Tag: relationships

Get it Together

In a conversation this weekend, someone told me: “You always look like you have it all together!”

After I stopped choking on my wine, I sat dumbfounded, blinking at her as I pondered and discarded a thousand different ways I could disprove her very misguided notion. I ended up babbling: “Me? I look like I have it all together?” The girl with two left feet and a list of insecurities as long as my arm? The woman who undresses at the foot of her bed every night and leaves her clothes in a pile on the floor? The mother who hasn’t washed her baby’s crib sheets in longer than I dare to admit? If I look like I have it all together, I must put on a pretty good show… Because most of the time, I feel like I’m hanging on by a very thin thread. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wild ride and I’m loving every minute of it, but if you think I have it all together, I’m afraid you’ve been sadly misinformed.

(Photo Credit)

I think one of the most hurtful things we can do to one another is cultivate the myth of perfection. When we see someone else who seems to manage job/kids/husband/home/friendships/etc. with grace, we start to believe the lie that “if I could just get it together, I too could live a charmed life.” Sweetie, no one lives a life as charming as we might think it is. Everyone, and I mean everyone feels from time to time like their storybook life is one plot turn away from becoming a tragedy.

And yet, we like people to think the best of us, don’t we? It’s why I spit scrub my kids’ faces even though I swore I wasn’t going to be that kind of mom, and why I keep a tube of lipstick in the console of my loser cruiser — because you never know who you might run into at Wal-Mart. Seriously. Wal-Mart. Who am I trying to fool?

Okay, in an effort to debunk the myth of perfection (and to let the sweet lady who thought I had it all together know that I’m a little frayed at the edges), I’m going to admit the three stupidest things I’ve done in my writing career. Yes, even glamorous authors (ha!) make really stupid mistakes. Or, at least, this one does. When I’m finished, if you’re feeling brave, the confessional is open…

  1. After I wrote my debut novel, I printed it off on fancy paper (yes, all 350 pages of it), took it to the local office supply store and shrink-wrapped it (you bet I did), lovingly placed it in a box (with bubble wrap, of course) and proceeded to snail mail it to my publishing house with a handwritten note. A couple of days later I got an email: Thank you for sending the manuscript. Could you please send the file as an email attachment? Uh, duh. It’s not like we live in the age of technology or anything. The stupidest part? It never even crossed my mind to do so. Not once.
  2. In a recent trip to New York, I had the distinct privilege of meeting one of the biggest editors at one of the biggest publishing houses in the world. I sat in her office with my knees practically knocking together, praying that I would be articulate and charming. I thought I was doing okay, until she asked me about my family. I told her I had a six-month-old, to which she exclaimed: “You don’t look like you just had a baby.” And I said (to my eternal horror): “I don’t try.” Yup. “I don’t try.” Which I’m sure sounded to her like: “Yup, this rockin’ bod is a force of nature. Even babies can’t stop it.” What I meant was: “Please don’t admire me for my hard work and dedication in getting back to my pre-baby weight. The truth is, I eat Cheetos and haven’t worked out in months, but my parents are both skinny as rails so I guess I have some slim genes on my side.” It was horrifying. She probably thinks I’m some arrogant little wench with self perception issues. *groan*
  3. This summer I edited my first hard copy manuscript (all of my previous edits had been done electronically). It was such a confusing experience for me, but I felt stupid asking for help so I didn’t. After I had gone through several pages, I noticed that in many places the editor had written “stet” in the margin and proceeded to write a correction. I assumed that “stet” was merely a way to draw my attention to the edit that was made in the text. So, as I went through, every time I made a change I wrote “stet” in the margin. When I turned in the completed copy edit, I received an email from the editor saying, “Do you want these changes or not?” Apparently, “stet” means: disregard whatever edit was made on that line. As I edited, I was systematically disregarding all of my edits. Schizophrenia, anyone?

So, there you have it. I don’t have it all together in any area of my life. Far from it. And as I type this, there are dishes in the sink, toys on the floor, and I’m wearing a Vikings t-shirt — proof of both my loyalty and my loser-dom. 😉 How about you? Care to dethrone the Perfect Princess?


Those Who Need You

When I was a little girl, my dad always ended his prayers in the same way. There was petition for our loved ones “wherever they may be,” a plea for presence, and then, “please be with those who need you in a special way.”

(Photo Credit)

I suppose it’s terrible of me to admit this, but I always felt that the final line about unknown persons in “special need” of God’s presence was an odd one. Aren’t we all in special need? And isn’t God with us anyway? It felt like a throwaway line, something that smacked of tradition without emotion, the staid lines of an unoriginal religion.

I don’t feel that way anymore. This past week I experienced firsthand a community in crisis. The sort of gut wrenching, split your heart at the seams crisis that leaves you forever changed. I cried a lot. I slept a little. And I learned some hard lessons about community, and about those who need you in a special way.

A few weeks ago I blogged about community. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about and wrestling with for a long time now. And I’ve come to the realization that true community is even bigger than I thought it was. The rings of community ripple out from the middle in ever-changing circles, and though I’ve often believed that the only group that matters is the centermost, I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

From the person who stands at the heart of it all and wraps loving arms around those who mourn, to the stranger across the country (the world?) who says a heartfelt prayer, we are all a part of the circle. Our attempts to reach out, to bridge the divide and hold a hurting hand, matter. Don’t think for a second that your prayers go unheard. Or that you are not needed because the crisis or the community is not yours. Yes, it is.

We pray, “Lord, be with those who need you.” And I believe he answers: “You be with those who need me.” It’s what he created you for. To be hands and feet. To be family to those who need you.

I’m praying for you today, wherever you may be.


Happily Ever After

*A version of this post first appeared on my archived blog in January of 2008.

I have love on the brain. Not sure why… Maybe it’s because my kids are still ruining their teeth on leftover Valentine’s Day candy. Maybe it’s because I just wrote a short scene depicting my protagonist’s first crush. Maybe it’s because I’m going through an Ingrid Michaelson stage–and especially adoring “The Hat,” a sweet and soulful song about first love. Anyway, all this talk about first love has me thinking about my own.

My first love was the first boy who I found attractive on a million different levels. Of course I had found boys “cute” before, but my first love was funny, charming, intelligent, talented in so very many ways, and attractive on top of it all. I got to know him as a friend over the course of two and a half years, all the while loving him in secret and mourning every time he fell for another girl–and tripped over himself to race to my side so he could tell me all about it. Sigh. Anyway, when he finally woke up and realized that he just might love me, too, I had already found the strength to let go of him. It was too little, too late. My heart had moved on. Awww… Isn’t that a sad story? Tragedy in the fragility of our full little hearts and all that sappiness.

Actually, tragic or happily-ever-after, I just adore these sorts of stories. We are so complicated, our stories are so multi-layered and diverse, so labyrinthine and unplottable. I adore the fullness of life, and love, that we are allowed to experience. And I find the pain beautifully bittersweet–maybe not at the moment, but oh, the perspective afterward…

In my newest book, Beneath the Night Tree, I explore the concept of love: first love, true love, lasting love. When I began writing, I believed that I knew the end to Julia’s story. However, as the pages of the book began to unfold they took on a life of their own. Love is a many splendored thing, or so the saying goes, and both in my own life and in the lives of the characters I have the privilege to dream up, I’m continually astounded by the surprising nature of love. As Julia muses in the book, “Our searching souls pursue happy endings. And the heart is capable of great and deceiving beauty.” Her fairy tale ending doesn’t look quite like she always imagined it would.

As for me, I didn’t marry my first love. I married my last, and best, love. And I like looking back at the journey that led me to my Aaron, knowing that every step along the way, even the heartbreaks, were designed to prepare my heart for his. Saccharine, but true. And as we continue to fumble our way toward forever, I welcome each leg of the journey. Even the detours that seem to lead anywhere but happily ever after.

Thinking about your own first love? Your version of happily ever after? Hop on over to Fresh Fiction where this post is being featured. Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Beneath the Night Tree! Have a great weekend, all. 🙂


Ships in the Night

I had a hot date this weekend. Aaron was gone for 21 days out of the month of November, and on Friday night we had our first date in who knows how long. Ridiculous as it sounds (I have, after all, been married to this man for over a decade), I was all shy and nervous thinking about an entire evening alone with him. Would we run out of things to talk about? Would he like my outfit? Would he think I was cute (after all these years)?

Well, I’m happy to report that we had a wonderful time. We didn’t run out of things to talk about (in fact we ran out of time in which to talk), he told me I was beautiful (and he was pretty stinkin’ handsome himself), and by the end of the evening we felt closer, more connected. Isn’t that the point? I’d say it was a wildly successful date.

And now we’re back to life as normal. He heads off to work early in the morning, I get the kids ready for school. He wears dress pants and button-down shirts, I sometimes stay in my sweats all day. He comes home weary and with a briefcase full of papers to grade and “homework” to do, I put supper on the table and worry that the deadline for my next book is hurtling toward me like a freight train. After we clean up the dishes, shower the kids, play a few raucous games, and do the whole bedtime routine with the little ones (books, songs, prayers, hugs and kisses), we exchanged a harried look and more or less collapse. I nurse the baby to sleep, he answers a few emails or makes some calls. Before we know it, the day is gone. And we’ve hardly looked at each other, much less connected in a meaningful way. As my head hits the pillow, I often think, “Oh! I wanted to talk to Aaron about…” But I’ve already drifted off.

We are the proverbial “ships passing in the night” right now. I know it’s just a season in our lives (Aaron has a new job, I’m working on a deadline, and we have three small children–including a newborn), but it’s hard all the same. I love my husband. I’m crazy about him. I just wish I got to see him more often…

Today I’m soliciting your advice. We’re all busy. Life just seems to come faster and faster–and if we don’t find ways to cope with it, we get caught beneath the wheels of this runaway existence. I’m not okay with that. So: What do you do to stay connected with the people you love? What is one small thing (or big thing!) that you are really good at, that works for you? I’d love to hear how you make time for your relationships.