Last night, our family did the unthinkable. We bounded over hurdles; we pushed past our comfort zone; we entered into uncomfortable territory… All for the love of our faithful father’s 51st birthday. What, you may ask, did we do that was so painful, so far-fetched, so completely unimaginable?
We ate supper at IHOP.
Now, to truly understand the significance of this event, you must realize that our family has not eaten at IHOP since (scary music)… The Incident.
The Incident is a famous story in our house. A vacation mishap gone horribly wrong. A touchy subject of embarrassment and regret. It goes something like this:
Many, many years ago, in a state far, far away (Florida), our family stayed in a hotel with an attached IHOP restaurant. Naively, we thought this restaurant would harbor no hard feelings toward us. We thought ourselves absolutely indifferent to the service and food of the unimposing pancake house. But we were wrong.
Almost immediately, things began unraveling. It started with our orders. We ordered the silver dollar pancakes. Twenty minutes later, the waitress brought us pigs-on-a-blanket. This is when our dining experience hit a sour note. My mother, always the defender of her picky daughter, explained that she had ordered silver dollar pancakes to the grumpy waitress, to which the waitress replied with a sassy, “Oh, no you didn’t.” They argued for several minutes as the rest of us eyed each other warily, before we decided to eat the pigs-in-a-blanket. No use fighting a brick wall, right?
Wrong. Things got worse.
Someone spilt their milk. Maybe Hannah, maybe Ruth. It got all over the table. The waitress was irate.
Ruthie wandered away from the table and grabbed a coffee pitcher from another table, teetering dangerously with the hot liquid. Our family freaked, screamed, and jumped up from the table to grab her, drawing yet more attention from our fellow diners. Finally, red-faced and hot-blooded, we packed up and left, vowing that “With God as our witness, we will never go to IHOP again!”
Until last night, that is. When Daddy announced that he wanted to spend his birthday supper at IHOP. The rest of us eyed each other. Is he serious? What about…. The Incident?
He was dead serious. And so, in order to please our father (who is oh, so wonderful to us all), we pulled on our coats and headed out to IHOP.
Once inside the restaurant, we were all a little on edge. We giggled nervously, fingered through the menu, and reminded each other not to order silver dollar pancakes. But then, as the night grew on, we eased up. We had fun. We ordered good food that arrived quickly, enjoyed nice service, and generally had a wonderful experience.
So what’s the point of all of this? Well, other than as a warning not to order silver dollar pancakes at any IHOPs in Florida, this story serves as a reminder to me to face my fears. To step out of my comfort zone sometimes and enjoy something new. As a girl who is very, very into routine (fun fact: I ate the same breakfast every morning for practically a year), I tried something new and uncomfortable and, guess what? I survived! And I had a really good time doing it.
I guess we’ll always have IHOP. For better, and for worse.
Found this mini display created by my eight-year-old sister on my way to the mailbox today. Wonder if I should tell her that Easter is more than a month away? Nah. Oh, well. It is spring right?
The other night I had an epiphany: I am getting old. (So old, I actually know what “epiphany” means!) Now, mind you, I’m still haven’t reached twenty or the nightmarishly old age of thirty or even sixteen yet. But I am fifteen years old and I feel ancient.
This astounding fact dawned on me as I watched my younger sister’s worship dance class a few nights ago. There were eleven little girls, aged six to nine. The room was filled with giggles and sneaky smiles, lopsided ponytails and sillybands. Together, they jumped up and down to the music, singing along and running each other over to get to their spots in time. And as I sat on the side with my five-pound copy of Norton’s Anthology of English Literature perched on my lap, I realized: I am really old.
When was the last time I ran around with braids whipping all around, singing at the top of my lungs, “Every move I make I make in You! You make me move, Jesus!”? Or clipped on neon pink braids in my hair because my outfit just wasn’t pink enough without them? Or, realizing my friend was going to be in my little group at dance, grabbed her hands and jumped up and down screaming, “Yes!!!!! Yes! Yes! Yes!!!!!”?
I’ve got to tell you, it’s been a while.
I do remember acting like a kid. Vaguely. I was always mature beyond my years, and the American Girl doll went in a box when I was about ten. But before that, I do remember doing crazy spontaneous stuff. Like running around in the sprinkler and having pretend swordfights with sticks and racing to see who could eat a popsicle the fastest without getting a brain freeze. But the days of sticky fingers and scraped knees seem so far gone, that I sometimes I forget I ever had them.
In my mind, I see the innocence and beauty of childhood as something that escaped from me a long time ago and that I can’t seem to find anymore. I know that I’m only fifteen, and that I’m still a child in many ways. But I can’t remember how to be mischievous and obnoxious and sweet and utterly adorable all at the same time anymore.
For some reason, this is a thought that really bothers me. Why can’t I be a little kid? Why can’t I go back to when Tom Sawyer seemed like exactly the kind of guy I’d like to marry and Anne Shirley was my bosom soul mate in so many ways?
As I was standing by the door contemplating this after dance class was dismissed, my friend Beth walked over and hugged me. I sighed and announced to her my newly discovered tragedy. “Beth,” I said, “I realized something tonight. I am so old! Every year, I forget another thing about what it’s like to be a little kid.”
Beth rolled her eyes and, with all the sensibility and dry humor that only Beth possesses, told me exactly what I needed to hear. “Well, Rachel, you just need to play more.”
Agh! She was right! I do need to play more! I need to have more fun and get crazy sometimes. To put down my book or close the piano and do something spontaneous. To remember that life is short and there will always be plenty of time to be sensible and adult-like when I am actually an adult. To seize the day.
There are plenty of fabulous grown-up-ish things about being fifteen. I can drive. I can work. I can cook a three course meal and (sort of) clean it up afterwards. I can pass geometry. I can watch my mom’s friend’s six children for several hours.
But, you know what? There are also a lot of great kid stuff I can do if I want to. Because, no matter what people may say, I can still search for elephants and pandas with the pastor’s kids at church. And I can still watch Disney movies and get all of the cheesy jokes. And just test me to see if I don’t know the words to every Taylor Swift song!
And I can still play. My imagination is still active. And I hope it will still be when I’m twenty, and thirty, and the ripe old age of eighty-five! It’s just like George Bernard Shaw once said: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; We grow old because we stop playing.” May I always be a ten-year-old at heart!
Okay, for a while now a lot of you have been asking me about how I got my book published. How did I get an agent/publisher/contract/you name it? Well, prepare yourselves because I am about to treat you to an exclusive, all-access, no-bars-held version of the whole story! (Actually, it’s really not that exciting, I just like making it sound like it is!) I don’t talk about it that much myself—I leave that to my way-too-proud Mom and Dad—but I figured I’d regale the tale once and for all and hopefully answer any questions you had but didn’t ask me.
The story starts back in 2006/07, when we were studying the Reformation in school. I was in sixth grade, and my mom made me write a short story for a writing assignment. I wrote a few pages about the daughter of a martyr and her rebirth in Christ after watching the death of her mother. If I recall correctly, it was filled with literary mistakes and was way too melodramatic, but my mom liked it. I’d never written fiction before and I guess neither of us knew that I could.
Well, it was obviously God’s will that I continue to write because, against all odds, Mom saw an ad for a fiction writing coach a couple days later in a homeschooling newsletter. She sent him my story and after a few e-mails back and forth we signed up for a few months worth of lessons. A few months led to a year of writing lessons, during which learned so much more than I had expected. I wrote dozens of short stories and even a novella that took several months to complete. After a year, we could no longer afford to take lessons, so we decided to stop for the time being. My very sweet coach offered to give me several more weeks for free so we could wrap up what we were doing and he could give me his final thoughts and advice.
I never really thought I’d do anything with my writing. To me, it wasn’t a career aspiration or even something I saw myself doing as a teen or adult. I wrote because I loved it and because it was (relatively) easy and because it enabled me with a sense of freedom. Although I viewed it as an unreachable fancy, I never gave much serious thought to being a published author.
That was, until the spring of 2010. I’d been working on my first full-length novel, which I’d started right after my fourteenth birthday. When I finished writing that spring, all I knew was that I loved what I’d done and figured it would be a waste to have worked so hard for several months and not even try to do anything with it. On a whim, I checked out an idiot’s guide to getting a book published from our library. Before then, I didn’t know a thing about getting published. I thought maybe you just sent your book to the company and then paid them to get it into print. Flipping through the pages of the self-help guide, I realized that this was a lot more complicated than I had realized.
Nonetheless, I am a girl who loves a challenge so I figured I’d at least give it a shot. The first step the book suggested was to write a cover letter to several agents explaining your book and asking if they’d like to at least look at it. That seemed easy enough. I Googled “Christian literary agents” and sent my cover letter to the addresses of fifteen people who popped up. Every single one rejected me (or didn’t respond at all!) except for one. Bill Jensen, a very well recognized agent in the Christian market.
Even Bill didn’t do any somersaults or anything after reading my letter. I remember he was very brief and terse. He told me it was too short for publishers to pick up, but to send it to him anyway just so he could look at it. I did, and we heard nothing for several weeks.
One afternoon, while getting ready to go out, the phone rang and Mom locked herself in her room for over an hour. The rest of us were more than a little confused. Who was she talking to? She was laughing, seemingly elated, and she kept mentioning me and books. To be honest, I had almost completely forgotten about sending my book to Bill and didn’t realize it was him on the phone. So when Mom hung up and told me what was going on, I about had a heart attack.
Apparently, Bill had read the first three chapters of my book and was beyond excited about it. I’m not sure if it was because I was fourteen, or because I was a homeschooler (he homeschooled all his children), but he seemed to think it had a good chance of getting published. The next few weeks flew by as Bill finished reading, had me do a few edits, and then finally signed the contract to be my literary agent.
After that, it was quiet for a while. A long while. There was nothing I could do or say or write to make anyone want my book, and that was very intimidating to me. For once, I was not in control at all. The next few months were full of prayer and pleading to God for guidance. To me, my future seemed very uncertain and scary. The only comfort I had was that the chances of getting published were one in a thousand, so if my little book got picked up I could only take it as a sign from God.
Bill called us one afternoon in December and finally ended our misery. The people at Zondervan had gotten the book and were very interested in publishing it. Needless to say, we were over the moon. We jumped around and squealed and probably said a million times: “I don’t believe it!”
It took Zondervan several weeks to make a final decision, but in the end, they sent us a contract for my book. We signed it just the other day and sent it back. So that means everything’s official. My book is scheduled to be released in March 2012. I’m excited and nervous and peaceful about the whole thing, because I know that God has been in control all along.
Well, that’s basically the whole story. I still have some work and revisions to do, but I think the book is pretty much finished. Now all that’s left is to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, so to speak.
I hope I’ve answered the questions everyone asked me. If you have anymore, please let me know. I’ll try to remember to post more things about writing in the future. Who knows? Maybe I’ve got some helpful tips up my sleeve or something.
I’ll be really honest with you and confess that I hate Mondays. I suppose there isn’t much to hate today, because it’s warm and sunny and nice, but normally Monday is the most despicable and deplorable day of the week. I’m one of those people who longs for Friday/Saturday, and it just seems like a never ending gulf of eternity when I wake up every Monday morning.
Anyway, usually on Mondays I try to find something funny to laugh about or something cheery to look forward to. And just in case you share this aversion to Mondays, too, I thought I’d share with you the funniest thing that came my way recently.
My dad (who understands my sense of humor perfectly) sent me this e-mail a few weeks ago entitled “When Insults Had Class”. Now I’m not one of those bratty people who will say something rude to your face if you make me mad, but these insults are so funny that I don’t really know if I find them offending. They remind me of the Bennett/Darcy or Beatrice/Benedict literary battles of the wits that I often find so entertaining in my favorite books. I certainly wouldn’t like to mess with any of these people. It would be like, as my dad says, “Entering into a battle of wits unarmed”.
Anyway, here are some classy insults that really tickled my funny bone:
- The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor: She said, “If you were my husband I’d give you poison.” He said, “If you were my wife, I’d drink it.”
- “He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.” – Winston Churchill
- “Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.” – Moses Hadas
- “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend…. if you have one.” – George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill
- “Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second…. if there is one.” – Winston Churchill, in response.
- “I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.” – Stephen Bishop
- “He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” – John Bright
- “He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.” – Paul Keating
- “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go…” – Oscar Wilde
- “He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.” – Billy Wilder
- “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.” – Groucho Marx
Have a happy Monday!
Okay, I promise not to constantly bore you with family photos, but we had a planned family outing yesterday, which is rather rare in our house. My dad took the day off and we all went to Colonial Williamsburg for the last day of Homeschooler’s Week. Nothing like school-related fun!
[All photos were edited with Toycamera Analog Color, in case you were wondering]