The other day someone I know emailed me to ask what kind of blog I have. Rather than send her my “about me” text or the link to the main URL of my site, I decided to come up with just one post to direct her to that captures the type of writing I do here. I decided to go with the post about the prank call with the Christian guy that went horribly awry: it involves the story of a specific situation, atheism, an outsider’s impression of Christianity, me being an idiot — all the things that one commonly sees in posts here at Conversion Diary.
Anyway, it was fun to try to come up with one post that captures the feel of my site. I began wondering what other bloggers would say is their “defining post” as well, so I decided to whip up a Mr. Linky list and make it a fun little one-time blogging carnival! Here’s the scoop:
What’s Your Defining Post?
Below is a Mr. Linky list for you to submit the one post that you think captures the essence of your blog. It doesn’t have to be anything profound — just a nice read that’s a good representation of what you typically write about. A few requests:
- Only one entry per blog.
- To avoid spam, please no giveaway posts or posts that are mainly about a product or service.
- As another spam prevention measure, the post should be from the past (8/29/2009 or before). No new posts, please.
- If your post has profanity, please put an asterisk after the title in the “Your name” box in the Mr. Linky list to alert readers who may be sensitive to that.
- Make sure the link you submit is to the specific post instead of your main blog URL (if you’re not sure how to do that, here’s a tutorial). Because of the nature of this list, I’ll need to delete any links that are to the main blog URL.
This isn’t a requirement, but I would recommend putting a descriptive title in the “Your name” box in the Mr. Linky form. For example, if I were to submit my post I mentioned above, I might write Of prank calls and humility (Conversion Diary) instead of just Jennifer or Conversion Diary.
I’ll leave the list open until Wednesday morning. I can’t wait to read everyone’s posts! I think this will be fun. And for those of you who are browsing along with me, I encourage you to take a moment to leave a comment if you come across posts you particularly enjoy — I know the authors would appreciate it!
For those of you with that “attention to detail” thing I’ve heard so much about, this is the correct volume 48 of 7 Quick Takes. Last week Tami Boesiger pointed out that I skipped 47.
How was my day on Wednesday? Glad you asked. Allow me to answer you with a photo:
It’s a picture of what I saw when I came downstairs at one particularly rough patch of the afternoon: A doll, lying face-down in a puddle of urine on the couch. My first thought? “I know how she feels.”
“Why was there a puddle of urine on your couch?!” you ask with a horrified look on your face. Potty training. Each of my children seems to find new and more creative ways to make potty training difficult. The problem with my son was that he reacted as if our bathroom contained the TOILET O’ DOOM, the most loathsome, fearsome object in the whole universe that one must avoid the same way one avoids rattlesnakes and downed power lines. I believe at some point I wished in God’s general direction that I could have a child who was a little more laid back about the whole potty thing.
And now I have my three-year-old daughter, who is perfectly happy to sit on the potty…or not. She’s also perfectly happy to just go in her pants. She doesn’t even tell me when she’s had accidents; I’ll see her playing cheerfully with a puddle at her feet (or, in the case of the above photo, on the couch). I know that I should be putting her on the potty at regular intervals, but with all the chaos around here I always forget, and, long story short, we end up with dolls face-down in urine on the couch. It is this sort of thing that makes me wonder if I missed a call to the cloistered consecrated religious life.
For some reason I just can’t get over the fact that Linus Torvalds has a family blog. I guess I’d always pictured him as residing on Mount Olympus, occasionally handing down code from his throne upon the clouds. To read about him taking his kids to summer camp and having neighbor kids hang out at his house just blows my mind.
My poor husband has been subjected to more than a few emails from me musing about what life might be like at the Torvalds house. Projecting my own personality onto Mr. Torvalds, I picture the neighborhood kid making a random comment about playing solitaire on Windows prompting Torvalds to recollect loudly, “Yes, that reminds me of the time I was WRITING MY OWN OPERATING SYSTEM…” And I imagine any know-it-all attitude from his kids being met with, “Well, gee, I only WROTE THE LINUX KERNEL, so what do I know?”
Oh, man, if I were his neighbor I would drop his name so often it wouldn’t even be funny. I would seek out nerd parties to go to just so I could wow people with my stories of watching Mr. Torvalds (noting with a conspicuous chuckle that he insists that we call him “Linus”) wash his car and mow his grass.
If I had a different kind of blog, I would have already written five posts about this. At least.
I am amazed at how much value it adds to our lives to have cut-up fresh fruit handy — the cut-up, ready-to-eat part being critical. My husband left a big bowl of diced cantaloupe out yesterday, and the kids and I snacked on it all day long. It felt good to fill up on something so healthy, and it kept the kids from begging for junk food.
I need you guys to help me articulate something that I’ve been pondering since I talked about rewriting my book yesterday afternoon: Why is a book so much different than an essay? Why is a book harder to write? I’ve had a surprisingly hard time articulating exactly why a book is not just a long essay. Obviously the two are very different, and not just in length, but I’ve been having trouble explaining it in detail. Any help would be appreciated!
Want to read something creepy/interesting? This Wall Street Journal article about “third-man phenomenon” gave me chills. (For anyone worried about getting too much done today, there’s all sorts of other interesting stuff like that to distract you over at my links blog.)
I look forward to reading your posts!
Occasionally I post updates about the progress of my book for the amusement of fellow writing nerds. Those of you who don’t care about writing and/or the fact that I’m writing a book can safely skip this one and move on to something more interesting. (Like this blog post by a local man who doesn’t believe in killing scorpions, EVEN WHEN THEY STING HIM IN BED.)
Well, I finally went back and re-read the first draft of my book after a two-month hiatus. I think I secretly hoped that I’d find that my memories of a mediocre draft were completely inaccurate, that I’d behold my completed book to realize that I had written The Great American Memoir without even realizing it. Uhh, no. Now that I’ve looked at it with a fresh set of eyes I see that it needs a lot of work to even get it to the level of being decent. Like, a whole lot.
I’ve been avoiding coming to this conclusion for a couple weeks now, but after a lot of thought and discussions with my husband and some trusted friends I’ve realized that I need to rewrite it. “Rewrite” as in open up a blank Word document, “it” as in the 212-page, 78,000-word book that I JUST SPENT A FREAKING YEAR WORKING ON.
Well, I’m being slightly melodramatic. I think there are a couple chapters that can be salvaged, and there are plenty of little scenes throughout the book that are worth keeping. But it’s not a matter of just editing and revising what I have. I don’t know how I didn’t see it until now, but I was approaching the entire subject the wrong way — writing in a voice that I don’t usually write in, taking the subject too seriously, and not having a clear vision of the structure of the story from the beginning. The result isn’t terrible, but it’s also not very good. I don’t think I’m capable of writing a classic for the ages, but I do think that I am capable of writing a book that’s a good read, and this one just isn’t there.
For a few days I was tempted to just polish up what I have and send it over to my agent. With his help I think it could have been fixed up enough that he could probably even convince some publisher to buy it. I had poured such a tremendous amount of time and energy into this project that I was ready for it to be over, to move onto something else. I found myself at a fork in the road: I could continue to let myself mentally check out of this project and just pray that God would find some way to salvage it, or I could check back in, rekindle the energy I felt when I first signed the contract with my agent, and do what I needed to do to put a good book together. I decided to do the latter. And, surprisingly enough, I’m now really excited about it — maybe even more excited when I first started last year, since this time I feel like I know what I’m doing. My agent supports this decision as well; he’s told me from the beginning to forget about timelines and just write something good.
In a perfect world I would not have, you know, spent TWELVE MONTHS on a project that was headed in the wrong direction. But I say with my teeth only slightly gritted that I’m sure God has a plan here, and I know that my effort was not entirely wasted since some of the material is still usable. Besides, at least I learned a lot. And I know without a doubt that it’s the right thing to do, even though it demolishes the timeline I originally had set in my mind. It might not mean that the new version will be great, but at least it will be much better. If even just a couple of people take the time to read what I wrote, I want them to know that I gave it 100%, that it was truly my best effort, and that I took the time to get it right.
One of the things I most looked forward to as part of the Christ Renews His Parish retreat the other weekend was simply the opportunity for a leisurely confession. There are always so many people in line at our parish’s confessional that the priests have little time for extra spiritual direction. For weeks I’d been eager to have the opportunity to chat with a priest at the retreat and get his insights on some things I’d been struggling with.
But when the big moment finally came, I was wiped out.
It had been a grueling past few weeks, I’d been up since 5:30 in the morning, and I was tired almost to the point of physical collapse by all the activity involved in the retreat. Then, when the priests first started arriving, one of them gathered us to make an announcement: one of the men who was supposed to be there, a priest named Fr. Francis whom I had heard good things about, would not be able to come because he’d just found out that both his niece and his nephew had been killed in a horrible car accident.
The news of that level of tragedy was the final blow to my morale. It triggered one of those “the world is such a terrible place” moments where I felt overwhelmed by all the potential for suffering and loss that exists in the human life. I waited for my confession in a mournful daze.
When my time finally came I walked down a hall to see that they’d closed the women’s bathroom so that the tiny space outside could be made into a makeshift confessional. The priest was a kindly Pakistani man who said little as I settled into the chair across from him, next to a plastic table with a Bible and some Kleenex. We greeted one another in the name of Christ, and my confession began.
After I recounted my sins he began to give me advice, and all my pent-up stress started to rush out of me as if I’d taken some sort of medication. The Holy Spirit couldn’t have been more palpable if he’d pulled up a chair and sat down next to us. I could barely resist jumping to my feet and shouting my thanks to God for this amazing experience. It was partially because the priest’s words had a surgeon’s accuracy in terms of their healing effect on my soul, but, mostly, it was simply his joy. He just had some something, some essence that is impossible to put into words, a kind of mighty, unshakable joy that permeated all his actions down to his smallest mannerisms. The slow, confident way he reacted to things; the timeless wisdom of his advice; the ease of his smile; the love in his words, especially when he talked about God — it all spoke of the sort of rock-solid peace that would have given me pause if I’d encountered it when I was an atheist.
After the confession I turned around to look at the sign on the wall outside his confessional, wanting to know the name of this man whose love of God was so contagious that it had infected me despite myself. I stopped in my tracks when I saw the hand-written letters: Fr. Francis.
I grabbed one of the coordinators and asked her if there were two priests schedule to be here with that name. She said that there were not. This was the priest who had just lost his niece and nephew. He had made time to stop by our retreat and hear confessions before he went to the airport to go be with his family.
One of the reasons it’s taken me more than a week to write about this is simply because I knew there was no way I could ever convey what I felt when I realized that the priest whom I had spoken to was Fr. Francis. It will have to suffice to say that I didn’t even respond to the coordinator; I just turned around, went to the candlelit Adoration chapel, slid into a pew, and began to sob.
And I kept sobbing, even after almost everyone else had left to go back into the main room.
A few of the other women came to check on me, each putting an arm around me and saying, “It’s okay.” I wasn’t really in a position to explain it at the time, but that was actually why I was crying — because it was okay. My tears were tears of overwhelming relief and gratitude, the sort of tears you might cry if someone to whom you owed a lot of money not only forgave your debt but handed you a million dollars. I had been given a priceless reminder, in the form a priest filled with love in the midst of his own hour of suffering, that while the grief we feel at the tragedies of this world is legitimate, we should never forget that the truth of the Gospel is essentially the truth that the sad saga of this world has a happy ending — in fact, it’s the happiest ending imaginable.
I’m not suggesting that the kind priest was in a great mood or didn’t feel horrendous sorrow at the loss of his loved-ones. I doubt he was “happy” in the sense of experiencing an emotion. But what I did witness, there in that most ordinary setting under fluorescent lights in the makeshift confessional by the bathroom, was something far more powerful than happiness: the deep-rooted, undefeatable joy that can only come from an encounter with God.
NOTE: I changed the name of the priest in this post in case there are any privacy concerns.