Quote of Inspiration

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Monday, February 27, 2012

My First Lent

I went to church yesterday, with the entire brood, and as I sat listening to a small talk about Lent, I thought: why don't I give stuff up for Lent? Being raised Mormon, of course, we didn't do this Lent business, but now that my daughter is in Catholic school and bopping all over the house crossing herself, I figure I should have a go at it. I'm making it sound like I'm cavalier about it or making fun of it. That's not the case at all. I admit to not understanding it all exactly, having attended Episcopalian services only once (yesterday).

BUT, any sermon that is based on a Hemingway novel (yesterday's was), gets me at hello. Add a living historic church, wooden pews, traditional hymns and not one raised-hand, pair of khaki pants or man-guitar-band, and I'm willing to sign on the dotted line. I can't remember the last time I attended church services and actually wanted to hear the sermon. I mean, I wanted my son (sitting in my lap) to hush up about coloring and being bored so I could hear. I want to listen. Usually, even pre-kids, as soon as a sermon begins I start a mental grocery list or daydreaming about expensive and fabulous vacations.

I was beginning to think I just wasn't religious.

But yesterday, sitting next to a window with a view of the old bell, which rang before we began service, and smelling the smells of generations of people who had gone before me, I wanted to listen, I felt inspired and I was thoughtful about not only what was being said but what it was that keeps me trying (and trying) to find a church where I fit in and feel comfortable.

So, when the notion of Lent was broached, I listened. Turns out, you are supposed to give something up, and then you're supposed to use the money you would otherwise use on that item (wine, chocolate, gambling) and give it back to the church/needy.

I really love that idea. My sister's father-in-law says, "Ya, but who actually does that?"

Well, I'm going to. For the entire season of Lent (I'm still unsure as to the exact dates), I'm giving up dessert.

I know. That's big.

I'll figure up how much I would have spent on all my sweet treats, and then I'm putting it in the collection plate at the end of Lent.

It may only be $50, but I think there is something in the act of giving up, paying attention and giving back that feeds our soul.

What are you giving up for Lent?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Quote 23 of 52

I've been thinking lately about action vs. discussion. As a person who struggles with self discipline, motivation and general follow-through, this week's quote is particularly relevant to my life.

It is from the man himself: Benjamin Franklin:

Well done is better than well said.

I officially dedicate this week to action.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Replacement Figs

I am going to replace two figs. They are:

1. taking my kids on an airplane flight alone

2. taking my kids to a fancy restaurant

I'm sure I'll have the chance to do both of those things in the future, but I have no desire to do them now.

So, I'm replacing them with:

1. redecorate my bedroom

2. plant an herb garden

I've wanted to redecorate my bedroom for at least 2 years. And I've actually tried to plant an herb garden. I'll try to hunt down photographic evidence of that very soon.

So, there they are.....the replacements. As I've done historically, I'll start by discussing why I want to do whatever I'm doing, why I haven't yet done it and then describe both the doing it and my reactions when it's done.

I'm off. Happy Saturday....Sunday....entire weekend. We're snug here in North Carolina. Ray built a fire. Bobby Wade is coloring a castle with PipSqueak markers. Maggie is coloring a picture of teapots in the kitchen, listening to an Elizabeth Mitchell CD and humming along.

So, life is good.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Romancing the Fig

I know....that's a bad post title. But, today, I sat down at my computer and wrote a query letter and synopsis for my long-ago-written romance novel. I did get stuck at one part, and I got up to get water, and while I was up I thought: this is silly. I should just wait until I have more time and don't feel stressed.

Then I reminded myself that I wrote this novel in 2008. I wrote the first query letter and synopsis in 2010.

It is now 2012.

So, I went back to the computer, wiped the synopsis clean and started fresh. I free-wrote the whole thing, edited the query letter, copied the address of the editor into my e-mail page and pressed: SEND.

I don't have huge hopes and/or expectations about this novel. I wrote it before taking an online course about romance novel writing, so I am realistic about the flaws of the book. BUT, I am done trying to make things perfect. I have several Harlequin romance novels, and mine is as good as the ones I have on my bedside table. So I sent in the query and will wait to hear back. If I wait, telling myself I'll over-haul the novel, I'll never do it. It will sit there, as it has for 3 years. And even if they reject it, which they likely will, I will have done it. I can only hope they might offer some positive feedback or suggestions. That would be helpful.

You may wonder why I want to write romance novels at all. I don't have a very good answer for that. I once thought it would be super easy, that I could knock one out in a week or so and make some quick cash. I have since been disabused of that idea. Seems readers want a real connection between the hero and heroine, and they don't go for dodgy 80's plot-lines anymore, like the unforeseeable avalanche resulting in two opposite people spending a week together in a run-down mountainside cabin with only melted snow for water.

I should probably read a few romance novels before I try to write them. I actually have read a few, and I'm not ashamed to say I enjoyed several of them. When I read Outlander, I pretty much couldn't do anything else and was reading in the bathroom so my family wouldn't distract me with things like dinner, bedtime routines and other necessities of family life. When I finished that book, a romance about a heart-throbbing Highlander named Jamie, I read the ending again. Then, I closed the book, looked over at my sleeping husband and thought: hmmm....this may not work out between us.

Obviously, I'm still married. But, I continue to think of ol' Jamie Frasier and his horseback riding, dagger throwing, kilt-wearing and standing up for the needs of his woman.

By God.

I have also been somewhat glued to some Judith McNaught books, devouring them in the backyard of our California home while the kids threw rocks at each other.

So, I guess I do have an appreciation for the whole romance genre. The thing is, after you have kids, the last thing you want to do is read some drag-you-down depressing book about some poor woman's awful lot in life and how she had to rise about it all only to find herself sunk again in some other hole of darkness.

It's why I don't watch those CSI shows and the evening news. Who needs that?

I know that you all are wondering if I'm going to go off and get a few cats next....cause that's what romance-reading and romance-writing women do....re-use tea bags numerous times, drink from a favorite mug (with a Cathy cartoon on the side), wear fuzzy heavily-pilled sweaters in colors like Chianti Rose and Loganberry, and curl up in self-knitted socks, a hot water bottle and a couple of cats to read the latest Wal-Mart purchased bodice ripper.

Don't hold your breath.....my little sister is the crazy cat lady of the family!

But, even as I think this particular novel will likely meet the rejected fate of the many who have gone before me, I feel inspired to begin anew, with another hero and heroine, a stronger plot line and some dynamic supporting characters who are memorable but don't steal the show.

Meanwhile, I'll wait to hear back from the editors.........

So....done. Submitted a romance novel.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Updated List

I updated my list this morning, filling in red those figs I've already done. It's been a while since I've actually done anything, except ride a horse. And that I've not yet done at a full gallop. But, more on that later.

I have also decided that two of my figs are no longer desires of mine. They include: take my kids on an airline flight alone and take my kids to a fancy restaurant.

At the time of writing this list, I was in the beginning of my year alone with my kids, as my husband had recently deployed to Afghanistan for a year. I was scared to death of that year. I worried I wouldn't be able to take care of the kids myself, that I'd yell too much, sleep too late, somehow muck up Maggie's first day of kindergarten....and on and on and on.

A few months into the year, I realized I was living my life pretty much crippled by fear, just waiting for the days to pass until Ray came home, hoping I didn't mess anything up in the meantime. I decided to write this list because of that quote from the movie The Shawshank Redemption, when Andy says to Red, "I guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living or get busy dying."

My best friend from Peace Corps quotes that all the time. I think that quote is saying, in simpler terms, what Plath is ultimately saying in the fig quote. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

I realized that while Ray was deployed, while I was living there in California scared to make a mistake, to take care of my kids, to be a 'bad' mom, I was dying a little bit. So, this list was a kind of way for me to get busy living.

Part of that living was to tackle some of the parenting fears I had, such as riding in an airplane alone with two toddlers and taking them to a fancy restaurant, forcing them to behave well and thereby feeling like a successful (and partly French) parent because my kids could feast on filet mignon or upscale pasta.

A funny thing happened, though, with my husband's deployment. I didn't fall apart. I didn't ruin my children. I didn't sleep too late, muck up kindergarten or fail to pay the bills on time. I took care of the house and kids. I made friends. I tackled figs, repelling the rock wall at the gym, watching the sun rise in Paris, reading Hemingway. This list very much helped to push me from inside my house and myself to outside my house, into the kitchens of friends, to the park with my kids, to Spain for a wedding and so on. By the end of the year, I no longer feared any of it, and of all the feelings of confidence I gained, the confidence I now have as a parent is by far the greatest.

I wanted to take my kids on an airplane and to a fancy restaurant not because I thought any of us would enjoy it, but because I felt I had something to prove. If I could accomplish those things, it meant I was in control, and if I was in control, I suppose I think that meant I was a good mother.

I am happy to report I no longer have any desire to force my kids to a fancy restaurant and I no longer hover on the cusp of feeling like a failure because my kids don't eat foie gras.

So, I'm going to strike those from my list of 52 Figs and replace them.

I'll post about the replacements later this week. I have some ideas....but I want to be sure.

Happy Saturday! Ray let me go back t bed until 10 and took the kids to the airport all by himself. Bless his heart!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Returning....with Quote 22 of 52

I am coming back to 52 Figs, having been gone a long time now. In large part, my focus and energy has simply been elsewhere; though elsewhere is, ironically, directly related to 52 Figs after all. Most of my free time, energy, thought and focus has been consumed with horseback riding, a fig that seemed quite simple (almost easy) when I added it to my list over ago.

The past 10 months have shown me that I was wrong to think I could go galloping across an open field after a few lessons on top of a horse. I have been surprised, even amazed, by the whole process of learning to ride a horse. It's much like learning to speak a language, just when you think you can carry on a conversation or speak with some level of fluency, you realize you haven't a clue how to say something as simple as: where is the restroom?

I will write a complete update about the fig of horse riding at another point. It requires and deserves much more time than I have at the moment. But for now, I am back after a necessary rest, and I am looking again at my list of figs and thinking about which ones are calling to me next. I have learned, through this experience, that the figs can't be plucked too early. They ripen on their own, so to speak. So, when I'm ready and when they're ready, we come together at some middle ground and get to work.

This morning, I have begun to review the list and think again, beyond horses, of what comes next. I was thinking this morning of a Buddhist quote I heard somewhere, someday, along the way, and it seems apropos to this moment.

What you are is what you have been. What you'll be is what you do now.


Happy Thursday and Happy 2012.

Photo above is the Buddha at Leshan.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...