I Need Driving Lessons

Babe, I really think you need to learn to do the airport run.

Once spoken, this simple sentence had the power to strike paralyzing fear into my heart.

Did I mention we live in Mexico City, one of the largest cities in the world? And where there are, apparently, driving rules that only apply to foreigners?

I feel I must preface this post with an admission that I have never been a great driver. It's true that I haven't been pulled over in 15 years. And it's true that I haven't been in an accident with another car in over 20 years. But the absence of traffic violations or accidents does not a good driver make. And I must also acknowledge that Mexicans are in relatively few traffic accidents---at least as far as I've seen.

I think it's because they've grown up with it. Merging from six lanes of traffic into one is normal. An every day occurrence. Muscling your way into a space the size of a toothpick is a piece of cake. Dealing with bus drivers who, because they each own their own bus and are in business for themselves, will whip in and out of traffic WITH ABSOLUTELY NO NOTICE. Circumventing minor mountains known as speed bumps. Motorcyclists who will squeeze into the most infinitesimal spaces possible between a bus and a semi just to get around a slower moving vehicle. And understanding that sticking your arm out the window will almost always guarantee you the lane change you desire where a turn signal may as well be nonexistent.

I, on the other hand, was born in semi-rural Iowa. I learned to drive on roads overlooking cornfields. I had one parallel parking lesson in driver's education (parallel parking is HUGELY popular here) on the day of my 17th birthday. I biffed the orange cones so badly they were a tad misshapen after my lesson. We moved from Iowa to Jackson, a much larger city than the little town we'd previously lived in. There was an interstate that intersected the town and something called a Frontage Road on either side of it. I can't even tell you how terrified I was to drive on either when we first moved there.

But then I got over it.

Yes, there were always times of days I avoided driving--rush hour. Countyline Road at most times of the day (but especially at rush hour and on the weekends leading up to Christmas). And yes, there were the crazies on crotch-rocket motorcycles who would literally pop wheelies at ridiculously high speeds on a crowded interstate.

But it was my normal. For the most part, people stayed in their respective lanes. The buses did not dart into and out of traffic without warning. Speed bumps--especially on the road we lived on--might've been a nice thing to have.

Now here on the other hand...

I have to give myself a little pep talk each and every time I get behind the wheel of the car. There is no such thing as a relaxing drive "just for fun". I have said more than once that if we could afford it, I would gladly hire my own personal chauffeur. Dealing with all of the annoyances other drivers who have either (1) lived here for a long time, or (2) grown up with is enough to ratchet up the stress level. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that my blood pressure skyrockets every time I must drive anywhere. Throw in unannounced construction with lane closures and you may as well shoot me now.

I have agreed to learn the airport run because it's something my husband feels I should do.

But if I'm ever to feel confident about driving, if I'm ever to feel comfortable behind the wheel of the car, it will take a major miracle of God.

That, or driving lessons.



In October, I talked about an online Christian manuscript submission website. You create a proposal, include the first chapter of your novel with a synopsis, and submit it (for a fee). Publishers and their representatives can review your proposal and, if they like what they see, may contact you about your novel.

Since one publishing company already has my novel under review, I'd held off doing the final submission. Today, I considered asking the website for a refund of my money. After further consideration, however, I decided that it's not necessarily bad to have my eggs in more than one basket. To that end, I filled in the missing sections and submitted it to the website's database.

My money has purchased a period of six months. After that, I'll need to resubmit or else reevaluate what I want to do.

Now, there's nothing left but to wait.



Nothing More Important

For some reason, today I've been thinking a lot about Troy's years in seminary. We moved from University Park, Iowa to Jackson, MS in August, 2002, all because God called my husband onto further education. Along with our sixteen-month-old son, Clayton, almost 2 1/2 -year-old daughter, Tayler, and our four-year-old black lab, Duke, we schlepped a moving-van full of stuff across multiple states to this new world called Mississippi. And we had no idea what the next four years, in particular, would hold.

After six weeks of living in a one-bedroom town-house (the kids' beds and the only bathroom were all upstairs, Troy and I slept on an air mattress every night in the middle of the living room floor downstairs), we were thrilled to move into a 3-bedroom house a mere block or two from the seminary. I loved that house, despite the fact that it had the old-fashioned floor heating that poor Clayton once burned his little feet on, and a plastic ride-on firetruck's back wheels were almost completely melted down when it accidentally was left over the hot grate.

In order to make ends meet, however, Troy worked part-time at the seminary, pastored a church 40 minutes away, and cleaned an office a couple times a week. I also babysat in our home to make a little extra money. Between his many jobs, actually attending seminary classes (even in the summer), doing homework and studying for those classes, and participating in a weekly prison ministry, it often felt like I was a single parent. Friday nights after the kids went to bed, we'd cuddle on the couch and watch movies together. That was our time together. While he helped with the house and kids as much as he could, working 3 jobs and attending seminary left little available time for him. I mostly ran the house and raised the kids during that time. Even during my subsequent two pregnancies. After the last two babies were born, Troy would get all the feedings until midnight or 1 AM when he'd go to bed (I'd try to be in bed no later than 9 PM), and then I had the night time feedings after 1 AM so he could rest.

There wasn't an equitable division of labor. Troy worked 3 jobs to provide for our family so that I could remain home with the kids. My job, in turn, was to cook, clean, buy groceries, and raise our kids. There were times when I felt like I was missing something by being "just" a stay-at-home wife and mommy. Now that I'm older, I know better.

You moms with little ones in the house--what you are doing is important. Critically important. I'd say it's the most important thing you will ever do. Never let anyone convince you that what you do doesn't matter. Or that because you don't leave the house every day to work in an office and receive a salary means that you're not really working. Oh, we know better, don't we ladies?

I am so grateful that I married a man who knew (and knows) how important my presence as mom was (and is) to our kids. He was willing to work multiple jobs at one of the most stressful, exhausting times of his life to make it happen. I also know that not every family can do this. For some families, both parents must work in order to make ends meet or for insurance purposes. Troy worked three jobs, I babysat, and our children had state-issued Medicaid while we went without insurance. It's not for everyone. For you working moms, what you do when you are spending one-on-one time with your children is still the most important thing you'll ever do. Even if you are a pediatric surgeon who saves hundreds of lives in your lifetime.

I'm also thankful that I work for an organization that equally values the mother's role in the home. Even though our kids are all in school during the day, my first priority on the field is that of mom. And so, when my kids are home, I'm "off the clock". However, I'm now able to have a ministry separate from my family and keep my first and most important ministry: that to my family.

Again stay-at-home moms with little ones. I know there are days you don't feel like you are doing anything important. Be patient with yourself. Enjoy this time with your little ones. Have tea parties. Play games. Wrestle. Watch endless hours of "Dora" and "Blue's Clues". Color pictures. Read books. These are all vitally important things. Then, before you know it, your kids will be in school. And unless you are one of the brave souls educating them at home, your daytime hours while they're away will be free for you to pursue other ministries or interests.

Just remember that nothing you have done or will ever do is more important than what you're doing now: being a mommy. And never let anyone---even yourself---convince you otherwise.


'The Roommate' - Prologue

Just like with 'The Reunion', I wanted to post the prologue to the story.

The Roommate


    The young woman sat behind the wheel of her car, impatiently watching each worker rush past her red Toyota at the end of the day’s shift. The work week over, they were on their way to hot dinners with their families, the Denver night scene, or to the local watering holes around the university near downtown Cancun. She knew he wouldn’t be among these first workers to leave the sprawling building. No, not an upper level executive like Michael. He would be one of the last to leave.
    Finally, as the crowd thinned, she spotted him exiting through a side entrance. Her patience had paid off.
    He strolled briskly toward his car, completely unaware that she was close by. Watching. Waiting. She examined him with an appreciative eye as the wind carelessly tossed his immaculately styled hair, her fingers itching to lose themselves in its ebony richness.
    His handsome features suddenly drew into a frown and he slowed.
    He’d seen her.
    She swallowed and stepped out of the car, subconsciously tugging at her skirt and smoothing the low-cut blouse she wore.
    “Abi,” he acknowledged icily. “What are you doing here? I thought I’d made it clear that you were never to come here.”
    “I’m sorry, Michael. I had to see you--it couldn’t wait.” Why did he have to look so impassive and cold? Why couldn’t he just wrap his arms around her and say how happy he was to see her? And why didn’t his eyes light up the way they had that first night he’d taken her to his bed?
    He quickly threw a glance around the parking lot to determine whether or not anyone else was nearby. Assured they were alone, his eyes traveled up and down her body, focusing intently on the creamy skin exposed. Desire shown in their obsidian depths, melting away the displeasure and filling his expression with warmth.
    “No, I’m sorry, darling,” he murmured, pulling her tightly against him and nuzzling her neck with his lips. “It’s been a rough day, that’s all.”
    She clung to his broad shoulders, tingles of pleasure rippling through her body. He loved her, of course he did. Everything would be okay.
    It had to be okay.
    A fissure of doubt crept through her and she trembled. If he turned her away after this...
    When he forcefully took her mouth with his, all rational thought fled. Temporarily.
    She placed a restraining hand against his chest and gently pushed him away from her.
    His beautiful eyes crinkled in confusion. “What is it, Abi? Is something wrong?”
    “I’m pregnant, Michael.”
    A fleeting look of panic shot across his face, then his expression shuttered. He stepped away from her and leaned back against his car, parked next to hers. Arms folded across his chest, he peered down at her with disdain. “Impossible.”
    “I assure you it’s not impossible. I am pregnant.”
    “It’s not mine,” he stated flatly.
    She wheeled backwards in shock, feeling very much as if she’d just been slapped.
    “Oh yes. I know all about your artist boyfriend, my dear.”
    Tears filled her eyes but she refused to let them fall. Not now. Not in front of him. “You don’t know everything, Michael.”
    He didn’t know that once she’d started sleeping with him, she’d broken things off with Devon, who had promptly moved out of the apartment they’d shared. He didn't know that she’d been so in love with him from the very beginning. And he didn't know that the first time she’d seen him walk into the health club where she worked as a receptionist, she’d fallen hard. She’d mistakenly believed it had been the same with him. At least, that’s what he’d implied.
    But now... Now she wasn’t sure he’d ever loved her.
    His eyes narrowed briefly before he drew himself to his full height. “I think we’re done here. Go home to your boyfriend, Abi.”
    Desperation prompted her to speak when she would’ve preferred remaining silent. “I can’t. He knows about us.” He’d know the baby isn’t his, she thought miserably.
    “That’s your problem, now isn’t it? I haven’t time or patience for anyone’s castoffs.” Then, he turned and, without a look back, got into his car and drove away.
    She stood in the same spot for several minutes, bitter tears raining down her cheeks. Why, oh why had she ever told Devon about her relationship with Michael to begin with? If only she’d kept quiet--he never would’ve left. Never would’ve known the baby she carried wasn’t his. For all his faults, he would’ve stood by her. Helped her through these next tough months.
    Disillusionment opened her eyes to who the man she thought she'd loved really was. To what their relationship had really been based on. All those promises he’d made her were only to coax her into bed. Why had she been foolish enough to believe him? He was obviously nothing more than a skirt-chaser. A scoundrel in expensive suits. Still, the betrayal stung. Especially now that it didn’t only affect her.
    It also affected her unborn baby.
    His baby, whether or not he wished to acknowledge the truth.
    It didn’t occur to her that, had she not told Devon the truth about Michael, her betrayal would’ve been far worse than his was now. A shallow woman by nature, she generally only thought of herself and what she could get from life.
    Instead, she comforted herself by planning her revenge. He’d be sorry. One way or another, she’d make him pay for turning his back on her and their child.


The Next Story

I decided the other night that it's time for me to put Justin & Emma's story away for the time being and focus on the next story. Until I hear back from the publishing company--whether or not they are interested in publishing 'The Reunion'--there isn't anything more I can do.

So...moving on.

I'm very excited about the next story. It's one I started writing when I was 16 years old. Every study hall of my junior year, I would feverishly write in my notebook. Homework? Fughettaboutit. I even worked on it quite a bit during my early college years. And then, unfortunately, it was lost. The notebooks were thrown away. The old computer system it was written on became obsolete.

And so I'm starting from scratch, but not entirely from scratch. I still have the names of the main characters, the setting, and the main points of the story line from when I first conceived them over 20 years ago.

Like my last story, this one will take place in Cancun, Colorado, a fictional suburb south-west of Denver. Some of the characters from that story will even find their way into this one. We may even peek in on Justin & Emma and see how they are enjoying married life. I will say that this will not be anywhere near as emotionally intense as my last novel. It will be more of the kind of Christian romance novel I enjoy reading.

'The Roommate' tells the story of a woman named Adrienne. She leads a well-ordered, perfect life. The perfect career. The perfect fiance. The perfect home. The unexpected or unplanned rarely happens to her. Until she meets Devon Hunter. An artist whose devil-may-care lifestyle masks a mountain of pain and anguish, his presence threatens her perfect world. Each of them has something the other needs...if they'll only be brave enough to give the other a chance.

Edited to add: As it's good to have a goal, my goal is to finish this story by the end of December. In order to accomplish this goal, I have to write a little over 200 words a day. About a paragraph. Now, while this doesn't sound like much (indeed, it truly isn't), I know there will be crazy schedule days or writer's block days when I don't get anything written. In reality, I know there will be days I read back through what I've written and actually lose words previously written instead of add to them. It took me four years to write my first novel. I'd love it if I can finish this one in a fraction of that time.