Questions & More Questions

It rarely happens, but my words have stopped flowing. Not entirely, as I have experienced sudden word-gushes that burst in one direction or another. But the regular flow of words that lands in daily 20 minute journaling sessions and twice-weekly blog posts and daily social media posts…that flow has dammed up, leaving only trickles seeping into the muddy river bed.

For the last year-ish, I have been writing and editing a book. Recently, I have been crafting a book proposal that leads me to make more edits. I have written a guest blog post (coming soon) and a couple of articles that I’ve submitted to magazines; one was rejected (still a win, as I heard back from an actual editor that I was on the right track), the other is pending. I have joined two small writing groups in which we offer mutual encouragement and editorial suggestions, and I am taking another writing class for the next six weeks. All good for my writing and my soul, and would be better yet if I could actually get down to writing.

I suspect I’m distracted, so many good word-related options before me that I’m not sure where to start. Or the energy of being in editorial mode has redirected the flow. Or I may be suffering from a minor case of burn out. In any case, I hope it’s temporary.

I wonder: might you, dear readers, help me unbrick the dam and let loose my words?

What would you like to read? How might I serve you with my writing?

I write about a variety of topics on this blog. I’ll list a few, and some questions, and I welcome your questions.

Christian faith & practice. Everything I am and do starts with my love for Jesus. While Christianity might be my heart’s first language, I try to write in such a way that if you are new to faith or even wary of Christian faith, you will still find encouragement here. Something of a misfit in any circle, I’m in a particularly misfitted stretch of my spiritual journey, a place I never anticipated being. Still, my lifetime of faith whispers that I might be in this place so that, now or later, I will be able to guide others on similar paths.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Health & wellness. I am a vegetarian (leaning vegan-ish). I walk my dogs every day. I’m big on encouragement – Yay, YOU! – and self-care, including taking consistent, gentle care of our whole beings: physical, mental, spiritual, and social. I believe we have to get past the societal taboos surrounding mental health issues in order to be well and love one another well. Gratitude, the pursuit of joy, and time outdoors keep me grounded. And all of this flows from my belief that God created us and everything we see. That life is a gift we get to unwrap and enjoy every single day. That we have the responsibility to care not just for our own wellness, but for the wellness of others, including our planet.

Image by Sathish kumar Periyasamy from Pixabay

Creativity. Creativity could fall under health & wellness since I consider it essential for my self-care, but I write about it enough to make it its own category. Clearly, I create through writing. I also read voraciously, indulging in others’ storytelling gifts. Not an “artist,” I cling to the belief that creativity is good for everybody. That we all have an inner child who longs to express herself. That the product matters less than the process. That creative play adds joyful luster to our lives. Again, my emphasis on creativity finds its source in honoring the Creator.

Image by edith lüthi from Pixabay

Alright, your turn: have these topics and questions stirred anything up for you? What questions do you have? Jot them in the comments below or send me an email: sivricketts@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Cover Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Grief Balms: Snow Globes & Beauty Emergencies

Grief seems to be at every corner this year. Many of us have shared occasions for grief, such as illness and death, the loss of normalcy, shuttered shops and closed schools, dwindling dollars in our bank accounts, isolation and loneliness. Most of us also have personal reasons for grief. For two weeks I haven’t left my phone out of sight as I wait for the call that my mom has gone to glory.

So when I saw an article titled, “How to deal with grief,” of course I clicked. While grief has taught me lived-and-learned lessons, I’m still up for additional advice within easy reach. For the same reason, I am a sucker for happiness research. Recently I clicked on an article with a title along the lines of, “This one trick will make you as happy as eating 20 chocolate bars.” Twenty chocolate bars would make me sick, not happy, but I appreciate the effort. The answer was: Smile. Smile more, even when you don’t feel it, and you’ll be happier. Apparently, people rate their smiling-more happiness as high as having received a gift of $25,000. Now I simply must disagree: a no-obligation gift of $25,000 would definitely make me happier than insincere smiling. Also, I’d be happy to have you try to prove me wrong.

I clicked on the grief article and found an interview with poet Maggie Smith. Smith published a volume of poetry in 2016 (Keep Moving) which included a poem called “Good Bones” that seems to go viral when the world teeters dangerously on the edge of a deep well – for example, immediately after the 2016 election. Also, 2020. Smith calls “Good Bones” a disaster barometer.

Smith offered two pieces of advice that have affected how I’m moving through these hard days. The first is to find “snow globe moments,” something you do every day that stills the world and allows you to feel like your genuine self. For her, that’s writing. I share writing as a core activity and I’ll add walking our dogs, preferably with my husband so we can spend that time connecting. He’s my best sounding board and also an encourager who gets me out of my own head. I believe author Cheryl Strayed referred to her Wild adventure as “walking back to her best self” which makes sense to me. Writing and walking have been life-giving and sanity saving this year.

Smith also discussed “beauty emergencies.” We tend to think of the word “emergency” negatively, as a problem, but it comes from the root “emergent” which means “happening now.” So a beauty emergency occurs when you pay attention and notice that something beautiful is happening this instant and you’ll miss it if you don’t drop everything and watch. Like a hummingbird flitting at the feeder or a sunset that shifts colors every second and will be over within minutes.

Poets necessarily cultivate the ability to witness to the present. To focus their micro-lens on this moment. I am not a poet, and my monkey brain leaps from past to future, future to past, bounding over this uncomfortable time. One more reason I am going to add books of poetry to my reading queue in this upcoming year, because I need the benefit of their wise and often witty reflections.

Meanwhile, I mentioned beauty emergencies to my sixteen-year-old son and, though I didn’t know it as the words spilled from my mouth, that may have been one of the best things I’ve said to him this whole year. Several times over the last two weeks, as my attention has been absorbed in writing or reading, he has yanked me outside to witness a sunset. I have done the same for him, pulling him from his bedroom desk where he counter-attacks against the never-ending onslaught of distance learning assignments.

We both carry our own foggy griefs which we have soothed side-by-side with regular applications of beauty, watching as the sky indiscernibly shifts from orangey-yellows to red-purples to dusky twilight. We’ve both tried – unsuccessfully – to capture the splendor in photos. And that, it seems, is also poetic: the call is to witness, not capture, rather to be captivated ourselves. To stay present and open to this stunning moment before our eyes. To become newly aware of life’s magnificence and brevity.

Good Bones
by Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Cover image by Meli1670 from Pixabay
Please note: as an Amazon Affiliate, I may earn a small amount from the purchase of books linked here.

Word Play & Dog Walks: Fun-Ambulist

As a writer, I am a total geek for fun words. I have fond memories of spelling and vocabulary lessons as far back as elementary school; also, some not-so-fond memories when, because I was such an avid reader and therefore exposed to oh so many words, my spelling words were marked incorrect because I wrote the alternate rather than teacher-approved spelling – for example, theatre as opposed to theater. Both correct, only one the right answer.

I also have a quirky memory of being in the children’s section of our local library, seated at a tiny table covered with books I had cherry picked from many shelves. I may have been seven years old. An older girl sat down across from me and commented on my book stack. She couldn’t believe I could read the books in front of me. She picked up a biography with the word “colonel” in the title and demanded I read it aloud. I pronounced it properly: “kernel.” She laughed triumphantly, and insisted that I sound it out: “It should be col-on-el, not kernel,” she snickered. I silently stared back at her, proud of myself, pitying her.

Because I enjoy words, I often subscribe to vocabulary emails. Recently I began receiving daily emails from School of Word Play. I don’t actually remember signing up for this list, but so far it has chucked some playful words in my direction. Words like “funambulist.”

I hadn’t encountered “funambulist” before. It looks like fun-ambulist, and I thought it might be someone who walks for fun…like me. However, the correct pronunciation is fyoo-nam-byuh-list and the definition is a tight-rope walker…absolutely never will be me. [The “fun” comes from the French or Latin funis, or rope].

Let’s go, boys!

Still, it’s been making me laugh on my many, many dog walks to think of myself as a fun-ambulist, as a fun-walker, strolling along with our three funny dogs. A neighbor recently hollered at us from her jog on the other side of the road that seeing us with our entourage, our dog-tourage, makes her laugh. In the best way, I assume. We are quite the pack.

Most days Guy and I walk together. When he’s unavailable, I do two “laps” of the neighborhood, taking the two younger dogs first before returning home to swap the middle dog for the older one; the Power Puppy needs more than all the exercise we can give him, so he gets to trot along on both laps.

Power Puppy likes to hold the Old Lady’s leash

Walking these dogs has been one of the great joys of my life in this strange year. I have walked and prayed, walked and ruminated, walked and ranted (to myself), walked and pondered, walked and noticed, walked and wondered, walked and meditated, walked until I’d burned out whatever frustration the day has presented, walked until I’d paced myself back into being present and peaceful.

What’s been adding life (and laughter) to your life in this strange year?

More painted rocks I noticed on a recent walk

Speaking of word play, last night I wrote a list-poem that made me laugh…

Boring Words
Just
Very
That
Really
Right
Stuff-Thing
Then

Exhilarating Words
(The) Whimsical
Funambulist
Futz(ed and)
Lollygag(ged, then tumbled)
Catawampus(, causing a thudding)
Brouhaha (for the)
Nincompoop (spectator below)

Following the Words: Scattered

One evening I heard myself say to my husband, “I feel scattered.” I went on to explain just a few of the dizzying directions in which my brain was spinning:

the books I’m reading–to study the author’s writing style, to challenge myself to learn about life from a different perspective, to unwind before bed;

my writing projects–the few side gigs that pay a few pennies, the assignments that stretch me, my commitment to post on my blog regularly, the personal projects I’m trying to take to the next level;

my thoughts and feelings about the divided state of our country, the political and racial strife stirring up people on the streets but also changing friendships and affecting families, the election, and oh, let’s not forget that we’re in the midst of a pandemic and I have never in my life spent this much time at home;

and the intensely personal thoughts and feelings about the ways in which my sons are struggling through distance learning and the coincidence of their developmental stages with this strange time in history, and my mom’s declining health and how her children are coming together…and not.

In other words, it’s a lot. Everybody’s dealing with a lot right now, but this is my heap of extra to pitchfork my way through in search of a needle to stitch together a patchwork quilt of goodness.

The next morning, as the foggy mental fatigue continued to hang heavy on me, I did what I do: I started writing. I decided to follow the word scattered, to listen to the images it offered and what they had to say to me.

I feel scattered…
…like the multicolored metallic glitter confetti strewn across the parquet wood-tile floor of my teenage bedroom after I tore open a belated birthday card…
No, not that bright.

…like the dots and frizzles of crepe-paper ribbons launched from the midnight canon on New Year’s Eve in Times Square, paper melting and colors bleeding into sludgy snow drifts, ground into the treads of shuffling boots and sneakers and spiked by the impractical inches of sparkly high heels impaling the neon dark dawn of another cold year…
No, not that wasted.

…like the wild ping and ding and plonk and buzz and whap-slap of pinballs bouncing and banging a dizzying hypotrochoid roulette through an arcade game…
No, not that loud.

…like fire ash twisting in the late-summer breeze, tangling with the twigs of sunlight creeping through the apocalyptic orange smoke sky, impossibly snowing grey soot on our white roses…
No, not that tragic.

…like the crisp underfoot crunch of fallen autumn leaves carpeting the ground, sun yellow, rusty red, burnt orange, vibrant and colorful and withered, contributing their seasonal decay decoration to the loamy compost which will energize more life to burst forth from the ground…
Yes, organic potential, scattered like that.

Not the best piece of writing I’ve produced, but that wasn’t the point. The process itself was helpful. For a time I lost myself in playing with words and images. It felt freeing to be able to see, and then reject, what scattered could but didn’t mean to me: no, not wasted like crepe paper confetti on New Year’s Eve, or loud like pinball machines in an arcade. Not bright, not tragic.

But yes, scattered like fallen leaves, natural, not artificial, still scattered, but promising. Each factor in the multiplicity of ideas and anxieties boggling my brain and soul might come together for exponential growth. Some thoughts, like those fallen leaves, will crumble into dust and blow away on the breeze–not everything needs to lead to something or even mean something–but others may contribute to the rise of something new.

Though feeling scattered remains uncomfortable, the process of following the words led me to hope. And for that, I am grateful.

Cover Image by Martina Janochová from Pixabay

Getting Crafty: Working and Playing with Creativity

Do you have a craft, a skill you exercise regularly to make something?
Do you consider yourself crafty, making things for fun or profit?

Yes, I know, “crafty” also means deceptive, but that’s not this post.

My craft is writing. I work at it diligently most days of the week. I employ different techniques depending on the time of day, the day of the week, or the purpose of the writing.

I journal, more like a brain dump of everything on my mind and heart.
I blog, intentionally putting together words to encourage others.
I write letters, sending a little sunshine via the USPS.
I write prayers and Bible studies to connect with God.
I write to work through my thoughts and feelings on various issues.
I write notes and reviews about books I’ve read.
I write for organizations and individuals who pay me to write for them.

I practice writing. I read good writing, fiction and non, to learn from others. I take writing classes (a new class begins tonight – eek, I’m both excited and anxious).

And sometimes I need to do something differently crafty to differently spark my creativity.

Occasionally over the last year, I’ve spent a Sunday afternoon creating a collage. Just for fun, just for me, just because.

I set a timer for 20 minutes and quick-cut scraps from a colorful magazine I’ve read. I look for colors, words, images that grab me for whatever reason. When the timer beeps, I shuffle the cut pieces, looking for connections. Sometimes colors work together. Other times, words bump up against words to create new meaning. I trim edges and shuffle some more. And then I grab a glue stick and a piece of paper to use as a foundation and arrange the snippets into something new.

It’s not rocket science. I’m not attempting to win an art prize. I’m just having fun. And sometimes, fun matters most. It breathes fresh life into my lungs and returns me to my writing craft with new things to say.

In the comments, tell me a little something about your craft. Or tag someone whose pursuit of their craft you admire.

This is Day 2 of a 7 Day Writing Challenge with Hope*Writers. Follow me on Instagram for more.

Weakness Isn’t Failure

Check out my new accessory: crutches.

Related: my world keeps shrinking.

First it was shelter-in-place. All the places I could go before the pandemic whittled away to home plus walkability. And my ongoing joy before and during SIP has been walking around our beautiful small town. Time with my husband, with my dogs, with myself, sweating through thoughts and feelings until I could just be in the moment, enjoying the sunshine, the flowers, the birds and blue sky.

Even at home, I had no idea how much pleasure I took from relocating every so often: from the bedroom recliner to the living room lounger to the front porch Adirondack or the back deck bistro table, the simple act of changing my seat helped me to reset and refocus.

Yesterday I spent the entire day in the recliner and I realized how I missed the views from those different chairs as my day-long view narrowed to my bedroom.

I injured myself walking too hard, too fast, too far, too often. And even when I knew I was injured, when I began limping, I didn’t stop. I discontinued my daily walks, but I stayed upright and in motion: cooking, lugging full baskets of laundry, etc. Instead of getting better, I got worse until yesterday when I discovered that I could barely hobble and that attempting to hobble had become excruciating.

I should have stopped. I should have limited myself to stretching, icing, resting. I have regularly considered myself a champ at rest–oh, how I love a good nap!–so why did I find it so hard to give my injury the restful time it needed to heal?

Injury can be hard to admit. Injury = weakness. It feels like failure.

Maybe it would be different if I had done something spectacular, if I had slid off a mountainside or launched headlong over bike handles. Maybe if I had been training for a marathon. But that’s never been my style. Nope, my style is to do something common, uncommonly bad. My big-time fail involved insufficient stretching for walking around my neighborhood. That sounds so lame, yet here I am, temporarily lame.

On top of the pain I feel needy and frustrated; I have definitely shed some tears. But like the attitude shift necessary to adapt to the limited world of this pandemic pause, I have decided to look for the gift in the challenge.

The gift? Time! Not walking means I have more time in each day. Of course, I’d prefer not to be injured and to be pounding the pavement, but since I can’t be on my feet, I can write from any seat in the house.

Yesterday I opened a writing file I haven’t seen since before the 2019 holidays. I could have had a crappy first draft before 2020 began, but I put it away and let the tides of life carry me.

It feels good to be back at it, to have a project that depends on me to give it life. That maybe, someday, it will become something bigger than me and offer encouragement, hope, love to others. That’s the dream.

We all face challenges of one sort or another, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. Sometimes the challenge is yours to journey alone. Or maybe you have a difficult work situation, or a significant relational issue. It’s tough to stop, to admit the injury and give it the time and attention it requires to heal. We don’t like to fail. But truly, weakness isn’t the failure. Not heeding the warning of pain, not attending to the weakness, not dealing with it swiftly and appropriately, that’s the failure.

How about you? What challenges are you facing, and what can you do to discover the gift inside?

Keep Going

I fell this morning while running with the dogs. I have no idea what happened, whether I tripped on a crack in the sidewalk or if I bumped the dogs or they bumped me, or maybe I just didn’t pick my foot up high enough. Whatever happened, I soared gracelessly through the air and landed flat. I had the sense to throw the leashes so that I didn’t entangle myself or, worse, land on the pups. I uttered a series of startled yelps as I went down, knees, thighs, thank God for tatas that cushioned the blow, hands scraping across the sidewalk as I tried to shield my face, though my left cheekbone bounced before it was over.

I laid still to collect my breath before picking myself up. Assessing the damage: dogs concerned but fine; no blood, and the only broken skin was on my right palm; no rips in my clothing. I decided I could work out the kinks on my way home. I even ran a little, though the dogs seemed less enthusiastic.

I’m sore already, and I cut the distance shorter than I’d intended, but I kept going. To quote Samuel Beckett, “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

I’ll decide in the morning whether I need a day off to recuperate, but even if I do, it’ll be one day. I’ll get back to it the next.

Because exercise and art are disciplines. We can have bad days. We can take literal and metaphorical falls. We can feel like we can’t go on. And we can choose to go on anyway.

Yesterday I had an all-around crap day. A family disagreement before I’d finished my coffee started things off poorly. I took myself to the gym and worked my body to distract my spinning mind; I tumbled headlong into a nap (joys of working from home); I took a call from a far-away friend; and I still felt blue.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield describes the resistance that intends to keep us from creating:

“First, unhappiness. We feel like hell. A low-grade misery pervades everything. We’re bored, we’re restless. We can’t get no satisfaction. There’s guilt but we can’t put our finger on the source. We want to go back to bed; we want to get up and party. We feel unloved and unlovable. We’re disgusted. We hate our lives. We hate ourselves” (31).

Yes, I’m emotional AF and that paragraph describes me yesterday to a T.

And still, I wrote. I worked on my personal projects because, for the time being, paid freelance writing work evades me (hence, the doubt: will I ever again get paid to do this thing I love? Maybe I suck. I do, I suck. Of course I suck. See how this goes?). Not having paid projects means I have time to work on my own stuff. As Pressfield also encourages: “Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives” (22). And so I write.

I can’t go on. I’ll go on, winding my steps through our neighborhood streets and my thoughts into words on my computer. Even when I think I can’t, I will.

 

Cover image by Prawny from Pixabay
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Reading: Sept-Oct 2018

I read exactly the same number of books (seven) in two months of my busy season than I did in my slow-speed summer, opposite reactions to bad news. This summer, I felt too stunned to read much. Summer came and went and, other than our trips, I’m not sure what I did. This fall, I escaped inside books. A couple were light and fluffy; a few were for young readers, though that doesn’t mean fluffy; three were written by the same author; one was exceedingly excellent.

Surprise MeSurprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Dan and Sylvie have a physical on their tenth anniversary, the doctor tells them that, due to increasing lifespans and their overall good health, they can plan to enjoy another 68 years of marriage. Which sends them into a tailspin of dread over how they will possibly maintain a marriage for so long…

This one took me a while because I’d have quite the opposite response. When I said YES to “til death do us part,” I truly hoped it would be forever and then some.

But true to Kinsella’s style, they have more than a few LOL comic moments and eventually the story becomes bigger than the immediate crisis and, in the end, they grow as individuals and as a couple. Yay, them!

I'll Be Your Blue SkyI’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Clare meets an old woman, Edith, who speaks such gently piercing truth that she calls off her wedding with only hours to go. Weeks later, Clare discovers that Edith has died and left her a house, a place of her own. Thus begins Clare’s adventure into unraveling the mystery of Edith’s life even as she discovers her way back to her own true home.

de los Santos is an excellent writer, and occasionally I read and reread a beautiful turn of phrase. But I found myself working too hard to recall her characters’ relationships in her previous books, Love Walked In and Belong to Me. And then when the big reveal happened in this book, again, I slowly pieced things together although the characters made it sound obvious. Maybe if you read the trilogy altogether it would work better.

Connect the StarsConnect the Stars by Marisa de los Santos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book jacket explains, “Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself.” And this book beautifully illustrates that point in exquisite detail.

Audrey and Aaron are both middle school misfits. But then, just about every middle schooler I’ve ever met is a misfit during that time of life. It’s kind of the whole point. Anyway, they each find themselves on a journey through the desert and into belonging as The Fearless Foursome (alongside Kate and Louis).

They have an adventure I would never have undertaken at their age, nor would I knowingly send my kids on such an adventure. But then, that’s the point of adventure, right? If you knew, you might not go. No one intends to truly get lost. Yet that’s the very point of discovery.

I love Marisa de los Santos even more for providing me with a book I can put in the hands of my own middle school child. A book about family, friendship, the instructional power of the wilderness, forgiveness, and self-appreciation.

“‘If the four and a half billion years the Earth has existed were compressed into a single twenty-four hour day,’ said Aaron, very, very quietly, ‘humans would have appeared one minute and seventeen seconds before midnight.
“All that time, without us.
“A shiver went from my heels to the top of my head.
“Who cares if people lie? I thought. This–right here–is why the word ‘awesome’ was made.” (179)

All We Ever WantedAll We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book, like our current cultural/political climate, sits uncomfortably. While very readable, I wasn’t expecting to read a story that could have been ripped from today’s headlines.

The One-in-a-Million BoyThe One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not a perfect book. It meanders like the mind of an old woman recalling her 104 years of life in the company of an unusual Boy Scout. But it is a charming book, with characters unique and human, the best and worst of themselves on display as they bump into and around one another like pin balls. In the end, it’s a reminder that life can be hard and sweet and we need others with whom to share it fully.

“But certain [people], they move in and make themselves at home and start flapping their arms in the story you make of your life. They have a wingspan” (p199).

Saving Lucas BiggsSaving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love that books for young readers can take on serious issues and make them understandable and engaging. No smut, just great story. This one takes on corporate corruption and its effects on individuals and families over generations; fracking; murder and the death penalty; bravery and fear; love, friendship and family. All in one entertaining package.

Another one I’m passing on to my 14yo!

“…sure, the past matters–but the present? The present is here and here and here, a sky full of light, a path under your feet, your hair lifted by wind, the smell of flowers, green grass, red rocks, all of it tumbling toward summer, and all of it yours. All you have to do is set fear aside and stretch out your hand” (278).

Blood Water PaintBlood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you are a woman who reads, get your hands on this book. Do not let the verse intimidate you. It’s not difficult poetry, just carefully chosen words to convey the thoughtful reflections of a woman who prefers self-expression through paint over words.

This beautifully written book is art about art. The layers of women’s stories, the use of different writing styles to convey different voices, the truth it tells about what it’s like to be a woman in a man’s world, and an extraordinary woman in anyone’s world, all compelling.

Hollow-ing

After school drop-off, after a mellow stroll at the park with the dogs, I flopped in my favorite chair, holding the arm rests as if I might slide to the floor.

I felt gutted, empty, numb.

Somewhere in the wee waking hours, my goal of practicing yoga that morning had withered; the pounding in my head causing fear that I might conk over in the first inversion.

I noticed my weary body pulsating with every beat of my heart. It might have been the three cups of coffee I inhaled to keep my eyes open.

The day before I received the call I’d been expecting–dreading–for months. The second data recovery company to examine my wiped hard drive confirmed: my files are beyond resurrection. All gone. Buh bye.

I thought I’d moved beyond tears, but still they flowed. Grief comes in waves.

Forget Halloween, this October has become my Hollow-ing.

Those who misunderstand the situation have said: “You didn’t back up? Most people learn that before their 20’s.”

Or, worse: “You must have clicked on something…” Which, to my ears, sounds akin to blaming the victim: She got attacked because her skirt was too short. Or: The IT company wiped your files without telling you because you are stupid.

Yes, I know you’re supposed to back up files. I thought they were backing up on the company server. I trusted the IT company to do their job well. They didn’t.

So. Nine years of work, research, life, gone. Hence, the Hollow-ing.

I’m sad and not sleeping. Again this week I recalled yet another document I’d like to have but don’t. I’m frustrated, hurt, struggling to trust. I don’t understand what happened, how, or why. From a human perspective, it all seems a colossal mistake, a breach of protocol that resulted in no damage to anyone but me.

But now that we’re here, now that hope has died a slow and painful death, I have to move on. I have to trust, as I have throughout my life, that God has a plan. Not that God did this or caused this, but that God has something in this for me. Not that God wanted those projects to poof! disappear, or that He doesn’t want me to ever attempt to recreate some of them, but that He might be redirecting my focus. At least for now.

So what’s next? The only response I have echoes in the hollow: I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.

Back Up

I’ve been unintentionally off the blog for two weeks. Unintentionally, because my computer was hacked three times in three months.

The first time, in April, we didn’t know my computer was the hacker’s way in. Hacked again exactly one month later, I happened to be on my computer and watched as I was locked out, Amazon and email opened, before I did a hard shut down. A work-issue computer that I also use personally, our IT department felt certain that they’d found the equivalent of “dust on my tires,” and that the malware program they installed would keep me safe.

They were wrong. I’d planned to keep my computer turned off on June 3, but those pesky hackers caught me off-guard by jumping in on June 2. Again, I happened to be sitting at my computer. They tried again to get to my Amazon account, but I no longer had my password stored, and my husband had set up two-factor authentication. Determined, I watched them search my computer for passwords before the shock wore off and I did another hard shut down.

Yesterday I got good news and bad news: I got a brand new computer (hooray!) and all my personal files were infected and have been wiped (wait, what? BOO!).

It seems that, because I didn’t want our staff to have access to my personal files, the way IT set up my files was not ideal. Not a techy, I didn’t know the desktop icon I clicked to access my files was any different than any of the other files on my desktop which are a) inaccessible to the staff and b) backed up on our server which means c) safe. In other words, I didn’t know that no back up was being done, that I should have been doing my own back up.

For nine years.

Nine years of writing, research, reading notes, correspondence, school files (including IEPs for those who know what that means), recipes, and God knows what else, all wiped out. And a draft of a book that, save for some footnotes yet to be added, was just about ready to send to a prospective publisher. A book I’ve been working on (ridiculously slowly) for three years. Gone.

I feel sick. Honestly, I waver between numb, sick, and angry.

There may yet be hope. The drive will be sent to a data recovery company who will charge a pretty penny to see what they can retrieve. Hope is the lifeline dragging me through the too-fast water slapping me in the face, choking me as I try not to drown…

Moral of the story: back up your work. If you don’t know if you need to, ask. Save yourself from this heartache.