I’m a Christian. Writer. Chef. Believer. I live to love life, and write about it. I believe in words. Recipes are food for the soul. Stories are meant to be told. And I like to tell them. I am a writer.
I really, really want to dance in a fountain with my girls. Y’all know what I’m talking about: The opening credits to that wonderful, iconic TV show FRIENDS. Three guys, three girls. Dancing, playing, having fun.
Frankly, My Dear . . . : Dance in the Fountain
Some weeks ago I was enjoying conversation with my Mississippi bestie, whom we’ll call SuperGirl, and my Georgia bestie, whom we’ll call Paige. Yes, that Paige, of Paige’s Plantation Part One.
In the course of conversation, guided heavily by our love for all things coincidental and identifiable, I happened to mention my current binging of FRIENDS on Netflix. In particular, after choosing to #EmbraceTheCrazy, I celebrate my affinity for Phoebe and her near-Bohemian/Gypsy character. Okay, maybe those aren’t exactly demonstrative of her character. But, you know. Whatever.
So, we haven’t known each other as long as, uhm, they have. You know, the original FRIENDS. But we do know each other as well, and that’s gotta count for something, right?
So here’s the fun part. This year at Blue Ridge is the first time we will all three be together. #truestory! SuperGirl and I met two years ago before Paige attended. Paige and I met last year when SuperGirl couldn’t attend. And this year, hello! The cosmos smiled and here we are. All three. Together. Smashing, isn’t it?!
It’s been a little unsettling for some of us who are the introverts of the group (I won’t say who, but, uhm, not me), who are nervous about meeting the other one they haven’t met. Oops. Did I just give it away? My bad.
So, anyway. In less than a week we’re hanging at Blue Ridge, learning to be better writers, and we even have our daily coffee hang out: Clouds! How perfect is this ~ our own version of Central Perk!
Frankly, My Dear . . . : FRIENDS and coffee.
But back to the dancing thing, because this is about all of us, not just me. We also have a motto. Or is it a mantra? Whatever. It’s in three parts. Which is kinda neat, cuz there’s three of us. So, it’s Deal with it. Let it go. Dance it out. I bet you can’t guess which part is mine.
Oh, and you want to hear the best part? They totally identify with Monica and Rachel, too! SuperGirl thought she could hide it, but please. Everyone knows she’s a neat freak and loves to cook. She’s so obviously Monica. And Paige? Paige is the one getting ready for a major life move. She’s so Rachel. Could I be any more right?
And me? Well, I’m still Phoebe. In fact, I’m now Penny-Lily-Scarlett-Phoebe. I’m pretty sure you can figure out the Penny and Scarlett, but Lily will have to wait for another time.
Call me any of the above. I’ll answer. Just don’t call me Smelly Cat.
Frankly, My Dear . . . : New FRIENDS
So, okay. Now it’s your turn: Which FRIENDS character are you most like?
Confession time: I haven’t known how to say everything I need to say. Pretty soon I’ll be rebranding the blog with a stronger focus on social media, writing, and editing. But now and then, I’ll still have some emo to share.
And starting two weeks ago it kept me company at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.
Blue Ridge Ready
Since returning, my peeps have been asking me to share stories with them. What was it like? Who did I meet with? Did I pick up new clients? What are my favorite memories? How hard was it to come home this year?
First, let me say this, as I’m sure most, if not all, at Blue Ridge would agree:
It was life changing.
As for the rest of it . . . It’s taken me a week to remember. To be able to talk about it. To share it authentically, and even then I’ve yet to do a complete job.
Because this year at Blue Ridge was a hard one for me. This year, God grabbed me at the beginning and said, “This is where the healing starts.”
When Healing Hurts
Last year, Blue Ridge was new and inviting and full of connections and adventure. This year, some of my peeps couldn’t make it. This year I had the room to myself, and at the end of the busy days, I went into solitude.
From the first night away, I had bouts of anxiety. And I missed the FurFamily. Every few hours I was certain I just needed to pack it up and head home early. But who wants to admit that, at what amounts to a family reunion? These things are supposed to be fun, carefree. Not, “I need a hand to hold just so I know I have someone holding my hand” kind of moments. Right?
And the conference, well, it’s for writers, not whiners. So I sucked it up. Or so I thought. The thing is with me, and if you’ve hung around my blog for any length of time, you already know this: I’m a bit of a crier.
So there I am. At Blue Ridge and I’m overwhelmed with the responsibility to prove that I’m worth the collective efforts it took to get me there. And I want to make the most of it. And I’m afraid of letting people down. And I’m afraid of not gleaning every ounce I’m supposed to. And I’m missing my best friend who I met there last year.
And the hurts and struggles and trials of the last few years that have nothing to do with Blue Ridge or writing, they rise like cackles on the back of my neck. They surface, they grab for my attentions. They fight their way into every waking thought. They don’t even belong at Blue Ridge! But they don’t care. Stupid emotions!
And I feel misunderstood. Forgotten. Put down. Cast aside.
I. Am. A. Fraud.
Cloud of Negativity
Which is exactly what the enemy wants us to think, especially at a place like Blue Ridge, right? We’re not supposed to learn how to write for God, how to bring His message into the world, or think we’re worth the effort.
As difficult as it is, I celebrate the hard emotions. Sure, they were a distraction. A huge distraction. And when I say huge, well . . . Let me take you to Wednesday morning Group Meeting. Filled with people I know and love, but very few I felt connected to. So in a room of over 400 people, as I sat in the very back row between two of the ones I trust the most, the music starts. The worship music. The open-your-heart-to-God-and-let-it-go music. The it’s-too-painful-to-listen-to music. And for an hour, I cried. I just cried. Through the music, the announcements, the keynote speaker. I couldn’t stop biting my lip as the tears raced. I’m not exaggerating.
It was excruciating. And yet, now . . . I can see beauty coming from it.
I began to glimpse the bigger picture.
Blue Ridge isn’t just about learning to be a better writer. Of course it is that, but not just that. It’s also connections. Not just professional, either.
Me with the Ketchup Man – James L. Rubart
I was lucky enough to meet this guy, James L. Rubart. We’re going to be great friends, and he’s even forgiven me for saying he uses too much ketchup.
Aaron, Alycia and I are now known as “The Sibs”. We’re the siblings who weren’t born to the same family, but Blue Ridge brings us together every year.
The Sibs at Blue Ridge: Molly Jo Realy, Aaron Gansky, Alycia Morales
Blue Ridge is where I was able to meet face to face with some of our loyal Firsts in Fiction podcast viewers. Like Bruce, who took it upon himself to Big Brother me and grab me for prayer whenever we passed in the halls. And get this – one of the last minute conferees came all the way from Australia because he heard about it on the podcast. How’s that for connections?
When I realized I wasn’t going to be able to be all things to all people all the time (I know. You’d think I’d learned that one by now. But hey. Work in progress, here, okay?), when I gave myself permission to fail, it was like giving myself permission to grow. I opted instead to do what I could for myself, not the world at large. Because being better to and for myself is better for the world at large. Yes?
Removing the parameters of perfection opened me. It was okay to tell others “I’m not okay right now.” It was okay to miss a few minutes of class and grab coffee with the Seesta. It was okay to sit in a corner, or in the front row. It was okay to say, “No,” or “Not now,” or just “Catch me later.”
And being not okay made the other things okay. I’d been fighting myself all week, and not paying attention to what was happening. And what was happening was confirmation.
Confirmation that I’m supposed to be there. That what I’m doing for my writing, editing, social media and marketing are spot on. That I’m getting better at what I do. That people believe in me and want to help me on this path. That I have friends-turned-family looking out for me. That I have something to offer.
I took new classes with favorite faculty, made the one-on-one appointments, prayed, connected, ate, hugged, laughed, shared . . . Everything I thought was missing, was actually happening.
The lie was that it was a lie.
Are you tracking with me here? Everything I thought I wanted to happen but felt wasn’t happening, because I was wrapped up in my tears and loneliness and anxiety . . . It was still happening. I just wasn’t experiencing it.
Until Wednesday morning. Naw, I’m not saying it all worked out that quickly. But I am saying on Wednesday morning I found myself surrounded by my peeps. Who kept surrounding me. And in retrospect, they had from the beginning. I just hadn’t noticed.
So here it is, a week later and I’m home. And it’s taken me this week of remembering and processing to realize, I still have so much to unpack.
Was it overwhelming? Yes. Would I do it again? As soon as yesterday. I know I’m not the only one who left the mountaintop and fell into the valley. We’re all gonna help each other back up.
“Next year, at Blue Ridge . . .” (Thank you, Lori.)
This is the song that did me in, Wednesday morning. God uses everything for His good.
“Blessings” by Laura Story. [How cool is her last name?!]