Sukkot: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #13 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

Sukkot started out rather sadly for me that year. One of my favorite characters in my book died on the car trip to the campground. Everyone around me was excitedly talking about how awesome this camping trip was going to be, but I was looking out the car window with tears rolling down my face. The leaves blowing across the road to the campground whirled around our wheels and emblazoned the memory into my mind.

“My dear, fellow conspirator’s eyes were closed in unconsciousness, and his skin was growing cold. The quiet, autumn breeze that caused the brown, crinkly leaves to fall around us also blew some of his dark hair into his face as I squeezed his hand and cried.”

This was too depressing… I put down my notebook and wiped my eyes.
My future husband was supposed to be out here, wasn’t he? Maybe he was in one of these cars we were passing.
I had some new information about him. He had a daughter. I wasn’t sure if she was actually his, or adopted. They seemed really close, but didn’t look all that alike, at least not spiritually.
I was starting to feel a little crazy. Supposedly God had told me all this stuff about the man I was praying for, but how was I to know that I wasn’t just making it up?
Then again… what girl in her right mind would make up some of the character flaws I knew he had?
I brushed the doubts away and focused on looking through the window.
“Let me know his voice, Lord,” I whispered. “Let me recognize his voice. That would be cool.”

A Roof Of Our Own: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #12 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

The movers we hired took one look at The Hill, and they immediately expressed that they wanted us to sign a release form before taking our newly acquired trailers down it. They wanted to make sure that if anything went wrong, we wouldn’t sue them for damages.
That was rather nerve-wracking, but not totally unexpected.
Angel hands must have protected the rickety buildings. Part of the roof flew off one of the rooms, but by and large the trailers made it onto The Land.

It was wonderful, walking on real floors, opening and shutting real doors. We didn’t have electricity or running water yet, but at least raccoons couldn’t get into our food storage anymore. And we hooked up the toilet so that we could haul in buckets of creek water and flush it with that.
Lastly, we could finally move most of our stuff out of my grandparents’ garage and into our own home.
Or rather… homes.
It was hard to know what to call our new abode. The single-wide trailers were slightly offset from each other and connected by a makeshift covered walkway. I smiled as I watched Dad nail the walkway together. The nails poked through the roof and made spikes on the ceiling. It wasn’t a problem for us short people, but I was still getting tidbits of knowledge about my future husband. I knew he was a big boy. Hopefully he wouldn’t have a hard time getting through the “Tunnel of Death”.

Widow Woman: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #11 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

We didn’t have to stay in tents for very long. Mom’s internet-haunting finally paid off. She saw another providential ad on Cragslist.
Someone was offering two, single-wide trailers for free, to a “good cause”.
Mom immediately set off to go talk to the people offering the opportunity. She was gone for several hours, then she came back with a bittersweet smile.
It looked like we were going to get the trailers, but there was a reason they were free.

Preparing the Land: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #10 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

Believe it or not, after we recovered from our long walk and got the Suburban out of the mud, my parents bought that tricky piece of land. It didn’t have a house on it, but we hoped to build something habitable there piece by piece.
However, before we could begin to build on the land, we had to clear the land. It was overgrown with trees, underbrush, and big bamboo-like shoots that stretched far above our heads. One of us used a brush hog machine, the rest of us wielded machetes and axes.
My dad was still in constant pain. He’d try to work, but spent a lot of time lying on the ground and wheezing in pain. It was the middle of summer, so in the heat of the afternoon we’d all end up joining him in the shade or playing in the creek, trying to keep hydrated.
At night, we had some tents that we slept in. For a little while we had a concrete block to use as a toilet, then we graduated to an actual portable travel toilet. That was nice. We could make a little, three-walled room around it with tarp for privacy.

A Long Walk: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #9 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

A couple days after Mom and Dad’s first visit to “the land”, they took our whole family there.
It was way out in the country, thirty minutes from the nearest supermarket. The road there was bumpy, but the surrounding area was beautiful, wooded countryside.
I admit, I had my notebook with me and didn’t see much of the sights. Hazy and Maia were staging a raid at a power plant. That was much more exciting.
Soon, however, I had to put the book down, because we were treated to a rare sight.
The road almost seemed to cut off. It turned into such a deep, steep, downgrade it was almost as if you were starting into the scary part of a roller coaster ride. For a moment, all you could see was sky and the tops of tall trees, then you started bump, bump, bump, bump, bumping down a huge hill. Our big, metal Suburban rattled so hard we bounced in our seats.
At the bottom of The Hill, there were two or three houses surrounded by trees, broken down cars, and trash heaps, then you turned to the right and there was a creek flowing under a low bridge. Mom and Dad said that the last time they had come, the creek was flowing over the bridge instead of under it because it had just rained.
We crossed the bridge and entered The Land.

Limbo: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #8 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

While we were living at my grandparents house, my mom feverishly searched newspaper ads and the internet, looking for a place for us to call home. She and dad went and checked out several properties, but always came back shaking their heads.
My grandparents headed off to the other side of the country to visit my aunt, the house felt emptier.
Weeks passed. I constantly babysat my little brother and sister. Sometimes, when I couldn’t take their piping, questioning voices anymore, or while they were taking a nap, I’d go to the bathroom, retrieve my notebook from inside the cabinet and sit on the floor so I could scribble at “my story” a while.
There would always be a knock at the door before long though.
“Jess! I know you’re writing in there!” Mom would call.
I’d sigh, wait a couple moments, then peel myself off the floor, flush the toilet so that it would make some noise, stow my notebook under the sink, and leave the bathroom with as innocent an expression as possible.
She’d suspiciously look at me as I went by, but usually wouldn’t scold me. My writing was my only “me time” and I’m thankful beyond expression my parents didn’t discourage it. (Except when they needed to use the bathroom, of course.)

The Woods: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #7 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

P.S. Email subscribers, I'm in the process of moving from Feedburner to MailChimp, so I apologize for any duplicate emails you've received over the last 48 hours or so. Everything will be SO much nicer when I'm finished transferring though.

There are not many experiences that equal the delight of running through the woods barefoot.
Well, at least back when I was a teenager. Nowadays I would prefer a nice pair of sandals. OUCH!
Anyway... one of my favorite things to do while I lived at my grandparents' house was explore the game refuge behind their home. There were acres and acres of woods, underbrush, streams and waterfalls to explore. I felt like a character out of a story book as I pulled up my skirts, splashed through puddles, and swung on huge, gnarly vines of ivy hanging down from the trees. Sometimes I'd climb up onto big rocks and just sit quietly for a while, listening to the birds twitter at each other, watching the squirrels leap from tree to tree and the bugs skittering through the moss and leaves.
It was so peaceful there. So... clean.

Moving Home: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #6 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

Mom and Dad had been talking about moving to Oklahoma for a long time.
They were both born and raised there. I was born there. My brother was born there. We had moved to Kansas because of Dad’s work, and we had lived in the Sunflower State the last twelve years, but in our hearts we still felt like transplanted Okies.
The only thing currently keeping us in Kansas was Dad's job.
Even though Dad had been in constant pain the last couple years, he was still the college’s best teacher. He had an awesome assistant that took over when he couldn’t stand (literally) anymore, and the two of them brought students to national competitions on a consistent basis.
That hard work was what helped him keep his job for so long.
But, one day, the college just wouldn’t stretch any longer. Dad brought home his awards and medals in a cardboard box. The career that he passionately loved was over.

The Shelter: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #5 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

While we were healing from the last, dramatic episode of life, I was provided with a unique experience.
We volunteered at a homeless shelter.
That was an unforgettable experience.
Twice a week, month after month, we'd walk into a renovated bar named Messiah's Branch, and we'd do what we could to help the homeless in our city. It wasn't a fun job, there was a lot of work to be done, but it wasn't really a very difficult job either. Most of the work involved simple cleaning and cooking.

That said, one day I slipped past the large group of people at the shelter's door in a distracted frame of mind. Words were whispering through my head. 

Clare’s steps as she walked out into the midst of the great room were light and mincing, the sound of them quietly echoed throughout the entirely still crowd. She paused and studied the mosaic on the floor for a long moment before she turned to Seth and said, “I am the witness, may I have permission to speak?”

I wasn't sure what Clare was about to say, but I knew it would be good. All of me felt shaky with anticipation as I entered the shelter's kitchen and got to work making egg sandwiches for a hoard.
Clare talked and talked. The rest of my family and people I worked with were used to me being distracted with inward thoughts, so they didn't bother me. I sighed and smiled with satisfaction when Clare ended her testimony with the words: This is the word of my testimony. By the blood of the Lamb I am now free.
Atta, girl, Clare! 
That's still one of my very favorite scenes in all my books.
Suddenly, my reverie was interrupted by demands being yelled from the other room.
"We're out of tea! We need tea in here!"
I told Mom that I'd slip in there and do the job. 

HELLP Syndrome: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #4 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

Warning: this post is disturbing.

I wasn’t planning on writing this post… It’s far too close to home for my liking.
But this whole series has been too close to home for my liking…
Anyway, during the trailer park chapter of my life, I experienced death strike intimately for the first time.
My family had always been pretty healthy. (Except my Dad’s constant, life-altering pain of course.)
All of us kids were strapping strong, surgery-free, even allergy-free.
And we were expecting a new addition soon. Mom was nearly eight months pregnant. It was a bit of a miracle baby, she had been going through menopause for years. Dad was especially thrilled.
Everything seemed to be going good. Mom was tired a lot, and her skin was turning a yellow color, and she was gaining several pounds more of water weight than she had in her previous pregnancies, but life was busy, and we didn’t think much of it.
Around the thirty-first week of pregnancy, the midwife recommended that we get an ultrasound. Mom was as big as a forty-week pregnant woman; there was a distinct possibility that she might be carrying twins.

Braided Prayers: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #3 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

Don’t ask me how, but somehow I always knew that I would get married someday.
Then, when I was a teenager, my mom encouraged me to start praying for my husband. After all, she had prayed for Dad. (Granted, it had mostly been prayers for blue eyes and blond hair. But it was a start!)
Her words inspired me. I thought, "why not pray for my husband now?" I was certain that that boy/man was walking the earth at that very moment. Surely he needed all the help and prayer support he could get!
Therefore, every night, I sat down on my bed, and I braided my hair. With each weave, I prayed for “my future husband”.

What did I pray? Oh, the usuals.
“Please unify us in every way. May he be a good man. May he like kids. May he love me soooo much!” Stuff like that.
Then I lay down and went to sleep, still coming up with things to pray.
Every night I did this. I would braid my hair before bed, and I would pray for my husband. Then, after a year or so, I unexpectedly got some direction in my praying. The Spirit began whispering to me.
“If your husband loves Me above all else, he’ll gradually learn all those things. If he loves Me, he’ll be a good man, and he’ll treat you and your children right, because I’ll teach him how to do it.”
So from then on, I started praying that above all else.
“Father, draw him close to You. Teach me how to lift him up before Your throne, even if I have to get under his muddy feet and push him up there, give me the love and strength to do that.”

Outside My Window: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #2 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series)

I mentioned in my last post (Rose Petals) that my family lived in a trailer park on the bad side of town.
Well… while we were living there I discovered how bad this world could be.
Since I was a good, homeschooled girl, raised in a nice neighborhood for most of my childhood, I had never really met the reality of modern life face-to-face. When we went to visit Dad at the college, he told us not to pick up the little bags of white powder on the school lawn because they had drugs in them, but we didn’t know anyone that actually shot up on the stuff.
Moving to a trailer park exposed me to a lot quick though.

Rose Petals: (Memoirs of a Teenage Author)

(This is post #1 of the My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author series.)

My daddy came home after work one afternoon with a gift for me. It was a white rose, soft and beautiful.
I smiled as I took it. Then I kissed his cheek and skipped off to my room on the opposite side of the trailer.
Inside my room, on my dresser, there was a metal vase holding another white rose. This flower was several days old, and was beginning to wilt. I reverently removed the old rose from its place and replaced it with the new rose, then I went to my window and pulled down an upside-down bouquet of roses from the curtain rod. They were sepia-colored, dry and crackly.

My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author

Okay... I admit, I prefer to write blog posts in series. This series isn't going to be one-right-after-the-other though. It's going to be more easy-going and personal. Instead of being all about my novels, it's going to be about my crazy life while I wrote those novels. (You're going to find out how I met and fell for my husband, too. I think our love story is everyone's favorite part.)
So... without further ado... I introduce my newest project.
My Journey to Gritty: Memoirs of a Teenage Author

Here's the list of posts. ((UPDATE: This is a complete list, because the series is finished now!)) 

Rose Petals
Outside My Window
Braided Prayers
HELLP Syndrome
The Shelter
Moving Home
The Woods
A Long Walk
Preparing the Land
Widow Woman
A Roof of Our Own
The Door
Meeting Blackbeard
Chayei Sarah
Glass Wall
The Call
New Impressions
Catching Up
Morbid Test
Growing Closer
Just Ask
Sugar On Top
Mixed Reactions
The Big Event