Hey Lou Writes

The Grey Matters


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I Ran, I Read, I Cried

I had quite the weekend. I would consider myself having had TWO workouts.

The first, was the 5K Color Me Rad run I completed with my older sister, Emily.

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at the finish line!

If you haven’t heard of this, or if no color run of any sort has graced your own city or town, it’s kind of weird. People run around for 3.1 miles and there are these stations where you get hosed down, sprinkled, or thrown buckets of paint on your person. People show up wearing white. They leave looking colorful (or like they just have on a green shirt! Emily got the bucket!)

I’m really happy because I didn’t have to stop and walk, which was my big goal. Yayyyy

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I thought this really shows just HOW colorful everything was!

It was super fun!! I highly recommend you find one of these races and participate. Families with little kids were walking the course and the kids loved getting paint on their clothes!

Alright. My other workout was one of the best whole body workouts, definitely including the abs quite a bit. It left me a little sore.

Doesn’t that happen to you, too, after you’ve sobbed your eyes out reading a book?

It totally happened to me.

I read Barbara Kingsolver’s greatest novel, The Poisonwood Bible. Again  AGAIN!  I judged a book by its cover. Why do I keep doing this? This is another book, lent to me by the same person as the last book I so wrongfully judged. It sat on my bookshelf for many days. This cover stared at me.

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it’s kind of a cool cover, actually

I feel in love with this book and wound up finishing it in two days. I could NOT put it down. I brought it in the car, just in case I turned up early anyplace and I could read for another precious few minutes. I hardly slept. Maybe part of running the 5K and not walking at all was simply my determination to get home and read… ha  just kidding!

If you read this, get ready. You will need a whole box of tissues, or you will simply have to throw whatever sweater you were wearing into the wash.

But you should also get ready to laugh out loud, cringe, pick up some new sayings, and have some preconceived notions thrown out the window. I know I did all of these things.

The family in this book is similar to my own in a few ways:

There are four daughters, two of which are twins

The father is a pastor (mine’s Lutheran, in the book, they’re Baptist)

My grandpa (mom’s dad) grew up in Madagascar with this missionary parents (and wrote a book about it!) 

reading, writing, missionary

I know, so cool, right??!

The family in this book is also very different from my family in a few ways, too.

Our minister dad isn’t totally and awfully abusive, like in the book (writing Bible verses as punishment just doesn’t seem to match up with what they’re actually there for… )

The youngest two in my family are twins, not the middle two

None of us have been to Africa

That’s just to name a few ;)

Yet again I read a book that made me reevaluate my entire life. It gave me a new perspective on my own country, my home and the way I judge people. It seems that is all books have been doing for me lately, which I am thankful for.

When I put the book down, I LITERALLY stood up and was overwhelmed by the size of my living room. It felt humungous… It took many steps for me to get to my kitchen, which just absolutely shocked me. Weird, I know. But you have to understand – for two days I’d been living inside the book, meaning I was living inside a tiny mud hut in a small village in the Congo and I had almost zero resources. Walking across a wood floor in an adobe house with everything in the kitchen I could ever want was suddenly amazing. I made my dinner in a daze. I took out my frozen peas, heated them up on the stove with soy sauce and a little tofu, put it on a bed of arugula and added olive oil. I hadn’t quite considered the technology it took for all of that to end up on my dinner plate.

I felt ashamed of the life I live, thankful for the life I live, wary of the choices people in high places have made all throughout history, yet hopeful. This book did it all.

I was riddled with the smart and witty quotes.

“I’ve seen how you can’t learn anything when you’re trying to look like the smartest person in the room.”

“Sugar, it’s no parade but you’ll get down the street one way or another, so you’d just as well throw your shoulders back and pick up the pace.”

“Everything you’re sure is right can be wrong in another place.”

The Poisonwood Bible also made me stray away from my usual and slightly ignorant belief that I should feel sorry for people with less. This book showed the beauty of living with practically nothing. The people in the Congo (at least in the village written about in this book) lived on one primary source of food, a gooey and tasteless substance, but it was simple and kept them alive for hundreds of years. They had homes made of mud, one pair of clothes (if even) and schooling wasn’t a top priority. They were smart in other ways. I am reminded of that famous quote:

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” Albert Einstein 

I am now a Kingsolver fan. Next on my list is her book about living a year on only local food (something I wanted to do!) called Animal Vegetable Miracle. Can’t wait!!

Don’t forget how lucky and blessed you are on this fine morning. If you’ve complained about the size of your home or the fact that your car isn’t nice enough, you definitely need to read Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver :)

You’ll wind up a much more content person if you do!

<3


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Bad Poetry, Bowl Cuts & The Past

We have all done things we regret. Right? Please don’t tell me I’m alone. I’ve done things that I still feel guilty about. I’ve also done things that are embarrassing or just silly. I can’t change the past, even if I really, really want to. Too bad. I can, however, use what I’ve learned and start a better future. My husband Greg always says, in moments when I’m down, “Don’t water last year’s crops.”

It says so much. Last years crops are dead and gone and there’s absolutely no point in watering them. Do, however, water this year’s crops- the ones growing right now. I need to nourish the future I have by taking care of my present. That silly old past- it won’t get me down!!

Here are a few examples of past moments I need to move on from (go ahead, laugh… you’ll be laughing with me, not at me… I think)

My first acrostic poem:

poetry, past, writing, young adult, fiction

Looks kind of violent from far away- all that red

For anyone who might have trouble reading this, it says:

M elinda how creative was that? at least I used two different colors

E nergetic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I still love the exclamation point, to a fault

L emen   ? maybe, although that’s debatable. I do like lemons, though

I nsperacian   my spelling did improve, with time

N eet   never, have I ever in my life been “neet”… or neat

D o   well, that’s just common sense. I do lots of things

A ward   I like to think I’d just won some great award in my classroom, but there’s no solid evidence for that

I’ve been humbled by so many things. I’ve learned not to compare myself to my sisters (my twin, Meredith, wrote a poem just like this and hers is awesome!! straight lines, correct spelling, and words that actually described her) If I did that, I’d just go crazy. I’ve learned to laugh at things that might be embarrassing… like… LIKE THIS PICTURE!!!!

My first “mistake” haircut:

fiction, past, young adult, fictiion

most likely, I wrote the poem around this same time (yikes)

I looked like a boy. My bowl cut matched the baby Tommy doll in the case I’m holding. I think that’s a classic Christmas morning nightgown. I had braces at age 6… brutal.

But I digress.

This beautiful, coherent acrostic poem (and the bowl cut) is in my past. I can’t change that! (which I’m completely okay with…I’m one of those people who can laugh at myself…thank goodness) But you know what else? Something I CAN do?? I can write a new one!!! Yes!!

Here is a new version, written today.

M elinda some things from our pasts shouldn’t change, so there, I kept the original M

E nigmatic sometimes…

L aughing daily

I nterested in almost everything

N ever neat though I’m working on it

D edicated to those I love and pursuing my dreams

A pprehensive at times

There! Done. Changed, or updated, something from my past.

Although- now that I’ve gone and done that, I think I like the original one better <3

Another example of something I can’t change:

The dreaded brown and short hair. I don’t know what I was thinking. Hadn’t I learned from my childhood, that short hair just isn’t my thing? I went through an identity crisis. Luckily, Greg still proposed when I had this hair, but even more lucky…. it grew back.

My second “mistake” haircut:

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not me at all!

It took years to get back to my “normal” self. In the same way, when I make big mistakes and hurt those I love, it seems as though it can take years (or even longer) for things to go back to normal. Sometimes the people I love most in life surprise me and show me complete grace…forgiving me right away. Greg is the best at this. It is often ME who has a tantrum-like moment and often HIM who smiles and says, “Okay, can we be done arguing now? I just thought of the birds outside and it made me so happy!” Literally. This exact thing has happened.

writing, love, past

Everything is back to normal ;)

I’m so grateful for poetry of my youth, the fact that hair grows back, and people who chose to forgive, rather than hold grudges. I’m thankful for mistakes and the fact that we can LEARN from them, rather than wallow in them forever.

<3

If you’re interested… Here are some examples of my poetry. I like to think I’ve come a long way since the acrostic poem of my younger days, but you should let me know what you think ;)


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Do It Yourself …the art of being a catalyst

writer, new writer, catalyst, short stories, poems

It’s the only way :)

I was recently told by someone I know this: “You were a catalyst for me.”

I looked up the word. It’s actually pretty scientific.

Catalyst-

1: a substance that enables a chemical reaction to proceed at a usually faster rate or under different conditions (as at a lower temperature) than otherwise possible
2: an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action
Therefore… this person thinks that something I did changed something in their life at a faster rate than it might have, had I not done something. Or I provoked a significant change.
At first I was a little bit taken aback. After all, I’d rather be, say, important to someone, or a part of their life, than simply a catalyst for whatever the heck happened or is happening. I felt like I had the word stamped across my forehead. Like I had become this thing, this symbol for someone else’s life. (On a good note, I think the person meant it as a compliment.)
I’ve been thinking lately about my own life. If I’m going to be a catalyst for something, I’d rather it be my own goals. I want to do something that sparks a fast change in my own life. I want to provoke something new and good to happen. I have to keep doing things to make life interesting, because as the saying goes, “God doesn’t move a parked car.” We have to set our own goals and work toward them.
Here is one quote I’ve been in love with lately:
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No Exceptions

I have a magnet of this quote up on my fridge. It really does remind me each and every day to live life to the fullest. There are certain changes I DO want to make, and they aren’t going to happen unless I simply change my actions.

SO!

Think positively.

Visualize your goals. 

Sit down and do the work! (I spend hours a day writing. I’m not perfect, I’m just working really hard!!!)

Choose to support the things you LOVE… don’t spend so much time (and wasted energy)  hating the things you don’t approve of or dislike.

Be patient! 

Don’t let your self be a catalyst for someone else. Be your own!!!

I’ll leave you with yet another great quote:

“To be a catalyst is the ambition most appropriate for those who see the world as being in constant change, and who, without thinking that they can control it, wish to influence its direction.” -Theodore Zeldin, Historian and Author

Because I don’t ever want to feel the word burning into my forehead again… I’d rather it be written on my own heart for my own reasons.
:)


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Be Notorious

writer, new writer, short stories, poetry, rumi

The book YOU need to get TODAY and let change your life.

According to the online Webster definition of Notorious, it means:
adj; generally known and talked of; especially: widely and unfavorably known.

This doesn’t sound all that great. I’ll probably never be widely talked of (I’m no celebrity) and the idea of being unfavorably known? That’s a little scary. It’s scary to think that people might not like me.
HOWEVER. This is the quote that’s been changing my life lately:
Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.” -Rumi

I’ve been obsessed with Rumi lately. The old poet who speaks so often of love, God, life and relationships… well, his words truly are life changing. This quote in particular really gets to me.
Take the first line…

Run from what’s comfortable.

Why should I? My life is very comfortable. I’ve been enjoying things. I have a lot to look forward to each and every day. But have I truly felt alive? Have I felt that through all of this comfort, a reason why I might be here on this Earth? No. I know that in order to make a difference and live a life that matters, I need to be uncomfortable. What I’m not sure about is whether it will be a mild discomfort or a big one. I guess I’m kind of ready for both.

Now let’s face the second line…

Forget safety.

What’s safe? The first thing that popped into my head, which I’m sure most  people won’t really agree with, was not having a dog to take care of. Wearing all of my layers in order to not freeze to death… making sure I wake up in time to make coffee and prepare an awesomely healthy breakfast… which means going to bed early enough to do that… safety is everywhere. In every action I’ve been taking. What does this mean? Forget safety? I don’t think it means that I should stop wearing my seatbelt or anything like that. However, I think it means going out on a limb. It means living enough to let things happen, whether they are good or bad. I won’t actually put myself in danger, but I won’t take every little precaution necessary to be safe. If I’m safe my entire life, well… that doesn’t make for much of a life.

Live where you fear to live.

What does that mean to you? For so many it means alone. For some it means living in a new place. It means taking that new job or quitting that old one. It means going for your dream even if you go broke trying to do so. Live where you fear to live. That will make getting up every day much more interesting… wouldn’t you agree?

Destroy your reputation.

Now, I’m not talking Kristen Stewart style or anything. This is inspiring because it really brings home this: It does not matter what other people think. How in the world could it matter? No one else is with you 24/7. YOU are the only one living with your every day actions. You are the only one who should care about your reputation… which means the way you think about yourself!!! Wouldn’t it be funny to hear someone say, “Yeah, I think I have a pretty good reputation. I mean… I like myself.” That would be refreshing. Not only would that person A) be awesome because they truly didn’t care what other people thought, but they’d also B) be even more awesome because they truly liked themselves. I’m craving more people in my life who truly love who they’ve become. I love authenticity, but without the pretentiousness that sometimes comes along with that. Would you be acting differently if reputation had nothing to do with it? That’s what inspires me. I need to do what I want to do, regardless of what others think. Even if that destroys my reputation. My current one, anyway. I guess we’ll always have one. It just might change!!

And finally…

Be notorious.

Which to me, means live with bravery. Be known for doing something crazy or exciting. Be known for going out on a limb and not giving up when you land on your stomach and get the wind knocked out of you. Anyone can survive that… after you get past the part where you can’t breathe.

So I’ll be doing my best to live out Rumi’s words. I feel TRULY inspired. I hope you do, too!!


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Too Many Thoughts

Living A Novel

By Melinda Williams

I’d rather life resemble

a Steinbeck novel

I’d rather starve

or lose a house

or drive Route 66

or have an evil mother

or kill for the greater good

Than risk living the life

of a chick-lit novel

Where I’d never feel anything real

Just what others did to me

Above is my latest poem. I’ve been writing them lately. I jot down poems here and there, or little thoughts of inspiration.  A friend of mine got me this little book and it has been life changing. See? Here it is, and look how messy my handwriting is!

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My Little Notebook! I take it EVERYWHERE

I highly recommend doing something like this. It’s for life’s little thoughts. Or big thoughts… either one, really. Why not have a place where you can jot down a note or two, perhaps an inspiring quote, and maybe even journal in when it’s needed? These little books are so cheap and fit in a pocket, even!

Anyway. This blog is not an ad for tiny notebooks. It’s a blog I’m writing, pondering WHY I’ve become someone who would stay awake and write a blog past midnight. (while sitting in the hallway in front of the heater… because I am frozen. Where’s that whiskey…?)

WHY have I become a person who would stay up that late anyway? I used to be a “get 8 hours of sleep” kind of a gal. Now… lately… I’ve been functioning on far less. Mostly, this is because of fun nights spent with friends when we drink way too much wine and then all have to work the next day. But partly, and more and more frequently, it’s because I cannot sleep and my thoughts are carrying me away with them. Yes. Carrying me away. My thoughts are like little ants in a cartoon of a picnic, and I’m the sandwich, slowly getting further away from the person who prepared it…

That’s a horrible analogy! But I think it kind of works!

I’ve been trying to make quotes like these my mantras:

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amazing, huh?

OR

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I laugh out loud to myself MANY times a day. It’s awesome

Life IS too short not to try to live by these. What does the first quote mean? Well, if you haven’t yet made a few mistakes in life, this isn’t for you. AKA, everyone can probably relate to this. I love the idea that there is this constant gray area, LIFE, that lies between right and wrong. Who’s to say what is right and what is wrong, anyway? There’s always two sides to every story. There are always hearts involved… always personal feelings and actions. It’s just like Justin Townes Earle (one of my favorite singers) says in one of his songs…”Who am I to say?” Therefore, I hope we can all agree to meet up with each other in life. I hope that you and someone, or many people (maybe someone you love, maybe someone you cannot stand) can agree to meet out in that “field” and live life, regardless of blame or “right and wrong.”

The second quote is pretty obvious. And I really, truly hope that you all find a moment to laugh by yourself at least once a day. Think of a funny moment you’ve experienced lately. Read the comics! Make a funny face and then shake with laughter knowing that you are the only one who knows you just did that… (or if you have, say, a twin, make funny faces to each other when no one else is aware… that is pure joy!)

On bad days, or moments when I’m not feeling so great, it’s quotes like these that plague me:

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Ugh

OR

Exactly. Memory can be a monster!!!

Exactly. Memory can be a monster!!!

I’ve really been trying to live in the moment. Not in such a “you only live once” kind of a way… but in a “I need to quiet my freaking brain for at least a second, please” kind of a way.

Do you go over the exact same thought again and again?

Are you riddled with the if’s of your last choice?

Do you over worry about someone else’s reaction to something you’ve done, knowing full well that you are being silly?

I think we all do. I sure hope I’m not alone in this! This is WHY I’ve been trying not to let my memory monsters get the better of me. Memories can be beautiful and peaceful and filled with the best moments of life… I’m not saying that remembering is a bad thing. But hanging on to those moments can be less than helpful in your every day life, particularly when clinging to a bad memory. After all, that is NOT what is happening RIGHT NOW… whenever right now is for you. The same goes with worries about the future.

I’ve heard stress is only a reaction to something we think might happen. It’s rarely a physical reaction to something that is literally happening that moment. Which is exactly why I’m trying so hard to live in the moment. I don’t want to live in the past, whether I’m enjoying a good memory or crying over an awful one. I don’t want to stress about what tomorrow or next week might bring. I want to be present. I want to be thankful for each moment as it comes. It sounds cheesy, but I have to constantly remind myself that tomorrow is not promised. It’s not for sure that I’ll even have to face {input awful outcome of such and such decision here}. I’m trying my hardest not to worry about these things.

So for now, I’ll keep sitting in front of the heater (it’s now much later… or earlier in the morning, rather…), probably writing in my little notebook. I’ll also be trying to quiet my mind.

Oh, and I’m listening to Paper Forest by Emmy the Great. This song has some amazing lines. I listen to it over and over… I’m obsessed. Give it a listen. See if you can get the connection between what I’m trying to say here and what she says in the song.

“It’s like these days I have to write down almost every thought I’ve held

So scared I am becoming of forgetting how it felt

And these fears they will unravel me one day

But still I am afraid…”

Emmy the Great, Paper Forest

<3


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At A Loss for Words- On Giving Advice

On Giving Advice…and Consoling the Afflicted.

Lou- trying to give advice.

Lou- trying to give advice.

When we are well, we all have good advice for those who are ill.” -Lucius Annaeus Seneca

I never want to be associated with this quote. Here’s why.

Advice.

I am horrible at this. I’ll spout out generic advice like:

rip that band aid off!“

follow your gut!” &

oh my gosh get out of that situation now!”

but that’s about it.

I am even worse at consoling someone who is crying or has just told me something awful. My good friend Tiffany (known her since we were 13!!) laughs with me and she admits it- I’ve pretty much been really awkward whenever it came to a sad moment of hers.

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Tiff and me at least 4 years ago… luckily she has remained my friend!! :)

The one thing people are most liberal with, is their advice.” -Francois de La Rochefoucauld

I just don’t know what to do. Some girls are so great with words. They start the confident and ever-so-sure ramblings of, “Oh, girl, you can do soooo much better! Just wait- he’ll get what’s coming to him. You are amazing. You will move on from this and not even remember it! HE’S STUPID!” or “I’m so sorry for your loss. Just know that God needed another angel. You’ll see them again someday. They’re watching over you….”

Yikes. I just can’t do that.

So if you’re coming to me with an issue, this will most likely be my reaction…

Wow- I’m sorry. I really don’t know what to say.”

Then I will pat your back. I might give you a side hug. If we’re at coffee and we have to stand up to hug, I might make that a very awkward moment, too. Basically, I feel so, so sorry for anyone who comes to me with their issues. I feel so much empathy, I will most likely cry later- after the moment has passed. I recently saw a friend who told me something so heartbreaking that I cried on my way home. I was bawling in the car like a fool and making the road a more dangerous place.

The reason why I think this is okay:

I don’t think people really want that advice.

Yes, I guess it’s nice to hear all of those things about whatever guy just broke up with you. But honestly? Maybe he is a good guy. Maybe he got good grades and isn’t really stupid at all. And I can’t promise that you will move on or not remember this moment of hurting. That’s a silly thing to promise someone, isn’t it? (please tell me I’m not the only one thinking of Dori in Finding Nemo… “Hmm…that’s a funny thing to promise….Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.”) I don’t control your emotions.

But yes… someone can always do better than someone who hurt them. Of course. I really hope that girls (and guys) realize this, but for some reason I rarely feel as if it’s my place to tell them.

And I will always be sorry for someone’s loss. Always. Again, I’ll most likely cry and be in this weird, somber-like mood that drives Greg crazy for a few days. God didn’t need another angel, angels are already there and we don’t get wings when we go to heaven. There goes that. I have no idea if dead people are watching over us, but I, too, would like to believe that that’s the case. I don’t want to lie to anyone who is going through something so serious and life changing. What are my words, anyway?

I like advice from Little Women.

When Jo asks Friedrich, “What’s going to happen?”

He says, “The inevitable.”

Simple, concise advice.

And later, Amy says to her sister, “You don’t need scores of suitors. You only need one, if he’s the right one.”

Simple wins again.

Here’s a great example of why sometimes [unsolicited] advice is just silly. Every high school and college graduate has been told to “take the road less traveled by,” which has been misunderstood altogether. If anyone were to look at the rest of the Robert Frost poem, they’d see that:

…Though as for that the passing there, had worn them really about the same.”

Hidden meaning? It doesn’t really matter which way you go. Both paths could lead to good or bad things. It’s cynical, which isn’t usually my style, but I think it’s honest.

At the end of the day, I’ll leave you with this quote:

It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder.’” -Aldus Huxley 

Or perhaps understood silence is better.

I sure hope so, or I’ve been a pretty awful friend. 


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Gone Girl, Marriage & Being Cool

GONE GIRL

By Gillian Flynn

a sort-of book review :)

I read this on the back porch with the cutest tea pot ever :)

I read this on the back porch with the cutest tea pot ever :)

This book is CRAZY, GIRL!

Let’s talk about marriage, sex, psychos, manipulation, murder, psychologically damaging parents, children’s books, failed expectations, anniversaries, media…. And more. (or at least accept that these topics are in the book, interesting, but far too many to talk about in one simple blog post!)

We finally had book club and now I can finally write this blog. I wanted the perspective of my fellow Book Ends Book Club members before I wrote away on this one.

This is the kind of book that doesn’t make you want to turn the page… but forces you to turn the page.  I was so filled with worry, tension, stress, hate, and sympathy for different characters at certain points in this book. When a novel can do that, you know you’ve struck gold. I yearn for a book to speak to me. I crave a good ending (not “good -happy“ but “good-slam-the-book-down-and-yell-OH-MY-GOSH-when-it-ends”). I’m always hungry for that next book that will affect my entire week. Literally… it affects my everyday life, reading a book like this one. When I was at work I kept thinking, “What’s going to happen to Nick? Did he do it? I’m awfully suspicious, but no… he is a nice guy.” And then eventually… “I HATE HER!”

Being that Nick and Amy Dunne, in Gone Girl, are celebrating their five year anniversary, I began contemplating my own marriage. I underlined many of the sentences. The insights, I thought, were very keen. They were well said through both Nick and Amy. She was similar to me, though much more disgruntled. But when she was happy… it sounded as though it could be me talking. When the two characters remembered arguments or less than perfect moments I wondered, “Wow, am I treating Greg as well as he deserves?” “Am I encouraging Greg to do enough ‘guy things?’”

{Let me just say here, I hate the word “Let” when referring to a couple. As in: “My husband didn’t let me go out that night…” or “I never let him do that. It smells bad.” As married couples, we don’t “let” each other do anything.  We are not each other’s parents. We support, motivate, and keep each other in line when it’s needed. :) }

Mr. and Mrs. Dunne faced normal issues and dealt with them in realistic ways, at least at the beginning.

QUOTE FROM THE BOOK:

“Because isn’t that the point of every relationship: to be known by someone else, to be understood? He gets me. She gets me. Isn’t that the simple magic phrase?”  -Amy

Yes, I thought. Greg gets me. I’m fairly certain no one else would want to spend this much time with me. He gets everything about me. It feels nice. There’s no pretense. No act. There hasn’t been for five and a half years, and there never will be!

This is one of the lines I so naively underlined, thinking it said it all. Thinking Amy was so sincere.

Now…Nick Dunne- whew. What a guy, right?  (CAUTION: spoilers!! Don’t read past here if you don’t want the ending to be ruined!) What a stupid, sad, careless, cheating, messed up, but ultimately kind of great guy who makes you feel sorry for him.

Even though he cheated. That’s one thing I kept thinking, after book club was over: “We didn’t spend as much time as one might guess, discussing how awful it was that he cheated. We didn’t give Amy any credit for getting him back for that particular mistake. Because isn’t cheating the ultimate bad thing? Is it worse than what she did? No…but it happens much more often and doesn’t take nearly as much brains to pull off. Whoa…”

Anyway.

As much as I take a stand against all cheaters, I felt sorry for the dude. Who wouldn’t feel sorry for someone who’s had this big of a prank pulled? Even if the meanest girl from high school was set up for murder she didn’t commit… I’d feel sorry for her! (well, maybe…)

Author Gillian Flynn did an excellent job with Nick, in my opinion. Even when the reader finds out what Nick’s secret cell phone is all about… why he hasn’t put much worry into his missing wife of five years…is told the truth that he has been cheating…well, it’s still hard not to love him. At first we are angry and feel fooled. Then we realize that he has done almost nothing in comparison to what Amy has just pulled on US as readers. She wins… she did the worst thing.

Then comes the big question (girls, it’s true), the one we are ALL asking ourselves after reading this book:

Am I guilty of trying to be “cool girl?”

Well, answer yes only if you truly can’t stand your husband having a life of his own. I felt defensive of how I live life, reading the “cool girl” part. I thought, “I do a few of these things. I don’t do a few of these things… but I do this, and this…does that make me a phony? Does that make me guilty of trying too hard to be a good wife?” Thankfully, the answer I came up with was NO.

QUOTE FROM BOOK:

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)”  -Amy

Here’s a mini check-list:

–          I like to think I’m funny

–          I heart a good dirty joke

–          I can eat way too much, but rarely do anymore

–          I love the comics, F-Minus is my fav!

–          I don’t play poker

–          I HATE burps and burping

–          As to the x-rated part…. Um, NO

–          I get angry. I do.

I don’t know what kind of guy she is referring to, but I know that it surely isn’t the guy I married. I know I am far too lucky, having married the opposite of a “bro”…of a “frat guy”…I married someone who’s biggest concern in life is laughing and getting others to laugh with him (and brewing some really great coffee!) There’s nothing put-on when it comes to us. In fact, if Greg and I had tried to go on an official date and made these fake conversations that are really from movies happen, we never would have dated in the first place. Our first dates consisted of spending time on the back porch for an entire summer. In fact, other than a wedding, our first date happened thanks to a gift certificate his brother gave us! (Thanks again, Chris!) But enough about that.

Being someone who allows your spouse to enjoy the things they want to do, even if it means being out late or spending time without you, doesn’t have to mean putting on a show. Hell, I could even want some alone time in exchange for his. I like to get in a good sweaty workout and grunt my way through it. If he’s home for that, cool. If he’s not, even better.

Here’s another scary quote that I think we just need to all agree… is terrifying. It’s not okay to treat ANYONE like this, but especially your husband. As long as the communication remains intact… this will not happen!!!!!!!!

QUOTE FROM BOOK:

“Wear this, don’t wear that. Do this chore now and do this chore when you get a chance and by that I mean now. And definitely, definitely give up the things you love for me, so I will have proof that you love me best. It’s the female pissing contest — as we swan around our book clubs and our cocktail hours, there are few things women love more than being able to detail the sacrifices our men make for us. A call-and-response, the response being: “Ohh, that’s so sweet.” -Amy

I truly believe that without trying, I don’t do this!! I’m not just saying that, either. Neither do any of the married women in my book club. :)

Another thought on marriage: Giving up what you love is the last thing you should do. I love Greg the MORE he plays music and talks to me about different keys of harmonicas, while I listen in blissful ignorance and nod. He loves it when I write and read for hours and can’t even hear what he says to me.

Why?

Because these things keep us sane. Would things go well if I stopped reading, just so that we could sit and talk during that precious time? Probably not. If I bitched at Greg that his [awesome] band took up too much time and I can’t take the late nights anymore…. Well, that would be awful. What in the world would he do with his time? Come home just so that he can kiss me goodnight at nine pm? Come on, right? That’s just silly. It doesn’t take a “cool girl” to know it, either.

At the end of book club, after we all talked about how crazy Amy was and how disappointed we were in Nick and how her parents scared us more than we’d like to admit, the discussion came to the topic of how well a married couple has to know one another in order to be happy.

I was fascinated with the end of the book. As Amy points out to Nick, they knew each other better than anyone else. Even if they knew the worst in each other, they would never meet another person who understood them better. I wondered if this was so important. Aren’t there happy couples who, at the end of the day, don’t really know each other that well? Can’t people survive with a smile, a laugh, a kiss, and a comfort in knowing what to expect each day? Do people have to have an absolute knowledge of one another in order for their marriage to really succeed?

I think that’s unanswerable. Everyone is so different. I’ve never met another couple that thrived in the same way. I’ve never met a single person, out there on their own, who was looking for the exact same things in another person as the single person across the room.

Read Gone Girl and come up with your own opinion… and hopefully you won’t have any nightmares!


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Living Deliberately

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…” Excerpt from Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Yes, I went to live deliberately for two and a half days, and I didn’t even have to screw over an Irishman in order to do it. (if you don’t know what that means, take a closer look at Walden…)

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Raglan’s Roost!

I wish I could live out in the woods deliberately, as Thoreau so beautifully stated. I came close this week when I had the opportunity to spend time at a cute cabin, complete with a name carved on the outside, “Raglan’s Roost,” with friends. The two nights spent there were great. I felt full of energy, even with the two pounds of bacon (and who knows how many pounds of cheese…) consumed by only four people. I felt inspired the entire time. What is it about watching the bird and squirrels eat peanuts from the comfort of a rocking chair? The air smelled sweet and fresh. The sunlight woke us up.

short stories, new writer, trees

The View!!!

“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.” Walden, too…

I really did feel this way. Cheerful… like Mother Nature was inviting me to have a great day with her. I like living simply. I tried not to use my phone, which was easy because we had no service. I didn’t have my Kindle, but a real book of short stories. I wrote… on PAPER!! Let me tell you, I have a love/hate relationship with that. It’s nice to get an entire paragraph out quickly by typing fast. It takes time to write and the thoughts need to come out more deliberately. I think twice before each sentence. It was a good thing to get back to, if even for only two days. I rarely think to write with a pen and paper at home. It struck me how this all of a sudden made sense. Why not write on a real sheet of paper? I’m up in the mountains, after all. It simply felt right.

This is where I did that writing!

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Coffee on the Porch :)

I drank way toooo much coffee.

short stories, new writer, coffee

Coffeeeeeee

We took two hikes total and walked along a river bed!

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Lou and Lou standing by river drop off

I wound up with two small scratches on my left ankle. NOT BAD!!! Greg and I were both worried I’d come out with way worse.

About to Hike….

The uphill hike… WORTH IT!

Beautiful. Simply stunning.

Did I ever mention that I love cows? I do. Happy cows make my day. Unhappy cows make me cry.

When we were out by the cabin we heard a loud “mooooo!” and little did we know, the cows were just down the hill from where we were. The dog we were with chased after them and so we hiked down the small distance and saw not one, not two… but a FAMILY of cows!!!! They’re honestly a little bit intimidating. I knew they wouldn’t charge. But I still ran away from them.

Some Cows….

The whole family! This is where I got nervous. They came much closer!!!

At the end of the day we played games. Thanks to Misty and Mackenzie (who invited us to the cabin in the first place) we now have a fun game called Chicken Foot under our belt. Get some dominos and have a ball! Call us for a fun night playing this! We’ll teach you how!!

Chicken Foot

And we played some scrabble…. Which I have never won in my life. I did score a 22, though. My highest scoring word yet. We were using a dictionary from the 80’s that didn’t yet have the word “Qi” in it, so my real glory moment was dashed to smithereens. It’s okay. I got over it.

What I had to work with…

The big question is this: Does being out in the wilderness really make a big difference creatively? I think in some ways, yes. I had peace and quiet, along with plenty of time to sit and ponder life. Being there made me want to be healthy so that I could keep up with what nature had in store for us. It’s not easy to climb a mountain or keep your balance in a river. It’s so fun to do it, though! When I sat down to write I wanted to look at the birds instead of my paper, truth be told. Nature is quite distracting, but in a great way. Sometimes it’s good to be distracted. We need to let our minds clear out of work and stress. I had to focus on the pine scent that came with the breeze and the sound of a raven in the distance, which was a great break from the constant rambling in my head. “Have I written enough today? Will that agent send me something other than a rejection letter? Should I self-publish? I’m hungry.” It calmed my nerves to simply settle down and notice the simple things in life, like a huge ground squirrel being chased by a tiny squirrel half its size. I find that I live more “deliberately” when I have something to do. I think of my ideas when I’m at work!

I’d like to know if people feel their best, creatively, or otherwise, when they venture out into nature. OR is it your comfort zone, like being at home, that makes you produce your best work? Does it depend on what the goal is? Does in depend on the day? Week? Year?

Let me know! :)

 

TRIP MADE POSSIBLE BY THIS AWESOME FAMILY!!!!!! We love the Bishops!!! :)

Misty and Mackenzie and of course… Jenson!

 


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Birthdays, Harry Potter and Characters

Characters and Empty Nest Syndrome.

new writer, short stories, twins

my twin!

Let me first say happy birthday to myself, my twin sister, Meredith, and most importantly, Harry Potter. Yes, I share a birthday with Harry. On July 31st,1989 we were born and I think Harry started existing in J.K. Rowling’s head somewhere around 1991. It’s crazy to think that at one point in time H.P. didn’t even exist.

Yup. I know. It’s hard to even visualize, but there was a time.

Being that Harry is one of the most well known characters ever written, sharing a birthday with him is awesome. It’s one of my favorite facts about myself. That, and the fact that I also have a matching scar on my forehead (shaped like a crescent moon rather than lightning, but still!)

I turn 23 today. If you listen to music you might be aware of how profound this age really is. It’s mentioned too many times to count. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing has yet to be determined. I’ll try my best to make that decision by pointing out the honorable mentions of the age here:

Blink 182: What’s My Age Again?

“Nobody likes you when you’re twenty-three….”

+1 because this suggests that we’re still young enough to be annoying…at least that’s what I want it to mean

Coolio: Gangsta’s Paradise (listened to this song a lot in my eighth grade ‘cussing and rap phase’ ay yi yi!)

“I’m 23 now, but will I live to see 24, the way things are going I don’t know…”

-1 because I am so embarrassed to have been such a wannabe white middle school girl listening to what I thought of as gangsta rap

Yellowcard: Twenty Three

“We’re almost twenty-three and you’re still mad at me…”

-1 just because this is sad

Tristan Prettyman: Simple As It Should Be

“I am almost 23, confused with all the lines in between…”

+1 because it’s so cute, my husband Greg and I did long distance for two years and it was one of the songs that helped me, and she makes 23 sound not so bad

Justin Townes Earle: Yuma

“So he was just 23 when he stepped out on that ledge…”

-1 because this is flat out depressing. (Although it’s one of my all-time favorite songs by one of my all-time favorite artists!!! check it out!!)

Blitzen Trapper: Furr

“On the day that I turned 23, I was curled up underneath a dogwood tree…”

+1 because why not? I don’t actually know this song well enough to judge, Meredith just told me about it!

So it comes out even.

I guess I can count how many songs talk about the age. SIX. If you know of more please let me know!

I’ll get out of my rant about my own age and focus again on Harry Potter and characters in general.

So.

Okay.

As fiction writers we do one main thing…we tell a story about a character (or many, many characters). They didn’t exist until we made them.

But are we writing a story about some new person we’ve created or a story about ourselves? I’d argue on both ends. I have written more than 60 different characters. Some are very minor, some are major. It hardly matters. I’ve mothered them, given them the means to exist, coaxed them off into their own world until they could function without me, and then wanted them to return home. I MADE YOU. WHERE ARE YOU GOING? I’ve felt like saying this before. There is a quote that has really stuck with me.

“The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn’t thought about. At that moment he’s alive and you leave it to him.”   -Graham Greene
When a character becomes no longer “mine” and does this exact thing, it’s a very emotional process. They’re real now. They have lives of their own. It’s as if they’re alive and walking around inside my very own word document (because none of them have made it past manuscript, which is okay for now) and have slightly rebelled against me, but done nothing that can constitute a grounding. I’m not their parent. Some of them I don’t even like. In fact, isn’t that another part of writing?

hate some of the characters I’ve written.

With a passion. As I type their next action I think to myself “Gosh, they are just awful! How could they do that?” And as much as I hate a few of them, I especially love a handful. They are my pride and joy. I am proud of what they do and what they say. They learn from their mistakes. They are loyal. And even if they have some major flaws, I love them anyway.

new writer, short stories, characters

just to name a few…

And last but not least, I am devoted to them all because in a way, they all hold a part of me. Yes, even the ones I hate. Because often times they say something that someone once said to me. Or they hold the same name (yes… many characters are as real as the coffee mug sitting in front of me, whether they are kind, evil, funny, desperate, or …anything else…) as a real life person who I knew in, say, high school. Some of them are family members with names too cool to pass up. I can’t think of characters unless I have had some life experience that has lead to me writing the words that created them. And so many characters exist simply because of a song that I’ve heard.

One example:

Travis in I Looked Over Jordan {will share on blog soon, too!} exists solely because of three songs on a murder ballad CD called Seven Curses  by Jeffrey Foucault and Mark Erelli. Especially songs Ellis Unit One and Sonora’s Death Row.

I was obsessed (and still am) with this murder ballad CD and listened to it for three weeks straight. This story became obvious, as if it had already happened and it was simply my job to tell the story… hardly create it.

When I get to typing I feel as if I am a medium for something that is already there. Writers block is rare, I’m very lucky to say. As long as my fingers are moving the right words seem to come out.

I’m excited for anyone reading this to get to know characters I’ve written…one short story, manuscript excerpt and rambling idea at a time!


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“If you care about something you have to protect it – If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.” ― John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

This quote is from my FAVORITE book of all time. ALL TIME. This pretty much says it all. Today I’m starting to live the life I want. My future has never looked so bright!