Lies Walt Disney Told Me

An old friend from college sent me a message a couple days ago. I haven’t seen her in seven years, but because of the magic of Facebook, I’ve followed her all the way across the country and watched her start a new job, fall in love only to get her heart broken, and go on many other adventures along the way. She’s never met my husband or kids, but she feels like she knows them because of my constant posts about them. (Yep, I’m one of those moms. To all my social media friends who have to see pictures of every move my kids make, I’m sorry. But not really.)

We messaged back and forth several times throughout the day, taking time out from our daily routines to fill each other in on things that have been going on in our lives. In the last message she sent, she said, “I’m really happy for you. Your boys are precious, your husband seems wonderful, and you look so happy in all of your pictures. I hope someday my life comes together like yours!”

The first time I read that, I couldn’t help but smile. It’s flattering to think that someone aspires to have the life you’ve worked hard to create. But as I sat there, mentally patting myself on the back like a total jerk, the baby started crying and immediately following that, I heard, “I didn’t do anything, Mom!” (which is universal kid-language for I just did something bad) and then I heard my husband muttering in irritation in the next room over something or another and I found myself laughing, unable to get past that particular part of her message while thinking, If she only knew! As I began to dissect her words and the events that transpired, God put something on my heart that I just have to share.

When I was a little girl, I watched Disney movies and dreamed of the day when some handsome prince would ride in on a horse and carry me off into the sunset, where we would live “happily ever after.” It all seemed so easy. When I met “the one,” everything would just click and life together would be easy because “all you need is love.” And all those people getting divorced? They must have rushed into marriage. Or they got married too young. Or they didn’t choose carefully enough.

What a judgmental snob I was, without even meaning to be. It wasn’t until the day that I held my six-week-old sleeping baby in my arms and called a divorce lawyer that my eyes were opened to the fact that it doesn’t matter how carefully you plan, how hard you try to do everything “right”…LIFE STILL HAPPENS. And that means things will not always go according to your plan. I became part of that failed marriage statistic. The day I signed the papers, I broke that promise I made in front of God, my family, and my closest friends.

Fast forward two and a half years and a three-hour move from my old home in Smyrna, TN, when I was introduced to the man I now call my husband. For the first time in years, I felt something I thought I was too numb to ever feel again – a spark. He started working long shifts as a lineman on a job two hours away from me, but we managed to get to know each other better each day, despite the distance. I spent my days teaching high school English and then came home to spend time with and care for my son; by the time I put him to bed, I was tired. And the physical demands of his job left him tired at the end of the day, too. But it didn’t stop us from talking on the phone every single night for at least two or three hours and texting each other every chance we got throughout the day.

I fell hard and fast. And the best part was, my son fell in love with him, too. When he proposed just seven months later, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. We planned a wedding quickly and two months later, we were married. My son walked me down the aisle and my husband put rings on both of us, promising to love us for the rest of his life. Three months later, we were pregnant. A month after that, we were signing a contract on a new home out in the country just minutes away from my school.

I finally had my Disney fairytale ending, my “happily ever after.” God had taken my broken life and pieced it back together, but this time, it was even better than I’d ever imagined it would be. On our one-year anniversary, I went into labor and the next morning, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and the school where I teach even granted me a year off for maternity leave. Nothing could go wrong now. Right?

Wrong. Because even though everything seemed to be going well on the outside, I’ve learned all over again that LIFE STILL HAPPENS. And marriage? Well, marriage is hard sometimes. Spending all day every day with my two young boys is incredible…but incredibly exhausting, too. And though my youngest turns a year old tomorrow, he still doesn’t sleep through the night, even though I’ve tried different suggestions from all those “expert” moms out there. I often find myself unable to talk to my husband about anything but our kids because they consume the biggest part of my life. While I want to put him first in front of all my other responsibilities and obligations, the reality is it doesn’t always happen.

And meanwhile, he’s working 40+ hours a week in a job that takes a toll on his energy, working outside no matter the weather. When he gets home, our oldest son immediately asks him to play outside with him – pitch and catch, fishing, basketball, etc., and he almost always obliges him. Plus, he coaches our son’s t-ball team. And all that means that he doesn’t always have time to put me first, either.

Once in a while, it goes beyond the fact that we don’t put each other first and progresses into one of those “perfect storm” days, as I call them, when things just aren’t going right and we take it out on each other. Those little quirks that each of us have that we once found adorable are suddenly unbelievably irritating. It almost always starts with something little. For instance, my refusal to make a grocery list means that I forget at least one item every time I go, and on one of those perfect storm days, it will be an item that he needs. His patience level gets low, and since I avoid confrontation, I will retreat upstairs with the kids to avoid him for a bit. And before I know it, it’s time to go to bed and we have barely even spoken to each other outside of things that had to be said, much less spent any quality time together. And then I read some post by one of those Pinterest moms…you know, the type that I admire but will never measure up to…and see where she has managed to take care of her children, clean the house, do all the laundry with the detergent she created from scratch, cook a five-course meal, get her children to bed at promptly seven p.m. and still be full of energy to devote to her husband so that her marriage remains the most important part of her life.

I understand the importance of putting work into marriage and I’m not devaluing that. All I’m saying is that it’s hard some days. Life is so fast-paced and throws so much at us and since we’re imperfect people, we’re not always going to handle it all the right way. And so that “happily ever after” is momentarily forgotten and that “handsome prince” that stole my heart loses some of his charm. Those butterflies that once fluttered in my stomach when I saw his truck pull into my driveway  go to sleep sometimes.

And don’t get me wrong; it works both ways. I have no doubt that there are days when I am not the woman he once fell in love with, either. When I’m changing diapers with spit up in my hair and serving spaghetti for supper at least once a week just because it’s the easiest meal in the world to make, I’m sure those butterflies he once felt for me are long gone.

But God is still working in my life. And as I grow closer to Him in my daily walk, He’s showing me a few things.

The first thing I’ve learned is that LOVE is not just a butterflies-in-your-stomach FEELING, it’s an ACTION, a CHOICE you make. Though I wouldn’t call it a choice back when I fell in love with my husband – I don’t think I could have controlled that even if I wanted to – there are those perfect-storm days when it’s hard to remember why we even LIKE each other, much less LOVE each other. But I CHOOSE to love him anyway. And when I make an effort to show that love to him even when I don’t feel like it, God steps in and reminds me why I gave my heart to this man in the first place. And suddenly, it’s easy to adore him again.

Another thing I’ve learned is that when I pray diligently for my husband, asking God to guide him and protect our marriage, He finds ways not to change my husband, but to change me. Instead of picking his quirks apart, He diverts my attention to my own shortcomings and shows me again the beautiful qualities He created in my husband. When I spend my time focusing on the good things about him and remember that he is an imperfect child of God, just like me, suddenly those flaws I sometimes focus on fade into the background.

And the third thing He’s shown me is that if I rely solely on my husband for my joy, I will be disappointed. My husband is a good man and I can’t brag on him enough for what he does for our family. He keeps me laughing every single day. He is a hard worker and he takes good care of our boys. He stepped in and became a daddy for our oldest when he didn’t have to, and that boy looks up to him and wants to please him more than anyone else. And as for our youngest, the admiration he has for his daddy is already evident in the way he looks at him. He really loves him, giving him hugs and loving pats and squeezes. But in spite of all that, my husband still makes mistakes. And there are times when he hurts my feelings – often unknowingly – and I feel let down. But that’s a consequence of relying on another person to make you happy: it’s impossible to do at all times. When I rely on God to fulfill me instead, I receive a joy that is unexplainable yet everlasting.

Today is our two-year anniversary. Only two years, but we’ve already been through so much. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for our lives as we spend them together. I know there will be more happiness, but there will be more tears, too. Through it all, I will love him – imperfectly, no doubt – and even when times get tough, I will CHOOSE to love. And as long as we trust in God and allow Him to lead us in this marriage, I know we will continue to create our own “happily ever after.”

Worldwide Blog Hop

This week, I am joining a worldwide blog hop called “The Writing Process World Blog Tour.” I was invited to join by author Krysten Lindsay Hager. Krysten is an author and book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and also writes middle grade, YA, humor essays, and adult fiction. Her debut novel, TRUE COLORS, was released this summer. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in South Dakota, Portugal, and currently resides in Southern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows. Find her at: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/.

I’m so excited to be part of this blog tour. Here is a little about me…
I wear many hats: Christian; wife; mother to my young son, Aven, and my four-legged sons, Shakespeare and Poe; teacher of middle school reading and high school English; and now – my lifelong dream realized – author. My debut novel, THE VISITORS, will be released September 16. I graduated from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale with a bachelor’s degree in English Education and a master’s degree in Reading and Language Studies. I reside and teach in a small town in southern Illinois. From a young age, I was always an avid reader and writer with a big imagination. I spent much of my childhood searching for ghosts and UFOs to no avail – but I haven’t given up the hunt just yet. Though I continue to grow older, my true literature love is and has always been young adult fiction. I loves creating both futuristic and realistic stories about teenagers, and I feel so fortunate to get to work with them every day as a teacher.

As part of the blog hop, all authors are answering the same four questions. So here are my answers!

question 1) What are you working on?

I am currently in the middle of two writing projects! I have written a novel titled Healing Rain that I am in the process of editing, and I am also in the middle of the sequel to my debut novel, The Visitors. Though they are both young adult fiction novels, they are very different. Healing Rain is a realistic contemporary piece about a teen girl starting over in a new town after a devastating event changed her family and shook her Christian faith. She is trying to keep her dark past a secret while juggling new friends (and enemies), new love interest(s), therapy, and fitting in at her new high school. The sequel to the The Visitors (which debuts in September) is a science fiction piece with romance and action mixed in, but I can’t give too many details just yet – I wouldn’t want to spoil the end of The Visitors before it even comes out! I typically focus on one project at a time, but I’m actually enjoying dabbling back and forth between the two at this time. Healing Rain will be complete in the very near future, leaving me to focus on The Visitors – I have a third novel outlined to complete this series after I finish the sequel in progress.

question 2) How does your work differ from others in your genre?

I will focus on The Visitors, as this is the novel that will be available soon. I think it will be easier to answer this question if you already know a little bit about the story, and since it hasn’t been released just yet, I will give you a little blurb about the novel:

Seventeen-year-old Noah awakes one day to find that dangerous, irrational, self-serving, and destructive visitors called “humans” are coming to visit his beautiful, perfect planet. All citizens are ordered to have limited contact and share little information with these visitors.

Sixteen-year-old Jady is thrilled to accompany her father and his crew on a trip to a recently-discovered planet, Verdant. The United States’ crew is hopeful that they can learn from this advanced yet similar species.

Despite their greatest efforts to fight it, it doesn’t take long for Jady and Noah to fall in love and begin a secret affair. But when their relationship is revealed, danger is created for everyone involved…

Some of the concepts in the novel – teen romance, forbidden love, and futuristic space travel – are universal, which people can relate to. The storyline, however, has several unique features: I have created my own planet, with a dystopian society of people who look like humans but are very, very different in the way they think and live. My main characters, Noah and Jady, are young and get swept away in love, but they’re both incredibly intelligent, brave, and strong in their own ways. I hope that my readers will fall in love with them the way I have.

question 3) Why do you write what you write?

I have been a writer my whole life. It’s a passion. These ideas enter my head – sometimes through dreams, sometimes in conversation with friends or at work when I’m teaching – and they just won’t leave me alone until I write and release them. Young adult literature is and has always been what I love. When I was growing up, it was the way I escaped every day. I loved authors who could make me feel like I was part of the story – like the characters I was reading about were part of my life, too. I think my love for working with young people compels me to write for them as well.

question 4) How does your writing process work?

I wouldn’t say I have one magical formula for writing a novel. Writing BC – Before Child – was much easier! I get an idea, and then create a rough outline for a story in my head. I develop my main characters, picturing them as I imagine what their personalities will become. Then, I just start writing. Some days I write more than others, but I would guess that I average about ten pages a day, on good days. Of course, with a full-time job and a family, there are many days that I don’t reach that goal! I have to do most of my writing when my little man is asleep, either during his mid-day nap or at night when he goes to bed. You will often find us in my recliner – him sprawled across my lap asleep, and me leaning over him and typing away on my computer. Once I complete a novel, I usually step away from it for a few weeks. I then go back and read it again, editing for any mistakes and changing any scenes that feel weak. Sometimes this means cutting out entire chapters and rewriting them, so the editing process can take a few weeks as well.

I’m very excited to introduce the authors who will be joining me on this blog hop and posting on August 5.

KV Flynn: Author of Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature whose first book debuts in September as well. Find him at www.OnTheMoveBooks.com,

Karen King: Author of Young Adult Literature. Find her at www.karenking.net.

Tammi Steiner Booth: Author of Young Adult Literature. Find her at www.awritersdevotion.blogspot.com.

 

 

The Human Mind: To Read, Or Not to Read

If you were offered the gift of reading the minds of others, would you take it?

Sometimes, I wish I could get into people’s minds. Like my dogs’, for example. (And yes, my dogs are people.) They can make the sweetest and funniest faces, and I just wonder, What are they thinking? Or my three-year-old son’s. He’s very outgoing and talkative and will usually tell you exactly what’s going through his head, but not always. When he stares into space or rambles about things I don’t understand, I wish I could see what he’s thinking. And I know as he gets older, there will be a million times that I wish to see inside his head.

There are also times when I am talking to someone and I just know that person is thinking something they’re not saying. I know you all have been there: You say something to a friend and they grow too quiet. Or they say one thing, but you can just tell that they are actually thinking the opposite. At those moments, I would love the ability to read their thoughts.

But would I want to hear them? I definitely wouldn’t want my thoughts to go public sometimes. Two reasons: A. I wouldn’t want everyone to know just how weird I really am, and B. As positive as I try to be, sometimes thoughts are uncontrollably terrible. Things can pop into your head that, if said out loud, could devastate another person. You can chase these thoughts out of your own head quickly, but if there was a person with the ability to read them, the damage would already be done. You just can’t help it when a friend gets a new haircut and by impulse you think, She really should have thought twice about that style. If my friend thinks to herself that the jeans I have on look terrible on me, do I want to know that? Sure, on one hand, you may want to know – if it’s something that helps you, it’s beneficial to hear it. But at the same time, wouldn’t it still hurt your feelings to know that your friend had a negative thought about you, no matter how small or insignificant it may have been?

In my upcoming young adult novel, The Visitors, one of the main characters has the ability read the minds of those around her. I decided to make this a gift that she can turn off or on as needed. (Does anyone remember that Mel Gibson movie What Women Want? The one about this man who is suddenly gifted with the ability to hear women’s thoughts? It’s been years since I saw it, but I remembered one particular scene when the guy is out on the street, surrounded by women, and their thoughts are just bombarding his mind. I figured that if a person could hear everyone’s thoughts at one time, it would no longer be a gift but an inconvenience.) Considering the gift in this light, the character has to tune into a person’s mind in order to hear his or her thoughts. But this brings up another issue when the character uses her gift to hear something she shouldn’t hear. She doesn’t mean to: she notices that her friend is in a particularly strange mood and just tunes into his thoughts innocently to see if everything is okay. What she learns about him has absolutely nothing to do with her, but she still intervenes, changing the course of his actions and the entire novel. Is this acceptable?

Consider the good possibilities of possessing such a gift. If you could read the mind of someone who was about to go rob a bank and could do something to stop it, you’re a hero. You could use your gift for the greater good of mankind. But, as I learned from Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. How would you decide whose mind to read and whose to ignore? And some would argue that this would be playing with fate – what right do you have to go poking into people’s private thoughts? And then, of course, you would have to consider that a gift like this could fall into the wrong hands – someone who wouldn’t even attempt to use it to better the world, but to better himself.

With all things considered, would you accept this gift? I would love to hear your ideas on if and how you would use it if the opportunity presented itself to you. Thanks in advance for sharing!

A Little Peek into My Life and My First Book

                This whole “blogging” thing is new territory for me.

                I have been writing stories since I learned to write in kindergarten; I have been telling stories since long before that. As a toddler, my imaginary friends and I went on faraway adventures daily. In elementary school, as my teachers could tell you, I could really tell some whoppers about my life at home. (Thank you to Mrs. Mitchell, Mrs. Hernandez, and Mrs. Williams for listening patiently and letting me tell you these ridiculous tales. And thank you even more for pretending to believe me.) My imagination is and has always been spiraling out of control, compelling me to write. And I have always been content to write stories knowing that no one else will ever read them, save a few family members and close friends.

                Until now. One of my books, The Visitors, will be published on September 16 by Astraea Press. The very idea of this makes me pinch myself every time I think about it. I never dreamed that an opportunity like this would present itself to someone like me…a small-town, simple girl who until now has only been known locally as a wife and mother who teaches middle school reading and high school English and has a weakness for adopting stray dogs and cats.

                But I digress. As I said, blogging is a new concept for me. I hope to introduce myself as an author through this blog. I’ve been devouring books for as long as I can remember, and though I just keep getting older and further into adulthood, my one true love in literature is still young adult fiction. My favorite book of all time is Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and book series like Veronica Roth’s Divergent and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight kept me pent up in my house, inhaling them in lieu of eating and sleeping and functioning like a normal person.  These are the books that haunt my dreams, that change my life. They are why I wanted to teach English. And I found once I started teaching that not only do I love literature, I love working with teens. They are so vibrant and smart and challenge me every day. Thus, young adult fiction is what I write.

                The Visitors is young adult fiction that is both science fiction and romance. I wouldn’t categorize myself as a science fiction junkie, per say, but I have always had a fascination with life outside of our planet, which is the basis for the novel.  Set in the future, it is the story of a crew of humans who go to a recently-discovered planet, Verdant, in hopes of learning from their highly-advanced civilization. However, the citizens of Verdant fear these new visitors, as humans are irrational, destructive, and self-serving. When sixteen-year-old Jady, a member of Earth’s crew, meets seventeen-year-old Noah, a citizen of Verdant, the sparks are immediate. But when their secret affair is revealed, danger is created for everyone involved.

                I hope to explore some of the concepts in this book through my weekly blog posts. My goal is to discuss everything – from life outside of our planet and other what if topics such as mind-reading and immortality, to more down-to-Earth topics like young love, love at “first sight”, and relationships of all kinds.

                I hope you all join the conversation with me each week. I look forward to “meeting” new people and hearing your thoughts and ideas!