23 August 2011

Shake, Rattle and Roll

We had an earthquake today, here on the East Coast.  Apparently, it was a pretty big one (in area covered, not necessarily strength), because my friends, family and acquaintances from New York to North Carolina all tweeted and posted facebook status updates about it.  And our house got in some really good shaking time before the quake fizzled out.  When they realized it was an earthquake, my kids came running upstairs to find me, terror in their eyes.  "Mom, is this an earthquake?"

I smiled and reassured them, "I think it was, but nothing is broken and it seems to have stopped.  I think everything is fine."

Immediately, the fear dissapated, and they started talking excitedly, remembering the little earthquakes we'd experienced when we lived in California.  "I didn't even know they had earthquakes here, though!"  After a few more minutes of chatter (and running outside to ask the neighbors if they felt the quake too), the kids were off to the basement to continue their games, leaving me to contemplate everything that had just happened...

My children were terrified when the earthquake hit.  All kinds of "what if?" questions rattled around in their brains, and they worried that the house might fall down or even worse... Yet when I told them that everything would be fine, they trusted me enough to accept my assurances, and they let those fears and worries go immediately.  I need to learn from their example.

More often than I'd like to admit, I find myself playing the "what if?" game.  I worry and fret and fuss about what the future might hold.  What if my husband loses his job?  What if my friends decide I'm no fun and leave me behind?  What if I get sick and have to ask for help?  What if? What if? What if? 

When I find myself wrapped in terror and the What If's are crashing down around me, I turn to my Heavenly Father through scripture study and prayer.  He always answers me: "Be still, my child.  I know what I'm doing.  It will be alright."  He whispers peace to my soul, calming and comforting me the way I did for my children this afternoon. 

Yet, how often do I trust His assurances?  I'm afraid that, far too often, I rise from my knees after a heartfelt prayer and shake off the comfort of the Holy Spirit as I worry and fret and wonder, "How could it possibly be okay?"  Instead of trusting that my Father in Heaven truly does know what he's doing, I try to figure it out for myself, focusing instead on what makes sense to me.  I need to learn a lesson from my children: When my Father says everything will be okay, I need to remember that He doesn't lie.  If He says we're okay, then we are.  Even if I don't yet understand how it all works!

18 August 2011

Things That Break a Mother's Heart

Last night, I took my son to a youth activity for church (pool party for the young men and young women, aged 12-18).  He doesn't have many friends in this group, and his very best friend is moving overseas in a couple of weeks, so I worry about him sometimes.  Especially since there is one group of boys (most of the 14-year-olds) within this larger youth group who have had issues with my son since he turned 12.  They've given him unfavorable "nicknames," made rude comments, mocked him in games and treated him as if he were invisible... everything they can get away with and still be subtle enough that the leaders don't catch on to the bullying.

When we arrived at the pool party, my son walked into the back yard, where these 14-year-old boys were all congregated around the trampoline.  As he approached, all but one of them turned their backs and walked away.  The one who stayed was D (no names - I'm not here to call the boys to a public accounting for their behavior), one of my son's only good friends in the youth group.

"D!" my son called, walking over to give his pal a high five.  D stepped back, avoiding my son's outstretched hand, and stood for a moment, looking back and forth between my son and the Other Boys.  He mumbled something that I couldn't hear (I was watching this all from a distance), and my son put his hand down.  "I understand," he said.  Then he turned to D's younger brother, who turned 12 last week, and who was standing alone and uncertain in the middle of the yard.  "Come on, let's go swim!"

As they walked away, D called after him, "it's nothing personal!  I just have to distance myself from the younger boys for a while!" 

My son's smile never faltered, and he didn't miss a beat as he quick-stepped to the pool and immediately jumped into a rowdy game of pool tag with D's younger brother.  Anyone watching could tell that D's aloofness didn't bother him a bit. - Except, I noticed that he didn't bother greeting any of the other youth he saw on his way to the pool either.  Anyone who REALLY knows my son could tell you that it hurt a lot more than he was willing to admit.

17 August 2011

My Amazing, Supportive Children

This week, I decided I was really going to follow the advice Liz Szabla (editor at Feiwel and Friends) gave me at a recent SCBWI event.  When I told her about my fear of burning bridges by submitting my work before it was fully ready, she said "You could keep revising and critiquing the same manuscript for 20 years without ever finding the courage to send it out on submission.  You need to just start sending it out.  You're ready."  I came home from that conference all fired up and excited to really get started with my writing career... and then I talked myself out of it and thought I'd better do a few more rounds of revisions first.

But this week, I was determined to take the leap.  Until I woke up Monday morning, and started to second-guess myself again.

Luckily, I got the kick in the pants I probably needed.  I logged onto twitter for a few minutes before starting my "real" work for the day, and I noticed that one of the agents on the top of my "to query" list had just tweeted "I'm hoping for lots of prom and kissing in my slush pile today."  Prom??? Kissing??? Wait a minute!  That sounds like my manuscript!!  I pushed my household chores "to do" list to the bottom of my daily priorities and sat down to write my query letter for this agent.

I couldn't concentrate on it, though.  My kids were bored, whiny, tired and fighting with each other (end-of-summer-itis has hit our household hard!) - and they interrupted me every 5 minutes with another tattle-fest.  I sat in my writing corner, getting more and more frustrated with myself, my children and my attempts to write the letter.  "Don't my kids realize that I'm doing something important here?  I don't have time for their whining today!!"

Then, I realized... I don't have time for my kids?  Wow!  My priorities had gone seriously out-of-whack!!  I closed my computer, put away my writing pencils and notebooks, and walked downstairs to spend some time with my children.  We wound up all piled together on my king-sized bed while I explained to them that they really are more important to me than anything else.  "I want to be a writer.  I want to get my book published.  But there will be time for that later.  Let's spend the last 2 weeks before school starts doing some fun things together, and I can pick this up again then."

Immediately, all 4 kids told me not to stop writing.  "You need to send your book to that agent today, Mom!  It's exactly what she's looking for, and the world needs good books like yours."

I smiled and hugged them tighter.  I didn't want them to think I was simply trying to send them on a guilt trip.  "Don't worry.  I'm not giving up.  I'm going to keep working on my writing, but I'll do it when it doesn't take away from time with you."  To illustrate my point, I asked them "Years from now, when you're all grown up with children and grandchildren of your own, when I'm dead and gone and you're remembering your childhood, what will be more important to you?  That I worked on getting my book published or that I spent time with you and let you know that you're more important to me than anything else?"

It was an easy question.  There could only be one answer.  (You all know the saying that no one, on their death bed says "I wish I'd spent more time at work!)  Not surprisingly, when I put the question to them this way, my children didn't have to think at all before answering.  They all knew the answer to that question immediately.  But it certainly wasn't the answer I expected.  "It's more important to publish your book!" 

All 4 of them - even the youngest - assured me that my writing should take priority.  Speaking together, as a team, they patiently explained that I do so much for them every day... They know I love them, because I show it in all the little things I do for them... "Mom, you deserve a break to work on something that you really love.  You need to get your book published."  Then, they all gave me hugs, told me to go back to my writing corner and went to make lunch for us all.  They spent the rest of the day carefully working out their problems and trying to work together as a team so that I wouldn't have to stop writing. 

Wow!!  What inspiring children!!!