I Write About Life…

March 28, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

Some things I can explain.  Many things I cannot.

One of those things is timing.  Why something comes into your life at a particular moment.  Why sometimes it comes back at a particular moment, and sometimes it’s gone forever.  Why some of those things that pass into forever stay in your heart and others that you think you will remember fade after a time.

I can’t explain any of that.  But I know it all to be true.

In my books I write a lot about life–about characters who are trying to make sense of their lives, who are trying to live their lives as best as they can.  My characters are good people who are going through some crummy things.  I don’t know why they have to go through them, but I have learned that they do.

Once, I tried to stop writing a book (most of the time I have the opposite problem) because I didn’t want the characters to have to go through what I knew was coming.  I hated that–putting them through the pain and anger and hurt.  I didn’t want them to have to go through it.  It hurt me to watch them go through it, and yet I knew… I knew it was how they would grow into the person they were supposed to be.  It was the only way for them to get to real peace.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to grow up.  It’s not just that our cells divide and we get bigger, older, taller.  It’s far more than that.  Growing up is about confronting the really hard truths of this life, facing them, deciding what you are going to do with them–how you are going to deal with them, or not deal with them.

Truth is, a lot of times I don’t want to grow up.  Every time I’m faced with a “growing up” moment, I want to flee, to run far, far away to a galaxy maybe no one has ever even heard of before.  I’m 41, and I honestly don’t think I’m ready to be an adult yet.

In fact, I read the other day that it is because we lost Paradise and some small part of us remembers what it was to be in Paradise with God that we KNOW this is not how it’s supposed to be.  But we have no idea how to get back there.  And even if we do for moments at a time, it doesn’t last.  The next crisis or trial comes along, and we’re left saying to ourselves and each other once again, “This is not how it’s supposed to be.”

I remember after my brother-in-law’s death my husband saying to me, “A mother should not lose a son.  That’s not how it’s supposed to be.”  But of course by that time I had lost my own brother under very similar circumstances, and I said, “Maybe not, but it happens.”

And when it happens, we are left with the anger and the hurt that God has not played fair with us.  Moreover, in this go-go society, we have no idea where to go with those feelings.  Talking about such things is frightening.  To even acknowledge the feeling is frightening.  And so we don’t.  We bury ourselves in “what’s for dinner” and “what time is soccer practice”?

If we say something to someone, they don’t know what to say, and we don’t know what to say… so we all say nothing as if pretending it isn’t real will make it not be so.

I’ve been watching old “Family Ties” episodes through the magic of DVD, and although there were many I had forgotten, there were a few episodes that I remember very well even though it’s been more than 20 years since I had seen them.

One of those episodes was about Alex, the often-obnoxious older brother played by Michael J. Fox.  When the show was originally on, I was about 18… old enough to understand but young enough to have no clue.

At that time, Alex and I were a lot alike.  We were both driven by forces inside us that we didn’t even understand–forces that said we were supposed to be the best, the brightest, to know all the answers, and have life all figured out.  Little did he or I or even Michael know what lay in store.

How could I know that only 3 years later I would lose one of my best friends to cancer?  How could I know how I would watch her–going through chemo for a brain tumor that would surely take her life all the while going to college because she’d always wanted to?

How could I know then all the rotten hands life would deal out to me?  The early birth of my daughter and how hard that was going to be?  The loss of a brother and then a brother-in-law?

I couldn’t.  Just as Michael J. Fox could not have imagined being stricken with Parkinson’s disease.  We couldn’t have known.  We were just kids, and the worst thing that had ever happened to us was getting a B on a test.

There’s another episode one I had forgotten most of.  In it Alex’s sister, Mallory, is stressed about college and life, so she decides impulsively to marry her sweetheart, Nick.  It is perfectly clear that neither of them are ready for what real marriage is like.  They are both going on the wine-roses-and-rainbows version that sounds so good and yet proves to be so very wrong.  In the end they decide not to get married after all.

Back home, Mallory and her mom have a very brief talk.  Her mom says something like, “I wish I could tell you that there are never going to be any rough patches in life, but I can’t.  They are going to come.  But when they do, I want you to know that we’ll work through them together.”

What a profound moment for me now.  I probably didn’t even get it back then.  I didn’t know how wide the writers were opening their hearts for me to see, but I see it now.

That profound insight is on full display in the phenomenal two-part episode “My Name is Alex” in which Alex’s friend dies in a car accident.  Alex was supposed to go to help his friend, but he chose not to because he was too busy to help his friend.  Now his friend is dead, and Alex is left to absorb, to hurt, and to work through the tremendous grief.

Watching that episode just now pulled out things I don’t even know if I’ve let myself realize were there.  As he voices how scared he is in this world that can change in a heartbeat into something truly unrecognizable to you.  As he talks about how to go on from here, what it all means–or doesn’t.  Watching it, I recognized many of those feelings–feelings of “what’s the point,” feelings of “I should have,” feelings of “why am I even here” and “how can he not be here”?

I truly believe that art–whether it be music or painting or acting or writing–can be the deepest expression of our existence on this planet.  Some of that is giving what is inside the artist a voice.  Some of it is giving the observer, the reader, the hearer the permission to feel what’s inside them.

There is a part in the episode when Alex is being questioned about whether he believes in God, and he talks about how he thinks God is sometimes a dolphin, swimming in the ocean, and sometimes God is at the trader on the stock market  trading floor.  I thought to myself when he said it, “God truly is each one of us… inside of us… experiencing life in us and through us.  He is not out there.  He is in here.”

I write about life, maybe in the hopes that you, the reader will see it and embrace it for all it is here to teach us.  I hope one day to write something that touches me the way Micheal and the Family Ties writers touched me.  It was truly a gift.


Writing Faster

March 21, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

Recently I have had the profound honor to become my daughter’s favorite author.  Now, honestly, I never saw this coming particularly with this child.  She is now 15, and although she has been a reader, it’s never quite been like this.

First, she always liked historicals and more particularly historical mysteries.  When I’d even mention romance, she would turn up her nose.  It wasn’t until her cousin, who happens to be a 25-year-old guy, called one night and opened with, “Okay, I’ve got to know is Nick right about Jaylon?”

Now I have to admit, I get very involved with my stories while I’m writing them and while I’m editing them, but once they are out, I tend to forget names, dates, and even faces.  So, for a full minute I was at a complete loss for what he was talking about.  Then I remembered… Dreams by Starlight!

Come to find out, his mother had loaned him her copy because he had long breaks at work with nothing to do.  He was so into the book that my daughter became curious and asked for a copy.  That was January 26.

I don’t know how fast you read.  I used to think I was a fast reader, but I’ve got nothing on her.  She has now read every novel I have in print (6), one that’s coming, three that I don’t even have scheduled, and this morning she was rummaging around in my cabinet because she finished one last night and she needs something new to read.

Somehow, I always thought 29 finished novels was a lot, but the way she reads… I might be in trouble!

It’s kind of funny because she was always one that kind of resented my time writing.  Now she’s telling me I’d better hop to it because she’s going to need more to read.

Oh, sure, she has some complaints.  One of the books she read was the VERY ROUGH copy that I printed out as I was writing the thing, replete with ???? in the spots I didn’t know what things were called.  She would really prefer extended lines of books with the same characters, and it frustrates her that I don’t stay with the same characters–sometimes even in the same series.  And she has had some issues with her friends at school stealing the books that aren’t in print because they can’t get them anywhere else.

But other than that… :)

So I’d better go and get to writing faster.  My newest #1 fan is running out of reading material.


The Long Road Back

March 15, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

Have you ever noticed how temporary this life is?  Sometimes we can go for days, weeks, months, years without being reminded, and we begin to believe that things are the way they are and they will always be that way… and then they aren’t.

As you know if you’ve been reading my posts, I’ve been having computer issues.  Well, it is now confirmed that they were more than just “issues.”  Translation:  I had a full-scale, lost everything crash.

Thankfully, when the drive started going bad, I got on Carbonite and backed everything up.  By “everything” I mean whatever it actually managed to back up.  It took 18 days.  The morning Carbonite finally said, “100%,” was the day of the fires.  By the time I plugged the computer in again, all I could get was the C:/ prompt.  No Windows.  No XP.  No nothing.  Just a blank, black screen with “Please reboot with your disc at the C:/ prompt” notation.

What could I do?  I took it in.

Sure enough, the hard drive crashed.  The poor guy trying to restore it had to put it in the freezer after every five minutes of downloading the information because it kept overheating.  He only got some files off of it.

So, it was kind of like starting all back over when I plugged it in again.  Except this time I didn’t have all of the “here’s how to hook this up and make it work” manuals–or if I did, I couldn’t find them.  (Have I ever mentioned I’m not exactly Organization Central around here?)

I did go to Carbonite, though honestly it took me a full day to even have the guts to do that… what if everything was just… gone?  Alas, and thank God in Heaven (and I mean that!), He saved my information at the very last possible second.  So Carbonite is now on this marathon downloading thing that is apparently going to take “a few days” to accomplish.

Then… well, I guess we’ll see what I’ve got and what is gone.  *Gulp*

One thing I’m particularly bummed about is that I may well have lost many if not most of the emails from Dennis.  That stinks.  Reminds me again how temporary things in this life are.

Then I remember how the people in the fires and those in Japan have literally lost everything–not just a computer hard drive–but EVERYTHING.  In fact, on a massive scale, those in Japan have lost loved ones, their homes, their jobs, their businesses…

It’s very difficult to deal with the temporariness of life.  Thinking about it tends to illicit both fear and resignation, for if everything is so temporary, why put any effort into anything?

This morning my son asked how old the oldest person in the world is.  I just happened to know that the former oldest person was 126 and she just died recently.  My son said, “It’s too bad about Adam and Eve.  If they hadn’t messed up, we could all live for 1,000 years.”  I said, “Yes, but what about that Jesus guy?”  He got really serious and said, “At least we get to live forever in Heaven.”

I guess I should have titled this piece the Long Road to Somewhere Else because the truth is, I’ll never be able to go “back.”  None of us can.  All we can do is breathe, and push forward.  Thankfully our forward will never really end, and wherever we go from here, God will be with us.

It’s times like this that that knowledge is VERY comforting.


The “Joy” of Computer Issues

March 7, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

I wanted to let you know that my computer is not playing fair with me AT ALL.  We are currently limping (emphasis on “LIMPING”) along, doing the bare minimum until we can get the computer issues resolved.

Until I’m back online, remember you can check out the new story going at:  http://spiritlightworks.wordpress.com or the great info over at:  http://godpositive.wordpress.com

I hope to be back up and running strong by next week, but prayers toward that end would be appreciated!

Thanks and happy reading!


The Spelling “Trick”

March 3, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

In case some of you have small children who are just learning to spell, here’s the spelling trick I learned with my son last week.  It is not so much a trick to know how to spell a word but more a trick to help you learn a word.  It works best with one or two words a week–a whole list is a lot harder.  And it is best if you start with the hardest word on the spelling test on Monday and repeat the trick each night with the word.

With all that said, here’s the trick.  Take a white marker board and write the full word on the board.  For this example, let’s use the word “could.”

So you write:

could

Have the child look at the word and spell it out loud a couple of times (LOOKING at the word–the object is to get the child’s vision to remember how the word looks).  Once the child has spelled the word out loud, looking at it a couple of times, now erase ONE LETTER.  For this at first, I usually choose the easiest letter to remember.  So now the “word” looks like this:

ould

Have the child spell THE WHOLE WORD out loud “c o u l d” even though the “c” is no longer visible.  Once they do that, now erase another letter.  The word now looks like this:

ou d

Have the student spell the word three times saying ALL of the letters “c o u l d”.  Then erase another letter.

ou

Have the student spell the whole word three times again “c o u l d” — even though only the o and u are actually visible now.

Erase another letter.

u

Have the student spell the word “c o u l d.”  Then erase the final letter and have the student spell the entire word.

Now have the student write the word themselves.

Using this “trick” last night my son learned “could” and “would.”  Tonight we will review those two words several times.  Without this trick he is left to guess.  With it, he can “see” it in his mind and have a much better chance at spelling it correctly.

Happy learning!


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