Hello, Peeta

Two blog posts ago, I shared the tragic loss of Bruce/Betsy (my husband’s white Mazda Ford pick up). For those of you who didn’t read that particular post, a red-light runner hit the truck on the driver’s side. My husband only sustained sever whiplash, thankfully, and the other driver was unharmed. But Bruce was totalled.

Anyway, it took three weeks for the policeman who was on the scene to file his report (which included testimonies from witnesses clearly stating that it was the other driver’s fault). It took four or five weeks for us to get an estimate of how much the truck was worth and how much the other driver’s insurance was willing to reimburse us for that rental car we had for two weeks. Even after we were sure we were going to get a certain amount for my husband’s truck, we still had to figure out what car we were going to by and from what kind of seller. This being our first big purchase (and by big I mean more than one thousand dollars), we knew we would need a loan and that the loan would come with a high insurance rate. My husband agonized over what to do for several days before he decided to play it safe and go with a dealership, Sanderson Ford to be exact. I have an uncle who works there, someone we were confident would get us the best possible deal, someone we knew we could trust.

(Not to say all car salesmen are tricksters; we just had a really bad experience with one two years ago when we almost bought a car from a Chevy dealership. That’s why we were so hesitant to go with a dealership this time.)

So my husband found a truck he liked that was reasonably priced, a used 2014 F150 with a crew cab and four wheel drive. He did a test drive with my uncle and loved it. My uncle said he could hold onto the truck for us for a little while, but we still didn’t know when those checks from insurance would come. As we drove home later that day, I said something like, “Should we check the mail? I know we just checked it yesterday and there’s probably nothing in there but…” My husband said it was worth a shot so we stopped by our mailbox. Out loud, as a joke, I prayed, “Jesus, it would be great if there was a check in that mailbox. If there isn’t, I’m sure we’ll be fine but it would still be REALLY great if there was.” And, praise God, both checks were in there! We turned the car around and went straight to the bank to deposit them. We went to Sanderson Ford the next morning. Two hours later, my husband drove his new truck home.

I know it looks red in the picture but its technically “sunset metallic” orange. I’m calling this new vehicular addition to our family Peeta, after Peeta Mellark. This mind-blowing blessing comes with a new payment every month and a spike in the amount we pay toward car insurance. But we’re still on cloud nine. We’ve been praying for this day since the accident happened back in October. God answered in a BIG way. We’re still humbled and in awe of His provision and His timing.

This year, as I’m looking back at everything my husband and I have been through individually and together, I’m calling 2018 the Year of Trust. We needed a new car, a dependable family car. We tried saving for it. Things happened that caused our car fund to slowly be depleted. Then the accident happened. I wouldn’t have thought to provide anyone with a car this way. But God did. Somehow, He knew this was the only way it could happen. Same with how our child came to be. Same with pretty much every aspect of our lives. Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I wonder why things happened the way that they did, why God couldn’t have made it a little easier. But that’s not for me to know, is it?

As I writer, I’ve put my characters through some pretty rough situations. They’ve experienced loss, heart-break, disappointment, injury, danger, and depression. But they always learn something in the end, maybe even become better people as a result. I’d like to think my husband and I are a little bit stronger now that this year is coming to an end, not only as a couple but as individuals. It wasn’t always fun, but I’m glad it happened.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year, readers. See you in 2019!

End of the semester reflections

To quote Albus Dumbledore, “Another year…gone.” Only in this case it’s a semester. I took my usual three classes and managed to swing “A”s in all. (Thank God.)

Intermediate Fiction was by far the most challenging because the teacher had us writing a new short story every month. It tested my creativity, forced me to think outside the box. But I’m thankful for this because it yielded some surprisingly good results, with “Entering the Deep” and “To Kill a Vampire” especially. My teacher also had us students giving each other detailed feedback on our stories. There was a form with questions we had to fill out, which made us stop to think about what we just read. I’m not the greatest when it comes to critiquing. I read books for enjoyment, not with the intent to break them down or analyze them. And short stories have never been my cup of tea, mostly because they lack that character development and fluff of a full blown novel (which I love so much). So giving good feedback was also a challenge for me. But, once again, I’m thankful for this. It helped me develop good critiquing skills.

Planning and Structuring the Novel was great. As the title might suggest, we students were given the opportunity to submit excerpts from our current works in progress to receive constructive criticism from classmates and our instructor. This kind of feedback wasn’t as specific as the feedback I received for my short stories, but I was made aware of some important plot issues with “The Andromeda’s Ghost.” (This is a science-fiction novel I’ve been working on. I’ve posted an excerpt or two on the blog in the past.) This novel is my first attempt at science-fiction so it was great to hear that I was doing a good job so far. My instructor’s thoughts especially were helpful. There’s just something about working alongside an impartial adult, who has studied writing and literature, and genuinely likes your work…I’m going to miss discussing my story with that man.

My Portfolio class was filled with more feedback. I basically submitted all of the short stories I was thinking about putting in my portfolio and the teacher, the Director of the Creative Writing Program, gave me his thoughts. In order to get my Certificate of Completion for the Creative Writing Program at Phoenix College, I have to submit a portfolio with 12-15 pages of original work from two different genres, a letter of intent stating my writing goals, and a letter of recommendation from a teacher. I was asked to provide three copies of this, so I can only assume that the director of the program and two mystery people will be reading my work and making the final decision.

Naturally, I agonized over which stories to submit. The three stories I wrote this semester are my favorites out of my little stack of shorts, but they’re all at least 12 pages long, maybe more. I’d only be able to include one. I’ve written a few poems but I didn’t feel confident turning in any of those. (Although, now that I think about it, I could’ve totally turned in my prose poem about public speaking! Dang it! Oh, well…) In the end, I went with a horror story I wrote last semester and the mermaid story I wrote more recently. Combined, they fell within the page limit so it worked out. For better or worse, I’ve mailed it in. Now all I can do is wait.

I’m not technically done with the program yet. I have one more reading class I have to take, but it’s not available until the summer of 2018. I emailed the director of the program, thinking I’d have to wait to turn in my portfolio. He said I didn’t have to wait. He seemed to think I had a shot at that certificate, which was encouraging to hear.

So my schooling is pretty much over. I’ll be going back for that one class in the summer, but then I’ll be done! [insert girlish shriek of excitement here]

I still don’t know if I want to get a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. A part of me thinks I won’t need it. Another part of me is terrified that I’ll totally flop as an author and I’ll need a backup plan. I do okay in school but it’s not something I want to do for the next four to eight years of my life. I want to be focusing on kids and my writing during that time. But life is…well…to quote Forrest Gump, “Life [is] like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get.” I could do really good as an author, really bad, or just mediocre. I want to be prepared for all of those outcomes. I want to have a plan. That’s who I am; a planner. So what will I do if, by this time next year, I can’t make a living off my writing? Do I keep at it? Do I get my Bachelor’s and try to get a job at a publishing company? Do I pick another major?

The thing is, I can’t think of anything else I’d want to study. Sure, for a while I thought it would be cool to be an interpreter. I enjoyed learning American Sign Language and all about the deaf community. But when my job conflicted with the scheduling of the interpreter’s program at Phoenix College, I wasn’t devastated that I had to give it up. I would be devastated if I had to give up writing. But I love reading and writing. I feel like getting my Bachelor’s in Creative Writing will make me start to hate these things I love so much…

Uuuuuggggghhhhhh.

It takes effort to trust that everything is going to be fine so long as I do my best. It’s hard for me to be okay with the fact that I don’t have all the answers. It helps that I have a great, merciful God who doesn’t mind repeating that He has everything under control. It also helps that it’s Christmas time and I have family to distract me. Tonight, my husband and I will be flying to Wisconsin to spend the holiday with his mother and brothers. I’m so looking forward to seeing them and having my first white Christmas. Another semester is over. It’s time to celebrate. That’s what I need to be focusing on right now. After the holidays, I’ll be working on book promotion and finishing that science-fiction novel. What comes after that can be decided later.

If I don’t post anything else before the new year, let me just say Merry Christmas to you all. See you in 2018!

My husband

My husband isn’t like the men in those romantic comedies we women like to watch.

He doesn’t send flowers and balloons to my office or give me little gifts just because. He doesn’t whisk me off on elaborate dates or nights on the town. He doesn’t plan big vacations or surprise me with plane tickets to some romantic destination. He doesn’t take it upon himself to make the house spotless when he notices that it’s dirty. He doesn’t welcome me home with a foot rub or a full bathtub or a three course dinner. He doesn’t willingly jump through a thousand hoops to make me happy. He doesn’t have the power to read my mind and know exactly what I mean when I’m being cryptic. He doesn’t humiliate himself for me or change the way he thinks to best suit my needs or allow me to be the one who’s always right.

It’s just not in his nature. And you know what? That’s okay.

Because he’s real.

He works hard at a job he doesn’t particularly like because he knows it provides for our needs right now. He fixes things that break so that we don’t have to hire someone else to do it. He talks me up when I don’t think too much of myself, and knows what to say to get me to stop stressing out. He supports my dreams and cheers me on through every endeavor. He listens to me talk until I’m all talked out. He isn’t afraid of my tears and will hold me for as long as I want. He isn’t afraid to be open and honest and vulnerable with me. He laughs at my mistakes, but doesn’t make me feel stupid for making them. His infectious sense of adventure and child-like trust in our God challenges me. He pushes me to try new things, dig deep, and find out things about myself that I didn’t know before. In my Sunday best or in Batman pajamas, he thinks I’m beautiful either way. He knows the value of my love and trust, and would never do anything to betray them. He’s always willing to help, to be my safety blanket, to walk with me through whatever comes our way.

And really, what more could I ask for?