“Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse, isn’t it? If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.” ~Ted Lasso
This summer, I’ve taken a breather from writing my blog. It wasn’t intentional. I didn’t decide not to write, but the energy, thought, and dedication simply weren’t there.
For me, writing is cathartic, exhilarating, and exhausting. It’s not something that can be done daily. I must be feeling it. I have to be in the writing zone, so to speak.
I had several goals to reach this summer, and I finished one which was to complete the sequel to my first novel, A Southern Girl Re-Belles. I’m happy to announce, Getting Hitched, will be coming out in November or early December.
It’s ready now, but I want to take my time preparing for the release, and all that goes with it–marketing, the bane of my existence; the excruciatingly painful chore of begging people to purchase my book, filling up social media feeds with endless posts, and including blurbs or paragraphs in this blog. I’ll send out emails and give information about the book in my newsletter. I will also promote “Getting Hitched, by encouraging readers (and even non-readers) to purchase both books. (The second book can stand alone, but I highly recommend reading the first book in order to gain a deeper understanding of the characters). I’m an awful salesperson, and self-promotion is difficult at best. Please forgive me ahead of time for the future emails, and rampant pitches on social media.
Now that school is about to begin, I will have to get back in the groove of juggling my real job, with the job I’ve given myself–to be a writer. I know at times it seems that I complain about writing. Please accept my apology for that. In the beginning, I naively believed that writing was easy, because if given a subject, I could always write something.
The difficulty in writing for me is the mindset. I have to be mentally prepared to devote a couple of hours (or more) to write the blog, or to complete a chapter in a book. While I always feel so accomplished and energized after a day of writing, I am also drained. It takes every ounce of my brain to pry the thoughts, ideas, and creativity out of my head and onto the empty page. Hence, the necessity of taking a hiatus, a breather, or vacation days for my self-imposed 24/7 thoughts when I’m working on a book or blog. I have to step away in order to accomplish the task at hand.
As summer began, our family embarked on a vacation. And when I say family, that includes me, Brian, my sons, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. For our first road trip adventure with the grandchildren, our destination would be a cabin in the Smoky Mountains, and a day in Dollywood experiencing rollercoasters, kiddie rides, and unbelievable heat.
On our first day out, we drove to Nashville. We spent the evening walking around Broadway in the downtown district. Live music was played in almost every restaurant, and the sounds of instruments and vocals resounded on the streets as we walked around, searching for a place to eat that was gluten friendly. Don’t get me started on my issue with gluten. I could rail on for days about how unfair it is, but in the scheme of things, this allergy is completely bearable and doable. It’s just not fun.
When trying to find a place where everyone wants to eat, including things our young grandchildren will enjoy, I feel like I’m the person, or place where fun comes to die. My family is completely supportive, but I know when they indulge me, they miss out on places they would rather go. Again, I’m grateful they are always conscious of my plight, and that most restaurants have gluten-free options. After that long explanation, I can’t even recall what I ordered that night, a gentle reminder that I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. Give me a salad and I’ll be perfectly fine.
As we drove around Nashville, (before parking the cars), we came face to face with another reminder of the brevity of life–ribbons placed throughout the town commemorating the tragic Covenant School shooting. Such a sight took our breath away and made us pause and reflect on what is truly important in life. Love, kindness, family, brotherhood, and knowing Jesus.
On the second day of our trip, we drove to Pigeon Forge, where we stayed in a lovely cabin in the mountains. When I booked the trip, I selected our cabin for its breathtaking view. What I hadn’t considered was how we would get to the top of that mountain and the lovely scenery.
I wish I had jotted down my thoughts, the descriptive words that filled my mind, as I was filled with complete and total fear. Anything I write will not do justice to the absolutely terrifying trip up the mountain. To be fair, I know that I have driven up scarier mountains, like the ones we traversed in Colorado in 1999, but I was much younger then—I was still in my thirties and felt invincible.
But now that I’m in a new age range, my ability to withstand winding and inclining narrow roads is all but gone. I’m extremely thankful I was in the backseat, because I didn’t have a clear view of the speed at which we were traveling, nor the images of what was ahead. I felt like the Little Engine That Could, as I silently repeated in my head, “I think I can, I think I can.”
After fifteen minutes of sheer horror, we arrived at our cabin where I temporarily forgot the fact that what goes up, must come down. When my son stepped out of his truck he exclaimed, “I had already decided if this wasn’t our cabin, I wasn’t going any farther. We were just going to park the truck, and vacation there.”
See, I wasn’t the only one who felt discombobulated.
The rest of the trip consisted of attending the Dolly Parton Stampede, a fun show where you watch a performance while being served a meal. There were horses, and buffalo, and cowboys, and Indians.
The fun of the evening was captured in photos that they take of everyone when they first arrive, an act that would later seem like highway robbery. After posing for the photos, they would later interrupt your meal, and while you’re sitting in the darkness of the spectator area, and you’re caught up in the drama, and the fact that you’re on your first vacation with the grandchildren, they show you the photos. The sales pitch includes information about this package, or that package, and digital downloads, and prices, and the deal of the day. After trying to process the numerous options, I panicked. It was all too much. I don’t even remember what I said to them, but I was handed a stack of photos, and a card to download copies. They eagerly took my credit card and then moved on to the next gullible adult devoid of common sense while being on a vacation high.
Here are several of the photos. Notice my hair. In their “photo-shopping” they clipped off almost an entire side of my hair. You can actually see it stuck on other family members in some of the photos, something that escaped me when I was frantically previewing the pictures in the dark. (Notice, they used the same pictures with different backgrounds. Highway robbery, I say. I was the one who ordered them, though. That darn vacation high feeling!)
Dollywood did not disappoint. Although the day was a steamy kind of hot, the kids had fun, and those adults who didn’t enjoy it, endured it.
The day we left the cabin, the two drivers decided they wanted to drive back home in a day. We took a different route, and went through a tiny piece of Georgia, then crossed through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, arriving back to God’s Country a little less than twelve hours later. On our way up, we went through Arkansas before entering Tennessee. The trip home seemed to go faster, as entering new states tended to break things up. We also had an extra passenger, as Cooper decided he wanted to ride back in “Sassy’s car.” He was perfect. He didn’t cry once, and he kept us entertained with his random comments and laughter.
When I look back on that trip, and the time we’ve spent with our family this summer, I think of this quote from Ted Lasso:
“I feel like we fell out of the lucky tree and hit every branch on the way down, ended up in a pool of cash and Sour Patch Kids.”
After covering the topics of Taking a Breather, and Taking Trips, I must address “Trying New Things.”
I’ve decided that this year will be my last year to work in public education. It comes with a bundle of feelings, both good and bad. While I feel it’s time to focus on other things, I am also a bit sad. I love my job, my principal, and my co-workers. My heart is touched by the students daily, as they usually end up teaching me more than I could ever teach them. I am blessed beyond measure but know it’s time to go. The torch will be passed, and I will enter into a new and slightly unnerving phase of life. I’ve never not worked.
While I have my writing to keep me busy, and I know time will be spent with my grandchildren, I have decided that now is the time to try new things, to make real the dreams deferred, and to check things off my bucket list.
This summer, I started painting. I’m not really good at it, but it has been fun. It will also be a great thing to do in retirement, as it is relaxing and fulfilling. Here are some examples of my work. I’ve attempted both watercolors and acrylics, and the entire process has been messy, and comes with a huge learning curve. (The picture of my dog looks like she just has a head…she’s behind a pillow. I really don’t like the background).
My decision to attempt watercolors was enhanced when I saw this brand:
My grandmother’s maiden name was Holbein, and we have traced our lineage back to Hans Holbein the Younger who was the court painter for King Henry VIII. Yes, it’s a stretch, but in a very surreal and surprising way, painting has helped to remind me of my roots, and to feel closer to my family.
I know this has been all over the place. I’m just happy to write again. After dusting off the keyboard, sitting at my desk, and jotting down my random thoughts, I understand this is a big step. (It’s taken me over three hours to do this)
I have many miles to go before I sleep—publishing my next book, and also beginning another one. I will give more information about that in my Newsletter. You can read it here, and I hope you will become a subscriber.
As always, thanks for reading, and supporting my habits. I write because it is necessary for my sanity. It is here that I can express what’s on my mind, while also giving my thoughts the chance to dance on the page. I always fear I might seem arrogant, or even ridiculous, when I call myself a writer. I’m not sure I’m any good at it, but it’s good for me. It gives me a place to pour out my soul and empty my mind and my heart.
Thanks to you all for being a part of this journey. As terrifying as it feels when I’m trying to get to the top of the mountain, ending a career, and trying new things, I know once I arrive, the trip back down won’t be so bad. Life is full of mountains and valleys, and whether you’re up or down, there is always a lesson to learn, a person to bless, and the opportunity to be happy with where you are.
True joy isn’t found in reaching your destination, but rather in the roads you take to get there.
I look forward to new days of exploration as I venture into the unknown. But no matter where I go, I always know my journey will bring me back home.