Just Between…We?

So, I’m happily reading a blog, I’m editing a fanfic for a fellow writer, or I’m talking to a friend. One trendy eyesore–or earsore, as the case may be–always smacks me in the face.

COMPLETE THIS SENTENCE WITH THE CORRECT PRONOUN:

“She waited for him and ____ to get off the bus.”

A. me
B. I

If you answered ‘I,’ try again.

“She waited for him and me to get off the bus.”

This is correct.

Notice the prepositional phrase ‘for him and me.’ Prepositional phrases have objects. The objects of the preposition ‘for’ are ‘him and me.’ ‘I’ is a subject pronoun, not an object pronoun.

To be certain you are using the correct pronoun, remove the first object of the preposition:

“She waited for ___ to get off the bus.”

You’d say, “She waited for me to get off the bus.” You wouldn’t say, “She waited for I to get off the bus.”

“They went to the party with my husband and I.”

They went to the party with me, not with I.

It sounds so proper, using ‘I,’ I know. The rules of the English language can be confusing, but this one really is logical.

Too Much Water

Water drop animation enhanced small.gif
Water drop animation enhanced small“.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

“She used way too much water for her shower, Mom!” complained my daughter about her twin. “The floor is soaked.”

Soaked? The bathroom floor was a pool, and the carpet was matted in the hallway. The imprint of my husband’s shoes tracked a path into the bedroom as he tried to assess the damage. Yes, it was way too much water for a shower.

“The water is spreading under the bed,” Realm observed as we worked to get everything out of the closet that shared a wall with the bathroom. In fact, the water had traveled to the far wall of the bedroom in a matter of hours that spring-like day while we were outside cleaning up the garage and washing the car.

With ten gallon jugs lined up by the toilet, we shut off the water and stayed up late Saturday night, waiting in gratitude for the repairman who brought blowers to dry out the floor and carpet. The wet carpet pad was done for, pulled up, and discarded. We slept to the sound of tornado-force gales swirling round the front bedroom all the night. A commercial de-humidifier sat in the bathroom, a machine capable of drying out the entire house. And it did. In the mornings that followed we woke with sore throats and nose bleeds.

The plumber arrived and removed part of the wall to clamp off the flow to the busted pipe. He finished just in time for Realm to make it to worship services with us.

The wall was patched on Tuesday, only hours after the plumber replaced the pipe that had a one-inch slit punched through it. The patch-up job on the wall was splendid; the leftover paint poured into our green city garbage can wasn’t so much.

The loud fans and dry air we’d endured for four nights were scheduled to go away, but then it was discovered that the porous baseboard in the bathroom had soaked up the water. The soggy boards were ripped away from the wall, and the de-humidifier and one tornado fan remained in the bathroom. We shut the door and breathed a sigh of relief at the relative quiet. At least the grating helicopter sounds throughout that night were muffed by the bathroom door. The walls dried. The machines were removed.

The pulled-up carpet lay flat like a steam-rolled pancake in the hall and bedroom until this morning, when four repairmen entered the house just before 8 o’clock, replaced the carpet pad, and laid the carpet down again. They were gone by 9.

Only the smell of cigarette tar lingers…and the frame and mattresses of the bed stacked against the living room wall…and a whole lot of mess spread out all over the house that needs to be returned to the rescued bedroom.

I have nothing to complain about. We rent. It was all taken care of for us. I’ve thanked God again and again for our fabulous property manager. Ah, the luxuries we enjoy, like running water and quietness and a home with plenty of space.

Endless Love

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the sky of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And ev’ry man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Tho’ stretched from sky to sky.

-Fredrick Martin Lehman, 1917

These lines by Lehman capture my imagination. It’s an incredible analogy–the thought of a sky being a writing pad, the ocean the ink, and the fields filled with quills that, used to their immense capacity, cannot touch the hem of God’s love.

John gave a similar statement at the end of his eyewitness account of Jesus’ life on earth when he wrote, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25). Is John writing in hyperbole? Whether he is or not, his sentiments express the point that God’s Son did so much for us while He was on this earth. And wasn’t God’s greatest act of love sending Jesus?

The magnitude of God’s care and devotion is fathomless, just as His mind and His ways are so far above me. How can I return so great a love? I can’t, but I can open my arms to His love. I can open my mind to His thoughts, which He has had written down for me. His Word has been preserved through generations so that I get to rediscover His plan from the beginning. I can open my heart to His wisdom and His instruction, knowing that He will teach me to walk in His ways. It is no hyperbole to say it will take an eternity to fathom the perfection of His love. Lehman’s lyrics help the writer in me better contemplate that truth.

New Device Phobia

There are moments in my life when the technoflop in me leaps out in all her spandex and tinfoil brilliance, and I just want to crawl under a rock, refusing all digital modes of communication. Yes, I got a new laptop. The moment I saw the matte black surface, still in its plastic, something in me cringed and started sucking its thumb.

“Do I really want to do this to myself?” I thought, thanking my husband profusely. (First World ingrate here.)

I bravely took on the beast…on day 3. It was right after Realm asked, “Have you even turned it on?”

I just laughed. “I keep meaning to,” I told him. Inside I was crying, ‘No! No, I haven’t turned it on! That would require courage comparable to storming the living room and taking down the Christmas tree!’

I turned it on and found it wanted to get to know a little bit about me: my name, my occupation, my shoe size, any moles or important identifying marks… I tried to be open and answer all the questions honestly. After all, we would be friends for some time, providing I made it through the setup wizard.

The questions became more restrictive after that: Did I have an Outlook email address? I took the “alternative email” option, which it accepted for about three seconds, then returned me to the Outlook email prompt. Twice.

‘Fine, I’ll register for your sponsor’s account. Satisfied?’ I thought. Because, hey, I can always use an extra email account! I only have 306.

Armed with my new Outlook account, I entered the inner sanctum, the desktop. Oooooh, ahhhh. I was enthralled for a full ten minutes before I discovered how much I hate Windows 8.

1024px-Blue_Screen_of_DeathI was in the midst of giving my new laptop a gentle facelift when it happened. My laptop decided to update and needed to restart. So it restarted, I swirled the touchpad to enter my password, and it blue-screened me. Yes, it wielded the blue screen of death with its simpering frown-y face, informing me it would restart again after a few corrections. The cycle of powerlessness had begun.

I sparred with that patronizing blue screen for a few days. I learned a lot of new things about the virtual innards of my laptop. Had the blue screen continued, I would have become well acquainted with its actual innards. In that time my laptop began to take on a personality. At first it was smug, rejecting my “foreign” email address; then it was sullen because I ditched its ready-to-go software and changed its boot-up preferences. It became downright malicious when I installed open source—not open source! For shame!—software. The white frown-y face stared at me, impassive, but I didn’t flinch.

“You will not sabotage this relationship, Wizfect,” I whispered to it late into the night after the fortieth reboot.

It seems Wizfect the Laptop has a sensitive touchpad and didn’t want me to know. Since I have always found the touchpad an annoying bane of smooth typing, I had no qualms about disabling it. I think that’s when Wizfect began to learn to trust me. I have no doubt we’ll be making great stories together.

The Ultimate Package Deal

Last Sunday night during services, a young man asked us to pray for him because he had not been living his life for God. He said he wanted to change and come back to God. Two teen friends left their seats to go and sit with him. They were his brothers. Not his biological brothers, his spiritual brothers.

After we ended our worship to God with a prayer, his church family surrounded him. I noticed their red-rimmed eyes. This moment meant so much to every one of them. They had watched this boy grow up, watched him put on Christ in baptism, and watched him get in with some bad influences. They had been hurting over him for some time, but now their arms went around the young man’s neck. They spoke quiet words of love and encouragement to him. One man, the father of one of the friends who’d sat down with him, said, “We’re glad you’re home. We’re your family, and this is where you belong.”

My family and I have been part of this congregation for about five months now. They know love. They know family. God’s family. Another spiritual sister, who returned to Christ a couple of months ago, cried when she saw this young man go forward. I thought she was reliving her own experience. She confided, “It makes me want to be better. I’m so proud of that boy,” she said, speaking of the first young man who’d gone to sit with his friend. “He wasn’t embarrassed or afraid to go up there and put his arm around him.” That sweet sister saw the love, and it touched her. It made her want to be a giver, too. And she was. Watching the whole situation unfold was one gift after another for me.

The Church is God’s family, made up of brothers and sisters who love each other so much that the most important thing in the world to them is to see each other in Heaven. “Should I go to church?” is often answered with Hebrews 10:25, which begins, “Not neglecting to meet together…” But there’s so much more to it than not neglecting to meet! Look back three verses, where verse 22 begins, “Let us draw near with a true heart…” To whom do we draw near when we gather together as God’s children? We draw near to God, and we also draw near to each other. Two verses before, verse 23 begins, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering…” The Church meets to remind us of the gathering to come, the greater gathering of all of His saints when time is done. We are holding fast to that hope of eternal life with God, which He promises to His children after this life. That’s why we meet. The 24th verse adds, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” Getting together regularly helps motivate us to do better! And Hebrews 10:25 has more to say than “not neglecting to meet together.” The full verse states, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” God set up the Church to encourage His children, to help them stay on track, not because He thought it would be entertaining to have them meet every Sunday. And not because He needs our encouragement.

The whole concept of Christianity—living for God, obeying Him, giving of ourselves for Him—doesn’t benefit Him at all. What does He gain from my allegiance? He has everything. He is everything. We’re the ones who have so much to gain by living for God, by obeying God, by giving of ourselves for Him. We become His hands and His feet to help the hurting. We get to share His blessings in our lives with each other. We bring His comfort. We speak His words to heal the heartsick. He gave us these good works so that we would experience real love, the joy of sacrifice, and the full and complete life that comes from serving our Creator and serving each other.

You see, God and His Church are a package deal. We who choose to be in His family get to love each other with the love God shows to us. And, like earthly families, we mess up sometimes. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in petty details and forget what’s important. Every family does that. It’s really just a sign that we’re involved, that we care, and that we have some growing together to do. So, when my spiritual sister gets in touch with me to tell me I’ve been missed at church and ask if I’m okay, she’s not being nosy. She’s being my reminder that Someone is on my side looking out for me and sending His family to give me the support I need.

Do you need God? Do you need His family? He says if you truly seek Him out, He’ll reward you for it. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

Sweet 2015

When my father-in-law hugs me goodbye, he always says, “Be sweet.” This year I’m taking his advice to heart. 2014 was a rough year, and I learned a ton. I’ve learned you can’t harbor bitterness when others inadvertently hurt you. Friend, it’s the pits to be in the middle of a problem you didn’t start! It’s even worse to be considered collateral damage—that your relationship with those involved is easily disposed of in the midst of the turmoil. I found myself in three situations like this, and it made for a bitter year.

I’m not a bitter person. I can’t carry this sort of pain. It has come out in my life in ways I’m ashamed of. I’ve asked God to forgive me. I’ve purposed in my heart to replace the bitterness with sweetness the way Paul tells the Roman Christians to be sweet. He says, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another (Romans 12:10).” He uses two words for love here. He says, “Be philostorgos (that is, be tenderly affectionate, like a parent toward a child)…with philadelphia (that is, the love you have for a brother or sister)…” While I love my spiritual family and my extended family, I have not loved them with the care and gentleness Paul expresses in this passage. I’ve asked God to help me to lift up my brothers and sisters. I want to be intent on finding the beauty and goodness in those I love the most. I’ve made some action points to help me focus on what I think I’m most lacking. I call them my

Six Proofs of Brotherly Love

1. I will speak positive words to affirm you.

2. I will hear you out before I speak.

3. I will encourage and praise your godly ways, your good deeds, and your talents and abilities.

4. I will be proud of you and your accomplishments.

5. I will value your thoughts and opinions, and try to agree.

6. I will positively influence others toward you.

This is going up so I can see it every morning and be reminded of my attitude.

What are you doing this year to make your life sweeter?

Bubble Trouble

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Do you writers ever find yourself stymied by having to do things just so to get the creativity flowing? The ritual must be performed, or you end up not writing at all? My desk has this powerful, just so aura around it. (I posted a tribute of sorts to my desk in all its unsorted glory called Desktopsy.) My characters surge to the forefront of my antsy brain when I sit down in my cushy desk chair. (I wrote about my chair, too. Twice. I’m beginning to see a pattern in my blog topic choices.) When I take my place in front of my desk, I enter the word crafter’s bubble, invisible to the naked eye… and probably to the clothed eye, as well.

The boundaries of this bubble must not be breached for any reason. If the house is on fire, save yourselves! My mind is afire and must not be interrupted! For this reason I’m thinking of wearing pajamas every time I write. Just in case. They are all made of flame-retardant material now, which might come in handy. (It sure doesn’t do a bit of good for sleeping. My kids have not combusted yet, fortunately, but they do wake up sweaty and smelly in their flame-retardant jammies.)

Rituals are good and all, but this desk dependence needs adjusting. I want to take my bubble with me. It should be the slave of my quill, not the master. So, my friends, I’ve done the impossible. I am, presently, not writing at my desk. I’m writing in bed. Yes, I’m onto something here. I’m on my bed. (Ugh.) You see, I knew I’d have to spoil myself to make any true change. My Pandora RillaWriter station is playing through my ear buds, and it’s time to immerse myself in the enchanted world of King Draill and Lady Esda. I’ll let you know how it goes.

P.S. My deepest sympathies go out to all of the flame-retardant-jammied children. My legs are already feeling moist in these sticky pajama pants. :(

Save the Dangling Characters!

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I needed to read Essential writing skills: why a bad first draft is better than no first draft by M J Wright this past week. I’ve been beating myself up lately. Here’s why:

I began a story last year in a flurry of excitement. I finished chapter 10 or 11, and the going got tough. After writing approximately 30,000 words, I started to wonder, “Is this really good? Am I wasting my time?” It was the “make or break” phase. My fear of commitment kicked in. I thought, “What if I invest in these characters, fall in love with them, and find out they aren’t who I think they are?” Weird? Maybe, but that’s how I tick. So, what did I do? I hung it up. Left it. Left my characters dangling. I don’t want to admit to you how many characters I do this to. It’s painful.

And I hate to quit. So I told myself, “You are going to finish this, even if it’s bad!” I wanted to commit to the project, to put my heart into it, but I couldn’t. I needed to know my characters were lovable, relatable. I needed feedback to continue.

None of that friend-y stuff would do. I’m talking about your best friend who reads three lines and says, “Oh, this is wonderful! You’re such a great writer! I don’t know why you’re not submitting to every publisher!” I needed the real reaction of the reader who wasn’t influenced by my wonderful personality and incredible wit. (heh)

Where could I find that? Where could I find an audience who would only pay attention to the story? If it was good, I’d know it by the following it garnered.

This is where I cracked. I gave up the dream of professionally publishing the book. I changed the story up a bit and posted it on Fanfiction, knowing I was giving it away for free. Why? Isn’t that like shooting myself in the foot? Ah, my friend, a free book is better than no book at all.

I’m deep in my latest obsession, The Kiss of the Gobboling King. It’s one of those fairytale-revisited works. It’s fun. It’s freeing. No requirements. No target audience. It’s already found a little following. Readers tell me they like Esda and Draill, so I feel safe that these characters won’t disappoint me. I can love them unreservedly. I can finish the story.

Is it written the way I imagined it, shined and polished for the bookstore shelf? No. It’s a first draft. But when I’m finished, it will be the entire first draft. That’s what matters.

A Warm, Toasty Treat!

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It’s November, which means my mind is on food again. I thought I’d share with you a couple of my current fall recipes to season the season. I posted my Stone Soup recipe, which is a favorite year-round, but this time I thought I’d give you a meat-less soup to try. Realm rarely lets me get by with a meat-less soup, or any soup that doesn’t end in “ili” and start with “ch.” The secret to getting your meat-loving husband to eat soup is to serve it with something that contains a little bit of meat. That’s where a hearty bread spread comes to the rescue.

100_1703

Yes, another one of my fabulous photos. You can’t get enough, I know.

Vegetable Lentil Soup

2 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium celery sticks, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, minced
2 cups dried lentils
1 ½ cups chicken broth
6 cups vegetable broth
½ cup water
salt & pepper
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp paprika

Add all ingredients to a big pot, except lentils. Bring it to a boil. Add lentils. Turn it down to simmer, and simmer on the stove for an hour. (Or realize you only have about 15 minutes before your hungry husband will be home, and crank that baby up to a raging boil!)

Hearty Italian Cheddar Bread

French or Italian bread loaf, sliced in half length-wise

2 tsp Italian dressing mix
1 cup chopped, fresh spinach
3 tablespoons butter, chopped in pieces
¼ cup of cooked ground beef
2 pieces of bacon, crumbled
¾ cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Mix the last six ingredients together. Spoon beef mixture onto the flat sides of each half of the bread loaf. Broil bread in oven for 5 minutes and serve with soup. (You can use any kind of meat you have: turkey, chicken, pepperoni, etc. Be creative.)

I used homemade flatbread instead of a store-bought loaf. That’s good, too. For gluten-free folks, you can top rice cakes with the spread and toast them in the oven, too. They come out crispy-browned on top and very, very flavorful.

Your tummy will totally appreciate this!

Fall and Sour Grapes

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I was seven years old and fighting to breathe. It was Halloween day. I lay on my bed, squirming and twisting, trying to find a position that would relieve the rock in my chest. Mom’s eyes showed her concern. I knew something was wrong, but I was too tired to ask what.

She took me to the doctor’s office, where they gave me a shot in my upper arm. For I moment, my lungs relaxed and I breathed freely. It lasted only a minute or two and my lungs became lead again, inflexible and heavy. They stuck me in the other arm. Nothing happened.

I stayed in the hospital for a week. That was the year I didn’t get to be Sour Grapes, the fancy, purple villain from Strawberry Shortcake. I missed trick-or-treating altogether. I had been so, so excited. In the top drawer of the hospital bedside table were a few pieces of Halloween candy someone had brought for me.

Every Halloween finds me sick. As a child, there were years I’d wheeze my way down the street to knock doors anyway. Hay rides were the asthma attack waiting to happen.

When fall comes, I breathe in the magic and forget. I forget about the disappointment of years before. My brain has this switch that only the smell of fall can activate. Story ideas grow like kudzu vines, latching onto my thoughts, tempting me to drop the work I’m doing and join them in the jungle of my imagination. I begin to scheme: How can I get away to write? I need a few hours for this story and a couple of hours to complete that one…

But the sniffling and the coughing start. I wake up nights, stuffed up and aching in my face. I can’t look at a computer screen; the light is too harsh, the letters too blurry. The throb behind my eyes won’t go away.

Fall allergies; I didn’t want to pass this down to my kids. They wheeze, sniffle, and cough. They pull themselves out of bed like they’re leaving a vat of molasses.

The humidifiers and essential oils are out. My house smells like cinnamon, cloves, lemon, and eucalyptus. At least, I hope that’s what it smells like—I can’t smell anything! There’s a tissue box in every room. Hot peppermint tea soothes swollen throats.

And I can’t think. I can’t focus. It’s like all of this mucus has stuffed up my brain and shoved out the lovely ideas and creativity.

So, I guess I’ll cross my arms and tell you fall isn’t all that great anyway. Who cares that the leaves are gorgeous, the weather is splendid, and Halloween is just around the corner?

Feeling Pumpkin-Headed? (Pumpkin and Image By C Tennie [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

I’m not fooling you, am I?

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