I love you, Ariel Gore

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She showed up for me.

We never met in person, but her words knew me.  I feel my face smile chapter after chapter of Ariel Gore’s book How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead.  My eyes enlarge and my head nods each page turn.

Is this what it’s like when a writer encourages the deep inner being of another writer?

Yes.

Ariel,  thank you.

Around page 79 an unexpected tear escapes and a memory flashes through my brain.  I remember the day no one showed up.  Not a soul.  Every other college student had parents, grandparents, maybe aunts and uncles too.  Dang.

The ceremony is held in a red brick colonial style building with tall windows trimmed in white.  The large room has plenty of chairs, food that I am too scared to touch, and lemonade that I dare to enjoy.  I am thirsty.  My writing professors say hello and are pulled away because other people’s people want to meet them.  I find a seat in an empty row on a green cushioned chair with a straight backrest made of metal painted white.

While today that scene cuts me a bit, I assure you that on the actual day I am joyful and feel justice is about to be announced.  I am 22 years old and delighted.

“This year’s Best Graduating Senior Writer goes to…Glenna S. Edwards for her submission Bertha.”

I make my way to receive the certificate and $500 check.  Only on rewind do I remember the surprised audience members whose faces turn to question that the alone girl is a winner.  The money is a bonus compared to the certificate that I want most.  I need someone to say I am a good writer.  And they do out loud and on paper.  Boom!

This was the vengeance I longed for because four years earlier at a smaller scale spring time writers event, no one said anything.

That was high school.  Back when I participate in many extracurriculars, but the only award I ever hope for is the Golden Pen award.  A plaque hangs in the English department where the new winner’s name will be engraved.

Sitting in the cafeteria listening for the announcement, my 18-year-old mind practices being a good loser.  The only other candidate who might win deserves the prize too.  I will remain kind and congratulate her then run home to lament.

I also practice remaining calm and gracious if I do win.  I will not jump up and down though my legs may try to betray me.

The other possible winner may throw a fit.  She has a reputation.  She has publicly wailed sometimes when things did not go her way.  I try to remember her personal story about how her mom didn’t know she was pregnant until she went to the hospital for extreme food poisoning but came home with a baby.  For reasons I do not fully understand while in my youth, her tale helps me be patient with Miss Could-Make-A-Scene.

The teacher says into the microphone, “Thank you for coming tonight.  This concludes our evening.”

What?!  They must have forgotten.  I see the other candidate ask about the Golden Pen.  The teacher pretends not to hear.  We all go home never to know exactly why the 1990 Golden Pen is not awarded.

My adult self has multiple guesses why 1990 was skipped.  And I remain thankful 1994 happened.

To my writer friends, read Ariel Gore’s book How To Become A Famous Writer Before You’re Dead.  It is encouragement served all you can eat buffet style.

To be fair to those who knew me in 1994, I didn’t know to ask for representation.  I realize now why the obvious choices didn’t jump at the chance.  Me becoming a writer terrified blue-collar adults around me.

To Ariel, I promise never to use the word p_ _ _ _ _ _ _ mentioned on page 82.  I get it.

Much love & peace to all readers & dreamers.  oxox

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Brave

If you are walking along the public library shelves and an adorable 3.5 x 5 inch little book catches your eye, then by all means pause to take said book home.

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Brave Enough is my introduction to Cheryl Strayed.  I may be the last to learn about her.  I mean, I also was the last to learn this week that emojis can be multicultural if you hold the emoji buttons down long enough, a fact of not knowing which horrified me.  How did I miss that?!  Then I compounded the horror by sharing my surprise with dear friends who all already knew.  I don’t intend to be late, but sometimes I am.

For most of my adult years I ponder through the roller coaster of life that wherever you are, that’s simply where you are…no more, no less.  How silly that may sound, but it is my way of being present this minute, to “be” and to breathe through whatever happens to be occurring at the moment.

In fact, when considering baby names, I was thrilled that one of our children could have initials that spell BE.  Yeah, made that happen.

So new I-wannabe BFF Cheryl’s book Brave Enough was a 1.5 hour tiny vacation in a recliner read.  It is a pep talk, a reality check in, a fun reflection on the “be” of life, a matter of fact tru dat book.  She wrote what my heart and mind when mindful has felt over the years.

And apparently she has done the hiking for answers thing.  She wandered on a trail.  I can relate!

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I adore Cheryl’s mountaintop quote.  I felt this ring accurate throughout my body:

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On a day that the plumber turned a corner saying, “Is that a cat or a Pillow Pet?!”, I read the pages about loving your body to our Sookie Cat.  Cheryl covers a lot of topics in one hard bound book.

I am currently reading or commute time listening to six books and two writer friend manuscripts.  Quick read Brave Enough gave me a one sitting finish and a smile.

Thanks, Cheryl.  I appreciate your work.  I look forward to reading your other books and to see a movie based on one of them.

Peace out beautiful readers.  I hope you are enjoying Spring.  May you experience mini vacations as needed too.

Love,

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🙌🏾   🙌🏼   🙌🏻   🙌🏿

Permission

My mind, body, and soul have been confused since mid-February.  I laid down my superpowers.

That is when I let go of working four jobs simultaneously.  The same week Hubby finished his last day at work never to work a full time job again.  Meanwhile our house is for sale, and we are responsible to help one of our close family members who struggles with mental illness.

Oh, and my nearly new laptop broke.  Boo!

Somehow with three less boss supervisions to schedule per month I thought I would jump into a writing routine.

Nope.  I found myself instead grieving the losses and challenges our family faces.  I enjoy my new job, yet could not make the turn to be disciplined with writing during evenings and weekends.  With the size of my household to-do list, free time is debatable anyway.

Then there is the ever present internal fight for gratitude.  I wrestle with the fact things could be worse, way worse.  I tell myself:  Enjoy right now.  Count the blessings even when the challenges feel like too much.

So I rested and watched winter play out its final weeks.  I wondered when would I feel like digging into my passion?  Afterall, I have not one, but two manuscripts that need attention!  Do I dare say who need attention?  I sense the writing files need me to breathe life into them.  They will walk upright alive.

Worse, I received unexpected feedback from more than one friend that I don’t seem available or as connected as they thought I would be after the job shift.  Don’t I have more time for them now?  Haven’t the number of hours in a week expanded for me somehow? [No, it’s the same number of hours, Ladies.]

Some folks thought I would be more fun perhaps.  I am flat emotionally.  Even if I go through the motions to return texts, friends may pick up that my vibe is “off”.

I became quiet.  I said no to multiple social outings.  I don’t want to be that person who struggles all the time.  I have less and less to say out loud.  Besides, a realtor might request a showing any minute.  I better stay close to home to swish a toilet or run the vacuum–this home in which I can no longer fully relax.

At times I dream of moving far away.  Montana, Florida, Oregon, a random place with no expectations.  I could take my troubles elsewhere.

Fortunately kindness and encouragement arrive from various people in surprising ways too.  Cookies baked by a neighbor for our open house.  A box of positive intentions to read one note at a time.  Patience.  Laughter.  Forgiveness.  Someone asking if there are ways for her to be a good friend to me right now.  All good things.

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Leveling up to a new reality is not instantaneous.  I need time to adjust.

I cling to daily Bible verses, but I do not communicate well with God or anyone other than maybe Hubby right now.  Perhaps I’m in the eye of the storm or this is the whole Footprints poem with one set of footprints at the moment.

I follow strong women on Instagram. What would authors Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Doyle do to self-care through this, I ponder?  They are unapologetic in their processing.

Then Lysa Terkuerst makes the Word of God light up on my cell phone.  She’s been through trying times.

And how about the young woman at my church who is blogging her heart out?  She’s cool and fun to watch grow deeper into adulthood.  Or my 100 miles consecutive running friend with a book coming out later this year.  Love you, Kelly!  I am still in awe that Kelly played on her high school football team.  Shout out for writing consistency Brieanna Arsenault and K. A. Wypych!  I am inspired by you weekly!

What emerged in my brain a couple days ago is that I dwell in what I should be doing rather than what I desire to do.  And there’s too many should-be-doings.  As a wife and mother maybe it is time I recover from some of that.  I could be cooking, cleaning, and gosh darn organizing every hour of the day.  Or I can give myself permission to write.  Permission to take a time out.  Permission to rest.  Permission to be me.

Permission to say no as long as I need to say no.  Permission to say yes to the right things for right now.

Permission is a different way of thinking for me.  It is a shift in my perspective.

Permission means releasing the coulda shoulda woulda pressures.  I can choose and then not think about the decision again.  I have permission to let the chips fall where they fall.

Permission means I get a vote.  Permission means I don’t constantly worry about everyone else’s needs before I do something for me.  Permission might seem selfish.  And I have permission to let go of that concern.

There are people I admire who give themselves permission freely without thoughts of repercussions.  I love them and don’t judge them.  I have permission to do the same.

I have permission to dial direct in my prayers and say more than early morning, “Hold me and ease me out of this bed, Father.  That’s all I’ve got to say today.”  I have permission to recognize seasons of life.  I have permission to pray all the things and seek the path I know He imprinted on my heart long ago.

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As a matter of fact, I have permission to open the screen door, listen to the rain, and write life into my novels.  Right now.

CPR in progress.

Love always,

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P.S.  What do you have permission to do?  How are you managing the seasons of life?

 

 

 

Welcome to Our Mess

Sweet Baby Jesus, I think with 100% praise and 0% sarcasm.

In the same moment when I’m both on the bathroom floor at under the toilet rim level and inside the sink cabinet level, I see the ancient WD-40 can.  Maybe I have seen the idea written on a meme or maybe someone wise mentioned it along the way, but I suddenly know exactly what I can do with said can.

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First, I spray the rusty cabinet hinges.  The doors adjust into their appropriate spots and squeak sounds disappear.  Second, I spray under the toilet rim, wait, add bleach to the bowl, and scrub.  Stubborn stains that I missed in past weekly scrubs begin to melt away.  It’s a toilet gunk miracle.

And all this happened after a friend installed new sink faucets.  Gasp!  He may have seen the gunk pre-miracle.  It also took place in the mostly off-limits for 20 years master bathroom.  Guests don’t go there.

But now they do.  In this challenging time for our family we’ve learned to be open.  There’s not a single off-limits room now.   Every step of the way has been about surrender.

Being honest with friends and strangers has led to more love than we could have imagined.  People who love Jesus also found room to care about us.

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One of my work philosophies is to meet people where they are without judgement and with listening ears.  In recent weeks that same kindness has been reflected back to us.  I see it in soft eyes and busy hands.  We are down to packing, moving what’s left of our furniture, carpet installation and a thorough cleaning.  This is doable.  Thanks will never be enough.  For my praying friends, please pray us through to the other side.   Our bodies and minds are weary, but God’s love is strong.

Psalm 31:1-5  In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.  Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.  Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.  Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.  Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

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Wet Soil

I saw a grasshopper jump 6 feet Sunday.  Impressed, I measured to be sure.  Sometimes I just want to know.

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Thinking about my already stressed immune system, I pop an extra Flintstones vitamin.  It’s time to tackle the landscape while rain drizzles.

The ground is soft.  This is my best chance to rip out overgrown weeds.  Working wet soil is easier than working hard soil on a sunny day.  I accept that my clothes and shoes will become muddy.  I give thanks for consecutive hours to focus on yard work long overdue.

 

Crickets chirp for hours likely because it is so dark they think it is night time.  I double check online and sure enough crickets usually stick to nocturnal chirping.  Again, I wanted to know.

Digging literally into my work, I smile thinking that crickets may not know that even when it’s dark during the day, there is light on the other side of gloomy clouds.  Then I mental note rephrase light to be a capitalized L, Light to represent Jesus.  My speed remains steady.

Eventually I realize that if I am going to finish all that needs to be done, then I’m going to have to get on my knees.  There’s no avoiding the mud or muck.  I must get serious.  Kneeling reminds me to pray.

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Section by section and weed by weed, I become increasingly meditative and prayerful thinking about how if wet soil is easier for me, then how easy must wet soil be for God?  I consider how God uses our tears.  I pray in thanksgiving and surrender that God will use my tears for good.  Our family is in a season of change and pain.  There is good to be found on the the other side of the clouds.  The Light is always there.

I uncover a decorative rock that I haven’t seen in a while.  I nod to the sky as if to say, “Metaphoric show off, Lord…my Rock.”

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I’m in the deep end of the pool as my mind wanders.  Part of my thoughts skim along the idea of leaving the day job that I’ve done to positively impact the lives of children and families for 15 years.  The personal cost has been more than I imagined.  Maybe it’s time to quit.  I’m terrified to quit because I don’t want to disappoint God, and I truly adore my students and families.

Perhaps it was the earth and dirt that took my brain to a time that changed my life’s direction back in 1992.  A group of college students and ministers  (all guys from the states plus me and one other girl) dug dirt out of a foundation for a church in Mytishchi, Russia.  Then we began adding brick to raise the walls.  We were the first team of several teams to visit that location.  I never got to see in person the finished church.

I think about the dirt moved, the drunk local brick layers, and the many crumbling bricks I carried.  The Russian bricks were unlike anything I’d seen in the USA.  To follow are pictures from my 1992 scrapbook.

 

On my knees in my messy front yard God whispers to my soul that just as my hands were a small part in a physical foundation that carries on His work beyond the summer of 1992, my efforts for the last 15 years are also part of foundations in lives that I can not see.  His work carries on with or without me.  My job is to surrender to whatever is next, to be open to possibilities.

I search the Internet once in a while over the years but rarely see any structure that might be close to what we were building in Mytishchi.  I know from the scrapbook that this is a sketch the Russians had on the wall.  This was their goal during a time of limited building supplies.  I wondered back then how the rough red brick could become a white smooth surface.

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Then last night as I prepared this post, I found it.  I am certain.  To follow are pictures of a thriving 2018 church in Mytishchi, Russia.  I’m so pumped that it exists.  There’s even a few online pics of people, now 26 years older, I recognize.

 

Hi Peter!  Then and now:

 

My hands were a small part of a lasting foundation that I don’t get to see up close and I may never see in person.  I don’t get to know.  It’s not for me to always know.

Jeremiah 18:3-4 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

I surrender to whatever vessel God wants me to be next.

Meanwhile, the yard is looking much better!

 

5 Reasons To See The Movie Eighth Grade

My son turned 16 this week.  We went to see the movie Eighth Grade together, and I’m so glad we did.  Yes, it is rated R.  I accepted in advance that we would have to deal with uncomfortable or inappropriate “stuff”.

I walked away from the theater thinking anyone who works with youth age 12 to 18 need to see this film, and anyone who is a parent or close relative of children age 0 to 18 need to see this (mostly without kids present).  Here are my reasons why:

  1. Eighth Grade is a culture capture masterpiece.  The main character, Kayla, is facing uphill social anxiety issues within a suburban life setting filled with social media overload, popularity issues, vlogging, and teen body development.  The movie gives adults the opportunity to feel the culture through Kayla’s eyes.  Most adults can not relate to growing up in the social media age.  For 1 hour and 33 minutes you feel the sharp edges of what today is like for many young people.
  2. There are mature moments that deal with everything from boys trying to take advantage of girls to feeling awkward in a bathing suit.  For me, this was an opportunity to talk after the movie with my son about what we took away from the movie.  We both had lots of reactions to unravel and I count every deep conversation with a teenager a win.
  3. As a writer, I cheered at the way the script set the scene from the get go.  The quick flash images of braces with rubber bands, a tumbling Crayola markers tower, etc. had me.  I was in the middle school setting.  I could smell the dry erase board.
  4. Elsie Fisher (Kayla) is an incredible actor.  I believed her character every second.  Josh Hamilton (the dad) nailed his part.  Oh my, I’ve been that parent!  Being there for your child in a culture that seems to dominate over common sense can be tough.  Kudos to all the actors and congratulations to writer/director Bo Burnham!  #Genius
  5. Parents of young children could learn a lot by seeing this film without kids present.  Use the experience to make decisions and prepare in advance for the adolescent years.  For example, I could not be happier that we waited to give our oldest child a smartphone until he was 17 years old.  We were concerned about impulse issues and it was good to watch his brain develop further before a phone was ever present.  Then, at a loss for a good Christmas present for the younger child, we gave him a smartphone much sooner.  He was 14.  I wish we waited.  Technology at a child’s fingertips is overrated.  I have a whole mental list of internet filters and turn off switches that I would have deployed if I’d known better sooner with my kids.

Another thought that came to mind is how painful it can be for young people to endure the current day culture if they don’t know of a Higher Power or higher purpose for their life.  No one measures up to photoshopped pictures of peers or celebrities.  Knowing peace in your heart and soul no matter what one sees online is helpful.  My prayer for young families is to not wait to give a solid foundation to your children.  Teach them early of the greatest love there is so they can withstand storms that arrive in various forms.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

Sidebar:  This is a link to an academic paper I helped write about Conceptualizing Adolescence/ts in 2017.  If you are an educator, parent or mental health professional, I hope it is helpful.

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3 Ways to Increase Summer Reading

Once upon a time I remember glorious pre-teen summers days filled with plenty of time to read books.  I either read for hours while sitting in a bean bag chair or received permission to hang out with my BFF at the community pool.  At the pool with matted wet hair we played the UNO card game or read our latest library books side by side.  I savored the smell of book pages mixed with the scent of sunscreen and damp towels.

Then along came “adulting”.  Time to read felt scarce as responsibilities expanded.  Half read books piled up in my house through the years.  Then, thanks to a dear friend’s suggestions, I found new favorite ways to increase my reading time:

1.  Log in to your local library online.  Download the app they suggest so you can check out books via your smartphone.  For example, my app is Hoopla.  Connect your library card to the app and wah lah!  My library allows 12 book downloads per month.  I listen to books during my daily commute.  In the last 2 years I’ve easily completed 3-4 books per month.  I look forward to drive time.  I enjoy the time to learn or adventure through new stories.  Some books aren’t recorded but can still be downloaded for electronic page turn reading.

2.  When I want to specifically support an author or can’t find a book through the library, I turn to Audible.  Audible charges a monthly fee which translates to credits when you want to buy a book.  Audible remembers what you’ve bought and keeps an online library ready for you.  I find that credits build up faster than I expect and I always have enough when it’s time to buy a book.

3.  Yes, I still do like the feel of a physical book in my hands.  When I keep a reading light and current books on my night stand, I am more likely to read before going to sleep.  I feel cozy and relaxed with a comforter and a book.

Bonus:  4.  My BFF from the pool long ago has a double win reading strategy.  She helps the environment by riding the bus to work.  Also, bus rides are reading time for her!  She plows through books.  I admire her reading dedication.

I am much happier now that continuous learning and personal growth through reading books is a steady part of my life.

How do you make time for reading?  I’d love to hear about your ideas.

Glenna

P.S. Photo was taken downtown Cleveland, Ohio 07/07/18.

P.P.S. One of my favorite blogs is called Make America Read Again.  It’s worth checking out for more great info about reading and book reviews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resting Face Fix

We sat on the 52nd floor of Prudential Tower inside the Top of the Hub restaurant.  It was the last evening of a week-long training in Boston, Massachusetts.  The city lights twinkled in the night-time landscape.  My female co-worker’s fork froze midair ascent when he said it.

His name was Alan.  I had stored him in my contacts as Al from Nashville–met 2012.

Among the dark wood finishes and fresh flowers, we had a deep conversation about youth led substance abuse prevention and teen empowerment.  With intrigue and conviction, he points to me, “You are smarter than I thought you were.”  I am silent, then he continues, “Looking at your face this week I didn’t know you were this intelligent.”

Huh.

Now…I may suspect this was a moment of unconscious bias toward females in his life.  It could be.  But I chose to own my piece of it quietly because this was the fourth time in my adult life that something like this was said to me.  Four felt like a theme.  Even if the score is three males to one female who said something similar over the years, it is still a theme.  I’ve been back burner simmer thinking about this subject matter for a while.

Fast forward to 2018 when I’m getting ready to leave for a writer’s conference.  On my list to discuss with my Masterminds group was:  My Resting Face Problem.  I filled in the 4 women team on the issue.  They offered quality meeting people for the first-time guidelines.  Then we came up with the idea to have specific words in mind all week that would hopefully project on my face in the quiet times, walking around campus times, and all times.  They suggested I come up with 3-4 words.

Strategy Words So, I did just that.  During the drive I committed that the following words would be on my face while in public always:  welcoming, kindness, humble, confidence.  Each time I left my room I looked in the mirror and said those words.

Then a metaphoric resting face earthquake happened not 24 hours into the conference.  I received a punch you in the stomach kind of phone call from home.  The call was about work, co-workers and children I care about immensely.  It was a blind side and news of a likely short-sighted decision that could roll down hill in a painful way.  I turned my face toward the nearest wall because I felt the strategy words slide right off my face.

I quickly prayed for many things and did my best to acknowledge gratitude that no one was physically bleeding or worse at home.  I was minutes away from the next meeting with a literary agent.  Turning toward a wall may have morphed into bouncing off walls because someone noticed.  I strained for composure when the sweetest person scooped me up.  Her name is Janine Rosche.  This dear sister sized me up in less than 2 minutes and asked if she could pray me over the hurdle.  Uh, yes please, Jesus take the wheel, I’m thinking.  She prayed me from brain implosion WHAT!? to calm.  I am forever grateful.  She is a Christian Romance writer.  Her blog is JanineRosche.com.  [I will buy anything she writes–hear that publishers?!]

The shakeup was Monday.  I carried on prayerfully the rest of the week.  Mostly I could focus, but I felt my body stress while in a new situation and it hurt to know people were hurting at home.  Resting face words became even more important because I used thinking about the words to center myself each day.  I needed to remember who I am and why I was there.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday hummed along and I enjoyed connecting with people and learning.  Thursday afternoon I sat down before the long drive home to care for some business deadlines and emails.  The covered patio overlooking a pond was a comfort.  I knew I’d feel better if I knocked out the work rather than pause at rest stops looking for wi-fi.

So help me, the phone rings and during the call I hear another piece of work information that sours my stomach.  People can be cruel.  The details don’t matter, but it was a problem that led me to be concerned whether I could handle driving 6 hours home.

Most conference attendees were already gone.  The campus was quiet.  Along comes a husband and wife team from Alabama that I had met earlier in the week.  They run a marriage ministry.  They stopped to say hello.  I explained that I was concerned about making the drive.  They asked if they could pray for me.  Yes, please.  

And then the full circle moment zapped my heart.

This is a clip from their prayer:

“….Lord, every time we’ve seen Glenna this week her face is a welcoming face, a kind face.  She is weary right now before the drive, but we ask you restore her confidence that we know is in her.  We thank you for the humble spirit we’ve sensed from her all week….”

I almost fell to the ground.

God is good.  God looks out for us and all of our struggles.  He even helps with resting face fixes!

While the Bible may not talk about the term “resting face”, I do cherish the following verse because rest and God’s presence is vital through the ups and downs of life.  In our facial expressions God can give us rest and focus.  In our struggles the greatest theme above any of our own life themes is the fact that God can weave the words and people we need into our current challenge.  We have His presence and we have His kind of rest available.  He will go with us.

And he said, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.”  Exodus 33:14  NKJV

Glenna