On book 6, planes, and the best friends you don’t remember at the airport

Random thoughts, in no particular order:

#1: Book 6 went out to my beta readers last week, which means it’s well on track to be revised and released by (hopefully) May 2017!

#2: I’m going on a plane Wednesday morning for the first time since 2003, when I had a genuine panic attack upon take-off. So if you hear on the news of anyone melting down on a flight on to Philadelphia, just roll your eyes and say, “Lemme guess . . .”

#3: I sat for six hours at the airport yesterday morning, (I’ve been going there a lot lately) thanks to the inefficiency of the US army, and was fascinated to think of how many people passed by me for the first time, and the only time, on this earth. A man from India repacked his bag next to us and chatted with my son about serving in the military. Some folks on the other side of us were in town from Chicago for the Sundance Film Festival. A snowboard team waited forever to check their boards.

As I watched people parade by–some looking as disoriented as I usually do in the airport, some appearing to be well-traveled experts–I was almost struck with the notion of touching each person (except there were too many TSA agents around), wondering just how far those folks would go, and if our paths might ever cross again.

The lady with the high heel boots and the Yorkie tucked under her arm.
The mom with three kids who each hefted their own bags and followed her obediently.
The grandpa walking arm-in-arm with his teenage grandson who was flying for the first time.
The lady in the bathroom who called her friend in a panic because the car rental agency didn’t want to give her a Ford Mustang because she would be driving through snowy mountain passes, but told her she’d be better off in a Jeep Cherokee, and only after her friend assured her that was an excellent idea did she relent.

Where do they all come from, and where will they all go? Will I ever see any of them again in this life?

I believe that before we were born, we all knew each other intimately. We had hung around together for at least thousands of year, if not eons.

But birth is, as Wordsworth reminds us, “but a sleep and a forgetting,” and every time I’m in such a crowd, I wonder that if we were all allowed to remember what we meant to each other once before, if we wouldn’t stare in astonishment and embrace in excitement. 

I can’t help imagine that we wouldn’t hurry past each other, or grow impatient with someone slower ahead who is clearly inept (my apologies already to my fellow travelers on Wednesday), but that we would shriek for joy that finally–FINALLY!–we found each other again.

Occasionally I’ve experienced, when I first meet someone, a flare of recognition, a heart-leap of, “There you are!” I know that person, already, and am getting the opportunity to know them again on earth. But that’s happened for me only a handful of times.

The rest of the time, we barely make eye contact as we hurry from one place to another, engaged with one important task or another. Maybe we exchange a friendly smile as we negotiate a line, and we’ll sit next to each other on the plane oblivious to the notion that perhaps this was once one of our greatest friends, and will be once again after we “wake up and remember.”

And that’s the best part: I’m confident that in the next life we all will recognize each other again, and trade notes about where we were and when in our mortal experiences, and discover that once, our paths did cross in a busy airport on a bleak day in January.

But something burned in Perrin’s heart. It caught him so much by surprise that he almost gasped. He took the boy’s face in his hands, because something was so familiar about that moment, about that face . . . He had seen this before.

~Book 6, to be released in late spring 2017

The chapter may be ending, but the book keeps going

Since last summer, I’ve felt I’ve been dying a slow death. We’re in the long process of moving cross country in June, but not until some major events in our family occur: a granddaughter born, a daughter off to college and back again, a son marrying, another son returning home.

I find myself looking at every day, every activity, and morbidly thinking, “This may be the last time that we ever . . .”

Miserable.

However, God isn’t pleased when I mope, and I’ve discovered Him slipping ideas into my head, such as, “Yes, but you’ve done that so many times, don’t you want to do something new?”

As I get book 6 ready to send out to my beta readers this week (yes, that means it’ll be revised and released in late spring!) I’m realizing that life is a number of chapters, but still all one book. I’ve had many chapters which could be called Childhood, High School, College, Husband and College, Small Children and More College, The Riverton House, The Maryland Year, The Virginia Years, The South Carolina Months, The Idaho Falls Months, The Hyrum House.

I rather expected that The Hyrum House chapter would take another 20 years. The house isn’t my favorite that we’ve owned, but the neighborhood, the views, and the rural location with access to big cities certainly is.

Everything was nearly perfect. Which, naturally, meant that God said, “Time to shake things up a bit.”

That shaking is making everything fall apart. Our family will be scattered, and we’ll be too far away from our adult kids and grandchildren to see them on a regular basis. Since we actually enjoy each other’s company, that’s a bit of a heartache.

That’s when I scowl at this chapter ending and think, “I’m starting to hate this book.”

Because surely the next chapter can’t fix anything, right? We’ve had a few chapters that I really didn’t like, and the photo albums from those years are never touched. I was grateful to slam the book on those pages when they were over.

(By the way, fair warning to my beta readers: there’s a chapter in Book 6 that you will hate. Maybe two. Ok, likely three. Three chapters you will want to slam the book on. But remember–the story’s not over yet.)

But other chapters, I let my mind revisit and enjoy them, but also find something odd happening: I don’t want to necessarily relive them. I was happy for that time, but there’s no going back, thank goodness.

I’ve never understood people who miss high school, even into their older years, wishing vainly they could go back to those glory days. Sure, there were good times, but aren’t there good ones coming, too?

It’s those little thoughts, that prodding from Above, that remind me it’s ok to bring this chapter of my life to a close. God knows that I get restless with stagnancy. That once I’ve worked on a project for a few months or years, I begin to look around for something new. When a job no longer is a challenge, I need a new one. (This book series has been the longest I’ve ever spent on a project, because it continues to challenge me every day.)

While I crave stability, I have to confess to myself, and my husband, that I don’t exactly mind that he changes jobs every few years, that my mind begins to feel claustrophobic in the same place, and while my anxiety disorder causes me to clench in fear at change, that trapped part of my head is screaming, “Lemme out!”

(Brains are messy places.)

It’s when I’ve memorized the street signs, the aisles at the grocery store, how long it takes to get to the pizza place, that I find myself simultaneously thinking, “How nice that I know that so well. That makes me feel secure. Now I’m bored. What’s new?”

So it’s with equal parts of excitement and dread that I watch the last few months of our Hyrum Chapter play out, that I remind myself that it’s still part of my book, that it’s shaped our characters in unforgettable ways, and that we take it with us wherever we go.

And I try to remind myself that the next chapter will also be interesting in unexpected ways, and that I very well may look back years from now upon our new Maine Years chapter, think, “Oh, but that was the best one yet!”

(I just barely looked at the date–which I haven’t done in days–and realized that yesterday was the anniversary of my mom’s death, three years ago. And yet, even her story still continues . . .)

Perrin quietly shut the door behind him and ran his hand along it. As soon as he let go of it, that would be the end—

He felt Mahrree squeeze his other hand, and she reached back and touched the door as well. “I’m sure they have oak where we’re going,” she whispered, and let her hand slide down the door.

And Perrin removed his, clasping it into a fist. He gripped her hand tightly as he whispered in her ear, “Come Mrs. Terryp. Let’s find our new world.”

And neither of them looked back.

~Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti

Disconnectedness was marvelous! Now, how do I keep it up?

The past few weeks of holidays and visiting family and minor emergencies of illness and injuries and broken-down cars and blizzards has meant that I’ve been much less connected from the world than usual. Without time to edit Book 6 (which I’m actively doing again right now, never fear) I wasn’t on my laptop nearly as much, which meant that when I needed to take a break, or look up a reference, I wasn’t trolling the internet seeing what nonsense has been going on.

And it was . . . marvelous.

Think about it—to not know what irked thousands of people that hour? To miss the tantrums over nothing? To skip seeing who all was offended or marginalized or thought everyone else in the country is too pampered and here’s a thousand reasons why?

Delightful!

For those few weeks of less-connectedness, I was at peace, even though I was fending off massive whirlwinds of worry.

But not worrying about the world and its opinions was . . . heaven.

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Now those weeks are over, and now I’m back to hard-core laptopping, and I find myself pulled stupidly back into the discussions, the comments, the articles, the self-righteousness in every corner, and I wonder . . . How do I regain that lovely peace I had so recently?

I know part of my problem: FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out. I’m a recovering news hound, desperate to know everything that’s happening everywhere, because if I don’t know what’s happening, how can I be prepared for what may (and likely may not) happen to my family in the future?

I also have an obsession with reading everything that crosses my way. In the car, I glance at every billboard, every street sign, even graffiti. My eyes have to take it all in. It’s even worse when I’m on social media. Every blasted headline, word, image, comment, etc. I feel compelled to read. I’ve been like this since kindergarten: someone took the time to write it, I need to honor their efforts to read it.

It sounds noble, but it’s utterly absurd.

So I’m sincerely asking: how do you train your mind to hold back the avalanche of too much information, especially when you work on a computer every day? How do you discipline yourself to look to see only if your daughter responded to your message, and not get caught up in a circular debate elsewhere about what constitutes religious persecution?

I don’t have a smart phone, blessedly, otherwise I’d be on overload all the time. We also don’t have cable/dish/TV, but watch only Netflix and Amazon Prime, which gives us a great deal of control over what never gets into our house.

But that blasted laptop, which is my best friend and confidante, is also like a gossipy fishwife, tempting me with news about some frivolous or important issue (don’t know until I’ve read it), or some images of an awesome volcanic eruption (which I need to show my volcano-obsessed son) or something stupid some celebrity said (I don’t know what actress said at whatever award ceremony, nor do I want to; the only celebrity news I ever pay attention to has to deal with Star Wars or Harry Potter alum).

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Lappy, I both love you and resent you because you enable my worst habits. Fie you. Never leave me!

I’ve narrowed down my problems to Facebook (I don’t understand Twitter, I’m too old to “get” the other social media pages, I limit myself to visiting only 10 posts on Pinterest and go there ONLY if I have a legitimate need, and I have a Google Plus account that I visit maybe once a year, which seems that’s as often as anyone else visits Google Plus) and a couple of news forums (or those pretending to be, like Yahoo).

Oh, but they call to me. And I feel guilty if I don’t know what they’re crying about, or what’s happening with them, as if I’m doing something wrong by not being connected, as if I owe it to the world to join in the melee.

But then I’m annoyed with myself for falling for their inane click-bait titles, or wasting precious time on someone’s ill-thought-out tirade.

So tell me—how do you decrease your involvement in nonsense so that you can be more connected to the real sense of world of home and family and neighborhood instead?

How have you pulled heaven a bit more to earth?

I desperately want that. (And yes, I’m realizing that my posts for 2017 so far have consisted of asking for advice; this may be a new trend since I’m not clever enough to come up with something earth-shattering each week.)

“There’s nothing in this world I want anymore,” Perrin said. “Nothing except to take my family and leave it.”

~Book 4, The Falcon in the Barn

How do you teach your kids—and yourself—responsibility? My successes and failures, resulting in house-elfness.

Parents, I have a question: when do you show mercy and rescue a child, or when do you let them suffer with an unforgettable lesson?

How do you teach responsibility without potentially damaging your child?

That’s a quandary that plagues me nearly every day. I give you Exhibit A, my youngest daughter, age 9. Yesterday she asked blithely, “Where’s my coat?” as she was getting ready to walk to school in 17-degree weather.

That’s not what a mom wants to hear, that a coat’s missing. “Did you hang it up like you’re supposed to?” I asked, with an appropriate amount of nagging inflection.

“No,” she said, a bit indignant. “I brought it home, all wet, from playing in the snow at my friend’s house yesterday. It’s in that . . . bag . . . right . . . there.” Her voice became very quiet as she realized that house elves don’t work here, and that she hadn’t told me that her soaked coat had spent the night growing colder nowhere near the laundry room.

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Because I was on my way out the door to take my college-aged daughter to catch her bus back to school, I hastily threw the coat into the dryer, set the timer for 25 minutes for when my youngest had to leave, and hoped for the best.

I was torn between hoping her coat would be snuggly warm for her brisk walk to school three blocks away (I usually drive her on mornings like this), and hoping it’d still be a bit wet and cold to teach that girl a lesson in responsibility.

And then I spent the next few hours wondering, What would be the best outcome?

How do you know when to rescue a child from their irresponsibility, and when to let them flounder?

Somewhere along the lines I must have done something right with my oldest daughter, Exhibit B. She is so over-the-top responsible that she’s prepared for every contingency. As a freshman in college, she had an emergency food supply while other students were trying to scavenge pizzas from dumpsters at night, and under her bed she stored dozens of bottles of water, “just in case.” And the girl never ran out of toilet paper.

Growing older has only firmed that. On New Year’s Eve last week, she came up with her two little ones so we could go shopping while grandpa babysat. As she brought in a huge overnight bag, she began to apologize. “I know—we’re staying only a few hours, and the drive is only two hours, but what if the snowstorm comes in early? What if we’re stranded here, or in the car?” She had changes of clothes for all of them, extra bottles and formula for her baby, additional cuppies for her toddler, and snacks.

But I said, “This is what moms do: anticipate disasters. Prepare for the worst. Coming to the rescue for your babies is what you’re supposed to do.”

I was pondering this rescuing attitude as I drove with my middle daughter to her bus stop. At what age should the rescuing stop? Or at least be curtailed to allow the child to find solutions themselves?

My daughter mentioned that two of her roommates had gone back to school the night before and each had texted her with the same message: “I forgot my key. When are you coming back?”

I began to scoff sadly, thinking about those poor, freezing college girls assuming that naturally someone else would be responsible enough to unlock their apartment. Someone else would save them from the predicament they chose not to prepare for . . .

Until I spun around in my seat in the van and asked my daughter, “You have your key, right?”

She smiled smugly. “Of course I do.”

Whew. Thank you, Exhibit C. (By the way, her roommates were rescued by an aunt who lived in the area and brought them to her house for the night, since the apartment mangers were out of town.)

Before I could become too prideful that I’d taught this daughter right as well–at least to remember apartment keys–I remembered that she was the one I accidently left at a Target in Roanoke, Virginia when she was six, and has never let me forget it.

(All of her siblings said she was in the van! I swear it! I went right back again to get her! And I found her with a security guard eating popcorn as she sobbed! How often do I have to apologize for being irresponsible and trusting her four older siblings who swore she was in the vehicle?!)

(She’s also the child who nearly drowned in a high mountain lake when she was 7 without me noticing, and also walked into the deep end of a neighbor’s pool when she was 6, also without me noticing. It’s a miracle she’s made it to 18.)

I realized that this child has been conditioned to expect the worst outcome, to know her mother will be too distracted to realize when she’s in trouble, and that she best take care of herself because mom’s too big of a flake to do so.

So maybe that’s a good thing, letting them flounder in deep, cold water, literally and metaphorically? Look how responsible my middle daughter became because I wasn’t.

(Ok, yeah, that’s a pretty lame argument.)

Now I have to admit that my oldest is so responsible likely not because of anything I taught her, but because we moved around so much when she was growing up, and because I leaned upon her and her sister, only two years younger, so much for assistance. My oldest daughters have become responsible out of necessity.

Survival of the most self-reliant.

So back to my youngest; when I picked up her from school in the afternoon (worried that maybe her coat had been wet, was still wet, and it was only 22 degrees outside and walking home would make her deathly ill, even though I “know” cold weather doesn’t cause a cold because my second daughter who’s a very responsible nursing student will remind me of that fact, every mother knows deep down that yes, cold weather causes colds!), she cheerfully said, “Oh, my coat was toasty warm all the way to school. You should put it in the dryer every morning.”

I didn’t know what to do with that.

Instead of being seen as the kind and thoughtful mother who came up with a solution to make sure she wasn’t cold (rescuing), or my daughter thinking that she should be more accountable and at least tell me when something needs drying and hanging up (teaching responsibility), somehow I’ve been assigned a new task in the mornings of making sure Her Highness’s coat has been adequately warmed in the dryer for half an hour (house-elving).

After being a mom for 26 years, I realize I still don’t know what I’m doing.

How irresponsible of me.

I’m open to your suggestions.