A little extra fiction – The Farmer’s Daughter

I thought I’d share some extra fiction today,  beyond the story I’ve been working on with “A Story to Tell,” even though it isn’t Fiction Friday. This is the beginning of another novel in process, The Farmer’s Daughter. This is the story of Molly Tanner, who thought that by now she’d be living away from her family with a career of her own, but instead is still living on her parent’s dairy farm in rural Pennsylvania. Now 26 she begins to wonder what the future will hold for a girl whose whole life has been working on her family farm and selling produce at her family’s farm store.


“Okay, cow.”

Molly Tanner spoke through gritted teeth. “You want a fight? You’ve got one.”

She grabbed the harness of the usually docile Jersey, jerking hard to pull the cow forward. The cow stretched her neck, looking bored while she chewed her cud, ignoring Molly’s efforts to lead her the 100 yards from the pasture to the barn, her feet firmly planted in the mud.

Molly pulled harder and gasped as the rope slipped out of her hands and she fell backward into the mud and manure.

Up at the barn Molly’s brother, Jason, and the hired hand, Alex Stone, were watching her. Her brother was holding a bucket of feed for the pigs and Alex was leaning against the doorframe of the barn door, chewing on a piece of sweet grass.

“What do you think she’s doing down there?” Alex asked, arms folded across his chest.

“Looks like she’s arguing with Lilly-belle again,” Jason said.

“Should we help her?” Alex asked.

“Probably,” Jason said.

Neither man moved to help. Instead, Jason poured the grain mixture into the feeding bin in the pig’s pen and Alex tossed the chewed grass at the ground and hooked his thumbs in his belt loops, still watching Molly.

Sitting there on her butt in cow poop, rain falling on her, Molly thought how this moment represented where her life had ended up since she’d graduated high school eight years ago.

She was still living on her parents’ farm in rural Pennsylvania, still sleeping in her old room, her mom still cooking her meals and washing her clothes. Molly thought by now she’d be out on her own, with her own career, her own life. As it was, she didn’t even know what career she’d have outside of farming. Working on a farm was all she’d ever known and all she’d ever wanted – at least until recently when she’d started to wonder what else the world might offer a 26-year old with no degree and little knowledge of the world other than how to milk a cow and sell produce at her parent’s small farm store.

“Listen here, girl, it’s time to get in that barn,” Molly said, pushing herself off the ground, lecturing Lily-belle. “I’m tired. It’s been a long day of milking and cleaning out all that poop you and your friends make. And I’m not done yet. I still have to help Mom bake cakes for the church rummage sale next week. You know how much I hate that bake sale, so come on, give me a break, okay?”

Molly looked into the deep brown eyes of the cow and realized how pathetic she must look standing shin-deep in mud, covered in cow manure, talking to a cow as if the cow could understand her. Her life really was swirling down the proverbial toilet.

“Good grief, she’s a mess,” Jason said from the barn, shaking his head. “You’d better go rescue her.”

“Hey!” Alex shouted. “What’s going on down there? We’re ready to start the milking!”

Alex’s voice booming across the cow pasture brought a curse word to Molly’s lips, which she immediately felt guilty about.

“If you’re so impatient then you get this stubborn cow moving!” she shouted, tugging hard at the harness again.

Molly heard the sound of boots thumping heavy in the mud behind her and watched in disbelief as Alex reached over her shoulder, took the harness from her hands and Lily-belle moved forward with him.

“Are you kidding me?!” Molly shouted. “I’ve been trying to get her to move for 20 minutes!  What did you do differently?”

Alex looked over his shoulder and smirked as the cow followed him

“I guess the ladies just like me.”

“You wish,” Molly grumbled loud enough for him to hear.

“Molly, why don’t you just head in and get cleaned off,” Robert Tanner said to his daughter as she stumbled through the barn doorway. “You can start helping your mom with those cakes. Alex, Jason and I can finish up the milking.”

“I’ll take you up on that offer,” Molly said. “Maybe I can even manage a shower before bed for once.”

“That would definitely be a good thing,” Jason said with a look of disgust. “You smell like the pigs.”

Molly shot a glare at her brother and turned to walk back toward the house.

“And you smell like the gas that comes out of their behinds!” she shouted over her shoulder.

“Always have to have the last word, don’t you?” Jason shouted back.
“Yes!”

“Whatever!”

“Whatever back at you!”

“Okay, that’s enough,” Robert said. “I’ll have the last word.”

Molly watched the sun slipping behind the hills that hugged the Tanner’s 250-acre farm as she walked. The sunset, a mix of orange with a streak of pink, made the fields of the farm look almost mystical. She knew she’d never get sick of this view, of these sunsets at the end of a long day. She walked into the chicken coop to look for eggs she knew her mom would need for the cakes.

The last few years had definitely been a challenge for the Tanner family. They had watched their once strong patriarch, Robert’s father, Ned, fade away, trapped in a mind riddled with dementia. Around the same time Ned’s dementia had progressed, the family farm had plunged toward bankruptcy, as two years of heavy rain and flooding killed the corn and hay crops, leaving the family with little feed for their cattle.

Robert and his brother Walt’s decision to increase the farm’s organic produce inventory had helped save the business, but only barely. Now the family joined other farmers in the area in another crisis – a surplus of milk and decline in demand.

“I swear, if one more person tells me they drink almond milk I’ll scream,” Jason said one day, climbing down from the tractor and slamming the door closed. “It’s not milk. You can’t milk an almond. Milk comes from mammals. It’s false advertising. They should call it almond juice. Plus, who knows what’s in that stuff – it isn’t only almonds, that’s for sure.”

Walking back toward the house, trying to wipe dirt from her face, but instead only wiping more onto it, Molly paused again to look out the fields of the farm. The green of the corn was starting to peek up from the soil and soon they’d be harvesting it, if the rain would ever stop. It would be the third year of harvesting without her grandfather, the first since he’d passed away from heart failure at the end of last summer.

“Are you going to stand there all day or are you going to bring those eggs into the house?”

Her mom’s voice and laughter startled her and she turned away from the sunset.

“Sorry,” Molly said. “I was just admiring the sunset.”

“I know it’s beautiful,” Annie Tanner said. “But I need to get those cakes started. A sunset will wait. Mavis Porter won’t.”

Annie looked at her daughter and sniffed. “What were you doing out there? Rolling in the manure? Head upstairs and get a shower before we start on these cakes.”

Molly inwardly cringed at the mention of Mavis, the woman who had overseen the Spencer Valley Methodist Church rummage sale for 20-years straight. Mavis had a knack for making anyone feel less than, her thin face pursed into a permanent look of disapproval. Molly hoped she wouldn’t be roped into manning the baked goods table again this year. Mavis seemed to think it was ironic to have the fat girl guarding the cakes and cookies at the annual rummage sale.

“I can’t believe there are any cakes left,” a middle school-aged boy said one year, looking Molly up and down from across the church basement while his friends laughed.

“There were probably even more before she came in,” another boy said, as they all snickered.

She pretended she didn’t hear them as she counted the change in the money box.

Molly wasn’t proud of the weight she’d gained over the years, but no matter what she did she couldn’t seem to get back down to her high school weight of 118. She missed when she was in junior high school, thin and limber and not the butt of little boy’s jokes.

With long brown hair that curled when wet and plenty of curves, she possessed a clearly feminine shape. She was not what some might call grotesquely obese. Still, she wasn’t happy with the extra cushion to her belly, backside, and thighs she’d developed in high school. She wished she’d never heard the term “saddlebags” beyond what was hooked to the actual saddle of a horse. Drying off in front of the bathroom mirror she kept her eyes downcast, hoping to avoid a full view of what her body had become over the years.

Three cakes were baked and cooling on the dining room table when Molly heard her father’s truck pulling into the driveway of the house.

Her father’s red Ford needed to be replaced. The old truck was Robert Tanner’s pride and joy and a gift from his father when Robert had taken over the farm. Annie kept urging him to invest in a new one, but each time she did he responded with: “It gets me where I need to go and when it won’t no more then I’ll get a new one.”

Molly watched as her dad climbed out of the driver side, more gingerly than he had even a year ago. He’d been up since 4 a.m. to oversee the milking of the cows, the shoveling of the manure, the preparations to mow the field and she knew the last few years had been as physically rough on her dad as it had been emotionally.

Alex slid out of the passenger side easily and walked toward the house. He wore the same style of faded blue jeans and brown work boots he did every day. A white t-shirt was dirt-stained under a blue button-up, shirt sleeve plaid shirt. Molly couldn’t deny Alex’s rugged good looks quickened her pulse at times, but he was six years older than her, obnoxious and preferred the bar when she preferred solitude with her journal.

“Are you coming to dinner tonight, Alex?” Annie asked from the doorway.

“I don’t like to intrude and I smell like – ..”

Annie interrupted before he could finish.

“Jason is visiting Elsie tonight so there is already an extra place at the table for you,” she said. “Wash up and head on in. I’m dipping it up now.”

“Good day in the fields?” Molly asked after the prayers had been said and the food was on the plates.

“The John Deere finally broke down,” Robert said, breaking a piece off a chicken breast.

“Will John come and look at it?” Annie asked.

Alex and I can take care of it in the morning after milking,” Robert said nodding toward Alex. “It will make a late start, but I hate to spend the money if I know we can fix it here.”

Alex grinned. “Robert forgets I’m not good with the tractors, just the trucks,” he said. “But I’ll see what I can do.”

“I have faith in both of you,” Annie said with a smile.

Quiet settled over the dining room. The clanking of forks against plates was soon the only sound. Molly felt the tension in the air like someone wanted to say something but didn’t know how to. Her dad cleared his throat and she felt apprehension curl in her stomach.

“We got a letter from the co-op today,” he said.

“How bad are the numbers?” Annie asked and spooned more potatoes on Alex’s plate.

“Worse I’ve seen in five years,” Robert was somber. “It’s going to hurt a lot of farmers. Even with the organic market, I think it may even hurt us. There were also more farms that went out of business this year.”

Molly felt sick at the thought of even more of their friends being forced to sell their farms. She had attended too many auctions last year, hugged too many farmers wives, watched too many farm families weep as their lives were sold to the highest bidder.

“I don’t understand how the buyers can keep getting away with his,” Annie said, shaking her head. “It’s like the harder we all work, the more we get punished. We make the milk, they raise the prices and barely pass anything on to us.”

Molly pushed her potatoes around her plate as silence settled over the small group.

“We just have to give this over to God,” Robert said softly. “It’s all I know how to do anymore. Keep plugging ahead somehow and pray God shows us which direction to take. We’ve got the store, we are offering organic meats and products, something many people seem interested in now. It’s all we can do.”

The family and Alex nodded but they all felt the dread and the worry, like a sojourner without a compass.

Robert Tanner had been working on his family’s farm for more than 50 years and in the last 10 years, the farm had expanded to include farmland once owned by neighbors who had sold family businesses after the decline in milk prices had devastated them financially. Robert and his father Ned had offered area farmer’s a fair price and in some cases had even given them jobs in Tanner Enterprises. The farmers were able to keep their homes and remain in the area, if they wanted to, with the Tanners taking over their planting, harvesting, and milking.

Robert was proud of how he and his brother Walter had been able to grow the family business his grandfather had started almost 100 years ago, but he was also tired. It hadn’t been easy to keep a small farm, let alone a big one, operating in the black and it was getting harder each year. Diversifying what the farm produced and adding a farm store had increased profits enough to keep food on his, and his employees’, tables, but there were some days Robert wondered when the other shoe was going to drop and his dream of being a farmer would die.

___

Looking for other fiction? Catch up on my novel in progress: ‘A Story to Tell’ Here.

I’m also working on a Biblical novella, which you can find excerpts of here or at the link above under Fully Alive

I finally decided I’m going to self publish a book. Then I threw up.

Life is short, right? So why do we hold ourselves back from doing what we want? I decided over a year ago I wasn’t going to let fear and doubt hold me back but then I let fear and doubt hold me back anyhow.

Last week I decided I’m going to write a book, or maybe more than one, and self-publish it on Amazon or somewhere similar this year. Why not, right? The worst thing that can happen is no one buys it or reads it. Not many read what I write now so it won’t be any different and at least I can say I accomplished something I set my mind to. And please understand, I’m not complaining that not many people read what I write. I like that I don’t have tons of readers. When you have tons of readers you have tons of people ready to complain. As it stands now I receive very few complaints and if I do they’re from family, who I tend to ignore anyhow, so that’s no big deal. (I’m kidding about the family comment, family, so don’t complain – again.)

I have already been sharing the one book I plan to publish, but, of course, I have a lot of rewriting and updating to do with it – not too mention a lot of editing for typos and misspelled words. I’m only sharing it now for fun because I truly don’t have enough fun in my life. I’m boring, sick a lot, and have no friends. Seeing that last sentence in writing makes me realize I also forgot to mention I’m depressed. Seeing that last sentence about depression in writing makes me realize how I talk about depression too much and should also add that even though I deal with depression, I do have a sense of humor and this sentence is part of that weird sense of humor.

The story I am working on now isn’t the only story I want to tell. I have ideas for three other stories or books at this point and I’m excited to see where they lead me.

So how about you – have you ever published a book? Or a short story? Or a dissertation or a recipe or a  . . . okay, I’ll stop now.

If you haven’t published your writing – why not? What’s stopping you?

Maybe it’s fear like me – fear that it will suck, fear that everyone will hate it, fear that no one will read it and fear that someone will.

Share your experiences with me in the comments. I’m curious – truly – this isn’t a ploy to encourage comments on my blog. Not this time at least.

 

 

My characters wake me up at night to write their stories

My characters wake me up at night to write their stories. I know. I sound crazy. I’m sure you’re wondering if I hear other voices in my head too. Sometimes, but that’s another post for another time. Seriously, though, I’ve heard other writers – you know, real ones – say their characters tell their own stories and I quite frankly, thought those writers might be a bit nuts. But then it happened to me.

Not quite like it did for the main character of a movie I watched this past week but almost. Karen Gillan in Not Another Happy Ending actually sees her protagonist and has conversations with her, which I don’t, yet, but still, I find scenes for my books flowing through my brain at the oddest times of the day and I have to stop what I’m doing and go write it down before I forget (that reminds me, sorry, husband, for dropping that couch on your toe the other day. I’m kidding. This didn’t happen. It was a table.).

Writing fiction is fun and a wonderful creative release but it is also flat out exhausting. I’m up late at night after the kids are asleep and sometimes early the next morning to write my thoughts down. And then one night this week I woke up in the middle of the night to write something down and it was like my character woke me up and whispered: “I want some happiness. Write me some happiness.”

So I did and I paid for it the next day when I sat in a half-asleep stupor while the kids asked me for lunch and popsicles and to play with them and “look at this funny meme I found!”

In one of the ending scenes of No More Happy Endings, Gillan’s character says: “You write because it gnaws away at your insides if you don’t.”

That’s how it has felt the last few months and probably even years for me. I would guess these stories have been in me for years but I’ve ignored them to do things I thought would bring me money to help support our family – working for newspapers, freelance writing, photography.

I don’t think what I’m writing now will bring me money or fame (which I don’t want at all!) but it seems to be bringing me something much more important – the satisfaction of voices finally heard and listened to, stories finally being told.

Fiction Friday: A Story To Tell Chapter Five

Welcome to Fiction Friday, where I share a piece of fiction I’m working on.  Right now I’m in the middle of sharing a story I’m developing into a novel.
IF you haven’t been following along, or need to remind yourself of the previous parts of the story, I’ve provided links to the other parts below:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Don’t want to click from chapter to chapter? Find the book in full on Kindle HERE. 


 

Lisa R. Howeler

I loved the smell of books. I loved the feel of them in my hands. My favorite place to be, if I wasn’t in my room reading, was in the library, curled up against a bookcase in the fiction section. I fell into new and mysterious worlds when I was reading. My boring life faded away into someone else’s adventure. I spent so many days wishing the boring away.

Edith didn’t like to read. She found her excitement in the real world. We were the complete opposite for so many years. She liked her dark hair to be curled and each curl to be in its place. She liked her clothes to be the latest in fashion and to hug her curves, but not too close, so there was at least a little left to the imagination of the boys who watched her when she walked by.

She was confident and frequently had a smart or a flirty remark on the tip of her tongue.

I was the quiet, sometimes painfully shy younger sister she and her friends didn’t know how to talk to. I give Edith credit, though – she tried her best to pull me forward in life, encouraging, or rather nagging, me to experience more than a simple story in a book.

“Daddy, can Blanche and I go to the matinee while you finish your paperwork at the office?” Edith looked at Daddy and batted her eyes, chin on her folded hands.

Daddy didn’t always fall for Edith’s little eye flutters but on this particular day he must have decided she looked a lot like the little girl he used to bounce on his knee because he agreed.

“I’ll drop you off at 2 and you’d better be out front when the movie ends,” Daddy said.

Edith and I agreed.

“And what’s playing anyhow?” He asked.

“‘The Harder They Fall,’ with Humphrey Bogart,” Edith told him.

Daddy was a big fan of Humphrey Bogart. Edith knew he’d have a hard time saying ‘no’ to letting us see Boggie.

“I like that Humphrey Bogart,” Daddy said from behind his newspaper. “He’s a man’s man.”

And he was a man’s man that day on the big screen too. I couldn’t take my eyes off him but Edith’s eyes were on Jimmy Sickler a row over from us, sitting with Annie Welles. I couldn’t read the expression on Edith’s face. It seemed to switch back and forth between angry and hurt.

“I loved it. What did you think?” I asked Edith at the end as we filed to the front of the theater to wait for Daddy.

Edith shrugged.

“It was okay, I guess.”

I knew she’d missed half of it watching Jimmy and Annie.

“Hey, Edith.”

Jimmy’s voice made my sister look up sharply and I saw fire in her eyes. I only liked drama in my books and wished I wasn’t standing between them. Edith’s gaze trailed to Annie standing next to Jimmy, patting her hair into place. Her tense expression quickly softened and she smiled.

“Well, hello, James,” she said sweetly. “Did you two enjoy the movie?”

“We did,” Jimmy said. “Thanks for asking. You’re looking nice this afternoon.”

He turned his attention to me. “Hey there, Blanche. Some sister time, huh?”

His smile was sweet. I always thought Jimmy was one of the most polite boys Edith went out with. His brown hair was always combed neatly to one side and his bright blue eyes were captivating.

I nodded and smiled.

“Did you like the movie?”

“I did. I like Humphrey Bogart a lot.”

I knew I had no idea how to talk to boys and looked at the sidewalk to avoid Jimmy’s gaze, hoping he wouldn’t ask me anymore questions.

I could see Daddy’s Oldsmobile coming down the street toward the theater.

“You two have a good day,” Edith winked at Jimmy and her voice was even sweeter than before, almost too sweet, like sugar on top of a sugar cookie.

She leaned close to Jimmy, hand on his shoulder, mouth close enough to his ear to graze his skin and whispered. I could see Annie’s face just beyond Jimmy’s left shoulder. Her dark red lipstick made her pursed lips look like a cherry on its’ stem and her eyelids were half closed in a furious glare.

I cringed inwardly at Edith’s embarrassing display.

Jimmy’s cheeks and ears flushed pink and he looked as embarrassed as I felt. Edith’s hand slid down his bare arm as she backed away and then a slight smirk tilted her lips as she glanced at the stewing Annie.

Jimmy reached his arm back to pull Annie close to him, his jaw tight.

“Good to see you ladies,” he said curtly as he stepped past us.

Edith’s smile had faded into a scowl and by the time we slid into the backseat of the car the scowl was fading into obvious hurt.

“Good movie?” Daddy asked.

“Oh yes! You’ll love it,” I told him. “You should take Mama next weekend.”

Daddy and I chatted about the movie while Edith sulked, one leg crossed over the other, her foot bouncing and her arms folded across her chest. She snapped the door open and slammed it closed when we pulled up to the house, stomping up the front steps.

Daddy raised his eyebrows and looked at me questioningly.

I shrugged.

“Boy troubles,” I said.

Daddy shook his head. His eyebrows furrowed slightly into a scowl

“That girl and those boys.”

Now it was his turn to look sour as he climbed out of the car.

“I don’t know why I even go out with the boys around here,” Edith said when I walked into our room. She tossed her sweater on her bed. “They don’t really like me. They don’t really want to know me or what I think or what I feel.”

She flopped back on the bed, laying on her back and starring at the ceiling.

“What do you mean? All the boys love you,” I said, confused.

“They don’t love me. They love what I give them,” Edith said.

I saw tears in her eyes.

A chill cut through me.

“What do you mean what you give them?” I asked nervously.

Edith blew her nose into her handkerchief and folded her knees up against her chest.

“Edith…you aren’t giving those boys – I mean, you’re not really…” I felt sick to my stomach.

Edith had her head on her knees and wouldn’t look at me.

“Not everything,” she mumbled. “Just enough to keep them coming for more.”

I sat on my bed and didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t sure what “just enough” was and didn’t even want to know what “more” was. Mama said I didn’t need to know what men and women did when they were alone, besides kissing, but I’d heard a lot what “it” was at school, in books, and from Emmy, who had an older brother.

“Why do you need them to like you so much?” I asked softly.

Edith shrugged. “I don’t need them to like me, but I like them to,” she said. “It’s nice to be adored and paid attention to, you know?”

“Mama and Daddy love you and – “

Edith snorted. “Please. Daddy likes you more than me. You’re smarter and do better in school and he knows you’ll do something with your life. I’ll just be a hairdresser.”

I rolled my eyes. “That’s not true. You can be whatever you want to be. Times are different than when Mama was a girl,” I said. “Besides, Mama thinks I’ll just stay home and be a housewife. She doesn’t think I can be anything else.”

Edith wiped the tears off her cheeks with the back of her hand.

“You’re going to be more than a housewife. Don’t you let them tell you what you can be,” she said. “I’m just not good enough to be anything other than someone who cuts hair and files nails and I know that. And by the way, getting attention from your parents is way different than getting it from a cute boy. Someday you’ll understand that.”

I laid on my side on my bed and leaned on my arm.

“Are you and Jimmy even going steady?” I asked.

Edith laid there in silence for a few moments and sighed.

“I don’t know. We’ve never discussed it. But – I guess I thought we were. I guess I didn’t realize how much I liked him until I saw him with that silly Annie Welles. I just thought – I guess I thought if I reminded him what I could give him that Little Miss Prude won’t he’d want to forget about her.”

Edith wiped her hand across her face.

I flopped back on my bed on my back.

We both laid there for a few moments in silence.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a hairdresser,” I said finally. “They make women look pretty and they get to gossip all day.”

Edith laughed softly, sat up, and drew her hands down over her hair to straighten it.

“Well, those are two things I enjoy so maybe it won’t be so bad,” she said and smiled.

I sat up to look at her.

“Maybe Jimmy’s different than the other boys, Edith. Maybe he doesn’t only want one thing.”

Edith rolled her eyes and slid the record player from under her bed.

“All boys want that one thing from girls. Another lesson you’ll learn as you get older.”

She paused as she lifted a box of chocolates off her nightstand.

“Blanche? You know you don’t have to give it to them right?”

“Give them what?” I asked feigning innocence.

“You know what, Blanche. Don’t play games with me. You’ve got more going for you than I do. You don’t have to – well, you know – there’s a lot more reasons for a boy to like you.”

I touched her hand and she looked at me.

“There are a lot more reasons for a boy to like you too, Edith,” I said.

She looked away from me, and smiled a little as she shook her head.

“You’re too nice, Blanche.”

She placed a Frank Sinatra record on the turn table and we ate chocolate and spent the rest of the afternoon talking about boys we thought were cute and the newest fashions she’d read about at her beauty classes.

It took her mind off Jimmy Sickler and Annie Welles and my mind off my sister basing her worth off what a man thought of her.

“I’ll never be like her,” I told myself, not knowing then that we often become who we don’t want to be.

How many directions can a mom stretch before she breaks?

Originally published on Today.com Parent Contributors


The 4-year old wants to have a tea party and a play date, but the oldest needs to have his lessons given to him and lunch needs to be cooked.

The dog just had surgery so she needs extra attention.

The cat is out of food and lets me know.

The oldest is now hungry and is asking for dinner

The husband is home and needs to share about his day and I want to hear about it.

I want to be everything to everyone all at once.

I’m trying to listen to the podcast of a psychologist who is trying to advise me on how to manage a mental crisis and she’s yammering on about a box – some box that you have to place your thoughts in to get through a moment or put people in a box or I don’t even know what the bloody hell she is saying about the box because all I can hear is the emotional blackmail of a 4-year old asking me why I’m not playing with her while I hold a piece of raw chicken and a knife in my hand and am standing by the stove.

Gasp.

Breathe.

“Slow your breathing. Freak out in the love zone.”

The South African accent of the neuroscientist, the psychologist, whatever she is, is supposed to be soothing but all I want to do is fling the knife at her and tell her to freak out in her own love zone, whatever a love zone is.

There are days I simply can’t keep up. It’s all moving so fast but at the same time going nowhere.

I thought I’d be so much further in life by now. But at the same time, I’m shocked with all I have. I am a twisted mess of contradiction.

Some days I am completely contented where I am in life – a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother who rambles on her blog and take photographs of her life.

Other days I mourn what I thought I’d be – a well-known writer or photojournalist traveling the world.

With the hours my husband works, I rarely find guilt-free time to write or take photos. When I’d rather be writing I should be folding laundry, or loading a dishwasher or cooking a meal. When I’d like to go to a park or travel somewhere to use my camera to interpret what I see, I should, instead, be planning my son’s assignments for the week or playing with my preschooler.

It isn’t that my husband makes me feel this way. It isn’t that my children make me feel this way. It isn’t that I resent them for my own feelings. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an extreme feminist hit piece. It’s just where my feelings are some days.

I feel stretched thin, some days.

I feel pulled ten different directions, some days.

I feel splayed apart like a dead frog in a science experiment (if they even do such things anymore), some days. But, I also feel complete, some days.

Complete and whole. Whole in that my family is whole, mostly healthy and held in the hands of an all-seeing, all-knowing, always loving God.  We all get stretched too thin, pulled too much, pressed down and poured out.

I’m stubborn and weak and whiny and I don’t always do what I know I should; let Him pour back in, stretch gently for growth, pull softly in the right directions and press down only for our own good and progress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Tuesday: Just take the photos already

So many people want to be a photographer but are stuck on the idea the photo has to be technically perfect. They want their child to sit just right or the light to hit just so or the moment to be simply perfect and if they can’t do that then forget it – the photo isn’t taken.

Maybe because I like to photograph moments more than poses, and had to focus on them when I worked for newspapers, the lack of perfection in a photo bothers me less than it does some photographers. When I look back at my photos over the years I sometimes mentally scold myself for a technical error, knowing my aperture was set wrong or my ISO could have been raised or lowered, but normally my attention is on the moment captured rather than the technical aspects.

I don’t want to look back at my memories from a special time in my life and pat myself on the back for nailing focus. I want to look back at those photos and remember how I felt, what was happening, who was there. I look at photography in a similar way to art – it’s about how the art makes me feel not how it was made.

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DSC_0290-2DSC_0008A local art teacher recently shared a photo of a painting by a student of his on Facebook. The painting was of a woman singing and I actually scrolled past it but then flung the cursor back up to take a better look at it. As I stared at it for a while I found it left me with a relaxed, easy going feeling, something I needed in the midst of a stressful week. I could hear the smooth jazz music and the velvet tones of the singer’s voice and imagined a cup of hot tea in front of me.

Someone else could have looked at it and said they saw technical errors (I doubt many would have) or that the singer wasn’t as “realistic looking” as some might think it should be, but none of that mattered to me because what was important to me was how the painting made me feel. What if that young painter had given up on her work because she decided, in her own mind, that her work wasn’t good enough? What if she had decided that because something didn’t look technically right, the painting could never touch anyone emotionally? She would have been wrong and if she hadn’t finished the painting she would have robbed me of those few moments of respite I was given that day by looking at the painting.

But because she picked up that paintbrush and painted what she felt, not only what she saw and knew, a soul, my soul was touched.

So pick up that camera.

Pick up that paintbrush.

Pick up that pen.

Put those fingers on the keyboard.

Just paint the painting, take the photos, write the words, create what you feel in your heart, not only what you know in your head.

You may not touch millions or thousands or hundreds or even fifty people but if you even touch one – isn’t that worth it?

For more inspiration to get out and create already check out YouTube entrepreneur and photographer Peter McKinnon talking about the power of an idea.

It's better to create something

To follow my work you can catch me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/lisahoweler or at my photography site at www.lisahowelerphotography.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lisahoweler.

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What Anthony Bourdain taught me

“[When I die], I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted and advantages squandered.”
― Anthony Bourdain

I’m not sure how healthy it is to cry off and on for two days over the death of a person you didn’t even know but this week I have done that.

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Photo from nuvomagazine.com

Cutting myself a little slack, I know some of the emotions from the death of writer and former “chef” Anthony Bourdain stem from the still raw loss of my aunt, and the unsteady feeling I now live with that my world is tilting a bit off kilter. Bourdain was a man who called himself simply a “cook” when others called him a chef and became well known after writing an essay about working in the cooking industry and even more well known from a show on the Travel Network called “No Reservations” and his recent TV foray on CNN called “Parts Unknown.”

I don’t like change. I never have. I’m a creature of habit and like my routines. I don’t like things to be different, no matter if it’s a change in my toothpaste to a change in who is in my life. I don’t mind spontaneous moments or last minute plan changes, within reason, but I don’t like when that change of plan includes the removal of people from my life.

Anthony Bourdain wasn’t really part of my life, yet he was. He was who I listened to when I needed to be reminded the world was bigger than this small town I lived in. He was who I went to when I needed to remember I may have had a cruddy day but there was always great tasting, delicious food available to be cooked and sampled to make it seem a little better.

My family watched reruns of No Reservations on Saturday nights and I cooked while the dishes Tony ate inspired me to try harder to create something worth eating.

When I say Tony reminded me there was food to help my day seem better, I don’t mean it in that unhealthy “using food as a crutch” way. It’s simply that food is good and good tasting food is even better. We are humans and we need to eat and if we are going to eat we might as well eat food that tastes good. Good tasting food doesn’t always mean processed, crap food, either, as Tony showed on his shows.

Yeah, sure he featured scenes of him gorging on some of the most disgusting processed, chemically-laced food you’ve ever seen more than a few hundred times over the years but he also showcased some of the most simple, divine and flavorful dishes on the planet created with some of the most delicious and healthy ingredients known to man.

To be honest, I didn’t see Anthony Bourdain living much beyond his 60s. I always thought he would die from a heart attack induced by some of the garbage he shoved into his pie hole, as he might call it. The thought of a day when he wasn’t around to watch do crazy things and eat even more bizarre things was always unsettling to me so I tried not to think about it. I knew it would come, though, but I thought it would be years from now and from a plane crash, a diving accident, food poisoning, a shark attack, not from his body hanging from the end of a bathrobe belt.

Anthony and I didn’t agree when it came to the spiritual world. He was an outspoken atheist, maybe sometimes an agnostic, and I have always been a Christian. There are lessons he taught with his life that I don’t want to learn from, nor or they lessons I care for my children to heed. By his own admission, he did too many drugs and drank too much (though he had been drug free for many years before he died) and he frequented places I never would have. Still, I learned a lot from Anthony Bourdain, and not just what not to do.

For one, he taught me to live fully and ironically he taught me this one even more so by his death.

Anthony definitely knew how to go out and experience every bit of life he could – traveling to every country you could think of, eating meals and meeting people wherever he went. I don’t experience every bit of life and it’s a change I hope I can make in the future. I want to experience freely and fearlessly, while recognizing the need to shield body and soul from things that could steal the joy of life from me.

Anthony showed me how to taste fully, breathe fully, feel fully, laugh loudly and immerse myself wholeheartedly in life. He did that and I wish I knew what made him forget how amazing that could be.

With all that traveling, much of it without his family, it’s clear that Anthony probably faced some very lonely nights. Lonely nights where he was trapped with his thoughts, fears, regrets.

Maybe he regretted not seeing his daughter more, of leaving two wives, of drinking too much, hurting too many. We don’t yet know what drove him to end his life the way he did but it’s really no surprise the demons he battled with finally overtook him and drowned out the voice of reason and hope and the love he’d always had for life. Some don’t believe in real demons, but I do. I believe in servants of the devil who whisper lies in our ears.

“You’re not good enough.”

“You will never realize your dream.”

“You’re a horrible mother.”

“You are unloveable and indescribably impossible to care about.”

“You’ll never be worthy of love.”

Who knows what lies were whispered in Anthony Bourdain’s ears that night. Whispers that grew to deafening screams that he only knew one way to drown out. I can’t save Anthony Bourdain. I wish I could. Oh, how I wish I could. But maybe we can save someone else. Maybe we can drown out the whispers with words of life. Words of hope. And the word of truth.

For we are all wonderfully made.

We were created out of love by an ultimate creator to be loved and to show love.

And you, and I, were created to life fully alive.

So let’s do that until God decides it’s time for us to live fully with Him.

I don’t know if living life fully is what Anthony Bourdain would have thought his life, and even his death, would have taught someone, but both were worthy lessons for me to learn.

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Are you a blogger, advertiser, or have you been put in charge of advertising at your church or another organization? Maybe you are in need of some faith-focused images for your project, whatever that project is. If so, you can find some great images at Lightstock.com. I’m a photographer contributor and simply a supporter of the site. While I am a contributing photographer I wouldn’t expect you to feel obligated to use my photos from the site because there are some amazing artists who you support when you purchase from Lightstock. *disclaimer: by clicking on the link you are supporting me as an affiliate and I will receive a small payment for that referral. 

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It isn’t the equipment, it’s the photographer

Many of the forums I’ve visited over the years are filled with photographers absolutely obsessed with lenses. They are always looking to upgrade, add one or talk about how great certain lenses are. I get caught up in it too or did. I’ve become less concerned about my perceived need for a bigger, better lens, especially when I read about some of my favorite photographers and their use of only one camera and one lens for all their images. 

When I think about Vivian Maier and how she almost exclusively used a Roliflex for all her images or Alain Laboile who uses a Leica and a 35 mm 1.4 lens, I am reminded it’s not about the equipment we have as photographers but how we use it. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that if we had a certain lens we could take photographs exactly like a photographer we admire., but we should never hope to take images exactly like someone else because we are not them.

We are each unique in how we see the world. While different lenses can help showcase our vision knowing how to use the lenses we have now can strip away that desire to be someone other than ourselves and instead keep us focused on capturing our world as we see it.

 

This post is part of Melissa Firman’s 99 Days of Blogging.