The Lonely Road

Several years ago, I followed my son-in-law home along a deserted, rainy Tennessee road at night. I was doing okay until he vanished around a bend in the road ahead. I couldn’t catch up because he was “headed for the barn” as we say in the South. No moon. Two lanes, no shoulder. Dips and hills, twists and turns, torrential rain and nearly continuous lightning.

lonely-roadSpookier than Sleepy Hollow

No state does back roads like Tennessee. No state does trees and cane on the verge of the asphalt like Tennessee. And certainly, no state does remote, shuttered church buildings with cemeteries like Tennessee. Lightning flashed, thunder boomed, and tree limbs whipped around like skeletal arms, reaching out to grab the vehicle and pull it into the ditch.

That abandoned, rain-swept back road was spookier than Sleepy Hollow. And I just knew that if my vehicle got a flat tire, I was done for. I’d vanish without a trace because the only place I could turn for help was that house with the blue light at the end of a dirt track.

It was just me on that lonely stretch, and even with my trusty GPS, I got lost twice.

 

We All Travel a Lonely Road

But don’t we all travel a lonely road? When it comes right down to it, don’t we actually travel alone? Maybe it’s just my INTJ self, but most days, that’s the way I feel. I have a wonderful, close-knit, loving family in my house, but they don’t sit with me while I write. They don’t hear the thoughts in my head. They don’t make my decisions or form the words I say. They don’t learn or practice new skills for me.

But I’m never truly alone.

Double Occupancy

Life seems like a solitary pursuit of purpose. Yes, people can come alongside us, but in the end, we know they cannot live inside our skin. The spiritual journey most people take through life is accompanied by an aching void.

Thank God, there’s someone who lives inside my skin with me. Those who don’t have a relationship with Christ simply will not understand this next part. His Spirit lives inside me, and I definitely feel his presence.

I didn’t start out to talk about Jesus, but if you want to know more, let’s talk.

Back to Writing

I was going to write about the lonely road as it pertains to authors because most authors work alone, and we often get lonely.

A point comes when it’s just the author and the page, the thoughts and the words. Sometimes, life is dark and rainy. And you’re lost on an unfamiliar route featuring spooky houses with blue lights. Just kidding about that last part.

Actually, you’re stuck 40,000 words into your story, your plot outline flew out the window three chapters ago, and you have no idea how you’re going to land this plane because you’re flying over the Himalayas without a paddle.

Wait. That didn’t make sense. But you get the picture.

Going to the House with the Spooky Blue Light

Your internal GPS is telling you to take roads that don’t exist. You keep circling back to where you started. Oh, it’s definitely time to get help.

This is when you have to get help, and it feels as if you’re walking up the dirt road to the shady house with the blue porch light. Critique partners aren’t as spooky as you think. Sometimes, they are the only folks who can help you get safely home.

Be brave. Get help.

I’m really happy to be part of the Scriblerians because I have other people trying to help me stay on the road. If you’re not part of a group already, then form one.

Have you ever reached a point where you had to reach out for help?

 


A1047webTexas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for young adults and anyone else who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is committed to exciting stories, appropriate content, and quality craftsmanship.

Learn more at http://www.kathresemckee.com

GOD’s Timing is Perfect

ScribcolumnAs I journey through the most intriguing quest of my life, I am keenly aware of GOD’s timing. No…no… it’s more than that.

I am in awe of how HE is orchestrating and arranging and fine-tuning the unfolding of this story.

Someone, probably several “someones”, many years ago, made a gut-wrenching decision—to leave a three-day-old baby on a door step. To walk away and never know what became of this life. I was that baby.    (see “The Making of a Family…)

back-door-step

the door where I was found 

And now, only two months after learning of my “foundling” beginnings, it appears I am on the cusp of discovering the WHO and the WHYS surrounding that decision. Through little effort on my part, GOD has opened doors and stirred memories and so divinely put the right people in the right place at the right time. Incredibly kind fellow Christians who are praying along with me for HIS will to be accomplished.

Because HE’s GOD.

memeMy curious, dig-for-the-details nature is, to put it mildly, restless. I’m trying very hard to be patient and continue to wait on GOD’s timing. HIS faithfulness soothes my anxious spirit. HIS hand print has been so evident, how can I choose to do anything but step back and allow HIM to work?

For three weeks, the message on the church’s sign has been, “GOD’s TIMING IS ALWAYS RIGHT”. So very true.

The pastor’s devotional at last night’s meeting was on how GOD opens doors.  Mm hmm…

And a new friend I’ve met on this journey shared yesterday— The details never escape an Omniscient God…every detail has His print upon it. Very well said.

GOD is all over this situation. Obviously.

This “slice” of my life comes as no surprise to HIM. HE already knows how the entire pie” will fit together.

Just as HE’s held my life in his hands for these many years, GOD’s got this new leg of my journey as well. Updates on the quest to follow…

When has GOD’s timing been so evident in your life?

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

When Books Become the Enemy

My son is college age now, but there was a time many years ago when I thought he would never pick up another book. I read to my son from his toddler‘s years through the third grade to help him learn to love reading, but when he started refusing to read around the fifth grade, I had to take matters into my own hands.

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During the summer between the fifth and sixth grades, my son refused to pick up another book. This was the same kid that brought home two books a week from the school library for years, and was so mad when the dog in The Legend of Stone Fox died, he wouldn’t pick up the book to finish it for three weeks.

A quick visit to my local library had me checking out an audio book of Lemony Snicket’s A Bad Beginning, narrated by Tim Curry. It was an instant hit, and renewed his interest in listening to another. So I picked up the second in the series which he gladly listened to. The third in the series wasn’t the audio book, but the print version. He devoured it in days and began asking me for more reading suggestions. Fortunately, I knew tons of good books he would like.

Thankfully he had a wonderful reading teacher in the sixth grade. She knew her stuff and how to keep her students reading by helping them find books that they were interested in. He was still an avid reader until the end of the ninth grade. True to form, our public school system pretty much killed his “reading for pleasure habits” by cramming classics down his throat in the middle of the tenth grade.

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Having Problems Getting Someone to Read Beowulf? Try this.

Reading for enjoyment is very important. Sure our kids can read, but can they understand the context and analyze the message by breaking down the ideas in it. They may read to pick out facts, but do they understand what is being said? Analytical thinking is a skill that needs to be practiced daily. Our media- inundated culture genuinely requires us to be critical thinkers, if only out of self-defense to avoid being manipulated. Reading is a great way to develop and maintain critical thinking skills and help sharpen focus.

I have no qualms with reading classics, but there are a great many I don’t even like to read myself. So why should I make a child read something I would never pickup. Forcing “classics” on children can make them view reading as an enemy.

There are many literature teachers racking their brains to try to get their students to interact with classic literature, but the problem is that the classics can be far enough removed from our culture that they don’t engage many young readers. This is where stories marketed for Young Adults and Middle Grade students can at least help bridge those jumps to more challenging books. I want to take this one step farther; audio books can bridge the gap between not liking reading and learning to appreciate reading.

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A FUN WAY TO TEACH A CLASSIC

An audio book requires the use of different areas of the brain than reading plain text. Listening to the phrasing and grouping of a sentence being read is a great way to make the viewing of text friendlier by allowing a listener to associate the content of a book with a fun story. Even reading along with the book as the narrator reads is a time tested method for teaching reading skills.

I admit I will never like The Great Gatsby even though I was forced to read it. There are some classics that I have enjoyed and were a lot of fun to read. A fact I discovered when I found the audio book versions of them.

Some evening try listening to an audio book instead of renting a DVD. It’s really fun.

Next time: Graphic Novels as a strategy for the reluctant reader.

The Creative Person Versus The World

 

super-kid

 

“Man! The traffic was crazy today. Then, wouldn’t you know it, a cyclist whips by, cuts in front of a line of cars, and almost gets nailed!”

“Wow. Really?” I shook my head, while he continued on about how crazy some cyclists are.

I was listening to my husband recapping his trip home from the office

Honest.

However, I was also drawn to stare at a few whiskers on his cheek that he’d missed that morning, and was half listening to the news on tv about a Canadian Paralympic 1500 meter runner, (and wondering why we hadn’t heard more on the Paralympics) A quail sat on top of a bush outside, and I admired its plump little body perched so comfortably.

My hubbie stopped and stared at me. “Are you listening?”

“Of course. Just wanted to interject that dinner’s ready.”

“Right. Anyway, blah blah blah blah…”

To be honest, I only caught about a half of what he said. Does this sound familiar?

I’ve researched characteristics of creative people and found in many articles that ‘creatives’ are most often aware of a lot of irrelevant environmental stimuli occurring at any given time. And most often creative people need absolute silence to concentrate. Hence, writer’s retreats, and the popular suggestion for creative people to work at quiet times of the day, like early morning. (Shudder. Just how early are we talking?)

Interestingly enough, many characteristics of a creative person are similar to those of a person with ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. They both are dreamers, unable at times to focus on just one thing, able to think out of the box, and often possess a very practical intelligence. And many articles have been written about the correlation between creativity and ADD. Of course, there are degrees of each, and the only reason I thought these articles were interesting was to be able to understand myself a bit better, and to learn how to deal with being distracted. It’s not really important to me whether I have ADD or am simply creative, but the vast number of articles written on both make me realize, I’m not alone.

So how do creative people concentrate?

I love the story about Victor Hugo, the author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, locking away all his clothes to avoid the temptation of going out and socializing while completing his manuscript.

Apparently Einstein took long walks on beaches or merely gazed at a ceiling and waited for his imagination to take over.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart loved to take long carriage rides by himself, often in the middle of the night.

 

solitude

The people above, all insisted that solitude was paramount to being creative, but each of us has to know how to deal with his or her creativity and life’s distractions. It truly shocked me when I watched my son with headphones on listening to music and studying at the same time. Obviously that would not have worked for me, but somehow it did for him.

Our ability to use our brains to get outside our limited experiences and worlds, enables us to imagine far more than less creative people. The problem is to harness our minds and discipline ourselves in order to best utilize our God-given gifts.

In the book The Creative Brain: The Science of Genius, neuroscientist Nancy Andreasen confirms that creative people struggle with distractions more than others.

So, how do you create that zone where you are the most creative?

 

The Forgotten

 

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I remember it like it was yesterday…
the heavy scent of lemons,
squeeky floors,
hallways of gleaming lockers.

I had finally made it to grade 9!

I was soooooo nervcited. Image result for nervous emoticon

But as exciting and new as it was,
there was also a scary not so cool side too…
girls snickering at my “uncool” clothing,
dropping my books in the classroom,
getting lost in the maze of hallways.

And, of course, I knew no one…
I had no friends.

Now, I did eventually meet my “group”,
and although we weren’t the most popular we made memories,
watching out for each other,
getting in trouble together,
discovering what it means to be a true friend

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This year, my oldest stepped into highschool,
from homeschooling.

He knows no one.
He’s a gentle giant,
and doesn’t understand teenage social structures.

I feel like every day I’m throwing him to the wolves.

Maybe if I locked him in his room,
kept him at home until he is thirty,
He wouldn’t have to go through this…
I wouldn’t have to go through this.

But we do.
And the school bus picks him up each morning.
And I lay awake at night.

My son.

Not bullied,
but forgotten.

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Why do I tell you this?

Perhaps you know someone who is going to your school,
sitting by themselves for lunch
say hello
sit beside them
you’d be surprised at what you learn from a gentle giant.

Or you are the teacher and there is one in your class,
playing by themselves at recess,
nose stuck in a book because they are safe
find out their interests
help them interact with others.

Maybe it’s you,
at school,
at church,
at work,
take a chance,
find your tribe.

It may involve pain and discomfort,
but it’s worth it.

I challenge you to keep an eye out for not only the bullied, but the forgotten in your life. You know who they are…the ones your eyes pass over almost involuntarily.

If you like what I write I’m revamping my blog,
and will be discussing tons of my most embarassing teenage moments.:/

Image result for scriblerians karen deblieck

 

 

There’s Another World Out There

Vintage reads

Women’s rights. Poverty. Art. Non-western culture. Microfinance.

All the above topics can be found in a book written for girls ages eight to ten. “Sounds ambitious,” you might comment. Yes, and Mitali Perkins meets those ambitions with great success. I can’t call it a “Vintage Read.” It’s only going on ten years old, but I thought I’d let the teacher in me come out for today’s topic. Mitali Perkins

Rickshaw_Girl

Rickshaw Girl is set in Bangladesh in modern times. Naima is around ten years old, the daughter of a rickshaw driver. She is forced to leave school since her parents can’t pay fees for more than one child. Now, it’s her younger sister’s turn. Naima has tremendous artistic talent, but what good is that? As a female, she never expects to get a job much less be able to use her talent.

From that premise, Naima gets herself into a few scrapes as she bungles her efforts to contribute to family finances. From facing down the prejudice of boys her own age to learning about the possibilities of borrowing from a “bank” for women who want to start a business, Perkins teaches these concepts with a vocabulary that young readers can understand. Central to Naima’s story is her talent for creating alpanas, beautiful geometrical and floral designs painted in rich colors.

Alpana design. Photo by Sanjay K Ram (2007) on Flickr

Alpana design. Photo by Sanjay K Ram (2007) on Flickr

Rickshaw Girl may be better introduced through assigned reading in schools or homeschools.  My granddaughter, who devours all books on fantasy and princesses, didn’t show much interest when I showed her the cover of Rickshaw Girl.

However, just as we don’t feed our children entire meals of rich desserts, we should add more than one genre to their reading diet. I insisted that my children eat their meat and vegetables, and when I next see my granddaughter, we’re going to read this book together. Who knows? Rickshaw Girl may spark Hannah’s interest in other cultures, leading her to missions work or philanthropic projects for those in need.

Microfinance Women photo credit to athiqahnuralami.wordpress.com

Microfinance Women photo credit to athiqahnuralami.wordpress.com

When I was a child, I didn’t like books written in diary form. Still don’t, as a general rule, but if someone hadn’t forced me to read a journal written during World War II by some girl in Holland, I might never have discovered my passion for Holocaust history.

A free copy of Rickshaw Girl to the first person who tells me the identity of that girl in Holland.