erin f. wasinger

stories of loving our neighbors, discernment, & other hard things

Category: And other thoughts (Page 2 of 6)

The universe is expanding

Two days ago, we thought the heater was broken: a scent like rubber burning pervaded our morning. The repair man charged us $85 to do something vaguely mechanical, the equivalent of making sure the heater was plugged in, turned on, running in MS-DOS mode. “Nothing wrong,” he said. “Maybe it’s not your heater.”

The smell persisted, filled our house. My thumb cranked up the Plug-Ins, put boxes of baking soda behind the couch.  

“Maybe it’s a skunk,” Dave suggested, stupidly naming that which I was content to pretend wasn’t happening. “Maybe a skunk sprayed the dog.”

“Shut your mouth.” I’m always, always a supportive wife. “That cannot be it.”

That was it.

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Can a person deduct library fines as a child care expense? Asking for a friend

I ran the river trail this morning at dawn (which is not as early as it sounds, please hold your applause). A mallard honked at me, a squirrel scolded. I was otherwise alone, dodging icy patches and thinking about how each day now, until June, will be longer than the day before it, a miracle of earth’s tilt I only try to understand.

(Two days ago: “It’s because the sun starts to move back north, really slowly,” I told the kindergartner. “But the sun doesn’t move. The earth moves,” she said. And my index finger moved in front of my mouth like a harmonica while I thought. “Yes. Snack? Is it snack time?”)

Anyway, I’m grateful, is what I’m trying to say. Extra sunlight, little snow, and a book deadline all landing sweetly in January.

A week or so ago, this was not the case: Dave was in Dallas for an ill-advised week-long work thing; Louisa was puking. I was trying to write a sermon for Jan. 3 and 4; somehow I racked up $2.60 in library fines, completely out of character. “My life is falling apart,” I whined (with self-awareness).

“I think library fines mean you’re doing all right, relatively speaking,” a friend said. I have kind friends.

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Anyhow. As I finish the last edits on The Year of Small Things and perfect the yearlong elevator pitch for the book that I’ll have to give between now and its release (early 2017), I wanted to share some truths about writing a book you may not have considered:

  1. The number of singy-song movies you can tolerate your children watching increases the closer you get to deadline.
  2. You will incur massive amounts of library-fine debt over said sing-songy movies.
  3. You will become so tired of defending your theses that by the end of the book, your left eye will twitch when you hear key phrases or words such as “the,” “is,” and “and.”
  4. You will rob Peter (the savings account) to pay Paul (child care). Then you’ll spend 10 minutes on the Goog’ looking for the origin of that saying.
  5. You will do the math and realize that you worked the last 18 months on a book for less than ha’penny an hour.
  6. Because you hate math anyway, you’re OK with this.
  7. You’ll start to doubt all your prior convictions, such as “I hate listy blogs,” “Berry Kix are for kids,” and “Brownies are a ‘sometimes’ food.”
  8. Your fears vacillate between this being the last book you’ll ever write and this being simply the first book you’ll ever write.
  9. When a financial planner asks if you plan to “go back to work” when the youngest is in school, you choke on your gum.
  10. You’ll overhear your oldest telling her friend that “My mom writes books,” and you’ll wonder how on earth you pulled this off.

Coming later in January: No more list posts, thoughts on writing a book that new monastics will read, and more. But first ……. I go back to my writerly cave.

Giveaway: ‘Between Midnight and Dawn’

I’ve lived most of the last year (or maybe my whole life) in my head, and now a small part of it’s about to be out of my hands — it’s less than a month to my book deadline, friends. I may survive, if only I can get a couple more chapters (and a sermon) out of my fingertips … while children run fevers, wake up with crusty eyes, and generally ruin all child-care plans I have for December. Not that I’m watching the calendar while breathing in and out of paper bags.

So, my friends, it’s time I thank you for hanging in there with me during my radio silence. Giveaway time, book people!

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This one’s a special book for me. Not only is it the book that my co-author Sarah Arthur miraculously birthed while also working on our book (classic overachiever), but it’s also one I suggested a couple favorites for (The Secret Garden and Parables from Nature for the win!).

Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, & Eastertide was released by Paraclete Press just a couple weeks ago — this is a banquet for book-lovers. The collection’s full of a beautifully curated selection of poetry, fiction, and prayers from the classics to the contemporary, including fellow Redbud Writers Guild ladies (pro tip: never miss Kate James’ blog).

Between Midnight and Dawn also completes Sarah’s trilogy of literary guides to prayer. (Don’t miss Advent’s Light Upon Lightand At The Still Point for Ordinary Time.)

TO ENTER: Simply comment here on this blog post with the title and author of the last good book you’ve read– fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. I’ll pick a name at random and contact the winner on January 6. Good luck and happy reading!

My white kids with their backpacks

Catholic grade school, mid 1990s. We were prepping for a field trip to a metro art museum: stay with your chaperone; be on your best behavior. And “When you see black people,” the teacher said to a sea of thirty white kids, “you just treat them like anyone else. Just say ‘hello’ if they say hello.”

I remember this because it was weird to me then, two years into living in the rural community. Sure, diversity in that rural area meant you might meet a Lutheran or a Baptist; someone whose ancestors disembarked at Ellis Island from England instead of Germany like so many of us with weird consonant-heavy last names painted on the sides of barns.

I want this to be a totally weird story for my kids, too. I want to someday tell my kids this story and have them go, “I can’t believe that happened.” So to do that, we’ve gotta seek to put ourselves in positions where we may or may not be the only white Christians from middle-class backgrounds in the room, right?

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This isn’t an easy thing to write about, talk about, or live out — especially with kids who right now are more concerned about their Christmas lists (already) than their perspectives on diversity.

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Ten things not to say to a writer as deadline approaches

(I promise this will be the only post I’ll ever use that horrid “ten things” gimmick — until the next book, of course. I know, it makes me vom, too.)

Friends, I’m in the thick of it: writing, writing, wordy word words. The first six chapters of our book has been sent to the editor; we’re rounding out the rest for a January deadline.

And the dishes keep piling, the kids need picked up from school. I’m still volunteering, still working at church, still preaching. We’re reading “The Wind in the Willows” at bedtime; the shower needs a cleaning and so does my hair. The once-golden leaves are past that pretty point; now they’re just dead and brown in the grass and I need to rake. And I have to put them in bags, and I just cannot.

I spend almost all day in prayer and writing things in my mind. And picking up socks from the kitchen floor. I sleep a comatose nine hours a night: my brain is so full. My soul, too.

And people keep asking me questions. And my wrist hurts only when I hold it in the position as if I’m deleting something and still, the questions. Mercy, people.

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Already and not yet, but the hummingbirds are coming back soon

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Earlier today, the girls and I pumped our legs on the swings under a mostly cloudless canopy of blue. Some trees hinted at turning green; others not at all yet. We startled a snake walking to a picnic table to set down our water bottles near the playground at the woods. We unzipped our coats in the sun; put them back on in the shade. Alice picked me a trout lily because I’m her “best mom.” I accepted it gratefully, but left it wilting on the picnic table because I’m not the best mom. I’m tired, grateful for siblings who’ll play when I want to sit.

For a while the playground was theirs alone, but two moms strolled over with toddlers. I busied myself at the table with a pen and a notebook. I tried not to hear their reviews of weight-loss shakes and gym memberships. I regretted not bringing a caffeinated tea, and my mind flitted from my notebook to the sky — the blue sky, obstructed by leafless trees. I want a big blue sky, I wrote in my notebook. A big blue sky. And I want to run.

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Do not be afraid … of the word ‘calling’

We wore our winter hats and our spring jackets to the playground yesterday. I carried a thick book about callings, whatever that means, and sat on the merry-go-round to read a few sentences between the girls hollering for me to watch this, look at that. I chose a Dorothy Sayers piece about artists being the closest to understanding vocation; it was a good choice. Artists make money so we can create, she writes, and in that, we’re doing holy work. Others earn a paycheck so they can live, she writes. Yes, yes, I nodded. “For the artist there is no distinction between work and living. His work is his life, and the whole of his life …” Yes, Dorothy, I’m an artist.

After about an hour of this mental exercise of counting children from where I sat and molding my interpretation of vocation two or three sentences at a time, dirty-mouthed teenagers drove us into the woods.

“Look! Trout lily leaves!” I cried, peeling some autumnal leaves from the wildflower’s spotted ones. “Just like Mary in Secret Garden,” Alice piped in.

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