Monday, June 21, 2021

Summer Magic

 Who doesn't love vacation?

Ok, my mom didn't, but that's a story for another day.

I love vacations. When I was a kid, my family went on a road trip every summer. I remember being too excited to sleep the night before we left, then waking up with the sun and sleeping in the car. We'd cram in our old van (until I got older, then we rented a van every summer), drink soda and eat fast food, see new places, and visit cousins. 

I love to see that same excitement in my kids when we go on trips. And even though I don't feel grown-up enough to be the Mom--sitting up front, handing out snacks, shushing arguments, holding Mr. Brown Eyes' hand--I love that part, too. 

Sometimes Mr. Brown Eyes and I get grumpy on vacation. Late nights + long drives + wild, shrieking children = one of us, or both of us, is going to snap. And I feel so bad when it happens, like we've ruined this fun family time together and all that our children will remember of vacation is that Mom and Dad didn't let them have any fun. 

What makes me feel even worse is that I don't ever remember my parents being grumpy with us while we were on vacation, not even the time we got rear-ended in Seattle in the middle of the night. When after being awakened by the crash, I sleepily asked my dad, "Is the van dented?"

But my parents weren't perfect, and I can't imagine that we ever got through a two week vacation without some level of bad moods. What matters, though, is that I don't remember that part. What I remember of our vacations is playing on the floor of the van (no, I would never let my kids do that today), picnicking in the forest, hiking to a waterfall, laughing with my cousins until we cried. I remember the ice cold water in Lake Michigan, juicy strawberries from my grandma's garden, the wind whipping my hair as we ferried across the Puget Sound, dazzling fireworks in a summer sky.

If my parents ever lost their patience with us, the happy memories we made were enough to drown it out. 

I hope the same thing happens with my children.

I hope, thirty years from now, they look back and remember magical summers full of thunderstorms in Lockett Meadow, mangoes on the beach in Rocky Point, lush green vistas in Oregon, and lots and lots of laughter. 

And maybe a little grumpiness, too.  And an unanticipated inspection at the border. 

But mostly magic. 

Happy Summer,

The Brown-Eyed Girl

Monday, June 7, 2021

Writing On

 What do you do when you feel discouraged? 

This whole writing thing gets me discouraged a lot. Between the fact that it's been four years since The Unicorn Hunter was released and I still don't have a sequel out, and the inadequacy I feel as a writer every time I read what real writers write, discouragement is often just part of the game. 

I usually deal with it in one of these ways:

1. Go to bed. Tired Brown-Eyed Girl + anything negative = debilitating discouragement. Usually a good night's sleep sets me straight and freshens my perspective. 

2. Curl into a ball and cry. While this does sound like the sissy's response to discouragement, a good cry every now and then is cleansing for the soul. It gets the gunk out, helps me reset, and again, freshens my perspective. 

3. Vent to Mr. Brown Eyes. Usually this one happens unintentionally. I just sit next to him to talk about our day or even to just say good night, and feelings come pouring out. Every husband's dream, right? But he is amazing in that he stops what he's doing and listens, sympathizes, and offers actual helpful solutions. He helps me look at the situation with a fresh perspective.

I'm sensing a pattern here. 

Being discouraged is a matter of perspective. That's right. It's choosing to take a negative outlook on what's going on in our lives. I can look ahead at my future as a writer and see a bleak and dreary desert, I can choose to see my writing as inferior and take my rejections personally. Or I can remember that I write because I LOVE it, not because I have to be published, and thus see the future as a road that is winding and steep, but full of spectacular views. 

If I've learned anything from being published, it's that discouragement will stalk my every step if I let it. Every bad review, every rejection, can drag me down and make me feel like writing is a waste of my time. 

I used to think discouragement meant failure. It meant things weren't going right and I should just give up. When I read the first bad review of my book, I thought my writing life was over. But it wasn't. In that case, I got a good night's sleep and the next day I knew I wanted to keep writing no matter how many people hated what I wrote.

Now I know that if I choose to give up at the first discouragement, I will never succeed. I guess that is the difference between those who succeed and those who don't. 

Of course I would be remiss in all this talk of overcoming discouragement if I left out God. In every scenario, He is a huge part in lifting me when I am down. I think some discouragement is so deep and all-encompassing that it is impossible for us to rise above it without His help. I truly believe in the power of prayer. 

However you lift your view above the clouds of discouragement, whether it's sleep, crying, venting, prayer, or something else, know that the clouds will part. 

And the view will be awesome. 

Writing on,

The Brown-Eyed Girl

Tuesday, June 1, 2021


 What makes a house a home?

I lived in the same house until I was 18, and then I moved back when I finished college. A sturdy brick house built by my dad, big enough for eleven kids as long as we shared rooms, nestled on a spacious acre where we could roam and play. 

Home was messy and full of broken things that needed repair, but it was home. It was the place where I felt safe, the refuge I could return to when girls at school were mean to me, where I could be completely myself in a world where everyone only saw me as the quiet, shy one. It was where I laughed with my sisters and nestled next to my mom. Where I returned from my first date and cried over my first heartbreak.  I know the spot where my brother punched a hole in the wall, the perfect patch of sunlight in the living room, the second-story door that used to lead to nothing, the archway that everyone bashes their head on. 

I have a new home now, that I've built with Mr. Brown Eyes. It's where we have brought home all four of our babies, where we have laughed and cried and dreamed together. 

But somehow my childhood home remained "home," too. I would drop in to visit my parents several times a week, sometimes spending the night with my kids, always greeted by my mom's home-cooking. I always felt like it was still my house.

So when my dad mentioned selling it after Mom died, I almost felt like I was losing someone else I loved. 

The house is staying in the family, but soon it will hardly resemble the place I grew up. With Mom gone, it's slowly been emptied of the boxes (and I mean boxes) of things she kept--our grade school report cards, pictures, notes we wrote her--her closet full of yarn, and the smiley faces that brightened every corner. As my brother prepares to move in, the furniture is moving out, and last week my sister and I took the pictures off the walls. 

The change hurts, but I've known it was coming, and as I've prepared myself for it I have realized that the things we are getting rid of are just things. They aren't what made the house home. Even the house itself is a thing. Its four walls and leaky roof sheltered us, but what made it home were the people inside of it and who they helped me become. 

I hope my children remember their childhood home with fondness, but I also hope they remember that home is in your heart, and you can keep it with you always. 

Home Sweet Home,
The Brown-Eyed Girl