The Illusion That It’s Up to Me

I have a lot of ambition. Big plans, big dreams, big goals. I’m almost always working on something and I have a difficult time being in the moment because I’m usually thinking through what comes next. It makes me kind of a pain to live with, I think. If anyone I live with is thinking of complaining, though, I’d like to note that I’m married to an entrepreneur so, you know, people in glass houses and all that.

Some of my goals for the next year are as follows: I’d like to write at least one more new manuscript (my current new manuscript, Bai Tide, is going through beta reader revisions. Hooray!), preferably two, all in the same series as Bai Tide. I have a really good story and character arc planned for the intrepid Bai Hsu from Blood Money and I think it’d be fun to try my hand at a series. So, there’s goal number one: One, but preferably two, new manuscripts next year.

Goal two: Pitch my new book(s) to an agent and get one to sign me.

Goal three: A really excellent book contract that’ll qualify me for the International Thriller Writers.

Goal four: Attend the PNWA Writers Conference, and maybe the International Thriller Writers Conference, both of which happen in July. Only one of which happens in New York City.

Goal Five: Win either the Nancy Pearl award for Blood Money or the PNWA Literary Fiction contest for Bai Tide. Preferably both. Not sure how realistic this is but sometimes an outlandish goal is invigorating.

As you can see, all of my goals revolve around writing. My goals for 2013 were to get published by an actual publisher (check!) and lose the baby weight I gained with my daughter (just five pounds left to go!). So those are done, and it feels great to have those in the rear view.

If I can get published before I’m thirty and lose forty five pounds in seven months, who’s to say I can’t land a book contract and a kick-butt agent who’s going to help me get my work out there? As for the conferences and the awards, we’ll see. They’re not in my realm of control as much. But I can sure as heck make sure I get lots of new writing done this next year, and I can definitely query and pitch my little heart out until an agent takes notice of me. Lord willing, of course.

This, I think, is the hardest thing for me to do with my walk with Christ. To hand over the things and people nearest and dearest to me and ask Him to do what He thinks is best with them. I mean, I KNOW He’s wise and knows best, but it’s difficult for me to hand over the deepest wishes of my heart (to be a successful author) and acknowledge that this might not be what He’s planned for me.

So, I pray. I pray for guidance, inspiration, help, and direction. That doors will either open or close as He sees fit, and that He’ll kick me through the right ones when the time comes.

I might accomplish some of those goals this next year, I might not. I might have a great year, or I’ll have a year that has me limping to the next holiday season desperate for a break. I don’t know.

All I know for sure is that it feels good to dream big, and know that at the very least, I’m doing what I love. Whether or not I’ll ever be a household name is a separate issue. So long as I’ve got stories to write, I reckon I’m right where I need to be. The rest is up to Him.

Eric Carle Set Me Up

I was trying to explain to my son the other night why it wasn’t possible to reach the moon for him, and for that I blame Eric Carle. You know who Eric Carle is, he’s the author who penned “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?” among many other dozens of childrens books.

51CADHJBDSL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_Eric Carle wrote a book called “Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me” and it’s about this father who uses a very tall ladder to reach the moon for his daughter, who plays with the moon until it gets smaller and smaller and finally disappears altogether.

I had no idea my son took the book so entirely to heart until his earnest little face was imploring me to please PLEASE get a tall ladder and reach the moon for him. I stood there perplexed, trying to figure out the exact best way to explain how far away the moon is, how large it is in comparison to our family room, and how woefully inadequate a ladder would be in the task of trying to reach it.

It felt like shuffling a giant Rolodex in my brain. What to explain first? How the moon orbits the Earth and is 27% its size? Should I illustrate this with a marble and a soccer ball? Is it possible to explain the endless vacuum of space to a preschool-aged child? What about astronauts, is now the time to discuss space shuttles and space suits? It seems like it might be a bit morbid to explain what would happen to me if I tried to climb a ladder into space, how I’d die, frozen to death, my body draped across the rungs of the ladder far short of ever even reaching the moon. Plus, how a ladder that long would break under its own weight.

space-shuttle-launch3aWhen I’d stared at my child for a good long time, I finally arrived at an approach I deemed suitable for my child’s stage of mental development: I told him I couldn’t reach the moon because I didn’t have a spaceship. When he asked why, I explained how you need a vehicle appropriate for the terrain you’re traveling and used the example of how you wouldn’t try to fly with a dump truck. Likewise, you wouldn’t try to reach the moon without a space ship.

He seemed satisfied, we watched a few YouTube videos of space shuttle launches, and everyone was happy.

Still, his questions reminded me of why I never did as well on tests in school as I should have, given my intelligence (this isn’t boasting. I really am quite intelligent). I over-think almost everything. My child’s simple question exploded my head into a debate about whether it was too soon to explain Newtonian physics to him, when all I needed to do was show him a space shuttle and explain that I didn’t have one.

One of these days, my son is going to realize that I over-think and perhaps over-explain everything and he’s going to start shepherding my answers. He’ll roll his eyes and tell me, “Mom. Short answer” and have no idea the pretzels he’s twisting my brain into as I try to condense all the thoughts clattering through my head into small, cogent responses.

For now, though, I’ll just try to remember that the best answers for preschool-aged boys usually tend to contain trucks or vehicles of some sort.

Are Elephants Not Meat?

I normally try to stick to covering such substantive philosophical topics as, Does Your Nail Polish Color Signify Something? and Can a Poke Be Considered a Finger Punch?

I’m of course being frivolous. There’s nothing even remotely substantive about either of those topics, though they were fun to talk about with the people who read those posts. I suppose what I’m saying is I normally try to keep things light and leave the heavy mental lifting to people who are qualified.

elephant-hunter1There’s been a topic going around lately, however, that’s got me pondering: Big game hunting.

I’ve seen quite a lot of fuss made over pictures of people standing over dead elephants, calls to refuse to shop at the companies they work for, petitions to ban them from Africa, things like that.

I’ll admit, the thought of killing an elephant makes me sad. They’re intelligent creatures and magnificent and loyal and good swimmers and they already have enough problems to deal with without weekend warriors coming at them with high-powered rifles.

Still, here’s what’s got me wondering: Why are all the people who are upset about big game hunting not vegetarians?

I get that big game hunting is different from, say, deer hunting. All the deer hunters I know eat the deer they shoot, whereas I doubt very much that big game hunters go home with 10,000 pounds of elephant meat. So, easy, clear distinction there. Maybe some people don’t see it that way. I saw a picture on Twitter that said “Save a deer, hunt a hunter” and it showed a man posing over a dead guy with a bullet hole in his head. For what it’s worth, I see the difference between hunting for food and sport hunting.

What I wonder, though, is whether there’s enough of a difference between elephants and cows/chickens/sheep/goats/pigs/etc. to make it an outrageous offense against nature to kill an elephant and permissible to kill a farm animal in a slaughterhouse.

Is it the utility of the meat that makes a difference? Even though the humans who shoot the elephants don’t eat the meat, I have to imagine savannah scavengers have a field day every time an elephant goes down. I doubt that meat goes wasted.

Is it because elephants are endangered? If there are enough of them to make hunting legal, then should this be a concern? Am I naive for assuming the governments who take care of this sort of thing have done the math to ensure the hunting permits they grants don’t wipe out the species?

This is my question in its simplest form: Why is it abhorrent to hunt and kill an elephant, but permissible to eat meat? How are the two different?

{Please bear in mind, I’m not asking whether hunting elephants is wrong. What I’m asking is why it’s ok to kill chickens but not elephants.}

The Issaquah Schtick Realized

Some towns are known for their schticks. New York City has bagels, Seattle has apathy, Los Angeles has beautiful people, Houston has cowboy boots, etc. I’m not saying all citizens in those cities are like this, I’m saying these are these cities’ schticks. It’s what they emblazon on the tourist stuff they sell in their airports.

I’ve lived near a city named Issaquah for half my life. Issaquah is a nice little city whose schtick is that it plays host to salmon once a year. Salmon swim through Issaquah’s creeks once a year, upstream on their way to their spawning grounds. There’s even a salmon hatchery in Issaquah, where they help the salmon population get a leg up. Every year, Issaquah pulls out all the stops for their October festival called Salmon Days.

Salmon are a big deal in Issaquah.

Even though I’ve lived within spitting distance of Issaquah for fourteen years now, I’ve never seen a salmon in real life. Not in the wild, at least. I’ve seen a few in zoos. I never really expected to, either, since I don’t exactly seek them out. Still, I’ve always wanted to see one. They’re cool fish (they jump waterfalls!) and they taste delicious.

The creek.

This isn’t the exact creek, but it’s close enough. You get the idea.

I was out and about with my kids today, tossing around the idea of taking them to a park, when I randomly decided to take them to a little creek. It was a sunny day and I left like letting them get their hands dirty for awhile.

As soon as we got there, we heard vigorous splashing and looked downstream to see a massive fish muscling itself over some rapids. It pushed itself over the rocks, coming out of the water a few times, and kept splashing the water everywhere until it made it back into the deeper water upstream. It was dark red and had a hooked mouth. Undeniably a salmon!

He was soon joined by a cohort of other salmon, all of them bigger than I would have guessed, all of them athletic and fast. They gathered in the little pool in front of us, catching their breaths, and then one by one started queuing up to jump up the waterfall upstream to our left. It was incredible to watch them beat their tails and fly up, into, and then over the waterfall.

So I guess I’m a native now. And my kids are too. The only thing that would’ve made it better is if I’d had my good camera on hand to document the experience. That’s the trouble with living life, though. Sometimes you’re too busy having fun to record how much fun you’re having.

That Particular Kind of Quiet

I’m perched on my couch, bills and to do lists splayed around me, and it occurs to me that there’s a very particular kind of quiet to a house filled with sleeping people. Have you ever noticed that? How the quality of silence in an empty house is different than when people are asleep? Why is that?

Wes and I have both noticed that. It’s weird. Before we had kids, we’d be home together and the house would feel full and happy. Now, though, if for some strange reason he and I are both home but the kids aren’t, the house feels empty. Giddy and free and happy, but still weirdly empty. Granted, the house we lived in before we had kids was about half the size of our current house, but still. Strange, no?

Maybe it’s holdover from clan/tribe/communal living (and I’m speaking here of deep genetic encoding. Wes and I have never, that we’ve known of, lived in a clan, tribe, or commune). That sense of being part of a cohesive unit that’s bereft in the absence of someone. Or maybe Wes and I have just been parents for so long that our capacity to sense mayhem is compromised by a lack of tiny people around to cause it.

Thor says, "Stop crying or I'll bash you with Mjolnir."

Thor says, “Stop crying or I’ll bash you with Mjolnir.”

I suppose that’s why Empty Nest Syndrome is a thing. In these days of sippy cups and diapers and preschool, the idea of my kids flying the coop someday is laughable. Then again, though, when I was holding my newborn son in my arms and wondering whether I’d ever sleep again, the idea of him carrying on a conversation with me and going to school was also laughable. Yet here we are.

I’m sure when that day comes and both my kids are out in the real world on their own and I’m looking around my (weirdly silent) house, I won’t be doing much laughing. Sobbing into the jammies they wore when they came home, most definitely. But probably only a very little bit of laughing.

Unless one of my kids leaves me a cardboard cut out of Thor or something. Then I’ll most certainly do some laughing.

Parenthood is so weird.