And Coming...

"She-Bear in the Beautiful Garden" is an allegory for children of all ages, written and illustrated by Ellen Gillette. Order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at

Thursday, January 26, 2012

January 26, 2012 A Life Remembered

A few days ago I was substitute teaching for a music class when the middle school science teacher came in, asking if I could sub for him the next couple of days. "You're Adam's mother, aren't you?" He'd seen my last name and said he remembered Adam fondly from his time playing baseball with his own son.

As he told me how friendly Adam had been back then, what a good ball player, I was inwardly waiting for the inevitable "so sorry for your loss" but it didn't come. So I asked  how his son was doing. As a matter of fact, he'd just gotten married, was very happy.

Adam would be 27 as well, if he hadn't died following a car accident at the age of 16. Old enough to be married, raising his own little freckled and auburn-haired kids, playing catch in the front yard or throwing hoops in the driveway, spinning little girls around like airplanes just like he did his niece when she was a toddler.

Before he left, the teacher said, "He probably won't remember me, but if you think about it, tell Adam I said hello." He didn't know. So I told him, and he was, of course, sad to hear.

"Thank you, though!" I said. "It is so good to hear about Adam from other people."

Sometimes I wonder what he would be like today. Would he have fulfilled his dream of being a firefighter? I think so. As soon as he could talk, it's what he said he wanted to be when he grew up.

I so wish he had grown up, but I'm so thankful for the 16 wonderful years we had with him.

Yesterday, I stood before several science classes and promised an anecdote about their teacher. I told them about what he had said about Adam and encouraged them to be young men and women who would be remembered with such pleasant memories. Leave stories about their lives that would delight their parents one day to hear them.

To a student, the class transformed from boisterous, chatty middle schoolers to quiet, sympathetic ones. One  asked if I had a photo of Adam with me, and I promised to bring in the one that sits on the dashboard of my car always. So I can see him often.

For a few months following Adam's death, I could call his phone number (this was back when it was cool to have an 800 number) and hear his voice. Now, I must get out family videos to watch him and hear him with his brother and sisters. I don't do this often, but it is a treat when I do. I freely admit, it is a treat accompanied by an alcoholic beverage. 

If this bothers you, the thought of a mother sitting alone in a darkened room watching her son on the tv screen, crying and drinking a toast to his memory, please keep it to yourself. Unless of course you know what it is like to be Adam's mother for 16 years and then bury him. Otherwise, there's no frame of reference from which to comment. Even other grieving mothers know better than to say to one another, "I know what you're going through" because each loss is different, each acutely felt but each different.

The other evening I shared a girls' night out dinner with my sister-in-law and she happened to ask if it bothers me to hear the cousins talking about Adam. "Not at all!" I said. "I LOVE to hear about Adam, and to talk about him."

Painful? Of course. The only thing more painful would be if no one mentioned him. If no one remembered. His life was shorter than we would have hoped for, but we knew him. We enjoyed him. And we know that he will never be forgotten, because his was a life that is a pleasure to remember.

P.S. Another life that is a pleasure to look back at is that of my namesake niece Laura Ellen. Her birthday is today -- she's such a hard worker, such a loving mother. Although she lives several states away, I have so many happy memories of her life and wish her a very happy birthday today.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January 8, 2011 Revising One's Life

My son Caleb turned me on to a website that lets writers upload their books at no cost and sell them. A few days later a friend to whom I mentioned the site shared an article about a woman who sold an astounding number of digital copies of her first novel there after being turned down by traditional publishers (who are now scrambling to get her to sign). 

In 2006, I was toying with an idea for a novel when I came across a publisher's website that welcomed ideas for new books. CarePoint had found a niche -- group discussion workbooks. Immediately, I thought of what I would write, if I were writing such a thing. It would be for people who had been hurt by Christians. I even had a title come to mind: Baaad Sheep - When God's People Let You Down.

By the fall of 2007, Baaad Sheep was a reality. CarePoint had liked the idea and requested an outline. They'd liked the outline and sent a contract to sign. I'd holed up in my little shed/office in Lillington, North Carolina and done the research and the work. I can't begin to describe the incredible feeling of opening up a box of author's copies and seeing my name on the cover. Even if it was "just" a workbook, it was mine.

Last year, CarePoint closed its doors in order to pursue a completely different publishing venture about the same time we were preparing to move back to Florida. Then we were relocating my parents. Then I was busy with other things. I made a few anemic attempts to find another publisher for Baaad Sheep, but also heard - several times, from people I respected - that I might consider rewriting it as a "regular" book.

And then Caleb told me about Currently, I'm incorporating the oral material I had recorded for introducing each of the ten weekly discussion group sessions and formatting everything so that smashwords' mysterious computer mechanisms will not say, "What the..?" when I try to upload it, spitting it back out and trying to wipe the bad taste off its mouth.

As I do this, I'm not re-reading every single word, but I'm re-reading a good bit of it. And I'm revising some of it. Have I really changed so much in five years? Apparently so. I say this not to justify any changes, but simply to say it has happened.

Have I changed any of my bottom-line convictions? No. I still believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God who came in the form of man to teach us, but even more importantly, to sacrifice himself once and for all time, for the sins of the world. I still believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

But where I once was more of black-and-white, I'm willing to blend those extreme ends of the spectrum at times and entertain more possibilities of gray. On absolutes, no. On disputable matters -- and there are so many of them, almost everything we fret about! -- yes. And probably not a minute too soon. I thought I was merciful before, but I need it more now in my old age (hey, the longer you live, the more opportunities to screw up) so I am better about dishing it out.

I'm not as church-focused as I once was. There is one verse in the whole of the Bible that cautions believers against neglecting regular corporate worship (and none that says anything about membership) and yet there are folks, lots of folks, who act as though going to church is the single most important part of their Christianity. I was right there with them for most of my life.

This morning, for example, we woke up to a fine Florida morning and I asked my husband if he wanted to go to church. We haven't found a church home since our move. We have visited around. There are still scads of them we haven't attended. He had something else he wanted to accomplish, and wanted me along. Would it have been "better" for me to demand that we go to church, or did I better honor my husband (and God) by providing pleasant companionship?

I was at first surprised in the last year or so at how many people I went to church with, say, 10-20 years ago are not attending church at all. They listen to tapes, watch television, read their Bibles, pray - in other words, they are still pursuing their walks with God. But not in church. I have heard it so often that I rather expect it now. It is as if a whole segment of my history has come to the same conclusion: it's not just about church. And if church was in competition with what God was wanting to do, God wasn't about to be the one that got left in the dust.

Issues, too, have needed tweaking. As I was re-formatting the manuscript today, I grimaced at some of what I'd written about divorce. The Bible says that God hates it, which I still find completely believable. God is the Creator, the giver of Life, Love personified. Divorce represents, in contrast, the death of love and relationship. But I would also have to acknowledge, at 54, that for some people I know and love, it has been healthier to go ahead and have the burial than try to live with a corpse. When a marriage has lost its meaning, I better understand why people can sincerely believe divorce to be the best option. Even the godliest option. And so I had some revision to do.

Perhaps the changes are much deeper and personal. I know that since writing Baaad Sheep, I have grown less codependent. I've grown in self-awareness and the ability to take care of my emotional needs. My writing may have reflected a tendency to look outward for affirmation and support, for nurture and affection. The older I've gotten, the less this is the case. I'm growing up!

All of that to say this: one of these days, a digital version of Baaad Sheep - When God's People Let You Down will be available at a ridiculously low price for purchase by (I hope) thousands and thousands of people with Kindles and other e-books. I think it will be a better version than the original.

Five years down the road, I could write it even better. And five years after that. Because I haven't "arrived" either as a woman, a writer, or....most importantly...a Christian. I may not believe in evolution as it pertains to Mother Earth, but I definitely believe in it for myself.

Some things are written on the fabric of the universe, unchangeable, immutable. I'm just figuring out that there are fewer things than I thought.