White privilege is a blessing

Another word for ‘privilege’ is blessing.

We’re talking a lot about while privilege and it’s really important conversation to have. But some folks find it hard. They’re pushing back on the whole idea of being privileged.

I think it’s all about semantics. I think some people hear privileged and they think of being born with a golden spoon in the mouth. They imagine holiday homes in the Hamptons and automatic acceptance to Harvard. Hedge fund managers, the aristocracy… those untouchable people in the elites, they are privileged. But not regular old me.

If you have an ordinary life, it can be hard to see the privilege. If you lost your job in Corona or you have health problems and no insurance, or your struggling to keep things together, then it can be really hard to look at your life and say ‘yeah look at me and my wonderful white privilege.’

But how about we reframe it?

If privilege seems to all encompassing, then let’s talk about blessings.

We all have blessings. And we all have challenges. One does not take away the other.

I’m white, from a middle-class background. I went to college as though it was my birthright. I got good grades easily. Now I’m married and raising my kids in a stable two parent family. I have kids.
Those things are blessings.

Being white makes many things in my life easier. My middle-class upbringing gave me a better start in life than a lot of people. I have children and I conceived them with ease.

But I’m a human being so I also have challenges.

I’m a plus size women. The body I was born into makes some parts of my life easier and a bunch of things harder. I have a complicated mental health history. Sometimes the same mind that made college a breeze, made everything else a struggle.

I’m an Orthodox Jew. Anti-Semitism is very real, even in 2020. I have been turned down for jobs because I was religiously observant. The expression of my faith is one the most meaningful things in my life and sometimes it’s a challenge.

Many of our blessings are circumstantial. If I lived in another country than being an Orthodox Jew wouldn’t be as significant. There have also been times and places in history where whiteness was not an advantage.
But I live where I do, and when I do. Right now, in 2020 my life is fully of blessings and I can use them to help other people with their challenges.

Recognizing someone else’s challenge doesn’t take away any of my blessings. But it might let me share them.

Why I never cry alone

I cried at my computer today. I was writing a post for my local working mother’s Facebook group and big ugly tears come out of nowhere.

I let myself cry for a few minutes.

Then my kids came in and I did that Mom thing where you quickly wipe your eyes so they won’t ask why you’re crying. Because even though they should know it’s ok to cry and strong women embrace their emotions, I was in the middle of crying and not ready to field all the ‘but why mommy?’ questions if they noticed.

They left and I cried some more.

It didn’t turn into the really miserable crying when you can only collapse on your bed and wail into the pillow. Instead I recovered and clicked send on my post.


I sat staring at a blank computer screen, reflecting on how ugly crying is as much a part of living with faith as serene calm.

My goal isn’t a Zen state where nothing ever phases me and I’m one with the impermanence of the universe. This too might pass… but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck on the way through.

One of my teachers liked to say that ‘life is a full contact sport.’ The Jewish path of spirituality engages every part of your life, the bad as well as the good. There are times when we are explicitly instructed to be sad, to mourn, and even to be angry.

Because life can be messy and hard and sometimes it hurts. If you’re really in the trenches, working on being a better person, improving your relationships, and living a meaningful life, then it’s not always going to be fun.

Having a more meaningful life is not the same thing as having an easier one.

If your goal is to have a relationship with the Divine then sometimes it’ll get messy. Because real relationships are hard. It’s not faith to pretend everything is ok when it isn’t.

Own your feelings. You can cry the ugly tears and still know that everything happens for a reason. I’ve looked up into the sky and said ‘You’d better have a bloody good explanation for this particular circumstance because I am unimpressed.’

When we have a relationship with someone, sometimes we are angry, confused, sad or even downright furious. That doesn’t take away the love or even the trust.

My faith means that when I’m crying at my computer, I’m not sitting alone. The Creator of the Universe is sitting with me, handing me a theoretically tissue, and promising to explain it why it all needed to happen like this when my story is over.

Showing up and letting go

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is show up in our own lives. Many years ago I ready about the power to showing up before you are ready. That strong women show up and do stuff before they feel they are ready. Because really when are we ever ready?

I really took it to heart. The lesson is still unfolding in my life.

I was home with a bunch of little kids and I desperately needed something more meaningful to do than wipe bottoms.

(This is where I ‘should’ insert a disclaimer that caring for my babies were the best years of my life and the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done. But they weren’t. Helping shepherd my children to become mature adults is one of the most significant things in my life. But those infant and toddler years were, at times, shitty. Pun intended. So in between the 10% joy and 90% manual labor that was raising small children, I needed to do something else as well.)

My local women’s organization was always looking for volunteers. Because like most volunteer organizations the majority of the work is performed by a small band of committed individuals while everyone else sorts of helps out when they can.

I showed up. I volunteered. Like really got in deep. I didn’t just send over a potato salad on the day of the event. I hosted the event. Soon I was on the planning committee.

I just did things with time and energy I didn’t know I had until I committed myself to doing it.

Just showing up and praying that it would all work out, was comparatively easy for me when it came to volunteering. I had solid faith that the Divine would look kindly on my acts of giving and help arrange my life so that it would all work out.


In other areas it’s been harder to apply the same logic…. like work and the many creative projects I would like to be doing.


I just started Michael Neill’s book Creating the Impossible. It’s a 90 day program that promises that you can complete an impossible dream. Mine is daily blogging, working on my currently unstarted novel, building my business, and holding down my existing steady (part time) job.


He really surprised me by talking about showing up in the introduction to the 90 program. Showing up is an essential part of any creative endeavor. That seemed kinda obvious but his showing up was so simple that it was complicated.


Don’t just show up and do stuff. Show up and do stuff without worrying/planning/caring about the outcome.

Me paraphrasing Michael Neill

Michael Neill’s showing up is taking the first step towards you goal with a heart that is open and accepting that the goal might not be reached, only the first step is within our power.

This really resonated with me. Jewish philosophy says that only our efforts our within our control, not the outcome of those efforts. If you go to do a good deed and for some reason circumstances prevent you from doing it. Like the car breaks down on the way to visit your sick friend. Then you are still rewarded as if you had performed the good deed. (Praise be the opposite isn’t true.)

It is said that we only control our ‘fear of heaven,’ meaning the extent to which we trust the Divine. There is grace and a purpose to taking one step forward with trust that something will work out.

Michael Neill doesn’t talk in terms of God. He refers to a Universal Mind that animates all life. (I’m not going to split hairs with him, if he prefers to not say the G word then I’ll let him off. But it’s pretty clear what he’s talking about.)

We can’t ever control the future. If you ever thought that you could, then Corona came to prove you wrong anyway. Our choices are whether we take the first step, and how willingly we will give up the outcomes to a Higher Power. 12 Step says “Let go and let God.”


Michael Neill says:


“Whenever we show up and aim ourselves in a direction, the impersonal creative intelligence behind life shows up with us.”

Michael Neil, Creating the Impossible


Jewish philosophy says:


“Everything is in the hands of heaven, except for the fear of heaven.”


This is my goal for today. To show up, put my fingers to the keyboard, do my part and let Someone else take care of the outcomes.
I’ll let you know how it goes……

Taking pictures in hindsight

The amazing thing about hindsight, besides being 20/20, is that it changes with time.

Case in point, my author picture.

Every author needs a picture so that readers know their books were written by a real person and not by a robot. Robot written books are not that far from happening. As I type on my phone I often wonder what would happen if I let the autocorrect write a whole book for me. I’ll type in the first letter of a word and pick from the suggestions. This might be my next blog post.

But while books are still written by real people, us authors need a picture of ourselves to share with the world.

When I launched the first two books of the Life in the Palace series into the world, I paid a professional photographer to take headshots for my author picture. He was someone I knew socially, or I know his wife socially and I figured why not give my money to someone I know. I check out his website and his work was good.

The big day came. He showed up at my front door with a car full of equipment. Suddenly my furniture was pushed back as my living room became a photo studio. I spent hours picking out an outfit. Or failing to choose an outfit and throwing things on my bed.

The biggest impediment to the whole endeavor was that I wanted a photo of myself that looked nothing like myself. I was quite worried that ‘coming out’ as the writer of young adult fantasy books would embarrass my husband and children. So I tried to look as unlike myself as possible. My photographer friend did an excellent job of taking the photos in the style that I had requested.

But in my rush to look unlike myself I just ended up looking like a bad version of myself.

I was very flustered by the whole experience, and stressed out by self-publishing my books, and it was November which is never my best time of year (days too short, too much darkness outside and in my head.)

I used the pictures because I’d paid good money for them. And since no one knew who I was, I figured it didn’t matter if I looked bad. At least I used them, until I met a fan in real life whose first reaction was “You look so much younger in real life.”

Then I looked at the pictures and admitted the truth. I hated them. They made me feel old, and boring and stupid. None of which are true.

shutterstock_211654111

I stopped using the pictures. I found a stock photo of some lady with her back to the camera looking out the window and used that instead.

Every time I looked at the professional pictures I was annoyed at myself for making a bad choice, for not asking him to reshoot the pictures in a different style when I had the chance, for trying to make any important decision in November.

Finally yesterday I decided to get over it. I imagined the photographer in my head and I forgave him, because although it wasn’t his fault I was transferring my anger at myself to him. I forgave him and the imaginary him forgave me. I opened my eyes feeling at peace. I accepted that all money comes from heaven. I acknowledged that I hadn’t wasted mine, I had spent it on a growth moment.

With my 20/20 hindsight, I saw that all was as it should be in the world.

Then I woke up this morning, realizing that sometimes I’m an idiot.

I emailed the photographer and said that I knew it was over 2 years ago, but could I still take him up on the offer of a reshoot.

He responded immediately saying sure. Next week we’ll be going to a pretty park in our neighborhood to try again.

Today’s 20/20 hindsight tells me that all is still as it should be in the world. And letting go with grace will bring magic into your life.


Camera picture used with permission from http://www.FotografoDigitale.com

Lady at window from Shutterstock.com

When God blows you a kiss

5351226375_e26975c097_mI was talking to God. I’ve been telling Him recently about my books and how I really want to have time in my much busier schedule to finish the Life in the Palace series.

About halfway through, I said “God? Are you listening to all of this?”

God said, “YES.”  Then He proved it.

Two days ago I got this message from my website (the other one for the books www.lifeinthepalacesaga.com)

“Hello. I have enjoyed reading the first 3 (4) books in the series and felt they encouraged and inspired my own faith. I look forward to the next book and hope it will not be long until it’s released. Continue writing and don’t get discouraged.”

I read the message. Then I sat and stared at my computer for a few minutes.

The following points of awesomeness became apparent:

People that I’ve never met read my books

This is something I should think about on a more regular basis. Intellectually I do know it. Every day multiple people download my books, many of them pay for the privilege. When I stop to remember that strangers read the words I wrote, I get all tingly inside.

People that I’ve never met like my books enough to read all of them

I think my characters rock. But it’s kinda like sending your pre 1-A kid on the school bus in the morning, you just send them out into the world and pray like crazy it all works out okay. You’re just hoping that the teacher likes them as much as you do.

Then I remembered that my books are actually good. Readers like them. Quite a lot of readers like them. Again, since a fair number of those readers email/comment on Facebook/message me, intellectually I do know this. But every time I’m reminded it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I love knowing that out there are people who love Seth and Chloe as much as I do.

My books inspire readers

This was a goal. I happen to think that God rocks. I don’t think that He needs me to give anyone the hard sell but I love it when I am reminded how awesome He is. It’s just as exciting to know that I reminded someone else.

There are people waiting for the next book

This is huge. Two months ago writing books was my fulltime 9-5ish activity. Now I write advertising copy and squeeze writing books into the other parts of my day. Sometimes it feels like getting remarried and continuing to have an affair with your ex. Knowing that someone’s waiting for the books makes it all seen purposeful again.

Then I remember that I started doing this because I LOVE writing. And there was nothing else I’d rather do with my time. All of a sudden nine o’clock isn’t too late to sit down at the computer.

Someone besides my mom reads this blog

I put a lot of thought into my books. I spend hours planning the story arch and many hours editing to make them perfect. I put very little thought into this blog. I write it because I like doing it. I honestly thought it was only read by my friends. Having other people read it makes me feel like a real writer.

As I sat there basking in the totally awesomeness of my life, I felt God giving me a knowing nod.

I took a deep breath and said “I know I asked whether I was real writer if I write advertising copy all day long. And I asked if it was worth it to keep writing books. And I wondered how I’d get the last book in the series finished if I was working fulltime.”

I could feel God waiting for me to get to the point. We’d both been there when I did all the previous moping and complaining.

I knew exactly what God was trying to tell me. To get over myself and stop feeling sorry for myself.

“Thank you for reminding me that I’m a writer because I write books people enjoy reading. That are worth writing because they bring glory into the world. And I should keep doing it because that’s what I was put here to do.”

In my fairly active imagination, God gave me a knowing nod.

“And all the money comes from You,” I acknowledged. “So if I didn’t sell the movie rights to my books and make enough money to put my kids through college yet, it’s because You’re waiting until after they’ve made all the Hunger Games movies so Life in the Palace is free to be the next big franchise.”

At that point, with me planning my red carpet speech, God and I both knew that I was back on track.

(If you’ve ever wondered whether it makes a difference to authors to hear from their readers- the answer is yes. And thank you Charlotte Boyle, wherever you are in the world, you made my week.)


Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nikki_ella_whitlock/5351226375

The long walk home

 

14180748291_22a1665ebe_mI was rushing down the broiling sidewalk, my feet slapping against the pavement. I checked my watch. Seven minutes to go until the school bus let them off outside my neighbor’s house. I prayed I would make it and wondered again why I hadn’t taken up the offer of a lift to my doorstep. The sweat was starting to pool on my scalp and I could feel the flush on my cheeks.

I should’ve asked my ride to talk me to the door, I thought again. They shouldn’t have to wait for me.

I got to my neighbor’s house and my girls were nowhere to be seen. I was just knocking on her door when their bus pulled up outside.

I hurried back to the sidewalk and stood with my arms open as they raced into them, squeeling and talking at once.

They were home. I made it. My heart was pounding with nervous energy but I made it.

This is the price of my exercise.

It took a week for me to realize that there was something wrong with that picture. Not my daughter joy at seeing me. They should always be so happy to greet their mother. But at my fear of being late.

My girls had a safe place to go with my neighbor, who was happy to have them. They basically like playing at her home. If they were happy and safe, what would it matter if I was five or even ten minutes late? I set up the arrangement with my neighbor to cover the times when the traffic is bad and my ride take longer.

The week before I’d been half an hour late and I’d been totally calm. The difference is that bad traffic is out of our control, but my getting out of the car early to walk down the hill is not. Fifteen minutes brisk walk is exercise I need after a day in an office. But it felt illegitimate. Like I wasn’t allowed to choose my needs of my children’s. They would prefer if I was always waiting for them at the bus. If I’m not, then they don’t mind to go to the neighbor.

Why can it be so hard for mothers to put themselves first?

Why was it so hard to for me to let my kids take the perfectly acceptable second choice option?

I know that it’s important for mother’s to take a break and take care of themselves. It said so in What to expect when you’re expecting. I take vitamins. I eat well. I try to get plenty of sleep. I buy myself clothes when I need them.

But none of that is the same as saying, ‘Sometimes what I need is more important than what my children need.’

I don’t need to give myself things because otherwise I’d be a tired grumpy mother. Taking care of myself, and acknowledging my own needs should not be a function of my mothering. The equation should not be: The kids need a happy me, so therefore I begrudgingly allow myself a break.

I am a person.

I am allowed it have things. It is my legitimate right. And sometimes my needs as a person take priority over the needs of the little people in my life.

Now I’m going to tell myself that every day until I believe it.

 

 

 


 

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pabak/14180748291

What does it mean to be a writer?

5057567707_514cbb59a6_mMy life got turned upside down and all around. I was a writer. Now I’m paid to be a copywriter. Does that mean I stopped being a writer and became something else?

What does it mean to be a writer?

I thought I was a writer because I spent all day long writing books. But was that ever true? I wanted to spend all day long writing books. Occasionally I did. I once wrote a book in three and a half weeks. Then I wrote more consistently than I cared for my children.

But most of the time, I wrote most of the time. I probably wrote for three or four hours a day. The rest of the time I was getting to where I planned to write, settling myself down, checking Facebook, doing research, find music that fit my mood, looking over what I wrote the day before, checking Facebook again.

So maybe I wasn’t a writer, maybe I was a mother that sometimes wrote. I spent more hours of the day mothering, cleaning and tidying away. If our identity is decided by the thing that occupies the majority of our time, then I was a housewife. A stay at home mom. Or stay in general vicinity of home, rushing back in time for the school bus drop-off mom.

Except I wanted to be a writer.

When I was washing the dishes, I’d plan out my next scene. My characters would wander through my mind when I was on the treadmill, (who am I kidding? When I was collapsed on the couch.)

I decided that if I wanted to be a writer I’d have to take my work seriously. I left my house to write with less distractions. I stopped answering my phone, and Facebook not withstanding, I wrote like it was my job. Because I made it my job.

If I thought about writing as my job, did that make me a writer?

I thought maybe I’d officially be a writer when my books made enough money to cover the salary I wasn’t earning anywhere else. I’m still waiting for that to happen.

Now I took a ‘day-job,’ does that mean I’m not a writer?

I actually spend more hours per day writing than I ever did before.

Do advertorials count as writing?

I feel like Van Gough hired to paint a house. But then Michelangelo painted ceilings. Perhaps advertising copy is also art. It certainly is words. It can take quite some skill to squeeze a message into ninety characters for a Facebook ad.

I’m five weeks into my new job. I’ve written four newspaper articles (we try to avoid the term advertorial if we can because then we get the space for free,) two landing pages, three banner ads, two presentations, and an ad campaign. That’s a lot of writing.

For myself I’ve written one blog post (two if you count this one.) For my books, I’ve written nothing.

Am I still a writer?

I still have deadlines. And a wonderful editor waiting for my work. I want to have clear slots of time in my week when I can work on my books and newly created manageable deadlines (no more writing books in under a month.)

I write and I think about writing. And I realize that identity is not a coat that you take on or off. It is not the unchangeable color of your eyes.

Identity is the song we weave with the notes of our lives.

I am a writer as long as I believe I am a writer.

I am a writer the way that I am a mother. As long as I have breath in my body I will be a mother. And as long as my heart is beating I will always be a writer.

When something is part of who you are, it cannot be taken from you.

I am blessed to be a writer, the creator of worlds and spinner of dreams. Whatever I am writing, even when I am not writing, being a writer is who I am.

 

 

 


Photocredit: flickr (I lost the link, will post when I find it again.)

Windows and doors

7580307812_6d0991c4a0_mWe all know that when the Lord closes a window somewhere He opens a door. (Mordechai Schmutter says that this is because He’s ‘trying to air condition the whole street.’)

With all the opening and closing of windows, I haven’t had much time for blogging.

I haven’t had much time for anything. That’s one of the things about change, the learning curve can be steep.

I’m not a surfer but I imagine this is what it feels like when they’re paddling frantically, trying to catch up with the wave before they jump on their boards and surf it back to shore.

My little arms and legs are furiously pumping, chasing the smooth slide back to shore.

In less poetic language, I got a job. A real, sit behind a desk in an office, job. There’s a watercooler and a little machine to beep in at the beginning of the day, and back out again. It’s working for a PR company, writing advertising copy. I have to leave my house, take my lunch, find babysitters for my many children, take a bus (because we still don’t have a car,) then come home and do more stuff. I have to juggle things, not float around artistically allowing the muse to take me.

Part of me wants to protest that I’m a writer. I write novels, not advertorials about cheese. But the hand of God was so clear in my finding the job that I’m forced to begrudgingly admit that this might be what He wants me to do.

My BFF claims that she’s been saying for years that I should get a regular out of my house job as well as writing books. Apparently, this sudden financial crisis followed by immediate job finding is proof that she was right.

It was fairly miraculous. I spent one week realizing that my family was in financial crisis, four days looking for a job, three days waiting to hear back from my interview, and was offered the job in question less than two weeks after the whole ordeal started.

I realize that I have hundreds of things to be thankful for; not least of all, my family has a roof over their heads and food on the table. I like the PR job. I still write books, just more slowly than before. I am not suffering from any of the many physical ailments that could afflict a person. My big crisis is that my life did not turn out the way I wanted it to. In this area, I am not unique.

Right now I’m focusing on all the good. Change is always an adjustment but I’m feeling the breeze coming in through that open door, so maybe I’ll forgive Him for closing the window.

 

 

 

 


 

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sackton/7580307812/

Walking into the water

11097042923_443e1735f2_mI’m praying for redemption.

You could say it’s seasonal, but then the redemption should have already come. Instead I’m praying and hoping, and wishing and waiting with all my might.

Four years ago, I knew that I was a writer. The job I’d had ceased to exist at the same time as I was about to have a bab,y so it wasn’t the time to be looking for a new job. I had this crazy idea that I could write the fantasy series that had been living in my head. I did research and found that there were real people making their living self-publishing books on Amazon. I decided I was going to be one of those people.

I gathered up all my courage and all our savings. Then I wrote six books. Four of them are already on sale. The final two are in the editing stages. I paid for professional editing and wonderful covers. I made a book trailer. I did a blog tour. I opened a Twitter account. I posted regularly on Facebook. I paid for targeted promotion of my posts on Facebook.

I prayed and prayed and prayed.

Now our savings are gone.

Thousands of people have downloaded the free first book in the series. Hundreds have paid for the other books. But not enough people. I receive messages from fans begging me for the next book in the series, but maybe they forgot to tell their friends.

The bottom line is that the books don’t cover the money I spent to make them.

When the nation of Israel left Egypt, they walked in the desert for a week following a pillar of holy fire. At the banks of the sea, with the entire Egyptian army baring down on them, one lone man, Nachshon walked into the sea. The nation watched as he walked slowly into the waters with his head held high, waiting for the miracle the Lord would send.

His foot touched the water and nothing happened. The water lapped against his knees and nothing happened. The sea flowed as it always had as he walked up to to his neck.

He shut his mouth to keep the waters out as he strode in further. Nothing happened until the water tickeled the edge of his nostrils.

Only when the water reached his nose, seconds before he was about to drown, did the miracle come. When he walked into the water until he could go no further, then the sea split and the nation of Israel walked through on dry land.

I am waiting for the sea to split.

I have faith that God did not let me spend four years and all my savings on something that was never meant to be. I believe that redemption will come. My books will make enough money to put food on my table.

But the water is up to my nose.

I feel it tickling the edge of my nostrils. And I hardly dare more lest I drown.


Photo credit : https://www.flickr.com/photos/bevgoodwin/11097042923

A Book from a Brick Wall

5307712938_1d0fdb3562_mI am still not writing the book I want to be writing. The one I have a deadline for. The rapidly approaching deadline. The deadline I gave myself plenty of time so I could meet it.

Right now I want to be doing anything else that is not writing this book. But I also don’t want to be doing anything except writing this book. Somewhere under my skin the story is itching to get out but the words jumble up and become a meaningless mass on the way.

I keep falling on technical details. What is she wearing? I thought I had an outfit for her, then it didn’t make sense that she’d be wearing that skirt in the scene so I took it out. In the end I just left out what she was wearing altogether so she might be naked for all I know. It would be a different sort of book if she was naked in the fight scene.

My mind wanders off to other things. I plan the specialist’s appointment I’m trying to make for my son. Without picking up the phone. I think about the present I should buy for my daughter’s first grade teacher. I wonder if anyone has clean underpants for tomorrow.

It feels pointless. Why am I still here doing this? What does God want from me? I’m doing my best but He’s making it hard. What am I supposed to be doing?

I wonder if I should find a different job. But what could I do other than write? Am I capable of holding down a regular job? I haven’t done it in such a long time. But how could I just give up when this was my dream.

I wish I could have some feedback. If God could give me a sign that I’m heading in the right direction. I feel like there should be some more reward for this level of difficulty. Where are the high levels of spiritual connection that come with suffering? Where’s that high of knowing everything comes from God?

I know that this test comes from Him. But it still doesn’t feel good. It feels frustrating, and lonely and hard. And like I’m waiting for a miracle while beating my head against a brick wall.

Then I remember that in the desert God gave the Nation of Israel water from a rock.

He can give me a book from a brick wall.


Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sharman/5307712938