Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's THAT time of year.

It’s that time of year, my friends. That time of year when the excitement of Christmas is over and all that’s left is to take inventory of your life. Another year come and gone. It’s that time of year when your spouse starts thinking of resolutions they’d like you to make. ;)
Ryan Edward is a goal fanatic. He’s all about the “envisioning” and the “positive thinking” and the “set a goal and it will happen”… not barring hard work of course.
We went out to lunch today and we were talking about our potential. We were talking about what we think we’re meant to accomplish. Who are we? What are our strengths? How can we best serve? Is service our motivation for success, or are we motivated by glory or money or praise?
It’s that time of year when you take a good long look at who you really are. But who are you? Deep down, without the influence of anyone else… who are you? You probably have no idea. Ryan Edward and I were talking about that. How much of who we are is because of circumstance? Because of our surroundings? Of our town, of our neighborhood, of our friends, family, health, finances? If our circumstances changed, would it change us? I think so. It makes me wonder: What is innately me and wouldn’t change no matter what or who influenced me?
Three things I deeply love just because I do.
1) I love to create. I love to spend hours (if only I had hours to spend) puttering and applying and knowing that the most important person for me to please with the thing I’m making is ME. I love to work on it until I’ve looked at it so long that I don’t like it anymore, and then take a break from it, go back to it and realize that, really, I love it a whole bunch, finish it, and then set it out on display in front of me and stare at it from every angle and know that I did that.
This is me all the way. It’s something Ryan Edward and many others don’t understand. They think there must be more useful ways to spend one’s time, or they think everyone is better off getting whatever version can be bought in a store. They might be right, but I still love knowing my two hands and my imagination brought something into existence. When Ryan Edward questioned my latest project… the frilly/funky “tween” tutus I made for my daughters for Christmas, I told him that I never have time to create anything anymore, and it’s stealing my soul away. I needed to make these, whether it made sense or not. He looked scared (haha). He backed away slowly, and didn’t question my methods again, nor my late, late hours leading up to Christmas. Far be it for him to suggest I lose a portion of my very soul. :)

2) I adore romance. I feel lost if I don’t regularly feel that romantic thrill I get from a story or a movie or a song. I think I’ll need a steady dose of it all through January as I start another phase of what I like to call my “healthy lifestyle” change, but what is REALLY a series of daily pep talks in which I cycle motivational speeches like “You see, Amie, you feel so much better when you’re doing this” with self-loathing statements like “You can’t eat that candy Amie, you just can’t or you’ll have failed again and you’ll dread getting dressed in anything without an elastic waistband every day for the rest of your life. Is that really what you want? Is it?!?!”
In the name of romance, I’ll tell you my favorite book that I’ve read in the last six months or more. I hesitate because I wouldn’t recommend it to a young, unmarried. It’s got too many hormones for them, but ahhhh....the hormones. I love them. Shhhh. Don’t tell the young, unmarrieds. It’s Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. The best thing about it is the way the author is able to keep the chemistry going and the big question of whether the couple will end up together through the whole book without making the reader dislike either of them. Mmmm and they get so close and then something legit barely keeps them apart, and then something else legit, and I just love every heart wrenching second of it. I’m very particular about my endings and this one didn’t disappoint. I can’t wait to get my hands on the companion novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door.

3) I’m going to nutshell the third one by saying that I love things that are constant. Getting in bed at the end of the day, so cozy and peaceful. Good music that can make you feel things and bring back a thousand unexpected memories when it comes over the speakers at the grocery store. Justice. I LOVE rules and the following of them, and the end result being expected and deserved. I love watching Judge Judy. I’ve been watching court TV since I was in elementary school. Deep down, I wish I could speak my mind like the judges do. Tell people that they’re being stupid and unfair when they are, and punish them as they deserve. Sounds a little harsh, huh? Justice. Harsh but fair. It just makes sense to me.

In the name of the New Year, three things I want to be and could be good at with work:
1) Organization
2) Fitness
3) Getting my books published
Aaaaand just for fun, three things I love because I’m married to Ryan Edward, and probably would NOT love otherwise:
1) Deep movies with “tough” messages.

2) The history channel.

3) Heaven help me… sci-fi… but dang it, Captain Picard is awesome. None of you should be able to deny that!

Does it make you think? What makes you YOU? How do other people influence you? And how do you hope to improve what you are? ...It's THAT time of year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Inspiration At Christmastime

Every once in awhile I catch a glimpse of a higher plane that I'm just sure I could get to. I even think I catch a glimpse of how to get there. It happened last night at a Christmas program. I was listening to music. I was watching families play instruments and sing duets. I wanted to reach inside myself and let out the best parts of me.

It's easy to lose sight of, because it's only a glimpse. I go back to life as I know it. I go back to being proud of myself for getting the daily work-out in, for getting the daily shower in... I settle for not doing the pretty version of my make-up. Scratch that. I'm not trying to make this about the outside of me, though that is what becomes the focus too often. I'm trying to tell you that inside all of us, lies what we CAN be. What we're meant to be. I know you know the feeling that I'm talking about, and I'm telling you we need to believe in that feeling. It's real. It's true. Daily work-outs and showers are part of the way to get there perhaps, another first step must surely be finding ways to catch more of those glimpses. After that, who knows? Maybe a "visualization" poster or repeating things to yourself in the mirror every morning. :)

If it was easy you could bet I wouldn't be sitting here with my hair looking like a rat's nest, having already used the "Santa is watching" threat four times, hold on.... make that five times... with plans to spend the day doing a thousand Christmas projects that, ideally, would have been finished weeks ago.

But this I cannot deny: somewhere inside me, there is greatness. Somewhere in this life that I've complicated far more than it needs to be, there is the potential for greatness.

What is the vision? It's different for all of us. For me it's being a mom and wife that can feel good about the job she's doing, it's about success as a writer, it's about making a difference, it's about charity, it's about intelligence, and in honor of the daily shower... I dare say it's a little bit about hygiene. It's about giving the best I have. It is giving, you know. When you become your best, those around you automatically benefit from it. The more you give, the greater you become and everyone wins. Everyone receives, everyone grows, everyone wins, and more is possible than we ever dreamed of putting on a "visualization" poster.

One day I'll look back and say, "There was a time in my life when I was proud of myself for getting in a daily shower, and that was in the late afternoon!" The people around me will chuckle, and maybe some of them will cry, because maybe... they'll be catching a glimpse of a higher plane.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Contest Winner!

Thank you all for following and commenting! You are wonderful and I so need your encouragement! I wanted you all to win a million pillows. That's about how many Ryan Edward sleeps with at night. He might could go so far as to call it "work". :) He has to test the merchandise I suppose. He's definitely an expert. His pillows are taking over the world!!!

No matter who won the contest, I would be thrilled and have something wonderful to say about you, even if I don't know you. Your comments all got me in the Christmas spirit, whether you were commiserating or reminding me of the magic of Christmas! Jullie- I feel the EXACT same way about the Christmas letter... and could add to it! ....Let's go for a walk and talk the whole time just about that! ;) Christy- I laughed out loud that you let Bruce off the hook so that you didn't have to spoil his good mood! I love it! And Kelly- you brought back some really embarrassing Christmas video memories of me singing Celine Dion, badly, and with much emotion to my new CD player on Christmas morning as an early teen. Ah- the things that exist on camera that never should.

The winnner of the latex pillow iiiiiiis (drumrollllllllll):

Stefanie Ewer!!!

I put all of the names in a bag, some twice, and I drew out the little paper that said, "Stef". Now I will tell you why we should all be happy that she gets a new pillow. She is a blast to be around and she is so kind. We don't see each other very often anymore, but when my Dad passed away she brought flowers to my door. I will always remember that, because often times (like almost daily) I think of doing kind things for people, especially if they're down but it takes a LOT to actually commit, spend time and thought get something for them, then go out of your way to bring it to them, see them, hug them at the door, and ESPECIALLY to give condolences, because so often people don't know what to say. I think she did something spectacular when she did that! I hope she or whoever she gifts the pillow to sleeps as though on a cloud (if that is, indeed, a good thing. To me, it is!).

I had good intentions of posting more often, but Christmas is all consuming right now! If I don't get to say much until January know this: I'll come back with a vengeance!!! My Januaries always need something fun to focus on.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Conundrums

In the hope of commiseration, I’m doing a contest. I’m sharing a few things that haven’t fallen into holiday perfection for me this year and for your response, I’m giving away a free latex pillow, ($99 in value, and priceless in comfort) because we all need our sleep more than ever this time of year. If you comment on my blog, I’ll enter your name in the drawing. If you haven’t been a follower and become one, I’ll put your name in again. Just become a follower and then leave a comment and tell me your name and that you became a follower! I’ll draw out the winner in one week. In your comments, I’d love to hear about your humorous Christmas Conundrums or any suggestions you have for us when you read ours! Merry Christmas preparation everyone! :)

I love Christmas. I breathe it in. It gets under my skin. Jingle bells tinkle, yes tinkle, in my head all through December. I believe in a certain type of magic. There’s some kind of magic in the air at Christmastime. How else do you explain the joint excitement and charity of so many at once?
I’m not quite as angelic in my love for Christmas as you might think though. My favorite thing about it is not as selfless and generous as some. My favorite thing is spoiling the heck out of my kids. Bear in mind that we all have a different definition of “spoiling the heck out of”. There’s the degree of spoiling in which you are considering starving children in third world countries and berating yourself for the amount of gifts you have stuffed in the top shelves of the closet. Or there’s the degree of spoiling in which your child’s friend from school tells you that they’re going on a family trip to Europe for the holidays, so they aren’t getting much by way of presents, just a Porsche and a pony. ;) You can go from berating yourself to checking for ponies in a quick hurry.
A week ago, I was doing the usual late night internet window shopping. I waited until Ryan Edward was not quite asleep, but was drowsy and drunk on ESPN because I didn’t want him judging me on my obsession with Christmas shopping. Then I checked the website that I’d had my eye on for months. The only website with the only boots that my almost teenage daughter wants for Christmas. Stop thinking there are similar boots elsewhere because there are NOT. How do I know for sure? Hours of fruitless research.
The pictures of the lovely boots, the furry, colorful, trendy, stylish boots were all overshadowed with the evil, evil phrase “back ordered”. Nooooooooooo! I started attacking the keyboard like one of those mysterious computer genius guys does when he’s diverting missiles in the nick of time. My missile, however, was not to be diverted. The boots are simply unavailable until January. The only way they’ll be under the tree for my daughter on Christmas morning is if I go out and hunt down a hot pink grizzly bear and shape its fur into boots with my own two hands. That’s one of the solutions I considered as I lay awake until the AM hours, fretting about it. Of course I know that’s really silly, which is why I’m now making jokes about it. I ended up explaining to my daughter, and she is happy to wait until January, even though the boots are her most wanted present. She’ll be more than fine. We’re very blessed and we remind ourselves of that all of the time.
Still, Christmas with all of his wonderment does have its challenges, or rather; we have our challenges at Christmastime. It can hardly be blamed on Christmas itself.
Most years I manage to coax Ryan Edward up onto the roof to hang the lights. He dreads doing it and I dread nagging, but neither of us want to see our house go un-twinklefied for Christmas, so we finally… and by finally I mean after several snows and about the time the weather is at its all-time most frozen… begin the task. Ryan climbs up on the ladder, scowling to imply that this is all my fault. I stand below and throw things to him, yelling up to him that there has to be a better way to do this than the way we do. This year I bought big, multicolored lights. They remind me exactly of the ones my Dad would put up when I was little (except they’re LED). We plugged them in, and made certain they worked. Ryan scowled. I yelled up to him to take a close look at the neighbors lights from up there and try to decipher what their secret is for training each individual bulb to stand at uniform attention like obedient little soldiers.
“Throw me the push broom,” Ryan calls, “I’m going to try to sweep the snow off before I climb up onto the highest peak of our frozen roof.”
“Mom! My hands are cold,” Derek says in the near crying voice, because both he and his brother insist on watching their Dad do… well, absolutely everything that he’s doing.
“Put them in your pocket,” I say as I run for the broom.
On the count of three I throw the broom up to Ryan. He scowls and tells us all to back up while he sweeps the snow off. So far he has one strand of lights up, the sun is long gone, and the cold air is biting through my thick coat like it’s a carnivore. Ryan may sweep the roof, but the ice that remains is about to sweep his leg more perilously than that punk from Karate Kid did to Ralph Machio.
I finally give in and tell him to come down, in my grouchy voice. Despite that, he finishes putting up a second strand from the relative safety of the ladder. This leaves the job about 2/5 done. He comes down and plugs the lights in to observe. I’m suspicious that he may well leave the half complete job plugged in just to bask in the joy of what he’s accomplished so far. I begin planning what delicious calories I can drown myself in to make up for this experience. Then I look up. The entire first strand, the only one that went up fairly easy, is as dark and bleak and dead as the Grim Reaper. Ryan need not swear aloud. His every movement is a swearword as he hoists the ladder back to the beginning and jostles each light as if a good shaking will make them obey. They are unafraid. I’m desperate enough to administer CPR to each bulb if only it would help, but apparently they are Do Not Resuscitate.
We walk in the house. I dare not complain or suggest anything further. I talk about how happy I am for our heat, and doesn’t that warm air feel amazing as it surrounds you the minute you walk inside. Though I do it out of fear of sending Ryan over the edge… it is true. The warmth and safety of our home does feel good, even without the awning lined in big, multi-colored lights. I don’t know if we’ll attempt it again this year. You have to weight it all. The starving children against the kids with the vacations and ponies. You have to look at the Christmas list in all its splendor. The things that get crossed off because their done, and the things that get crossed off because the lights died on the table, and chances are when almost everything is crossed off for one reason or another, you might realize that none of it mattered much at all. That there’s something else that didn’t even make the list and it makes the whole thing seem small by comparison. In that way Christmas is no different than any other day. It’s all about figuring out what’s most important… I just really want to figure it out under multi-colored lights.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why oh Why is it in a Drawer???

I’m taking a break from My True Love Story until after December. I want to be able to pour my whole heart into it, not rush through it and mark it off of a long, sometimes miserable list! I AM, however, going to try something different on my blog. I really miss the spontaneity of a blog being more like a journal. Instead of working tirelessly to recreate a story, I want to just sit and write whatever comes to mind. So, I hope you’ll visit! I plan to do this every day this week, as it will take a lot less time than the stories I write. I hope it entertains!
I want to first respond to questions I get about my book, which I am embarrassed to answer. The answer is this: my manuscript has been sitting in a drawer of my nightstand for almost… no, it couldn’t be! But I think it is… almost a YEAR. How terrible! When my Dad passed away, one of my first thoughts was I’m going to chase my dream and make Dad proud! I’m going to start right now, right after the unthinkable (losing my Dad) has happened, because I won’t be afraid. Something truly scary has happened to me and chasing my dream seems comforting by comparison! So I started my blog, with every intention of editing my book, finding a writer’s group to help me, and pursuing publication. I’m still going to do it, but the time frame is---wow--- really affected by my emotional circumstances.
I’m funny about my time. I save the thing I like doing most for last. I make myself do all of the stuff I hate first. I clean the blasted bathrooms, I do the dishes, and then I sit down with baskets full of laundry and fold it while sipping Crystal Light and watching one of my favorite TV series. It’s heavenly. It’s the same thing with my book. I keep saving the joy of it until I’m past adjusting. Adjusting to Mom moving here in a time of grief, adjusting to Mom dating, adjusting to the holidays without Dad and with a family that’s changing so much and so fast you wonder at times if you’ll recognize it! :)
I’m learning so much though! Every new experience, or “adjustment” as I’ve been calling them, makes me a better writer.
I’ll tell you a story. The summer before last, our most wonderful in the world next door neighbors hired our oldest daughter to water their yard for them while they went out of town. There were soaker hoses that she had to turn on for about twenty minutes at a time. Life is insane with four kids all talking a mile a minute, all on different schedules, all making messes at the speed of sound. We didn’t check up on the job she was doing for the neighbors. We wanted to teach her responsibility, and I figured the worst that could happen, which would be just awful considering that our neighbors are the most wonderful in the world, would be that their plants might die under her watchful care. Wrong.
Sunday morning, our daughter went over there to tweak something or other, and noticed that the window well was full of water. She had forgotten to turn off one of the soaker hoses. Under the circumstances she trusted her Dad not to freak out more than she trusted me, so she ran to him. By the time I noticed tension emanating into our house from the yard next door, I came upon Ryan standing in their window well in shorts and his white church shirt, scooping buckets full of water out as fast and furious as he could. It was to no avail. We got the key to the house and went inside. Our legs moved us, though I don’t know how, to the basement of our dear friends’ and as we stepped off of the bottom stair, their carpet just squished and splatted under our feet. We had flooded our neighbor’s basement. The whole entire basement.
We’d have to move of course. We’d be shunned by all. We’d lose our friends, we’d lose our dignity. The world, for us, would pretty much have to end. Ryan is a glass half full kind of guy, but that day he just sat there on our couch, staring at the wall for like an hour. We just couldn’t believe we had let such a thing happen. We couldn’t believe there was nothing we could do to take it back, to make it go away! It took days to even function properly. Angels took over our neighbors’ bodies and they responded with perfection. If you are ever going to flood anyone’s basement, I highly recommend them. I never blogged about it, or posted about it on facebook. It was too painful. I did sit down weeks later, though, to work on my book and wrote one of the saddest scenes I’ve ever written. The bad guy was brutally mean, and the good guy was heart-wrenchingly tortured (Amie style that is, which is the really bearable kind of bad-guy torture). I could write that way because I knew emotion that I hadn’t known until dumdumdum- THE FLOOD.
Moral of the post is this: The writer in me is getting better. The time-manager in me is scouring the figurative bathrooms so that she can get to the fun stuff, aka editing her manuscript for crying out loud and magically transforming into a published author. And no- I don’t believe that’s really the way that happens. I know that there is still plenty of figurative toilet scrubbing to be done along the way to book signing status. Talk me through it people, ‘cuz I’m scared.