What I’m good at, and why I have potential.

26 06 2008

“Remember to look at the things that you are doing right. I challenge you to make a list of THOSE things next. Love ya” – Coni

I spent twenty minutes trying to think of a list of things I do right.  I couldn’t get much past things like: naps well, puts on her socks right side up, can type 66 WPM.

So I thought maybe I’d make a list of what other people think I do right.  I make no guarantee, you understand, that any of these people may not be prejudiced by blood connection or past favors received.  Some of them are not firing on all four cylinders, some are eccentric, and a few names have been changed because the people being quoted don’t want any lawsuits as a result of this blog.

Things Angela Does Well:

According to Lisa #1, I bake nice cakes, know how to make children happy, and throw good parties.

Lisa #2 claims I keep her grounded (fortunately she’s not a pilot) and don’t burst into tears when she beats me at Phase 10.  She also likes my cooking, even though she & Tony are quite good cooks also.

Donal says I am the best mommy ever and loves to hear me read out loud.

Brenna enjoys laying on my squashy belly for long hugs and says I am the best back scratcher.

Michael prefers my goodnight kisses and peanut butter sandwiches to his dad’s.  Aside from those two things, I am fairly certain he likes Brenna better than me in every way.

Neal thinks I am a good cook and really, really good at… well, you probably don’t want to know what my husband thinks I’m good at.  But he does claim that it makes up for a lot of my flaws.

My mother-in-law appreciates the way I let my children get dirty.

My mother thinks I’m an excellent writer and if she had the ability to pass out the Nobel prize for literature, I’d be a shoe-in.  She also thinks I’m artistic and raise nice children, although she has occasionally differed with my methods in accomplishing that.

Lisa #4 Says I’m incredibly generous and spiritually perceptive.  That’s a pretty good one, whether I deserve it or not.

Eric told me once that Neal and I were valuable because we’re humble people, which from him is extraordinarily high praise.

Edith has publicly stated that I am the “sweetest thing,” and “a precious, precious person,” but she tells every body that.

Ruthie says I’m doing a good job of raising my kids.  She also praised my meatloaf.  Ruthie is a fabulous cook- the best cook I’ve ever met.  So if she said my meatloaf was good, it was GOOD.  You can take that one to the bank.

The Rock Writer’s Guild all said I was an incredibly talented writer.  They said that over and over until I began to believe them and have tiny amounts of faith in myself.

Joyce & Wayne said we were good neighbors, but I think I’m starting to stretch here…

I’ve also been told thousands of times that I have “great potential.”  I hope that when I die, my tombstone doesn’t say, “She had great potential.”  That would be sad.  Some day I would like to do something great, so that I use up some of that potential and don’t have a lot of it left over, sitting around mildewing in my closet when I kick the big one.  Perhaps I could will it to an orphanage in Taiwan and let them chop it up and pass it out to some of those poor street kids that people pass over like they were garbage because they think they have no potential at all.  Why am I so rich in potential when so many people are in such lack?  And what the heck do you do with potential, anyway?  It makes me self-concious, walking around with all this potential showing.

That’ll give you something to think about.


Why I haven’t been posting

25 06 2008

I haven’t been posting much lately because I have been sorting through some things in the spiritual and natural realm.  This is the Angela Equivalent to the little loading screen with the hourglass.  Process 60% complete.

In the physical, we are once more reunited with all our stuff.  Some of this stuff has been hanging out in the garage of our old home for three years, to be moved to a garage at the small house for three months, to be crammed in a storage unit & delayed by low-hanging cables for several weeks.  Now it has finally been released to parole in my living room and is waiting to be processed.   Why do I have all this junk?

Pants that don’t fit, decorations I don’t like, toys I don’t remember buying, books I’ve read six times… these things are easy to put in the Goodwill box.  But I opened one box (labeled as textbooks but actually containing clothing) that was crammed full of memories.  It was all little baby clothes.  The little khaki jacket Patrick wore when he was six months old.  Brenna’s first dress that her tiny curled red feet peeked out of.  The little aqua sleeper suit that was the one outfit I purchased for Donal on my own.  Michael’s bomber jacket handed down from Gregory.  I had to hold each garment and sniff, walk down memory lane, get lost in nostalgia, sigh for their lost babyhood, fold it carefully… and put it back in a box.  Some things are too precious to throw away.  I hope some day I will be bringing out this box to dress my grand kids in.  Neal’s baptism suit is in there.  There’s a suit my father wore, a sweater set knitted for Neal’s father, and baby dresses Elizabeth and I wore.  So much history in one little box!

So I have been dealing with my “stuff.”  I have also been going through Elijah house counselling and dealing with some other stuff.  Worn out resentments, patched relationships, half-forgotten needs, sharp memories and some bad habits.  That sort of thing.

You know, to say I am depressed now means a totally different thing than it did eight years ago.  Eight years ago, before Jesus saved my life, I wanted to kill myself.  I still practiced self-mutilation, and dealt with an incredible amount of tormenting thoughts that made it nearly impossible for me to function in social situations.  I could perform for the length of time a party took, but I would literally be chewing on my wrists on the way home.

Knowing God, knowing Christ, has been a long, slow journey back from the edge of sanity.  I think non-Christians are rightfully suspicious of people who get “saved” and suddenly claim to have all the answers.  (Though just getting saved can make a huge difference- I know Barbara once told me that the day she was saved she gave up smoking, drinking, and cussing all at once.  Other people have to work for years to get victory over cigarettes or depression.  God works with us all individually.)  I know I was rather abrasive when I first had that “Aha!” experience.  But it has taken years for some of my bad personality traits to be sanded down and for some of my wounds to be healed.

So here I am, eight years into the process, still working on depression.  But it is such a different depression!  No more suicidal tendencies, no more hurting myself, no more hallucinations or delusions or nightmares…  I think the main thing that bothers me now is just feeling like I can’t cope.

I can’t cope with child abuse stories on the news.  I can’t cope with the pile of boxes in my living room.  I have trouble juggling my schedule.  I forget where I’m going.   I forget why I’m here.  Sometimes, in the face of my children’s difficulties, I feel like I’m failing as a mother.  Some times I wonder why I can’t just cheerfully soldier on like so many other homeschooling mothers seem to do, some of whom have eight, nine, or ten kids!  I think when I was born, God left out some of the resilient bounce that lets certain people keep rebounding through life.  I think perhaps he made me a trifle over-sensitive, too self-analytical, and rather too emotional.  But then, some of those qualities also make me the artist and writer I am.  And who, after all, am I to question my Maker?
Maybe he looked down at the earth and said, “Hmmm… do you know what we need here?  We need an overwrought, hypersensitive person who constantly eavesdrops and creates dialog out of everything she hears.  We’ll make her a little short and plump with acne and brittle hair to keep her modest… but we’ll also make her warm and affectionate.  A little hypochondriac, artistic temperament, tendency to daydream and wander off the subject… blue eyes, size 8 1/2 feet, loves books.  Yep.  That’ll be just the thing.”

What, in particular, He wants me to do, I couldn’t say.  My current hypochondriac fear is that the scab on my arm (placed right over my first age spot) is actually skin cancer and my literary career will be cut short by my sudden demise in about six months.  I was paranoid enough this afternoon to think about taking pictures of it with my camera to show the dermatologist so he can see how it grew from the size of a pea to a penny-sized spot right before it metasisized and spread to my lymph nodes…   This seems like less of a joke when I think of the woman we were praying for at corporate prayer on Monday night.  She had cancer & wouldn’t let them operate on it because she was having faith for God to heal her.  In two months it had spread, invaded her body and killed her.  Two months from perfectly healthy to dead!

Balancing this is the story of Rachel, who had so many cancer sites in her lungs the cat scan person couldn’t even count them.  She had it on her bones, in her joints and in her brain.  Then she went to a Benny Hen crusade and came back completely healed except for some joint pain in her right shoulder.  The cancer there was so large that when God removed the cancer it left some space that is giving her trouble- filling up with fluid & stuff.  It was an incredible testimony to the way God heals, and certainly not the first one I have heard.

But after Monday night, would have to think hard about having treatment WHILE waiting for healing.  Yikes.

Anyhow, Lisa dear, I have posted.  Hope you have a fab time at your 4th of July reunion.  I must go snuggle Mike to sleep.

Meaning crisis

15 06 2008

I have been reading in Ecclesiastes & decided that Solomon was having a meaning crisis when he wrote that book. My favorite verse: “Notice the way God does things; then fall into line. Don’t fight the ways of God, for who can straighten out what he has made crooked?” Ecc 7:13

In other words- do what you see the big guy doing. Don’t fight his system. After all, how often, once you’ve blown it, can you fix it again?

I think I like it because it makes God sound like The Godfather. “Mess up and you’ll be swimming with the fishes.” Yeah… sort of like Jonah.

Here’s another great one. Solomon must have been mad at several of his wives when he wrote this one: “‘This is my conclusion,’ says the teacher. ‘I came to this result after looking into the matter from every possible angle. Just one out of every thousand men I interviewed can be said to be upright, but not one woman!‘” Ecc 7:28 Isn’t that a hoot?!

Paul is a little more evenhanded with his version: “We have all, every one of us, fallen short of the glory of God.”

Solomon sounds like me in this one, also from chapter seven: “All along I have tried my best to let wisdom guide my thoughts and actions. I said to myself, ‘I am determined to be wise.’ But it didn’t really work.”

No, it doesn’t, does it? No matter how we try. We always stick our foot in it somewhere. But it’s 10:30, and I’m going to be wise and go to bed.

King David and King Solomon
Lived merry, merry lives
With many, many lady friends
And many, many wives.
But when old age crept up on them
With all its aches and qualms,
King Solomon wrote the Proverbs
And King David wrote the Psalms!


Moving, dieting, sister visiting, smoke…

15 06 2008

We unpacked the moving pod today.  Neal assembled some utility shelves in the dining room & I started putting school books & stuff out.  The children were overjoyed to see so many of their long-lost toys.  Some of them they haven’t seen since LAST July!  I spent nearly an hour tonight chasing all the little toy parts and pieces into separate bins and racking them in Pat & Mike’s closet.  I’ll probably have to repeat the process tomorrow.

I am three days into a diet and averting my eyes from the scale.  I want so much to be losing weight, but looking in the mirror, I can’t see any difference.  Personally, I think that when you announce “I’m on a diet” your body should automatically drop two pounds just to encourage you.  There’s nothing worse than being good for a week and discovering you gained half a pound.

Anyhow- I’m using this cute on-line food logging program called NutriDiary.   I’ll stick it in my links for you in case you’re interested.  It reminds me of the line from “The Curse of the Were Rabbit” when Wallace says, “If I must lose weight, at least let me do it in my own way…. with technology!”   So I’m having fun with my technology, whether or not it is working.

The basic level is free.  You weigh & measure yourself, give it your height and general level of slothfullness, and it figures out how many calories you need in a day.  Then you tell it how fast you want to lose weight and it subtracts some.  For each day, you put in what you eat.  It has a big database of a lot of foods.  I had to enter the nutrition info for my favorite baked beans (they didn’t have a fat-free variety), but my favorite cereal (Kashi Strawberry Fields) was already present in the system.  Oddly enough, they didn’t have a listing for scrambled eggs, so I had to put fried egg and add a tablespoon of milk.

It will track not only calories, but percentages of particular nutrients.  My cholesterol is excellent so I eat real butter, whole milk, and eggs, but if you’re on a cholesterol restricted diet, it will track it.  Or sugar restrictions, or whatever.  If you tell it you excercised, what you did & how long, it gives you extra calories.  Which is cool.  And once you’ve built up a history it puts up all kinds of charts and graphs of your progress.  So far, I have managed to keep well under my calorie limit for each day.  It’s fun- encouraging to see that even if I blow it and eat an entire mixing bowl of popcorn in the afternoon, that I haven’t necessarily overdone the day.  I don’t get so mad at myself.  And if I don’t lose weight after a week (my goal is 1 pound a week), I’ll know all I need to do is change my activity level or something.  It’s cool.

General Status:

I have wallpapered half my room, mailed our Father’s Day cards three days late, lost 0 pounds, yelled at my kids once today, finally mailed a congratulation note to my brother who got engaged LAST EASTER, and finished my current book: Ellery Queen’s “The Roman Hat Mystery.”  My favorite mystery writer is still Rex Stout.  Archie Goodwin is the most charming smart-aleck I have ever met.  We’re reading “The Hobbit” to the children as our family book right now.  We’ve gotten past chapter four, and they’re enjoying it very much.  Our last book, “The Ladies of Missalonghi” had more racy parts than I remembered and I had to do a bit of editing on the fly!

My sister is coming to see me next week!  La la la la la!  My daughter is also turning nine next week.  At least three girls are coming to her party.  We’re going to try to make petits-fours for her cake and have a tea luncheon.  Elizabeth says she will bring her tea-party dress.  Perhaps I can get the skirt I am making finished in time to wear it.

Did you guys hear about the forest fire they had on the coast near us?  If you call 150 miles away near, that is.  Wednesday the smoke was so thick in town you could barely breathe.  At times you couldn’t see across the street.  Neal said the fire had burned down into the peat layers on the forest floor and it made a thick, choking smoggy smoke.  I can’t imagine what the smoke must have been like nearer the fire.  It’s an aspect I never considered about the wild fires they have out west.

Humility plus

12 06 2008

I found my little story & gave it a good editing.  Drug it into the Writer’s Group and the ladies there did a masterful job of pointing out the errors of my ways.  Overuse of adverbs, starting too many sentences with the word “it,” using too many “its” in general, chop the last sentence, chop the third sentence in paragraph six because it’s (to quote Judy) “squishy.”  We wouldn’t want any squishiness going on, would we?

One of the problems of writing happy prose with happy endings is, unless you are exceedingly careful and skillful, you have a tendency to slide into sentimentality or maudlin mush.  Squishy is bad.  Cutting edge fiction, modern and post-modern (how can you have post modern fiction?  Doesn’t modern by definition mean what’s being written right now?  Post modern would be whatever will be written ten years from now.  Unfortunately, they already assigned and time period and genre to post-modern literature, so we are now writing post-post-post modern literature)… to resume: cutting edge fiction can be gritty, depressing, horrifying, or mundane, but it is rarely squishy.  It takes an optomist to generate squish.

I started that last sentence with the word “it.”  I am becoming paranoid.

It is good to have a group that does not automatically think I am a wonderful writer.  They think I am a good writer with the potential to become very good, but the whole lot of them are serious students of great literature, read extensively in ponderous books, and can recognize the weaknesses in what I’m doing.
They hone in on my flaws like yellow jackets on an August picnic.

Having a good group is a wonderful thing- a real blessing.  But even while I am appreciating their honest, intelligent comments, I’m wincing, too.  I’ve had to stop myself three times in this paragraph already from starting a sentence with the word “it.”  I’ve got to be better than I’ve ever been, and I automatically fear I will fail.  Humility hurts, however beneficial it is!

New links

9 06 2008

I only have five minutes before I take Bren to drama camp, Mike to the Pediatrician (to have his ears & hearing check for the fourth time- hoping for a good report!), Donal to scouts, fly by Wal-mart for desperately needed groceries, and attend a parent’s meeting for B’s drama camp.  Whew.

BUT… I wanted to mention a couple new things posted in my Links.  I posted a link to Lisa’s handmade note cards.  These are the beautiful, personal cards I send to everyone & you can look at her designs on line.

There’s a new link (Jane of All Trades) to another Lisa I love, and a link to Mind Flights, a Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy magazine!  Very cool- I’ve been reading a few of their stories & I have (gulp) decided to submit one, too.

I’m going to submit a little story about Fairies that I wrote to answer one of Abbye’s guild assignments a couple of years ago & never turned in.  It sort of answers the question of, if there WERE fairies in God’s universe, what would they really be?   So I am both nervous and excited about making my first ever submission.  Now all I need to do is find the story.  I’m sure it must be in one of these boxes.  Or under the bed.  Or in my filing cabinet.  Or somewhere.  Hmmm….

Maybe y’all should be praying for me more.

Articulated living

8 06 2008

Hmmm…. just ordered a book from Amazon about working through creative-type-person depression. I would gladly put the title up here, if I could remember the title. Perhaps I should buy a book about memory loss. Aha- looked it up. The “Van Gogh Blues.”

Anyhow, what I liked about the book is that it says that creative-type people are prone to a depression that our solider citizens rarely grappel with. The author- whose name I never bothered to remember but who is some kind of life coach guru- says that creative people often get the blues because they have a meaning crisis in their lives.

A meaning crisis, which I guess is that funk you get into when you wonder why life all seems like a big waste of time, fear that you’re spending your life on trivialities, and have a sudden collapses of self esteem because, when you actually get some work done, it doesn’t seem to matter at all anyway. A funk. A depression. An angst, sort of a German philosopher’s world-weary, why are we here anyway kind of emotion.

He says more concrete people do not struggle with this as much because they don’t see a real need for significance in their lives as long as everything is functioning well, the kids are behaving, and dinner wasn’t burnt. They are too busy getting on with things to bother with angst. Whereas others of us are up at 2 a.m. obsessing about the purpose of life and whether the sufferings of people in a war zone invalidates our impulse to live for art.

He gives four steps for getting out of this funk, which I find very comforting. I like books with steps. I have a great deal of faith that some day I’m going to apply just the right step, process, or system and my life will finally congeal and order will appear out of chaos. So steps are good.

1) To articulate a life plan that feels meaningful and to strive to live by that plan.

2) To articulate (boy, a lot of articulating going on here) what constitutes worthy work and to accomplish that worthy work.

3) To articulate how the seconds, hours, weeks, and years that make up your life will be made to feel meaningful and to strive to actually make them feel meaningful.

4) To put the first three intentions into practice in a coordinated way.


Step one: determine your purpose in life. Oddly enough, I did not find my purpose spelled out very clearly in “The Purpose-Driven Life.” I suppose living for God is a purpose, but when I get up in the morning and pray, “So, God, dear heavenly Father, sir, what would you like me to do today?” He, although attentive and encouraging, has a way of not answering me, leaving me to muddle along with it alone. So until God deigns to put a sticky note agenda on my night table every morning, a little more guidance could be a good thing.

So, step one- formulate a purpose statement. This smacks very much of Franklin Covey’s mission statement. SInce I already wrote one of these, I can just use that. Step one completed. I haven’t even read the book yet, and I’m already done with one step! Am I amazing or what?

The second and third ones are talking about deciding what part of what I do is actually meaningful. What would meaningful work look like. Is cleaning the toilet meaningful? Is skipping the dishes to work on a poem I will never publish meaningful? Is reading bedtime stories to my kids instead of doing the bills or working on my novel meaningful? And if I decide that toilet cleaning or poem writing is meaningful, can I allow myself to feel good about taking time to do it?

The fourth step may be especially hard for me, as I cannot remember a time when I did anything in a coordinated way. Hopefully the book will have more insight on this point. Surely a book that has a whole chapter on how to stop negative self-talk and self-criticism would have to be a good thing.

Must go entertain husband. Hoping this counts as a meaningful activity. Must remember meaningful does not necessarily mean what I feel like doing at the moment- it means working towards accomplishing my life goals. Since one of my life goals is to have an excellent relationship with my husband, and since I have been bad tempered brat most of the day, I guess I had better stop typing and go shmooze with the big guy.