Thursday, November 30, 2017

IWSG: Reflections on the Year

           

            This is my post for the December 6th IWSG Day. I am posting early because I will be taking a trip to London next week! The Insecure Writer’s Support Group was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers to share their insecurities and encourage one another. We are given an optional question to answer each month, and here is the question for December 6:

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

            I could discuss other areas where I have reached my goals, but this post is meant to specifically address writing. I would have to say that as far as writing goes, 2017 was not the best year for me. I nearly abandoned my blog and followers a couple times (sorry guys!), I did not participate in the IWSG Anthology contest this year, and I did not listen to my own recommendation to discipline myself and write every day. As for NaNoWriMo, I will probably fall somewhere between 3000 and 4000 words by the end of the day. I was not aiming for 50,000, nor was I working on a novel, but I did hope to get a little more written. I guess I had some distractions this month, including London planning, so I’m not entirely disappointed with the results. It will make it easier to beat next year! I had fun with the little projects I was working on with NaNo, so it was a good experience.

            If I could backtrack, I would probably not only say I want to be more disciplined in my writing, but I would also take the time to plan out writing sessions and stick to them. I’d put my words into action instead of just thinking about it all the time. I would have planned time for my blog posts and visits instead of handling my blog with the casual disregard I’ve had most of this year. There are probably many other moments when I could have been writing this year, and I will need to work on those things that I allow to divert my attention in the year to come.

            Congrats to the NaNo winners out there! You have accomplished a great feat! 

https://memegenerator.net/instance/35926313
Now it's time to finish packing!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

IWSG: The Write Time




            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month.

            I keep meaning to do an update post, and the next thing you know another month has gone by. I find myself constantly caught up in other things or just downright tired. I have bits and pieces of writing that I have done over the past few months, but nothing substantial. I even started a mystery/crime short story for the IWSG anthology contest, but then I decided that I am completely terrible at writing mystery/crime and probably have to read more in that genre beyond Sherlock Holmes.


            The optional question for this month is: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?
For my non-writer friends and those who are new to the online writing community, I was in your shoes two years ago asking “What is NaNo?” NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it takes place in November. In order to “win” you must write 50,000 words of your novel. When I first heard about it I knew that I would eventually make an attempt at participating. Last year I was not ready, and I’m not ready this year either, but I did set up an account under a pen name. I have some other projects and preparations to work on this month, so attempting to win NaNo would not be an obtainable goal. I have decided to use this month to work on getting into a better writing habit, and the word count feature is nice to see how much I get written. I’m probably not going to work on one single novel. I have a few ideas for some short stories that I would like to work on and other bits and pieces I’d like to dive into. According to the forums on the site, I would be classified as a NaNo rebel since I'm working on multiple pieces, which is fine with me :)


For those who are in it to win it or at least making an effort to finish a novel, I commend you. Happy writing! 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

October IWSG

           

            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month.

October’s question is: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

The story I was working on had a version of myself as the main character, and I had a hard time with it. That is the primary reason that I put that particular story on hold. It felt too open and vulnerable. I think backing away from myself and writing about characters that have different flaws and characteristics makes the writing more fun and inventive. I have written scenes that are similar to awkward encounters I’ve had, and those are usually on purpose. Also, my personal values and beliefs usually show up in at least one of my characters.

            I tried to get a photo to show my writer insecurity with IWSG logos, but neither my hair nor my cats were being very agreeable. I do have this picture of Sawyer with some writing inspiration that I took a while back. It is a reminder that creating "still life" is not my specialty.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG: Unplanned Absence

            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month.


            I’m not sure how to start this post, but I guess I will just jump right in. First of all, I would like to apologize for going completely MIA from this blog and not posting for last month’s IWSG day. This summer has been entirely overwhelming and my computer and the internet were lowest on my priority list. I had every intention of posting for August IWSG, but ended up with only a 24-hour period between getting home from a Mexico mission trip on Monday and leaving for a youth conference on Tuesday, and I spent most of that time catching up on sleep and rearranging my luggage. I could go into more details of the ups and downs of the last two months, but I do not want to get too far off topic.

            So, this month’s question is a good one: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in?) Yes, and yes! Before the IWSG started its annual anthology contest, most of my writing was personal narratives, devotionals, and an occasional dabble with realistic fiction. Then, I decided to enter the past two years, and it was an enlightening experience. I am looking forward to finding out this year’s theme (today!). In 2015, I experienced first-hand what it is like to have a character take over the story. Before that, I thought it was a mythical experience and never conceived that it would happen to me; but it did, because a minor character redirected my plot line and became a major part of the story. For last year’s entry, I found out that I enjoy writing fantasy (at least in short story form). Honestly, I was afraid to touch it. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres to read and it has always seemed way too intimidating to attempt to write. And though I may not be writing some brilliant, epic fantasy, I did expand upon my short story a little bit since the contest. One day, if I would actually put some more effort into it, I could find a home for that story.

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July IWSG


          Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month.

            How kind of the IWSG to come and celebrate my birthday with me on this day after Independence Day. What’s that you say?...Oh, it’s the first Wednesday of July, I guess you’re not here for my birthday after all, but that’s alright. I’ll keep it short today for those, like myself, who may be still celebrating the holiday. Let's look at July’s question:

What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?

            Only one valuable lesson? I feel as though I have learned many throughout this writing journey and I have much yet to learn. Something that seems to stick with me is that writing requires endurance. You cannot just sit down and write something great within a few minutes, unless you have immeasurable talent. It takes time and practice and editing. There will be moments of writer’s block, rejection, or lack of focus, but great writers keep striving for the finish. I am currently fighting a short attention span due to some other life issues outside of writing, but I know that when I choose to discipline my time better, I will be able to pick up that pen again. As I said last month, don’t quit!
I hope everyone had a safe and happy 4th!

Friday, June 30, 2017

5 Weird Things About Me

            I’ve said this before and I’m saying it again: Where does the time go?! I think this heat and humidity is really getting to me. I constantly feel lethargic and am unable to focus on anything for very long. I honestly don’t think Twitter has helped very much. It’s just another distracting feed like Facebook, so I have added it to my “distractions to avoid” list, which includes most of the internet. Speaking of the internet, my computer decided to do some avoiding for me and would only load email and a couple other websites no matter which browser I was using. After over a week of being unable to visit many sites and giving up on my computer time most days, I finally researched my problem on my phone (since Google results could not load on the computer). I had to do some high tech computer manipulation with the command prompt, but I got it working again, at least for now.

            Anyway, Barbara from Life & Faith in Caneyhead has challenged me to name 5 weird things about myself. So, no Flashback Friday today, and sorry Barbara for my delay. I sort of had a hard time narrowing down my list, because being introverted and geeky automatically adds a lot of weird quirks, but here are the things I have chosen to share today:

5 Weird Things About Me
  • When I was 5 years old, my dream job was to be a mom. I considered a couple other options in my teen years, but since then, being a stay-at-home mom has still been my dream.
  • I enjoy playing video games. I have logged the most hours with Legend of Zelda and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
  • I absolutely hate making phone calls! I sometimes have a hard time talking myself into calling my best friends, and if I am forced to call an insurance company or patient at work, I nearly have a panic attack.
  • I live in Oklahoma, but I don’t like biscuits and gravy or Dr. Pepper, which apparently makes me weird in this state. I guess it’s because I was not born here :)
  • I have an eclectic assortment of interests and I tend to have a hard time picking favorites. For example, if you ask me my favorite movie/book/song/pastime, I’ll ask you to name a genre, and then if I enjoy that genre, I’ll name at least three things that I like in that category in no particular order.

Since I’m joining in a little late, I won’t tag anyone else, but feel free to share your own oddities in a comment or let me know if you have already participated.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

IWSG: Don't Quit



            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month. The IWSG poses a question for us to answer in our monthly posts. Here is the question for June:

Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

            This question is so relevant to my state of mind lately that it was hard to answer. In fact, I have been procrastinating this post. When I sat down to write it Sunday afternoon, I ended up joining Twitter. I have been avoiding Twitter like the plague, but I also knew that it may eventually be a useful tool to promote my writing. Since I was avoiding this post, Twitter all of a sudden had this unheard of appeal for me (that or I wanted some extra entries in a raffle contest). Look at me talking about Twitter like I understand it (I don’t!) and continuing to avoid the topic at hand. 
            I never officially threw in the towel with writing, but I certainly do procrastinate an awful lot. I go into cycles with my writing. First, I start building up momentum and the ideas are coming in faster than I can get them down on paper. Then, I am highly motivated and write constantly for one or two weeks straight. Then, I either hit a huge roadblock or I come to a conclusion with the story/post/section. After that I enter this state of “What do I do now?” or “How do I move forward from here?” and writing suddenly becomes this evil beast that glares at me through a white screen with a blinking cursor. That is when the procrastination begins, and suddenly, there is never enough time to write or my job is too overwhelming or I make other excuses. I never know how long this stage will last, but eventually, I will find my way back to the beginning of the cycle. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
            In case you haven’t guessed already, I have been stuck in the procrastinating stage for a while. In fact, a couple weeks ago, I actually found myself asking, “Is it really worth it?” I keep questioning my ability to “moonlight” as a writer because it truly is hard to find balance. What’s funny is that the thing that made me come back this time was something I wrote about before. I was looking through my old posts to find one to use for Flashback Friday and I came across this post from my blogging comeback in 2015. I had quit blogging (not writing entirely) and that was my first post after a 15-month absence. Reading something I wrote during a high point, helps me remember the joy and inspiration that writing brings. In that post, I wrote about learning and seeking out the things that bring encouragement in my life. My suggestion to myself and anyone else who may be going through a writing slump is to learn new things, find your inspiration again, and don’t give up!

P.S. For anyone interested, you can now find me on Twitter @ElizabethAOtten (don’t forget the middle initial). I still have no idea what I’m doing there, so forgive me if I don’t follow proper etiquette or don’t tweet enough or commit other noob failures.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Flashback Friday: Breaking the Silence

           **It's the last Friday of the month, so it's time for Flashback Friday! Participants repost an old post that needed more attention, that you're very proud of, that you think is still relevant, etc. It was hosted by Michael G D'Agostino, but he has opted out. You can still find a list of previous and current participants on his blog. The month of May sort of just vanished for me, and it seems my priorities have been shuffled around more often than not the last few months. I thought this post was an appropriate reminder for me. When I posted this, I had just come back after not posting for a year and a half. The blogging challenge I mentioned was the 2015 A to Z Challenge. I had no idea what I was getting into when I wrote this post, haha, but I'm glad that I got involved with the blogging community. Reading this again reminds me how much I enjoy writing (and learning) and I'm sorry for my blogging negligence lately. I know that I don't want to repeat a long term blogging absence, so I'm working on budgeting my time a little better. And now, the flashback post...**


Breaking the Silence (originally posted February 19, 2015)

           It has been quite a long time since I last posted anything.  I feel as though time has been against me, but I haven’t really been busy, at least not busier than normal.  I guess I’ve been sort of stumped for writing ideas and I really haven’t felt like writing a lot lately.  I have not even been journaling as much as I used to.  My creative side does not want to allow this to keep happening, so I am beginning again.  It is about time I dust off this old “pen” and take it up again.  With a new year already well underway, almost 2 months in, to be precise, I have felt inspired to make my own resolutions.  There have been many inspirations over the last couple months prodding me back to writing.  I recently finished a Bible study in Colossians which helped renew my prayer journal.  I came across a Great Courses catalog last month and ended up ordering some courses, including a couple on writing.  I’ve watched 2 lectures from one course about the way we structure sentences, and it has been enjoyable so far.  I’ve felt inspired in other areas as well.  I have always been excited about learning new things, so getting these courses has been encouraging.  I have also been studying Mandarin Chinese with Rosetta Stone, which has been tough but interesting.  I have been reading fiction on a more regular basis again.  All of this has helped me to feel renewed, inspired, and ready for some positive new beginnings/changes in my life.

This may not sound interesting to you.  Maybe reading, writing, learning, and Chinese sound too boring or too difficult.  My point is this: do whatever it is that inspires you.  Seek out ways to renew your interest in life.  Seek God above all else, because He is the ultimate source of inspiration and redemption.  God doesn’t want us to mope about in a pity parties about the state of our lives, our economy, or our country.  We need to go out and make the most of the time that’s been given to us. 

I hope to write more often.  In fact, I’m thinking about participating in a blog challenge and I will provide more details if I do decide to take part. I also hope to make a few changes and updates to this blog and those will come as time allows.  Until then, it has been nice to come back and I hope those of you who read this will enjoy whatever comes next :)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

IWSG: Useful Distraction?


 
            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month.
            My focus has been so far off lately. That is why I can’t seem to get anything done. Lack of time is not the problem. It’s complete lack of motivation, discipline, and focus. My mind is constantly going in ten different directions and I never know which lead to follow. Sometimes it’s with writing: should I write a blog post? Should I be working on a short story? A novel? A children’s book? I have all of that floating in my head that needs to get out on the page before it all dies. But, this goes far beyond writing decisions. Getting myself to sit down and write is a chore in and of itself. Ever a distracted procrastinator, I find everything else to do and I start random crafts or projects. I actually did finish a couple long term projects this last month, which was nice. I suppose I need to find motivation in those moments of accomplishment, even if it’s not with writing. If I could get more of the organizational projects out of the way, I may be able to focus more on my writing (or so I tell myself). One of my finished projects involved creating a significant amount of storage space in my room, which allows me to FINALLY clear off the random books, crafts and sewing supplies on my desk. That is my next project, to sort and move that stuff so my computer can have its old home back. My current set up in the living room is too full of distractions like the TV, large window, and cats. I have read that it’s helpful to find a place to get away from distractions, so I am working on creating that space.
My current "writing" spot
 
In the midst of the storage wars, I did manage little bits of writing here and there. One day, when I intentionally sat down for ten minutes to write, I wrote 350 words. Now that may not sound like a lot, but I did the math :) If I only wrote 300 words per day, every day, I would have 109,500 words by the end of the year! I know more experienced writers probably manage a lot more than that, and then there’s the editing and revising stages and beyond, but that still looks like a good number to start with for a beginning novelist like me, especially in only ten minutes a day. Feeling motivated yet?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Flashback Friday: Flying Against the Wind

             **It's the last Friday of the month, so it's time for Flashback Friday! Participants repost an old post that needed more attention, that you're very proud of, that you think is still relevant, etc. It was hosted by Michael G D'Agostino, but he has opted out. You can still find a list of previous and current participants on his blog.
            You know, while I did decide not to participate in the A to Z Challenge this year, I did not necessarily intend on taking nearly the entire month away from blogging, but that's what happened this month. This post from October 30, 2011 seemed appropriate for my state of mind lately. It often seems that time is against me, but April has not been entirely unproductive. I got some reading done, from both informational and fictional books, and I finally conquered a huge organizational project that has been on my to do list for over a year. Anyway, that's enough current news, now it's time to flashback.**
        

Flying Against the Wind

           One windy day, as I was sitting in my car on my lunch break, I saw a dragonfly. This particular dragonfly was determined to fly against the wind. It flapped its little wings as fast as it could. I watched as it flew forward a few feet, only to be pushed back by a gust of wind, over and over again. It kept going, even when its efforts only kept it in one place for a few seconds. I don't know if that dragonfly ever reached its destination, but I do know that it wasn't about to let a little wind change its course.

            Sometimes life is like that. You try as hard as you can, but something is always putting up a resistance. Sometimes you can't seem to get past a certain point, like you're suspended in mid-air, and, sometimes, you get pushed back to where you started. When this happens, you probably feel like giving in and just letting the current take you away. Instead, you should learn a lesson from the dragonfly: Don't give up. When the struggles and pressures of life try to push you backwards, push back. Life wasn't meant to be easy, and pushing against the wind helps us to grow stronger. Remember that if you know Jesus, you are not alone in your flight. He is there to help you along and lead you back to the right path if the wind gets you off course. God is there when you feel over taken: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31) Aren't the wings of an eagle so much stronger then those of a dragonfly? Also, remember that God has the power to stop the wind: "And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." (Mark 4:39) So, just keep flying, and remember the dragonfly when the wind blows against you.


Pixabay.com

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

IWSG: Dutifully Determined


 
            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month.
            I was in deep denial and disappointment about not digging in to the demanding A to Z Challenge this year. That doesn’t deduce that I can’t delight in some alphabetic drollery. So, with the dictionary as my director I shall divulge you with this month’s disquiet. My daily writing is still delayed. I’ve been too distracted and distressed by work and other duties and disciplines. Like a drawn-out dance, I dash from being deliberate in the details to diversion or disarray. My determination is often detoured and it can become downright depressing. I must decide to keep driving forward. Don’t dwell on the difficulties; instead, discover and develop different ways to reach that writing destination.

 

This post has been brought to you by the letter D.

And now back to your regularly scheduled A to Z programming...

Friday, March 31, 2017

Flashback Friday: Cats

            **I forgot to pre-schedule my Flashback Friday post! But, it's alright because it is still Friday where I am. Since it is a bit late, I thought I would include something new at the end as a bonus. Flashback Friday occurs the last Friday of the month. Participants repost an old post that needed more attention, that you're very proud of, that you think is still relevant, etc. It was hosted by Michael G D'Agostino, but he has opted out. You can still find a list of previous and current participants on his blog.**


Just a Quick Word (With Cats!) - Previously published July 24, 2015
 
            Just for fun, I thought I would introduce everyone to my cats.  They have made some appearances in post pictures before, and I thought they deserved a proper introduction!

 
Here they are:
 
 
They're pretty lazy
 
 
 
This is Kitty:
 

 
We wanted to come up with a great name for her when she was a kitten, so we waited for her personality to develop.  But the next thing you know, we just couldn't come up with anything more fitting than Kitty or just The Cat since she was our only indoor cat for a while.
 
 
This is Sawyer:
 
 
He's my lap baby and a great comforter after a long day at work.  He also likes to sleep in a lot of strange positions, so he ends up in more pictures than the other two.
 
 
This is Sophie:
 

 
She is the bratty, "little sister" of this clowder.  She sometimes ninja-strikes all, whether cat, dog, or human, who cross her path.
 

 
And now (3/31/17), here is a little bonus picture. Can you spot the new cat?:
 
 
This is Arwen. While Kitty, Sawyer, and Sophie rule the indoors, Arwen is an outside cat who chose my family. She is a bit camera shy and she doesn't always come around, but I managed to capture her in a rare moment of getting cozy in the little house we got for her.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Not This Time

            I must sadly say that I will not be participating in the A to Z Challenge this year.  :(
I put a lot of thought into this decision and I even started working on some posts, but I realized that I do not have the time for it this year. Any of my regular followers would know that I have been struggling with keeping things balanced the last few months, and since I’m still trying to manage my schedule, I know that I will not have the energy to keep up with daily blog visits and comments during the challenge.


Speaking of time and balance, my presence has not been felt in the blogging force very often lately and for this I apologize. There have been some things that have come up in the foreground of my life, both good and bad, that have taken precedence over blogging. Most of February and on into March, sicknesses have plagued my local area. The pharmacy has been bustling with endless cold and flu patients, schools canceled classes in February due to the flu, my church has had some low attendance days, and both of my parents have suffered from some congestion issues. I blame the weather. It has constantly gone up and down in temperature. On more than one occasion, yesterday's low was tomorrow's high. This instability has plagued my sinuses and I'm sure it has caused these adverse effects in others as well. Come to think of it, maybe the weather is part of the reason for my fatigue and exhaustion these past couple months. Although, I think the strain of extra patients at work has been the primary reason. I have been drained of mental reasoning and motivational energy most days. In fact, I fell asleep at 10:30 a high number of nights for this night owl, and when you get home from work around 7:30 some days, that doesn't leave much room for anything else besides dinner, de-stressing, and getting ready for bed. 
But it hasn't been all illness, fatigue, and canceled challenge plans. I am in the process of finally finishing up some courses and tutorials over a new writing-related project I decided to try out months ago. I still have some kinks to work out, but once I get it going I will be happy to share it with you. For now, it shall remain a secret! I also hope to work on getting more blog posts written in advance since I’ll have more time than I initially expected next month. Sometime this week, I will make some visits to see what themes my blogging friends are doing, and I still plan to follow some during the challenge.
Are you participating in A to Z this year? If so, I might go visit your theme reveal and I hope you have fun!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

IWSG: One Step at a Time

 
            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month. Congratulations to the IWSG for making it on the 100 Best Websites for Writers list!
            I thought about being discouraged and talking about my typical lack of time and motivation, and how it is already March and what I have I done with my writing so far this year? But, you know, things are not always as bad as they seem. Change will come, but sometimes it only comes in small baby steps. Have I met my goal of writing every day? Not yet, but I do find myself making notes of ideas more often and I have written quite a bit in my journals. Journaling may not always feel like writing because it is not usually for others to see, but I think there is power in unleashing those inner thoughts and it taps into your source of creativity. Beyond journaling, I have made some decisions and plans for my writing this last month. The most immediate is that I decided I will attend the monthly writer’s group meeting at my local library tomorrow. From the way the librarian described the group, it sounds like a critique group, and I thought I would just sit in this time to see how it goes. I’m a little bit nervous, but I think it is a good step forward for my future writing pursuits. I will reveal my other plans and steps as I reach them. One step at a time.
Pixabay.com
March’s question is: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out? I did not think I had much of an answer to this, because most of my fictional writing is from the last couple years, besides a few from high school and college. Of course, there is my ongoing “quiet book” that I started collecting notes for about 10 years ago, but it has not entered the drafting phase yet. Today, I was looking through my high school (and beyond) diary, and I was actually thinking about how some of those early entries would make a pretty comical preteen book. I’m thinking something along the lines of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but I’ll have to wait to see if that will work out or not. I have a long list of other projects to work on ahead of it. One step at a time. :)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Flashback Friday: Witnessing a Miracle

            **It's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for Flashback Friday. Participants repost an old post that needed more attention, that you're very proud of, that you think is still relevant, etc. It was hosted by Michael G D'Agostino, but he has opted out. You can still find a list of previous and current participants on his blog. It has now been two years since the accident I mentioned in this post and Victoria's progress continues to astound me.**
 
 
Witnessing a Miracle (previously posted February 25, 2016)

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV)


Victoria, Sam, Aleigh and Lucas with their parents and grandparents
 
            This past Sunday, February 21, 2016 marked one year since Victoria Turner, two of her siblings, and her maternal grandparents were in a terrible car accident. Today Victoria, or Tori, as she’s often called, is a living, breathing miracle. I have shared her story before, but I haven’t given an update for a while. So, I thought I would share my own personal reflections of those months last year.
On February 14, 2015, I had the privilege of babysitting my friend’s three precious children while she was with her husband at our church’s sweetheart banquet. I absolutely adore her kids and consider them like family. One week later, late in the evening, those three children were in a terrible car accident with their maternal grandparents. The middle daughter, Aleigh, and grandparents were fine (which was a miracle in and of itself), but the oldest son, Samuel, and youngest daughter, Victoria, were critically injured. Samuel had a fractured ankle and pelvis and Victoria had multiple skull fractures and brain injuries; they didn’t think she was going to make it. When I heard the news the following morning at church I was struck with such a sense of hopelessness and concern. I had just held Tori and read to her the previous week, what was I to do? There wasn’t anything I could do except pray. So that is what I and my church did.     
Samuel was released within a couple weeks, but Victoria took a turn for the worst. She got pneumonia due to her weakened immune system, and had to be put on life support. So, in the weeks following we continued to pray for this precious two-year-old. There were so many ups and downs during those critical weeks when many people, including myself, checked the Facebook page repeatedly throughout the day hoping for good news. Eventually, the miracle we were praying for came and Victoria survived! After months of therapy, a transfer to a hospital closer to home, and slowly being weaned off the oxygen support, Tori was finally able to return home in June. One of many amazing things about all of this is that during her time on life support, the doctors were not able to treat her skull fractures, but when they finally took an x-ray they found that the fractures had healed on their own and no additional surgery was necessary.
This picture was taken the day I went with Victoria, her mom and little brother to her check-up
 
She is still undergoing speech therapy, but she communicates her needs fairly well with her limited vocabulary. I have had some opportunities to observe her at play, I even got to let her sit in my lap and read to her again, and I think she seems just as bright and eager to learn as ever. I was watching her run and play with another three-year-old at church the other day and every time she laughed or smiled I was reminded of what a miracle and a testimony her young life has already been to so many people.
My church was strengthened in prayer during that time. We came together as one body and the power of prayer was shown in a way that most of us will never forget. And we were not alone. The church has somewhere between 200 and 300 members, but the Pray for Tori and Sam Facebook page has over 9000 likes. It amazes me that so many people beyond our church were willing to pray and show support for Victoria and her family, and all of those lives were impacted by this tragedy. Prayer is powerful, but things may not always turn out the way we want them to. Even if things had gone the other way with Tori, her parents said they would still believe that God works out the good in all things. Of course, it is better to always be in prayer, whether we are in the midst of disaster or delight, but as incomplete works in progress, we probably lapse in our prayer time once in a while, especially if things are going smoothly.  Just remember that God is always just a prayer away and He wants to hear all of your needs, your desires, your worries, your fears, your praise, and your worship.

 
 
 
You can find more information about Victoria's journey on the Pray for Tori and Sam Facebook page, and the pictures I shared in this post are from that page.

Friday, February 10, 2017

If You Give a Page a Picture

            I really don’t know where the time goes. I feel as though I lose track of it so easily. I wanted to be more proactive with my blog posts this year, but I did not have a solid plan in place so it has fallen by the wayside yet again. I think of the quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” I mean to make amends to this, so I have spent the majority of my blogging absence analyzing my goals, schedule, and time usage. I even bought a Life Planner, which has encouraged a lot of journal writing. Elsewhere in writing, I started a couple short stories. My main problem is that I have a lot of starts and few finishes.

One reason for these infrequent finishes (and loss of time) is that I tend to make things too difficult for myself. I spend too much time on tasks that should be simple. For example, a few weeks ago, I wanted to start putting up a weekly quote on my Facebook page and I found one I liked. I was about to schedule it to be posted on a Monday, but then I thought it needed a picture. So, I searched through some internet memes and couldn’t quite find the right picture and quote combination. I have been wanting to start using more of my own photography and less from the internet, so I decided I’d put the quote on my own picture, and I opened up the rarely used GIMP program that my brother downloaded on my computer. GIMP has so many functions, too many, and I don’t understand most of it (it’s one of those programs that you need to watch video tutorials in order for it to be beneficial). After changing the font size ten times and endlessly shifting the position of my quote, I saw a shadow in my picture and thought, “I could probably edit that out.” After multiple attempts at finding a function that removes shadows, I gave up and my Facebook page still lacks this new update. I don’t even want to know how long this useless process took me, and in order to gain closure on it, I am sharing that photo (with unwanted car shadow) today.
The font still looks too small...
 
Sadly, this example is how many blog posts, writings, and other projects go for me. My life plays out like a never-ending If You Give a Mouse a Cookie story. I need to add this to the goal list in my planner: Simplify things! I think I will start that weekly quote on Facebook and I'll use a less-complex program, or just share the quote and photo separately. Watch for it on my page, Monday!
Anyone else guilty of overthinking/overdoing simple things?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

IWSG: Reading as a Writer


 
            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month. The IWSG poses a question for us to answer in our monthly posts. Here is the question for February:
How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?
            Even though time has escaped me more often than not in the last few years, I will always love reading. I was the 10-year-old who huddled up next to a night light, past my bedtime, in order to read “just one more chapter”. Since then, I could not tell you how many times I’ve used that same line in the middle of the night. When I find a good book, I like to escape in the simple pleasure of reading. I could almost turn this question around to ask: How has reading shaped my experience as a writer? Reading is part of my motivation because I would love to be able to write one of those books people can escape into. My insecurity also stems from that, because I feel incapable of writing such a book. One thing that I will say in answer to this month’s question is that I sometimes use reading as a tool. I went through a dry spell with reading for a couple years; I just could not find a book worth diving into. As I got more involved with blogging and writing fiction, I got back into reading again. Reading a variety of authors and genres is an excellent form of research. It is helpful to see how others write and the techniques they use. Recently, I have also found a new addiction in audiobooks. Listening to a book allows you to enter a story through a different sense and it is a convenient way to “read” while driving, which is sometimes the only time I get to myself. I was stuck on descriptive details when I was writing my fantasy story until I listened to The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks for a few minutes. Of course, I still enjoy the moments of quiet when I can just sit and read, and if writing inspiration comes, I welcome it gladly!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Flashback Friday: A Mysterious Case of Spots

            **It's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for Flashback Friday. Participants repost an old post that needed more attention, that you're very proud of, that you think is still relevant, etc. It was hosted by Michael G D'Agostino, but he has opted out. You can still find a list of previous and current participants on his blog. I skipped FF last month because of the holidays, but I still enjoy sharing my old posts. I almost feel as though I was a better writer five years ago than I am today. This post is from June 30, 2011. I think I need to take my own words to heart and slow down, cherish the small things, and get reacquainted with the pleasures of writing.**




A Mysterious Case of Spots
 
            You know, God really does work in mysterious ways sometimes, or at least amusing ways. The other day, I was in a rush all day long. I rushed to get ready for work, I rushed to work, I rushed at work, I rushed at lunch, I rushed home after work, and I rushed to get ready for a church camp meeting. As I was driving to the church camp, I glanced down at my knee to adjust my skirt and I saw these 3 big brown spots that weren’t there that morning. Being the worrywart that I am, all these crazy thoughts came rushing through my head: “What are those? Are they blood clots, have I been standing too much? Are they moles from being in the sun too long? Did I get blood blisters from running into something? What did I run into? That leg has been feeling kind of funny today, when was the last time I looked at it?” I said a prayer and hoped to God that it wasn’t anything serious. Well, those spots preoccupied my mind as the camp kids played games and sang songs, but I finally calmed down a little when the preacher started his sermon. As soon as I got home, I had to investigate those spots so I could determine my fate. I looked up and down my leg and found 2 more spots on the bottom of my foot. Then, I sat on my bed and pulled my knee close: “Hmm, those spots are raised, they must be moles…” I rubbed one and it started coming off, then it hit me…It was chocolate! In my rush between work and the camp service I had grabbed a half-melted energy bar and was eating it as I was changing. The melted chocolate had flaked off and got squished onto my skin. I am glad I didn’t ask anyone else for prayer that night, but I guess I did need prayer for my mental state.

            As funny and embarrassing to admit as that is, it really did make a few good points. First of all, I was reminded that I shouldn’t worry so much. Sadly, that is not the first time (and probably not the last) that I invented some horrendous scenarios in my head only to find that there was a perfectly reasonable explanation to my object of worry. When I was a teenager, I used to worry all the time if someone in my family was gone and got home late. I’ve imagined car accidents, fires, thieves, bridges collapsing, etc. and usually I would find out they just made an extra stop or there was a lot of traffic. I was reminded of Luke 12:25-26, which says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” In other words, worrying isn’t going to get me anywhere, so I might as well leave everything in God’s hands.

            Another thing those spots reminded me of is the need to slow down. The only reason I got them in the first place is because I was rushing around all day. I can still get things done without working myself up into a frenzy. Sometimes we just need to take a break, enjoy the scenery, and just savor the moment. I know I usually end up ignoring the most important things when I get too busy. I’m always trying to get everything done on my never-ending to-do list, and I can’t seem to give up even just 15 minutes for what really matters. I don’t leave enough time for prayer and Bible study, a phone call to my best friends, a chat with my mom, or even playing with my cats and dogs (they’re family too). Those are the things that my time should revolve around instead of meaningless repetitive tasks. I think of the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10. Jesus told Martha in verse 41-42: “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Mary chose to stop and listen to Jesus instead of trying to take care of all the busywork, and I guess I should take a time out once in while, too.

            Finally, I was reminded that sometimes something that looks bad is actually something good. I thought some chocolate was a disease. Circumstances can be the same way, they may seem bad as you’re going through them, but they can end up being blessings in disguise. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). So, the next time you’re feeling over-stressed, way too rushed, or worried beyond control: slow down, take a deep breath, and repeat after me, “Dear Lord, please heal my chocolate!”

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

IWSG: Just Keep Writing


 
            Time for another posting with the Insecure Writer's Support Group, where writers can share their insecurities and encourage one another. IWSG was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh and we share our posts the first Wednesday of the month. 

            Over the past few weeks, my motivation levels have flip flopped as much as the weather here in Oklahoma. I took a week of staycation in the middle of December which did not involve as much staying home as I’d hoped. I enjoyed some time with friends and family, though, so it was still a worthwhile time. When I was home, I had so many cleaning and organizing tasks to catch up on that I did not have much time to write. I guess taking time off is not necessarily the solution to my writing-time problem because my time gets booked up fast. I started the New Year feeling slightly motivated because I was off for the weekend and I felt refreshed and ready to start a daily writing session…then I went to work on Monday and all motivation was gone. I finally felt reenergized around 12:30 that night, which was terrible because I had work in the morning, so I had to stifle my creativity in order to wind myself down to go to sleep. Are there any other night owls out there who are forced to get up early for a day job? Add introversion and having to unwind after dealing with people all day and that is why I don’t have much energy to spare.
            Tuesday night, after another life-sucking day at work, I decided to find some New Year motivational articles to read and remind myself of the goals I would like to accomplish this year with my writing. Inspired by the articles in this month’s IWSG newsletter, I think my main goal for this year is to start a daily writing habit. Even if it is just a little bit of journaling, I need to write every single day. I know this will be a tough undertaking at first, but it will be rewarding once it becomes a regular part of my daily routine. I hope each of you find success in your goals for this year! Happy 2017!

Time to fill this notebook with stories!
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