Tuesdays with Ana: On misogyny

Women and girls face unique challenges based on sexism, patriarchy, and flat-out misogyny. Long-time readers may remember that I began writing F/F for feminist and not sexuality-based reasons.

I try not to get too political because, honestly, I’m here to write/sell books and create a community of those who read my books. But every once in a while, the thoughtless sexist comments get to be too much and I climb onto my soapbox. This post received such a strong response yesterday on my Facebook that I am reposting it here. 

By the way, being a woman does not mean we are free from misogyny. Some of the worst insults and demeaning comments are issued from one woman to another. I hope you’ll consider how we talk and think about women, and commit to treating women with dignity. A woman should be more than her physical un/attractiveness or reproductive parts.

Women are physically attractive. Or not. Everyone has a different opinion.

Do we ask if a woman is intelligent?
Or do we call her uppity?

Do we ask if a woman has good leadership skills?
Or do we call her bossy?
Do we praise a woman for having the courage to make hard decisions for the sake of a group?
Or do we call her aggressive?

Do we ask if a woman is competent and good at her job?
Or do we call her pushy?

Do we ask if a woman has received mentorship and networking?
Or do we ask whether she is less committed to her job because she might marry and/or become pregnant?

Do we expect a woman to be capable?
Or do we hover, waiting for her to prove doubts correct?

Do we ask whether a woman advocates for reform, ethics, and changing the world?
Or do we complain that she isn’t “nice”?

Simply put, do we value women as complete human beings contributing to society in their own right?
Or do we reduce them, again and again, to merely a physical appearance and outward characteristics?

Fat.
Slut.
B*tch.
Ugly.
Lazy.
Old maid.
And all of the words for female reproductive parts that have been turned into insults.

A man is not an object of scorn, but his mother is.
What do we call a bad man? A son of a what? Right. Who is at fault? The woman who conceived and birthed him.

Bastard.
Same thing.

Comments that shame and demean women will not be tolerated in Ana’s world. Comments that reduce women to objects of straight and/or male sexual desire are also unwelcome.

Respect women in Ana’s World, or find another sandbox to play in.

Thank you.

(This post is in honor of every quilting granny, mentor, teacher, and woman who brought me to this place in my life. I love you and thank you.)

Tuesdays with Ana: On complicated love and belated New Year’s resolutions

Saying good-bye to a beloved friend because of death after a long and fulfilled life is sad, but saying good-bye to people who are still alive but no longer able to remain in our lives is much harder.

It doesn’t get easier to see my friend’s empty pew spot in church and walk by after communion, remembering how her face would light up whenever she saw me. I’ve tried sitting on the other side of church so I won’t see her spot, but I always look anyway.

Today, as I say good-bye to people who are still alive but no longer part of my life, I wonder what is easier:

To have only positive, sweet memories with no chance of ever seeing that person again?

Or to have equal parts love and pain, hoping despite an intelligent functioning brain that should know better, simply because the person is not yet dead?

If I were my quilting granny friend, I think I’d find some way to still love, no matter what. How grateful I am to have been touched by her life, and how surprising–months later–to recognize how her loss has changed me.

This year, I resolve to spend more time with the people who offer uncomplicated love…and to give less of myself to those who don’t.

Just a few thoughts on this Tuesday.

Sending you all love, hugs, and a little well-deserved swat. 🙂

Tuesdays with Ana: On advocating for ourselves

Last week, I witnessed a powerful act of self-advocacy from a child who looked about ten years old.

Yesterday in a public restroom, I met an adorable girl with a pretty pink-bow headband who was well-spoken and courteous. She also had a lovely speaking voice. I went into a stall, only to hear someone new enter the room and ask with a laugh, “What happened, did you buzz off all your hair?” The girl said in an admirably respectful tone, “I have alopecia, and it made me lose my hair.”

It didn’t stop there. The woman continued, “Oh, yes, well [name of someone famous] had that problem, too. He wore wigs, though. You should get a wig.” I was horrified and wanted to defend her, but I wasn’t out yet.

Her aunt (I’m guessing, or else a very young mom) came out of her stall and said, “She is beautiful exactly the way she is.” (She was!)

By the time I got out, the little girl was already leaving. I really wanted to say to her, “You are beautiful, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” But I was chicken. I didn’t know if I would come across as patronizing or interfering. Still, I hope she went home and looked in the mirror to see a smiley, bright-eyed, sweet girl who made me wonder what her parents had done to teach her such nice manners.

 

If I’d been able to get out of the stall faster I would have said something, but by the time I got out the moment was over. My jaw dropped as Ms. Ignorant could not shut her mouth. I couldn’t believe someone could say something that cruel. I was actually thinking to myself when I first met the girl, “Wow, she is so pretty!”

 

I wish I could have said something like, “It’s a heat index of 111 today. Why would anyone wear a wig who doesn’t need one?”

 

But really, if I had said anything at all it would have been a quiet undertone to the girl. “I’m sorry she was so thoughtless. You can’t fix stupid! I hope you grow up into a powerful, famous adult who will tell this story as an anecdote while you’re campaigning for US president.”

September is Alopecia Areata Awareness Month, and there are great resources available such as the Children’s Alopecia Project. You can find a small list of books on hair loss at Salon Revive.

Olivia Rusk has written a book about alopecia and appeared on the Today show. You can watch her interview here. I cringe at using “brave” to describe a confident and competent adolescent, but she comes across as a wonderful advocate for herself and others.

But while this particular story is about alopecia, I learned a greater lesson that day. A little girl answered calmly, clearly, and factually when she was inappropriately targeted by a stranger for unwanted attention. I don’t know how the little girl felt as she walked away, but she left at least one admirer behind.

How do you respond when people call you out for unwanted attention? How do you straighten out people who objectify you and intrude on your personal space? It’s easy to get hostile or disengage from the situation completely, but this little girl scored a victory.

 

 

 

Tuesdays with Ana on creating memories: How to handle anniversaries of difficult events

I’m away for (at least part of) this week, creating memories. I’m writing this post on Sunday evening, surrounded by dishwashing, laundry, half-packed suitcases, piles everywhere, and a private little grocery store. Every time I go on a trip, I swear I’ll leave my home in pristine condition so I can return to a nice house. Every time I actually go on a trip, I’m lucky to get everything together!

I posted this on my Facebook:

I will be offline for most of today, all of tomorrow [today, Tuesday, by the time you read this post], and possibly parts of Wednesday and Thursday. I’m not comfortable sharing details, but tomorrow is the anniversary of something that happened many years ago. In the past I’ve quietly gone off the grid or kept things superficial around this time, but by now there are too many connections and friendships here to just disappear.

I believe I have taken care of all the responsibilities for while I will be MIA. If I owe you something, please forgive me and email/message me on Wednesday.

If you would like to send a smile my way, please feel free to post a photo of cute babies/children/kittens/wooden spoons in the comments. Or your favorite joke.

I’ve scheduled a blog post to go up tomorrow as well.

Hugs and from your favorite Cookie Lady. (It’s not you, baby. It’s me.)

–Ana

Instead of oversharing (who wants to hear about the Ana pity party, anyway?), I’d like to talk a bit about anniversaries and how to handle them. There are two times in the year that are difficult for me (astute, long-time readers of Governing Ana can probably guess which ones). I’m not alone. Most people, except for the extraordinarily lucky and sheltered, have at least one anniversary of something painful. The death of a loved one, the loss of a loved one (including a child who never got to be born), a break-up, an assault, an accident, an act of terrorism…

As a society, we suck at dealing with grief. We spend a great deal of money and time on everything but facing the difficult parts of being human. Spoiler alert: Life is difficult.

Instead of sitting at home and feeling sorry for myself today, I’ve put aside work and will immerse myself in new experiences. I’ve never been to a wine-tasting before (don’t drink much) or a chocolate factory tour, but I’ve scheduled both. 😀 Plus there will be a visit to a museum, dinner at a cafe, and an evening at the theater. I am grateful, immensely grateful, for life and professional circumstances that have made this possible.

Sometimes we need quiet moments to grieve and reflect in our own way and in our own time. Other times, it’s good to keep moving. The problem comes when we work ourselves to exhaustion and find ourselves run down at the very moment we need all of our emotional resources.

This year and this week, I’ve done both. 🙂 So it’s time to take a break.

I’ve (sort of) packed my bags (messily) and have planned (what I hope will be) a lovely day. Sometimes, I think we need to create new memories. We can’t replace old, painful ones, but we can add something to the mix. And in future years, I’ll be able to look back on this day. A few years ago, a dear friend and her husband created a wonderful day for me on this anniversary. They allowed me to take time out when I needed it, but they also took me on a day filled with tender, thoughtful surprises. Other friends have surprised me, two years in a row with a party. I cried each time, but I gave thanks for the best friends anyone could ever have. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less open to new experiences and more likely to shut myself into solitude. I’d like to change that today.

Grief isolates by its very nature. No one can know what it means to experience someone else’s pain, but human nature means trying to understand. Trying to connect, to make meaning, and to love.

When the tears come today, as they surely will, I will give thanks for the love, support, and thoughts of my wonderful online family.

Thank you.

With all of my love–

Ana

O Captain, My Captain: What We Learned From Robin Williams

The first time (in my memory) that I cried in public was watching Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society. Despite the misogynistic, cliched subplot of trying to capture objectified female love interest, and despite the stunning lack of any female characters…Robin Williams spoke to me on levels that have shaped my entire life. He taught me:

  • It’s all right to have dreams and passions that don’t fit in with the world around you.
  • You can make a difference in someone else’s life even when those in authority tell you that you were wrong.
  • Sometimes you will try to help someone, and your efforts will fail. Even so, you shouldn’t give up.
  • Honor, integrity, and truth come from an inner moral compass, not what someone in authority tells you.
  • Honor, integrity, and truth are earned at great cost and require a lifelong struggle.
  • It’s better to lose by trying to do the right thing than to win by doing the wrong thing.
  • Sometimes bad things happen in your life, but it’s not your fault.

Robin Williams made me laugh. He made me howl, and I cringed at his off-color jokes.

The first time I heard about Robin Williams, someone mentioned his name as a joke. I didn’t understand until someone else explained that he was a comedian. Then I saw him in Dead Poet’s Society, and he shook me to the core of my being. I had to do the usual switch to repopulate the school with female students or imagine myself as a boy (typical requirements for a woman watching film), but once I did so his words seemed to be given to me.

Find what you love, Robin told me. Find what you love and cherish it.

What a sad irony that the man who remains famous for a movie raising awareness about suicide most likely died by suicide. I can’t imagine the years he struggled with depression, the anxiety, and the personal demons that drove him to drug addictions and his death.

Robin (if I may be so bold as to call you that), thank you for taking your gifts and sharing them with the world. May you find peace in your final journey, and may you find relief from your pain. Thank you for making the world a more beautiful (and humorous) place. You left us far too soon, but your suffering is over.

A few weeks ago, I found this video of Robin Williams meeting Koko. It’s how I’d like to remember him–laughing.

Robin Williams meeting Koko, the gorilla trained in ASL (American Sign Language)

What are your memories of Robin Williams?

Tuesdays with Ana: One night like this before I die

In talking with a friend yesterday, I reminisced about visiting the Royal Opera House (ROH) in London a few years ago. It had been my dream ever since childhood to visit England, London, and especially to see the Royal Ballet. The stars aligned just right, and I found myself in the building that (to me) was filled with fairy tales and dreams come true. I haunted the gift shop, hallways, display cases of costumes, and the customer service area.

On an impulse, I stopped by the ticket counter and inquired about upcoming shows. The Royal Ballet had closed for the season, but the Royal Opera was performing Le nozze di Figaro.

Oh, wait? One tonight? I waited with bated breath. Could there be any tickets left?

“There’s one available tonight in the stalls circle.”

The price, of course, was astronomical. Bigger problem: the opera started in less than an hour. I looked down at my tourist shorts and casual shirt in dismay. Sure, the ROH tends to be more casual than other European opera houses, but my dream of attending a ROH opera did not include tacky clothing.

“I won’t have time to change clothes. Is it all right if I wear this?”

The ticket seller waved my concerns away. “That’s fine. But this seat doesn’t have a surtitle view. I’m sorry, but it’s the only one left.”

Who cares about surtitles when I could still see the stage? And in such a good seat, too! Then again, the seat would have to be a good one for that price.

Possibly due to my less-than-costly attire, the ticket seller gave me a kindly look. “It’s a lot of money. Are you sure?”

It was a lot of money, and it wasn’t in my budget. But I hadn’t saved up for six years to go home without taking advantage of dreams come true. “I’ll take it!”

I rushed back to the gift shop hoping to find a libretto or guide for the opera that night. I knew the basic story, of course, but so much of the humor of an opera depends on knowing the timing. I did not manage to find a libretto or other aid (I would have been glad for a children’s book describing the story), but I picked up some more souvenirs instead. Wild with excitement, I wandered around the courtyard taking pictures of anything that moved and lots that didn’t.

Embarrassed at looking like an American tourist too clueless to know theater etiquette, I shuffled into the theater clutching my ticket (which is now proudly displayed on my fridge). I wanted to apologize for my inappropriate clothing, but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.

Breath taken away, I checked my bag and found my way to my seat. To my surprise and delight, the woman next to me was a fellow American (expat) who gave opera coaching for her profession. She asked me if I knew the story, and I shook my head. I mean, I “knew,” but only in the most general terms. She proceeded to tell me about the story, in depth. I was grateful and touched. I kept wanting to pinch myself, though, to make sure everything wouldn’t disappear when I woke up. Me, little plain old Ana, at the Royal Opera House? It was too grand to be true.

Then the curtain went up…

(WordPress will only let me insert one video, so here is the link: a brief view of Le nozze di Figaro, by the Royal Opera House)

Spellbound, I laughed at the silliness and teared up at the gorgeous music. I have never liked Mozart (long story), but that night his clarity and lightness served as the perfect, frothy, summer fun treat. At the intermission, I went to the Crush Room and nearly fainted. How many times had I read about characters going to the “Crush” at intermission and talking with famous music and ballet critics? I wandered around the new additions and was glad for the loudness of the patrons…I could get away with a little squeal of excitement every now and then.

As the performance finished and audience members trickled out of the theater (or perhaps I should say “theatre”), I couldn’t bear to leave. I murmured to my new friend, “Do they allow photos?” She wasn’t sure, so I nipped closer to the stage and turned around to take a photo (not of the stage, which I was sure would be forbidden) but the seats. An usher came over (here I think my clueless American tourist clothing helped!) and politely told me photography, even of the seats, was not allowed. I apologized profusely and sincerely, and I didn’t have to delete the photos from my camera!

It’s not a very good photo (I took the pictures as fast as I could in case I got stopped), but the angle and lights express my wonderment that night.

To crown the evening, as I walked out and tried (unsuccessfully) to find the nearest Tube station, a pedicab cyclist came by and offered me a ride.

I normally wouldn’t have dreamed of it, but the night was too glorious to end with prosaic, ordinary travel such as the Tube. I paid my money and got in, and I felt like Cinderella carried by her pumpkin coach and mice horses.

I said to my friends and family afterward, “Everyone should have a night like this before dying.” At intermission in the Crush Room, I thought I might burst with happiness. I’d gotten to do something I’d dreamed about ever since I was little, and I’d never expected it to actually happen. More than that, I was only lucky enough to do it because of a series of coincidences that gave me a night to remember for the rest of my life.

Talking about the night with my friend made me appreciate (once more) the glory of realizing that dream. I’ve had many dreams come true (I am blessed in many ways), but there’s something special about a lifelong dream.

Sometimes, it’s easy to feel sad that a happy moment is over or a person who makes us happy is gone. When things are difficult, I see the difficulty of the present instead of the blessings of the past.

No, every night can’t be a dream-come-true night, but some can. Dreams can come true in small or big ways, and sometimes the smallest ways are the biggest of all. A phone call from a long-estranged family member. The smile of someone who has been ill for too long. Good news when we least expect it.

Tonight (or some night soon), I hope you will have an evening that makes you think to yourself, “I’m so glad I had a night like this before I die.”

What is your dream?

 

Want to learn about opera but feel intimidated? Here’s a great “Opera for Beginners” guide.

And if you have children, read this guide to introducing children to opera.

Tuesdays with Ana: Corn Husking

As I write this post, a pot of water bubbles merrily on the stove. Fresh ears of corn lie on the counter awaiting their terrifying plunge to the netherworld.

Ahem. Can you tell my head has been in fairy tale land for the past few weeks? Talia and Vina are anxious for me to finish their story and send off Taliasman to the publisher, but it’s not quite perfect yet. There’s something both fairy tale-ish and contemporary about their story, and I’m struggling to put it into words.

Writing used to come easily to me, and then I became a writer. 🙂

Lately, I’ve been enjoying fresh produce. Sweet strawberries, blueberries, cherries, melons…and one of my favorites, corn on the cob.

Yum.

The local grocery store sells pre-husked cobs in tidy trays wrapped in plastic, but even lazy Ana gives those a pass. For me, husking corn brings back memories of crops from my godmother’s farm. What treat is lovelier than a bag full of sweet corn? Like the Little Red Hen’s chicks, I wasn’t interested in planting, caring for, or harvesting the crops. Instead, I came running at the sight of a brown paper grocery stack bursting with tufted green packages of delight.

Oh, and the husking! Neat freak Ana’s Mom couldn’t abide corn silk and husks in her kitchen, so I would bring my sackful of ears to the garage. I’d sit on the step (sweet cool concrete in the heat of summer, before air conditioning became prevalent), pull the garbage can close to me, and unwrap one layer of husk at a time. Unlike my parents who hated the bother, I took my time. Right down to the last bit of silk, I made the corn shiny, sparkly, and new.

Later when we spread butter on our corn and chased the hot, slippery cobs around our plates, I would take pleasure in the steaming rows of kernels on each cob of corn. From my godmother’s fields to my family table, I could take pride.

Today, as I tweak Taliasman and grumble because I can’t get the words exactly right, I’ll take pleasure in the work of my hands.

What will you husk today?

Tuesdays with Ana: Once upon a time (a fairy tale in lipstick)

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who liked to draw. She scribbled with crayons, chalk, finger paints, and her mother’s lipstick.

“How cute!” said her grandma.

“Is that of me?” boasted her uncle.

“Draw me next!” begged her sister.

“Let me scan it to show everyone on Facebook!” said her dad.

“Not my brand-new Sephora!” moaned her mom, but she displayed the newest picture with pride.

As the little girl grew older, crayons turned into pastels and finger paints switched to watercolors and oils. She added charcoal, tempera, and pencils to her repertoire.

“Your perspective’s off,” frowned her teacher.

“Does not meet our guidelines,” dismissed her dream art institute.

“Why do you draw everyone so funny?” complained her niece.

“Lacks maturity and composition,” panned the art show critic.

The adult girl looked at her growing stack of unpaid utility bills and she wondered whether she should give it up. Perhaps she should apply at the local fast-food restaurant to earn minimum wage. Maybe she needed to learn graphic design and become more marketable as a digital artist. Maybe she should…

“This doesn’t look like your work,” said her first art teacher.

“You’ve lost your voice,” said her best friend from art school.

“This does not deserve to have your name on it,” chided her aunt.

The adult girl burned her latest creations, stomping around her home while screaming at the top of her lungs. She hated her work, she wished she never had tried to draw, and everyone could take their stupid criticism and die with it.

Then, when the tears dried on her cheeks, she came across an envelope her mom had put in the mail.

“For you,” the note read.

Inside, there lay a yellow, tattered piece of paper covered with black marks of a fridge magnet.

“It was always my favorite,” the note continued.

A strange neckless person-like creature with wings, flying across either an ocean or a pit of lava. She couldn’t remember which. All drawn in Cin Cin, Sephora tropical coral.

The girl took out a fresh sheet of paper, clipped it to her easel. She could almost feel the excitement of drawing for its own sake, losing herself in the sheer joy of discovering what she could create. She picked up her nearest tube of lipstick, and she drew.

 

 

Tuesdays with Ana: Cancer, writer’s block, dismal word counts, and healing

Daily word counts are an author’s bragging point or shame book, depending on the situation. For six weeks straight, I averaged 3.5K per day (approximately 7 single-spaced pages). That’s a modest amount for a single day, but combined with a six-week average, it produced great results.

Then.

Then.

The words stopped.

In the past three weeks, I have written approximately 4K. No, not 4K per day. 4K total.

To put the amount into sports terminology, that would be similar to training to run a marathon by running one foot per day. Most days, I could do little more than put on the dumb shoes (see why you should hate shoes?) and sit on my front step, wearily resting my chin in my hands.

That’s a bit like draining the Atlantic Ocean by carrying away one bucketful of water per day.

I could have been better off trying to walk from Los Angeles to New York.

I cursed my books, I cursed myself, I cursed everyone known under the sun and many who were not. I would have wept tears of frustration, except I was too numb to weep at all. Stress, I thought to myself, or change in climate. Hormonal changes. Post-con fatigue. Over-ambitious social plans. Family worries. I spent an entire day on the computer, only to produce three or four words. I felt crushed before I even began.

I thought perhaps trying a short story format had increased my writerly angst. I’d get over it, surely?

After begging, pleading, and considering sacrificing a fatted calf, I wrote 567 words yesterday. I all but turned cartwheels. WOOHOO! 567!

Approximately 30 hours ago, I set up camp with my computer at my favorite all-night diner. I told the staff I had a monstrous deadline, apologized in advance, and said I would be here for a while.

I talked. Sorted out many pieces of my thinking. Delved into the story I was writing. Shed a few tears. (Only a few).

About 2K into this writing marathon, my characters clicked. I waved my white flag and agreed to let them do what they wanted. I didn’t want a happy ending; they did. Guess who won?

Once I yielded, the mind-numbing freeze began to leave my brain. I labored, putting down words I was sure I would hate later.

Then it hit me.

Oh. Em. Gee.

I don’t say this often, but OMFG.

Need a hint? Read “Elegy of a former fiction writer” here

18 years after my father’s cancer stopped me from writing fiction, I wrote my first non-spanking story.

I was stunned. Teary. Overwhelmed. Writing spanking has always been my safety outlet. I’m not writing “real” fiction if I write about spanking. I won’t provoke the inner demons that plagued me for ten years after my dad fought through two rounds of cancer treatments.

Somewhere around Hour 16 of the marathon, sleep deprivation loosening my censors and writing happened.

That amazing point when your silent, stubborn muse opens her arms and enfolds you, lifting your chin to kiss you with the story you were born to tell. The point where you spend 16 hours in a row in front of the computer, fighting every single word until 3+ weeks of writer’s block loosens and the story comes forth. And it is good. #LivingInSin
I celebrated, but not until two hours later did I realize the full extent of the miracle.
My newest work in progress (WIP) contains no spanking. None. One playful tap on the hip, but nothing else. No spanking.
After a second occurrence, my father’s cancer is technically considered incurable. It may strike again tomorrow, in five years, fifteen, or twenty.
Yes, a unique balance of cosmic events aligned to strip me of “pure” fiction writing for 18 years (O. M. G. That’s enough time for a child to get born and graduate from high school!)
I don’t know what (sleep deprivation, giddiness over Sci Spanks, conversations with friends, and/or sheer stubborness) caused this miracle, but I am stunned. I struggle to find words.
18 years later, I am submitting my spanking-less short story.
I have climbed my personal Mt. Everest, but I didn’t know until I reached the death zone.
I am here. I am writing.
And this time, I don’t have to fear for my father’s health.
Hallelujah.
(Oh, and the story? Almost done.)

Tuesdays with Ana: A time to read, and a time to write

I’m not a huge fan of folk music, but one song has always tugged at my heart. “Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season)” by Pete Seeger is the sort of song that’s played on the radio, in films, and in many popular contexts. Add the Biblical text of the lyrics, and it’s a song that speaks to a broad range of people at key moments of their lives. Wikipedia tells me that twenty-nine artists and groups have performed a cover of the song, ranging from Tori Amos to Bruce Springsteen to Dolly Parton to The Byrds.

This recording of Mary Hopkin singing the song in Welsh (her native tongue) stopped me in my tracks. She recorded an English version of the song as an audition (when she was 18 and looked about 14) that’s sweet and shows off her voice, but the Welsh version is stunning. There’s a richness most singers have when using their native language, and it makes the purity of her voice shine even more. Also, the “Turn turn turn” always distracted me because the rest of the lyrics follow the Ephesians text exactly. 🙂 The “Tro tro tro” is less distracting.

 

“Turn! Turn! Turn!”

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late!

As you can probably tell from all of the book reviews lately, I’ve been reading a lot. Not beta reading for authors or helping aspiring authors to prepare manuscript submissions, nor research for my books, but genuine reading for the pleasure of reading. I’ve struggled with my latest work-in-progress for more days than I care to admit. A girl’s live-in girlfriend threatens to leave her for not coming out to her family, and things get messy. It’s a painful story to write, even though it’s a story of strength, hope, and learning independence. I love my main character and the story, but every freaking word is like a drop of blood squeezed from a stone. I’ve gotten myself into a panic more than once, wondering when I’ll ever finish this story.

Then, I remembered this song. I looked it up, listened to it, and relaxed. There is a time to read as well as a time to write. I wrote two and a half novellas plus part of a short story in the last month and a half. I worked 18-hour days, from the time I opened my eyes until I fell asleep in front of my computer. I became acquainted with every take-out restaurant in my neighborhood as I scrambled to meet deadlines.

Foolishly, I thought I’d set my new normal pace. I thought I could keep it going, until my psyche said no. I’ve read more books for pleasure in the last three weeks than in the last three years. Perhaps more. That stuns me. I, who used to read ten books in a weekend? I, who merited a rebuke from my school librarian for complaining at the terrible, awful, unreasonably stingy limit of four books per student at a time?

I used to live a thousand lives in a year, and I’ve found myself reduced to one. One cramped, sore-wristed, stressed-out life of pounding away on a computer keyboard to create stories that never live up to my expectations. I get myself into such a frenzy that I refuse to go out, take care of everyday details, or socialize with anything but my computer. In essence, I forget to live.

When we stop living, we have nothing left to write. I think that sometimes, our writing fire goes out because we’ve forgotten to feed it with logs, twigs, or even kindling.

I’d like to finish this darn WIP as soon as I can, but for now I will read. I have a new book written by two of my favorite authors from childhood. Plus a naughty new book from one of my favorite spanking authors.

I wish this were a time to write, but it seems to be a time to read. I’m off to enjoy my new books today (after tying baby quilts with my favorite quilting grannies). What kind of time is it for you today?