looking back … and ahead

2012 was a good year.

In January, I had just aside my OCD manuscript and was 50 pages into writing adult fiction about a woman who was a late discovery adoptee when I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  The book walloped me in the best way possible, inspiring me to drop the LDA story and try my hand at young adult literature.  12 months later, I am head-over-heels in love with writing for this demographic– not to mention deeply in love with the characters in my book.

In February, I posted one of my most frequented links, about how medication is scary.

In March, my friend Ashley encouraged me to get serious about my blogging, and the rest is history.  I started blogging with a lot more frequency after that, trying to refine and define what exactly Lights All Around was about.  In the end, it boils down to three things: faith, creativity, and OCD.

I believe it was in April that I wrote and submitted a post for the Rage Against the Minivan blog, never guessing that it would actually be chosen and posted months and months later.

In May, I left my job in management, moving into my old role as an admission counselor only.  At the time, it was devastating to me, but in the months since, I have come to realize it was a true blessing in disguise.  I had wondered if it might, but it was hard to see past the sadness.

In June, I spent a week tucked away in an apartment above a Wisconsin garage, writing like a maniac and finishing the first draft of Truest.  It was a bad draft, but that’s what first drafts are supposed to be.  At least it was in the computer.

July, I nursed my crush on the Olympian Michael Phelps and posted a mildly scandalous short story about Adam and Eve, one of my most-commented-on posts.

In August, I read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which, alongside The Fault in Our Stars, was one of the best books I read all year.  (I love that I can measure my months by the words I encountered.)

September marked the end of an era as I ventured to the University of Minnesota Medical Center to meet with my beloved psychiatrist for the final time before he retired.

In October, the International OCD Foundation flew me out to an event of theirs in Boston to read an excerpt from my OCD novel that had won an international creative expression contest.  There, I fell in love with the IOCDF.

November I decided to speak out even louder than usual about cognitive-behavioral therapy, explaining to blog readers what my life was like before and after CBT and also details of what my CBT experience was like.  I got emails from people after this, asking for even more details, even some fellow Minnesotans wondering specifically about my own therapist.

In December, I finished yet another draft of Truest while on an artist retreat I had been selected for.  I am committed to this story.  My writing group has helped and continues to help me SO MUCH with revisions, and I decided to purchase a short mentorship with a Minneapolis editor.

Which brings us to now.  And what’s ahead for me?

I have gotten into the habit of blogging, and I love it.  I will keep speaking loudly about OCD and CBT and ERP.  God has been so good and so faithful to me, and even today, when I was feeling very low, I was still able to be grateful that I have a permanent love in my savior.  I will keep reading as much as I possibly can and review the books here on my blog.  I will keep writing– because I love it, and because I crave it, and because I have to.  I will continue to meet with my brilliant writing group and start my online mentorship next month.

2012 was good.  Here’s to an amazing 2013.


Half-Mast, a brief story

We were thrilled, the whole crowd, as we giggled and whispered and whistled outside the school that day.  It was quarter to noon on Memorial Day, one of the most exciting days of the year. The American flag, with its crowded square of 64 stars, looked as if it housed a universe on that patch of blue.  It flew at half-staff, as usual, though there was not a breath of wind to spread the banner.

Betty was the littlest of our crew.  At only five years old, she couldn’t remember why we celebrated this day—the morning or the afternoon, my favorite part.  She kept taking Mom’s face into her hands and staring into Mom’s eyes, asking wordless questions.

“C’mon, Bets,” Jakey said.  “I’m only nine, and I know why we’re here today.”

“The flag?” she asked, showing she knew more than she was saying.

“Mmm hmmm,” I said, prompting her to go on.  “What do you usually see when you look at the flag?”

“Stripes.  Stars.”

“Yes, and where does it sit on the pole?”

“Half,” she said.

“Do you know why?” I asked.

“Oh hush,” said Mom.  “We don’t need to think about that now—not now.  Not so close to noon.”

“Jakey?” I asked, ignoring her.  She was wrong—as a history buff, I knew this was the most important and best time to discuss it all.  “How well do you know your history, Jakester?  What happened on Christmas Day last year?”

He shuddered.  “That was when that man blew up the children’s hospital, right?”

“Uh huh.  And what had happened the summer before?”

Jake appeared to think for a moment.  “Was that when Los Angeles was burned to the ground by the terrorists?”

I nodded, pleased he was going to be a history guy just like his big sister.

“And what about the start of World War III?” he asked me.

“Well, that was a long time before that,” I said.  “That was way back in April of 3264.  Some of the reasons the flag flies at half-staff we can barely remember.  Supposedly, back in 2001, some terrorists attacked New York City.”

“What’s New York City again?” he asked.

Now even Mom joined in.  “Well, we’re not totally sure, but historians believe it was a large city on the east coast.  The rumor is that some planes flew into a couple towers there.  But things that far back are a little sketchy.  It’s mostly folklore by now.”

“Same with December 7th,” I admitted.  I believed the old stories about Pearl Harbor, even though most people thought it was an urban myth.

“What makes today so special?” I asked Betty.  “C’mon, you know this,” I said to her.

But then the trumpets sounded, and everyone in the crowd stood to his or her feet to watch the flag rise all the way to the top of the mast, where it would remain until midnight.  The only twelve hours of the year it stood at salute was always a fascinating event.  As it rose to the top, a wind appeared out of nowhere, unfurling the flag, and I watched it flare across the afternoon sky, feeling extremely patriotic and proud to be an American.

half mast

“happy pills”

Whenever I hear medication referred to as “happy pills,” I cringe.  I take Prozac, Effexor, and Risperdal every single day, and let me tell you, they are not happy pills.  They don’t incite any kind of happiness or euphoria in me– in fact, the kinds of drugs that do that are generally illegal stimulants (heroin, cocaine, MDMA).  When people refer to mental health meds as “happy pills,” they are inferring that I get my happiness from a drug, which is point-blank untrue.

My medication essentially brings me to a “zero level” so that I can interact with the daily life in the same way as everyone else.  I still have good days and bad days, and I am influenced by events, experiences, and emotions.  These meds are in no way a blanket stimulant.

Now, I know that most people who use the term “happy pills” are generally not trying to cause a riot, but I believe that society needs to be more careful with its words.  Terms like this cast a negative stigma on taking meds and sometimes prevent people from pursuing psychiatric help, people who could really benefit from it.

I know there are a lot of opinions on medication.  It was a five-year tumultuous experience for me to get on the right cocktail of meds (including horrible side effects [Luvox, Clomipramine], mind vomit [Paxil], and a near-death allergic reaction [Propranolol]), but I believe it was worthwhile.  So while I appreciate the vibrant debate over the value of medication, I wish that we could all agree to not degrade meds by calling them “happy pills.”

meds are not happy pills

Reading is sexy.

So true, in my opinion.  Learning is sexy, and one of the best ways I can judge that is by whether a person reads.

I don’t care if he reads business journals, science fiction novels, textbooks, or biographies– or even if he listens to audiobooks to stick it to his dyslexia.  If he likes to read, he enjoys learning, and both are sexy.

It is honestly one of my number one questions when getting to a guy.  1) Does he love Jesus? 2) Does he love reading?

This has definitely influenced the creation of the characters in the YA novel I’m writing.

“My turn to ask the questions,” said Silas, unwrapping a sandwich.  “Tell me what books you like to read.”  He had a nice voice, I decided.  It was low and velvety … but with this sweetness to it, an animation that came from confidence.  And something else: delight?

“Oh, everything,” I said, my feet dragging lazily in the sand beneath them as I bit into my apple—Gala, sweet.  “Peter Beagle.  John Green.  C.S. Lewis.  Dr. Seuss.”

Silas grinned.  “C.S. Lewis.  Have you read his space trilogy?”

“Only a million times,” I said.

His eyes grew wide with a childlike excitement that made me want to laugh.  “I’m making Laurel read it this summer!  That Hideous Strength!” he said, then quoted: “‘It was all mixed up with Jane and fried eggs and soap and sunlight and the rooks cawing at Cure Hardy.’”  Silas sighed in delight.  “Rooks cawing at Cure Hardy … all those k sounds.”

I smiled at him, a little skeptically.

“Don’t you like the k sounds?” he asked, eyes wide and beatific, and I burst out laughing.

“I’ve just never heard a teenager talk affectionately about plosives.”

Am I short-sighted in this?

If anyone knows where I could buy this mug, I would die of delight.

If anyone knows where I could buy this mug, I would die of delight.


taking risks

Just the other day, I drove to downtown Minneapolis, parked outside of the Open Book, went up the stairs to the Loft Literary Center, and paid a LOT of money for a 15-hour online mentorship with a professional editor.

It’s a risk.  He might hate my manuscript and tell me to start over (probably not).  He might not catch my vision for it and suggest changes far beyond what I’m comfortable with (maybe).  He might read my novel with a critical and professional eye and give me valuable advice for polishing the manuscript into something beautiful (I hope).

Again, it’s a risk.

An investment.

I hope.


I Celebrate the Day


“I Celebrate The Day”

And with this Christmas wish is missed
The point I could convey
If only I could find the words to say to let
You know how much You’ve touched my life
Because here is where You’re finding me,
in the exact same place as New Year’s eve
And from a lack of my persistency
We’re less than half as close as I want to be

And the first time
That You opened Your eyes,
did You realize that You would be my Savior?

And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever?

And so this Christmas I’ll compare the things I felt in prior years
To what this midnight made so clear
That You have come to meet me here

To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me
In the hope that what You did
That you were born so I might really live
To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life

Tall, Dark, and Handsome

He shakes my tidy box of labeled dreams
until its bows are undone, a timid musician
in designer jeans who explains the economy
in a way that makes sense.  He offers to drive,
steers with one hand while he seeks  a certain song,
redefining my ideal until it is far more important that
a man can talk finance, sing softly in the driver’s seat,
and delicately raise one eyebrow into a perfect arch
like a cartoon villain or a famous work of art.


This is just A boy, not THE boy the poem is about. 🙂

Reblogged: All the Single Ladies

My friend Kristin is like a sage to me.  We were friends in college; then, my senior year, she was my supervisor in the campus writing center.  She left Minnesota for grad school– first out to LA, then to Chicago– before coming back to teach English at our alma mater, where I work in the admissions office.  It was during round two of her life in Minnesota that I really got to bond with her.  She knows scripture so well, and she is unbelievably wise.  And really gracious.  She is someone whom I can talk to about all my weird, really-out-there ideas without judgment.  Instead, she pours wisdom into my life.

She has been living in Nairobi, Kenya, for the last year and a half, and she recently blogged about an issue that I am really feeling at this time of the year.  I hope you’ll hop over to her blog to read it.

Here’s the first little bit:

All the Single Ladies: Facebook Holiday Survival Guide

Sometimes, it feels as if facebook is trying to tell me something. This morning, for instance, posts and links accumulated such that I felt like a detective at the end of a mystery novel—all the pieces were falling into place. 
Post One: “He asked. I said yes.”
I’m not usually overly sentimental about such things, but this friend, who is about ten years older than I am, has been a particular influence on my life for the past couple years. This is often the case when you are a single adult woman and you know other single adult women who are older than you–especially happy, balanced single women who just like you don’t want to always be single but still manage to be, well, happy and balanced in their singleness. At some point, the age differentiation becomes very important–after this point, when people younger than you get married, you get angsty (why don’t they just wait their turn, for Pete’s sake?); when people older than you get married, you get hopeful (see? it’s possible!). Selfish, yes, but also true.
For the rest of her holiday survival guide, click here!