Picture Pick FriYAY: Another Snow Day

We woke up to a scattering of snow and then a lot more flurries. Sadly the snow is already almost gone.

Here are a few photos I took during our mini snow storm this morning.

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Have a wonderful weekend.

-Rachel McKee

My Journey With God: The Abridged Version

I didn’t have a lot of exposure to organized religion as a child, and not much has changed in that regard since.

I was baptized Catholic and attended mass with my Grandmother on occasion. Nobody talked to me at mass although many attendees knew my Grandmother. I was a small child with not much to say anyway. I liked to close my eyes and listen to the choir and sing along when it was encouraged.

I didn’t know much about the bible. I knew the Christmas and the Easter story from the beautifully illustrated books that my mother read to me during the season of these celebrations.

Mostly I found God in nature. I was a student of John Muir and Ralph Waldo Emerson before I knew who they were. When it came to religion, in many ways I was a young transcendentalist at heart.

I would talk to God while I played in the river. Swallowing the icy, glacier water, I felt alive and awake in every aspect of my life. I felt clean. I opened my mouth and drank thirstily the holy water.  I thanked Him, I laughed with Him, I sang to Him the songs I remembered from church and a few I made up just for Him. I climbed onto the largest rock that over looked the riverbed below and sang Happy Birthday to Him every Christmas. It was our thing.

I ran along the riverbank. The hot, uneven stones beneath my feet were smooth and slick, but I never fell. I put all my faith in Him and He carried me over those stones, the wind beneath my outstretched arms. We laughed with pure joy and I felt Him living inside me and all around me. When I think back on our relationship then, I am awed by the power and sheer innocence.

Then Christian camp happened and that’s when I learned my worship style was “wrong”.

It all started when my parents announced they were getting divorced. Being the thoughtful parents that they are, they wanted to do something fun for me after the blow of the divorce announcement. So, they sat me down and explained that I would be going to “horse camp”. (With a little sprinkle of Protestant influence and activities.)

Cool… horse camp, new friends, learn more about God. Yay!  I thought it would be great, but I didn’t know that I would be a tadpole in a sea of well-versed Christian fish.

My parents dropped me off with my shiny new bible, a shirt that was an inch too short, and a bikini instead of a one-piece, condeming me as the next Delilah. A note on the shirt: I have a very long torso and this was the early 2000’s before longer shirts were made fashionable. (Finally.) My parents DID NOT drop me off in a tube-top and Daisy Dukes. Although with the looks the counselors gave me you would think I was about to do a strip tease on the hood of the General Lee.

The counselors snickered at my shirt and some of the other campers joined in. That was how my first day beganme pulling my shirt down every 30 seconds. Avoiding eye contact with everyone.

The next day at bible study I learned that I brought the wrong type of bible. First, my bible should have been in a more “used” condition. The shiny crispness screamed “Never been read!”. Second, I should have had a bible that was more learning friendly, not one that was so traditional. Then we were told to reflect on all the ways we could make our relationship stronger with God. That last part seemed fair, although a bit negative to kick things off.

Anyway, while I was reflecting and our counselor walked away to give us some space, I started to eat some pink huckleberries that are indigenous to Washington State. One by one, my cabin-mates began eating the berries too. Suddenly I was Eve in the Garden of Eden, leading my fellow campers to the biblical fruit of sin. Our counselor came back and scolded us for eating wild berries. I explained to her that they grew in my yard back home and I’d been eating them my entire life. (The poor woman thought her girls were all about to be poisoned.) We were not poisoned. She was still furious. I was officially “the bad kid” at camp.

My transgressions continued. I made one bosom friend who I adore to this day. We left everyone out. Our friendship was easy and we didn’t have time for jealousy or judgment. We would rather talk about the camp horses rather than who wore too much makeup. We clicked, and just got each other. The same kids who judged me also complained that my friend and I ostracized them. It hurt their feelings that my friend and I didn’t include the other eight girls we were forced to share a cabin with. They also loved nothing more than to point out our flaws. One night, I held hands with a boy that I liked. One of my cabin-mates spit at me that it was disgraceful and may as well have called me a whore with the level of disgust in her eyes. I laughed in her face.

For the first time in my life I was an outsider. I wasn’t liked. The counselors didn’t know what to do with me.

In my hometown, I had many friends and my teachers adored me. At camp, I was the bad girl. My twelve-year-old-self didn’t know what to do with the new camp version of me. Then, for the remainder of my stay, I embraced it.

I went back to that same camp a few more times and with every visit my “screw you attitude” became stronger. I didn’t want to feel the sting of their rejection so I ignored it and acted like their judgement amused me.

I wasn’t completely upset about returning to camp the following year. There were many aspects of the camp that I loved. The ocean was a short walk away. I adored horseback riding and taking care of the horses. I liked sleeping outside in a tent. I liked Christian camp for all the wrong reasons.

Every time I returned home, I was a slightly different version of myself. I felt God move away from me as I walked by the river year after year.

I know now that it was I who distanced myself from Him. I began to feel unworthy of His love and attention. I went to a camp that praised Him, but I failed there. Our relationship became more complicated over the years. The pettiness I learned at camp was just the beginning of our challenges.

My late teens and early 20’s were the loud years in my life. I didn’t allow any quiet to sink in, I couldn’t hear Him. I was in string of challenging relationship. I partied hard.

Then I met my husband and we built a peaceful life together. I reached out to God again, but it was difficult to find Him, even after my life had calmed down. The years between us weighed heavy on my heart.

I became pregnant with our son. I learned that bringing a child into the world strips you of all vanity and arrogance. Birthing my son revealed a depth to my spirit that I previously thought was shallow. When I pushed my son into the world and held him to my chest for the first time, I was brought to my knees and humbled beyond measure. Childbirth was the greatest force of nature I’d ever experienced. I cried out to God in gratitude, I felt His presence in every corner of the delivery room.

When I look at my son I see such bliss, love, and curiosity in his eyes. I see a sacred innocence that shinesthe same light that once danced in my eyes as I raced along the river shore. There is a spiritual light that illuminates children, perhaps because their tender years make them closer to that side of heaven. 

I watch my son race across the grass in our yard, his toddler legs moving as fast as they can go and my own feet are light again. My spirit soars as I chase after my baby. A familiar, but long-lost smile breaks across my face when my son looks back at me. My arms rise like a bird in flight, a voice whispers in my heart, welcome home.

-Rachel McKee

Author’s Note: I don’t normally talk about religion, politics, or sex on this blog. (You know all the things you wouldn’t bring up at Thanksgiving dinner.) But this essay kept coming back to me and it wouldn’t let me go. I had to write it down. I hope none of you take offense from my journey with God. I also don’t want to give the impression that I am against organized religion because I know many people who attend church and have deepened their relationship with God this way. This is simply part of my story.

A Quote To Write By

Keep writing YOUR truth. Explore the feelings you keep buried. Work out your demons with pen and paper. Then bravely share your words so others don’t feel so alone. If just one person benefits from your writing, isn’t it all worth it?❤

-Rachel McKee

Picture Pick FriYAY: Steilacoom Ferry Ride, Wa.

Last Saturday my dad and his long-time fiance Sandra, were married on a ferry-boat. This was an incredibly happy day for me because Sandra is very dear to my heart. (I really lucked out in the step-parent department.)

The ferry travels from Steilacoom and crosses part of the Puget Sound to Anderson Island.

Miles did the photography for their wedding and captured some landscape shots.

Narrows Bridge

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Have a wonderful weekend my friends.

-Rachel McKee

A Fortress of Peace

As a way to cope with my anxiety, I use visualization.

I usually have the most trouble with anxiety at bedtime so I close my eyes and picture a childhood treehouse that my best friend and I built.

When we were twelve, we found an old Folgers Coffee can full of nails in my friend’s garage and began playing with her Dad’s scrap-pile of wood. Then, we started nailing pieces of wood to the side of a tree so that we could climb it like a staircase, (or in our minds the mast of a ship). Then we realized that by nailing three boards between three trees we could build a platform, and that was the start of our two-story treehouse that boasted four platforms and two bridges. (We had help securing the bridges.)

We rummaged through old leftover paint and was granted permission to paint our floating fortress Robin’s egg blue and pastel purple.

In our imagination, that fort was a pirate ship, a mansion, a castle, and anything we needed/wanted it to be that day. I didn’t know then that I was creating a safe place for myself in the future.

Do we ever realize how vital moments are until they turn into memories?

There is one memory of the tree house in-particular that I often grasp and weave into the tapestry of my visualization. One morning before school, my friend and I decided to wake up early and eat breakfast in our treehouse as the sun came up. It was early spring, our clouds of breath were evidence that a chill still lingered in the morning. We took our bowl of Fruit Loops and sat on the highest platform, eating our cereal in the light of our flashlights. Arms and chests leaning on the safety railingwe rejoiced as the sun came up, turning the sky electric pink. The rushing river nearby roared in our ears. We sat there in silence for a long time. My parent’s recent divorce faded to the back of my mind and everything felt bearable in my life.

Maybe that place made me feel invincible because my friend and I built it almost entirely on our own. Or it’s the fact that our treehouse had no walls, which was why it was freedom. Where the magic came from really doesn’t matter, that tree house allowed me to escape, and still  helps me cope with anxiety.

-Rachel McKee

Do you have a method to deal with stress or a memory you turn to for comfort? Please comment below.

Picture Pick FriYAY: Indian Creek & Moab, Utah

Looking back on these pictures I miss the Jurassic feel of the desert. I miss being on the road, the excitement and freedom of the adventure.

I’m glad I was able to make this journey before starting the adventure of a career/family life. I’m excited to take my family to see the South West one day.

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Have a great weekend.

-Miles

Favorite First Sentences

The first sentence is (arguably) the most important sentence in a book. Here are some of my favorites. I scoured my bookshelves and found the most intense, descriptive, catchy sentences I could find.

The Call of the Wild by Jack London. 1903.

“Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego.”

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster. 1924

“Except for the Marabar Caveand they are twenty miles offthe city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary.”

A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton. 1994.

“I used to think if you fell from grace it was more likely than not the result of one stupendous error, or else an unfortunate accident.”

Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo by Ntozake Shange. 1982.

“Where there is a woman there is magic.”

Charlotte’s Web. 1952.

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?”

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet A. Jacobs. 1857.

“I was born a slave; but I never knew it till six years of happy childhood had passed away.”

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. 2006.

“All day, the colors had been those of dusk, mist moving like a water creature across the great flanks of mountains possessed of ocean shadows and depths.”

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. 2000.

“My name is Indiana Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”

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———-

It’s a lot of pressure to follow-up after those incredible intro sentences, but I thought it would be fun to share the first sentence from the YA novel I am writing.

Not By Blood by Rachel McKee

“When the ferry that carried Brian Colt smacked into the arrival dock, his past collided with the future.”

Do you have a first sentence from a manuscript that you would like to share? How about a favorite first sentence that sticks out in your mind? Please comment below.

-Rachel McKee

Guest Post Questionnaire – M. Miles

A few weeks ago, three of my favorite bloggers agreed to form a writing panel for today’s post. I asked them to respond to five quotes about a writer’s identity, and in their responses, they produced some smashing quotes of their own.

via Writers Respond to Famous Quotes — M. Miles

I had so much fun participating in M. Miles’ questionnaire. I’m honored that I was asked to join the discussion.

Perhaps you are familiar with the other guest bloggers: Paul from WindBlownWords and Kristin Twardowski. If not, check them out today.

Have a great weekend!

-Rachel McKee

Picture Pick FriYAY: Spring is Coming

Happy FriYAY everyone!

I’ve been craving Spring. My yard has been doormat with a layer of frost for the last few months. I’m yearning for some flowers.

I decided to walk around the yard and capture some evidence that Spring is coming. I added the pine tree because I never noticed how much I like it until today. I never really paid any attention to it and we have been here for four years.

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Are you ready for spring too?

-Rachel McKee

 

 

Selective Editing

I thought I would give everyone an update on my novel-writing progress.

Just a recap, here is my (work-in-progress) synopses for Not By Blood:

Brian Colt is seventeen years old and alone. After losing his family in an automobile accident he is forced to leave Alaska and is sent to live with his uncle in Washington State. What’s super awkward is that Brian has never met this side of his family because there was a major fallout that no one ever talks about it. What’s even more awkward is when Brian meets his cousin Rebecca Colt (step-cousin, thank God) he is reluctantly attracted to her. Brian plans to go back to Alaska and take over his family’s logging operation as soon as he turns eighteen, but first he must survive senior year and live with an unforeseen, violent opponent.

Rebecca Colt dreams of becoming a marine biologist. She knows that the odds are stacked against her and nobody believes she will amount to anything. Her nickname at school is “Hot Garbage” because her family is trash. The trailer she lives in is less sanitary than some of the dumpsters in town. Her step-father tells her exactly what he thinks of her with his fists, and her mother is lost in her pill addiction. Rebecca’s one-saving-grace is her best friend.. That is until her cousin… (eh hem) …step cousin comes to town…

I’ve almost completed my first edit, and to tell you the truth, it was overwhelming. There are so many things that I want to change. I realized that I needed to break the editing down into toddler-sized chunks. This first edit I simply looked at the story aspect of my manuscript. I asked myself: Do you like the story? Does the timeline work? Is it believable? Do you want to keep reading?

I’m happy to report that I do indeed still love the story. I’m going to go in and cut some scenes and add a few more for clarity, but overall I’m happy with it.

This is the plan-of-focus for future edits:

Second Edit-Character development.

Third Edit-Scene building.

Fourth Edit-Add more poetic language/descriptive detail.

Fifth Edit-Remove clichés.

Sixth Edit-Grammar.

Seventh Edit-Formatting.

I’d love to hear other writer’s editing process. If you would like to share, please comment below.

-Rachel McKee