‘Tis the season.
(Written December 29, 2011)

A few nights ago my husband Rob was watching the movie version of Chris Van Allsburg’s classic children’s book, The Polar Express (creepy animation, but I love the book). I caught the tail end when the boy holds up the bell and says, “I believe, I believe!” and then the bell rings. That sent a little bell jingling in my head with the idea for this final post of 2011.

I believe in signs.
Clear, unexpected signs that show up along a path, urging you on, when you’re full of fear and self-doubt but moving forward despite them.

I haven’t reported here yet, but the day after Thanksgiving my manuscript was rejected by an agent I had high (as it turns out false) hope for. One down and many more to go. Pity party only lasted two days. Learned a lot. Moving on.

2011 is the year that I finished my first novel. Proud of that. I’ve had more than a few signs this year on the journey. Gotten to the point where when one shows up I just shake my head, smile and say I’m not even surprised. However, depending on who’s in conversation, I might as well say I believe in Santa Claus.

A fellow writer sent an email urging me not to pay so much attention to such things as signs, but just buckle down and write the best book I can.
She doesn’t get it.
I love the signs. I’m grateful for the blessing. I was excited by them and shared some of these stories with a few friends, but then cut back on talking about them outside of my little family of three, because of people who don’t get it. But the jingle bell told me that’s their problem. So here I am, throwing this out for those who get it.

It’s clear to me now that the key to catching signs is forward motion despite fear. My sister Betty spoke of it often: “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,” her graduate students quoted her to me. And that’s definitely what my mother Irene was talking about when she forbade us to say “I can’t”, replacing it with her mantra: “Can killed Can’t and they got in behind Couldn’t and haven’t seen him since.”

Photo: Anita Jones

So in the spirit of the season, I’ll share three of my favorite signs ~

#1. February 22, 2011~ I had taken the writing as far as I could without  traveling back to Albany to immerse us both—story and myself—in the sights, sounds, cadences of southwest Georgia. That morning I met an interested friend for coffee in San Rafael to discuss the book. Then I dropped by Fairfax library, the whole time struggling with the decision to start putting money where my idea was: plane ticket, car rental, hotel, etc. I walked out to my car, and in that very moment of wrestling with thoughts of flying home I saw that the license plate of the car parked next to mine included: AJR747 (my legal initials are AJR).  Of course I had to share the story with the woman sitting in the car. She smiled and said, “Sounds like you need to get on a jet!” (Then she thanked me for pulling her out of her worriation over an upcoming anatomy test). Two months later I made the first of two 2011 research trips back to Albany.

#2. Oct. 14, 2011 ~ parking lot of Maples Pavilion at Stanford University in Palo Alto.  Well, I’d driven all the way down there for an education Roundtable with Charlie Rose as moderator. I wondered why there was so much parking available. Well, it was because I was there on the wrong day, the thing was the next Saturday.  Frustrated, I made the best of it, decided to do research in the Green Library. Got to the driver’s side door and spotted something on the asphalt in the empty space next to my car. “Is that a peach seed?” I asked out loud. Knelt down to examine and yes it was ~ a crushed peach seed! You already know what I said then: “I’m not even surprised.”

#3. At the suggestion of Aruna, a writing cohort, during this Christmas break I’ve been reading Richard Yates, starting with Revolutionary Road. Amazing work, written from the eye of the storm of detail and dialog. I’m learning a lot. I noticed that his birth and death years are exactly the same as my mother: 1926 ~ 1992, but this next sign really got me: Betty had a few terms of endearment—often called us “Cutie”—but her favorite was “Pookie Nose”. The third line in Yates’ novel The Easter Parade reads:

“Their mother, who encouraged both girls to call her “Pookie”, took them out to New York…”

OK. ‘Nuf said.

Here’s to a happy, productive 2012 for all of YOU… and …

THE POINT IS ~ hope you’ll always hear the jingle.