Noticing.Six

  1. My morning quiet time seems to expand and contract based on the worthiness of how I’m spending it.
  2. All signs point to Matthew.
  3. “Earth’s crammed with heaven,/And every common bush afire with God” — Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  4. School or library? Library or school? Why not both?
  5. We stand at the front of the classroom excitedly talking about seasons, timing, and how you know when to move on. God’s name drops several times. I feel other women’s eyes on us. I wonder if they’re annoyed or interested.
  6. I wish I had as much time now as I did when I thought I was busy.
  7. I take off the case, filled with grime and lint and probably boogers, for the first time in six months. The phone suddenly is delicate and smooth and tiny in my hands. I love it. But I can’t be trusted—back it goes.
  8. IKEA: a potty seat, an ice cream cone, and thou.
  9. I hear her skull crack off the floor while I’m making dinner. Crayon-red blood oozing between her teeth and dripping everywhere. Screaming. I have no idea what to do. Where’s the manual for this thing?
  10. Funny how the bad 10% in an otherwise good day (90% is still an A) convinces me I’ve failed at momming today.

Noticing.Five

  1. All I want for Mother’s Day is to not have to be in charge of anything. No grocery shopping, no chores, no schedules, no finances, no cooking. That and a frosty glass of dry cider.
  2. He chooses me regardless of how petty, stupid, or dramatic I’m being (which is a lot lately). Again and again. Every time.
  3. Trying to learn the difference between offering my expertise and acting too big for my britches .
  4. What if I could look at myself—my body, my heart, my mind, my soul—the way God sees me?
  5. I already have to start letting her go. To work toward the day she doesn’t need me around but stills wants me to be.
  6. It’s been a very long time since I literally cried all day.
  7. We decide to see INFINITY WAR and manage to find last-minute childcare, then have to cancel because it turns out that infinity is the amount of tired we both are.
  8. I miss my momma.

Noticing.Four

1. I always wake up at 3:30am and 15 minutes before my alarm, no matter what time it’s set to go off.

2. Party day. Moving from the park to our house doubled the prep, but I got it all done. Somehow.

3. Laying in the early morning dark, releasing my resentment over being lonely and yet never alone. I don’t want it tainting our precious time together.

4. Mercy and grace are love in action.

5. Sick of all this sickness.

6. I’m afraid no one will come (or that no one should come). I’m more scarred than I realized after the debacle of her first birthday.

7. The Three Amigos, reunited. Much squealing on all sides.

8. Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere. Oh, wait, no, just me.

9. They curl up on the couch to watch Finding Dory, sharing popcorn. She looks more like him every day.

10. The only reason I don’t go to bed for 8pm is because he’s home. Not that we’re doing anything romantic or fun but because he’ll make fun of me for being an old lady. And rightly so, perhaps. I charge him foot rubs for my wakefulness.

Noticing.Three

1. Of course this morning is one of those when she looks bigger when I get her up than when I put her to bed.

2. Two.

3. I hope we can get through this one specific day without discipline.

4. Had hoped.

5. There’s a rare ease in us both as we tool around the toy store and thrift store that’s so welcome. Unhurried, unplanned, unbothered. I wish more days were like this.

6. I Have No Idea What to Make for Dinner: The Ellie Di Julio Story

7. A century-old recipe for chocolate cake, half again, poured into too few cupcake wrappers. I make a short loaf cake with the rest of the batter. Waste not.

8. I know how to make two kinds of icing. One is a cooked milk/flour buttercream–granulated sugar, not powdered–that takes a full 15 minutes to beat up and tastes like heaven’s ideal of Cool Whip. The other one is made of actual Cool Whip and instant pudding, and it’s even better.

9. Tonight’s bedtime refrain: “Chi’muk eated crackah!” Guess what we saw at the botanical gardens?

10. Ignoring the hushed, incessant cantations of the undone to-do list. Today was a good day.

Noticing.Two

  1. I justify buying a Tim’s (medium, dark roast, triple-triple) by telling myself  I’m sick so I need the caffeine to help me focus on writing. Nevermind I’ve already had three cups of half-caff before 9am.
  2. There was a time when I didn’t have to worry about leaving change in the cup holder.
  3. Writing feels clumsy to me still. I push through.
  4. I don’t so much regret eating pancakes for breakfast as I regret not eating more of them so I could balance how gross I feel with at least being full.
  5. Cycling through social media because I’m hungry for something I can’t have.
  6. 70F is still too cold.
  7. Mastering the art of not intervening when she’s messy, mistaken, or mad.
  8. I need prayer tonight, but when it comes my turn to ask, I can never think of why.
  9. Education is an affair of the heart, not just the mind.
  10. In summmmerrrrrrr!

Writer, train thyself

Ever forget how to tie your shoes? Like, actually forgotten? Looked down at your shoes, laces in your hands, knowing full well you’ve done it so many thousands of times in your life that it’s nearly as automatic as breathing, and for some reason, this time, you physically cannot do it? Can’t even fathom how these floppy pieces of fabric  mesh together into a security system for your feet?

I mean, not that that’s ever happened to me, of course. But in theory. *ahem*

The other day, I realized I’ve forgotten how to tie my writing shoes.

Since 2012, I’ve written and published one novella, four novels, two short stories, twenty-four flash pieces, and hundreds of blog posts. I’ve sat on four convention panels about storytelling and craft. I’ve helped seasoned authors write their own books, poetry, stories, and essays. I’ve encouraged aspirational authors to do the thing on the strength of my own authority.

You’d think I’d know what I’m doing by now.

And yet, one day I was staring up at the bookshelf where I keep my author’s copies and thought, “I don’t know how to write a book.” It wasn’t negative self-talk or impostor syndrome. I simply couldn’t understand the process even as I pored through memories of doing it. Expanding the scope didn’t help: short stories and blog posts seemed equally impossible. My ability to craft a narrative of any kind was suddenly as laughable as me completing an Ironman triathalon. What had been as natural as breathing was now a complete mystery.

Talk about discouraging.

I think that’s what made it easy (easier) to tear it all down. If I couldn’t write anymore, why perpetuate the illusion that I could? But even after all the books were removed from circulation and all the blog posts deleted, the creative ember still burned. The desire to write didn’t go away.

I railed at God a little, then. Why would you nag me for two years to set all the old work aside as if I’d never done it and not give me something to replace it? Why are you leaving me empty-handed and rudderless? Why give me this gift and deny me the ability to use it?

Once I’d exhausted my resentment, I huffed and asked for the one thing that didn’t make me sound like a petulant child who’s had her toys taken away.

If you want me to be a different writer, then you have to teach me. Help me relearn how to write.

Trawling Instagram a couple hours later, I came across Compel, a writer’s community and training program run by and for Christian women. I combed through the site with increasing excitement. A lively forum, weekly teachings on craft and creativity, spiritual foundations. Registration was closed, but man, did it sound just like what I’d asked for. I signed up to be notified of their next intake and set it aside.

The next day, registration opened.

When the student is ready, etc, etc.

It’s only been three weeks and a handful of lessons (babytime is still a hurdle), but I can already feel the difference. I have direction. I want to write and do what I can, without expectation. It’s an odd feeling to not be driven to achieve or even create great things, which was my overarching drive before. For now, I’m deeply satisfied being a student of my craft. To be a beginner again, mind and heart open, feeling my way along.

The real challenge is not letting my old self rear up to ruin it by spewing pride all over the place. It’s offended that I’m submitting to Writing 101 after five years of (varying levels of) success. I had to verbally check myself when I considered skipping a lesson on sentence structure because “I know all this already”; sticking it out led me to read “A Wagner Matinee” by Willa Cather and to all its variations, which provided not just reader-joy at the loveliness of the prose but also writer-joy to see how a master refined her work over time. There is always more to learn. And if I want to step into my calling to write, to follow my path to its greatest destination, I absolutely have to maintain beginner’s mind, even while gaining skill and authority.

Last night, the first story idea came. Then another. And a third. Then a reminder of other ideas, tucked away over the years in phone notes or post-its crammed into an unmarked envelope. They’re there. Waiting.

It’s early days yet, but if I take it slow I can tie my shoes again.

Scroll To Top