A few months ago, thanks to a nudge from my best friend, I responded to a call for writers for a daily devotional site that was in the works. In a few weeks that site will go live, and you can sign up to receive a dose of inspiration and insight in your inbox every day. I’ll be writing on Day 8 each month, and I’ll be flanked by an amazing assortment of writers who have committed to sharing the many ways God moves in all our lives. I am proud to introduce Our Words Collaborative, and I hope you’ll sign up and join us on this journey.
One of the most appealing aspects of this gig is being a part of a writing community. I have done some of my best writing in a circle of other writers. There is no better motivation, at least for me, than knowing others are expecting me to write words so they can read them. Lately, as we have awaited the full formation of the OWC tribe, several of the writers have sent beautiful emails introducing themselves, asking the rest of us to do the same, and as much as I like to write about myself, the simple question “Tell me about yourself” always stumps me.
“I’m…oh look, someone commented on my picture.”
But. BUT! Earlier this week someone sent out a list of questions for us to answer, and that, my friends, is my love language. I can answer questions ALL DAY. It’s like an assignment! From school! I was great at school. If every blog post began with an assignment like this I would write more often. Needless to say, I was all over these questions, and as I started pondering them I decided this would be a great place to share my answers. A bridging of my writing worlds, if you will.
Here, without further delay, is more than you likely ever wanted to know about me:
1. When is your birthday? How old will you be?
I was born on September 14, and I will be the age my grandmother was when I turned one year old. This may make me sound ancient, but the truth is, my grandma was barely 40 when I was born, just a little older than I was when I gave birth to my son two years ago. Have I complicated this answer adequately? Good.
2. Do you have pets?
If this question is asking about how many animals I feed, bathe, clean up after, drive to the vet, chase off the sofa, and utilize for personal entertainment (really, is there anything more amusing than watching a cat dart frantically around a room?), the answer is four. Technically only one of them is “mine,” and he is a 14 year old fat tabby named Chapin. The other three animals belong to my daughter, and they include a hound mutt named Lucy, a tuxedo cat named Ellie, and a full grown bearded dragon named Toothless. However, if you ask the animals whom they belong to, their answers differ from mine. For example, Ellie was The Girl’s 6th birthday present, but if you consider the human she gravitates to for play and affection, she is my husband’s cat. I adopted Lucy when The Girl was two thinking they would be the best of friends, like characters in a novel or an allergy medicine commercial, but I am the human Lucy most responds to, whether it’s a command to stop barking and get in the freaking house already, or the slightest movement of my hand that might lead to petting or a morsel of dropped food. Chapin, our old man, once my constant shadow and late night snuggle companion, abandoned me for The Girl when she was still en utero. He used to curl around my swollen belly and press his head against my abdomen like he was trying to get to her, and he has loved her unabashedly since the day she entered the house. That leaves the lizard, and he really couldn’t care less about the lot of us, as long as someone is lowering lettuce and mealworms into his tank on the regular. The first love of my life, and the only other pet I’ve had as an adult, was a dog named Suzanna, and no animal will ever surpass her superior level of awesome.
3. Tell me about your family….
I am the oldest of four, but the only child of my parents. I went without siblings for a decade until my father’s son made me the big sister I had always dreamed of being, and then shortly after became the doting oldest girl of my mother’s three daughters. I chose single-motherhood in my early thirties and raised my daughter on my own, with the support of a small village of family and friends, until I met my husband when The Girl was four. Neither of us had ever been married, and our lives were vastly different but strangely parallel, full of seemingly random connections that could have caused our paths to cross, but didn’t. We met in the most sterile and impersonal of ways–match dot com–where we got to know each other via long emails before finally going on the first of many dates. He was the only guy I dated from Match, and we both secretly knew early in the game that this was something different, something extraordinary. It was. It still is. I believe God was preparing us for each other for years before we found each other, and you cannot convince me otherwise. We make time every day to laugh and talk together, and with our kids. This man and this girl and this boy are the most amazing people I know. The Girl is 9, and she appears to be growing up almost by the minute, but is still very likely to be seen clutching one of her many stuffed animals. She keeps a book on her person like some pre-adolescents carry around their iPhones these days, and although she does love an occasional day of endless Minecraft and Netflix, she can run a 5K in under 30, is developing into quite the soccer player, and can out-converse most adults I know on many topics. She loves every animal on this earth, digs Star Wars, the Marvel Universe, and Harry Potter, and enjoys ruthlessly beating her parents at Exploding Kittens. The Boy will be 2 next month, and he is his sister’s favorite pastime. When we told her we were expecting him and asked her why she was so excited, she said it was so she would have someone to play with while we were fixing dinner. She was 6 then, and I thought she might end up being disappointed by his inability to “play,” but she has found a way to connect with him every day of his life, and they really do play while I’m fixing dinner. She is his person, and she makes him laugh like no one or nothing else can. He is a master at making us laugh, too, and is already figuring out what to do to garner that reaction. He loves water, watching basketball on TV, playing in the sand, jumping, and blatantly giving all his dinner to the dog. They are both dark-haired and brown-eyed and beautiful, and I consider the connection between them one of the greatest gifts of my life.
4. Tell me about what your typical day consists of….
I wake up at 4, and sometimes I go back to sleep and wake up for real at 5:30. I drop The Boy at his preschool on my way to work at a career/tech education magnet school. I try to go to the gym or run at least 3-4 days a week before I pick up The Boy and The Girl. I fix dinner and try to clean something or wash a load of laundry every evening just to keep the mess at bay. We always sit down at the table and have dinner as a family. Sometimes there is soccer practice, or Bible study, or dinner with friends. I oversee baths and Husband and I share the bedtime routines, and when both kids are asleep we pack lunches and put away dishes and watch our handful of shows on Hulu. I try to squeeze my writing into the cracks, and that is harder than it should be, and every week I decide I’m going to put myself on a stricter schedule, and every week I fall into the schedule I already have, and I’ve decided this is going to have to be okay for now.
5. My best quality is:
When I got my first apartment, a little duplex with a tiny yard I was responsible for, my dad found me a junky old lawnmower that mostly ran but appeared to be falling apart spontaneously, and grass cutting days usually found me tinkering with something on that thing. A wheel fell off mid-mow, for example, and I had to rig it back on because the bolt that was previously holding it on was somewhere in my yard, or the starter cable handle popped off and I had to figure out how to thread it back to the surface and secure it to a substitute handle (a cheese spreader, if you must know). Someone eventually stole that pile of metal, and I hope it lived a short, frustrating life with its new owner. But that is not my point. My point is that I am stubbornly resourceful and will always look for a solution, and most of the time I find one. There is no missing ingredient that can keep me from making a recipe, no technology glitch that can stop me from downloading, uploading, operating, or utilizing a computer or other device. When I was a single homeowner I was familiar with the roof, the crawlspace, and the narrow wedge of space behind the washer and dryer that provided access to the hot water heater. During my semester abroad in London, I spent an entire day riding around the Underground, and another few days just walking the city with a map, to ensure I would always be able to find my way back to our flat. For as long as I can remember, I have been determined not to allow my circumstances to defeat me. Sometimes this looks like independence, sometimes like creative problem-solving, and other times like bull-headedness, but I can promise you if I set my mind on something, I won’t stop until I’ve completed the task or exhausted every possibility trying.
6. In my spare time I like to….
I schedule myself pretty tightly, but in my unscheduled moments you can find me running, or curled up next to Husband watching “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and SNL, or playing outside with my kids, or reading, or, if I’m being totally honest, trying to Face Swap with any number of inanimate objects in my house (hello, Yoda on the cover of The Girl’s Star Wars book, you clearly have a face–why can’t we make this work?). Husband says I love to clean, but this is a lie. The truth is that I love a clean house, and typically I can only get that by cleaning. I dislike most activities that fall under the cleaning umbrella, like putting away dishes, wiping counters, and scrubbing tubs and showers. Also, laundry. But I admittedly do love to vacuum carpet and clean the hardwood floors with my Hoover Floor Mate, and I sometimes do those things just for the instant gratification they bring. Ditto mowing grass and pressure washing concrete.
7. I get scared when….
Spring storms that are capable of producing large hail, damaging winds, and floods, and that have the potential to spawn tornadoes are terrifying to me, but they are sort of a metaphor for All The Things that scare me (read: anything that cannot be controlled or fully anticipated). I realize this pretty much includes everything there is in the world, and that is why fear is a huge struggle for me, and why I am constantly working on focusing on the one thing I can control, which is trusting that God has this. All of it. And even if the tornado touches down, or someone gets sick, or my family is threatened in some way, He’s still got this.
8. My favorite food is….
Listen, I like to eat. A LOT. It would be impossible to name one thing I prefer to eat over all things, partly because there are so many options, and also because every day is different, and maybe this week I could exist on Diet Coke and Little Debbie Swiss Rolls alone, but next week I might crave a perfectly cooked filet and mashed potatoes six days in a row. If I had to name a few top items, I would definitely include, in no particular order, Fruity Pebbles, freshly picked late spring strawberries, Brie and warm bread, bacon, my husband’s homemade pimiento cheese, just-baked biscuits, Reece’s cups, and beer. Beer counts as food, right?
9. My least favorite food is….
Definitely canned tuna. I can’t even talk further about this.
10. I would like to be better at….
I want to stop worrying so much about all the potential things that might happen to my people that I often squander our time together. I want to spend way less time looking at meaningless crap on my phone and more time looking into people’s eyes. I want to run a solid 9-minute mile. I want to be so confident as a writer that I stop saying I’m going to “write when I can” and instead start writing because I can, because it’s what I’m supposed to do and not some side interest I get around to sometimes.
11. When I’m worried, I usually….
I wish I could say I remain calm and immediately pray about whatever is worrying me, but I don’t. I over-research things on the internet. I imagine worst case scenarios–all of them. I pace and fidget and pick at my cuticles. I lose ridiculous amounts of sleep. I cry. Eventually I do come to my senses, though, and I start a conversation with God that has no real beginning or end, and immediately I feel myself settle. I shake my head and scold myself for not starting with the praying in the first place, not even a simple Anne Lamott “help, help!” because the centering that comes with calling out to God is often instant. I’m working on it, though. I’m working on it.
12. What was the last book you read?
I am currently halfway through both Dear Mr. You by Mary Louise Parker and Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I am a one-novel-at-a-time reader, but I am currently in a non-fiction phase, and most of what I read can be digested in small quantities. I say all of that to say this: I recently finished, in the same weekend, after a month of reading simultaneously, Seven by Jen Hatmaker, Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, and Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton.
13. Coffee or tea?
Coffee is my Regularly Scheduled Program, and tea is a Special Presentation. Missing coffee makes me cranky and irritable. It’s not even the physical effects I need from coffee; it’s the coffee experience. I love the way it smells when it’s brewing, and I love the way the first pour tastes as I start my day, and I love the way my breakfast and mid-morning snack (and the occasional doughnuts someone brought to share with the staff) taste with the coffee. While I love a cup of Earl Grey from time to time, and try to drink Tulsi on a regular basis for wellness purposes, there is no way even the finest cup of tea could ever fill my daily cup.
14. How can I pray for you?
If you’re still not sure about subscribing to Our Words Collaborative, consider this question. We have never met each other. We live in different states, different countries. Our ages span a number of years. We come from different cultures and backgrounds. But in the brief time we’ve been “together,” this is not the first time one of our number has asked this question: how can I pray for you? Sure, OWC is an opportunity to showcase our writing, and that is certainly appealing for me, but it’s also a place where God is creating community, making plans, using the gifts of a group to reach far beyond where we can go individually. My prayer for all of us is that we pay attention to our lives, our people, our struggles and our mistakes and our victories, our strong feelings and our peaceful moments, because that’s where we find Him, waiting to give us the next line of our story.