All posts by Andra M.

I Want to Be Like Me When I Grow Up

I don’t recall someone ever saying that. In fact, this is the first time I’ve strung those ten words in that particular order. I’ve always used someone else in place of “me,” whether it’s one of my parents, a famous person, or someone who chose to do something I consider extraordinary or worthy of respect — perhaps even awe.

“I want to be as successful as that person someday.”

“I want to be as kind and generous as that person someday.”

“I want to write like that person someday.”

The list is endless, and we’ve all said something similar. To the point it’s cliche.

I’ll bet the people we admire, and who we believe have reached the pinnacle of what we deem as the perfect life, have likely said the same thing at some point in their lives. Mentors have their own mentors, and heroes have their own heroes.

Don’t get me wrong. We need heroes, mentors and leaders, because they more often than not inspire us to reach further toward our own dreams and desires. The downside of that, however, is inspiration can twist into envy and jealousy. We can pay so much attention to those we admire, we soon reach the realization that we can never be who they are. In that, we will fail, because we are not them, and never will be.

I am me the same way you are you. No one can be me anymore than I can be you. We can have similar dreams and aspirations, but the similarity ends there. How I reach my goal will be far different from how you reach yours. Our sucesses and failures will be as unique as our DNA.

What brought this thought about was reading an entry by an author I admire. His words seemed to flow off the page (screen), and I thought, “Why can’t I write like that? To have his wisdom, and eloquence?”

Then I remembered something I had written decades ago: Selling Me Short

Adding to that:

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!

Psalms 139:13-18

God made me the way he did for many reasons, not just one. His gifts to me are for specific purposes that no one can steal, copy, or take over.

The reverse is also true. I can’t steal, copy or take over anyone else’s gifts or life goals. Or their successes. I must always be cognizant of what inspires me, and avoid the too-easy twist into envy, because doing so ignores and can possibly destroy the dreams God has made for me. In the end, I fail at being me — the way God meant for me to be.

The same is true for you, so go out there and strive to be you when you grow up.

To Men

I thank you.

To the man who changed my tire in the Target parking lot, and refused to take money for doing it.

To the many tall men who happily take items from the top shelves this short woman can’t reach.

To the many men who open the door for me, and do it with a smile.

To the young photography teacher who gave me a helping hand as I struggled to crawl up a river bank, and carried my camera and tripod at the same time.

To all men who adopt their wife’s children, and love, provide and protect them as their own.

To all men who teach their sons and daughters how to be just as strong, wise, and protective of others as they are.

To the many men who have saved strangers from being abducted or otherwise harmed from criminals, and never considered the danger they put themselves in for doing so.

To all men who put their lives on the line for their fellow citizens such as the military, law enforcement, and other first responders.

*Disclaimer: I do not intend to minimize or ignore the women who do all of the above. Not at all, because they also deserve our thanks. With all the nasty accusations against all men based on the bad behavior of a few, however, I believe men deserve their own moment, and to show just how much many, many of us love and appreciate men for what they do, and who they are.

So once again, Men, I thank you.

I know I missed many other wonderful things men do, whether asked for or not. So by all means add them here, or post them elsewhere.

Going Dark

But only for a little while. I’m participating in a group called “October Write Fest” on Facebook where the participants are writing every day for a month. Kind of like Nanowrimo, except in October. For many of us, November isn’t the best month to attempt to write 50,000 words with major family holidays to interfere (such as Thanksgiving in the US).

It’s not as structured as Nanowrimo. Some are attempting to write the 50,000 word novel (such as moi), while others are writing a blog entry every day and others are doing a complete rewrite of an existing work in progress.

If you’re interested in participating, you are certainly welcome to join. Just do a search of “October Write Fest” on Facebook and request an invitation.

My Beautiful Crutch

I’m attending an interesting Bible study on Wednesdays at my church.

Atheism came up in the conversation last night, and someone said how an atheist friend once told him, “People use religion as a crutch.”

I’ve heard that before, too. Then it occurred to me. Yes, religion — faith — is a crutch.

And that’s a good thing.

Would we tell someone with a broken leg to not use crutches to get around, or a paraplegic to not use his/her wheelchair? That would not only be idiotic, but insulting. Perhaps even cruel.

Just as anyone injured or handicapped can’t move around and be independent without their physical aids, people of faith can’t function at their best — be independent — without depending on God.

It seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? How does one live independently while depending on God?

Part of faith in God is admitting we’re weak. We don’t have all the answers, we can’t control everything, sometimes not even ourselves. That’s a tough one to admit, because especially here in the States, we are taught that we can control our destiny. We have so many choices whether it’s who we marry, who we associate with, schools, colleges, and career choices to name but a few.

Yet we can’t control when we get a cold, if we’ll contract a fatal disease, if someone decides to commit a crime against us, runs a red light and injures us, nature’s wrath, when our loved ones pass, when a friend breaks a trust, the list is near infinite.

Faith teaches us that control is an illusion. It teaches us that control is not what brings us hope, joy or courage. It’s God, and the decision to depend on him and his wisdom instead of our own flawed, human understanding of the world around us and beyond.

For instance, without my faith, I wouldn’t have had the courage to broach a difficult subject which resulted in the birth of our son (long story, that. I’ll tell it another time).

Without depending on God, I wouldn’t have the courage to write this entry, let alone seek an agent for my full-length novels.

So, yes, God is my crutch, and I shout it proudly.

He’s my unfailing, beautiful crutch.

Is There An Echo in Here?

The easiest temptation on social media is to follow people, blogs, websites, etc. who reinforce what we already believe.

More difficult is to follow those who have near the opposite point of view. The exceptions of when we do, it’s usually to laugh, scoff, or get offended by. We don’t do it to learn, and listen but to argue, sometimes in the hopes of convincing the opposition the rightness of our cause.

Too often, though, the opposition has no more desire to listen and learn than we do. In the end we give up, and return to our little echo chambers filled with people of like mind.

I don’t often read so-called news sites such as Vox, Slate or Salon. I find their news rife with too much bias for my taste.

Sometimes, however, I run into a headline that so intrigues me (and not in a good way), that I have to read it.

This is one such headline:

When I debate or discuss, I make sure I have truth and facts to back me up, otherwise, not only will I fail to convince, but I waste my time and that of my opposition. I don’t argue with emotions, because emotions are not rational or logical. Too often they are baseless, and fleeting. Too often they are based on misunderstanding of a smattering of facts, and can do more harm than good when trying to debate a specific point.

As Ben Shapiro likes to say, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”

You can understand then, why I found this headline befuddling to say the least. Why would anyone give up facts in favor of emotion to win people to their side? It’s idiocy. And temporary.

Out of morbid curiosity, I decided to read the piece. Too many news websites love to write provocative headlines in order to get people to read it (such as me). Click-bait as it’s called. Often, however, the headlines can also be misleading to the point that the article ends up making the exact opposite point.

As a writer, I found a lot of the opinion piece objectionable such as using emotions as a weapon. It implies that the author doesn’t want to convince, but to manipulate. It read less like a professional article and more like a personal journal entry (kind of like this lovely blog entry). The author isn’t trying to make a specific point so much, but exploring his/her thoughts in order to discover that point.

Still, after weeding through the verbosity, I surmised the author’s overall point was not to give up on facts, per se, but to appeal to a person’s emotions with facts instead of presenting facts alone. It’s a valid point, because in this day and age, regardless of what side people take on an issue, they are so emotionally entrenched in their point of view, facts proving their contentions false won’t deter them.

The entire article can be found here.

It’s worth thinking about, and for me will be one heck of a challenge. I don’t argue emotionally. Only facts matter to me, because they’re immutable. Still, I have to see the other person’s emotional point of view, and try to understand it before I can debate a specific issue.

I have to learn how to speak their emotional language, otherwise communication will be near impossible.

If I hadn’t stepped out of my own self-imposed echo chamber, I wouldn’t have discovered, let alone considered the idea.

Sky Wizards and Flying Spaghetti Monsters

I have a few friends who are not only atheists, but are outright hostile to any belief in a higher power.

More than once, I’ve heard them describe God as a “Sky Wizard,” or “Flying Spaghetti Monster.” Even as a Christian, I find those descriptions humorous, even though they’re designed to insult. The latter one is my favorite.

To a person who doesn’t believe God does — or even can — exist, to pray to a non-existent entity is beyond foolish. It gives an individual’s power away, and — according to them — is used as an excuse to not act so that they can be their own answer to prayer.

For instance, someone might pray for healing. The atheist assumes that by praying, the person isn’t seeking medical help for that healing. And if they are healed, that person should be giving the doctors credit, not some imagined creature who lives in the sky.

I’ve seen people complain how so many are praying for those harmed by the latest hurricanes and western state forest fires. They assume that since those people are praying, that’s all they’re doing. They’re accused of thinking God is going to wave his magic wand and fix everything, and those praying don’t have to do anything themselves to help.

First off, that’s false, because I know many who have prayed, but have also sent money, goods, and even gone down there to help. So, yes, we are often our own answers to prayer.

I and many others have also seen miracles that can’t be explained by science, but that’s an entry for another time.

And what about the times God doesn’t answer our prayers? Doesn’t that alone prove he can’t exist?

Truth is, God is not Santa Claus, nor is he a genie. He knows what’s best for us a lot more than we do. I have prayed for many things when God said no, and in looking back, I’m so glad he did. I could give plenty of examples, but that would make this entry too long.

Prayer is also not just about what we receive, especially when it comes to the material, whether it’d be our finances or our health. Prayer changes us, because we’re open to not only the possibilities, but it’s also our best way of communicating with God, and building a relationship with him. Every relationship we’ve ever had, and ever will have, changes us. Sometimes for good, sometimes not. With God, however, it’s always for our good, even if we sometimes hate him for it. For a time. Or maybe that’s just me . . .

Wouldn’t you get annoyed if the only time a person came around was to ask for something? Pretty soon, you wouldn’t answer the door anymore. But if that person also tried to build a relationship with you, and not ask for something in return every time, then you’d be more inclined to help when they are in need. I don’t think God is much different.

All of this, however, will fall on deaf ears to those who refuse to believe God exists, and that he cares enough to want to build a relationship with us. They first have to consider the possibility before it becomes a possibility.

For instance people used to believe the world was flat. Based on their experience such as looking at the ground and the horizon, it’s flat. Therefore, the earth is flat.

Yet some considered the possibility that the world was round, and then set out to prove it, such as Christopher Columbus. For him, the idea — the possibility — came before he could step onto his ship to seek out proof.

That’s how faith started for all of us believers in God, aka The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Location, Location, Location

Where do you come up with your best ideas?

I have two places:

  1. The bathroom. At least until my son started to walk. From the moment he started to walk, he followed me everywhere. I couldn’t use the toilet in peace for the next three years. Thankfully at nine-years-old now, he has no desire to watch me — do my business. It is once again one of my thoughtful refuges.
  2. In the middle of the night. I finally learned (mostly) to keep either a notepad or my phone near me at night. I used to think that when I get a lovely, profound thought, or interesting story idea while I’m drifting off to sleep, it would stick around until morning. Nope. Not even 2% of the time do I remember. It is gone. Forever.

There is one commonality between those two places where I get my best ideas. Silence.

We are surrounded by noise, whether it’s the television, our computers, the radio, or other people. We love noise, and the more technology we have, the more likely we are to use it. I see people walking with their head buried in their phones, and earphones drowning out anything else. Including natural sounds such as birds.

Why do we hate silence? What’s wrong with immersing ourselves into our own thoughts? What are we afraid of?

A psychologist could answer that question better than me, but I do think there’s an addictive component to sound and distraction. It’s not so much that we hate silence but that we crave noise. Silence can be scary. So much so, that when we have too much silence, our brains start to make us hear sounds that aren’t there.

Like everything else in life, moderation is key. Too much noise, and we can never hear our thoughts, the silly or the profound. We lose ideas, or they never get a chance to surface. Too much silence, and we could drive ourselves insane.

Writers especially need moments of silence. Like me, it’s during the silences that we find our best ideas.

“Writing is like meditation or going into an ESP trance, or prayer. Like dreaming. You are tapping into your unconscious. To be fully conscious and alert, with life banging and popping and cuckooing all around, you are not going to find your way to your subconscious, which is a place of complete submission.” — Carolyn Chute