Thursday, April 24, 2008

...Nor Will You See This in Aforementioned News...

...but it’s a lot more fun. :-) Brings to mind my favorite spring poem: Spring has sprung, The grass is riz; I wonder where The flowers is. Plant something wonderful today! Janny

You Won't Hear This in the Mainstream Media...

...and I normally don't indulge much in politics on this blog, but this information was way too good not to pass along... ...and this is definitely too important not to. I've promised myself I wouldn't get into blogging extensively on political stuff; in fact, I am trying not to spend too much time even reading about it. But with all the “happy noise” surrounding the candidates this year, someone has to say something clear once in awhile. American Thinker is the place where this happens. Bookmark it. But don’t stop there. Ask yourself why, if the mainstream media are lying about this story—and yes, they are lying to us by omission in failing to give this the sort of headlines it deserves—why you should continue to trust anything CNN, the New York (Treason) Times, or the like inform you about anything anymore. You may even be moved enough to pick up the phone, e-mail, or write them and ask that question. I hope you do. A little feet-to-the-fire thing would be good for all these “journalists.” While you’re at it, you might want to also ask them when the apologies and retractions are forthcoming for the five-year smear campaign they’ve waged against the President for “starting a war that was one man's idea.” The war may well have been one man's idea...but that man wasn’t Bush. They had the wrong villain. They always have—and many of them have known it all along. Heck, anyone with a viable synaptic connection firing in their brain has known that all along. But people got screamed at enough times with a Big Lie that, apparently, many of them checked their common sense at the TV remote buttons. That has certainly been the case with the (dis) Honorable Sen. Obama, whom many people seem to regard as a cross between a Messiah and a rock star—a persona largely built on a tissue of lies. See a recurring theme here? Of course, one set of lies is overwhelmingly negative, and one is overwhelmingly positive...from an “objective” media. Sound odd to you, does it? Ask about that, too. but don't hold your breath waiting for an answer. The public “sheep factor” can be understood, if not excused, in one sense: mainstream media won’t show you anything but the documentation and carefully edited sound bites that support the point of view they wish you to have—no matter how egregious the falsehoods contained therein, nor the mountain of legitimate evidence to the contrary. Under that relentless pressure (boys and girls, can you spell brainwashing?), sometimes it’s easy to forget that you still have a firing synaptic connection or two of your own left. The mainstream media hope you’ll continue to forget that. Don’t.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Some Positives on a Monday Morning

Last time, I talked a bit about things I’ve been “aiming” to do, but am not doing so hot at…to which a couple of you responded, quite kindly, about things I do do right. (Thank you.) It was also pointed out to me during that same period of time that, in true editor fashion, I may in fact be my own harshest critic. They say most of us are, so that’s not too surprising.

But anyone who knows me well also knows that one of the principal controlling threads of my life is “fairness.” I like balance. Very few things will send me off the handle faster than perceiving that something is “rigged,” “stacked,” or otherwise tilted one way or the other. More than practically anything else, I crave an even playing field. So despite feeling like there are more ways that I screw up than ways I fulfill expectations, in the interests of fairness, here’s some of the feedback I get from the “universe” on things I’m doing right:

1. Apparently, I write really, really good query letters. In at least two instances, I wrote query letters that were too good; I wrote them before manuscripts were half done, to houses known for loooooong delays in responding, figuring I had time to finish a book before said house would even send me a form request of any kind.

Well, you know what happened. Ten days later, when I’m three chapters and barely a fourth into a book, I get a letter back from said Tortoise-Paced Publisher saying, “This book sounds intriguing. Please send the entire manuscript as soon as it is convenient.” (!) So, yeah, I think I probably write reeeeeealllly good query letters. And I’ve learned to query carefully since then. (!!) Querying skills: A. Timing skills: B, working toward an A.

2. People tell me I am an extremely supportive friend. I don’t see it that way, but I truly appreciate the fact that in this case, I may just be wrong. After all, who knows if they’ve been supported better than the friend saying so? So, as a friend, apparently I rate higher than the D or so I’ve been giving myself. I’d give myself an A-, based on the compliments I’ve received. Yeah, it’s a jump, but when you get a good critique, you’re entitled to go with it. (!)

3. The great majority of the time, I’m really organized. This hasn’t happened by accident, of course; “organization” and “just happens” are pretty much incompatible concepts. :-) I’ve always been a great fan of checklists, and once I discovered FlyLady and realized that yes, one didn’t have to clean one’s entire house in one marathon session once a week—that it would actually look “pretty good” and fit for company for days on end with a slightly different approach—I have had a fairly strict housecleaning and chore routine that has worked very well. It’s had to be amended at times, like when the Three-Day Flu flattened me in February (alliteration notwithstanding)…and sometimes, if the weather is just too nice or I just have too many reasons to do things other than what’s on the list for that day, the house doesn’t always look company-ready. But it’s getting there, most of the time, and that makes me happy…because everything in me functions way better in cleanliness and order. Despite the occasional rolled-eyes from my friends about a woman who actually enjoys cleaning, I’ve discovered I’m in some very good intellectual and spiritual company when it comes to needing order, cleanliness, and organization around me in order to be at my best creatively. So there’s validation on more than one front for the attitude of “cleaning = instant gratification.” Grade at housework organization? A-. Not perfect, but darned close. :-)

4. I have a whale of a good vocabulary. I know this because even in everyday conversation, I occasionally have to define a word I’ve just used for someone. (I still can’t get over this, at times. Didn’t everybody spend her childhood doing the “increase your word power” quizzes in Reader’s Digest?) In commercial fiction writing, unfortunately, this is somewhat of a handicap; I’m not writing “literary” work aimed at an audience that would appreciate a phrase like “the discomfiting cacophony behind her eyes” to describe a heroine whose thoughts are frazzled. :-) (Never mind that the first time someone told me, “Write this to a sixth-grade level,” I almost said, “In sixth grade, I knew what cacophony was.”) Slowly, it’s been brought home to me that no, people don’t read dictionaries for fun, and my writing style has adapted accordingly. If sometimes I find it constricting to trim a “five-dollar word” from my text, I can bear it for the sake of good storytelling and good communication. So it’s a mixed bag on this one: A for the sheer word power, B for the ability to find a simpler, yet still vivid, way to communicate!

5. I know that putting spirituality last on a list can say either that it’s an afterthought or that it’s the most important aspect of all…but I’m putting my transformed relationship with the Lord in this spot anyway. :-P

For years, I’ve been sincerely trying to commit everything to the Lord, which is really, really hard to do. I was always striving for this, but I also became increasingly aware that I wasn’t really doing it. For awhile, I was willing to buy into the preaching we’ve all heard that the only reason we hold anything back from the Lord is some kind of “selfishness” or “pigheadedness” or “pride.” Yeah, and that sure made me feel better about my intentions. (NOT.) Only recently, when I’ve hit several levels of bottom on several fronts, did I realize I hadn’t been holding back from the Lord out of selfishness or wanting to do things my way…but out of fear. And just between us, I think that’s true of a lot more of us than any nonsense about “pride” or “pigheadedness.”

What do we have to fear when we commit our entire lives to the Lord? Well, I know what I feared. I’ve been a Catholic long enough to be familiar with lots of saints’ lives; lots of them no sooner committed themselves totally to the Lord but they were hit with horrible, painful, nasty diseases. Or soul-searing tragedies. Or both. Yeah, like I wanted that to happen? I’d had quite enough challenges in my life, thank you very much. I didn’t know how I’d cope with any more. I certainly wasn’t going to be stupid enough to ask for them—and to me, that total surrender was in effect asking for trouble.

But then, one day when I was broke, scared, and out of any other options, I encountered writing about the Divine Mercy…and everything changed. I realized that the people who’d preached all those years to me about what a vile, selfish thing it was not to “give it all to Jesus” had completely missed the point—as had the souls (well-intentioned though they were) who deliberately asked for only the worst from the Lord. Noble as self-sacrifice may be, that’s not what surrender to Jesus is all about. It’s not something He’s waiting for, impatiently tapping His foot. It’s not a bargaining chip whereby we give Him something, and then, and only then, does He dispense grace. Unlike me, Jesus doesn’t see everything in terms of balance sheets. He doesn’t see everything in terms of a level playing field. It’s not level—it’s tilted toward Him, and that’s the way He wants it to be…because He wants me tucked into His arms even more than I want to be there. And that's amazing.

Once I saw that, once I really got that, I understood. For the first time, really grasped it. And for the first time, really surrendered. Everything. My life. My health. My husband. My kids. My money. My career. My house. My writing. My everything. It was a heck of a session in front of the Blessed Sacrament, but when I was done with that…I was done with a lot of other things as well.

Yeah, I’ll freely admit that part of the surrender was founded on “Hey, it can’t be any worse than what I’m up against now. I’m already miserable.” :-) And a generous part of the prayer was, “I’m scared to do this. I’m scared to death to do this. But I’m going to do it anyway.” The surrender still has to happen every day when I simply say, “Jesus, I trust in You. I’m still scared, but I still trust in You.” The great news? Our Lord told St. Faustina that the mere act of saying, “Jesus, I trust in You” is good enough for Him; the very act of saying those words, in His eyes, manifests the trust He is looking for out of us. Even if we say the words hesitantly, even if we have to confess being scared…it’s still enough. He’ll honor it immediately. He’ll take us to His heart, drown us in His mercy, and we’ll never be the same again.

And I’m not. Already. In a lot of ways that have “come along” and “happened out of the blue.” I’ll talk more about those on future days; just suffice to say that if you have not discovered St. Faustina’s writings about the Divine Mercy, do yourself a favor and read some of them.
The book that helped me more than I can ever say happened to be this one,
so I highly recommend it, for starters. If this whets your appetitite, you’ll be led to where to find more. I hope you do—because it’s sure worth it.

No, I’m not even going to give myself a “grade” on this one. (!) It’s way beyond that. But I needed to proclaim Jesus’ mercy this morning—another thing He asked St. Faustina to do—so that’s our closing thought this morning. May your Monday be drenched in mercy…because that’s all you’ll need, for this week and any week to come!



Wednesday, April 09, 2008

If You Spend Six Months of Your Life on Something.... really ought to promote it. So here it is!
Even if you don’t have kids, you might just plain enjoy leafing through this book; it’s gorgeous. Plus, it’s got all kinds of neat crafts you can do, should you be so inclined—or goodies to cook and bake, should that be your calling. :-) And since I spent the greater portion of six months of my life buried in, fixing problems with, collaborating with the author and designer to work on, and sweating over the final result of this book—yes, I have a vested interest. It’s a great book, and the author’s a hoot.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Danger! Failing Grade Alert!

This title may be misleading, so not to panic: our only college student, my daughter, isn’t really failing any of her classes at IPFW. I did make the mistake of mentioning in an e-mail to the inlaws that she was “pulling B’s in most things”—which then prompted them, unbeknownst to me, to write her an e-mail chiding her for such a lukewarm accomplishment as “only” pulling B’s in college work when she was “an A student before.” Putting aside for a moment the fact that my daughter was her grade-school valedictorian (something that still amazes me), the plain fact of the matter is, of course, that as far as her dad and I are concerned, A’s are great, you ought to strive for them, but B’s don’t necessarily mean you’re slacking off, either. This is college work, not grade school, and we allow for that real difference. Even an occasional C isn’t cause for undue panic. Yes, we expect “above average” out of our kids—but neither of us was a straight-A achiever, so at least we have no unrealistic expectations of perfection out of anybody. Her dad and I are both also former music majors, and Jess is a pre-major in fine arts, so we know as well about such things as “subjectivity” in arts grading. Other family members are not so inclined; having never been in an arts program of any kind, they seem unable to comprehend the notion that simply “trying harder” and “concentrating better” doesn’t always equate to A’s in an artistic course of study. We merely shrug and go our own way, and at least my daughter was smart enough not to whip back a response when, as she put it, she “couldn’t think of any nice way to respond to that.” That alone may prove she has more smarts than most A students on campus. :-) All that being said, what I’m really thinking about this morning is a self-report card. When I sit back, take a breath, and evaluate how I’m doing so far on the things I wanted to improve this year…I’m not doing so hot. I wanted to get more sleep this year. Sometimes, I do. Most times, I don’t. The reasons are wide, varied, and sometimes even chemical…so they’re not always due to not “trying harder” or “concentrating more” on my part. I have noticed that I do actually get in bed earlier than I was before, so maybe that’s a step in the right direction. Even if I’m sitting up in bed awake at 10 or 10:30, reading (the best way to end the day) …or (heaven help me) finishing up e-mail or some other godawful thing to be doing at that time of night, at least being physically in my pajamas, in bed, beats being still in my jeans and gym shoes washing the kitchen floor. So I guess progress is progress. But I’m still dead tired much of the time, so obviously, I still need a lot of work on that resolution. Overall grade: C-. I wanted to get more of my own writing done, and sold, this year. “Selling” I know I can’t control, but getting the writing and pitching done…ach. I’m the original synopsis/pitch queen, but every time I think about doing it lately, I nearly go into overwhelm. Overwhelm is not a place from which one pitches well, unfortunately. Once again, the reasons I’ve written precious little are wide, varied, and sometimes even chemical (!)—and they do go hand in hand with not getting enough sleep/rest, since sleep deprivation also diminishes creativity. Unfortunately, the more pressing concerns of cash flow have dictated what times I spend both creating my own worlds and resting from them; this will, with any blessings at all, be a temporary situation soon relieved. Overall grade on that: D. Barely passing, hoping for better things. And a third thing I really, really need to do—resolve to do every year—but never quite seem to get a handle on is keeping up contact with friends and family. Yanno, sending the birthday cards, the anniversary cards, the thank-you notes, the letters…all that. It’s not that I don’t think about them; I do. I just don’t follow through the way I’ve always wanted to; it just never seems to get done. The reasons for this are also wide and varied, and although less chemical (!), are certainly hereditary. I grew up in an anti-social household. My mother wanted to be involved in family things; my father kept us all under his thumb, and instilled in us a paranoia about others that is still difficult to shake. So while I really love having my friends and family, and I find myself thinking, “Gosh, I need to get together with these people more often,” it hardly ever happens that way. Three people I meant to send cards to already, I’ve failed to send to. I should have. Every year, I make up my mind to do it…and every year, I’m either short of cash or I neglect it for some other reason. With the start of this new quarter, of course, I can redeem myself, send some belated cards, write some letters…if I can pull together the time or energy or both. The only thing I then have to battle is the nagging voice in my head saying, “Hey, if you didn’t start out the year doing it, don’t bother now, it’s too late.” (Can you spell perfectionist?) It remains to be seen whether I’ll be comfy forgiving myself for failing so thoroughly so far this year, and just pick up and pretend that this is how Janny is going to be from now on. (!) (I have actually managed to do some of this kind of thing, just not the number and frequency of contacts I feel I “should” have to be a better daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, friend, parent…you get the idea.) For now, my grade in this is a D-. Hanging on by my nonexistent fingernails. There are some positives I’ve been able to swing this year, as well, though. It’s just that for the moment—probably due to spring fever!—most of what I’m seeing is the need to play catch-up. But never fear. Next post, I’ll talk about some of the things I may be “forced” to give myself an A in…or at least a B. That’ll be way more fun. :-) Valedictorian, I ain’t. But the year is young, there’s time…right? Thoughts? Janny