Thanksgiving that Peace is Possible in Turbulent Times

I had intended to spend time today writing a blog about all I’m thankful for, wondering how to do that without sounding trite, which is odd, considering it’s those “trite” blessings we take most for granted—clean running water, electricity, cars, health, and family.

Then I re-discovered this most profound statement, written in the 89th year of our nation’s existence, before electricity and working indoor plumbing made it to the White House (interestingly, there were toilets installed, but no running water, so the president and his family used outhouses). It was written by a man for whom the telegraph was a modern marvel, and whose family suffered a great deal from disease, mental illness, and tragedy, a man experts believe sufferred from extreme depression.

So, I will not blog my own thoughts today, but instead defer to a “guest blogger” who understood the true meaning of thankfulness, and knew what really matters. Wishing you all a warm, bountiful, humble day of thanks.

—–

Abraham Lincoln

Abe Lincoln, spring, 1865

It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with His guardian care against unfriendly designs from abroad and vouchsafing to us in His mercy many and signal victories over the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their camps and our sailors on the rivers and seas with unusual health. He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while He has opened to us new sources of wealth and has crowned the labor of our workingmen in every department of industry with abundant rewards. Moreover, He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions:Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 20th day of October, A.D. 1864, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

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The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. –Psalm 28:7

 

NaNoWriMo a No-Go…for now

I’m calling it A Hope Deferred because failure sounds so permanent.

More than two weeks into National Novel Writing Month have flown by with a whoosh, leaving me staring at my keyboard in puzzlement, wondering . . .

What the heck happened?

Not much, I’ll tell you that. I worked, as is evident by my blurry eyes and the onset of carpal tunnel. However, I worked on projects for others, and not myself. Somehow, the moment I committed my time to novel writing, nearly a year’s worth of “on-hold” commitments jumped out of the woodwork and into my email box. All worthy projects. Fulfilling work. Some even paying jobs. I like paying jobs.

nanomofail

The words are all in my head; I just have to write them down…

But none of which left time for novel writing. I tried, dutifully sitting down every morning and typing until the official start of my work day. I hoped to at least initiate some forward progress so that when the commitments ebbed I could catch up.

Word count? Again, not much. Let’s just say I stopped counting at 5,000 words.

My consolation: they’re good words, if I do say so myself. They’re only seeds right now, but they might grow to become part of something quite impressive. So far, I’ve crafted an opening scene, set up for twists and turns, established two solid characters and researched until I thought I’d burst from excess knowledge. Go ahead, ask me anything:

Can you unbuckle a seatbelt upside-down with your right hand? No. Can you suffer a concussion in a car accident, even when the air bag inflates? Yes. Does fog occur in Oklahoma? Yes. How many years does it take to become a doctor? 14 on average. How many artillery courses can a Marine go through at Fort Sill? Three. How does all this tie in? That’s for me to plot and you to find out.

If I ever finish writing the book, that is.

I’ve learned a lot though. First, because of all the research, writing fiction is harder than it looks. Many people have told me that, but I didn’t listen. Let’s just say I have a lot of experience filling out “official forms” and so believed writing fiction would come naturally. Anyway, I understand now that readers are willing to suspend belief to journey through the pages with me, but if the road takes them to that place of “not likely,” I’m going to lose them—roadside corn stands in February, hurricanes in Pittsburgh, a balanced budget in California—and they might not return. So, that slows me down a bit.

Second, writing fiction is a lot more fun than I expected. I’m holding a literary Gumby and I have the power to make him stand like a hero or I can split his legs into a heart shape over his head so he falls, quite awkwardly, into his soup. Bwa ha ha ha! It’s a scary responsibility—roller-coaster scary, not Cujo scary. Sometimes, just to mess with my characters, I’ll take one or two of them down a road they’d NEVER travel, just to see how long it takes before they stop, mid-sentence, and look at me with their hands on their hips and that unsportsmanlike “you-give-me-a-pink-holster-and-I’m-out-of-here” look. Geesh. As if I’d leave that in there. So, allowing my ADD side to play around slows me down some as well.

However, the primary tidbit of wisdom I’ve acquired is that I’m not going to make my goal. By the time I finish the side work in front of me, the Christmas season will be in full swing and I won’t be able to focus at all. So, rather than stuffing my work into a pity pantry and stomping off, I’ll just reiterate what I thought from the start: November is a silly month to write a novel. I’m hereby taking my novel-writing plan off the map of standard expectation and announcing that MY NaNoWriMo is January. Bring on the snow, lock me up, and send in a sandwich every few days–I’ll be fine.

To my fellow writers who are sticking it out, my hat is off to you. May your days be filled with inspiration and your fingers fly across the keyboard. Keep writing so I can live vicariously through your success until it’s my turn.

And my turn will come. Of this I’m certain.

——-

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. — Proverbs 16:9

NaNoWriMo: Will Words Escape Me?

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been
written yet, then you must write it.” —
Toni Morrison

November is National Novel Writing Month. I have no idea why, just go with me on this. Anyway, this is a writers’ challenge which suggests that if we commit to writing 1,667 words every day (11,660 per week), we’ll have written a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month.

That is not to say it will be a marketable novel, but certainly will form the framework for a novel that might become a decent read after we’ve edited it five or ten times.

Frankly, November is quite possibly the worst month to dedicate to such a writing feat. Aside from Veterans Day weekend, Thanksgiving week and all the prep that entails, and the looming leaf-raking weekend I won’t be able to dodge, I’m editing three projects, I’m on the hook to write two stories (and quite possibly four) this month, and I have family commitments out the wazoo—some of which I’m actually looking forward to.

I mean, why not February? My work load is nearly nil and I stay indoors the entire month of February.

Which is why, every November, when I feel that familiar tug to join the 300,000+ writers out there who are taking the pledge, I take one look at my over-filled plate defer the dream yet again. In some ways, I’m a lot like that young career-minded couple trying to decide when to have that baby…it’s never the perfect time.

Which is why, this year, I say NO!

To the deferment, that is.

I want in.

halloween-candy

The common denominator behind all my fantastic and awful ideas.

Because I don’t want to push the dream aside any more. I want to push myself instead. Many other reasons lie behind my decision to take on this challenge, some of which are a tad complicated. For one, there’s a giant bucket of leftover Halloween candy on the kitchen table, and I never make rational decisions when stuffed with chocolate.

For another, I’m yearning to write something of my own. Although I absolutely love ghost writing, and I hope to go back to it at some point, I keep wondering what I could accomplish from scratch if I tried.  I am working on a serious, semi-factual book, but it requires tons of reading and research, and, at some point, interviews with family members. It’s so personal, though, that I consider it actual work, while NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun.

For another, there are people in my head just begging me to bring them to life. The racket they’re making up there keeps me awake at night. Well, that and the Halloween candy I keep snitching at bedtime. (Yes, I started in as soon as we purchased it—doesn’t everyone?)  For the most part, my head characters are patiently waiting their turn. But not Angus. I’ve had Angus, the truck driver, on hold for nearly a year. He’s up there right now, leaning on his horn, pulling the lollypop from his red-bearded face to howl (accompanyied by his border collie side-kick), “I ain’t gettin’ any younger here, lassie!” You see, Angus REALLY wants to me to help him get to know Katy, a single mom who works the customer service counter at the grocery store, but I keep letting the air out of his tires so he has to stay put. Alas, it’s still not his turn.

Instead, this November, a young Marine sergeant who has been languishing in a corner of my brain nursing a bottle of Coors gets to learn why his grandmother had to die in the tornado. Yes, I think I’d like to let him find out. Primarily because I’d like to know, too.

Finally, I’m making this commitment because the consequences of failure dawned on me the other day: What’s the worst that can happen? I might only finish half a novel by the month’s end? What a travesty that would be! Basically, there’s no way to lose here.

Am I worried? To be honest, I’m terrified. I’ve been talking about writing my own novel for many years. I feel as if this time I have no net beneath me. I cannot blame my success or failure on someone else’s lack of storytelling. It’s all me, baby.

And if I don’t have what it takes?

If my story has no point?

If it’s not entertaining?

If I can’t think of a satisfying ending?

So be it. I have to at least try. I take comfort in young Solomon’s plight after his father, King David, gave him the kingdom and with it, the responsibility to build God’s temple. Considering that this was a temple that even David, a man after God’s own heart, hadn’t been deemed qualified to build, it must have looked like a daunting task to Solomon, and it would be the first task of his new kingship, not something he could work up to. Solomon asked for wisdom and plowed forward. I shall do the same.

I will write you all a weekly update, and I promise to fess up if I miss the mark. Or all the marks. I don’t know whether 11,669 words a week are possible, considering I won’t be writing Tuesdays and Sundays. Now, I’m not a math whiz, but this brings my 1,667 daily goal to, um…divide this, carry that…well, um way more than 1,667 a day, but I’ll try.

Hold me to this, please. If you see me out and about (which you shouldn’t since I’ll be chained here), please ask me how it’s going. If nothing else, my urge to avoid your collective inquiries might keep me in my chair.

Right next to this annoying bowl of Halloween candy… which we will definitely have to refill soon.

_______________

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished. –1 Chron 28:20