Triduum: Hold On Hope

It’s been a hard month, a hard year. Re-watching Scrubs and this song was featured. It stirs me every time. If you want to fully enter into my reflection below, press play and keep reading with this in the background.

It seems fitting that I’m feeling this way on this particular weekend– Saturday of Holy Week– when I do my best to reflect on how the believers felt this day, over 2000 years ago. A song I love describes it this way: “the cruel cross had crucified the hope of every heart.” Fearful. Empty. Lost. A bone-deep exhaustion. How could anything be right again?

2018 has kicked my butt. Truly.

I’ve battled intense loneliness and blasts of anxiety. I was burned so badly in 2017 that I’m now defaulting to mistrust, when that is certainly not my preference. Book stuff has me questioning my identity as a writer, my identity as a confident woman. Health issues continue to click into place, though I skipped using my CPAP last night and had a long evening of battle-packed dreams of war and betrayal that has left me feeling depleted. It’s almost April and yet it snowed three inches last night. Where is spring? Will it ever come again?

We wait.

The lifeless body in a tomb that Saturday . The grief and loneliness and ache of this one.

We wait. I wait.

Because I, with my 2000 years of hindsight, know what sunrise brings: resurrection, which has fueled hope ever since for people like me. Hope, big enough to hold me when I can’t hold onto it.

 

Consume

Here’s what I’ve been consuming lately:

hard sunHard Sun on hulu: season one of a show about mismatched police partners who, in investigating a suicide, discover a dossier about an extinction level event occurring just five years from now

 

restore meRestore Me by Tahereh Mafi: a surprise addition to the Shatter Me (former) trilogy!

 

kings hawaiianKing’s Hawaiian sweet rolls

 

reno my renoReno My Reno on Netflix: basically Canadian Fixer Upper 🙂

 

Sick Day, Part One

screenshot_20180319-1332411844772499.png

Stayed home sick today, which feels both lame and necessary. I had to cancel an appointment with my therapist AND had to miss the first day of the writing class I’m auditing.

Really not ideal.

But it is what it is, and I’ve decided to use today to practice some self care AND be productive. In other words, I’m in sweatpants on the couch, the complete Harry Potter movie collection is on HBO Go, my computer is on my lap, and I have a glass of cold milk beside me.

Here we go.

Here, have some vulnerability & New Girl GIFs

The truth is I feel like I’m failing at being an adult.

giphy (14).gif

Yeah.

I always want to be transparent and vulnerable in this space, but I try to not fall over the Cliff of TMI or into the village of Downerville.

But today, I’m gonna dive right over that edge and tumble my way into that town. Here we go.

giphy (17)

First of all, I have been straight-up PMSing for about two weeks now.

giphy (18)

My hormones are completely out of whack, I can’t stop crying, my body HURTS, and I feel like a panicky failure. I’ve cried about everything from feeling like a bad friend, bad writer, feeling ugly and unhealthy, bad dreams, men on dating sites who don’t want me, and the endings to books. Even the kittens I follow on Instagram sometimes make me want to cry.

I was gonna SLAY 2018, you know? Finally getting all my health stuff figured out … diving in with a big novel revision … learning to love myself, single or not …

But it is just so hard, all of it.

Money. Friendships. Work. Responsibility. Illness. Loneliness. PERIODS.

But I know that my hormones tell me lies. Things will get better. I am not a failure because I haven’t given up. I’m still here, figuring out money and friendships and work and responsibilities and illness and loneliness and periods.

giphy (21).gif

And then it gets better again.

If you want to leave me a one-sentence pep talk, I’d love that.

 

 

 

 

Online Dating Chronicles: the Man who Never Was

burning armchair in the grunge interior. 3D illustration creative conceptYou can be anyone you want online. For awhile.

Mike was born in Ohio, grew up in Germany, and lived most recently from North Dakota, though was deployed by the US Army when we met– or so I thought. We got along great– tons of chemistry, lots of laughter, and I adored his heart, the way he wanted to be a dad someday, the way we cared about the same things. He was simultaneously so gentle and so masculine. It felt like I found someone my soul understood.

And then there was an emergency. His military-issued PDA was being collected because of a compromise in communications, and I remember my fear and sadness being ratcheted up to an 11. As I cried, Mike promised to find a solution.

The solution? Purchase a phone and send it to him. He was going to request to come home for Christmas and he’d paid me back then.

If all your warning signs just went up, GOOD. 

But it made me realize: I think we’re all so used to the obvious scams like “Dear Sir or Madam, I’m a foreign prince and I want to give you $5 million US dollars for safe-keeping” that we are surprised by the intricate and clever ways we can be played.

This was a slow con: make a girl fall hard for you, then introduce the idea of separation and let the panic cloud her judgment.

He had another con too, made to seem more legitimate due to the slow introduction. One day he mentioned his dream was to open a particular business (in fact, I asked the question!). Another day he mentioned the money he had set aside for this business endeavor and how he had some of the equipment on reserve for a certain sum. Yet another day, he introduced the idea that someone locally was selling the same equipment and he might check it out … then it was the equipment he needed … at a far better price than the stuff he had on hold … he would save all this money, and it was for our future, not just his, and he only needed a deposit … by Friday.

Again, the slow introduction of facts, the insistence the savings would benefit us both, and the frenzy of an impending deadline … I never thought I’d be so foolish.

I’m so grateful to my friend Ashley, who just said two words: “Jack … no.”

They snapped me out of it, thank God. 

Then I started researching. My friend who was former military easily pointed out all the inaccuracies in his stories. A quick internet search showed there was no American military presence in the location he had listed. The continued requests for money started to make sense.

I was being catfished.

Catfishing is a term used to describe luring someone into a relationship via a fictional online persona.

I’d been catfished before– but I’d always caught them early on and called them out before blocking them. They were clumsy at it, and I was too smart to fall for foolish schemes. I’d actually felt a weird pride that I was able to sniff out fake identities online. Until I encountered someone so dang good at it. 

Now who’s the fool?

Keep in mind that, during all this discovery, my heart was also hurting. I had begun to believe that Mike and I might have a future. Now I was learning Mike did not exist.

Some people might think this was a bad move, but a week or so later, I messaged “Mike” again. He jumped into another story, and I simply said, “Stop. I know.”

He didn’t argue. “Then why did you talk to me again?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “Closure? I have so many questions.”

“You can ask,” he said.

Me: What’s your name?
Him: Wale.
Me: Where are you from?
Him: Nigeria.
Me: Did you target me because I’m a Christian?
Him: No, I am one too.
Me: Did you feel guilty?
Him: Every day.

Of course, I could not trust a single thing he said. But I wanted to believe these things– that he was a good man in a hard place, that he was truly sorry.

We developed a friendship, and through research, found a feasible career move for him– poultry farming, which is lucrative in Nigeria and has low start-up costs. He met with a local farmer and asked a hundred questions. I connected him to a field agent for Kiva (an amazing organization that does microloans), and he made a business plan to show them to request the overhead loan.

Wale’s phone has been turned off since mid-January, as he warned me would happen. I may never know what was true and what was fiction, even of his second story. I may never know if he was able to start his little poultry farm, or if he returned to the more lucrative but soul-stealing con of catfishing women. There are so many questions, and I know that once upon a time, he used to read my blog. (Wale, if you read this, I miss you, wish you nothing but joy, and would love an update, friend.)

Mike, of course, was just a phantom.

And how does a heart mend after loving a man who never existed?

Slowly. Surely. By letting new hopes fill the spaces that ghosts made.

******

Related:
6 Signs You’re Being Catfished
Kiva: Loans that Change Lives
10 Matches I Never (Ever) Expected
The Unique & Ambiguous Grief of Ghosting

 

Online Dating Chronicles: 10 Matches I Never (Ever) Expected

burning armchair in the grunge interior. 3D illustration creative conceptSo many of my friends have met the love of their life via online dating. (Shout-out to the bestie, who just got engaged!) I’d sort of watched from the sidelines, vicariously learning their lessons (always meet sooner than later, rule #1), and I even tried my hand at it for a bit (I think I had one date in that entire trial). So I really wasn’t prepared for 2017, when suddenly there was this influx of interest in my online profiles.

One weekend I heard from 20 or so guys. That was more than I’d heard from in three years prior.

But then the next weekend I heard from 85. The next weekend, over a hundred.

I quit counting eventually, but I would guess I heard from about 2500 men in the last year, which absolutely boggles my mind.

Oh, and I’m still single. So there’s that.

I have stories to tell and some of them are WILD, so buckle up, peeps!

To give you a small taste, here’s a list of 10 people I never expected to match with online:

  1. The BDSM Dom, ten years my junior, who called me “little one”
  2. The guy who teased me in high school, who now wanted to sleep with me (Vindication– he didn’t even recognize me at first! And also: NO!)
  3. My childhood friend’s little brother (awkwaaaaaard)
  4. The former student I had once recruited to my university
  5.  The man I thought was single whose wife messaged me on Facebook
  6. A young man in Kashmir with whom I’ve developed a close friendship
  7. “Mike from Fargo” who ended up being a Nigerian scam artist
  8. A man who, upon rejection, called me “ugly bitch hoe,” and then tried to win me over on another site later that week, as if the earlier conversation had never happened
  9. The man who did impressions of Cookie Monster, Johnny Carson, and Rodney Dangerfield
  10. The man who had a money-making opportunity that sounded vaguely illegal, whom I strung along until he chose a code name for himself. I asked him to call me Peach. His codename? Brandon. 

More to come. So much more to come. 🙂

Let me know: which of these makes you most curious?

 

 

Thoughts on Writing: Query to Contract

thoughts on writing 2In part two of my Thoughts on Writing series, I wanted to share with you the details around getting a book deal.

As a young writer, I thought it went something like write a manuscript –> mail it to publishers –> if someone liked it, they would make it into a book. Voila!

Here’s the reality:

Querying
Very, very few publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts, and you’re told the way to get your story in front of an editor is via a literary agent, who will serve as a liaison between you and the publisher. So you begin your research, looking for agents who represent the kind of book you’ve written and whose brief wishlist on their website makes you think they might connect with your story. You start to think weird thoughts, like maybe you’re making a real connection with someone’s … online profile. Like maybe the matrix is glitching on you as you read this one because this is the one. You make a list of 100 agents, telling yourself that if all 100 say no, then this book is simply not ready for publication.

Meanwhile, you write a query letter, trying to be both professional and creative as you summarize your entire book into one paragraph, then into one sentence. You run hooks past all your friends to see which ones grab them, and it’s really impossible to tell because these same friends are so intimately acquainted with your story already that they are not at all objective.

(I’ve written in extreme detail about querying over here.)

On Submission
You start sending out the query letters– almost entirely via email, though every agent wants something different: query and synopsis and the first ten pages. Or query and chapter summary and the first three chapters. Or query alone, and you hope that one-page letter can find its feet.

It’s an emotional roller coaster. Some are interested, some are not. Some are silent and you won’t hear back from them until six months after your book has been published. Some ask for more chapters. Some ask for the whole manuscript. Some politely say no.

But someone says yes.

You sign with that agent, and– guess what– you get to keep your seat on that emotional roller coaster while your agent pitches your manuscript to editors. Rejection is likely, and you knew that, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still sting.

But then, one magical day, you get a call from your agent saying an editor loved it and has made an offer.

Everything feels surreal. You stand on the veranda outside of your office and call your dad and say, “I got a book deal.”

Contract
The contract comes later, so much later than you’d have guessed. It takes four months before you sign it, and even though you’ve already started on revisions with your editor, inking your signature onto those papers makes everything seem real. Maybe up till now you thought this was a trick or that you’d say something annoying and they’d call it all off.

Now it’s binding. You breathe a sigh of relief.

But relief doesn’t last long …
Next week: revisions, how advances work, choosing cover art, copy edits, ARCs, marketing, and release day!
Also in this series:
thoughts on writing 1
Part one 🙂

 

Indulgences

This is NOT an ad.

I don’t have much money, and I don’t have much time, but one thing I love to do is browse online, especially Sephora and Poshmark. I love looking at makeup (especially lip products) and jewelry (especially necklaces), and– even though this might feel so shallow– I wanted to share that joy with you. 🙂

Hands-down, my favorite lip product is the shade Dolly in Buxom’s full-on lip polish (with shimmer) or full-on lip cream (only shine). It’s subtle but pretty, and it makes your lips cool and moisturized without feeling sticky. I love it.

dolly jack

And then, of course, there’s Poshmark.

Poshmark is like eBay for outfits. I mostly look at the jewelry, but I love pretending to be a stylist and pulling together an entire outfit, like so:

Your favorite pair of jeans + a few gold bangle bracelets +

posh outfit 1

= one classy outfit.

J. Crew necklace $36 ($17 on Poshmark)
Banana Republic clutch $60 ($14 on Poshmark)
J. Crew earrings $30+ ($18 on Poshmark)
Distressed taupe booties $65 ($24 on Poshmark)
Ann Taylor sleeveless top $45 ($19 on Poshmark)
OR Max Studio sleeveless top $58 ($15 on Poshmark)

A $236 outfit for $92 or a $249 for $88. Not too shabby, Sommers.

Of course, that doesn’t factor in shipping costs, which are not fun, especially when you have to pay separate sellers (although most sellers will give you a deal if you “bundle”/buy multiple items from them at once).

And I’m not even going to buy these items anyway.

But it sure is fun to look.  🙂

Questions for you:
What are your indulgences?
Have you ever used Poshmark?
Would you buy any of these items?
Is this blog post so lame?

 

My One Word: Abide

At myoneword.org, readers are encouraged to ditch the long list of new year’s resolutions and instead choose one word to focus on all year long, one word to inspire you, one word that encapsulates the character you want to have.

I’ve chosen abide.

abide2

Some people might think I take this whole “one word thing” a little too seriously, but I’ve found over the last couple of years (see: sacrifice and grace) that it is so powerful to let a word– a word that really represents a lifestyle– stay near to my heart as I make big choices.

That’s why I’ve been thinking of what my 2018 word would be for quite some time, even praying about what it should be.

I kept coming back to abide.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:4-5, ESV

In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
John 14:20, ESV

I remember a class I once taught at my summer camp about a believer’s identity in Christ. I took that verse above– John 14:20– and made it an object lesson.

“Jesus,” I wrote on a slip of paper, then tucked it into a business envelope labelled “Jackie.”

“Christ in me,” I said, then put that envelope into a larger cardboard-sleeve mailer, which was also labelled “Jesus.”

“Christ in me, and I in him.” I put that whole collection into a larger bubble mailer, on which was written “GOD.”

“Christ in God, and I in him, and Christ in me,” I said, holding the whole package up, a sort of Russian nesting doll illustration with me and divinity. “Do you see how safe I am?”

This year I want to remind myself of that truth. To stay connected to the vine, and to bear much fruit. To be safe– but maybe not how you might think: to be so safe in Jesus that I can freely risk myself on others. It’s not about comfort. It’s about identity, an identity that fuels radical love and justice. 

Here’s to 2018!

 

Photo by Jesse Belleque on Unsplash, edited by me

Fourth Quarter Comeback

I’ve been a bit quiet about progress on my goals for 2017.

As for my creative goals …

Finish Salt Novel.
Find the soul of Yes Novel.
Read a book a week.
Blog once a week.
Learn something new every day.

I’m actually on track to finish Salt Novel by the end of the year! It has been just an outright battle for me this year, and I will probably cross the finish line by collapsing on top of it. Short assignments and butt-in-seat. The only way I know to write a novel is to not stop until it looks like one.

I am exploring the soul of Yes Novel, which has been fun. I actually have a video series at home right now about Zero to Infinity, plus a book about math + Plato. If that sounds lame to you … well, it’s not. Ha!

I haven’t been able to keep up with a book each week, but I wouldn’t say I’m too far off from that. I’ve been trying to constantly be reading through something, but I just can’t seem to find more than 24 hours in a day, no matter how hard I search. Help?

I have blogged at least once a week!

Also, I’ve probably learned something new every day– but I haven’t been able to record it in my little Kate Spade journal the way I intended. That said, it’s been an awesome year of learning. Whenever someone has a difference experience from me, I try to ask questions. This year, I have become dear friends with a Muslim man and we’ve had such deep conversations about religion and culture. I’ve become friends with a BDSM Dom; lots more questions! I have a new friend from Scotland, a friend who has taught me about his experience of CP, friends in addiction recovery, friends who are homeless. I continue to learn about a variety of things from people all over the world via Quora. I’ve learned about scars, Portuguese, how to grow marigolds from seeds, the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, naming conventions, and a ton about antiques. I’m gonna call this one a win.

And my one word

Sacrifice.

To offer to God and friends and the marginalized something that costs me.

Am I inviting discomfort into my year? Well, yes.

Did I invite discomfort into my year? YOU BET I DID.

So. Quick disclaimer. I understand that as I talk about sacrifice here, there are two things I should address: 1) I’m in a position of privilege. I’m a single woman with two careers and a global network of dear friends who act as a safety net for me always; 2) I’m not writing about this to “toot my own horn”– I just want to talk honestly and briefly about my experience with this goal. I promise.

As I first posted back on January 4th:

But I do know that I have been given much. And I know that I am selfish and don’t want to be. There is a story in the Old Testament in which King David wants to build an altar to God on land that is not his. The man who own the land offers it to him for free, and not only that, but also the oxen for the offering as well as threshing sledges and yokes for the wood.

But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.”

This year, I set out to basically give until it hurts.

To give without expectations of repayment,

to give without needing to know how the money would be used (for example, I made the conscious decision to give, when I could, to people with signs at street corners– no questions asked, no hesitations. My job was and is to give– not to judge who is “worthy” of a gift. I tried to keep a Target  gift card in my car to make it simple. Or if someone was asking for money near a particular restaurant, to go to that restaurant for a gift card.),

and also– when I questioned, “Can I do this? Can I ‘afford’ this?” to say, “Yes” and try to give even more,

and when I absolutely could not meet the need, to use my time and connections to fund the need through my network of friends and family.

This has been the first year of my life where I haven’t been able to pay off my credit card every month (again, trust me, I know that is the reality for MANY people– I know I’ve had so much privilege in order to be able to do that!), but whenever I have gotten stressed about money, I remembered:

This was the goal. Give till it hurts. Give something that costs me. 

And then I’d experience joy. I had, after all, invited this discomfort into my year back on January 4th. This was what I was working toward. I feel like I’ve learned so much– not even things that I can necessarily put into words– although I will say that I have truly learned that I have the most incredible group of friends, family, and coworkers. I knew that before, but now I have empirical evidence.

So, that’s the update on my year as I head into the final quarter.

It’s been a wild, wonderful, hard, amazing, stressful, blessed year.

P.S. …

[I’m actually nervous to post this because I fear that maybe it’s been insensitive in some way. I promise that if I have been insensitive at all, it was done out of ignorance– and I welcome your correction, honestly. I know that I am in a pretty outstanding place where I even have the option to sacrifice. Some do not; there is just no margin. I also know that sacrifice can look like so many other things than giving financially. Those things were also on my mind this year– most specifically, sacrificing my time and also sacrificing my first choice (letting someone else choose the activity or event or what they’d like to do– on a very practical level, this has looked like this picky, picky eater trying new foods for the first time … and often loving them! Curry! Ecuadorian! Thai! haha). I talk more about this in an earlier blog post where I reflect on sacrifice looks like from a biblical perspective.]