Pushing personal boundaries

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”
— T.S. Eliot

I’ve decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I signed up for it last year, but never even attempted to do it. This year, I’m going to do it.

In November, I am going to attempt to write a 50,000-word novel.

No. I’m GOING to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Not attempt. I will do it.

This has really made me think about the need to push my personal boundaries. I like to sit in my personal little bubble a little too much sometimes. I doubt I am the only person guilty of doing that. However, it is high time I push a little further out into my interests and test my abilities.

I had a short story published in a college literary journal.
I had a short story published in a college literary journal.

In writing, I consider myself a short story writer. Perhaps that is part of what I like about the Journalistic style of writing. Wham! Bam! Here’s the deal! Got it? Ok! Move on!

I like short stories that I can tell a story, give a message, and then end it within a few pages. Wrap it all up in a few hours. Something about that appeals to me.

A huge The X-Files fan back in the day, I delved into the world of Fan Fiction. I wrote stories using the pre-set characters from the show. It’s a little embarrassing to go back and read some of those stories, but at the same time I could see an advance in my writing as I composed story after story.

When I was in college, I took a writing class. It was an on-line class, and I never met a single one of my classmates. However, we would share stories and poetry each week based on prompts left by our professor on an online forum. We would critique each other’s compositions. We learned by doing. We learned by reading. We never met in a classroom, but I learned a lot that semester. We were told that all of our assignments were being considered for submission into the school’s literary journal that year.

One week, I found myself completely without the time to write a short story for my assignment. I’d had one fan fiction story receive a lot of praise, so I pulled it out, dusted it off and reworked it to feature characters all my own. With a deep breath, I submitted it. Wouldn’t you know, it was that story that got published! I have a few copies of that journal as a keepsake. My first published work of fiction.

That was about 8 years ago now. I’ve remained in my comfort zone of news articles and journal or blog posts. “Short stories” that I can churn out quickly. Wham! Bam! Here’s the deal! Got it? Ok! Move on!

I’ve talked a lot about some day writing a book. I’ve had people tell me I SHOULD write a book. But the fact of the matter is that it has always seemed like this huge mountain that I was afraid to climb. I’d say, “Someday.” But in reality, deep down I didn’t believe I’d ever have the patience to do it.

I’m really not sure why, but in the last few weeks I decided the time has come to push my comfort zone out. To try my hand at a novel. To try to tell a story much further in depth with character development, multiple events, and a “problem” to be solved in the course of 100+ pages.

Never one to go into anything unprepared, I have a month to figure out exactly what the heck I’ve gotten myself into. I’ve checked out a book, Novel Shortcuts by Laura Whitcomb, to give me some insight into what to expect and how best to handle my new project. I plan to check out other books after I finish this one. I’m reading every article available on the NaNoWriMo site. I’m a sponge, soaking up information, so that come November 1st I can wring myself out and hopefully come up with a novel.

The novel might eventually just take up dust on my hard drive. It might some day find its way to publication. Or it might just become a Christmas present for my closest friends and family to humor me and maybe read it. That part doesn’t matter to me right now. What matters is that I do this.

Similarly, I’m pushing my boundaries in site development. I’m reworking a web-site from the bottom-up, and I’ll be honest: its a daunting and somewhat terrifying task! I’m going into programing styles that go over my head, and as a result I’m taking baby steps. I’d like to say that in a few days I’ll unveil this magical site. The fact is, in a few days I’ll unveil a site that I’ll be tweaking with and learning about over the next several months. It’s nerve wracking!

But its ALL exciting. Pushing my boundaries creatively in multiple areas is exciting! My Project 365 has pushed my boundaries photographically. This blog alone has pushed my writing skills to where I am ready to sign up to be a contributor at other sites (more on that at a later date) and giving me the confidence to even consider NaNoWriMo. This blog, too, is what is pushing me to redo the web-site. Learning WordPress is daunting, but I’ve been loving and continue to love every minute.

I’ve always believed you should never stop learning, and I like to think I never have. However, right now I am feeling the urge and need to amp up my learning. Great things have always come from hard work and taking a risk. Its my time to do just that. Take a risk and do some hard work.

How to dress for church

I did a Google search tonight.  “How to dress for church.” I came up with 37,700,000 results. Several How-to sites came up. A few blog posts (this one being my favorite that I found). A site with quotes about dressing up for church. It seems this is a topic that has been pondered many times over, and yet the answer still remains unclear.

I’ll be up front here and now about the fact that I am Catholic, and thus I am writing from that knowledge and stand point. I have attended services in the Lutheran, Baptist and Church of Christ faiths as well for various happenings. But I wanted to get that little “disclaimer” out there.

I absolutely love to attend mass every week. For one thing, its something familiar from my childhood that I carry on today. For another, church and faith keep me grounded, thankful, and hopeful. And finally… when I miss mass too many times in a row, I start to notice all other areas of my life start to get strained and tested. It is definitely one of my rocks in life.

I remember as a kid, I always had a new dress for Easter and for Christmas. We’d always “dress up” for mass every weekend. As did everyone around us.

Through the years, however, dressing for church has gone by the wayside. Yes, I admit, I regularly do wear jeans to church, but I never wear faded or torn up jeans. Dressier jeans with a nice top and nice boots or heals are my normal dress for mass. I still prefer to wear a dress for Easter and Christmas. Always makeup and my hair styled neatly. Dressing nice for church makes me feel good, helps me focus on mass, and is a sign of respect for the church and God.

A sign of respect for the church and God. That is what bothers me so much about how I see so many people dress for mass these days.

I know and have heard the argument time and time again that we should only care that the person attends mass. Be  welcoming to all who attend the services. Just be glad they are there.

I AM glad to see so many people attending church services. And I’ve attending plenty of churches in which I felt unwelcome to never put someone else thought that stress.

It makes me happy to see families coming together to mass. I feel like faith and the church are a key thing in keeping families together and in teaching children right from wrong through a moral code that the church teaches.

However, it makes me sad to see so many people not even try to show the church and their fellow parishioner enough respect to dress a little nicer than they would dress to spend a day on the lake or in their garden. I see so many come in torn up and dirty cargo shorts, t-shirts and flip flops. Or perhaps an over sized t-shirt, old jeans and sneakers stained from mowing the lawn. There’s absolutely no attempt made to acknowledge they are at church and not in their own living room in front of the TV. I see most people dress nicer to go to the mall.

It especially frustrates me when it people you will see on any other given day of the week in a suit and a tie for work. I’m not asking them to wear a suit and tie to church. Days in which that was expected have no-so-long-ago passed. I’m not even asking for khaki pants and a polo shirt. I’m asking simple for nice jeans, nice shoes and a maybe a button down. Or, okay, a polo shirt. At least comb your hair! Heck, there was one guy in church that regularly comes in jeans, hiking boots and a nice fitted t-shirt devoid of anything but a stylish design on it. Even that looks nice! It shows he tries to look better for church than for a day out at the lake.

Like I said, I am grateful to see so many people attending church these days. It is truly a wonderful thing. And it goes to show people feel more and more comfortable within the walls of our churches. They feel more welcome.

I just wish that everyone would take a little more seriously and reverently, and at least dress as nice as you would dress to go to a meeting with a VIP. Because really… when it all comes down to it… when you go to church, your going to meet with the ultimate of VIPs.


The need for girlfriends

There is a reason why the show Sex and the City was so popular. Okay, there are probably several reasons, but I know the biggest reason I like it:  it hit on the need for one’s girlfriends.

Girlfriends from high school...
Girlfriends from high school...

I love my husband with all my heart. He’s my best friend and my soul mate. I sincerely ENJOY spending time with him more than anyone.

However, I still need my girls. They just help me recharge in a way that is impossible to explain. Sometimes they give me a reality check. Sometimes they let me check out of reality. Sometimes its just… a sisterhood that just is.

I went out with a couple girlfriends last night, and I had a total blast. I’m so thankful my husband is so supportive and respectful of my girl time.

I’m blessed with what I would call three “groups” of girlfriends.

First and foremost I have my family girls. My mom and my sister-in-law. I always consider it an amazing blessing that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had the good fortune to see my family as both my family and my friends. My mom is without a doubt my main female confidante. Without a doubt. And that is a fact that I cherish.

I have my old friends from high school and from college. Those girls who have THE most blackmail on me born out of years and years of friendship. My girls “back home.” My Texas Ladies. It’s pretty amazing that most of those friends are women I’ve known since elementary school! My friends back home are set in stone. Years of friendship that can’t be taken away. Girlfriends have come and gone within that group, but as I stand here today I can clearly see the select few that have stood steady all along.

Me and Elizabeth -- One of my Nashville girls
Me and Elizabeth -- One of my Nashville girls

Then I have my Nashville ladies. This group is probably my most complex set of friends, and that is probably because they are my “current” group. As always in my life, I have a select few that I truly open up to and consider my core girls. Doesn’t mean they all know one another! But they are the ones I have found I hold closest to me in my heart. They are the ones I can confide in, and that I know I could turn to in need. Then I have, literally, a few dozen more that I consider dear friends… however its in a more social manner than intimate manner.

The friend I had dinner with nailed it on the head: “I’ve been hurt worse by women than I have ever been hurt by a man.”

That in and of itself is the intriguing thing about girlfriends. We need our girls. We need our sisterhood. But women are most vicious to other women.  Just when you open up to a fellow female, you open yourself up to the potential of deeply being hurt. You tell them your secrets, your gripes, your fears. You lay it all out there. Which I think is precisely why I’ve always kept my number of CLOSE friends down. There is that fear of being hurt. I need and want to trust you… but it doesn’t come easy.

Being married, many friendships now come in the form of fellow couples. Its a natural thing to have happen, and there’s something awesome within it. It really is a lot like getting two friends for the price of one… at least in most cases. I have to admit, though, it always does seem men can get along a lot easier and a lot faster than two women will. I do remember at least once telling my husband, “I like him… can’t really stand her.”  (And at this point, any couple friends we have are now paranoid that I am speaking of them. Relax. I’m not. I promise.)

Me and Anne -- One of my Texas girls...
Me and Anne -- One of my Texas girls...

I love my friends. All of them. Within that fact, I do open myself up to being hurt. And also within that, I fear hurting one of my friends without even realizing I am doing it.

I mostly say that in that I’ve seen a lot of friendships fade due to life just getting in the way. It was never an intentional loss of a friendship, it just came one day that I realized I’d lost touch with someone. That is a fact that always leaves me a little sad. Because I do cherish every single friendship — be it one of my closest friends or one of my more social friendships. I cherish that individual.

That being said, I’ve had a few friendships that I had to pull the plug on myself. Just because I needed to for my own good. Doesn’t make that loss of a friendship hurt any less! But it does make the mind and emotions more peaceful in general.

I don’t know that friendships can ever be analyzed in a fair way. They all are what they are. They come. They go. They all leave a mark on your life. They all mold you into who you are today.

I remember my senior year of high school, confiding in that one teacher who became more like a friend than a teacher. I told her that I love my friends I had then, but that I was excited to meet the people who would further mold me and come to hold lead roles in my life.

I think that at any given moment in my life, that statement is still just as true. I will always be selective of who I draw closest into my heart, but I enjoy meeting new people. I need my girlfriends. Every single one of them. Be they my mom, someone I’ve know for 20+ years, someone I’ve known six months, someone in the music industry, or someone who just has a solid footing in the “normal world.” I need them all.