Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanks for the Big Little Things

     This didn’t make the news, but it happened this weekend. A jumbo jet loaded to capacity was coming in for landing at a large metropolitan airport. It landed safely and every passenger disembarked alive and well. The truth is, it happened several thousand times over the past few days.
     In a related story, hundreds of thousands of school children made it safely to and from school. Many of the children came home from school knowing things they didn’t when the left home.
     Also this week, a child got their first puppy.
     Today, someone ate their first strawberry.
     Someone listened for the first time to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Someone else heard for the first time U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” and someone else stood and listened to wind blowing through pine trees.
     Babies took their first steps today and said first words. Grandparents held their grandbabies for the first time. Many were at a loss for words.
     Another item that sometimes makes the news but deserved mentioning. All around the world, donations are pouring into local charities. With an American Holiday celebrating thanks approaching, food pantries are receiving donated food from local businesses as well as ordinary people.
     This week, some people are planning on spending time with loved ones rather than work or school.
     I know that the news is full of bad stuff. And to keep some balance, we are fed a few heartwarming stories to help us sleep. But so many things happen every day that don’t make the news because they aren’t news. Of course things go right every day. I think things go right more often than not. It’s when things go poorly that they get the attention. Right or wrong, the bad things get the attention. Perhaps it’s like the problem child getting more notice than the well behaved one because the good kid is doing fine and doesn’t need correction. If things are going well, why pay it any attention, right?
     Except that is what this upcoming holiday is about.
     And really, I think I should have an attitude of gratitude on more days than the last Thursday of November. But that’s another topic to beat to death on another day. No proselytizing this week. I’m just thankful for too much to find fault in things. Thanks for reading everyone. Have a great week.


Monday, November 18, 2013

No Roadwalker post this week

I'm sorry, I'm too caught up in trying to write a novel in 30 days  AND get a little sleep. I have tried not to neglect anything else in my life, but the blog fell by the wayside. It was a busy weekend.
Here are links to two of my favorite blogs:
Storyline is by one of my favorite writers. I could read his stuff all day.
Lindsey Howard is a missionary in South Asia with amazing adventures to share. Please pray for her.
I hope I will post next week, Good Lord willing and the crick don't rise.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The itchy Truth

     One of my favorite lines in the movie Beetlejuice has the displaced urban dweller Delia Deetz, moving to the country. She’s an amateur sculptor, and when the movers are handling one her pieces she cries out to them:
 Careful! That's my sculpture. I don't mean "my" as in "I bought it." I mean I made it.
     The mover is unimpressed. Poor Delia Deetz. She isn’t an artist for herself. She does it to impress others. And I wonder how many people who indulge in any craft, visual arts, music or writing, can say they have no desire whatsoever to impress anyone. I don’t know. So I will only speak for myself.
     I love that line from the movie because it reminds me of me. I don’t think I would ever say this to anyone, but I might wish to: Hey hand me that bag, my books in that bag and I don’t mean my book that I’m reading I mean I wrote it!
     Do you know what? When I’m writing at Starbucks, most of the time I am really engrossed in what I’m doing. But one in a while I look up and wonder if anyone wonders if I’m a writer.
     Look at that guy with the laptop. Look how serious he seems, how hard at work. I’ll bet he’s a novelist.
     Yeah right. This is Starbucks, which guy with the laptop are you talking about?
     I am confessing this because I am 11 days into National Novel Writing Month. I have been thinking about this, looking forward to it just about all year. It’s when a bunch of people resolve to write a novel in 30 days. 50 thousand words is actually pretty short for a novel. But 30 days to write it is quite a feat. And to me, there is little else more fun and thrilling.
     When I first heard of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo if I’m not inclined to pad my word count, I thought it would be impossible. It was a few years ago. The thought of it seemed completely unattainable.
     But a few years later I thought I would try it out. A few days in, my laptop crashed. I finished the story almost a year later. Then last year, November 2012 I gave it another shot. And I did it. I wrote 77 thousand words in 30 days. I was proud of myself, astounded, thrilled and plenty of other cliché adjectives. The story was just a first draft, rushed toward the end and needing considerable revision But I did it, something I thought couldn’t be done, I exceeded my expectations.
     So I’m doing again this year. And I am learning something. Novels are like children. Parents know this. No two are alike. The first one might be easy, and the next one might not be so much. Am I having trouble this year? Not getting my word count in. I had several thousand more words by this time last year, but I am still exceeding the 1667 words a day to reach 50 thousand in 30 days.
     What I don’t like isn’t the word count. I am not pleased with how the story is getting out. I have written a few great scenes. When I’m done with them I feel high. But a lot of the rest has been exposition. There is a lot of backstory for this novel. I don’t think that backstory should matter much and the writer should just tell the main story. Get the conflict driving the plot as soon as possible without mucking about explaining what and why things are the way they are. But I have found my characters talking a lot, explaining things to each other, which means explaining to the readers. To me, that’s lousy writing. And I am guilty of it.
     No matter, it’s a first draft. I’m still having fun with it. I am having fun waking up at 4:45 every single morning and writing for two hours. Really, I like it. I wish I could do this every day of the year.
     I hope I can convince myself of this. It’s tough going this time around. But I don’t want to give up. I have a very cool ending in mind for this story. There are megathemes of forgiveness and redemption. I just need to keep making my way toward that ending with each scene advancing the plot.
     I whipped this blog up quickly without revising it much because most of my energy is going to the story this month. Thanks for sticking by me. To be honest, it really means a lot to me to have fans. Fans, yes. But I write mostly because I just love to do it. To me, it’s like having a scorching itch, like a peeling sunburn under a burlap nightshirt, but the itch is inside of my brainpan and the only way to scratch it, the only way, is to write. That’s my main reason, it scratches that itch. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cleaning up what I've made

     One of the things about trying to walk the straight and narrow is that I have to be honest with myself and others. And I have to admit that no matter how much better I am than I used to be, I still have a tendency to lapse into my old mentalities.
     I don’t just do custodial work at church. It’s more than just cleaning bathrooms. I also take care of the buildings being locked and secure. Anyone who knows me will agree that I tend to be a little anal about things being the way I think that they ought to be. This attitude got me in trouble a few years ago when it was coupled with a self-destructive state of mind and a disregard for reality. I hit bottom back then and finally got into Celebrate Recovery. I’m thankful that Celebrate Recovery has given me the tools to stay clean. I wouldn’t have lasted this long. And I still use them.
     At work, I tend to be a stickler for security. I don’t like random people showing up and using the facilities without making a room reservation. I like to say it’s about security. But I think it might be more than that. Before our church’s Halloween Harvest Carnival began, I made it clear that our secondary building that wasn’t being used needed to be locked up for the night. Restrooms would be open in the main building only, and that would be enough.
I told everyone I thought might want to get into the building that they would need to be responsible for letting themselves in. Only people with keys could get in. This was a change from last year when people went in and out of the building to get needed items from the kitchen. Not this year, I thought.
     I overheard someone asking if the building could be open that night and another person answered that no, Dave wanted the building to stay locked all night. This overheard exchange delighted me.
     That night, only authorized people were able to get into the building. Or so I thought. A couple times I found people hanging out or even (gasp) using the restrooms. I politely told them that the building was closed and made sure they left.
     And I was oblivious to how I was being. So then the next night a brass band started practicing on the stage above where our Celebrate Recovery was meeting. I walked up the stairs and told them that we were having a meeting downstairs and they couldn’t practice there. They looked surprised and packed up and practiced in the foyer instead. The next day I looked at the schedule calendar and discovered that they had been given permission to be there. I was stunned. Then I was embarrassed, ashamed and miserable. I remembered the face of one of the musicians when I told them that they couldn’t be there. He looked sad.
     I realized what a schmuck I had been, and not only that night to the horn players. Even on Halloween night, I went around indignantly closing the doors if someone left it open. I took it very personally if people didn’t keep with my wishes. When I started thinking about how I was feeling that night, I was pleased when I overheard people saying the building needed to be locked because that’s what Dave said.
The reason I was pleased was because I felt the world bending to my will. I am a control freak.
So I started thinking about a worst-case scenario. People get into the building. They couldn’t really steal anything big and not be noticed. Kids might run around the hallways. So what’s that to me?  Someone would have found them and shooed them out. Oh dear, what if people had used the restroom? What if someone took a dump in a urinal? Was that a worst case scenario? Because I could handle that. I’m a custodian. I’ve seen some gnarly stuff.
But no, a worst case scenario was not any of those things. I had to think for awhile on this. I had to relax and be as honest with myself as I could be. That’s not an easy thing to do. But when I did, the answer came to me. The worst thing that could have happened was this: things wouldn’t have gone my way. Things would not have been under my control.
And when I realized that, there was a shock but a little bit of a relief too. Sure I would rather clean up crap from a place where it doesn’t belong. Do you see what I’m saying? I would rather put things the way I think that they should be. A lot of the time on my job I am doing what’s right. I don’t think most people want to see what I’ve seen and I’m doing what’s best for everyone by making things right. But sometimes I judge things without thinking of other people’s needs or feelings and I act out of line.
So I apologized to our music pastor who told the band they could be there. I was dreading the apology but he’s a man full of grace and I felt so much better afterword. I asked him if I could apologize to the band when they got together next. I am dreading this too, but I need to do it and I think I will feel better after. Making amends is like cleaning up stuff that doesn’t belong there. With the right tools, it can be done.