Tuesday, December 13, 2011

in defense of santa

I have to write this down. I'm delighted that you're reading it too, but I'm writing it down for me. Because every year I have to go through this, and re-decide what it is I believe about Christmas. I think I usually come around to the same thing, so I thought I'd save myself the trouble and write it all down this year. Then I can skip the tears and stress next year and get right to the celebrating.
I hate to admit that, if I'm honest, holidays equal stress for me. There has rarely, if ever, been a Christmas season that did not land me in tears at some point. I love, love Dani's post about Christmas time in a divorced family. It's spot on.
And then there are posts that land me in tears. It happens every. single. year. Like this one. When I read it, I absolutely agreed with what she had to say. Ugh, the consumerism, the out of control Santa-fest, the fact that Christmas should be about Jesus. I get it. I agree with it. One particularly poignant line asked how, in the minds of our children, could Jesus compete with Santa? I so agree. I felt so guilty over how much we spend on Christmas while so many in the world are suffering that I cried when I put up the Christmas tree. And then I cried while walking through the aisles of Target. It was awful. I swore off Santa.
And then I came back around to him. Because whenever I think of the holidays, and how I'll stress over the coming one, I think back to the time when I was little, watching the news on Christmas Eve and hearing the weather man say he'd spotted Santa's sleigh on the horizon. I remember lying awake in bed and thinking every creak of the house was a reindeer hoof. I remember opening gifts with my cousins, playing board games with my siblings, and wondering just how it was that Santa always knew exactly what I wanted. It was magical.
And while I hear people rant about how wrong it is to lie to your kids, I honestly don't have a problem with it. To me, it wasn't lying. It was this huge magical story that everyone was in on. Kinda like Harry Potter. (wink) Some people say that when they discovered Santa wasn't real, they thought that God wasn't real. I say that believing in Santa helped me believe in God, in miracles, in magic. I love that feeling that there's more to life than what's right in front of us, than what we can see. And as adults, we don't get that feeling often enough. So don't take it away from me at Christmas.
So my plan is to talk to Cate about Jesus every chance I get. Not just at Christmas, but always. She'll learn about Santa on her own. There are movies and songs, and trips on the Polar Express with my aunt. This year, when she wakes up on Christmas morning, there will be 2 gifts for her. It really doesn't matter to me if she thinks they're from us or from Santa. Then she'll be bombarded with gifts from other family members. And we're all going to love it.
I hope she'll learn that Christmas is about magic. It's about Jesus and family. It's about giving gifts. It's about togetherness and laughter. And if that magic includes Santa, well, I'm okay with that.
It's not very neat. It's not "We go all out at Christmas" and it's not "We don't do Santa." It's somewhere in between, so it's bound to get messy. (I never have been good at drawing a line in the sand.) I'd love to hear everyone's ideas and traditions. My ideas so far are: bake a birthday cake for Jesus, adopt an angel tree kid, buy a goat (0r some other animal) for a Worldvision family. What do you do with your family to keep them focused on Jesus and giving?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Now that I've drafted a novel, everyone's first question is, "Can I read it?" And everyone gets the same answer: an emphatic, "No." National Novel Writing Month isn't actually about writing a novel. (gasp) It's actually about writing the first draft of a novel. Mine is so messy that I'm afraid to go back and reread it. I made all the mistakes in the book (ha!) from cliches, to plot twists that lead to nowhere, to switching points of view, to clunky dialogue, to one random tangent that involved a troll (with rather nice eyes).
It's kind of like whittling a ukelele out of bark. NaNoWriMo helped me create the huge stump from which my instrument will be carved. It's pretty amazing because I conjured this huge stump out of thin air! Hey everyone, look at my stump! But it doesn't look anything like a ukelele.
So now comes the harder part: the editing. It's really scary because I'm wracked with self-doubt. Should I spend a year of my life editing something that's not good to begin with? I wish there was some magic fairy godmother that I could tell my story to, and she could tell me whether or not it is worth pursuing. What if I put in all this work for nothing?
And then the voice inside my head says, "Was there ever any writing that you've done that you felt like was 'for nothing'?" The answer is no. Every abandoned manuscript, every torn-up page of journal, has made me a better, more persistent writer. So there's nothing else to do but keep at it. Even if my lopsided ukelele ends up just living in a drawer somewhere.
But I dream of being published. Of sitting in Barnes and Noble while people bring me free vanilla lattes and I sign books. Of creating characters that people fall in love with (that I fall in love with). Of a novel that keeps people thinking for years after they've put it down. Of a story they can relate to, with noble, courageous characters they want to pattern themselves after. I'd love to be able to make a living doing what I love (whether or not it includes free vanilla lattes).
It may happen, and it may not. But the only way the dream stays alive is if I take the next step.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

life after NaNo

I did it! Fifty-thousand words in thirty days, 11,000 of which were in the last 3 days. It was an amazing, come-from-behind victory.

Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I feel so proud of myself. I had no idea I had it in me, and I really feel like I accomplished something. I have to admit, though, that I'm feeling a bit of the NaNo blues. Tomorrow marks a week since I have written anything, and it's starting to wear on me. I feel so unproductive. The hardest part about writing for me is maintaining a balanced routine.

You know how when you're on a diet, and you don't eat anything but boiled kale and carrot sticks and then you go out and run three miles, and you do it for six days in a row? Me neither. But I hear, that after that, you have a bad day where your child screams for 57 minutes straight, you fight with your husband about who must have stolen your credit card and mysteriously charged a $143 purchase at Target, and you somehow manage to burn your boiled kale. And then you eat everything in the pantry. Including the week-old bag of stale Cheetos and a jar of molasses.

Not that I've done that, or anything.

I'm that way about dieting, but I'm that way about writing too. It's feast or famine. It's "I'm busy becoming a novelist for a month, so we'll eat cereal for every meal" while I write, or it's nothing. I'm left wondering what to do now. I don't want to quit writing, but I can't maintain the break-neck pace of November. And I have to work off the extra 5 pounds (okay, seven) that I put on while sitting on my ass all day, typing furiously.

So my next goal (and it may have to wait until after the holidays), is to keep a balanced life, but one that includes exercise and writing. And I have an inkling that it will be way harder than writing 50,000 words in a month.