Creative Writing

Sometimes I Observe

A writer is often telling a story within their own scene.

Let me paint mine:

Though the forecast called for sun and unbearable heat, it was a cloudy day. The wind felt steady but not chaotic. Just a soft, consistent cool from the humid haze.

I sat, aware of the family beside me speaking overly loud to catch the attention of those around them. Exaggerating stories, ever glancing at their imagined audience. As if those around would care, be impressed, about the tent that collapsed on their holiday and the amazing burgers they made for supper the previous day.

I observe, my heart melts, at the innocent, awkward motions of the younger swimmers, trying desperately to follow the detailed instructions on how to perfect each stroke. They try to correct those crooked legs. Oh, how they try!

It looks exactly the same as before.

Aware of the self conscious woman, who hides her body under the water, even though the water where she stands is knee deep. Who by society’s standards is overweight, but her son smiles at her as if she’s the most beautiful person he’s ever seen.

She’s gorgeous.

Far more so than the tanned, chiseled man across the pool, who stands out – as a movie star would stick out in a soup kitchen. He looks… flawless. He beams his perfect white teeth and flirts shamelessly with the woman beside him.

Though he’s married. I saw his wife here yesterday.

I also notice the corner perv, who stares at his phone as if intently interested in it, but he’s watching the lifeguard through his camera lens.

People.

They’re a funny sort, wherever I go.

All so different. Also, the same.

Sometimes, it’s too hard to see it all. I notice things. I see too much. So I duck my head and close my eyes, I hide behind a book.

I write on my blog.

Sometimes I observe. But usually, I prefer to ignore.

Writing

Late Night Ramblings of an Insomniac

I’m not tired.

I probably shouldn’t even call myself an insomniac at this point in my life because I rarely have bad nights anymore. And really, I’m just awake right now because I drank too much coffee, but that’s besides the point… for years I did have insomnia, and this reminds me of it and sounded like a great title, so it is what it is.

You are probably thinking that I should stop writing now, because I’m rambling about nothing.

You are probably correct.

But my husband prefers me talking to the internet right now than having me whisper, “Are you still awake?” every minute or so before entering into a rapid one-sided conversation at a speed that would rival any auctioneer. Or worse. Trying to stay silent while my eyes blink so rapidly that you can hear them.

So, I left the room to blog and now you will have to suffer. But, on the bright side, my marriage will be saved.

I’ve been in the mood to write more lately. This means my book is being worked on again. YAY!

Yes my finished book.

That I printed off… and then decided to change a character which meant deleting him out of half the book and entering a better version. So my “finished” book is now only 32,000 words and I now am at the halfway point… again.

BUT, oh, it’s SOOO much better! It WILL be worth the time I’ve spent on it. Plus, I can now enter in some really neat, post “COVID world” material which makes the book even more believable. I haven’t written or talked much about the book at all, mainly because I’ve been terrified at the thought of someone else stealing the idea I’ve worked so hard on and beating me to the editors. But, never fear, lucky readers… I am in the mood to share, so you’re in for a treat!

“Project Slone” was written as sort of a healing process to me after a very painful season in my life. Writing was my therapy. Poetry became my outlet. One of my objectives in the story was to awaken the love of poetry in young people and to expose the dangers of abusive leadership.  So, I dove in and created a fictional story set in a world not so different than our own, dominated by a tyrannical genius with a deeply flawed philosophy. The hero? A talented young writer and victim of the man, named Macy Grale, who becomes a uniquely poetic and modern-day Nellie Bly. To start, here’s a bit of an overview of the story, the ‘back of the book’ pitch, so to speak:

Macy Grale, has lived her whole life moving from Unit to Unit with her twin brother Sam. Knowing no other way of life – Sam embraces the community and thrives underneath their many caretakers. Macy, however, just can’t seem to fit the mold, feeling deep down that something is amiss in this strange place where talk of family is hushed and creativity is frowned upon. The peculiar community is actually one of many and was founded by the powerful and deeply admired Dr. Jacob Slone. It was built upon his Five Foundational Truths to stop “The Coming Catastrophe”. Only upon her Transition years, when Macy meets the doctor who brought her into the city, does she unlock the past secrets that haunt her dreams and discover for herself why Slone City must be abolished forever – but first, she needs to get the rest of the country on board. With irresistible courage and wisdom far beyond her years, Macy uses her gift of writing to open the eyes of the world around her to the horrors behind Slone’s walls, reminding them of the importance of love, family and beauty.

The book addresses culturally relevant topics such as the value of human life, leadership abuse, government involvement in society, broken families, and healing from past wounds that cannot be undone. 

Someday, it will be published… someday. But until then, I will patiently wait for bits of inspiration and write at times like this, when the house is quiet and my mind is alive. Which has now inspired me to say “goodnight blogging world!”

A book is waiting to be finished.

Canada · Vulnerability

A Fragile World

Coronavirus. I don’t even need to blog about it, because everyone else has.

Schools are shut down for three weeks.

Sport events are too.

Church is cancelled.

Lineups pile outside of doors before the local grocery stores even open.

Isles are packed with people, void of food…

The world pretends to panic, I sit here and write. It seems surreal. I’m in a book; a doomsday movie.

I run… from the insanity. Breathe in the cool country air.

Real panic is still low, I believe.

Why? Because most people are smiling, letting others ahead in line. Shaking their heads in wonder while they make jokes. Texting pictures of line ups and empty shelves. Kindness is still abundant, violence and aggression are low. This tells me it’s not so bad. We are still a people who have plenty, we don’t know what it’s like to go with out. So far we haven’t seen the desperation of Venezuela.

Real fear is at bay.

I’ve succumbed to the pressure of preparing for something… not sure what. Other crazy shoppers emptying the shelves?? We have food to last us a while. We’re fine. I’m fine. I’m not worried.

Should I be worried?

I feel amused and calm.

Calm because it’s not the end. I think we all know it.

Amused because it’s like we’re all rehearsing for the real thing. We’re not so much afraid of the virus, of halting our lives. But we’re afraid of being helpless. Unprepared. So we prepare ourselves for something much bigger, something completely out of our control.

An illusion of control, in a very fragile world. The world hangs in a balance that we don’t even notice from day today. Movement of small, intricate parts:

Work and school.

The stock markets.

Our health.

Border crossings.

Truckers bringing in supplies.

Smallest changes that tip the scale.

We know this isn’t the end. Yet we live in a fragile world which holds on by a thread. What will be the final tug that pulls this civilization apart?

History doesn’t lie: no “kingdom” lasts forever. All eventually come to an end.

And I think instinctively we know this. So we hold on and rehearse just a little while longer. Each year becoming just a little more paranoid. Live as if death stalks behind us.

As I sit here and watch the desperate gain their illusion of power and control, I wonder, if the end finally does come… will we know it?

Or will we casually laugh at another false alarm?

Writing

Quick Thoughts

This post will be short, as I have so little time these days, but rest assured, I’m still writing. I’m just mostly working on my book and putting thoughts too private to share in my journal.

However, I’m in a good place these days.

Sometimes I worry about those who go silent online, so I just figured I should say something about my recent silence. This is just for a season… I really want to get my book finished.

To be honest, I have four books going at once. One is almost done. Two are half done. The fourth is just barely started. They are all so different from each other. They are geared to different audiences, age groups, and written for entirely different reasons. I do this so I can keep writing. So that when I’m in a magical world sort of mood, I can write. When I’m in a spiritual moment, I can write. When I am thinking of political and culturally relevant matters, I write. When my heart is heavy, I write. When I’m feeling silly, I write.

No matter how I feel, there’s a book to be written.

So, you can see why I’ve been quiet here lately. I apologize to those who’ve missed me. Regular posting and reading others blogs will resume in a month or two. I do miss those I’ve connected with on WordPress.

Keep writing, your words matter. And your perseverance inspires many. We need each other desperately. Thanks for sticking around.

Love Always,

Heather

Christmas · Creative Writing · Published

Another Published Piece

Two years back, I entered in a short story competition in our local city paper. I won the $75 prize (staggering amount, I know…)

So this year I thought, “Hey, why not try again!”

I wrote a short story, which ended up becoming a medium length story… a tad longer than I had anticipated but I couldn’t bear to shorten it. It was a fictional piece, which a first for me I might add. Today once again, I found my piece published in the paper. This year I didn’t win, but I was runner up. Nothing huge, I know, but it does put a smile on my face.

Here’s the story, for those of you interested:

Tobias’ Letter

It was mid-November and the first snowflakes of the season were falling in graceful swirls, melting as quickly as they hit the ground. Tobias Williams shivered as he walked past Mardee’s Marvelous Toy Shop on his way to school. Glancing through the window, he saw exactly what he had begun to dread every single year. There, through the glass, he could see the extravagant holiday display of toys and decorations that were being set up along the shelves and a familiar knot began to form in his stomach. Tobias turned and began to run as fast as he could toward the school, willing his legs to carry him far away from the innocent display that would torment him for the next few weeks.

Having just turned ten, Tobias enjoyed many things that the other boys his age did. He loved candy, model cars, video games and Lego building sets. He enjoyed new baseball gloves and ice skates. He even liked comic strips and hockey cards. But there was one thing, which every ten-year-old boy loves, that he simply dreaded each year.

Tobias hated Christmas.

Not that he had always hated it. Although now a distant memory, Tobias could recall a time when he too had written long wish lists and awoken early on Christmas Day to open up a stack of brightly wrapped presents. He remembered trekking out into the wilderness with his family to find that perfect tree and kneeling together in the snow as they all took turns with the saw until the evergreen finally fell to the ground with a soft thud.

He still smiled when he remembered his parents despair upon bringing it into the living room, discovering that their perfect tree was leaning slightly to the left and had needles missing in patches all over. The tree had caused quite a disaster in his house that year when it had tipped over as they were decorating. Ornaments came crashing down around them and his father had had to turn the tree so that it leaned against the wall for support. His mother had been so embarrassed about that tree, lamenting about it to all her friends that they should’ve just bought an artificial one.

But to Tobias it had been perfect.

When the evergreen had finally been re-decorated, with its stunning tinsel, lights, and candy canes; magnificently topped with a glittering angel, he had been sure that a more beautiful tree could not possibly be found. On those days, early in the morning before anyone else in the house was awake, Tobias had snuck ever so quietly into the living room to plug in its lights. There he sat, gazing at the tree, in awe of the magic of Christmas. Little had he known that the crooked Christmas tree would be his last.

The following year Tobias’s life changed forever. That first week of January, Tobias had been staying at a friend’s place for night while his parents were out of town. Around midnight the call had come: There had been a devastating accident.  His beloved mother had been killed instantly. His father was critically injured. The doctor had been clear: Mr. Williams desperately needed surgery if he ever wanted the ability to walk again. However, with the funeral costs and the care he had already received, the bills had mounted. Though many of their friends had reached out to help, without insurance coverage or family around, the boy and his father were forced to go on government assistance and try to survive without the much-needed surgery. At the tender age of seven, Tobias had been left motherless and felt in many ways responsible to care for his crippled father. He tried his best to help out with the daily household chores but, alas, there was only so much a small boy could do.

For two years in a row, he had poured out his heart in his annual letters to Santa, explaining about how since his Mama had died and his Dad was hurt, they just couldn’t afford the things they used to. He had explained that toys didn’t matter much to him anymore, but how he missed having a Christmas tree with its sparkling lights. He had told Santa that it didn’t need to be much, even a new pair of boots would be nice, as his had holes, leaving his feet cold and wet at the end of every recess.

And each Christmas, as the holidays had come and gone, all his friends returned to school with their lists answered. Some had brand new video games and iPads. Others had received large building sets and expensive RC cars. In fact, they had received every single item on their wish lists. And for the second year in a row, he had received nothing but a hand-me-down sweater and a pair of socks.

The truth had been painfully clear: Santa Claus simply didn’t care about poor children like Tobias. This year he wasn’t going to waste his time. He would NOT be writing a letter to Santa.

The next few weeks flew by. When Ms. Hannah Patterson announced the Christmas writing assignment to her classroom, the children got right to work making their elaborate letters to Santa. She had just settled into her seat and began to mark the ever-growing pile of papers on her desk, when, turning around she looked into the eyes of a young boy who was speaking so quietly she couldn’t make out his question.

“Can you repeat that please, Tobias?”

“Ms. Patterson,” the boy repeated a little louder, but still softly enough that she had to lean in to hear, “Would you mind if I would write to someone other than Santa?”

“What do you mean Tobias?”

“I mean, I don’t mind writing out my wishes, but can it be to someone else?”

Ms. Patterson smiled knowingly. Of course, the boy had probably found out the truth about old Saint Nicolas and felt foolish writing a note to a fairytale man.

She shrugged. “Sure, write a different name at the top if you like, but please make sure you still do the assignment.”

“Thank you, Ms. Patterson,” said the boy, the relief on his face evident. The teacher stared at the unkept boy for a moment thoughtfully, then shook her head and chuckled to herself before going back to her marking.

Later, long after the students had been dismissed, Hannah sat at her desk looking through the stack of letters her students had written. She had always loved giving the “Note to Santa” assignment. It was one that few kids complained about. What was not to love about listing off all your favorite toys and wishes to a lovable, gift-giving, old man?

Today, however, she scanned for a different letter. Tobias Williams was a quiet child and though she had heard a bit about his mother’s death a few years prior, she knew very little about the boy who rarely said a word in class. But his strange request earlier that day had caught her off guard and now, as she searched for his letter she found herself feeling rather sorry for the young lad.

Ah, yes. There it is. Hannah thought to herself as she began to read the carefully written child-like print:

Dear Jesus,

I don’t know if this letter will do any good, because my ones to Santa didn’t, but I thought I’d try anyways because I heard someone say that you were also poor so I figured that maybe you’d care. Also, I have to do this for school. And I’m NOT writing to Santa. My Mama died three years ago, but then, I suppose you already know that because she lives with you, right? Or is heaven made up too? I hope it’s real, because I miss her a lot. I even miss that tree she hated. Could you get me another tree like that? I’d even like it if it were crooked, with candy canes, and that sparkly angel. Also, could you help my Daddy? I sometimes hear him crying at night. I think he’d be happy if we had a special dinner, like Mama used to make. I know it’s a lot to ask, but if you could also make a way for my Daddy to get that surgery he’s been needing, that would mean more to me than anything else I could get. I just want things to be the way they were, when my mom was around and he could walk. I think that’s enough things to ask for. Thanks.

Sincerely, Tobias Williams

Hannah’s vision blurred as she finished the letter and thoughts began swirling in her mind. The tears kept coming as she gathered her things to go home for the evening, as she locked up her classroom and on her drive home. When she lay in bed that night, her mind could think of nothing else but Tobias’s letter.

By the next morning, Hannah had made up her mind and, reaching for her phone, she made three important calls. The first, to Tobias’ father, who tearfully listened to his son’s words, reluctantly giving his consent for her to share them. The second was to the local pastor, who after hearing the note, agreed wholeheartedly to help with her plan. As Hannah dialed the last number on her list, she breathed a silent prayer as the phone rang on the other end.”

“Hello, TCC News, how may I help you?”

“Hi, my name is Hannah Patterson. I’m an elementary teacher at the Stoneville Academy and I have I story that I think your station is going to want to hear…”

 

Tobias stirred and opened his eyes a crack as the morning light shone into his window. It was Christmas day. He exhaled slowly, painfully. Though he had waited all week, his letter had proven as useless as the ones to Santa. There was just no reason to hope anymore. Life would never be the same. He sadly turned over, pulling the blanket over his head and had just started drifting back to sleep when he thought he heard a funny sound. He lifted the blankets and listened. Muffled voices. A soft chuckle. A loud scraping noise.

What in the world was going on?

Slowly, cautiously, Tobias crept out of his bed and down the hall. He heard a voice hushing the others. More giggles. Coming around the corner, Tobias could hardly believe his eyes. There, in the middle of a living room full of smiling people and reporters with cameras, was the most beautiful – and slightly crooked Christmas tree he had ever seen. His gaze drifted to the base of the tree. Presents! He turned around, scanning the kitchen countertop which was usually bare. Now it was overflowing with Christmas food, homemade baking and delicious store-bought treats, enough to last for the rest of the month! Maybe even the month after. Finally, his gaze rested on his father’s smiling face in the middle of the room.

“Whaa..what’s all this for?” Tobias stammered in astonishment.

His father wheeled across the room and took Tobias into his arms. “Merry Christmas son! Wasn’t this your Christmas wish?”

The young boy stepped back and once again looked around at everything in disbelief.

“That’s not all,” his dad gently motioned to the large crowd of people who filled the small room, “The community has heard about your Christmas wish…” Mr. Williams swallowed hard and his eyes grew moist. “Tobias, they’re paying for the surgery.” Overcome with emotion, the man put his hand over his face and his shoulders shook with sobs. Tobias rushed into his father’s arms and a hush fell over the room as the pair wept together.

Finally pulling back, Tobias searched his father’s face for answers, “How could this be? I mean, how did they…” His voice faded out as Hannah Patterson stepped forward, and suddenly Tobias knew.

“You read my letter?” Tobias murmured, looking up at her through his tears.

Hannah’s eyes grew moist and she nodded, adding with a whisper, “But more importantly Tobias, Jesus heard your prayers.”

 

Authenticity · Blogging

Blogging Popularity

I was naive when I started blogging.

Early on, when I still was in the Facebook world, I got a lot of views. In fact, sometimes hundreds of views a day. I figured that starting off with such popularity was a sure ticket to my success. After all, my writing was still pretty rocky at first. I had a long way to go and a lot of improvements to make. Nevertheless, deep down, I truly believed one of my posts would one day go viral and I would have an easy path to becoming a famous writer.

Call me a quitter.

Call me a pessimist.

Call me impatient.

But I’m loosing all desire to blog for numbers.

In fact, new followers mean very little to me. Unless, of course, I get to know them through their blogs and comments. In that case, there’s nothing that delights me more than a person who actually reads and responds thoughtfully to my posts. I love reading the posts of these authors as they seem to have a depth that much of the blogging world is missing.

So the question is why, in a mostly positive community of writers, would I feel a lack of passion and drive to keep growing my readers?

I guess you can say I’m realizing a lot about WordPress. Somethings are good. Some are not so good.

Good, like for instance, I have never once had a negative comment on one of my posts. In fact, I believe every single comment on WordPress has been encouraging, uplifting and positive. It’s as if this world of blogging still believes in the magical words we used to all try to live by: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I definitely can’t say the same for the comments I got on Facebook.

But there are still some things that are frustrating to me. Am I wrong in noticing that the people with the most followers on WordPress aren’t the best writers? They are merely the writers with the most quantity? Multiple, mindless posts a day, just to gain more, more, and more followers.

As a lover of good writing, this saddens me.

There also seem to be far too many people who scroll down and follow everyone, just to gain more followers themselves. Who click “like” on every post without reading a single one. It makes me feel as if all my readers have hidden motivates, only reading and commenting to boost their own popularity.

It’s kind of a depressing thought. I don’t really want a part in that side of blogging. So the question is why am I still posting on WordPress?

Because I love writing.

I want to grow in my abilities.

I want to make connections through my writing.

I wish to receive feedback.

And I long to encourage others as well.

I’m not here to become famous. I’m just here to write.

Today, I needed to remind myself of this again. And I wonder if possibly, someone else out there needed the reminder too.

Writing

Eating My Humble Pie

I’ve always loved a good slice of pie.

As we all know, some pies taste better than others. There’s the premium kind Mom serves at gatherings. It has the perfect crust with that smooth, but slightly flaky texture, so easy to swallow. The filling is sweet, with just the right spices. Then there’s the bakery pies. Delicious, but not quite the same as Mom makes it. And then there’s the pie from the convenience store, which has a shelf life of a decade and tastes like it too.

Humble pie tastes more like the convince store baking. And it’s not sweet, so the sugar can’t hide the flavour… it’s more like a dinner pie made with mixed veggies. Ugh. To top it off, these days I feel like I’m skipping the slice and eating the whole thing at once. And it doesn’t sit well.

Still, there are a few areas where I manage to feel immensely proud.

It just depends where I look.

The source of my pride is and always will be my children. They continually amaze me with their remarkable talents and personalities. Those who lack in “skill” most certainly make up for it in character.

Last week we received their report cards.

My oldest son, Isaiah did fine in his grades… especially after we handed in a couple of late assignments. But what pleased me most is when the teacher talked about the character of my young man. Respectful, thoughtful, always looking to put others first. He said that Isaiah has a good heart, both tender and wise. Trust me, when these words are said about your 13-year-old-boy, you listen.

My daughter got 100% on everything. A perfect report card. I hadn’t known that was possible until last week, but no matter how many times I blinked, there it was. I was more of an 70s/80s kid myself. She got chosen as one of the two girls in her grade at school to attend a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) event.

My next son, stuck right in the middle of five kids, excelled in his grades too. Jonas’ teacher was most astonished at his abilities in Mathematics. She said not only was he a leap ahead of everyone else, but he was brilliant, showing her and the class new methods to figure out problems that she hadn’t ever heard of in over a decade of teaching.

Dallas is also strong in math. He did really good in his other work as well, but he’s also our athletic one. Tells me he’s the fastest boy in his class. Whether this proves to be true, I have yet to see. But I don’t doubt it. He’s always kept me running.

And Emerson, my baby. He amazed me by learning the game of chess when he was four. By the time he was five, he could beat everyone in our family. His teacher was quite stunned when he showed off his skills at school, said that most kindergarteners can’t even grasp the game, never mind master it.

They’re not perfect. No-sir-ree. Sometimes their bickering drives me batty. And when they leave dirty socks on the kitchen counter I want to pull my hair out. But I’m proud of them, because when it comes down to it, they’re amazing people. I feel honored to be called their mother.

Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for:

HUMBLE PIE.

Because no one wants to hear how everyone else is excelling.

We wait for the grit.

We love the grit.

Especially when things aren’t going too great in our own lives.

I think it’s a social media thing: others successes making us feel like epic failures. If we lived face to face with our friends successes, we would feel along with their joy. Now we just watch from a 6″ window into their lives and feel shame.

And in some ways, we should. For having false expectations.

Social media will never give us true relationships because it is only a snapshot into the lives of those around us. The only way social media can become something more is if we decide to finally open the window further and give others a real look into our lives.

So let me open my window further for you…

I’ve been reading a lot lately and it made me realize something: I’m not very good at writing.

Ouch.

Did I really just say that? On WordPress? Among authors? As the handful of followers I have stampede away in droves…

That’s right.

You’re following an average joe. A stay at home mother, whose best accomplishment will most likely be raising five kids. Which is probably a good thing in a generation of fame seeking narcissists.

Don’t get me wrong… I want to be a bestseller. And for much of my life I believed I would be. But now, as I read my work compared to so many good authors, it’s pretty obvious: The wit, brilliance and effortless beauty that seems to come naturally to so many, has most definitely not been bestowed upon me.

I mean, I’ve had my moments.

I won second place in a local city competition for short stories and got a piece published in the paper. My high school teacher kept my best poems and says she still shows them off once in a while. I’m known to be authentic in my writing, which is what I want most of all. I once got a thousand views on a post I wrote. Must’ve been shared by the right person.

By the way, this isn’t me giving up. This is me getting real and putting an honest word out there to writers everywhere…

We just aren’t as good as we want to be.

Journaling my thoughts is one of the most amazing and effortless things I can think of. This makes me a natural writer. My best pieces come out of journal entries and poetry I’ve written. But writing for an audience is tough, gruelling and painful. This is the difference between a natural writer and a published one.

Writing my story was simple. Ok relatively simple.

But editing it and admitting that almost half of my story needs to get shuffled around or rewritten before it faces the publishers has been daunting. I mean, I thought I already finished the work! Now I read and reread every sentence until the words blur together and seem meaningless. But this work is necessary if I want it to be the best.

Almost makes me feel guilty for the way I’ve read books in the past; skipping over pages to get to the good parts. Those authors deserved more than a quick skim of the words they mulled over and over again.

As a result, I’m now back to 30,000 words on my book. Down from just over 85,000. But they’re a promising 30,000 words. They mark my best work. Worthy to be published.

At least I think they are. Maybe the publishers will feed me more humble pie. In fact, I’m expecting it. But it’s not the worst thing that could happen to me. The worst thing would be for me to stop eating at all for fear of being giving this bitter tasting food.

Humble pie may not taste great, but I’ve found it is the most nourishing food for the soul. It’s nothing, if not filling. And it even teaches me; inspiring me to be honest with myself and to learn from my mistakes.

Given enough time, humble pie actually doesn’t look as bad as it sounds. The fact of the matter is, eating humble pie may be my best chance of becoming that bestseller. It might even end up being the key to my success. So, I’m going to eat my pie and enjoy this meal, knowing that someday, I’m going to get a taste of Mom’s Homemade pie again. Until then, this humble pie will keep me alive, so I will be grateful for it.

I may even ask for seconds.

Depression · Faith · Freedom · Health · Running

I Met Depression… and I Won

A few years ago I was diagnosed with depression.

There are many reasons for falling into depression: Trama. Rejection. Bullying. Death or loss. Harmful world views. Stress. A life-altering event. Hormones. Lack of nutrition or sleep… and the list goes on.

Healing for each soul is a very individual path. So as I share my story of hope, that is all I want you to take from it.

There is hope.

Today I am alive. Joyful. Healed. Whole. And maybe what healed me can help you. But maybe you need to take a different path. That’s OK too.

I’m sharing to bring hope, not to say I have the answers.

In February 2014, I had my fifth child… a son. It was very, very difficult for me to face this addition to my family. Though I loved him more than words can describe, I was exhausted with the other children. I felt that caring for another baby was beyond my abilities and I was burning out quickly.

I remember a comedian once explaining how having a large family felt. He said: “Imagine you are drowning and then, someone hands you a baby.”

We laugh because it’s so true. It’s too true.

I was drowning. Everything I had ever found joy and meaning in, felt distant and out of reach. I didn’t find any pleasure in doing the very things I once loved. Life was dark, and though I saw splashes of color, it didn’t bring peace to my heart.

Fast forward a very painful four years: Spring 2018. I had gone through church hardships, loss of friendships, moving, and building a house. I had let go of my old friendships at the church that had rejected me and my family because of my depression. I was in the process of allowing myself to move on from the deep hurt that comes from being completely misjudged and misunderstood, forgiving them as best I could.

Our family had joined a new church (an act in itself which was hard), made new friends and our “baby” wasn’t so difficult to care for anymore. But I was STILL burdened under this load that was crushing me. I had pushed the pain so far down, that it was coming out in my health. My bones ached constantly! The smallest chore would leave me absolutely immobile for the rest of the day. I needed daily naps.

And deep down, I still blamed myself because I had been unable to make things right. I went over the details in my mind again and again, the burden of my rejected attempts of reconciliation lay heavy on my shoulders. Could I have done more? Should I have done anything differently?

Finally, after one incident where I went outside to clean up some garbage and I found myself sleeping for four hours that afternoon from exhaustion, I decided to see a doctor. After many questions and blood tests, he told me that I was depressed.

However, then he told me something I never expected to hear from a doctor: “There are many ways to go about this, but I recommend that you try gentle exercise before taking any antidepressants.” Immediately, I protested that I had tried to exercise but that it was just too painful. I was too weak.

“I said gentle exercise,” He chuckled, “I’m not telling you to train for a marathon. Just get out of the house, in the fresh air, and walk for 20-30 minutes at whatever pace you desire! And don’t do errands or make it into a chore. Make sure it’s time just for you.”

So in May 2018 I started to walk.

One of the hardest things I’ve done is put on those running shoes. I was so afraid that I would fail at walking. But the words echoed in my head: Gentle walk. Gentle Exercise. Over and over again those simple words challenged my way of thinking and gave me courage to at least try. For me, exercise wasn’t something that could be gentle. It was a way of pushing my body to the extreme. To be the best. To compete with myself and others.

I had never thought of it as something that I could actually enjoy.

I still remember that first walk. The warm air, the slow pace, the music on my phone. The sun shone down on my face. I heard birds chirping around me. I stopped to notice the buds on the trees that were forming. As I walked, suddenly I felt a peace inside that I hadn’t noticed for a very long time. That was it… I was hooked! Not that going out was easy, but I now believed that it could help me. Each day my pace was just a little bit faster and I was able to go just a little bit farther because I finally felt no pressure and my body was getting stronger!

At the same time our pastor started teaching a series on bible memory and the importance it has when we are faced with trials or temptations. During the message, I felt God speaking gently to me: “This is it Heather! This is what you need to get you through.”

I went straight home and downloaded a verse memory app called “Verses.”

I started with memorizing Psalm 34. While I walked, I quoted my verses. When my tears wouldn’t stop, I quoted them over and over. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous person may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all.” When I remembered the rejection of my friends, I spoke these words out loud. Little by little, I added to them. Psalm 139, Oh God… they may think I’m a horrible person, but “Lord, you have searched me and you know me… you are familiar with all my ways!” Then I added Psalm 103. “Praise the Lord my soul. All my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord my soul, and forget not ALL his benefits. Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. Who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed…”

As my body and spirit grew stronger, I began to run for short distances. I would run for a bit, then walk in between, all the while praying and reciting my verses. By Fall 2018 I could run 5K (I had never in my life ran a full mile before this) and God had given me the ability to memorize over 15 full Psalms. I knew 10% of the book of Psalms and could bring it with me everywhere! It was in my heart as well as my head.

My greatest fear was losing my ability to run over the winter. I was terrified that I would sink back into my depression. My husband knew this and bought me a treadmill. Not only did I keep up running and memorizing all winter, but by Spring 2019 I had a follow up appointment with my doctor and he told me that I was in full recovery!

I realize that this story may sound too good to be true to many people.

A few years of depression? And now you think you have all the answers??

No. No I don’t.

Remember: This was what worked for me… and let me tell you, if you think my answer is to mental health is: Just go quote some scripture or just go exercise, you have horribly misunderstood this testimony!!

Getting out every day to walk and run, had just as big of an effect on me as the scriptures I was memorizing. Exercise was just as spiritual as God’s word. Because you know what? I believe “Gentle Exercise” WAS God’s personal word to me. And obeying God’s treatment plan for me was hard work! Some days I wanted to stay in my room and mope, eating chocolates and watching Netflix. Or take a long nap. But I forced myself every single day to go out. Some days in the rain. Some days in the heatwaves. Sometimes I hated it. The next day was even harder to go out. Sometimes I was far too busy! It was near impossible at times! The truth is, the road to healing is never easy.

Don’t kid yourself: Healing doesn’t ever come without a cost.

Whether the cost of time, the cost of perseverance, the cost of faith, the cost of money, the cost of disappointments and trying again, the cost of failure and rebuilding hope… there’s always a cost. The question is, are you willing to try?

Or have we become a generation that wants all the answers and victories handed to us on a silver platter?

It’s hard for me to wrap posts like this up in a simple paragraph, because there’s so much to leave you with. Yet one thought keeps running itself over and over in my mind again: Are we willing pay the price?

Fast forward to this fall. If I miss two weeks of exercise, I find myself slipping. Anxiety and depression grow. This path, for me, may just be a lifelong treatment. But isn’t it worth it? For my health? For my joy? For my family? For those around me who can relate to the everyday struggle?

The answer I have to choose daily is: Yes. Yes… it’s worth it. 

Faith

Collecting My Thoughts

Sometimes writers run out of things to say.

Other times writers have lots to say but don’t quite know how to describe their thoughts… so they wait for the right words.

And then there are times when there are so many things to say that everything blurs into one big mess of thoughts… which is where I’m finding myself lately.

I have so much to write about, but over-posting often results in readers skimming through without taking the time to reflect. I want my readers to be able to actually stop and read the words!! I don’t want so much quantity in my writing that the entire point is missed! So my aim recently has been to pack more meaning into fewer words, keeping my posts at under 600 words. It’s actually been quite a good challenge for me!

Today though, I want to share my thoughts, in an unorganized sort of way. I know well-esteemed speakers suggest to focus on one thought and go deeper into it. This way, the human mind – which cannot grasp many ideas at once, can take one piece away from what you’re saying. Today I’m going to go out and do the opposite. If it’s hard for you to follow, go ahead and just take one thought to hold onto as I ramble through them. Slowly reading each thought, then stopping to consider it before moving on to the next is key.

Things on my mind recently:

1) Speaking less really does help people to listen more.

2) There’s so many people trying to be heard, maybe the best thing I can do for this generation is to stop and listen.

3) Why do people blame our technology for the busy and distracted lives we lead? The issue is and will always be the human heart.

4) Our world is beginning to hate children. This annoyance for the gems of our world is even creeping into the church. This deeply concerns me.

5) Everyone talks faith, but I can count on one hand those who are living it out.

6) In the west everyone seems to be depressed or anxious… I hear these words so often I’m sick of them. There are thousands of options to treat the symptoms, but everyone is too afraid to go and actually address the root.

7) I witness millions of miracles daily. I’m typing on one of them right now. I turn a switch and light floods the room. Amazing! Yet I don’t even notice any of it until it’s gone.

8) Friends are either honest or kind. But rare indeed are those who are both.

9) Requiring good behaviour doesn’t shape a child’s heart the right way. Only wisdom and gentle love does.

10) One joyful person is contagious, spreading lighthearted life to everyone they meet. But in the same way, a bitter person spreads their poison like a contagious disease.

11) Those consumed with talk of politics or the church are among the most unhappy people.

12) Daily time with God is more essential than food or sleep. No one seems to believe me. I’ve been told that daily devotions and prayer is an “unrealistic expectation.”

Yet I’ve done it for years because the fullness of good life advice and practical truth are found in God’s word… not in well written books or sermons. Which brings me to my last thought:

13) When God speaks, it sticks! I forget most of the sermons and books I’ve read over the years. But I’ve never forgotten a personal word from God.

Faith · Family · Parenting

Remember the Little Guy

Growing up in a conservative background, one of the most remarkable trademarks of the adults around me was how selfless they were.

Traditionally, where I grew up, even clapping for others was seen as prideful and vain. Bragging about or praising anyone but God was unthinkable.

These people lived out what they sang: “I will not boast in anything, no strength, no power and wisdom. But I will boast in Jesus Christ – his death and resurrection!”

I loved that line… I still do! What I’m writing about today is in no way putting down these beautiful truths because I do believe we live a time where people are way too self focused (…just see my previous post haha)!

We live in a world that praises many things.

It glorifies power, money, sex, careers, possessions, fame, yet places very little value on family, time, connecting, caring for the needy or serving without pay.

Why, even those in the church are beginning to buy into the idolization of wealth and power.

And I think the reason is quite simple:

We’ve forgotten what’s important, because while the world boasts loudly about what it sees as valuable, those who value true worth remain painfully silent about what really matters.

And we’re beginning to buy in to what the world is saying.

When I write about motherhood and how vital it is, about how valuable family is, and how important stay-at-home-mothers are in our society, I’m not just trying to toot my own horn and to gain recognition for what I’m doing.

My purpose isn’t to get praise for myself.

It’s alright when people misunderstand me, because if I was the only one affected by misconceptions about moms who don’t work outside the home, I would just keep my mouth closed. But the truth is, our lack of understanding and value of families… of stay at home mothers in particular, is changing a whole generation.

Every single comment about what I am doing with all my free time makes me understand more and more why women are ashamed to stay at home. It feels awkward to try and justify the value of cleaning, cooking, organizing, grocery shopping, driving around… it would be so much easier to just say, “Oh I work AND I am a mom of five.”

It just sounds better!

No one would flat out say stay-at-home moms are lazy. But… what are they doing at home? We wonder.

Sometimes even ask.

Have you ever asked that about someone who is at work?

Have you ever asked someone in an office, “Just what are you doing with all your time at work?” Have you ever asked someone at a workplace, “Sooo, what do you do with no children around?!?”

Did you know that right now there are women working their tail off, with no children at home, and, there are also women at work scrolling through their Facebook feed?

Did you know that laziness is a heart issue, not an occupation issue?

This goes both ways people!

Of course there are stay at home mothers who don’t spend their time wisely! Just like there are students who skip class or don’t do their work, just like there are employees who take advantage of their employers by taking a ten minutes smoke break every hour. There are also leaders who live in luxury, taking advantage of taxpayers hard earned money to go on elaborate vacations or hire not one but two expensive full time nannies… ahem. Not naming any names here.

Yes there are people who take advantage of others. Some of them are on welfare, some of them are in the workplace, some of them are stay at home moms.

Working hard has very little to do with capacity or position… it has everything to do with the heart.

I know people who physically could not be a firefighter or a labourer. Yet they work incredibly hard in an office. Just like there are people who are physically strong but who would not have a hot clue how to navigate what many people do in an office.

Personally, I could never do what my husband does. As a part owner of an Internet company he’s smart, incredibly efficient and able figure out problems that I would stare dumbly at. He’s able to deal with hundreds of emails in a day. He’s able to maintain a cool when there’s power outages and frustrated customers who are depending on him.

However, he admits that the coordination of finances, schedules, meals, gardening, cleaning, and taxing people around is something he could never do.

Working hard, with or without pay, deserves recognition. Period. It’s about time we stop valuing people for their net worth.

Let’s boast in the janitor who shows up every single day and works with all his might for the whole shift. We need him! Let’s recognize the children who take their schoolwork seriously and do their best in each class. Let’s praise the stay at home parents, who do all the unseen things to keep the families lives running smoothly. Let’s give honor to the cooks, the artists, the singers and writers who bring enjoyment to life. Let’s bless the truckers who keep the shelves stocked so we can eat and the volunteers at the soup kitchen, who care for the needy.

For when we recognize the forgotten ones in society, it’s then we remember that the little things often hold the greatest worth. And some of those we hold in high regard, when stripped of the fame and power, may seem very small indeed.

It’s time we remember what and who matters the most. Then, let’s boast in it.