Recapping and Looking forward

Hey friends!

It’s been about six months since I started up my authoring website, blog, social media channels, and all that business. I think it’s safe to say I still have absolutely no idea what I’m doing, however, there is one thing I have discovered. All I need to do is be faithful to the step in front of me. I don’t need to know what’s going to happen in the next step. It will present itself when the time is right, but for now, I need to simply focus on what I need to do.

That said, I’ve been missing being over here and the freedom this blog provides for honesty and opinion. Since I am focusing a LOT on writing and writery things over on my other site, I don’t necessarily have the freedom to share as much what’s going on or what I’m reading or what I’m thinking about it or how I’m growing.

I want to try to be more consistent over here again, but with a little more focus and an idea of what to do here.

These past few weeks and months have been times of incredible growth and blessing and I realized I have almost no record of it. I’ve read some amazing books that are giving me lots to think about, but I’m not processing through it the way I’d like to.

So, first things first: authoring.

Like I said earlier, I am about six months into that journey. I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to use Instagram and now Twitter. I think I have a decent understanding of Instagram, though my consistency is terrible. I don’t understand Twitter at all yet. I’m not sure what to do with it and how to use it effectively.

That said, I still seem to be gaining some followers, though I don’t really understand what that means either. I know I need to be engaging more with my audiences on their pages, on their turfs, but it’s hard to do that. Sure, I could press a bunch of like buttons and act like I’m engaging, but it doesn’t seem like enough to do that. It still seems as though I’m sending the message that I’m more concerned about me and my message than getting to know them.

I do feel like I have something to offer to the internet and it’s taking a lot of effort to figure it out and get a plan rolling, so I haven’t had a lot of time or energy to spare in my following. However, I don’t feel too distressed by the lack of numbers, actually. I know that I don’t know what I’m doing so I’m okay with what’s going on numbers-wise. Every time I get a notification on Twitter about people following me, my first question is ‘why?’. What am I offering that’s worth that? I don’t know yet.

On the writing side of things, my Bible study in the hands of my beta readers and in the next month I’ll be closing up that beta process. I’ve learned SO MUCH over the past six months of doing that and I know I’ll definitely be doing some things differently. I’ve received one set of data back and she hit all the points I’d been concerned about. I learned that my gut was probably right on some things and I was definitely wrong on some things. I’ll be very curious to see what other betas thought and be able to aggregate some data to draw some solid conclusions about it.

I’ve started writing a second Bible study. I was part of a Ruth study in a theology group I’m part of on facebook and it sparked me to dig even deeper into the book. Instead of just studying, I decided to take it a step further and write up on it too. It might go somewhere, it might not. I don’t really think it matters. What I do know is that it’s helping ME to think differently and to slow down enough to glean some good information.

My christian literary novel is completely finished in its beta draft form. I have a handful of betas slowly going through that book as well. The feedback I’ve been getting has been super helpful and it will be fun to go through it again at some point and incorporate the feedback to improve the book. What’s interesting is that this book that I wrote and had no intention of going anywhere with it after the first draft has been the first book that I go through the entire writing process with. God has a good sense of humor and timing and process.

My fantasy series is coming along. I’ve got about 42k words (85ish pages) and the story is really developing into something good. At least I think so. I’m enjoying discovering the story as it goes and working through the issues that arise as I write. I’ve enjoyed brainstorming with a fellow writer and trying to, first and foremost, get the story down. After I get the full story, then I’ll worry about editing and making it better, but for now, I just want a full draft.

I’ve been working on another fantasy story, one writing prompt at a time, and that hasn’t gone too far lately. Since it depends on prompts, I have to try to fit whatever the prompt is into the story and sometimes, that just doesn’t work.

Even so, I’ve done some other writing prompts lately that have stretched my skills a little as I explore some different characters and a different POV than the one in which I usually write. I’ve gotten some good feedback on that, so it’s exciting. I have a feeling that some of those exercises will come in handy when I finally introduce the villain in my fantasy.

These last few months have been really busy, but really good at the same time. I’m going to try to post about once a week over here as well with more normal, day to day kind of things. It should be fun and it will be good to practice all different kinds of writing.

Until next time, friends!

Echoes of Whispers

I’ve been staring at the wallpaper on Grandma’s kitchen wall for so long that the lines are starting to blur and the fruits are just blobs of color. I can hear Grandma opening and closing cupboards and plates tapping on the counter, ice cubes clinking in glasses as she fills them with Sprite, the only beverage she will drink when I’m here.

“Emma, come over and bring this stuff to the table,” her voice bursts into my reverie and I mechanically stand up and walk around the small island to where she is working. I pick up the small corelle plates that she’s had for as long as I can remember and take them over to the small table, only enough room for two of us. I walk back to grab the glasses and see she’s filled them completely to the brim. Why does she always do that? Resisting the urge to slurp some off the top, I carefully pick them up and slowly make my way back to the table, inevitably spilling some. Grandma is right behind me with a washcloth.

“A little too full, Grandma,” I say.

“Nonsense, Emma,” she chides with a wink. “The bad stuff rises to the top. You have to spill it to get it out.”

I roll my eyes and sit back down in my chair, brushing my black bangs out of my face.

“Take off that huge sweater, Emma. It’s not proper at the table.” Grandma sits down across from me and stares at me until I comply. I unzip my oversized sweatshirt held together with what must be a hundred safety pins and take it to the closet in the living room, hanging it up. I come back and sit down and flash Grandma a fake smile. She purses her lips at me and folds her hands.

“Gracious Lord,” she begins and I obediently bow my head and close my eyes, “thank you for this gift of food and for Emma. She is a gift the likes of which she can’t even begin to imagine. Bless this food to our bodies for strength in service to you. Amen.”

“Amen,” I echo.

Grandma takes a bit of the ham sandwich she made, a bit of lettuce sticking out of the corner of her mouth and tomato dribbling down her chin. She munches away and nods to me to eat. I gingerly pick up mine and take a small bite.

“So,” Grandma says. “What brings you here today, Emma? I doubt it’s my gourmet lunches.”

I smile in spite of myself and then take a deep breath and dive right in. “Well, Grandma, Brent is back on facebook.”

“Facebook. That’s that internet thing, right?” She folds her hands under her chin.

“Yes, the internet thing.”

“Right. So he was off the internet and now he’s on the internet?”

“Yeah,” I say, picking at the bread of my sandwich.

“Don’t pick, Emma. Eat it or leave it alone.” Grandma takes another bite of her sandwich and I follow suit.

“So,” Grandma continues. “What do you think of him being back on the internet?”

“Well,” I say, “I’m not really sure.”

“That’s not true. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here,” Grandma says, raising her eyebrows at me and taking another bite of her sandwich. I push my plate away, my stomach tying up in knots.

“Okay,” I answer slowly. “I was wondering if he noticed me, too.”

“Should he have?”

“We commented on the same picture of a friend.”

“Who commented first?”

“I did.”

“And you’re wondering if he noticed you too.”

“Yeah.”

“Is he a complete idiot?” Grandma asks, taking another bite.

“Probably,” I mutter.

Grandma lays her hands down on the table and stares intently at me. I squirm in my seat and look away.

“Emma,” she says. “Dear. Of course he noticed you. There is no way he couldn’t have. But,” she raises her finger at me, “it doesn’t matter.”

“What do you mean it doesn’t matter?” I ask, sitting up and leaning forward with my arms on the table.

“It doesn’t matter. Brent is in the past, correct?”

“Well, yeah,” I say. “But why does he still have so much power over me?”

“Because you let him.”

“So this is my fault?” I ask, slumping back down in my chair.

“I didn’t say that dear. This is life. Trying to figure these things out. Perhaps this is God telling you that you’re ready for the next step in your healing.” She takes another bite of her sandwich.

“For the next step? I thought I was already healed from it.”

“Of course you did,” she says, her mouth still full of sandwich.

“Grandma!” I say in mock horror. “Talking with food in your mouth!”

She smiles at me and swallows. “What I mean is that you thought you were over it, but his reappearance in your life is showing you that you’re not. God knows this. And he knows that you’re ready to take the next step. When he was off the internet, you had the luxury of not really realizing he still existed, right?”

“I suppose. He did sort of drop off the face of the earth for a few years.”

“My point exactly. Now that he’s there and if you have friends in common there is a chance you will continue to see him on the internet. A reminder that he does, in fact, exist.”

“I suppose you’re right,” I mumble and pull my plate back in front of me. I pick it up and take another bite.

“Of course I am right. Now, it’s up to you to decide what your next step is going to be.” She shoves the last bit of sandwich in her mouth and wipes her mouth with her napkin.

“So,” I say, “If he does exist and I have to be reminded of it, then I have to figure out how to handle it. Like, whether I’m going stalk him or try to do something to get him to notice me or if I’m just going to live life as is.”

“Precisely. Either you can keep letting him have power over you or you can give it up to God and let him heal you.”

“That’s what I’ve been doing for eight years now!” I exclaim. “How long is this supposed to take?”

“It all depends dear. After all, you did love him quite a lot.”

“Yeah,” I huff. “Before I knew better than to hold back.”

“But you shouldn’t hold back. That is the problem. You become wounded and then you think that everyone is going to do the same thing. Emma, look at me.”

I look directly into her gray eyes and brace myself for what is coming.

“Remember, God hurts when you hurt. AND,” she leaned forward, “he hurts when Brent hurts.”

“Grandma,” I say.

“No.” She cuts me off. “Do not Grandma me here. You are a child of God. Brent is a child of God. As a parent, you don’t choose which child you love more. No matter their behavior, and believe I know this, you love your children the same. Even Don in jail. Even Elizabeth the pastor’s wife. I love them the same and I want the best for them, but I can’t force them. It’s the same with God. He can’t force you and he can’t force Brent. You have to choose.”

“It’s too hard!” I cry, burying my head in my hands.

“Of course it’s hard, but look at how far you’ve come. Do you remember when you’d come here and cry puddles on my table or plan some way to murder him?”

I shake my head without saying a word. Of course I remember.

“And now, you’re here, trying to have a rational discussion about it. You’ve even said his name. Emma, you ARE healing. You didn’t fall in love in one day and you’re not going to heal from such an immense hurt in one day, either. It’s all a process. You have to be willing to go through that process.”

I look up at Grandma and she hands me a tissue. I wipe my eyes, black smudges left behind from my eye liner.

“You’re still trying to hide from these emotions. You hide behind your black hair and your black eye liner and your black sweatshirts. It’s time to let that go, Emma. You can’t hide if you want to heal.”

“What if I don’t want to heal?” I ask quietly.

“What if you want him to have this power over you when you’re my age, you mean? What if you want to be 76 years old and still pining over a lost love? Is that really what you want, Emma?”

“I just want to know if he hurts, too.”

“It doesn’t matter if he hurts,” Grandma says tenderly. “What matters is that you are still hurting and holding this relationship as an idol. Are you thinking of running to God or are you thinking of manipulating Brent? Whichever one comes to your mind and stays is the idol.”

I contemplate what she’s saying.

“You know,” I say slowly. “I don’t hate him anymore. Not even a little. The rage, the anger, the hatred it’s all gone. All that remains is a little hole, a tiny longing, a whisper of a wish for him to get it, but it isn’t a NEED. Not even a whisper – the echo of that whisper.”

“That, my dear, is healing,” Grandma says with a smile. “Whether he is on the internet or not, whether your internet paths cross, doesn’t matter. What matters is you moving forward, continuing to move forward. Yes, you might look backward sometimes, but the important thing is to keep moving forward.”

“You’re right,” I say, nodding.

“How did he look?” Grandma asks suddenly.

“What?”

“I’m sure you looked at his picture. How did he look?”

“Exactly the same,” I say with a half smile. “Exactly the same.”

Everything Changes Now

The continuing saga of Allyandrah and Kru’Nah.
This week’s prompt: Her life changed at that moment, nothing would ever be the same again.
Allyandrah woke up the next morning in a comfortable bed, wrapped up in thick, warm blankets, her stomach not growling, her head not hurting, brightness filtering gently through the forest green curtains, wind howling outside. It took several minutes before she could remember where she was and what had happened the day before.
Kru’Nah’s grandfather, who hadn’t yet shared his name, had gently led Allyandrah to a room and tucked her in after sharing her tale. She tried to remember what he’d said to her. “Get us together?” she whispered. Crawling out from under the covers, Allyandrah immediately started shivering. She found a bulky woven robe hanging from a hook on the wall at the end of her bed. Slipping into it, Allyandrah opened the door and nearly tripped over the house boots set outside her room. She slipped her bare feet into the lined, animal skin boots.
Allyandrah wandered to the end of the hallway and down three steps into the room where she’d spilled her story before. The interior was made entirely of smoothed boards, the pine scent offering a calm she’d never known. As she looked toward the back of the small house, she saw Kru’Nah’s grandfather sitting at a table drinking tea, the outside of the windows completely white. He glanced over as she stepped off the last step.
“Good morning, love!” he beamed. “Come, eat!”
Allyandrah settled herself into a simple wooden chair across the thick wooden table from him and stared directly at him. “You really Kru’Nah’s grandfather?”
“Do you think I’d make that up?”
“Prob’ly.”
“Well, dearest one, I assure you I am not lying. I have nothing to gain from lying. Eat some food here and I will show you.” Ha passed over a biscuit and some sort of preserved fruit spread. As Allyandrah ate, he bustled into the kitchen and rustled up a bit more dried meat and some dried fruits. He brought it all back in a wooden bowl and placed it in front of Allyandrah.
He then went into the main room and opened up a drawer in the small desk on the far end of the wall and pulled out a stack of letters. Bringing them back to the table, he sat quietly and untied the bundle. Opening one of the letters, he slid it across the table. Allyandrah looked at the meaningless scribbles on the page.
“Means nothin’. Can’t read,” Allyandrah said with her mouth full of biscuit.
“Oh, of course, of course,” Kru’Nah’s grandfather said, hastily standing. He pulled his chair around the table and settled next to Allyandrah. He pulled out a pair of glasses and started reading the letter, pointing at the words as he read.
Dad,
Here are more supplies.
Kru’Que’Nah
“How do I know you’re not lyin’?” Allyandrah asked.
“Now that’s a good question, isn’t it?” he replied. “I could tell you that I’m not creative enough to do that, but that still means you have to take my word. So how do I get you to believe me?”
Allyandrah pointed at the first word. “That really say ‘dad’?”
“Yes! It does. I can show you the same words.” He stood up and grabbed all the bundles. “These are just her replies. I’m a lonely old man, so I make two copies of my letters. Helps me remember what she isn’t answering.” He then walked back to the desk and pulled two more stacks.
“Those yours then?”
“Yes, you are quite smart.”
“For a slave,” Allyandrah finished his sentence.
“No, just smart. In this house, you are not a slave, no matter what the world outside says. In here you are–” he looked expectantly at her.
“Allyandrah?” she guessed, assuming he was searching for her name.
“Allyandrah. What a beautiful name.” He smiled at her in a proud, grandfatherly way. “Alright. Since we have a squall to live through here, there’s no time like the present to teach, right? Let’s move to the couches.” He quickly got up and gathered up the letters. “Bring that bowl of food, too.”
Allyandrah picked up the bowl and followed him. He pulled the low-lying table close to the couch and spread out all of Kru’Que’Nah’s letters. Each was short. Allyandrah looked at the top of each letter. They all began with the same combination of symbols. ‘Dad’
“So that one means ‘dad’.” Allyandrah said quietly as she slowly chewed on some dried fruit. Kru’Nah’s grandfather sat without speaking as he unfolded his own letters. Allyandrah picked up one of the letters and turned it over to see the writing on the back.
She noticed that the letters on the front matched the letters at the bottom of the note. Pointing at his name she asked, “what does this say?”
“Kru’Dael’Nah,” he replied. Allyandrah sat back, thinking.
“Okay, so you’re related,” she said. “Then why’re you up here?”
“Oh!” Kru’Dael’Nah exclaimed. “Right to the good stuff! Well, like you, I’ve been banished.”
“What?” Allyandrah asked. “How can she banish you?”
“She is the queen. She can do as she pleases.”
“But weren’t you king?”
“Technically, no. She married into it. Even as her slave you don’t know this?”
“Don’t tell us much. Plus I was always out in the forests and stuff. Not much time for stories and the like.”
“Yes, I imagine you were,” he said thoughtfully.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Would you care to hear some history?”
“Got nothin’ better to do, I s’pose.”
“I’ll take that,” Kru’Dael’Nah said. “Back about 200 years ago now, Kru’Que’Nah, who was simply known as Kru’Nah at the time like my grandson is now, was ready to be married. You must be what, about 125?”
“No!” Allyandrah scowled. “89.”
“Forgive me. My alone time here makes me tactless. So this was quite before your time. How old is your mother?”
“192.”
“Oh my, young isn’t she? It’s logical that you may not know this story at all then. I expected she would be older.”
“Gree-na dumped her off soon as she could. Too many others in the house, I s’pose. Ma just had Allya and me ‘fore she died. Gree-na took us in since all hers was gone by then.”
“That must have been difficult.”
“Weren’t so bad at first. Was young ‘nuf to be the playmates of the palace kids. I mostly ran around with them, doin’ stuff for ‘em and the like.”
“Presumably where you met Kru’Nah?”
“Yeah, we was close, always gettin’ in trouble. Well, I was always gettin’ in trouble. He never got in a lick of it, not that I’d let him. I always took the blame. They shoulda known I weren’t smart enough for most of that stuff.”
“I’m sure they did,” Kru’Dael,Nah said, “but who would pass up an opportunity to beat a slave?”
“Ha,” Allyandrah said angrily. “Not a one of ‘em.”
“What a sad, sorry state that is.”
“Is what it is. So she was gonna get married?”
“Right. The story. I was a palace official–,”
“Doin’ what?”
Kru’Dael’Nah smiled. “I was the treasury official, actually.”
“In charge of the money? What did you do?” Allyandrah sat up, her eyes large.
“Now, now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I was the treasury official and Kru’Que’Nah was ready to be married. I had my sights set on the son of the guard captain, but not Kru’Que’Nah. No, not her. Only the prince would do for her. If she’d had her way, it would have been the king, I’m sure. I fear she rather settled for that poor prince. She had a way about herself and wooed him. I was so busy at the time, I never suspected anything until the engagement announcement came. Imagine, finding out your daughter is marrying the prince through official announcement channels. I confronted her about it, privately of course, and she threatened me. The next year, after they were married, I was banished here. I’m sent supplies several times a year. No one writes, so I can only presume the general populace believes me dead. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting my grandson nor do I know anything about him, save his name. I only knew he’d been born because she changed how she signed her name. ‘Que’ like queen. Wasn’t enough to stick with family names, no, not for her. She needed to be her own star.” Kru’Dael’Nah winked, but Allyandrah could see the hurt in his eyes.
“I knew she’s horrible, but I didn’t know she was so horrible. I mean, sorry, shouldn’t talk bad–” Allyandrah began to slide off the couch into a submissive slave posture.
“No, no, sit. Sometimes the truth is terrible. After the king died, I’m certain it wasn’t natural causes, my couriers changed.”
“Least she feeds ya,” Allyandrah said.
“Oh, I suppose. I am still alive and without her, I likely wouldn’t be. I suppose she is doing what she can to keep favor with the Guardians. After all, they wouldn’t take kindly to her banishing me and killing me through starvation. She doesn’t care about me, she cares about herself. Keeping her place with the Guardians.” Kru’Dael’Nah grew quiet, his eyes focused on some far away point. Allyandrah took another piece of food from the bowl and nibbled on it while she waited for him.
“Y’know, I think I remember Gree-na saying somethin’ like his death was ‘spicious. Wish I could remember what he said.”
“It doesn’t matter now. The Guardians know. But that they led you to me tells me that her favor is wearing thin. I’ve lived a hard, lonely life in this little cabin for nearly two centuries, my companions are bears and vermin and the like. I think that Guardians have heard my prayers and have chosen you, Allyandrah.”
Allyandrah gasped and choked on the last bite she’d taken. “Guardians don’t care nothin’ ‘bout slaves,” she said.
“That is not true at all, love. Guardians care about us all. They’ve simply been waiting for the right moment to strike. With you and Kru’Nah, it couldn’t be a more humbling matching for her.”
“She ain’t gonna allow it. She banished me for him rescuin’ me.”
“I’m certain she sent you into the forest on purpose. I wouldn’t even be surprised if she had the fire set.”
“She wouldn’t do that! Not to the forest!”
“I fear she just might. Prudence is not her style. Only her fear of the Guardians keeps me alive, which ironically, just might be her undoing.”
“But me? Me? Chosen by the Guardians?”
“It does seem unlikely, yes, but what else could it be? These circumstances have no other logical explanation, wouldn’t you agree?”
Allyandrah nodded before she really thought about it. Besides, what else could she say? Who was she to try to figure out the plans of the Guardians? Their knowledge and way of thinking were so much higher than hers could ever be.
Her. A slave. Nothing. A nobody. Chosen.
This changed everything.

Imagine…

I came across this question on my facebook feed and found it to be a powerful writing prompt. I answered on the page that posted it, but I want to expand it more.

You are one of the disciples. Today is the day after the crucifixion. What are you thinking AND feeling?

I woke up this morning lost, confused, and scared. All of us are crammed in this little room. We’d been praying for most of the night, trying to figure out what was going on when exhaustion took over and we slept.

The morning light is filtering in through the window, the dust of the desert air floating through the rays. The morning is cool but I can tell it’s going to be hot today. Oh man, my  head is throbbing. What just happened yesterday? Is it even real?

I look around. The others are starting to stir, too. We all look at each other. I think their expressions match mine and match what I’m feeling inside.

“Am I dreaming?” I ask Matthew.

“I don’t even know,” he replies. He looks he’s just gotten word he’d lost everything. Like Job. I suppose we all have.

I get up and walk over to the window. The city is still silent. Joseph of Aramethia got the body and buried it hastily yesterday. We didn’t have time to do it properly before the Sabbath today.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.

Was it?

I can’t help but think that something has gone terribly wrong. I thought Jesus was supposed to save us. I thought he was supposed to overthrow Rome. I thought he was supposed to be a king. I thought… so many things. Did this really happen?

What are we supposed to do now? I feel so lost. Peter hasn’t said anything since the night before last, when he denied Jesus. When we all did. We all ran away. Is that why this happened? If only we’d all stood together, fought back. Things would be different then.

Maybe it’s all our fault.

We let him die. We just ran off and let them kill him.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Weren’t we just riding in Jerusalem like heroes? How did everything change so fast? What went wrong?

Was this really what he meant? He’d been talking about how he needed to die. I didn’t think he really meant die. I thought it was just a figure of speech. A parable. He talked like that so much. I just thought it was figurative.

I can hear more people moving around behind me. I hear someone sniffling. We all feel that way.

“We should keep praying,” John suggests.

“Pray for what?” I think that was Thomas. I don’t want to turn around. My eyes are brimming with tears.

“I don’t know,” John admits. “But we should anyway. It’s what he would have done.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Thomas replies. “It’s all over.”

In my mind, I agree with Thomas. It is over. God’s kingdom? Here? Now? It’s completely impossible. We can’t do anything else. We can’t do this by ourselves. My soul is heavy and aches in a way I never thought possible.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

I blink and the tears fall. I quickly wipe them away and clear my throat. I turn around and see that no one is looking at anyone. Everyone is looking at the floor. I see John’s lips moving. Thomas looks like death. I walk across the room and sit down next to John. I feel like Thomas, but I want to feel like John. Maybe if I sit close to him, it will rub off on me.

I breathe deeply and try to pray. I have nothing. All I can say is that it wasn’t supposed to end this way. All I can do is ask why.

Is that good enough for God? Will he condemn me for my lack of faith? How can I even believe anymore? I thought we were promised victory.

I can feel myself getting angry. How is John even praying? Who is he praying to, even?

I stand up and head for the door.

“Where are you going?” Thomas asks.

“I’m going for a walk.”

“But it’s Sabbath.”

“I’m going for a walk,” I repeat. What else can I do?

It’s over.

How I manage to stay home and stay sane

I’ve had a number of friends over the past three years comment to me about how they could NEVER stay home. They don’t understand how I can possibly stay sane while being surrounded by tiny human dictators completely incapable of controlling their emotions.

I’m going to spill the secret today.

I place a high level of importance on pursuing my own activities and hobbies throughout the day or throughout the week. That’s how I do it.

I have a number of creative endeavors I pursue, such as writing, knitting, and crocheting. I intentionally spend time away from the kids, yes when they’re awake, so they learn to play by themselves and I do something for me, whether it’s just going to the bathroom alone or writing up a blog post (such as now). I also pursue my hobbies in front of them. I crochet while they watch. I read while they watch. I write while they watch.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m screwing up like when my three-year-old makes sure she has a phone and laptop with her. I get really self-conscious about that sometimes. When I think about it, though, I’m not perfect. Some days, I spend WAY too much time on my technology because I feel like I need to escape. Other days, I spend a good portion of the day interacting and playing with them. I write on my laptop. I edit my youtube videos on my laptop. I do my social media stuff on my laptop. I do have a number of ventures that require technology and so her imitating that is inevitable.

What I don’t understand is how parents stay home and stay sane WITHOUT pursuing some kind of activity for themselves. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to find something you like and engage with it, especially when the kids are watching. They need to know that mom is a person outside of mom. Mom has interests. Mom has things she likes to do too. When they are really little, they don’t understand that fully, but as they get older, they will understand it.

Having my own hobbies and interests sets a good example for the kids, too. At 1 and 3, they are already learning the importance of self-care even if they don’t know what that is yet. They are watching someone else pursue hobbies.

It teaches them to entertain themselves, as well, which I believe is a key factor in being successful. If they find themselves bored, they need to figure out a solution. Sometimes that means they get into my vacuum cleaner and make a huge mess. Sometimes that means they go up to my daughter’s room and play for 20 or 30 minutes.

Yesterday, I asked my daughter if she wanted to play outside while I edited and everyone else napped. She took her friend Elmo outside and played for an hour and it was COLD! She came in and out getting various toys, we put on more and more layers as she got colder. She took a break for a snack. She played by herself the entire time, though. Sure, she needed my help for this or that and once I had to scold her for going into the street, but that’s exactly the kind of behavior I want to form in my kids. I was able to do what I needed to do and she was able to have fun by herself.

As the weather is getting nicer, we are spending much more time outside, too. Soon, I will have a garden to tend to and they will have to play outside while I tend the garden or pick up dog poop or do chicken chores. What I cannot do is spend every moment with my children. That will drive me crazy and make into the kind of person I don’t want to be. When I intentionally and openly take care of myself, I teach them valuable lessons.

It’s easy to take this too far, though, and start neglecting the kids in favor of my hobbies. I have days I do that because I need more self-care on those days, but they are days. Isolated events. I can be hard to find the balance between spending enough time with them and enough time by myself. After 3 years, I feel like I’m finally getting it figured out.

Of course, none of this is possible without the generous support of my wonderful husband. He thinks my hobbies are great and that I should pursue them. He doesn’t get huffy when the dishes have been ignored or the laundry I dragged downstairs yesterday is still in a massive pile in the laundry room unwashed or is washed but in baskets in the living room. He doesn’t get on my case about the house not being immaculate. He does his share. He does the dishes. He washes his own laundry because I couldn’t guarantee that I would give the care and attention necessary to keep his nice clothes in one piece. He offered to do that. He doesn’t complain. He does remind me when I’m going to far in one direction, though as much as I hate that in the moment. I know he cares. I know he wants the best for all of us. He knows that I need to take care of myself if I’m going to take care of the kids and still have energy for him in the evenings.

It’s a team effort. We can’t do this without each other. Mutual support, respect, and understanding. I love my kids, but they drive my crazy sometimes. I am an introvert and I need time by myself to regroup and fill my tank. I make sure to do that. I make sure to care for myself. Also, never underestimate the power of a good soundtrack mix on YouTube.

What about you? What do you like to do for yourself?

The Return

The continuing story of Allyandrah and Kru’Nah
This week’s prompt: A camping trip in the forest with friends. One disappears and comes back different.
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Kru’Nah and Commander Tra’Khil led the men back into the woods toward the outpost. It wasn’t likely that they would reach it before the storm hit in two days, but they needed to try. Kru’Nah took his position at the front instead of deferring to Commander Tra’Khil. Kru’Nah needed to reestablish himself in royal form in front of these men given the rumors that had been circling already. He felt grateful for the tracks in the snow to follow as his mind was somewhere other than on marching in the proper direction.
Perhaps he had left too soon after Allyandrah’s banishment, too soon after his rescue of her. He thought back to the day of the forest fire. He always kept tabs on Allyandrah as his mother worked and abused the slave more and more. He knew she was in the woods. He knew the danger of her being out there. He knew he should stay at the palace and leave her fate to the Guardians. The more he tried to leave her alone, the more he couldn’t do it. What do the Guardians care about slaves, anyway? They would have done nothing to slow the fire to allow her escape. It was then he knew his love for her was true.
“Sire?” Commander Tra’Khil’s voice broke through Kru’Nah’s thoughts.
Stopping, Kru’Nah turned around to face the commander. “What is it?” His voice was sharp.
Commander Tra’Khil shifted his weight showing his extreme discomfort. “Sire, we’ve orders to dispose of you out here.”
“To dispose of me?” Kru’Nah threw the full weight of his royal command behind his voice. Every soldier shifted in his spot as Kru’Nah glared from one to the next.
Commander Tra’Khil cleared his throat but formed no words after.
“I see,” Kru’Nah sneered. “None of you brave enough to comply. Then let us continue until one of you has found his bravery.”
Turning abruptly, Kru’Nah marched on, not caring whether any of them followed him. Kjelger honor forbade killing an opponent from behind. For now, as long as he moved forward, he would live, though the way his heart ached after losing Allyandrah again made him wish one of these men had been brave enough. He clenched his fists as he tried to steady his breathing and his emotions. If he was going to hold his royal command, he better start acting like it.
After hours of marching and the sun began to hang low in the sky, Kru’Nah found a small clearing of trees in which to camp. He’d noticed hours ago that all the soldiers had followed him, though at a further distance than they would have without his reproach. Kru’Nah didn’t care how much he alienated them. He was the prince, after all. He owed them nothing.
Kru’Nah stood watching while the men scrambled to gather supplies for a fire and build small shelters. Though he assumed that just a few miles more would have been a camp they’d used on the way out, he wanted to punish them and work them harder. He was angry at their cowardice but he owned them now after calling it out. As they worked, he set himself in the first finished shelter as one soldier cooked using the now blazing fire, the boiling resin jumping and landing on his thick furs.
Kru’Nah removed his hood and face covering to scowl more clearly at the men. None dared look directly at him, but he knew they were watching him out of the corners of their eyes. He waited for Commander Tra’Khil to approach him to offer penance. Kru’Nah tried to empty his mind of Allyandrah as he waited, but she continued to creep back in. He tried to think about where she could be, if she was even still alive. He believed she was, but he couldn’t be sure. They hadn’t joined their spark yet, so he could only guess.
Shortly, a bowl of hot vegetable stew was offered to him by Commander Tra’Khil. As Kru’Nah accepted it, he offered the first spoonful to Tra’Khil as an invitation to sit with him. Tra’Khil ate the first bite and sat down.
“Look at me, Tra’Khil.” Slowly, Tra’Khil removed his own hood and face mask and turned to look at Kru’Nah. Years of worry and work had etched lines deep into the face of Tra’Khil, betraying his age to one much older. “What is going on? Tell me plainly.”
Tra’Khil sat perfectly still as he explained, “The queen is none too pleased with you right now, sire. She is more than angry about your rescue of the slave and believes your disappearance has something to do with the slave, too. She has been raging in private while appearing as the concerned mother in public. The slave is not safe anywhere with other Kjelgers, at least not the ones loyal to your mother.”
Kru’Nah tried to keep his face completely devoid of reaction as Tra’Khil explained Allyandrah’s plight.
“Sire,” Tra’Khil continued, failing to keep his voice neutral and spoke more gently. “It would take the influence of the Guardians to save her out here. Who knows who else the queen has sent after her, too. All we know is that we were sent for you. There could be more out searching for her.”
“Where do you and your men stand, then?” Kru’Nah felt he knew the answer given he was still alive.
“Sire,” Tra’Khil cleared his throat.
“Speak plainly.” Kru’Nah ordered.
Tra’Khil shifted. Kru’Nah knew now that the truth was coming.
“Sire. What you do is of no concern to us as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the safety of the kingdom. We have heard reports from the messengers–”
“Unofficial reports?”
“Yes, sire, unofficial. We’ve heard unofficial reports from messengers that the people are in favor of the rescue of the slave. It has given you favor among the people, which your mother is losing.”
Kru’Nah stared incredulously at Tra’Khil.
“Sire, I don’t understand it either.”
“Commander Tra’Khil,” a voice interrupted.
“Yes?” Tra’Khil addressed the soldier.
“Permission to do a perimeter check.”
“Permission granted.”
“Parg’Noth out to check the perimeter.”
“Acknowledged, Parg’Noth.”
Turning back to Kru’Nah, Tra’Khil continued. “It seems some strange things are happening around here and I have no explanation.”
Kru’Nah slowly nodded. He looked around the now dark campsite and saw the men huddling together in various structures. Yesterday, everything out here had seemed so simple and now it all had a layer of complication.
“What kind of strange things?” Kru’Nah asked.
“Sire, it’s almost as though the Guardians are displeased and so are trying to corrupt us.”
“Corrupt who?”
“Corrupt us all!” Tra’Khil answered with unexpected passion. “Excuse my outburst, sire.”
Kru’Nah leaned forward and lowered his voice. “Continue.”
Tra’Khil’s eyes widened. He cleared his throat and looked around, then leaned in and spoke in a lowered voice. “Sire, the burning of the forest. The disfavor of your mother. Your decision to rescue a slave. The rumors of you running off with her. Do you remember the last time a dynasty had such rumors and indiscretions?”
“These events are the hands of the Guardians you think?”
“Sire, I don’t know what else it could be. I’ve never heard of a prince rescuing a slave from anything. And the last time a queen fell out of favor with the people?”
“It does seem like the meddling of the Guardians.” Kru’Nah rubbed his face. His fatigue was growing exponentially. Could his love be nothing more than the Guardians bent on making a point? “Is that why you and your men didn’t follow the orders of my mother?”
“Sire, of course. Could we willingly participate in the games of the Guardians if we knew about them? Should we not resist such interference?”
Shouts from the men interrupted Kru’Nah’s response. Commander Tra’Khil shot out from under the shelter to investigate. Kru’Nah rose slowly and followed. When he approached, he saw one of the soldiers wandering aimlessly in the middle of the circle of soldiers, his arms and legs bent at strange angles. Kru’Nah’s heart jumped up into his throat and he swallowed hard as the man turned to look at him, his soulless eyes burning inside Kru’Nah’s mind.
“Who is this?” Commander Tra’Khil barked.
“It’s Parg’Noth,” a soldier replied.
“Strange things,” Kru’Nah whispered.
“Those damn Guardians!” Commander Tra’Khil roared. “Put him down! Put him down!”
The soldiers hesitated for just a moment before diving in. To Kru’Nah’s horror and dismay, Parg’Noth was not the aimless wanderer he seemed to be. When attacked, he defended himself, resisting the advances of six men at once.
Parg’Noth slowly made his way toward Kru’Nah, pushing down soldier after soldier, though not killing them. Kru’Nah couldn’t make sense of what was happening and felt frozen in place though his mind screamed at him to run.
Parg’Noth reached out to Kru’Nah with a shriveled finger and opened his mouth just as a sword erupted from his abdomen. Kru’Nah jumped back and as Parg’Noth dropped to the ground, he whispered, “she lives.” His whisper sounded like the wind rustling through the needles of the trees in the forest. Kru’Nah shook his head, sure he’d heard incorrectly.
“He was dead before he spoke,” one soldier announced.
“Are you sure?” Commander Tra’Khil asked.
“I am certain. He uttered nothing. No harm will come.”
In shock, Kru’Nah stared at the eyes of the now dead man, his bony finger still pointed at Kru’Nah.
“What happens if he speaks?” Kru’Nah asked breathlessly.
“If he speaks, we are cursed to the destiny he tells. He’s like a fate-sealer,” Commander Tra’Khil replied.
“How do you know this?”
“We’ve lost a dozen men to this. Everything spoken comes true and the one he speaks to is sealed to that fate.”
Kru’Nah’s eyes widened and he shook his head. Was he really sure that the man had spoken? Or did he just imagine it? What did that mean for him if he had? What did it mean that she lives?
“Come, men,” Commander Tra’Khil barked. “Put him out of the camp and get in your shelters. We still have a storm to outrun.”
Kru’Nah slowly rose, trying to remember to be royal, to be princely. He pulled himself completely upright and walked to the shelter from which he’d come. He climbed inside, feeling a distinct chill at what he’d witnessed. Two soldiers were stationed by the fire to keep it raging. Kru’Nah supposed they would change guards throughout the night. No one could afford to be sleep deprived out here.
As he lay down, letting the heat of the fire warm his body, his inner chill was replaced with a growing excitement. She lives. He was sure now that he’d heard correctly. He was destined to a fate with her. Even if the Guardians were meddling, what did it matter? She lives. Even if things changed, what did it matter? She lives. A smile broke out across his face. He needed to push on, toward what he didn’t know, but it didn’t matter anymore.
She lives.

The journey

I am on the journey to becoming a published author.

I am already an author. I have already finished two first drafts of novels. I have several more in the works. I have written a myriad of short stories. I am an author.

I am now attempting to make money doing it.

Right now, that entails creating some social media channels – right now, that’s youtube, instagram, and facebook. I’ve also set up a website that will have a blog – all dedicated to my authoring journey.

I have editing to do, I have blog posts to write, I have videos to record and edit, a study to print, assemble, and mail… the list seems to go on and on. I feel overwhelmed. I feel perpetually behind.

I am wondering right now if it’s going to be worth it. I am wondering if I can do this. I am wondering if I can make this work. I am wondering a lot of things. I feel a lot of things – most of them are negative right now. I wonder and wonder and wonder. I try to move on and just do one thing at a time but it’s hard. I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough free time. I have too many other responsibilities, most of which involve the two tiny darlings of my heart.

How do I continue? Do I just keep plugging away, one piece at a time? Do I stop and throw in the towel? Do I acknowledge all the feelings and let them overwhelm me?

I’ve already broken this down into the smallest steps possible and it seems like so many steps. It seems impossible to do.

Really, though, what else can I do?

I must carry on though, must I not? What else can I do? One step, one little box on my spreadsheet at a time. One spec of free time at a time. That’s all I can do. Nothing more. Nothing less.

To pursue our dreams will always take work. It will always take sacrifice. It will always take just a little bit more than we think we have. So we push on, we move forward, we do what we need to do. We don’t let feelings get in our way of what needs to be done.

Push on, friends. Do that one thing you need to do to pursue your dream. And so will I.