
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
1984, George Orwell
The Lord of the Flies, William Golding
Beloved, Toni Morrison
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
Ulysses, James Joyce
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
A Farewell To Arms, Ernest Hemingway
Go Tell It On The Mountain, James Baldwin
Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
For Whom The Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
All The King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
Lady Chatterly's Lover, DH Lawrence
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence
A Separate Peace, John Knowles
Women In Love, DH Lawrence
An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
The Call of the Wild, James Baldwin
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs
Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
Rabbit, Run ; John Updike
Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
Native Son, Richard Wright
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Monday, September 11, 2006

I see skin!!

As I said, a few of us cut some hair off. Renee is going to take some of it and make bangs and wispies for 'hat days'. I think it's pretty cool. Plus, she can now choose between blonde, curly or red. The rest of us are just going to enjoy not having bad hair days for a while.

Top left is Brie, Renee's awesome oldest daughter. Brie took her cut all the way to the scalp, and she looks terrific!

Top right is yours truly. I wasn't as brave as Brie, since we only had one disposable razor and it had already been used. Razor cuts scare me, I'm a chicken. Still, it's a little shorter than my last cut, huh?

Middle right is Renee and Brie together, hamming it up. This was before we razored Brie's head. I gave her a mohawk. It only lasted a few minutes, but it was pretty cute!

Bottom left if Renee. You can see her beauty and strength. She's one of the most incredible people I know. Keep her in your prayers!

Now, I'm heading off to bed. It's been a long weekend, full of fun and fellowship. I'll tell you all about the shearing party another time. I have to get some sleep though, since I worked today, after getting up at 5am to cook breakfast at church. I'm a little sleepy now, so I will catch up with the rest of this later...


Shine on, lovely people

Saturday was a big, bald day for us! Renee, my incredibly beautifully strong friend with breast cancer, got a great new look. Since nobody wanted to be left out, a few of us decided to lose some of our locks right along with her. She thought we were all geeks for doing it, but we had a great time.

To the left, you see Jesse. Jesse is Renee's husband, and one of the nicest guys I know.

To the right, you see Shane. Shane is MY husband, and the sexiest man I know. And yes, even with no hair, I still think he's incredibly sexy. Of course, knowing that he shaved his gorgeous black hair in honor of our friend, he seems even sexier to me. Acts of kindness do that to me, what can I say?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

servER to servANT

I work part time as a waitress in a nationally known restaurant. This restaurant is known for Southern style food, and we serve breakfast all day. If you know the place, you know the atmosphere there is reminiscent of your Grandma's house. We have a saying there when something is just wrong. We say "That is sooo not 'country fresh'". That means that it isn't up to the standards of the place. We use the saying for just about everything, from language to food. If it's not "country fresh", then we shouldn't be doing/having/saying it at work.

I've been thinking about those standards and the restaurant's slogan, and how they seem to parallel Christian life. No, this place does not profess to be a Christian business, since that would be so un-PC in today's world. Really though, to me, their standards scream "Christian work ethic". For me, it's refreshing. But that's not what this post is really about.

I'm a waitress. Really, we're called "servers" now, so as not to be gender-biased I suppose. For seven hours a day, four days a week, I'm a 'server'. That means that my job is to serve people. That's what I do. I'm supposed to do that with a 'country fresh' attitude, right down to a smile. I should have a willingness to serve the guests that enter that place and sit at tables in my section. It shouldn't be tough, that's what they pay me to do. No, I don't make much, only $2.18 an hour. Yes, I get tips, when people remember to leave them. Honestly, I'd like to know who taught some people to tip, since really, a $3 tip is not all that great for a $40 bill, especially if your food was delivered fast and right, and your drink was never empty. But that's another story.

A server, by definition, serves. I'm a pretty good server, I think. My managers love it when I work, and constantly ask me to work extra shifts (I've recently learned the art of a tactful "no"). I have recently been asked to train new people, even though I've only been with the company a few months. I have 'regulars', who will actually wait until one of my tables is open instead of sitting at another table. In almost 5 months, I've only had one instance where a manager had to intervene at one of my tables, and that was a kitchen error. I bend over backwards and go out of my way to please my guests. I really work my butt off, and at the end of the night I leave and feel like I've done a decent job. Yes, there is always room for improvement, and I LOVE to get better. However, all in all, I'm not too bad.

What has really been bothering me lately is that I think of myself as a part-time server. I go to work, be a server, go home, and leave that behind me. Yes, there are plenty of ways that I still practice that country fresh attitude outside of work, but it's more because of the server mentality. I don't want to be a server though. I have a different purpose, or at least I should.

I'm supposed to be a SERVANT.

I think this is part of the reason that I'm disliking nightshift so much. On days, I had a group of women that shared my faith, and we would get into daily discussions about the Word, Christian life, Jesus, everything, really. If I was having a hard time, I could ask for prayer, and there would be women that would stop what they were doing and say a prayer for me right when I asked. I had the chance to fellowship, and was constantly uplifted just being around them. I felt stronger in my daily walk, because we were accountable to each other. I don't have that on nights. There are very few professed Christians, and most of them are so worldly that it's difficult to tell what they are. I don't see Christ in them. I want people to see Christ in me, and I feel like that is slipping away from me now.

I want to be a servant all the time, and a server some of the time. I want to be able to talk about my God, my salvation, my redemption. I want people to see me at work and recognize me for what I am - a servant of the King.

I have been very blessed recently to know that the Lord is hearing my pleas. He always sends people into my path when I am feeling low, to brighten things up or lift me up. Tonight, it was a family that prayed together before their meal, and another family that talked to me about Christ. It felt so good to tell them that I knew I was going to Heaven, and they knew I was saved because I said I knew it, instead of I hoped it. That was cool. It was also pretty rare. Most nights, I drag in from work tired, worn out, discouraged, and not in the mood to be a server, much less a servant.

What I've realized is that being a server can actually help me be a better servant. I don't mean that I need to bring you hot biscuits or re-fill your coffee to make you happy. I do mean that by keeping the 'country fresh' attitude all the time, and striving to serve others all the time, I can actually work towards having a servant's heart... all the time. Not just part time, not just at work, not just while I'm wearing my apron and smiling.

That's what I want. I want to be a servant. To do that, I need to keep trying to be a better server. Honestly though, if I fail the restaurant I'll be sad. But to fail my Saviour? That would break my heart.

Besides, to fail Him just wouldn't be "country fresh", now would it?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

They say that...

Breaking up is...hard to do....

Oh friends, it is a sad, sad day in this house. I am commiserating with a broken-hearted teenager.

Last night, the young lad called my house, while Shane and I were both away (good timing!) and broke up with my beautiful daughter! He said that since he is starting high school (first day was yesterday), and they would only see each other at church, he wanted to break up with her.

She held this information until this morning. She didn't tell me last night, though I knew something was wrong. She didn't mention it when we were all gathered on my bed at midnight, me and her and Shane (while Ems and Mags slept in the same bed), giggling and talking. I think she might have been worried about what her dad might say, so she held onto the info until this morning.

My strong girl didn't shed a tear when she told me, but I think she is still plenty upset. If you'll recall, this was her first boyfriend. They really seemed to get along pretty well. We just had his family over for dinner on Sunday, and we all thought things were going pretty well. Now, I just don't know.

I was actually worried about this very thing happening. I even mentioned it to Gret a few weeks ago. I asked her what would happen when he started to high school, and she said she thought things would still be ok. I had my doubts. I mean, they're 14. Trying to keep a relationship together is hard enough. Add in the fact that you see each other only once or twice a week, one of you is in public shool while the other is homeschooled, and well, your hormones are RAGING, and it's just not good.

So today, instead of schooling or cleaning, we're doing something else. We're going to station ourselves in front of the tv and watch every single teen angst movie that we own. I mean, besides chocolate, is there any better cure for a broken heart? Nah, I don't think so...

BUT, if you know of one, tell me. Also, I want to hear all about YOUR first broken heart. Tell me in the comments section. Tell me all about it. Purge your soul of that long ago heartache, so I can share the stories with my beautiful young lass. I want her to realize that this is not the end of the world, and that scores of women have gone through this and survived. Help me out.

And have your shovels ready. The boy just might need his head whacked once or twice. I haven't decided yet...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Anybody have a shovel?

Ok, if you're not a CB, you probably don't know what that means. If you are a CB, can I just tell you that I LOVE YOU!?!

My life has been a bit crazed lately, as many of you may have noticed. I have gotten all of your e-mails and blog comments. Thank you, Christina, for your concern. Thanks Char and Kim, for your well wishes. Thanks, Jen-t for your comments. And THANK YOU, Penny, for that wonderful e-card. You are all so great, and I get teary just thinking about the amazing group of women that I can call "friends". Really, your strength, lent so lovingly, helps me make it through the days sometimes, even when I can't be around to tell you.

I'm still on nights at work. I have to rant about this a little bit. I'm closing every night, 4 nights a week. I've stopped doing extra shifts, so that's a blessing. Still though, the place closes at 10pm, but I don't normally get home until midnight. On Fridays, it's later, since we close at 11pm. Frankly, the money has slowed down, since the summer travel season is over. That's not the problem though. The real problem is that I am surrounded by young people that seem so very lazy. They start whining to leave around 7:30. Usually, the manager will let them leave just so nobody else has to hear them whine. It's very frustrating. Plus, they like to take tables and make tips, but they don't seem to actually like doing the work associated with their tables. We wear pagers that vibrate when food is ready for our tables. The food is not supposed to sit in the window for longer than one minute. If it's not your food, you should still get it out to the table, because, well, nobody likes to eat cold food, right? A favorite thing to do is to either NOT wear the pager, thereby never getting notified that your food is "up", so you don't have to actually take it out... OR, just not showing up to take out your own food to your tables. This seems like a small thing, I'm sure. But it really sucks for people that really want the guest to have a nice dining experience (that would be ME), and get warm food, served the way they ordered it. Generally, I end up 'running food' all night, or getting biscuits or cornbread, or re-filling ice, or getting salads. Now, I wouldn't mind this a bit, if EVERY OTHER PERSON were doing it as much as I do. However, that's just not normally the case. Usually, there are about 5 or 6 people that have 4 tables, that constantly take tables away from other people (like me) because "you were busy". And I just want to scream: "Yeah, busy running your damn food!" Can you tell that I just can't stand it when people are unwilling to do their jobs? Then, at the end of the night, they brag about making $130, while I go home with $70. Their sales are over $500 while mine are around $250. It gets old after a while. It wasn't like this on days, and I really can't wait to go back. PLUS, I really miss my husband.

I have hardly touched my computer in a week or so. I was at the old house getting it ready for our renters every day last week. Shane took the day off on Wednesday to help. Then we spent all day Saturday over there. It was actually kind of fun. So, I'd get up and head over there, do manual labor for a few hours, then head back home to shower and change, then head in to work until midnight, then get up and start all over again. It was a VERY tiring week. But the good news is that I don't have to do that anymore. YAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!! I know we're not out of the woods financially yet, and won't be until November (we're taking a LOT of vacation in October, or it would be sooner!). Still though, knowing that we're keeping that house is great. I mean, it's an investment and we may never get another chance to own two homes so easily. The goal is to have a house for each kid, with the hope of the rent paying for their college. Right now, we've got Gret's in line. In a year or two, we'll be looking for something to buy to help with Michael's education. We'll see how this goes. Wish us luck.

We had Gret's boyfriends fam over for dinner on Sunday. That will take a whole blog to tell you about, so you'll have to wait. Right now, I'm headed into the family room to watch "The Graduate" with the kids. Gret has wanted to watch it since seeing "Rumor has it" a few months back. I'm not all that sure it's appropriate for everyone to watch, but then again, it's a dark, cold rainy day, the popcorn is popped, Jo brewed coffee for me, and I haven't spent any really good time with the kids in over a week. So yeah, I'm pulling the Mommy card on this one and calling it a classic, and we'll talk about it during our "Music and it's effects on Standard American Classic Movies" class that we're going to do...tomorrow. (yeah, great, now I have to come up with a class plan for that!)