"" Writer's Wanderings: May 2005

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Striking Arrows

Being a Sunday school teacher teaches me more than those in my class. God always seems to prepare a lesson for what I need each week.

Last week, our topic was doubt (Chapter 10 of Committed But Flawed by Cec Murphey). I began to read through the chapter right after I received my latest rejection of a piece of work I felt had real promise.

It's easy to let doubt creep in when you're discouraged. When you are a writer, you have to continually step out and offer your work and be ready to hear "no thanks"--a lot. It doesn't make it easier to know that. Sometimes a written piece is offered multiple times--5, 10, 20, 30--before it finds publication. When you get discouraged, you want to stop after 2 or 3.

Our scripture verse this week led us to King Jehoash who went to Elisha just as the prophet was about to die. Elisha had the King shoot an arrow out the window and told him that represented the victory God would give him. Then he told the king to take the rest of the arrows and strike them on the ground. The kind did so--3 times.

Elisha got angry. "Why only three times? You should have struck them five or six times more."
It turned out that each strike would be a victory and King Jehoash could have won many more times if he had struck with his arrows again and again instead of stopping so soon.

There may not be a direct correlation--I don't consider editors or agents the enemy--but if I quit offering my writing after only 2 or 3 tries, I will never know the victory God has in store.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Path to the Patch

The path to Grandma's strawberry patch (see previous blog) was always an adventure. We had to pass the field where Mr. Sully kept his bull.

I never saw the bull but I knew it was huge and had big horns. It was mean, too. It booted one of the neighborhood teenagers right over the barbed wire fence once. I didn't see that either but I knew all these things were true. My mother told me so.

There was an opening in the fence where the barbed wire and fence posts were weakened and falling over. The wires hung near enought to the ground that a little girl--an adventursome little girl--just might be able to step over them. This was the spot where we had to be very quiet. We didn't want the bull to know there was a hole in the fence. He might come charging through at us and who knows what would happen then.

The mystery, the tingle of fear, all made the trip down the path to the strawberry patch that much more exciting--the fruit that much sweeter.

Today, after five kids and knowing my mother's parenting tactics better, I think the bull story was just that. It was made up to keep me from venturing back to the strawberry patch on my own...I think...I never could be sure with Mom.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Grandma's Strawberry Patch

It's getting closer to strawberry season around here. Just the thought of biting into a big red freshly picked berry, its sweet-tart juice running down my chin, begins to make my mouth water. We have plenty of U Pick 'Em places around here. The plants are neatly arranged in rows of mounded soil that's been covered with anti-weed plastic and mulched with straw to keep you from getting too dirty if you kneel to pick your berries.

Those fields are nice but my favorite field of strawberries when I was a kid was one my grandmother planted just before she died. Our house was right next to their farm--actually it was on a piece of land my grandfather had given my father. My bedroom window looked over fields that eventually were overgrown with weeds since my grandfather no longer worked the farm. The skyline of Cleveland rose in the distance, almost as though it were growing from my grandfather's fields.

I'm not sure what led my mother to my grandmother's patch of strawberries. It was quite a walk back to where she had planted it. Perhaps she was out wandering, taking a break from her two young children, when she discovered it. I think I was about 5 or 6 when she first took me back there.

We walked along a path where the weeds didn't grow through the shale that formed a smooth surface to tred upon. The weeds were tall--towering over my head--but I wasn't afraid. One hand was in my mother's hand and the other held my own little basket for my strawberries.

Even though the patch had been neglected for many years, the strawberries yielded a bumper crop. Some of the berries were so large, they filled the palm of my hand. Mom and I would pick and eat. She taught me that nothing was sweeter or tastier than the fruit fresh from the plant.

I don't remember my grandmother. She died when I was two. Her legacy lived on in that field. Somehow I had that connection to her through the strawberry picking. She gave my mother and I a great gift through that strawberry patch. It was our secret place. Mom never told anyone where she got the wonderful berries that made her strawberry jam so tasty.

The fields are gone. Suburbia encroached until all the farmland around us yielded houses. Here and there tucked in a "secret" little corner is a small field and a sign, "U Pick 'Em." Each year I go and pick. The berries aren't nearly as large or sweet--but then my hand is bigger and my memories sweeter.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Star Wars

Tonight is date night for us. Every Friday night that we are free, Bob and I have set aside to go and see a movie. We consider it a good year when we've been able to watch the Academy Awards and are familiar with their choices for best movie. That means the nominees haven't been more than PG13.

Star Wars is our only choice for a movie tonight. It's showing on 7 of the 24 screens in the Cinemark we frequent. All the rest of the showings are either movies we've seen or would never consider seeing.

So, I guess we stand in the crowds and sit elbow to elbow with all the others who have followed this unprecedented journey of sci-fi that George Lucas has taken us on. My boys were pretty young when the first movies came out. Their grandmother bought them all the figures and the ships. I have them in a shoe box and keep vowing to mount them in a shadow box and give them as Christmas gifts--some year.

This prequel is supposed to answer all the questions. I'm not sure what all the question are but I'll watch for the answers. I guess the one burning question I have is, what is "the force"? Is it a reference to God? If it can be used for good or evil, I think not.

Whatever the answers, it is an exciting series to watch and admire for all its computer generated effects--and I'll get my popcorn fix--buttered, of course.

This would be the place to say, "the force be with you," but I'd rather say, "God be with you."

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Potato Pastor

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our pastor of three years. For some reason, God has called him to move on to another church in Kansas. Maybe it's because of his farming experience. You see before he was a pastor, he was a potato farmer.

God had a reason for that as well. He learned a lot of lessons toiling in the soil to raise potatoes, fighting against the weather and the other things that can damage a crop. He used all that experience to create his own parables to teach about Jesus and Chrisian living.

One of our children's Sunday school classes filed by him individually, each handing him a potato as a going away gift. It was a tension breaker. Everyone was reining in emotions and a little light humor was just the thing that was needed. It also said, "We'll remember you and your stories."

I'm going to miss the 'potato parables'. They reminded me of Jesus and his parables and the great lessons of life our savior wants us to learn.

Monday, May 09, 2005

My Little Landscapers

Two years ago, I planted a bed of tulips near the side door of the house. It's in a spot that I can protect with a "scarecrow" that chases the deer. (The scarecrow is a motion detector that sends a spurt of water shooting out when something moves across its field of sensitivity--works pretty good on meter readers too). Last spring I had a glorious display of color that lasted about six weeks.

This year I anxiously awaited a double blessing since I figured the bulbs would have multiplied. I set the scarecrow out early to be sure the deer wouldn't eat the tasty little buds as the tulips developed. To my dismay, I saw very little evidence of tulip greens poking through the soil. I couldn't believe that so many would not have come back.

Last week as I began to get intimately involved with the yard work, pulling weeds and digging around behind bushes, I found splashes of color in hidden places--under the deck, behind the rhododendrons, between the pine trees. Obviously, the chipmunks and/or the squirrels had decided to move my tulips. I thought about moving them back to where I felt they belonged, but my little landscapers would probably just move them again and I hate to make more work for them. After all, they have all those holes to dig and mulch to scrape into piles--not to mention climbing up the bird feeder to clean out the seed and suet. Their work is never done.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Asphalt Garden

The snow has finally melted, the weather warmed, and the call of the garden has been heard. Unfortunately that call is the sound of the weeds growing faster than the grass that was given its first dose of fertilizer.

I have spent a couple of nice days this week wrestling weeds from the soil and breaking up the matted mulch that's had a ton of snow laying on it from our record breaking winter. Needless to say this endeavor plays havoc with muscles and, though I try not to complain too much, I do manage a few groans and moans.

My cheerful husband--who hires out his part of the yardwork (the mowing) to the landscapers--said that if it was beginning to get to me, he had an easy solution. How sweet, I thought, he was going to suggest we have the landscapers do the flower beds as well.

When we moved into our new home, I had a lot less on my plate that needed doing and ambitiously suggested larger flower beds and a good sized pond that I was only too delighted to take care of as my summer hobby. I wouldn't take him up on a suggestion to give my work to a landscaper, but I would let him suggest it--just to hear his words of comfort.

"What's your suggestion," I asked innocently enough, looking at him through those trusting eyes of love.

"Asphalt--the whole yard in green asphalt."

I should have expected it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

God's in the Writing

I've been struggling with a character in the novel I'm working on. He's young and grows marijuana for medicinal purposes on a small piece of land my protagonist (a 70 year old pickle entrepreneur) owns. It's gonna get them both in trouble but I didn't want it impossible for them to get out of--thus the medicinal use.

The problem I had was finding a condition or disease that wasn't entirely dibilitating or fatal and would allow Tommy to continue on to, hopefully, my second book as a main character, partnering in the pickle business.

I went to my sister-in-law, the nurse, and she came up with a few ideas. Nothing struck a chord with me though so I started a little search and surf on the web. "Chronic pain sufferer" kept coming up as someone who might consider marijuana as a means of relief. Then I got the recent issue of Woman's Day in the mail and started paging through it as I was eating lunch.

I turned one page, and a title jumped out at me: Living in Agony. It was all about a woman who suddenly became dibilitated with chronic pain that had no apparent cause and how she learned to live with it (without the use of marijuana). It can very easily apply to my character after he has to give up the marijuana because of the legal problems and the pain doesn't have to be so dibilitating (or fatal) that he can't show up in the second book.

God's in the writing. There's no denying it when the pieces--the answers--come together like that. Now if I could get Him to work on the contracts....

Monday, May 02, 2005

Shamrock Roots

About five years ago, my son bought me a shamrock. It was a birthday gift. I have a St. Pat's birthday. I've had shamrocks in the past but I've managed to kill them off within a year. This one is different though.

It has large triangular segments to each leaf and blooms a couple of times throughout the year with delicate white flowers. It sits in the dining area of my kitchen where it gets bright light--when the sun chooses to shine in Cleveland. I fertilize it once a year with some ferilizer I bought for the orchid I managed to kill (I do much better with cheap houseplants). I can always tell when it needs water because it droops down to the countertop. The trouble is I don't always know when to stop watering.

The plant has been drowned a couple of times and, while we've been away, has completely dried out. This last trip, I came home to find the leaves all curled and brown and laying over the sides of the ceramic pitcher it's planted in. When I pulled all the dead stuff off, all that was left were a couple of tiny new shoots poking up from the soil.

Sunday, as we ate breakfast, I glanced at the pitcher on the counter. To my amazement, there were three strong shoots with leaves beginning to open, rising abover the rim of the pitcher. The plant was resurrecting itself!

This is not the first time this plant has performed it's miracle of resurrection. I can't help but wonder where it gets its strength. Perhaps it has really strong roots--kind of like people who have been through the worst of times and find the strength to pick up and go on. People whose roots are deeply imbedded in their faith are very much like my shamrock.
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