My first author interview in Canadian. 😉
Monthly Archives: March 2016
When I was in college I had a good friend who was very tall with sandy brown hair and a delightfully dry sense of humor. Like most of my college friends, he was a musician. He played trombone, and was probably the best trombone player at BYU. His name was Ryan, and he was such a great musician that, when I knew him, he was getting invited to solo with symphony orchestras around the country. I felt honored to be his friend.
One day he took me aside and asked if I would help him prepare for the solo he was about to perform with the Denver Symphony Orchestra.
“What do you want me to do?” I asked.
“I need you to try to distract me,” he said.
I gave him my best evil smile.
So one evening we met at a practice room (fyi, practice rooms are teeny-tiny) and he said, “After I start my solo, and I want you to do anything you can to get me to make a mistake.”
This is too easy, I thought.
He began his solo.
My first object would have been to cover up his music, but of course, he had it memorized.
So I waved my hands in front of his face . . . but he closed his eyes.
I strobed the lights on and off. . . .he played on.
I banged on the piano, I clapped my hands, whistled, I sang in his ear, I blew in his ear, I even sprayed him with a spray bottle . . . I did everything I could think of (within reason and decorum) to take his attention away from his music, but he did not even flinch.
After a cycling through these same things several times I finally ran out of ideas so I sat down, defeated.
When he finished he flashed a triumphant smile. He had not missed a note.
Although I didn’t get to see him perform in Colorado, I’m sure that if the chandelier had fallen, the emergency sprinkler system had gone off, or if the conductor had decided loosen his tie and leap out into the audience mosh-pit style, Ryan would have continued on, unaffected, and given a flawless performance.
I will never forget that experience. I will never forget the frustration of getting someone’s attention who is completely committed to his task.
For me, being a music major was just fun. But for many of my classmates being a music major was how they were planning on putting bread on the table. Hence the reason why they excelled, and I eventually changed my major to something else.
The desire to excel in music was so important to Ryan that he dedicated hours to not just learning his pieces, and not just memorizing them, but being able to play them no matter the distraction. As the saying goes, “don’t practice until you can get it right, practice until you never miss.”
Ryan married my cousin’s wife’s sister, so luckily I can still keep tabs on him. He played trombone in the Air Force Band of the Golden West and then become a chaplain. Now he is a chaplain in the Navy and is going to be deployed this May for six months on the USS Mercy, a humanitarian ship. He still performs often.
So what did I become? I became what I wanted to be: a mom. Just a mom, folks. I didn’t want to be an airline pilot or a doctor or a lawyer or even a musician. I’ve only ever wanted to be a mom. And here I am, living my dream.
And yet, I am so distracted. I have church stuff, school stuff, writing stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff that could fill up and does fill up every moment of my day. I don’t feel productive unless I am doing several things at once. My great weakness is that I am the kind of person who likes to be good at everything. Must accomplish. Must succeed.
But sometimes being excellent at everything really just means being excellent at nothing. And when I fall short I get down . . . I am a mediocre pianist, a mediocre singer, a mediocre writer, a mediocre friend, a mediocre everything.
I’m sure no one else has ever felt this way.
The other day I went to the park with my two-year-old. We were only going to be there for 15 minutes. As always, I had the choice of having him play while I got “important stuff” done on my phone or I could focus my attention on him.
But then that experience with Ryan popped into my head, and I thought about his ability to concentrate on the one thing that was most meaningful to him, regardless of all the other tempting, enticing, or annoying distractions around him.
And the most meaningful thing to me at that moment was (and is!) my two-year-old boy. A two-year-old boy that won’t be two for very long. So I deserted my phone and my text messages and my fb feed and all that other blah, blah, blah that can wait, and that probably isn’t that important anyway, and would lead me down the slope of feeling even more mediocre.
And we just played.
I don’t want to live in my phone.
Whatever you decide to do, do it well.
So remember when I told you that it took me five years to write The Cenote?
Well, I lied.
I actually was writing two books. This is the other.
I could’t be more thrilled to share this book with you. This is a young adult novel about a girl who is kidnapped from her island and taken to the land of her ancestors where she is forced to choose between retaining her virtue or preserving her life.
I wrote this book because I was tired of going to the bookstore and seeing all the latest YA books about teenagers giving up their virtue. I wanted to write a book about a young woman who was determined to keep hers, no matter what.
I will be updating my blog over the next few months to let you know when you can pre-order The Last Messenger. Until then we are just going to have to wait. You and I both!
A couple days ago my two year old came in from the backyard beaming. “Look, Mom!” he said. “Look what I found!”
He showed me a daffodil that he had plucked from the yard. It was the first (and so far the only) daffodil in the yard, and he was over the moon about it.
We talked about the flower for a minute. We smelled it (I LOVE the smell of daffodils!) and we found a little vase for him to put it in.
“Can you draw a picture of me holding the daffodil, Mom?”
So I drew a picture of Levi holding the daffodil. When I was finished I let him look at it and he grinned from ear to ear.
When his older brother and sister came home from elementary school the first thing he wanted to do was to show them the daffodil. It was the first thing he mentioned to my middle school daughters, too, and also to Scott when he walked in the door. Levi’s excitement over this humble little flower was inextinguishable. It was pure Joy. It was as if it was the first time he had ever seen anything so lovely and exquisite.
But then I thought about it . . . it had been about five months since flowers had been growing in our yard, and it had been 12 months since the last daffodil. Since my son was almost three years old, that is a third of his life! He probably doesn’t even remember seeing a daffodil before.
Ironically, I planted that daffodil for him. Three years ago in the fall, before I even knew the gender of the baby in my belly, Naomi and I planted fifty daffodil bulbs around our yard. “These bulbs won’t come out until around the time the baby is born,” I told her. “It will be like a birthday present for the baby!”
Little did I know how much Joy it would later bring him!
I wish I had coined the phrase “Surprised by Joy,” but it was actually C.S. Lewis. It is the title of the book he wrote about his conversion to Christianity. Then later (after he wrote the book) he married a woman named Joy.
I guess you could say he had a thing for Joy.
I have been “Surprised by Joy” many times. As a child, Joy was like a constant river running through my life. As I got older, Joy became slightly less consistent and more elusive. Eventually Joy took a second place to Work and Worry. Which is fine, since Work and Worry have their purpose, too. But now that Joy is not a constant visitor she really does take me by surprise sometimes.
Like the time when I was about 35 and we went to the beach. I hadn’t really “played” in the ocean for a while, since it always seemed that I was too pregnant or too nursing or too tired . . .but on this day I commandeered the boogie board from my kids and went out on the waves by myself. I had so much fun I started laughing out loud. All by myself. Just me and Joy.
Joy visited me again last month when a friend challenged me to take a photo of nature every day and post it on Facebook. This challenge couldn’t have come at a more dismal, colorless time of year. Usually North Carolina is very busy with animals and plants, but not so much in January. I had to be creative to try to find interesting things to photograph and I was getting a little discouraged.
Then one day I was on my way to a friend’s house when I turned the corner saw the most amazing thing: thousands of birds swooping and swarming around a field. It was so unbelievable I stopped the car, got out, and stood in the middle of the road, my mouth hanging open like I was watching a flock of angels. I took a couple photos and then just stood in awe and watched the birds fly as one huge, chattering organism, curving and floating, twisting and cavorting through the air, then landing and carpeting the field, then taking up their wings and doing their shape-shifting all over again. It lasted only about five minutes and then they flew off into the forest. “Wait! Take me with you!” I yelled after them, running down the street. (Just kidding, I didn’t really do that.) But the experience really did raise my pulse for the rest of the day.
[I learned later that these birds are starlings, and what they are doing is called a “murmuring.”]
Like my son Levi, I wanted to tell others about this experience, and when I did they would always mention Hitchcock’s The Birds movie (which I watched when I was an impressionable little girl and was probably one of the first things that started to suck Joy out of my life). But I didn’t feel fearful or apprehensive at all when I watched this murmuring. I only felt filled with Joy.
I just love how Joy sneaks up on you like that.
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger–something better, pushing right back.” Albert Camus