Dear God:

I am a flake. I understand that, and I’m sorry, and I’m trying to fix it. Sometimes it’s hard to answer all the emails I have to. Sometimes I just freeze up and can’t deal with people, and I have to force myself. You see how sporadic I am with the blog. But I’m starting my own business now, and I’m trying to force myself to get it all done on a regular basis.

I would like to ask you a favor, God. Please don’t ever let me be AWOL so long that one of my business contacts searches online for my obituary. Because that’s a whole different level of flakiness. Thank you.

I love you,

Posted in sarcasm | 2 Comments

All of me

Last night I was praying about someone very brave. I’m not going to identify her because she wouldn’t want to be identified, but in a situation where someone else needed help, she risked getting hurt in order to help that other person. I was telling God how I admire this person and the way she just trusted and did God’s will for her in that situation.

Only how did she know God’s will for her? She’d been hurt in the past in a similar situation, and it would have been understandable if she’d hung back and not reached out to help.

I was falling asleep, and I found myself thinking: God’s will for her in that situation was for her to be fully herself; her full self was someone who empathized and gave help to those who needed it. If she’d clung to her fear of getting hurt, she wouldn’t have been fully herself because the fear would have been crimping off part of her.

I think it was CS Lewis who said that all evil people are evil in the same fashion, but good people become good in a tremendous diversity of ways. It felt to me then that part of God’s will for all of us is that we fully inhabit our selves. The selves God created to be good in this multiplicity of ways, but which came into this broken world themselves damaged and broken.

Then life harms us, and we cut ourselves away from the parts of us that get hurt. They don’t hurt as much, but we lose access to some of ourselves.

Years ago, during the consecration at Mass, it went right through me when the priest quoted Jesus: “Take this, all of you, and eat it.” Right then, it wasn’t “Take this, all of you people,” but rather, “Take this, Jane — all of you — and eat it.” All of me, fully present. Fully focused, fully open, fully vulnerable.

That’s what spiritual healing is: it’s uncrimping and unclamping, letting grace and light flood through the parts we’ve sealed off. Take this, all of you. Don’t hold back parts of yourself. Be vulnerable, risk getting hurt if that’s what it takes, but be yourselves. This one person did, and she showed me what it means to answer God’s call.

Posted in religion | 4 Comments

Jane’s Hairy-Hairy Situation, part two

To recap yesterday: three doctors failed to make Jane’s hair grow again, but a hair stylist’s offhand remark got it growing once more. And Jane decided to thank her…somehow. 

The last time I wrote a positive customer-service letter, I was stupid. I mean, more stupid than usual. I left enough identifiers in the letter that they knew exactly who I was, and ever since then, when I go to that place of business, it’s awkward. Because they know. They don’t even want to look me in the eye. So this time, instead of giving mere thanks and a lifetime of awkwardness (especially since it looks like I’ll need to get regular haircuts again in the future) I’d give them something tangible.

Flowers. The stylists’ job was beauty, and flowers are beautiful. I’d bring them flowers.

I waited for a Friday because on a Friday they’d have customers, and they’d have customers on Saturday too. They could brag. They could show off. I’d leave a tag on the flowers so other customers would know a customer had been pleased with them. Right? Right. Go.

On the way between the flower place and the hair place, I nearly chickened out, trembling at the red light (Angelborough has three stoplights and three hair salons, just so you know) and kept telling myself “What would a brave person do? A brave person would deliver them.”

Not so much. I kept thinking maybe I should have given the florist ten bucks to do the delivery. But no. A brave person would walk in, say thank you, and leave the flowers. I would be brave.

The first thing that went wrong? No one was in the hair salon. No customers, that is. I opened the door and both stylists looked up at me.

Be brave.

Looked? No, they glared. They glared with a challenge at this woman wearing a baseball cap and holding a floral arrangment.

This wasn’t supposed to happen — they were supposed to be cutting and styling and weaving and dyeing and creating beauty, and I was supposed to bravely march in, bravely leave the thing on the desk, and sneak out without talking to anyone. Bravely.

Instead these two women glared at me, clearly not of their tribe, a customer in the middle of doing something weird. They were tall, slender, blonde, made-up, and stylish. I am…well, none of those things. But I am brave. So I forced myself to leave the entryway and approach. “I wanted to bring these to say thank you.”

They kept glaring at me. I said, “One of you helped me get my hair growing again — ” (a third stylist appeared from the back, and I turned to her) ” — I think it was you, and I just wanted to say thanks.”

I put it on the desk. One of them stopped glaring and said, “Oh. Um…they’re beautiful.”

I’m not beautiful. But my hair is growing again, and I thought they ought to have some beauty too, right? But brave or not, I couldn’t say it. So instead I smiled, then bravely turned my tail and fled.

They have no idea who I am, this weirdo who showed up with flowers and a frizzy halo of new hair stuffed under a baseball cap. And that’s the way I want it. They probably laughed their heads off after I left, but that’s okay. They know I appreciate them, and as for me, I went home to continue growing hair.

Posted in geekery | 10 Comments

Jane gets herself into a hairy-hairy situation

I’ve treated you guys to rants when a business does something lousy, so here’s a time they did something nice and I was the scary customer.

After Kiddo4, my hair stopped growing. It’s never been amazing hair, but it used to grow at the regular rate and I could donate it every two years. Well, I had K4 and it stopped.

I waited.

And waited.

Waited some more. Meanwhile, hair kept falling out, and I was no longer a hairy-hairy.

I mentioned it a doctor visit for something else, and the doctor said, “Probably hormones.”

We moved. Changed doctors. New doctor: “Probably age.”

My dermatologist office has a policy that every six months you must give them a co-payment, which they facilitate by having you come in for a “skin check.” At the “skin check” I said, “My hair stopped growing,” and the doctor said, “Oh, that’s fine. We’ll just check your vitamin D, thyroid, riboflavin, spark plugs, torque, ink levels…”

He sent me to the lab with a ream of paper, where the tech sighed, looked at me sadly, and reached for a gallon of milk. She proceeded to pour it all down the sink, then began filling it with my blood.

“You’re going to leave some?” I said.

She glanced at the paperwork. “Maybe.”

After the exsanguination, all my blood work came back at normal levels, but two years later, my hair still wasn’t growing more than an inch or two a year. But proving we live in a fallen world, the ends were splitting, and I needed to get it trimmed.

At the salon, I told the stylist my tale of woe. “So whatever you do,” I said, “I’ll be wearing it for two years.”

At the end of the trim, she said, “Biotin.”

I said, “Okay.”

I love researching weird naturopathic drug-free remedies. Instead I walked across the street to CVS, bought a bottle of the stuff, and took it in the mornings.

A month later, I had a little halo of hair. A month after that, I could see my eyelashes were longer. Yay!

I had to say thank you.

But that required talking to people. And talking to people… {shudder}

I thought about going over to the salon with a box of donuts, or maybe a DD gift card. But then I thought, these are stylists; they appreciate beauty. So I came up with a Plan. A glorious Plan. The kind of Plan that makes the household guardian angels put on armor and try to call in sick.

[to be continued]

Posted in family | 3 Comments

Facebook and Heaven: an unlikely combo

On Saturday, blog reader Normandie Fischer finally convinced me to join Facebook. My Patient Husband had joined the week before, and finally I succumbed to the pressure. There were six friend requests awaiting me before I even got there.

I made my first post about how I’d caved, and shortly I started getting congratulatory messages. “Hey, you’re finally here!” “I never thought you’d get here!” “Oh, wow, it’s you!”

It’s been a week and I’m up to 103 friends, including (in no particular order) 27 people from my online parenting group, individuals from my high school, a couple dozen writers I never knew before, my 4th grade teacher, and students from the class I was in from 1st to 6th grade. (It was a continuing classroom, so all the same people, and we bonded.)

I’m thankful for the people who’ve messaged me along with their friend requests. “This is me under my real name, but you know me as BlueWing from the Underwater Kayaking group.”

I’ve found myself making the same kinds of comments: “Oh, wow! You’re all here!”

I’ve begun wondering whether that’s what happens in Heaven. When you get there, you’re only sure of a couple of people, the ones who met you at the door so to speak. God, of course. Your guardian angel. Your spouse. But then you start getting rushed: “Hey, it’s you!” “You’re finally here!” “I never thought you’d make it!”

And some people start ushering you through the initial confusion of what’s going on, while others just stand back and let you figure it out, and all along there’s this rush of “Oh wow, look what he’s been doing in the last thirty years.”

Plus the occasional person who comes up to you and says, “You don’t remember me, but I was the lunchroom monitor when you were in first grade, and I’ve been praying for you the last eighty years.”

I haven’t encountered any Facebook Drama yet, so let’s assume there’s none in Heaven, either.

At any rate, if you want to find me there, by all means do so. But if you don’t mind…please tell me who you are?

As an aside: I’ve had the same blog theme since it started, but the lack of “next” and “previous” buttons is finally getting to me. The theme may change in the next week or two. If it happens, you’ll know.

Posted in family, pensive | 1 Comment

Hive mind

Wednesday: The Hired Killer showed up while I was out, so Kiddo1 relates this story.

Hired Killer: Yellowjackets?

Kiddo1: {points} There.

Hired Killer: Gotcha.

He assembled the pole and sprayer again, but this time his assassination equipment was a good fifteen feet too short. Wise wasps pick the roof peak and then laugh at our best efforts. I imagine that scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the wasps on top of my roof shouting “We fart in your general direction!”

Impervious to buzzed insults, the Hired Killer took down his too-short equipment, and then instead of saying “Sucks to be you,” he said, “What’s inside that window?”

Kiddo1 took a backhoe and plowed a path over his younger brothers’ bedroom floor toward the window, then used a shovel to get everything else out of the way. The Hired Killer slid up the window, did not die from an insect invasion, and then reassembled his equipment. To my son’s horror, he hung out the window with poles and a sprayer, then filled my attic with what the receipt tells me is half a gallon of Wasp Be Gone.

Kiddo1 did not report hearing mad screaming overhead, nor did the Hired Killer plummet onto the driveway, stung a thousand times. Instead he took my check and went home.

Wednesday Afternoon: wasps still buzzing around the roof peak, but not as many, and not seeming to go in.

Thursday: No activity.

Sunday: Wasps hanging out on the siding, but no one going inside. I don’t know if I need to call again.

Regardless, over the weekend, I noticed something: I noticed that I hesitate before going into a room, before opening the curtains. There may not be wasps in the attic, but there are wasps in my brain, lurking. I think they call that a “hive mind.” They may never come back, but in the back of my mind, I’m waiting.

Posted in family | Tagged | 2 Comments

My Writing Process blog tour

Before I finish the yellowjacket saga, I’ve been tagged by Loriendil, blog-reader and fellow writer, for the “My Writing Process” blog tour. I think I’ve also been tagged by Normandie Fischer (whose Sailing out of Darkness just got listed as a finalist for the Maggie award from the Georgia Romance Writers Association — yay!) but I don’t have the link at the moment.

Here are the questions:

1) Who are you?

I’m Jane Lebak, and I know it because I now have my own Amazon Central page and a Goodreads page. I’m also known online as Philangelus or Tabris. I’m an okay knitter, a barely competent mother, a fumbling Catholic, and yet people seem to think I know what I’m doing.

2) What are you working on?

This is huge. As of mid-July, I am now the owner/sole proprieter of Philangelus Press. I’ve gotten my paperwork in order, the US postal service will deliver mail to me under that heading, and I can pay for my own cover art, which is good because I’m going to be publishing my angel books. All of them.


Thanks to Laura Maisano, I even have a logo!

The Wrong Enemy is still in print as an ebook with MuseItUp, but Philangelus Press can put that out as a print book. Seven Archangels: Annihilation is ready to come back into print as an ebook and shortly after as a print book as well.

(Look at this cover!!! Sorry for the exclamation points, but LOOK AT THIS COVER!)

Seven Archangels-Annihilation 333x500

That’s the work of C.K. Volnek, who also did the cover for The Wrong Enemy and is preparing the covers for Seven Archangels: An Arrow In Flight and Seven Archangels: Sacred Cups. Yes, because I’m getting those ready as well.

The two books my agent submitted to the Big 5 and couldn’t sell for a billion dollars? We’ll get those out there as well. Honest And For True and the string quartet novel (where I may retitle it, not sure). HAFT’s sequel when I finish it. The Jinn novel that got rejected over and over again because it’s an adult book with a child protagonist, and as we all know, if the protagonist is a child, it must be midgrade fiction. I won’t even tell you how many times that one got rejected for exactly that reason, despite the existence of titles like The Book Thief, The Lovely Bones and Ender’s Game.

So, yeah. I have my work cut out for me for the next couple of years at least, getting everything ready to go, ordering covers and editing and doing layout and all that. (Which means, by the way, if you’re a blog reader and you happen to work as a proofreader, copy-editor, whatever, let me know your rates. And if you do book reviews, you might just be able to ask me for a free book.)

3) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

See the above thing about the child protagonist in adult fiction. Or the angel in a romantic comedy. Apparently I don’t fall neatly into the genre lines the big publishers like to see. I tend to look at situations and  twist them around a bit, and I leave editors saying things like “You think so far outside the box, I don’t think you know there’s a box at all.” (Actual quote from an actual editor’s actual rejection.)

I say “What if?” a lot. What if you wrote chick-lit but made the main character the exact opposite of what they think is a “chick”? What if you took the basic tenets of angelology and questioned them while remaining within a Christian framework? What if you take someone whose entire job is about  making noise and render her unable to communicate?

4) Why do you write what you do?

They start as characters with problems, but I suspect the stories thrive because there’s a question I need to answer, only in fiction I can come at it slantwise. By the time I finish writing a book, I’ve oftentimes found myself sitting with my beating heart in my hands because I’ve just realized what the book was “really about.” Only because the question hurt too much to look at directly, I’ve had to sneak up on it.

For example, The Boys Upstairs is “actually about” motherhood. No, there are no mothers in the story. It’s about a priest and his estranged brother. But the heart of the story was me asking myself about the dueling vocations of mother and writer, and what I’d do if motherhood meant I’d never write again. Can you see that in the text? No. Did I see it in the text? No, not until the final scene where Kevin and Jay are looking at one another and I couldn’t end the story…and then I realized why.

5) How does your writing process work?

Every book has had a different process so far. Whether it was dumping out five to seven thousand words a day (like The Wrong Enemy or the first draft of Annihilation) or a steady thousand words a day over a hundred days (the string quartet novel) each book demanded something different, so that’s what it got.

And I have to tag two people to continue the blog tour.

Laura Maisano

Bethany Myers


Posted in family, geekery, Honest&ForTrue, Seven Archangels: Annihilation, The Boys Upstairs, The String Quartet Novel, The Wrong Enemy, writing | 9 Comments