My Jewish Identity & Mini Review

(This was meant to be a review, but the book was too good and I read it too long ago, so I went a little off-topic and mostly talked about my own experiences. 😉)

I’ve always known I was Jewish (on my mom’s side, so technically completely Jewish–it’s cool like that), and I’ve grown up with more of the traditions and culture than your average person.

But in the last three years it’s meant a lot more to me. I discovered it would be possible for me to immigrate to Israel if I wanted. I learned more Yiddish words, and we celebrated Chanukah again for the first time in a while. I grew concerned with ideological threats to Israel and have started keeping track of their news. I even research our Ashkenazi genetics for fun because they’re pretty weird. 😂

In all of this, it’s actually become harder to read Jewish books. The Holocaust, aka the main topic of all our books for some good reasons, has become more personal and yet not… We already lived in the US, we didn’t lose anyone close that I know of, and all our backstories are pretty average.

I feel a connection to Israel, to the Jews lost or forever changed by the Holocaust, to the holidays and history and working hand of God, but it feels presumptuous to allow myself this. It’s hard to fit in anywhere, so I carefully walk a line between loving and ignoring this heritage.

Broken Strings by Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer is one of the few books that has made me feel most at home. It’s a story not focused (for once) solely on WW2 or the Exodus or the other handful of topics Jewish characters get. The main character is an American Jew learning more about her complicated heritage (sound familiar? 😉) while getting to rehearse a school play of The Fiddler on the Roof (a.k.a. the greatest piece of Jewish media of all time and a huge favorite of some relatives I never got to meet). Let’s just say my nerd heart was happy, and I enjoyed the quiet, natural discussions of healing, diversity, and loving all people. Truly satisfying.

The Man Who Invented Christmas (Review)

This movie means so much to me as an author (it perfectly captures the agony and ecstasy), as a reader (nerdiness abounds), as a human who doesn’t always deal with the past well and sometimes finds fictional people more “real” than living, breathing ones. Much to think about, much to love about life.

The Victorian backdrop and the perfectly subtle, creative references to A Christmas Carol were an absolute delight. Dan Stevens is a powerful actor, though I love the whole cast really.

It’s an intensely frightening moment when the message you’re writing for other people is exactly the one you need to hear…

I didn’t grow up on this movie, but I already feel it becoming a tradition. 💚

CW: extreme poverty, verbal abuse, dead rodent, angry conversations, ghosts 😉, familial hurt. A scene where the walls of a hole shrink in at intervals may trigger claustrophobia.

Maybe I’m Back

In the first week of lockdown, I finished drafting my fantasy novel, celebrated my birthday, and learned to make mini doughnuts.

There were jokes about how productive we were all going to be. How many days straight we’d been home. How we introverts had a wonderful, unfair advantage that we didn’t really like going out in the first place.

Then something inside me shifted. Almost without me noticing. My creativity sank into a tired hibernation, popping up occasionally for air then disappearing again just as quickly.

Maybe it was the stress of everything. Or the time consuming art of “coping mechanisms” (that don’t really help, y’all). Or the constant inundation of (albeit really good) art–music, movies, TV shows, everything the world was admirably pulling together in an effort to lighten each other’s loads.

My writing heart slipped away, followed by reading, then finally blogging.

A blog about books and writing isn’t much use if the author isn’t reading or writing. 😉 My daily quarantine slog through life or my mixed up thoughts on social issues (that would just add to the noise) were off-limits. (And the absolute highlight of my year, my Joshua, was a heart-close secret for a few months there. 😉)

So I limped along, dropping just enough posts to hopefully not abandon you all completely. #winning

(Don’t get me wrong, there have been some fantastic highlights this year, just a remarkable shift in some very important areas of my life.)

I felt this “something” change again this month. I wrote a list of things I was looking forward to (as simple as decorating my room for fall) and carried them out with anticipation and enthusiasm. I’ve stayed up late a couple nights reading. I’m blogging again and even scheduling some posts ahead. I’m trusting writing will return soon as well.

Maybe I’m back.

But also… I’ve been baking a lot and stretching my skills and presentation. An old hobby has become a new favorite since quarantine (and multiple seasons of Great British Bake-Off 😍). I’ve been reviewing movies. I’ve been tackling the odd handicraft here and there. I’ve grown very close and very deep with my boyfriend who is both inspiring me to be adventurous in my tastes and deeply valuing who I am.

I’ve seen a world rocked and wrecked and seen people fight over things that don’t matter and things that do. I’ve learned more about myself and how I relate to God and the world, maybe more than ever before.

So maybe I’m back. And maybe I’ve changed.

I think I’m good with that.

Realization

Hello again! Today’s post is short (originally posted on my Facebook, actually) but I thought you all might be encouraged by it. 😉

I came to a realization earlier this week (through the Holy Spirit and convos with my mom) that I manage other people’s emotions too much. For altruistic reasons (God has blessed me with empathy and peacemaking), yes, but for selfish fear of uncomfortable situations just as often.

Later in the week, I was babysitting, and I noticed a mild child stressing over the jealousy and arguing between two little girls that were playing with him. I decided to call him over.

Me: “It’s really great that you’re trying to be sweet to everyone and play with them.”

A: “Yeah, that’s what I’m doing.” (He may have thought he was gonna be in trouble…)

Me: “Yeah, and that’s really good. But it’s not your fault if they won’t play, okay?”

I watched him relax more after that while still being his sweet self. I’m so glad God had given me this realization and that I was able to share it with a little one. I hope it lives in both our minds for a while. ❤️

Words and Life

I was catching up on my Bible study today and ran across this oft-quoted verse again. 

“But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”

(John 6:68-69, NKJV)

Immediately its importance in my life and a vague memory of a book scene flashed into my mind.

The MC had been cruelly betrayed, left hopeless and questioning when this verse became her anthem and she quoted it in prayer. 

Preteen me literally absorbed that series, both good and bad elements, but this scene and its real, emotionally hard application of Christ’s question and Peter’s answer has stuck with me for the last eleven years. 

It’s helped me durings some hopeless, questioning moments, and it probably will again.

Books and movies, poems and songs, scriptures and liturgies have the unique power to live in our minds for a very long time. 

We’re each made up of little scraps of things people have shared with us, things we’ve found, and things that have found us.

And I love when God decides it’s time to give me a reminder. ❤

Save the Supportive Best Friends

I once read a hilariously meta book (one I can’t recommend unfortunately) where the main characters were inside a partially written book and decided to rebel against their given, cliche roles.

It ended up getting pretty wild, and I laughed aloud at some of the jokes against us evil authors.

One thing that really stuck with me, though, was an actually quite sad scene where the supportive best friend found out she was only there as an “emotional support pony”. She listens to the heroine’s problems, says something wise, sets aside her own needs to help her, and disappears from the story until she’s needed to do it all again.

The character’s reaction was meant to be humorous, but I’ve been thinking about it more lately as I refine a novella in its second draft.

I wrote two lovely side characters as best friends for my heroine.

While the “vain social climber” is getting more dimension (and strengths because none of us are just weaknesses), it’s the supportive-best-friend-who-is-little-more-than-sympathetic-furniture I’m seriously rewriting.

She needs a dream. She needs an entire personality of her own. She needs a schedule not built around supporting the heroine. She needs relatives with personality and quirks. She needs her own support system.

Why, though? She’s still only getting a small fraction of “screen time”. Why build out all that?

Because that’s how beautifully complicated people really are, and we’re only going to have empathy when we realize that each person and their story is precious. 

(And it’s not going to be a chore because this Kate looooves character development. 😜)

Heartstorm

Once upon a time, the skies were gray, thick with clouds of possibility. She stood outside with her eyes closed and her heart trained to see. They rained down, seeping into her skin and flowing deep inside until bittersweet water bubbled up.

The rain coursed through her filling her mind with songs and dreams and poetry and words. So many words. The waters grew into fountains of words until they spilled over onto every page. 

Her eyes ran as pain gushed dark lines onto a heavy book. 

Her mouth smiled as hope splashed gold in among them. 

Her throat bubbled with laughter as curlicues of joy wove across the pages. 

And her heart sighed as it shrank again, and her eyes cleared to a bright new day. 

The sky was empty except the sun, and the clouds were replaced by a seared blue. She smiled in relief at the book in her hands and hugged it close against her heart.

A child walked by, his coat soaked by rain that had nowhere to go. The echoes of it dripped from his eyes, and she held out the book. 

Maybe the words would help him find his own.

A little smile greeted her shyly before disappearing back into his face, and he took the book with outstretched hands, leaving her own empty. 

Emptiness crept through her bones and into her fingertips. She cupped them and looked up at the blank, cruel sky.

Waiting.

She waited. Ready for the pain and the joy and the loss to begin again, so the next child would have the words.

A little cloud began to form at the edge of the sky, and she smiled.

Wait for It

Over a month ago, I finished drafting my first novel since Kiera. It was plotted and planned with characters I grew to deeply love, and I was filled with a great sense of purpose as I brought forth the themes that were laid on my heart.

It’s always a wonderful experience when a project grabs me that way. I was over the moon with the mental, emotional, and physical energy of building a world and a story within that world. I typed up the last few scenes, leaned back with a happy sigh, and shared it with my alpha readers.

And then the “day after Christmas” feelings began. In plain English, the letdown. What now?

I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo this April with the intention of writing some short stories for brain play and genre exploration. Nothing too big or too serious. 😉 I even wrote out which stories I could possibly write and began one with a very interesting yet directionless character.

I haven’t been feeling writing. Really at all. For almost six weeks now. 

I haven’t felt a sense of purpose with any of the 67 stories I could write. I haven’t had the pieces of a plot fall into place. For some reason, I haven’t been ready to write seriously again, and I’m beginning to see that that’s really okay. 

I just need to wait for it. To rest and to feed on good stories and beautiful things. I’ve done this enough times now to know the stories will come again. 

I can see them walking up the street to knock on my door already, and I have a few pages of notes about what could happen and why it could happen waiting in a notebook. 

When the ingredients come together, I will throw myself all in. I will pull out my typewriter and become all-consumingly creative.

But for now, I wait.

A Joy and an Inspiration

This is the story of a song, how I grew to love it, and how much it will always mean to me. ❤

Christmas 2017 my family and I were gathered together to watch a livestream of one of our favorite Christmas concerts. They had a special guest that year, and his original songs and musical style caught our attention. 

I fell down the rabbit hole of looking for more of his music. At that time he mostly played in other people’s bands, so there wasn’t a ton, but I ran across a video of him performing his song “Joy”. The chorus (the only words I could decode in the lovely jumble of instruments) caught my attention…

“I just want to bring a little joy // make a happy noise. // I can’t hold the weight of the world, but I can carry a tune. // To rejoice in the rain, smile in the face of pain. // Oh! Life’s no easy game, but I choose // to bring a little joy…”

A few months later, I discovered the song again through a free download he was offering. I listened to it obsessively while editing my novel Kiera. The message of using our art to ease and brighten this world was something I desperately needed to be reminded of, and it sort of became my anthem. 

September 2018, this artist released his first full-length album and did quite a few Facebook livestream concerts in celebration and promotion. One time I requested “Joy” and he performed it with just vocals and bass, and I heard the (tweaked) verses even better this time, and the message sank even deeper into me. If the first recording was a rowdy celebration of community and art, this version was one person espousing the same message, very much like my own secluded experience of editing. 

He’s produced many more favorites, and I still watch his livestreams (usually while working in the kitchen for some reason…). His crazy, growing fanbase have been eagerly waiting for more “official” music, and this month he delivered. 

“Joy” by Scott Mulvahill. Studio produced with different instrumentation and some very fun musical moments added. Full of heart and creativity. 

Then last week, he debuted the collaborative music video that showed the heart (and hilarious happiness) of the song. My favorite parts are the harmonica, the little kids jamming, and the chalk piano. 😉

I’ve listened to the song so many times in the past week, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. It brings me joy and reminds me of my purpose. I’m sure it will continue to speak to me at the times I need it most, and I can’t wait.

I hope it does the same for you. ❤

This Page Left Intentionally Blank

Have you ever been reading a stack of official papers and found a sheet that just says “This page left intentionally blank”? They tell us this because we expect each paper to hold something important, and if not, there must have been a mistake.

Tonight, I’m telling you beforehand. This post is going to be (mostly) blank.

There is so much being said and typed right now. A little too much, at least for me. All-day, every day for at least the past week, I’ve been bombarded by people “shouting” advice and blame and shame and warning and new rules and encouragement and positives to focus on and more to think about.

It’s a lot. And while most of those things are good things to think about, sometimes we forget to take a break.

So, this space below is left intentionally blank. I’m leaving room for 400 words, an approximate average length of my posts. Apparently that takes the average reader just under a minute and a half to read. (I’m so full of inexact, fun statistics tonight. XD)

Take a minute and a half. Don’t leave this page. Sit quietly and breathe a little. Pray about what’s on your mind. Chase an idea. Imagine another world. Use this blank space, and have a good week. 😉