If I told you, I’d have to….

It’s Friday night. I’m sitting at home, battling the cat for access to my laptop. Stevie Ray, for some odd reason, has taken a liking to watching the cursor move on the screen as I direct it with the mouse. He’s entertained, but it’s awfully hard to type with a fur ball pawing at the screen.

The truth is I’m having a little trouble deciding what to write. Oh, I have a thousand ideas. But I’m wondering just how much can I actually say without crossing the line?

A blog should have a purpose. I could write a blog that interviews other writers. But as a freelance writer that’s what I do. That’s how I earn my paycheck. Oh, I would write for free—don’t get me wrong. But there’s a sense of accomplishment in being recognized as worthy to be on the payroll. Plus, other bloggers are already doing a great job of incorporating interviews on their blogs. I do have a few amazing writers lined up for the future. I don’t want to miss out on a opportunity to learn from them as they tell me about their craft, but again, others are doing a great job with this approach. Why should I duplicate?

What should be the purpose of this blog?

I want to encourage others to find what it is that makes that little light within them glow. I’m not talking about their love for Christ. Only He can make that little light shine.

I’m talking about that other little light, the one that makes a person’s passion come alive. All good things come from God, so I have no doubt that God puts that passion within us. My little light, of course, is music—and writing. I gravitate toward people who have the same light because we speak the same language.

I want to encourage people to do those things that make their lights shine. Pushing an emotional button seems to help. Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em feel something.

Most of the time, I prefer makin’ em laugh. It’s good medicine. But there is a limit. One story after another fills my mind, but I can’t print them. I could be blackballed—or, even worse, arrested.

Many years ago, I took a mass communications class at MTSU. The  We all shared the same vibe, the same little light. We were all professionals in the world of mass communications, musicians, writers, journalists, etc. I was low man on the totem pole, just a lowly stringer, a freelance writer.

One of our first assignments was share with the entire class the over-the-top emotional impact that pop culture had on us. In other words, we had to come clean about stalking at least one celebrity.

Awwwww no! I hate confessionals. I didn’t want to spill my guts in front of strangers. One girl, a young journalist who worked for a popular country music magazine at the time, confessed to attending a Ted Nugent concert and jumping out of her balcony seat and swinging out onto the stage. Of course, security whisked her away. But whoa…what a story.

When it was my turn, I recounted my tame story of naming my child after a celebrity. (But my parents named me after a singer too!) I hadn’t really done anything too bizarre. It was almost as if my classmates wanted more. The lady next to me turned to me and said with a compassionate voice, “You know where he lives, don’t you?” Several other professionals sitting in my area turned around and looked at me.

Spurred on by a roomful of professional paparrazi, I thought, “Hmmm. This could be fun.” So I spoke up with hope in my voice. “No, no, I don’t.” I waited.

The lady then drew me a detailed map to his house. My other classmates told me where he usually hung out. My cartographer friend was a close relative of a well-known name in the music biz, so I figured she knew what she was talking about. I wasn’t so sure about everybody else.

But the point is, I can’t give you the details. I can’t give you the directions. I can’t even name names. If I do, I’m in trouble. What’s a story without the details?

Maybe if I can’t ignite the fire, maybe I can at least fan the adventurous flame  that burns within my visiting readers. Life can be routine and boring–if we let it. What’s wrong with tweeking a few variables to get a different outcome?

Stevie Ray has grown weary of my laptop and has found something better to occupy his time–a nap. As I watch him snoozing, I’m reminded of what they say about curiousity and the cat.

Writers thrive on an adventurous spirit, but we also need a little common sense to go with it.

André Gide once said, “It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves.”

So is it with writers.

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Heartache and spring break

 

Art by Manjiri Kanvinde

It’s that time of year again. I’m caught somewhere between winter and spring, and I really want it to be spring. It’s as if the promise of tumultuous weather mirrors the turbulence within me.

I don’t do well caught in the middle. I want to break away. I find myself slipping on my favorite t-shirt, even if I have to wear a jacket over it. The next thing you know I’ll break out the flip flops.

It didn’t help that we had a full moon the other night. I couldn’t sleep. It shone so brightly through my window that it woke me up and beckoned me to take a walk. In the middle of the night? Maybe this summer…but never on a school night. Too many people depend on me to be alert the next day.

For me, the calendar means nothing. When March arrives, spring is officially here. I pray no harm comes our way in the form of tornados and floods, but a wicked good thunderstorm spurs the imagination. I’m an English major, after all. When I think of writing and thunderstorms, I think of Poe and Shelley, two notable Romantics, American and European respectively.

According to written accounts, it was during a dark stormy night that Lord Byron challenged his friends to come up with their most horrific ghost stories. Some scholars claim the modern-day Prometheus was born from Mary Shelly’s unconscious emotions. Others point to a myriad of themes, stirred within the writer’s psyche: alienation, family, even the philosophy of writing. But whatever the case, the weather and a little prompting by Byron helped Shelley create perhaps the most famous monster of all time.

So rain and storms can be good things.

During this time of year, I like to think of a spring storm kind of like nature’s own way of house cleaning. The wind stirs up the debris, and the rain washes away winter’s remains, leaving the outdoors squeaky clean for all the buds and blossoms to show themselves.

A spring storm can clear the mind too. Have you ever drifted off under a metal roof during rain storm? Umm nice. The rhythm of the rain drops washes away the tension and stress.

I really have no purpose, no profound words, to share in today’s post—just that I’m suffering from a bit of spring fever. I’m ready for the sunshine to elevate my moods and the warm nights to inspire my imagination. I need a timpani-like thunderstorm to scare away those things that are holding me back.

Any day now three or four hundred students will disappear from our school. They call it Senior Skip Day—certainly not legitimate, mind you, but it coincides with spring—and spring fever.

Maybe that’s what I need. A skip day. I’ve got a personal day coming. I’ll have to take it when everyone, including me, is well so that I can enjoy it.

If my “skip day” is to cure my spring fever, my day has to be spontaneous, nothing planned. I’ll just slip on an old t-shirt and flip flops and cruise down the road to a little town, maybe stop in a café, do a little people watching, a little day dreaming. Maybe I’ll bring my camera and snap a few shots of the rolling countryside, or I could bring my lap top and find a coffee shop and write.

Mark Twain said it best:  “It’s spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”

Can I get there from here?

This past week one of my sweet little newspaper babies came to me for advice. With graduation just a few months away, she was overwhelmed with the thought of stepping into the world on her own. Bless her heart. I understand what she’s feeling. I just can’t fix it.

When I graduated, I had no idea of what it was like to be on my own. I tried to do what everyone else wanted me to do. I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know where to find it or how to get it. I guess you could say I was like a pinball in a machine, propelled into life, bumping from here to there until I found myself where I am now, slightly bruised but a whole lot bolder.

My little newspaper kiddo asked me, “What if I make the wrong decision? What if I do the wrong thing?”

I wanted to say, “Brace yourself. It’s going to happen.” But I didn’t want to make her cry.

The truth is life is full of uncertainty, but for those who believe, life is all about hope. Is it possible that every road we take leads us where we’re supposed to be, even if we get off on the wrong exit on the interstate of life?

Old timers say, “You can’t get there from here.”  I say, “Why not?”

Last summer when I wrote my first manuscript, I jumped in blindly, never considering how many mistakes I would make. It’s taken a while to fix them, but step by step I’ve made progress.

For months I’ve stayed up late, polishing my work, submitting it to my critique group, and revising. It’s amazing how I’ve managed to go to work each day on so little sleep. But the journey’s been worth the effort. I’ve learned so much. I’m a better writer, a more confident writer.

A couple of days ago I submitted my entry to the 2011 ACFW Genesis Contest. There was a moment before I hit “send” when I wondered, “What if I pour everything into my story and the judges hate it?”  

It’s scary, being vulnerable, putting your heart on the line.

I wish I could tell my newspaper student that every step she takes will take her exactly where she wants to go—or that she’ll know without a doubt what she should do. But I’d be lying if I did.

Our troubles may be difficult and even painful, but every bump in the road can be to our benefit—if we put our trust in God. He said so (Romans 8:28). So even if we mess up, God can make it work for our own good. No matter what.

In other words, living life is like writing our own book. God’s critiques show us the revisions we need to make.

Just as young grads are afraid to take their first steps into the world, we older folks sometimes fear that we’ve traveled so far away from our dreams we’ll never get find them again. In other words, we wonder “can we get there from here?”

Sometimes what we want seems impossible because we can’t figure out a way to make it happen. But just because we can’t figure out a way for it to happen doesn’t mean that it won’t.

So, my frightened student (and anyone else who may sharing these fears), as you set forth into the great unknown, know that no matter what decisions you make (or have made), God can take all situations and make them turn out for your good. We have to work for an attitude that accepts that everything we go through makes us stronger, better.

The alternative attitude leads to a life dominated by fear and regret.

Choose wisely to avoid as many heartaches as possible, but ultimately, if you believe, you’ll get where you’re supposed to be—no matter what.

Real love has its own language

Here it is, the big ole heart day. Kissy, kissy, lovey dovey day. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Great day for some, threshold to misery for others.

There’s nothing worse than heartache on Valentine’s Day, especially for those who have lost a loved one, who have made mistakes in love, or who are still waiting for the right one to come along. So rather than talk about red roses, dark chocolates, Hallmark cards and teddy bears, let’s take a look at the gifts of real love—the stuff that doesn’t wilt or add ten pounds.

The great thing about these gifts is that you usually get more in the giving than the receiving.

Patience. Real patience is not for show. It’s genuine. It’s the giving of one’s time, one’s self to another who doesn’t deserve it. Love is the gentle caress of a child who begs for attention, a word of encouragement, a conversation with someone who could use a friend.

Humbleness. Love isn’t envy; it isn’t pride. It’s not a sense of entitlement. It’s sincere appreciation. It is the willingness to share a talent or a gift without rubbing one’s good fortune in the other person’s face.

Unselfishness. Love is all about the other person. It’s about making someone else happy with no payoff in mind. Love doesn’t make the other person look bad. Love builds the other person up. Love is not a false martyr.

Gentleness. Love isn’t anger. Love isn’t screaming, yelling, hitting, threatening, throwing, cursing, or complaining. Love is self control, tenderness, and affection.

Forgiveness. Love allows mistakes. Love doesn’t blame. Love does not seek revenge.

Goodness. Love doesn’t delight in evil. Love wants what’s best, does what’s best, and never gives up hope for the best.

I don’t know how you feel about Valentine’s Day and all the commercial hype. I do know that Valentine’s Day can be one a tough day for a lot of folks, a day of high expectations and big let downs. But however the day goes, just remember Valentine’s Day is just a tiny speck in eternity. God has a bigger plan than Cupid.

If you’re in pursuit of love, it might be closer than you think. Don’t be persuaded by false advertising or fancy packaging. And just because you don’t get a dozen red roses, don’t discount the subtle gifts that may be sent your way. Real love has its own language.

Why I’m a sucker for Serendipity

In honor of St. Valentine’s Day coming up, I am paying homage to my favorite of all favorite romantic movies, Serendipity. Ever wonder how I came up with the name for the blog? Now you know.

It’s hard to believe the movie came out in 2001. What? Ten years ago? A lot can happen in ten years. John Cusack is my favorite actor, and I haven’t seen him in anything else that compares to this film. His co-star, Kate Beckinsale, is, of course, amazing, and her sidekick, Eve, played by Molly Shannon, is the nutty best friend we all wish we had.

This movie is simply magical. The dialogue is snappy, and the cast of supporting characters compliment the co-stars while taking the audience on a emotional roller coaster ride that runs the gamut of feeling—regret, remorse, pity, anger, romantic tension, humor, heartache, relief.

Wow, I wish I’d written the screenplay.

But what is it that makes the movie so magical?

I think it’s the message that what is meant to be will be, no matter what. Everyone likes a happy ending, right? Especially when we’re living in a world with so few happy endings. The movie provides a sense of hope and fulfillment.

Here are my Top Five Reasons why Serendipity is my all-time favorite.

1. The word serendipity–my FAVORITE word in the whole world. Why? Because the definition of serendipity refers to “the accidental discovery of something pleasant, valuable, or useful.” Life has lost its wonder if there is no hope. Serendipity implies a sense of adventure, the feeling that something wonderful could be waiting around the corner. When I was a little kid, I believed I would find the leprechaun and his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If I’m lucky, I’ll catch him.

2. John Cusack stars in the movie. What’s so great about John Cusack? He has attitude. He’s a romantic. He’s a blogger. He’s into kickboxing. He’s a baseball fan (but he likes the White Sox). He’s obviously not perfect, but he’s got potential.

3. One of the best scenes in the movie takes place in the little restaurant called Serendipity, famous for its “Frozen Hot Chocolate.” The only thing that would have made it better is if it were a coffee shop, but it’s close enough for … me. The real restuarant is in Manhattan.

4. There’s a literary element to the movie with the Shakespearean twists. The couple part ways but not before placing their love in the hands of fate. They write their contact info on a $5 bill and in the front of a book, Love in the Time of Cholera, a real novel written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and published by Alfred A. Knopf. (A bit of movie trivia—the $5 bill is a 1999 bill, but the movie is supposed to have taken place in 1994.)

5. There is a reference to music. John Corbett plays Lars Hammond, the new age musician boyfriend of Sara. Lars is too adorable to dislike, and the fact that he follows Sara and spends hours outside her hotel door is incredibly sweet. I’m sure Lars will find his special someone too. But Jon and Sara belong together. Sorry Lars. Good guy, just the wrong guy. (I’ve been a huge fan of John Corbett since his Northern Exposure days. This is MY list of reasons, so I can also add that John Corbett recorded the country song “Good to Go,” co-written by one of my favorite songwriters, Rodney Clawson. Six degrees of separation?)

What’s your favorite romantic movie or love story? I hope Cupid tickles your heart this Valentine’s Day.

 

Me and Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh called me today.

The end.

What more is there to say? For years I’ve imagined what it would be to talk to Joe Walsh one on one. And today it happened.

All I can say is here’s one more example of how God gives us little surprises when we least expect it, when we least deserve it. I can only compare it to a daddy talking his little boy or girl to Walmart for a special toy when it’s not even a birthday or Christmas.

I serendipitously stumbled upon an email that enticed me with these words: “Ever dreamed of talking with The Eagles legendary guitarist, Joe Walsh?”

Heck, yeah.

On a whim I sent a quick return email. I didn’t plan in advance. My heart poured out the words, and I wrote from the place where my passion for music lies. I hit send and forgot about it.

Imagine my surprise when I received a reply saying that Joe appreciated my email and that he had chosen me as one of the lucky few. I was supposed to be in school during the time of the call, and I really didn’t know how I was going to work it out. But turn down a chance to talk to Joe Walsh? No way!

No problem. We had a snow day. Perfect. And sure enough, Joe called. Just like he said he would.

My dream has always been to ask Joe about his songwriting, so during our brief conversation I asked him about “Pretty Maids All in a Row,” one of my favorite songs. And he told me how he wrote it, what inspired him to write it. And he specifically mentioned my favorite line of the song:

“And heroes, they come and they go / and leave us behind as if we’re supposed to know why”

He explained to me that sometimes the people we really admire let us down, or they go away, because they are human. Joe’s hero was Jimi Hendrix—and he died of an overdose. Heroes aren’t supposed to do anything like that.

What Joe said to me really hit me hard. Joe is one of my heroes, but he’s human, prone to flaws and tragedies as are we all. Why is it we’re so prone to see in black and white? Hero or zero?

Our conversation made me think about how beautiful people really are, despite their flaws. I wonder if my fellow Saints take time to see the beauty in everyday people, the people at the grocery store, at Bonnaroo, at the gas station. God made us all. Don’t you ever wish you could see through God’s eyes? What are we missing?

Anyway, now when I hear “Pretty Maids All in a Row” I don’t have to wonder what the song means. I know—because Joe Walsh himself told me. And that’s a gift I’ll treasure forever.

I have a passion for music that is almost uncontainable. I don’t know why it’s that way. Sometimes it frustrates me to the point that I’m miserable. I am not gifted like Joe Walsh. I wish I were. But I think this music love must run in my family blood. Is it a curse or a blessing? I don’t know

Many years ago I made the decision to walk away from anything that had to do with music. It was just too hard to be around it. I figured it would make everyone happy—everyone but me. But as much as I have tried to run from it, music has found my hiding place every time.

So here I am again. Music has spoken again. This time through Joe Walsh. Who would’ve thunk it?

I generally play by ear. I don’t always get all the notes right. But someone once told me to make the song my own. Maybe it’s time I did that.

“….It’s been a long time. / Seems like we’ve come a long way. / My, but we learn so slow….”

Joe Walsh and Joe Vitale, “Pretty Maids All in a Row”

I <3 U

 

My newspaper students gave me the plague. But despite sickness, life must go on.

I’ve had a most wonderful week, learning guitar, playing guitar, hearing my friends play their songs, helping the 3N1 praise band with their music, playing for Trinity, interviewing a rock legend, writing the article, finishing the first draft of my revised synopsis, learning how to revise my novel.

It’s like God just heaped all the desires of my heart onto my plate and said, “Enjoy.” And I did.

I just didn’t have room for desert, which is taking time to jot down my serendipitous thoughts. So here I am tonight with a million thoughts running through my head.

I can’t print any of them.

My number one rule as a journalist (after always tell the truth) is never do any harm. It’s not as if I would purposely write anything that would hurt anyone, but not everyone would be happy to see his or her name pop up on the Psycho Writer Chick’s blog—even if all intentions were honorable.

Since this summer, my world has turned upside down. I prayed that God would send me new friends to add to my old ones, and He did—new friends at school, new friends in my community, new friends in Nashville, new friends all over the world. When God delivers, he DELIVERS!

I believe people’s lives intersect for a reason.

Some people call it serendipity. I think serendipity is God’s way of keeping us on our toes, surprising us with little blessings here and there.

Technically, this post will go up on Groundhog’s Day, but I’m writing it on February 1. As desperate as I am for an amazing blog topic, I refuse to make a list of 100 ways to celebrate the groundhog.

I will, however, throughout this month focus on the topic of love. So my first February blog is my attempt to say thank you to God and to the people who have made a difference in my life.

Are you afraid of coming across as too bold? You can play Secret Admirer. I don’t mean the icky creeper type. I’m talking about the Secret Admirer, known for his or her good deeds as described in Matthew 6: 1-2.

Here’s a list of ways to say, “Thank you. You made a difference in my life.”

  1. Bake a pie and leave on the desk of someone you appreciate. I’ve heard it’s a good idea to make sure you put it on the RIGHT desk.
  2. Complete a random chore for the person you love—like your college son’s laundry. Or play games with your younger child—video games, board games, skill games—even if you stink at them. (I know a mom who squeezed into Little League catcher’s gear and offered herself as human target when her younger son wanted to learn how to pitch.)
  3. Make yourself vulnerable to the person you care about. Open up and let the person see who you really are–probably the best gift of all.
  4. Leave a random Post-It note, card, flower, letter, or other small gift on a day other than Valentine’s Day or birthday. Homemade gifts are extra special. Make something from the heart. It doesn’t have to be food.
  5. Write a song. If you’re really brave, sing it. (Poems work too.)

Love is a verb. It’s not what you say. It’s what you do.

Stalkers' Coffee Break at The Brew -- No, no, no

 

DISCLAIMER:  If you choose the Covert Random Act of Kindness (aka Operation Secret Admirer), remember there’s a bold line between secret appreciator and stalker—don’t even think about going there. I will not bail you out of jail, and I do not want to be your cellmate.