Monday, May 1, 2017

Keep writing

I have to be honest: this was the most difficult National Novel Writing Month event I've ever taken part in. Camp Nanowrimo of April 2017 almost became the Nanowrimo I didn't complete.


Never underestimate a redheaded novelist.

The book itself, the third book in the Ordinary Sam series, isn't quite finished yet. But by the end of the Camp Nanowrimo event yesterday I had crossed the 50,000 word mark, making this the fourteenth time I have managed to do this (three times so far with Camp Nanowrimo, and eleven times writing during the original National Novel Writing Month event in November).

Am I writing this blog post to brag about it all? Not in the least. I'm writing it because every year I encounter people online or in real life who say they want to write a book, or that they wish they could write a book, or that they'd really like to try NaNoWriMo, or some such thing. And some of them do try, but circumstances come up and they have to quit early without making their goals, or they slog through the month and still come up short from a word count perspective--and at that point the temptation is to quit and never try again. Because, some of them are thinking, I already failed, and that proves I'm not really a writer, so why bother trying?

Well, as I said before, on my fourteenth attempt at this I found myself facing the reality that after making a fifty thousand word count goal thirteen times in a row this might finally be the year I didn't make it. But even if something had happened and I had failed to make the word count at the last minute yesterday, I already know I'm a writer. And so, if you're really honest with yourselves, do you--those of you who really do want to write that book, those of you who tried NaNoWriMo already, those of you who are always spending at least part of your time in an imaginary world inside your mind.

Don't sell yourself short. Don't give up. Don't quit trying.

Sure, there are temporary circumstances that might make a really big word goal unreachable right now. But you won't always be tandem nursing two sets of twins or homeschooling a dozen children all day or running three-fourths of the volunteer work at your parish or whatever else you've gotten yourself into these days. In those situations a word goal of "One coherent sentence typed in Times New Roman per day" might be more than enough. But someday when the children are all eating solid food or attending universities, etc., you may find yourself with time to do much more--and it will help immensely if you've already started, how ever small your previous efforts may have been.

The only real setback would be for you to give up writing altogether, because that would be a real tragedy. The world, as the National Novel Writing Month people put it, needs your novel.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Oh, Canada...

This is the last week of Camp Nanowrimo, and I'm so far behind in my word count that it isn't funny. It doesn't help that yesterday I had a visit to the dentist to replace a filling that went missing; after a very busy, non-writing weekend I just didn't need to lose such a huge chunk of valuable afternoon writing time, but missing fillings wait for no man. Or woman. Or any of the other seven-hundred-twenty options (apologies if I left anyone out! Not really).

One of the topics I hope to blog about next week is the rising tide of transgender activism and the dangerous direction it is taking. As a lead-in to that eventual discussion, I present exhibit A (for "appalling"). This article is about a proposed bill in Canada that would add gender rights/gender expression to Canada's Human Rights Act; it would, according to some critics, criminalize perfectly ordinary speech and totally normal assumptions people make every day when they are in contact with other people.

But this is a direct quote from that article; it is the Global News writer's definition of the word transgender: "A transgender person is a person who was misidentified as another sex at birth, often due to having physical characteristics not typically associated with their sex." (Link in original--E.M.)

Read that through very carefully. It may take two or three readings before you begin to understand what they are talking about. What they are saying is this: Nobody is actually born a particular sex. Nobody is born male or female. For some unfathomable reason, doctors "assign" sex at birth, and luckily for them the vast majority of the time they guess right--but it's only a guess. There's actually no way a doctor can tell someone's sex at birth, because some boys have vaginas and some girls have penises (e.g., "physical characteristics not typically associated with their sex."). So some unfortunate penis-girls and vagina-boys have to go through this hurtful process of claiming their rightful gender and undoing the terrible and egregious harm that was done to them when some careless doctor, looking only at empirical biological science and applying that to their genitalia, "misgendered" them.

And Canada's poised to make it a criminal offense, of the hate-crime variety, for anybody to deny that that, and not, say, gender-identity disorder or a deep disconnection with one's biological reality, is what transgender is.

Before you dismiss this as being nothing but Canada being Canada, remember that most of the harms we've seen from the progressive sexual agenda here in America were foreshadowed by similar situations in Canada. Before Americans were being sued, harassed, and driven out of business for refusing to celebrate or participate in gay "weddings," it was happening in Canada. Before people were being called bigots and hater in America for refusing to believe that two men or two women were exactly the same as a husband and wife, they were being called those things (and charged with crimes for their beliefs) in Canada. Before state "Human Rights Commissions" began policing artists and photographers and florists in America, they were doing this in Canada.

So when news writers in Canada can write without any attempt at humor a definition of "transgender" that pushes the belief that some poor girls (with penises) or boys (with vaginas) are tragically and unjustly mislabeled at birth, and that, really, all of us were randomly assigned sexes (note that the definition isn't even using the term "gender" here!) and nobody is really in any innate or real sense an actual man or an actual woman, I tend to pay attention. It's easy to shrug and say, "Oh, Canada..." It's harder to see our own militant sexual progressives reflected in the mirror along our northern border.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Happy Easter!

This post is a little late--is it really Easter Wednesday already?? But I wanted to take a moment to wish my loyal readers (yes, both of you!) a very happy Easter.

I do plan to resume regular blogging again, but I've been behind in my fiction writing and can't spare the time. Posts that will be coming soon include a reflection on the idolatry of physical strength, a look at some new manifestations of the transgender activist agenda, and a discussion of the virtue of prudence.

For now, though, I'm trying to get a newly-named character to behave herself. See you soon!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Ah, Holy Jesus

Two things to me really bring Good Friday to mind. The first is this painting:

And the second is this hymn:

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
that man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
'Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
for our atonement, while we nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,
thy mortal sorrow, and thy life's oblation;
thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
for my salvation.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,
think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
not my deserving.

Have a blessed and holy Good Friday! Back after Easter.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Too busy to blog...

...but I hope to check back in before Easter.

Meanwhile, Princess the cat says hello. It's pretty amazing that she got into that basket, but I don't think I'm getting it back anytime soon. :)

Monday, April 10, 2017

It's Holy Week, not Perfect Week

Apologies for the short, late blog post; I have been desperately trying to catch up on my word count for Camp Nanowrimo. This is the first time ever that I have not met or exceeded the goal each day, and I am still about 2600 words behind. I am hoping to change that tonight.

But I wanted to get this out here, especially for the person who asked for it. :)

So often we start Holy Week full of plans and ideas about how it's all going to go. We imagine a serene, reflective week full of meditations on the Passion of Our Lord, motivated by the beautiful Palm Sunday Gospel reading. We picture a perfect Holy Thursday Mass, deeply solemn and full of hope. We think about the Good Friday service with its many lovely calls to repentance and prayer. Perhaps we envision ourselves taking part joyfully in the Easter Vigil, or perhaps we anticipate the celebration inherent in an Easter morning Mass. And then we think of Easter, of gathering with family or friends for a wonderful brunch or a magnificent dinner.

But this is Holy Week, not Perfect Week. We are called to holiness, not human perfection, on Earth.

Because sometimes there's nothing serene or meditative about Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday of Holy Week. We may have work obligations or family routines or sick children or others needing our care. We may be swept up in the busy days of spring, with all that needs to be done. We may blink and find that it's already Thursday.

And we may or may not make it to Holy Thursday Mass or the Good Friday service. We may have to change our Easter Sunday plans at the last minute. We might find family gatherings stressful, or we might have no family nearby with whom to celebrate. We might be sick or exhausted or grieving.

It can be hard to let go of that dream vision of the Perfect Holy Week and the Perfect Easter. It's especially hard when you hear those voices telling you that if you were just a better Christian this whole week would be an oasis of perfection instead of a morass of the usual chaos.

But that's not true, because this is Holy Week, not Expert Christians Week.

Holiness is a call. It is the destination of a lifelong journey, not a quick stop along the way when there's nothing more amusing to do. To seek holiness is ultimately to seek Christ, and Him Crucified, and then to take up our own crosses and head for Golgotha on purpose. The real "purpose-driven life" is to have the purpose of embracing our own crosses daily, and the real "prosperity Gospel" is the prayer to prosper in perseverance in suffering above all--to follow in our Master's footsteps along the way of the Cross.

So even if life intervenes and Holy Week doesn't go the way you intended, the opportunity to seek holiness is still present in every moment, with every breath, as it always is. To God be the glory that it is so, for it is a mercy beyond our understanding.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A good Lent after all

We're heading into the last week of Lent, and I've got to be honest: this has not been a particularly successful Lent for me. Sure, there were some little sacrifices and some effort toward prayer, but spiritual reading and most alms-giving plans went out the window, and I feel less connected than usual to parish Lenten activities as well.

I have tried to keep up with the blogging, though, regardless of whether there are page views or not, and I think that's been helpful in some ways. It's good when you are in the midst of various types of chaos to try to carve out some sort of routine.

And when I really look at things honestly, I have to admit that this has probably been a somewhat unproductive Lent because it has also been one of the most chaotic winter-into-spring seasons I can remember in quite some time.

When the girls were still being home schooled I could blame "third quarter blues" for my tendency to get behind and unmotivated and whatnot during this time of year. Now that they're in college (though still living at home) it's not possible to make that claim. In reality, my "third quarter blues" this year have nothing to do with their school schedules and everything to do with the sense I've had since before Christmas that there's just too much to do, not enough time (or money) to do it all, and no end in sight.

If you had told me I'd feel this way when my girls were attending school somewhere other than my kitchen table I'd have laughed, but the reality, as I've come to realize it, is that home schooling was a convenient excuse for my periodic feelings of being totally overwhelmed by life. There are lots of other reasons why I start feeling this way that clearly have nothing to do with what the other people in my family are doing at any given moment, and if Lent has brought me some clarity it takes the form of that recognition: that sometimes, for no particular reason, and with no special circumstances, I start finding ordinary everyday stresses to be gigantic mountains covered in spiky plants and teeming with unpleasant insects or dangerous reptiles, so to speak. But the more I put things off or try to avoid dealing with them, the worse the "to-do" list gets, until I start to feel exhausted before I really even get started on a day's intended tasks.

I am far from alone in this. Plenty of moms who are friends or even family have told me that they get this way too, especially this time of year, when you start feeling like you've barely even taken down the Christmas tree before Palm Sunday looms large against the liturgical horizon with Easter just ahead (and, for some families, baptisms or First Communions or Confirmations or weddings or other Big Events to plan for and celebrate). If anything, I have resisted the idea that this is an issue for me because, after all, I have three grown children, and there are moms out there homeschooling a brood of eleventy-plus kids while maintaining a beautiful home and throwing a massive birthday party at least twice a month in addition to everything else. But that's where a Lent like this one does help clarify things for me, because I have told plenty of other moms of relatively small families or even women whose children haven't lived at home for a decade that it's okay to be stressed by normal home-life stuff: it happens, it's normal. So why don't I believe it for myself?

Pride, probably. Pride, and the reluctance to let go of the idea that there is virtue and holiness in Doing All the Things, that a good Lent is a Lent where I Did All the Things, and that being a good wife and mother means Doing All the Things even when they start to weigh on me and make me feel incompetent and even, sometimes, unworthy of my blessings.

Maybe grappling with these ideas is where God wants me to be, this Lent. Maybe this has been a good Lent after all.