The Writer’s Life

This is actually an assignment in my MFA program: imagine the life of a writer and begin to live it. My sister is justifiably jealous. “That’s school?! What am I doing in the real world!?” she commented on my Instagram. Yes, the very best kind of school. I have scheduled writing time everyday. Everyday, you guys! It’s awesome. And hard.

The books above are the first I received from my reading list. I’m learning so much from them. (I’ll get to hear a reading from Thrall next week when the Poet Laureate visits my own Joslyn Museum!) For example, read this from Carolyn See in the chapter where she tells writers that part of the struggle will be against the rest of the world who just wants you to keep quiet and be normal in order to keep alive the structure of civilization as we know it:

But the minute somebody begins to write–or to make any kind of real “art”–all that structure comes into question. It’s no coincidence that repressive governments go after their artists and writers first. Daily life is serious business. It’s hard enough to put a civilization together. And one artist is–theoretically, at least–capable of bringing down the whole damn thing.

So if you’re a writer or an artist or anyone who dares to bring creativity into the earth (I know a lot of people who do this everyday at their “normal” job), then you are at risk for being challenged, even threatened by people who just want to keep the status quo. But you can’t do that anymore. Because you know better. And, as Oprah says, now you’ll do better, too.

This is the challenge: do the work. And it’s the challenge for all of us. We all have visions of who we want to be: a better mom, a stronger athlete, a more prosperous business person. But the only things keeping us from our desires are our own desires. I want to have time to write so I cut down on my work hours and set aside quiet time at home. But now I have to create. I have to write. I have to produce. I can’t just sit around surfing the Internet or even reading the millions of great poems already written by others.

Likewise, being a mom who has cookies and milk ready for her kids after school means you have to bake those stupid cookies, buy some milk, and be there after school.You can’t watch TV all day and try to do everything else after the kids come home. It’s too late then. (And please don’t think this is any kind of example from my own life. Oh, my.) None of it happens just because we want it to. If it did, the world would be full of rich, happy, successful people at Pinterest-perfect parties every day.

Nope, it’s just you and me and the people we love, and if we want to make it happen we have to do the work. And then rest in the grace of each other when we don’t. Because we all know how hard it is. And we all know how wonderful it can be. So we keep at it, we artists and creators and everyday people who believe in more than what we see.

It really is the very best kind of school. For all of us.




“August is the Sunday of Summer”

So, here we are in the Sunday of Summer (a phrase I heard on the radio this week), and we’re definitely treating it as a chance to make some seasonal changes around here. A little catch-up on the White House II?

Another move! But this time it’s just up the street and around the corner. We can almost see Grandpa’s house from our new front porch. We’d like to buy our own little corner of Omaha someday and we thought a cheaper rental might get us to that goal a little quicker. All three girls will be piling into one bedroom and the extra music equipment has to be in storage for a while, but we think we can do it.

New school! Well, a new program for me. I start in the very first MFA program at Creighton University on Tuesday. My focus will be in poetry. Since I was fortunate enough to receive a fellowship, my schedule is going to be opened way up (in terms of work – the kids will still need me occasionally). I almost can’t believe it. Of course, the goal of the program is for me to create a publishable, book-length work, so I have a lot of writing to do.

A new job! This one is Dan’s. He is a good, good man, people. You know what’s expensive? Living. Dan is the best musician I know and he was doing everything he could to make the money we needed based on that skill. It just wasn’t happening. So he did the noble thing and suited up with the Geek Squad. I’m so so proud and grateful. There are a lot of good stories attached to his procurement of this job but the bottom line is that he has secured a steady income AND benefits for our family in this season. Kids only need braces once, you know, so it won’t be forever.

I guess sometimes Sunday night is the worst time of the week, but it doesn’t have to be if you’re looking forward to Monday. When you expect Monday to be good, Sunday is great!

So, what’s new with you?


What Does Your Dad Do?

He takes us to the ballpark and buys us cotton candy with the cash from his envelope marked “Business Lunches.”

He tucks us in every night by tickling our necks until we scream. Mom yells at him for getting us too excited before bed and then he has to calm us down. Don’t tell her, but we think he does it on purpose so he can hang out with us longer.

He makes us guacamole and lets us eat as much as we want. It’s his secret recipe and he always knows when the avocados are ready. Not too soft, not too firm.

He watches kid movies with us and laughs as loud as we do.

He programs the drums for our family band so we don’t lose the steady beat.

He goes to work sometimes, but we don’t know what he does there.

We’re just happy when he gets home.



Our Yankee Doodle Dandy

Jesse was born at 9:00 a.m. on the Fourth of July, a true Yankee Doodle, to a small crowd of adoring fans. But the cheering hasn’t seemed to spoil him like you’d expect. Instead, he returns the favor.

Dandy (noun): someone or something of exceptional or first-rate quality. In this photo captured at last night’s College Homerun Derby (televised on ESPN tonight), Jesse is the only fan in sight on his feet cheering for the batter who just hit a ball over the yellow line. A player he didn’t know, from a team he didn’t call his own, in a sport he really doesn’t follow. But he was there, it was happening, and Jesse cheered.

Maybe everyone else had grown tired of cheering - six competitors had been swinging for the fences for several rounds. We’d seen a lot of homeruns by that time. Maybe we’d glutted ourselves on the simulated spectacle of what happens rarely in a real game. Maybe we were busy with our cotton candy or plastic-flavored cheese sauce. Maybe Jesse was the only one who recognized that hitting a tiny white ball over 400 feet with only a small aluminum stick – under any circumstances – is worthy of celebration.

Probably he’s the only one who got it right. And that’s just one reason why he’s a dandy on the fourth of July.




On Protecting Our Children

During one of my pregnancies, my grandma said she wished she could wrap me up in cotton and leave me in bed until the baby was born. I wish the same thing for my kids sometimes.

There are so many scenes of childhood that force parents to tip-toe along the fragile wire between loving pride and griping terror. “Look at the way he can dive! Oh, my gosh, he almost broke his neck on that board!”

We know these darker truths exist, but we resist them because the alternative would be to wrap them in cotton and leave them in bed all day. Doing that wouldn’t produce strong, healthy children. It would produce something unnatural and weak.

But does this only apply to the wild park of summertime fun?

What about the other ways we protect (or over-protect) our children? When are we being wise and when are we just being scared? When are we parenting in our strength and when are we parenting from weakness?

There are a thousand and one choices to be made as a parent, some of them clearly more life-changing than others. Educational choices may be one of the most controversial. That’s not even my point here and definitely not a topic I’d like to argue today, although I’m always interested in others’ experiences, but I think the deeper issue is about our sense of control.

I came across a great quote a few months ago when I read a book called Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive in Public School by David and Kelli Pritchard (with Dean Merrill). I don’t read many parenting books, but I found this one interesting, challenging, and valuable. I’ve thought about this phrase a lot since then (especially the sentence I’ve marked in bold):

We do not expect every Christian family to live like the Pritchards, or do what the Pritchards do. But however God has called you, press ahead. Anchor your family in the living Word of God on a regular basis. Even if you remain in a Christian school or homeschool setting, don’t be afraid of the public-school scene. If you are, Satan wins twice. He keeps you and your children in a state of uncertainty about God’s power in this world. And he prevents those who need God’s love from getting close to the very people who could bring it to them.

I’m wondering if by the way we parent we send the message that we think we can control our external environments (or even ourselves) when really we live in a world that is decidedly out of our control. The real issue is how we respond to that idea. How do we parent in a world that is simultaneously free-willed and yet still under God’s dominion?

As you can see, it must be Big Question Friday on the blog. Feel free to comment with your brilliance or just move along quietly to Pinterest. That’s probably what I’m going to do. Because I’m definitely NOT taking the kids swimming today! : )



From Where I Sit

I’m not sure I can even explain why I love football so much. I mean, I get that it’s not exactly the most peaceful sport. But spending warm afternoons or cool evenings in the stands of a football stadium watching Jesse run routes or hit practice dummies is decidedly peace-making for me.

Possible reasons:

1. Football makes me feel “at home” and I’m still sort of looking for that here in Omaha still.

2. Football reminds me that people can work together toward a common goal. Linemen are as important as wide receivers. They all need each other.

3. Football teaches discipline. Our world could use a lot more young men (and women) with this quality.

4. Football is about both the execution of well-laid plans and the ability to respond to unexpected challenges. Yeah, like life.

There’s probably a million reasons (some noble and some less so) why I love football, but I’m not really interested in analyzing them today. I’m just interested in savoring these moments on aluminum bleachers where I watch my little boy enjoy a great game. And even though I don’t think this enjoy-without-thinking attitude is the best approach for everything in life, in this case, I think it’s enough.