The other day I was on a plane en route to home where I truly wanted to be. My backpack was wedged into the overhead bin and tucked under the seat in front of me was a bag of edibles for my family. I was tired. I had traveled across many states in less than a week (thank you SFWC: 2014!) and had found myself face-to-face with an impromptu business trip upon my immediate return home.
As I sat there I tried to doze but too excited about getting home and resting in my own bed surrounded by my husband and kids, I couldn't. So as it tends to do, my mind wandered. It eventually landed on the WoW blog event scheduled for March 4. A blog event on sisterhood in honor of promoting Therese Walsh’s new book titled The Moon Sisters.
I’ll be honest –until I had seen this event talked about on Twitter, I hadn't heard of WoW or this author or this book. I can be a little slow on the up take. My apologizes. But now that I’d heard about it and my mind had wandered all over creation on this last hour long flight before I would touch down in my hometown and be reunited with the folks I longed to see and had been missing for a wretched long 24 hours –it was all I could think about.
And as the concept of this blog event filtered through my being, it occurred to me: What if I can’t think of anything to write? So, I decided to focus on that for a bit. I thought about sisterhood and what it means to me as well as what it doesn’t mean. I experienced an array of emotions –sadness, happiness, confusion, frustration, etc. You know all the emotions that sisters evoke in us. Or at least in me.
Then, just before the flight attendants walked down that center aisle to pass out beverage cups and miniscule snacks, it hit me. Exactly what I needed to write about. Has that ever happened to you? When out of nowhere, the exact words you need to describe the feeling in your soul hit you like a lightning bolt? It was compelling. Thought provoking. I was overcome with the burning desire to put pen to paper and word vomit exactly how I felt about my own sister.
But I had nothing. No pen. No paper, except for that little cocktail napkin that the attendants present you with when they hand out that snack I was telling you about. My breath came in short gasps. My mind reeled at how foolish I had been to put the food I was bringing home within closer reach than my 14 pens/pencils that were stowed neatly in the little front pocket of my backpack! What had I done?
My brain considered all of my options while, like a mantra, I repeated all the words I could think of about this sisterly blog I was determined to pen. Alternating like a deranged record album were thoughts of “do I dare get up and risk that the items in the overhead may have shifted during the flight in order to get my precious writing utensils” & the opening line I knew I had to use for this blog entry “I met my sister Tonya long before I knew I needed one”. Back and forth, over and over. It was a good thing no one was seated directly to my left or s/he might have thought me in need of emergency medical care. …I wonder if someone had been sitting there if s/he would have had a pen I could borrow.
Anyway, I was losing it. Fast. My cell phone was on the final 10% of battery life so I couldn't rely on it to store my thoughtful prose. All I had was an unused cocktail napkin in front of me. And even that had print on both sides of it, flaunting the airline’s incredible service…and total lack of notebooks/pens in the seat pocket in front of me.
And then I spotted it. Two rows in front of me and directly across the aisle was a woman who was…writing! She had a pen! And reams of paper in front of her that she was using to jot down letters and words and sentences. Oh how envious I was! Did I dare reach forward to tap the gentleman sitting right behind her to ask if she had a spare pen and paper? Would he be able to hear me over the drone of the plane’s engines? It didn't seem likely, but I was considering making the attempt.
Just as I was mustering up the resolve to do so, something to my right caught my eye. It was another pen. And it was much closer to me. Wonder of wonders –what possessed these people to carry their pens on their being while I, a writer of all people, had tucked mine away thinking the muse would not strike me in this hour high above the Earth??
The man sitting between me and this gorgeous pen was deeply involved in a hand held video game. I was struck with the thought of asking him to ask his lady seat partner to: PLEASE LET ME BORROW HER PEN. But I have teenagers. I know the angst they experience if a solitary second of their gaming is interrupted. All hell breaks loose.
But then the woman, the owner of this beautiful pen interrupted the man herself! He calmly responded to her. He didn't get angry. The world as we know it continued to spin on its axis even as his game went unattended for about fifteen seconds.
As I was about to hyperventilate, I steeled my fraying nerves and reached over. Speaking just loudly enough to be heard, I asked him “Could you ask her if I can borrow her pen?” When he gave me a quizzical look, I gestured to his seat mate and mimed using a pen. As understanding seeped through his brain, he tapped the woman with the pen. Relayed my message.
And she said YES!!! When he handed me that beautiful pen full of ink, I could have cried! I was so relieved to have something to write with. Now the only question was: what would I write on? My arm? The back of a magazine? Neither seemed right.
Examining my unused napkin more closely, I peeled the layers apart and was rewarded. Inside laid two tiny squares of pure white writing space. I pressed the napkin lovingly onto the tray in front of me. Blinking back tears of relief and awe at this wondrous place to write my beloved blog entry, I used that woman’s pen and wrote.
Words poured out of me. I blinked back tears as I thought about my sister and silently thanked the good Lord for putting this remarkable woman with the wonderful ink pen so close to me on the plane. And when it was over…I made a mental note to self. What a writer needs is not food tucked under the seat in front of her on a plane ride. What a writer needs is a pen (maybe two…just in case) and a blank canvas tucked into the palm of her hand. Always at the ready for when the muse strikes. A writer must be ready.
When I was reading about the recent anti-gay bill passed by Arizona legislatures I had a fourth grade flashback. I remembered the incident clearly. I was standing in the near empty classroom when my good friend told me something that another girl in our class had said about me. According to my friend, this other girl (let’s call her Stacy) didn't want to be my friend “because you’re poor”. It was wicked mean. And true. My family was poor.
What I didn't understand then and what I don’t understand now is what those things –my family’s lack of income or someone’s sexual orientation- have to do with well, anything.
Was my family’s lower socio-economic status going to have a direct impact on my ability to be a good friend? Was it a mark on my character? In the same manner, does someone’s sexual orientation mean that he or she isn't going to pay for the service that a business provides? It just doesn't make sense to me.
People are citing religious freedom as a reason to pass this bill. I believe in religious freedom, but I also believe in the freedom to just be. And why should only the religious have freedom? Why is it that those who don’t “fit the bill” should have no freedom when it comes to choosing where they want to shop or dine? Is our country poised to return to the days when segregation was alive and well and plastered above the doors of business establishments?
It’s heartbreaking to hear that people who claim to be followers of Christ spend more time keeping themselves separate from others than sharing the love of Christ with them. The concept of customer service isn’t about judging the customers you serve or refusing customers outright. It’s about serving the customer.
The truth of the matter is that we’re all different. Each and every one of us. That's what makes life so interesting isn't it? We're all different and unique and quirky in our own way. Not one of us is better than someone else. We all have strengths and weaknesses and are muddling our way through life.
Romans 3: 9, 10 is very clear: “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks are under sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one."
If you’re in favor of this bill being passed I encourage you to consider the impact of what you're about to do. Not just the impact on your business, but on humanity as a whole. Think about the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Put yourself in the shoes of the person(s) you want to deny service to. What would that feel like? What might that do to your self-esteem, your self-worth, your very being?
For those folks who stand to be affected by this bill, perhaps it’s time to find a different place to eat or shop. A place where the goal of customer service is just that -providing a service to the customer (Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria). But in the process, remember that these business owners are people too. Their actions are hurtful, but haven't we all shown that side of ourselves at one time or another in life? I know I've had my "Stacy" moments. Tit for tat would not be appropriate here. Instead, stand tall and let your character shine through. And don't forget that Golden Rule...
I met my sister Tonya long before I knew I needed one. Back when I was still trying to fit into the mold of the family I was born into. The proverbial square peg in a round hole. The day we met I was given a job that she had applied for. When she could have been angry or jealous or completely dismissive of me, she wasn't. Instead she brought me an apple. From that day forward we forged a friendship. And in nine months, the time it takes to grow a baby, we grew a bond of sisterhood. Together we drank coffee, went shopping, threw parties and raised a youth group. We bought our first homes, grew our families, made goals, dreamed big and talked. A LOT.
My sister and I never see each other at annual family reunions. We don't share Sunday dinner at our mother's house or the same eye color or skin color or genetic make-up either. As the older of the two, I wasn't there when she was born and we met years after both of us had married. Neither of us held the role of maid of honor at our weddings. Yet our sisterly bond is so very real. When life hurts, we cry together. When the pain is so deep it becomes physical we comfort one another until a scar starts to form and the pain begins to subside. She doesn't rush into my life to rescue me when things get rough. Instead she stands beside me. Validating my feelings. Listening to my complaints and rants and rages. Believing in me even when I don't believe in myself. Praying and waiting for me to have the heart, the energy to live again. She respects me, my ideas, my values, my beliefs -even when she doesn't share them with me.
The geographical distance between us is as vast as the space between our biological link. But that doesn't matter. we cross that barrier daily with text messages, care packages, quirky gifts, e-mails, letters and thought clouds that bridge the gap of several thousand miles. Her presence is always near me and I'm honored to have her as my sister.
I'm ecstatic! This week I'll be surrounded by like minded people. Wordsmiths. Writers. Novelists. People who find joy in crafting worlds, creating characters, and fleshing out plots and story lines. It's going to be AMAZING!
The 2014 San Francisco Writer's Conference.
The last couple of weeks have been difficult. Stressful, overwhelming, annoying, tiring. You name the negative adjective and it probably fits. The mule has worn me out. Instead of it working for me, I've been working for it.
When I got home last night, I was intent on resting, reading a good book, and just letting the last several days of non-stop mulish-ness wash away from my mind, my body, my emotions. And that's when it hit me. The mule was winning.
Instead of me taming the mule, using it, crafting it to serve me for the purpose of putting food on the table and maintaining the role of launching me into the dream, the opposite was happening. I was allowing this stubborn mule to wear me out, to get my mind and my heart off of the vision. I was giving it permission to put me in a state of numbness -too exhausted to create in the off hours. Permission to forget how to keep the creative fire burning even when the mule was present and beckoning for my attention.
The reality is that I should be taming the mule. It should be serving me -providing opportunities to glimpse into other worlds, soak up words that are new, unknown, or just plain interesting. To imagine how the others in the world of the mule might make for a new character, a character's name, how the others might have a life event that just screams to be noticed and reminds me that I have a character who needs a life & maybe, just maybe this particular life event would be perfect for him or her. I shouldn't be disgruntled or irritated or tired of the mule, I should be viewing the mule as an artistic tool.
It reminds me of the movie Shawshank Redemption (hands down one of my all time favorite movies). For Andy Dufresne, the prison was the mule. He was tied to it, anchored to it. It owned him. When prison life shifted and turned, he had to shift and turn with it. Until one day, he took control. He taught the mule to work for him. All it took was some creativity, some use of the knowledge he had acquired on the outside (before prison life made a crook out of him), time, determination, and a rock hammer. When he blended these ingredients together, they propelled him to his dream -the hotel on the beach in a faraway land.
I pledge to tame the mule. To remind myself daily (hourly if I must) of the benefits of the mule. To be on the lookout for ways to fan the flame of creativity during my hours with the mule. To take inventory of the skills the mule provides me with that will someday serve me well when the dream becomes a reality. To be grateful...to be inventive...to be as stubborn as the mule in making my dream become a reality.