Fiction Friday: A New Beginning Chapter 19

In case you missed it, I posted Chapter 18 yesterday because we all need a distraction from the news of the world today, or just other stresses in our lives. Or at least I do because this week has been stressful for me. The one highlight of the week is that I have finished the first draft of A New Beginning and am now beginning rewrites, revisions and all that jazz, hoping to publish it on Kindle sometime in the Spring.

You will find a link to the previous chapters I have posted HERE or at the link at the top of the page.

You can find the first part of Blanche’s story on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. 

 


Chapter 19

The waiting room at the adoption agency wasn’t exactly what I would call welcome. Walls that had probably once been a sterile, eggshell white were now dull and stained. A few metal chairs and a coffee table with magazines scattered on top of it sat in the center of the room. In one corner a desk with a stained blue chair pushed against it was gathering dust. In the other corner, a plant revealed its synthetic status by the dust on its leaves.  In some ways, the room reminded me more of a prison cell than a waiting room.

Edith’s hands were red from wringing them for half an hour now. I took her hands in mine to keep her from ripping the skin off and she managed a smile, worry clearly etched across her face.

Jimmy, chewing on a toothpick, paced in front of the small smeared window facing a brick wall, pushing his hand back through his sandy brown hair. Every few moments he looked at the floor, then back out the window, then at the closed door of the room. As I wished for the tenth time someone would come in to update us on what was happening, the door to the room opened and a plump woman with grey-streaked, frizzy blond hair and black cat-eye glasses stood in the doorway with a clipboard. Dressed in a blue blouse untucked from her grey skirt and covered with a gray suit jacket she looked flustered as she walked briskly into the room.

A teenage girl with straight blond hair and stooped shoulders walked behind her, her eyes lowered. Thin except for the small round belly protruding against the fabric of a flower-covered peasant blouse, she looked like she should be in a line at school, waiting to go to recess, not waiting to sign her baby away. The hem of her blue denim skirt rested a few inches above the knees, her legs covered by bright red tights.

“I’m sorry we took so long, Mr. and Mrs. Sickler,” the woman with the clipboard said, glancing up and stretching her hand out to Edith first and then Jimmy. “I’m Sandra Tyler, your social worker. Lily was running a little late. I should have updated you but my other appointment ran a little long.”

“We understand,” Edith said then gestured toward me. “I hope it’s okay we brought my sister Blanche as moral support.”

Sandra smiled at me and shook my hand as well. “Of course it is. I’m sure Lily is happy to meet anyone who will be a part of her baby’s adoptive family.” She gestured toward the chairs. “Please. Let’s all sit and get to know each other a little.”

Lily lowered herself gently into one of the metal chairs, her belly spilling over the top of the skirt under the blouse. Sunken eyes with dark circles under them looked out from the small, round face. She bit her bottom lip and bounced her foot, looking at Jimmy and Edith, as if sizing them up.

Sandra cleared her throat.  “So, this Lily. She’s a young lady from here in the city and she’s due three months from now. We’ve been helping Lily with her addiction and she was just released from rehab a couple of weeks ago. Lily, this is Jimmy and Edith, the couple you chose from the files we showed you. Do you have any questions for Edith and Jimmy?”

Lily shrugged, folding her arms across her chest. “Yeah. I guess.” She looked at Sandra from under heavy eyelids and then at Edith and Jimmy. “Have you got a lot of room for kids?”

“Oh yes,” Edith said. “We live in a small town with a lovely backyard and both our parents have homes in the country with plenty of space for a child to run and play in.”

Lily’s mouth tipped upward slightly. “How come you don’t have kids of your own?” she asked abruptly.

Sandra looked startled at the question. “Lily, honey, that might be a little too personal,” she said softly.

“No. It’s okay,” Edith said quickly. “I don’t mind.” She smiled at Lily. “We lost a baby a few years ago and haven’t been able to have any more children since then. She was stillborn.”

Lily looked at the floor and shifted in the chair, her smile gone. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “That sucks.” She looked up at Edith through blond bangs. “Doesn’t really seem fair someone like you not being able to have a baby and someone like me – someone screwed up like me – getting knocked up by some guy who don’t even love me anymore.”

Edith swallowed hard and looked at Jimmy. “Well, Lily, I don’t … I mean, you’re not…”

Sandra interrupted. “What Edith means, Lily is that you’ve made some mistakes in life but you’re fixing those mistakes and one way you’re doing that is doing the right thing for your child and giving him or her to a loving couple to take care of him or her.”

Edith nodded and I could tell she was grateful for Sandra stepping in. “Right, Lily. You’re trying to make up for all that now.”

Jimmy cleared his throat and leaned forward slightly.

“So, how have you been doing, Lily ? Feeling pretty good ?”

Lily shrugged again and slumped slightly in the chair. “Yeah,” she squeezed her forearm and looked at the floor. “Been keepin’ clean from the drugs. They’ve got me in some program. I think it’s workin’.”

She kept her eyes downcast as her lower lip started to tremble. “Wish I’d never started all that junk in the first place.” She sniffed and dragged her hand across her nose. “I’m not ready for a baby at my age. I’m only 15. Can’t believe I let that guy talk me into doing that just for a hit off his pipe.”

My breath caught in my chest and I did my best not to gasp out loud. She was only 15 and pregnant. I had been a mess at 17 when I found out I was pregnant. She must have been terrified.

Tears rolled down Lily’s cheeks and dropped off her chin. Edith stood and kneeled in front of Lily, laying her hand over hers. “It’s going to be okay, Lily. You’re getting help. You’re getting on the right path and we’re going to take care of your baby, okay?”

Lily nodded, accepting the tissue Sandra offered her and wiping her face, then blowing her nose. She laid the crumpled tissue back in Sandra’s hand. The social worker looked at it with a small grimace and tossed it into the trash can next to her.

“You seem like good people,” Lily said softly.  “I’m really excited for you to have this baby.”

After a few more minutes of conversation, Lily asking if Edith had painted the nursery and how old she and Jimmy were, Sandra suggested Edith and Jimmy plan another meeting with Lily in a month and everyone agreed.

“I feel a lot better about it all now that I’ve met you,” Lily said as we all stood, her nose still red from when she’d cried.

“We’re so glad to have been able to meet you, Lily,” Jimmy said.

Lily nodded, sniffed and laid her hand against her belly. “I’m glad you’re taking my baby. I’m in no shape to take care of it and the daddy don’t – doesn’t want it. I think it’ll be happier with nice people like you.”

When the door closed, we all looked at each other and I could tell none of us were sure how to react.

Edith sat in a chair and let out a breath. “Whoa. That was . . .”

Her voice trailed off as she shook her head.

“Crazy,” Jimmy said, sitting next to her. “How does a kid that young get in a situation like that? Where were her parents?”

“Maybe on the streets just like her,” I said with a shrug. “Who knows.”

Edith leaned forward, pressing her hand against her forehead. “Are we doing the right thing? Taking this baby from this girl? What if – I mean, maybe we could–”

“Edith, she’s too young to raise this baby on her own,” Jimmy interrupted. “We can give this child a better life.”

“And then what happens to Lily?” Edith asked, tears suddenly pooling in her eyes. “If her parents don’t care about her now and the father has left her – who else is around to care for her? And what about when she gets older and realizes what she’s done, that she gave up her baby?”

Jimmy leaned back in the chair and pushed his hands back into his hair. “I don’t know Edith. I just don’t know. But we can’t trust her to take care of that baby on her own either. We live too far away to keep an eye on her – what else can we do?”

We sat in silence, looking at the floor, feeling a heaviness as we heard doors open and close in the hallways beyond the room we were sitting in. I wondered how many other waiting rooms were in this building, how many other young mothers were struggling to decide how or if they could care for their babies. I thought how I could have been that mother if I had chosen Hank or drugs or anything else over Jackson, if I hadn’t had the support system I had had in Miss Mazie, Hannah,  and my family.

When Sandra came back into the room, she handed a stack of papers to Jimmy and Edith.

“This is the preliminary paperwork you’ll need to sign. Of course, nothing is finalized until the baby is born and you and Lily sign the final papers the day of the birth.” She flipped the pages and pointed out where Edith and Jimmy needed to sign.

“What happens to Lily after the baby is born?” Edith said, her hand hovering over the stack of paper.

“What do you mean?” Sandra asked.

“I mean, does anyone keep an eye on her or help her through all this? It’s a big step, isn’t it, giving up your baby?”

Sandra sat back in the chair and sighed. “Yes, it is but most young girls like Lily move on with their lives and, sad to say, many of them return to the streets or the drugs or even, well, more unpleasant occupations.”

Edith winced. “Where are Lily’s parents?”

Sandra shook her head. “She only has her mother and that’s who brought her in, I’m afraid. She knows Lily can’t take care of this baby and the mother isn’t in any shape to do it either. She’s an alcoholic, living in an apartment complex in one of the worst parts in town. Quite frankly, I’m grateful she came here at all instead of trying to get Lily a back alley abortion somewhere.”

I felt sick to my stomach hearing what other young desperate mothers might turn to instead of adoption. I remembered Hank suggesting the same when I became pregnant, though thankfully he retracted the suggestion. I hadn’t understood what he meant back then when he’d suggested ending the pregnancy, but now I knew more and my heart ached that procedures like that were even possible.

“Mr. and Mrs. Sickler, listen,” Sandra laid the papers on the small coffee table and leaned toward them. “I know this is hard and scary and I think it’s wonderful you are so worried about Lily, but what she is doing is right for this baby. She can’t care for the baby on her own. The father isn’t even in the picture; we aren’t even sure who he is. Her mother is in worse shape than she is. You’re doing the right thing taking this baby. Otherwise, he or she will end up in foster care, bouncing from family to family. Your concerns for Lily are admirable, but the truth is, we just can’t save everyone.”

Edith was quiet on the way home and I knew she was thinking about what Sandra had said and struggling with her worry for Lily.

Fiction Friday: A New Beginning Chapter 9

Welcome to Fiction Friday, where I share a fiction story I’m working on or a novel in progress. If you share serial fictions on your blog as well please feel free to share a link to your latest installment, or the first part, in the comment section.

This week I pushed through some of the blockages I had in the story, so hoping that continues and I can finally finish it and begin some heavy editing. Of course, as I edit that could change some of what you are reading here, but the final draft will be published as an ebook on Kindle and other locations sometime in the spring.

As always, you can catch the first part of Blanche’s story, A Story to Tell, on Kindle. Also, as always, this is a work in progress so there are bound to be words missing or other typos. To follow the story from the beginning, find the link HERE or at the top of the page.


Light, Shadows & Magic (2)Edith took the platter I had been carrying as I stepped through her front door. “Fried chicken, huh? I just read an article about how fattening fried foods are.”

I rolled my eyes. “And I just read an article about how unhealthy it is to take all the good tasting food out of your life.”

Edith set the platter on her table and then reached for a pitcher of lemonade and a bowl of salad, setting them on the table.

“Hey, ladies, Emmy’s walking up the front walk,” Jimmy said walking in the back door. “Or should I say, she’s waddling up?”

I smacked him gently on the arm. “Jimmy!”

“What? She’s waddling! I can’t help it. I think she’s carrying twins.”

“Don’t say that to her,” Edith whispered. “I don’t want her to feel bad.”

I opened the front door and took the plate of brownies from Emmy, stepping back so she could walk through to the couch, where I knew she’d want to sit.

“A few more weeks and I’m free,” she gasped, falling back onto the cushions, her belly pushed out.

“Free?” I laughed. “Oh, honey, your belly will be free, but your job only gets harder after the baby is here.”

Emmy closed her eyes and sighed.

“Oh, don’t remind me,” she said, then smiled. “But I know it will be worth it then, when I can finally hold this baby in my arms.”

“You girls going to be okay here alone?” Jimmy asked, snatching a brownie. “Your dad and I are taking Jackson and Judson fishing up at the lake today, so we won’t be around to save you if you set the oven on fire or Emmy gets stuck in the couch.”

Emmy scowled at Jimmy and playfully tossed a pillow at his head.

“Why are you taking Judson?” I asked.

“Why not?” Jimmy asked. “He’s a cool guy and we like showing him how to be a real country boy.”

“She thinks Mama and Daddy are trying to set her up with him,” Edith laughed. “And that Daddy is prepping him to be part of the family.”

I scowled at her as I helped Jackson with his jacket.

“Mama is trying at least,” I said.

“What’s ‘setting up’ mean?” Jackson asked, reaching for his fishing pole.

“Nothing,” I said quickly, kissing his forehead. “Don’t you worry about it, honey.”

Jimmy grinned and snatched his fishing pole from behind the door then raised his hands in front of him as a sign of surrender and headed toward the door.

“I’m stepping out of this conversation. Have fun with your gathering, ladies.”

I watched Jackson follow Jimmy down the sidewalk toward Jimmy’s truck, his jeans slipping down slightly in the back as he walked. It was hard to believe that he was already 6-years old. It hurt me he didn’t have a father to help set an example for him, but I was happy Jimmy and Daddy were there to be the men in his life.

“Why do you keep avoiding Judson anyhow?” Edith asked as the front door closed.

“I’m just not interested,” I said.

Emmy struggled to push herself up out of the cushions of the couch.

“Why not?” she asked. “He’s cute, polite  . . .  a member of my family, which means he’s got to be a great person.”

I shrugged. “I’m just not. He’s nice enough but who knows how long he’ll even stay here. He’s only here to learn more about construction from your dad and then he’ll be gone.”

Emmy shrugged. “Yeah, but that could take years. I mean, he’s renting a home here, says he loves this area. He could decide to stay here forever and besides – you agree he’s good looking right?”

I rolled my eyes, sitting in the recliner and leaning my head back against the back of it and groaning. “Yes, he’s good looking, but looks, as we know, can be very deceiving.”

I tipped my head up, raised an eyebrow and looked at Emmy and Edith. “You get my drift?”

Edith shrugged and poured herself a glass of lemonade.

“Not every good-looking apple is rotten,” she said, grinning.

Emmy shifted forward on the couch and looked at Edith. Now both of them were grinning, a sight that aggravated me.

“And that apple really is very good looking,” Emmy said. “Those blue eyes against that dark hair…handsome like all the male members of my family. ”

Edith smirked.

“And I bet he’s got some muscles under that construction shirt. He’d have to with all that lifting and hammering he does.”

“You two are starting to sound like Mama!” I cried. “Are we going to bake some cookies and make popcorn for the Dick VanDyke Show tonight or are we going to talk about my love life?”

Emmy wheezed as she pushed herself to a standing position. “Or your lack of a love life.”

I turned and scowled at her.

She raised her hands slightly at her side and shrugged.

“They say pregnant women get something called brain fog,” she said with a grin. “Blame my sassy mouth on the baby. I’ll be right back. I have to pee again.”

When Emmy waddled back into the room a few moments later, Edith set a tray of egg sandwiches on the coffee table and sat on the couch next to Emmy.

“Speaking of babies – I’ve been wanting to talk to you ladies about something.”m

My heart started pounding fast.

“Are you -?”

Edith interrupted me by raising her hand and shaking her head. “No. No. Nothing like that. We still can’t seem to get pregnant, but Jimmy and I have been talking a lot lately about other ways to start a family.”

I sat on the chair across from the couch. “Adoption?”

Edith nodded and wrung her hands nervously. “Yes. But I’m scared. What if this isn’t the right thing to do? What if it – what if it falls through or what if we don’t bond with the child, because he or she isn’t ours biologically?”

I leaned forward and took my sister’s hands in mine. “Edith, you’re starting to sound like me. That’s not like you. At the risk of sounding like Mama, have you prayed about this?”

“Oh yes, Jimmy and I both have. We’ve been praying about it together every day. I – I called an adoption agency last week and they’ve asked us to drive down and fill out an application. They were very nice, but I still – I just don’t know if this is the right thing to do.”

“Well, if it isn’t the right thing to do, God will stop it,” Emmy said. “That’s how I figure it, anyhow. Maybe it’s not the soundest theology but it’s what I think.”

Edith smiled, reaching one hand out to hold Emmy’s and the other to hold mine. “Okay, ladies. Then our job is to pray together that Jimmy and I make the right decision and that if adoption is the path God wants us to take, a child will be placed with us.”

We all agreed we would pray for God’s wisdom and I prayed silently for Edith’s heart to be protected.

***

“Blanche, sit down.” Stanley gestured to the chair in front of his desk sans cigar as I handed him my column. “I have a question for you.”

The suggestion to sit was an unusual one for Stanley and made me nervous. Usually, he merely nodded for me to lay the column on his desk while talking on the phone or typing away on his typewriter before telling me to have a good day.

“Can I get you a glass of water?” he asked as I sat down.

I shook my head, bewildered. I noticed his face was clean-shaven, his hair neatly combed and his shirt and pants a little less wrinkled than usual. Instead of leaning back in his chair with a cigar he sat in it with his back straight, then leaned forward slightly, elbows propped on the desk.  His hazel eyes locked on mine as he spoke.

“Blanche, I’d like you to start writing some feature stories for us. One a week to start with. What do you think?”

He was offering me an actually paying job? I was dumbfounded.

“I – I don’t know what to say. I’ve never interviewed people before and I –“

“You’re a good writer, Blanche. You’re easy to talk to. People like you. You’d be writing fluff pieces. Stories about old men who grow 60-pound squashes in their backyard and women who win pie-baking contests 25 years in a row. Easy, softball stories. I think you can do it and those kinds of stories sell newspapers. Why don’t you think about it and let me know when you bring your column next week? What do you say?”

I cleared my throat. “Well, okay, I can tr–”

“Great,” Stanley spoke over me. Interrupting people seemed to be a habit with him, as if his brain moved in tune with the days breaking news and he was afraid slowing his words would let his competition beat him to the punch. “I’m sure you’ll realize it’s a good idea. Now, on another, entirely different, matter . . .”

Stanley shifted nervously in his chair, leaned back and crossed one leg over the other, uncrossed it again, and leaned forward in his chair. He cleared his throat, coughed and took a quick sip from his coffee mug.  I waited for the quick flow of words that normally came, but instead there was only awkward silence.

“This is awkward for me to ask, Blanche.”

A rush of nervous energy shot through me. Good grief, what was making this man so nervous? Why were his eyes darting from me to the top of his desk and back to me again? Oh no. He wasn’t going to ask me out, was he? I’d already turned Thomas down the year before. Were newspaper men somehow attracted only to anxious, introverted wallflower types? Not to mention, the man was old enough to be my father and my actual father couldn’t stand him.

“Blanche, how well do you know Marjorie Hakes?”

Relief washed over me. I wouldn’t have to turn down advances from an older man today after all. “Oh. Well, I –“

“I mean, I know you know her son, or you knew him, or .. well, you know what I mean.”

I felt the sudden urge to giggle at the way Stanley was stammering and stumbling over words.

“Yes, I was married to Hank at one time,” I said. “It’s not a secret to anyone in this little town.”

“Right,” Stanley said. “But, I mean, I don’t know what your relationship is with his mother now and if you are close to her or not …”

“Actually, I visit her once or twice a week so she can see her grandson.”

“Oh, yes, right. Of course. That makes sense. Very nice of you.”

Stanley paused and slid a cigar from a box on the corner of his desk. He stuffed it in the corner of his mouth but didn’t light it. Pulling it from his mouth he propped it between his forefinger and middle finger and started to say something then closed his mouth again. He cleared his throat and returned the cigar to the corner of his mouth.

“Stanley?”

“Yes?”

“Why are you asking me about Marjorie?”

“Oh, yes.” He cleared his throat again and I thought about suggesting he take another drink of his coffee to wash down that frog in his throat but the conversation was dragging on long enough as it was.

“I see Marjorie every morning at the diner and I – uh–” he coughed softly and leaned back in his chair, looking briefly at the top of the desk before raising his eyes to mine. “Do you think she would go out with me?”

I bit my lower lip to hold back the laughter. I had never seen Stanley look so anxious and laughter might make it worse. I pondered how to answer his question. I had a feeling Marjorie had put up walls around her heart the same way I had around mine and I wasn’t sure she’d be willing to open herself up again. I didn’t want to discourage Stanley, but I wasn’t sure if I should encourage him either.

I wanted happiness for Hank’s mom, but suddenly I wanted to protect her the way I had been protecting myself. Stanley didn’t seem like the most stable or compassionate person at times. I worried that working as a newspaper editor for so long had jaded him and Marjorie didn’t need a hard-hearted man; she needed someone who could be what Henry Hakes never was. Someone who would treasure her, treat her like a woman should be treated. I wondered how much Stanley knew about her marriage to Hank’s father and the abuse she had suffered. I didn’t feel it was my place to tell him.

“I think there is a possibility she will say yes,” I said finally. “I think there is also a possibility she will say ‘no.’ I know that is not the answer you were probably hoping for but I’m not sure how she feels about opening herself up to new relationships since her husband passed away. She’s . . . been through a lot. It could be hard for her to – well, to trust again.”

Stanley looked at me over folded hands, his elbows propped up on the desk, the cigar between his thumb and forefinger. “I’ve heard stories about her marriage,” he said. “I’ve heard stories about your marriage.  Neither of them were easy, from what I understand. So, I’m cognizant of the need to go slow here, if that’s what your getting at.”

Maybe Stanley wasn’t as jaded as I thought. “Yes. That was what I was getting at.”

Stanley combed his fingers back through his hair and straightened his tie. “Thank you, Blanche. That’s all I needed. Think about the feature writer position, okay? I’d like to have you on board.”

I hoped the tenderness I’d heard in Stanley’s voice when he talked about Marjorie was sincere and that I was seeing the real Stanley under his sometimes tough veneer. I hoped he wouldn’t break Marjorie’s heart the way her late husband and son had.

Stanley spoke as I reached for the doorknob. “Hey, before I forget, Thomas is the one who suggested I call you about writing the feature stories. He said you’re a good writer and I agreed. And you know,” he leaned his arm casually on the desktop in front of him and smirked. “I think Thomas may be a little sweet on you.”

Standing with my hand still resting on the doorknob I turned slightly and sighed. Could it be that even Stanley was trying to set me up with a man?

“Thank you, I’ll keep that in mind,” I said as I opened the door and stepped into the noisy newsroom.


Lisa R. Howeler is a writer and photographer from the “boondocks” who writes a little bit about a lot of things on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She’s published a fiction novel ‘A Story to Tell’ on Kindle and also provides stock images for bloggers and others at Alamy.com and Lightstock.com.

Tuesday Blog Roundup: Catching up on my blog and the blogs of others

It’s that time of the week when I like to catch up on some other blogs I’ve been reading and share what you might have missed on my blog in the last week or so. I also love for you to share any good blog posts you’ve read or written as well so please be sure to do that in the comment section.

First, some favorite posts from other bloggers from this past week (or so);

Christmas Tree Tea from Mama’s Empty Nest where she writes about her “hodgepodge” Christmas tree and how it brings up many memories from her past, but especially the time she held Christmas teas after she retired from volunteering with the local PTA groups.

Brenda from Becoming His Tapestry had a timely post just this morning. 10 Ways to Destress This Christmas. My goodness, could I relate. Not because we are busy in this family with Christmas parties or extreme decorating (no one invites us to parties and we barely decorate). I related when she talked about avoiding going into debt during Christmas because God never intended us to celebrate the birth of his son by going into debt. Preach it, Brenda!

Our Little Red House always has some awesome craft ideas and she’s doing 12 days of Christmas crafts for, well, Christmas. This one interested me because it uses old toilet paper rolls and anything that uses up toilet paper rolls interests me. There are only four of us in this house but we seem to fly through toilet paper sometimes.

Mama Duck had a sweet post about “One of the Best Christmas Gifts I Ever Received.”You’ll have to check out the post to see what it is.

I enjoyed this post by Jenni at Housewife Hustle about sleeping goals for her children.I could relate to this one since I’ve had sleep time challenges with both of my children, especially the youngest since she doesn’t yet have her own bedroom. (That will change when we move.)

Dawn raised a concern about blogging that I also have on her blog Every Small Voice in a post entitled Blogging Popularity.

PMeyers writes about Navigating Christmas Without Momon her blog Mind Heart Matters. She lost her mom to a brain tumor this year and she has been writing candidly about that horrific journey in such an uplifting and encouraging way (the way her family handled this situation was amazing, but I wish they hadn’t had to).  Get out the tissues for this one, but please know there is some joy here too and if you are so inclined, leave the blogger an encouraging message.

As for my blog this last week, I was as eclectic as always in my topics.

On Saturday of last week I blogged about how to Tune out the ‘Negative Nellies’in our lives.

On Sunday I continued with the new weekly Sunday Bookends post where I talk about what I’m watching, reading or doing for the week. I used to hook up to a book blogger for this post, but I’m not really a book blogger so I’m just doing my own thing now (although still reading the book blogger posts).

Later in the week, I rambled about theChristmas romance movie binge I’ve been on. Read this weekend about how that binge ended.

On Friday of last week, I shared Chapters 6 and 7 of A New Beginning, my continuing serial fiction that I post on “Fiction Friday” (incidentally, Friday is my worst blog traffic day, but I like the alliteration of Fiction Friday so much, I don’t have the heart to change the posting day.)

Then Sunday I posted another Sunday Bookends, where I talked about Dick VanDyke and my lack of reading lately.

So how about you? Any favorite blog posts of your own or others you’d like to share? Please feel free to share the links in the comments!


Lisa R. Howeler is a writer and photographer from the “boondocks” who writes a little bit about a lot of things on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She’s published a fiction novel ‘A Story to Tell’ on Kindle and also provides stock images for bloggers and others at Alamy.com and Lightstock.com.

 

 

When people support you even when you feel like you stink

I put a notice on my blog Facebook page yesterday that I had some paperback copies of my book because a couple of people I know had asked about them. I wasn’t thinking about it as an advertising opportunity, I simply wanted to find a way to let those people know I had a few copies.

More people asked for books than I had so I had to order some more, but that’s not the point of today’s post. Today’s post I thought I would talk about how hard it is for me to put myself out there. I don’t like to be seen. I like to hide. I don’t like to share. I like to keep it all to myself. I don’t want to be famous and pray every day I never am. I never feel what I have to offer is as good as what someone else has to offer. In other words, I’m human.

A Story to Tell, my first attempt at a novel, isn’t a masterpiece. I actually wish I had taken a little more time to work on it before I put it out, but I wanted to throw it out on Kindle by my birthday to simply say I accomplished a goal. Because my self-esteem swirls around a toilet bowl half the time, I handed my books out today with apologies for it not being the best it can be. Yes, I apologized for them buying my book. I know. I’m such a weirdo.

I told my brother people were probably buying my book because they felt sorry for me. Isn’t that awful? It may be true, or it may be true that they don’t expect the book to be good, or blow them away, but they are simply trying to support me. Apparently, the idea of people supporting me is a foreign concept, but it shouldn’t be since people have done so in the past. The last couple of years have been a little lonely, yes, but people have still supported me and that’s what was happening with requests for copies of my book.

I told myself today, ‘They are buying it to support you and even if the book stinks, at least they said: “Hey, you tried and we’re recognizing that.””

Maybe it isn’t that some of my friends see something great in what I wrote but maybe it is that they see potential and they want to support it.

Now if only I could see my own potential. If only we could all see our own potential.

So often others see potential in us that we don’t see.

So often God sees potential in us that we don’t see.

We see rejection.

We see failure.

We see fell short.

We see we should be further.

We see not enough.

But God sees: “I’m trying.”

God sees: “I put myself out there.”

God sees: “I obeyed and displayed the gifts God gave me and each time I do it, I pray he helps me to get better.”

God sees us as enough.

God sees as we are right where we need to be.

God sees what will be even when we see only what isn’t.

 

When you are in the darkness keep your mouth shut.

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Here is some advice I could have used before I rambled too much on my blog about this period of loneliness I’ve been in.

At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God’s hand until we learn to hear Him…Watch where God puts you into darkness, and when you are there keep your mouth shut. Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? Then remain quiet…When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light. — Oswald Chambers

My favorite line of this quote, which I first saw in the Jan Karon book I’m currently reading, is “Watch where God puts you into darkness and when you are there keep your mouth shut.”

Keep your mouth shut.

Ouch.

That one hurt because I know I haven’t done it.

I certainly plan to read this quote over a few hundred times and chew on it for a bit. It was very timely for me and interesting because I almost didn’t read from that book due to being too tired.

If you feel so moved, tell me what you think of this quote. Does it fit where you are now or where you once were? Let me know in the comments.

 

Just because you battle depression, doesn’t mean you are a bad mom

The mother in an online support group for moms with anxiety and depression asked all us faceless mothers on the other side of the screen: “Why can’t I get it together?”

She asked because she felt alone

Many of us let her know she was not alone, we were right there with her.

We all had felt less than. We all had felt not enough.

We all had wondered why we couldn’t seem to “get it together.”

We moms look for anything that proves we are a bad mother. We do it without even realizing we are. We may not say it, but we think it, dwell on it, speak it over ourselves.

At night, in the dark, we whisper lies to our soul.

“I’m a horrible mother.”

“What was God thinking making me their mother?”

All moms overthink motherhood at some point in their journey.

We overthink about what others think we should be doing.

We overthink about an article that listed what shouldn’t be doing and mentally check off those things we have done.

We overthink mistakes we think will ruin our children.

We overthink and overthink until our thoughts spin so far out we can’t remember where they started.

“Did I hug him enough today?”

“Did I play with her enough today?”

“Was I too easy on him when he made that mistake?”

“Should I have told her she couldn’t play that long on the phone today?”

“Is that stomachache something worse?”

And when you throw in depression? The overthinking happens even more. Thoughts spin even more, spiral us down into dispair and the inability to move forward.

Depression clouds thoughts. It stifles truth.

It tells us we are bad mothers because we deal with depression.

The reality is, all moms are flying by the seat of their pants. We trust our motherly instincts and doubt them at the same time. We are a mess of contradictions.

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_DSC5801.jpgAll moms struggle. All moms wonder why we don’t have “it” together, why we can’t just GET it together.

So often I wonder, ‘what does it mean to “get it together” anyhow?’ What are we getting together? Whose standards do we think we need to meet before we have it “all together?” Does anyone really have it, whatever it is, together?

I don’t know any human being who is perfect. They may look perfect, but we know they’re not because we’re not.

Maybe one mom doesn’t have anxiety or depression, but she has a physical limitation.

Maybe one mom looks beautiful on the outside but inside she holds on to ugly secrets.

Maybe one mom feels like slowing down and letting go of looking perfect will show she is unworthy of what she thinks she has to earn.

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Anxiety strangles me most days.

Depression whispers in my ear that I’m never going to be worth anything and I’m never going to be a good mother, writer, photographer, friend, wife, child of God.

Those are the moments I have to fight, even when I’m too tired to fight. I have to learn to expect that all things will work together for His good and His glory – even anxiety and depression.

Sometimes anxiety slows me down. Sometimes slowing down is a gift.

Sometimes slowing down makes me focus on what I have.

Sometimes slowing down reminds me what others may, or may not, be thinking about me doesn’t even matter.

Depression doesn’t make you weak.

Depression doesn’t make you wrong.

Depression doesn’t make you unworthy, unloveable.

Depression doesn’t make you a bad person.

Battling depression and anxiety doesn’t make you a bad mother.

The battle will make you stronger even when you feel weaker.

 

 

 

 

Because she would want us to

My aunt Dianne was sitting in her recliner bundled up in a thick sweater pulled over her plaid button-up shirt she’d been wearing almost every day for two months with a thick, fluffy blanket across her legs. A knitted shawl with a hood was draped around her head and shoulders.

She looked – as she might say herself – like a tick about to burst.

“Lisa, is that heat on?” she asked and when I assured her it was she shivered. “Well, good gravy, I don’t think it’s working.”

On the TV Ree Drummond was pouring half a quart of whipping cream into a bowl of potatoes and telling viewers “Now, don’t judge me, or judge me if you want, but I just think these mashed potatoes are so much better with all this whipping cream.” Then she smiled at the camera.

“I can’t believe she’s not 300 pounds,” I said.

“All that cream is a little overboard isn’t it?” Dianne asked, rhetorically.

We both knew it was overboard.

We laughed a little and shook our heads.

We watched The Pioneer Woman whip up the potatoes and set them aside.

“Now it’s time for my famous chicken fried steak, which cowboys just love,” Ree said and smiled at the camera again, dimples showing.

I rolled my eyes.

“How hasn’t anyone in that family had a heart attack?” I wondered out loud, the irony not lost on me since my aunt had had at least two heart attacks already. I hoped she didn’t take my comment as a personal jab at her.

“Well…..” Dianne said and shrugged a little, leaving the rest of her response to be guessed.

The Pioneer Woman drives me nuts with her fattening recipes but her chipper personality and knowing I can modify the recipes for a healthier option make looking away hard to do.

Next to me the Christmas tree was bright with lights and ornaments. Out the window Dad’s star was shining bright against the dreary winter clouds at the edge of the field and woods.

 

Before long my aunt was asleep in her chair, chin into her chest. She’d been falling asleep a lot like that lately, sometimes almost in mid-sentence, and I knew her health was getting worse. So that day we enjoyed her when she was awake and tried not to think about how much longer we might have her with us.

A couple weeks before she’d been messaging me, asking me for gift suggestions for my son and daughter and I knew she was anxious to spoil them and see them smile as they opened their gifts. She was planning how to make sausage balls, a Southern tradition, without “poisoning me”, knowing I was allergic to corn and had also gone gluten-free. I told her not to worry about me and simply make the treats for the rest of the family. I offered to make some as well so she wouldn’t have to do all the work. We messaged back and forth and then I accidentally bumped the video chat button in messenger. The button is annoying and most days I hate it because I rarely want to video chat with anyone, especially via Facebook. I missed her call but she tried to call me through the ap and her voice was recorded. It was only for 17 seconds,  enough for me to hear her voice call my name, thinking I’d picked up. I didn’t discover it for a couple months, when she was already gone.

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Sometimes, when I’m missing Dianne the most, I scroll back to the recording and listen to her call my name. Of course, I always cry. When I first discovered the recording I hit the play button without thinking. Her voice could be heard throughout our house and my son’s head lifted quickly. He looked at me in confusion and then we burst into tears.

My mom said many days Dianne could barely make it from the bathroom to her chair without needing to sit down and catch her breath but she sat the kitchen table for hours and made the sausage balls, kneading the meat and flour and cheese together and rolling them to put in the oven to be cooked.

“She just seemed so delighted she could do that,” Mom remembered. She grew quiet and I saw tears in her eyes. “Well, anyhow…” her voice trailed off and I knew she was trying to stay happy and not bring the mood of the day down.

On my phone is a video of my aunt opening a gift from her grand-nephew, my son. She could barely catch her breath, but she seemed excited and hugged him and told her how much she loved the gift.

Four days later my husband’s phone rang and I heard him from upstairs.

“No! Oh no!” I heard emotion heavy in his voice.

He came downstairs and held the phone against his chest.

“It’s your mom,” he said.

I didn’t want to take the phone but I did.

“Dianne died,” Mom said in a voice mixed with sadness and shock.

She’d called my husband first to make sure someone was with me when I was told, just as she had when my grandmother had died 15 years before.

Though I knew it was coming my head still spun when she said it and I had to sit in the floor because my legs didn’t seem to want to hold me.

I sat in my parents living room the other day.

The chair was empty.

The Southern accent couldn’t be heard.

I couldn’t kiss her soft cheek or try to squirm away when she blew “zerberts” (messy, slobbery kisses) against my cheek.

I couldn’t feel her arms around me or hear her laugh when one of the kids said something funny.

Somehow it feels a lot less like Christmas this year with her gone.

Still, I know she would scold us for dreading gathering without her.

So we’ve promised each other to cook the sausage balls, decorate the tree, wrap the gifts and to cook the collard greens I forgot to get her last year, even though she asked.

We will drink hot cocoa while we watch her favorite Christmas movies: “It’s A Wonderful Life” and the black and white version of “A Christmas Carol.”

We will share the funny stories and laugh as we remember her.

We will, somehow, find the joy in the midst of sadness and enjoy those who are still with us because that is exactly what she would have wanted us to do.

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Quieting the creative voices of others so you can hear your own

I fell into one of those Youtube spirals the other night (like one does) and I caught an interview from last year with Ellen and Bradley Cooper. Ellen asks Bradley if he is on social media at all, although she admits she already knows he isn’t. When he says “No, I’m not.” she feigns shock and says “Oh my gosh. What do you even do with yourself?”
He laughs, shrugs and mumbles something about being able to waste a lot of time on the internet without social media. But really, a better answer, since he was there to talk about a movie he was filming, would have been, “I create.”
“A Star is Born” comes out this week and Bradley both stars in it and directed it. If he had been sitting around wasting his life on social media, getting distracted by the drama and ridiculousness that can be found on it, he might never have made the movie or made the music for it along with Lady Gaga and Luke Nelson.
Lady-Gaga-and-Bradley-Cooper-in-A-Star-is-Born-2018-670x335Imagine all the books and paintings and songs we would never have heard if social media had existed earlier than it had. Yes, there are good things about social media for a creative. We can share our creations and our art to a wider audience and immediately. But what we lose in that immediate interaction is taking the time to really develop and plan our craft before we throw it to the world. What we lose is the time to actually create because we are distracted by looking at either the work of others or the drama of others.
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We are squelching our inner voice because we can’t hear it over the shouts and creations of others. We are comparing and contrasting and then going back to our creative work, thinking we can’t create as well as the others we’ve seen. Or maybe we think can do the same, but end up disappointing because we never give ourselves time to really develop the skills we need to create, as well as, or better than, those we admire.
Bradley Cooper worked with a voice coach, musicians and others for almost a year and a half,l before creating what many are calling a masterpiece. He had a vision and he put the work in to complete and present that vision.
If he had wasted his time on the distraction that comes with social media, he may have never reached his goal of creating something he is extremely proud of.
Though I don’t know what Bradley Cooper’s personal reasons for not being on social media are I do think abstaining from it strengthens his creative voice. It’s something other creative people, or anyone with a goal they want to reach, should try as well.

The day God told me I needed to create a war room

One day last month God told me (in so many ways and with various hints) that I needed to go to my war room and pray about all that has been leaving me stressed and tied up in knots inside. The problem was, I didn’t have a war room. I’d never established one.

For anyone asking, “what in the world is a ‘war room’?”, in modern Christian terms a war room is a small, quiet place without distractions, reserved to meet with God about specific issues you are facing in your life.

In all honesty, God has been laying this whole “war room” idea on my heart for months, after I watched the movie War Room, but I’ve been ignoring the prodding because this Mom can’t even use the bathroom alone most nights, let alone lock myself in a closet to pray.

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Yet there I was one day, anxious about so many things and scrolling through Instagram, when I should have been praying, and two posts hit me full in the face. They were both written by women who were also struggling with anxiety. One wrote about withdrawing into her war room during the difficult times.

A half an hour later, this time while I was avoiding life by wasting time on Facebook, the word was in front of me again in a post by blogger, Roslind Jukic. 

“When you find yourself soul-weary, the first place you need to go is to your war room,” Roslind wrote. “And here’s why: Satan will take advantage of your weariness. He will whisper lies to your heart. He has already been creating a strategy for your demise. He wants to use your weariness for his purpose, to steal your joy, to rob you of your purpose, and to destroy your testimony. When you are weary, you need to get in your war room and begin developing a strategy against the enemy….a war plan for victory!”

So I made a war room in my bedroom closet. I cleaned it out (tossed clothes and stuffed animals to one side), taped a piece of paper with some pressing issues written on it on the wall and sat in there to pray.

My 11-year old son, who I had practically forced to watch War Room with me one day, found me there and looked bewildered for a moment but then had a moment of realization and said “You’re making a war room aren’t you?” And then he crawled inside with me and I held him for a few moments before he left to make sure his sister wasn’t pulling knives out of drawers to cut open her yogurt tubes.

I came out of my bedroom closet ten minutes later having difficulty breathing because of all the dust in there, but I did it! I had established a war room.

“We pray because our own solutions don’t work and because prayer deploys, activates, and fortifies us against the attacks of the enemy. We pray because we’re serious about taking back the ground he has sought to take from us.”
― Priscilla Shirer

Now I just have to be more consistent about going in it and actually praying about issues facing our family instead of worrying about them.

Do you have your own war room? Or have you thought about creating one? If you have one, how has it helped you and how do you keep yourself consistent in entering it during the tough and stressful moments of life?