About Me

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Blue Ridge Area of Virginia
Alicha McHugh is author of "Daughter of the Promise" first in her: Numbered Among the Stars series (available on Amazon.com). She is a homemaker to her husband of 15 years, homeschooler to their children. Writing, enjoying tea and creaming Raw Honey are three of her current pursuits. Grabbing time to read is always high on her list of priorities! If you'd like to contact her, she'd love to hear from you! Just email: alichamchugh@gmail.com

Monday, March 28, 2011

And so, I write...

There are people out there in the "great unknown" who look at me with a toxic cocktail expression, one part aghast horror / one part extreme hilarity, when they find I ghost write for extra money and I'm an aspiring novelist.

"You write? Really?"

It's not their fault. They've heard me speak. They know my disjointed thoughts and strange, off the cuff references, strange only because they're not part of my thought processes. They don't know what point "B" or "C", which they were on, and point "F" could possible have in common. (I'm also one of those horrible people who starts laughing before the punchline's given.)

My Rick, God bless that man's heart, is a verbal genius. He could converse with a mute! He is an entertainer at heart too and boy does he love an audience. And what's more, the audience loves him.

But me? Not so much. (referring to audience, not my husband!)

I've learned at gatherings to not say to much, to listen well and keep on the subject at hand, so my social skills have greatly improved, likely from daily exposure to my hubby.

So...why DO I write?

Aside from a firm belief that there are good works set aside by the Lord for me to accomplish for him, through him, from him, I will try to explain the other compelling reasons from a "what makes me tick" vantage point.

First, I believe writing encompasses all the arts. It is theatrical to the extreme. Not only do I get to create characters, but I get to be them, live in their lives for a short time. I love, hate, witness, win and lose not with them, but as them!

For me, writing is an entire ballet performance in a body of one.
The orchestra is my mind,
The music ~ my heart,
My fingers ~ the cast and crew,
The keyboard ~ my stage.

Also, there have been moments when, as I'm writing, I feel as though I'm composing a symphony, the computer becomes an extension of my body and letters, choreographed to a score known only in my heart, leap out onto the display, falling perfectly in time and place to every whisper of a note and every commanding crescendo.

Not only that, I've realized over the years, my mind races EVERYWHERE! I firmly believe this is a result of disorganized, illogical, patterns of thought. I don't mean I'm hyperactive or ADHD or anything, but it seems like my mind thinks to much, to fast and doesn't really settle down on a topic. Like a rabbit jumping from hole to hole to hole to hole, sometimes back and forth, but always moving. Ironically, there are so many different directions to take with this point, spiritually especially, that I will say only this: the act of writing commands me like a general and marches my chaotic thoughts into something resembling order.

Finally, I write to know what I feel, to feel it thoroughly, and then...to let it go.

For this point I have an example from my life. The first five years of my marriage I, like most young married women, wanted a baby. Being in the young married couples at church didn't help. It seemed everyone was winning the baby lottery; everyone except me. To my knowledge, I never bent towards covetousness...until then. That sin fueled my craving for a child of my own. So when I finally got pregnant in my fifth year of marriage, I felt I'd arrived! I was one of the chosen ones! I was finally except by God to be a mother of a little bundle of perfect and complete joy. (I was so very wrong about so many things...God is good and faithful and just to not leave me in my state of ignorance, which was a complete and utter self-centered existence!)

I knew the length of the moments of every day. Being pregnant, for me, was like watching the grass grow. I was a laser technician for refractive surgery at the time and a tiny but crucial part of the assisting tech's job is to watch the clock, to the second, to give the surgeon the "go ahead" to finish up, medicate and moisturize the eye.

I remember cleaning up after a long surgical day, I glanced up at the clock I'd been watching all day for the health of others, thinking I'm still watching the clock...ticking past the seconds till my twelfth week begins. I paused in what I was doing and as one hand touched my belly, the other touched the white bean I had tucked away in my pocket. The approximate size of my hidden, precious treasure.

The day before we planned to tell everyone about our joy...I miscarried. The wonder I witnessed, the thriving heartbeat and tiny winking wings of a child in an ultrasound I'd had only a week prior, was no longer with me.

The fabric of my very being fell away. I was less than naked. I was skinned and torn. I walked, I talked, I functioned, but for a while I stopped feeling. I would look at the sun on my arm and marvel in a distracted, detached sort of way, that I should feel the warmth, but I didn't.

It seemed "breathing" was on my "to do" list.

This zombie like trance went on for a few weeks. At the time I was meeting with a group of ladies and since I had invited them together initially and suddenly stopped coming to the gathering, I felt I owed them an explanation. So, I wrote a note.

Immediately, I began to feel again, even though I was a long way from "feeling better". In time, by God's grace, I healed, I did feel better, but I found writing became the catalyst by which I discovered my feelings again.

And so, I write...

Sunday, March 20, 2011


It is the month of leprechauns, pots of gold and green shamrocks, and for all thirty-one days of March, every time we go to the grocery store, our cashier asks us if we'd like to donate a dollar to help fight muscular dystrophy.

Now, you know that if you just hold out for half the month saying, "Oh, not today.", first to the cashier, then to the child beside you wanting to put her name with everyone else, whose mommy broke down way too early. Then, about the middle of the month you pay your dollar, or whatever, your child gets her name on the wall and for the second half of March, you can respond to any and all inquiries with a kind and modest smile, "Oh, we gave already, thank you."

Well, it was into this absurd formula of life, my Arowyn shined her little light.

About two weeks ago, a Florida man apparently had been doing atrocious, unspeakable things to his adopted children, killing a ten year old girl, then drugged the other twin, dowsed him with burning, toxic chemicals while the child slept. About the same time, a woman gave birth to a baby boy in a coliseum, leaving the newborn in a bathroom toilet. (Yesterday I heard of another Florida man who got stopped in an airport with two dead children stuffed in his suitcase.)

We started an adoption fund immediately. Simply put, all emotion aside~ and there is plenty of that~ I figure, if the children of this world adopt for their own purposes, how much more should we, the children of the kingdom, seek for ways to adopt or, at the very least, help orphans. That's what God says is pure religion, James 1:27.

We had/have only a few dollars in this "fund", a little blue-green planter with the words "Grow in Grace" penned in yellow on the outside. We even, gasp, skipped a meal out so we could give extra.~ I write out of irony, not pride, and a reminder, because today's meal out was awful and I could have fixed a much better meal at home, and should have ~

Anyway, my daughter has taken off with this fledgeling idea of saving for an orphan. Use to be any change she happened upon in our home went right to her huge yellow crayon, an enormous piggie bank. Now, she seeks out coins to put in the little planter. I've watched her do this for a few weeks, and have found the desire in her growing, not subsiding. She either has a heart for orphans or a total belief that her every need is taken cared of, even some of her wants. Or perhaps this passion is an amazing combination of both. Oh, how I want to be that simple...and that mature in Christ.

There are struggles that come to light when children are present in the home. I've never know myself to be this selfish, harsh, demanding and critical as when Arowyn hit three and a half/ four years old. ~Wow, has it really been only 2 years of me realizing how bad "me" is? Feels like a decade.~ Someone on a Lysa Terkeurst's post said her kids have a handicap...and that handicap IS having her for a mom. My heart cried out, "You think that too?"

But this situation in Florida gave me a hand smack to the middle of the forehead feeling. For years I've been thinking about this whole "adoption thing" wrong. Apart from the giving love and family to call their own, I think, what if we keep them, an orphan, from a better home, both financially and Godly. I've never thought about saving orphans from entering a horrible situation. Truth be known, I really haven't thought about those left in the ophanages. Sad to say, to me they are in kind of a holding pattern, waiting to land. But they're not. They are living their lives out too. Just different from anything I've ever known.

My husband and I are so far from perfect, it's not even in our solar system of thinking, but the desire to be Godly is growing, real fruit has come and the hope of being changed into the image of Christ is based not on a vague idea, but a promise given by God himself. This promise is a distant star, but there and growing brighter in our sky. Does that mean we are filling out adoption papers and scanning the orphanages for THE child (gulp~children) to have in our home...

Uh, no. But it does mean there's been a turning of hearts in our home...the "No, that's not us" has changed to a hesitant, hopeful "Could this be?". What will God do if we start putting money aside for such a thing as this?
And so it was into this perfect "storm" our unsuspecting cashier, asked innocently, "We are collecting money for muscular dystrophy. Would you like to buy a shamrock for a dollar?"

My perfunctory reply came fast and sure, my "firm" look on to stop any plea from my daughter before it had a chance to reach her lips. I payed for my groceries and as I helped bag them, my child voiced her question loud and clear, for any and all to hear.

"Well, we're collecting money to buy an orphan. Would you like to give us money?"

God bless her little light!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Daughter's Eyes

My daughter has my pinky fingers; they curve in at the middle joint. I think, although I can’t be certain yet, she seems to have my husband’s nose. She has my skin, eczema and all, my lips, my ears except for the lobes, they are all McHugh. She has my husband’s smarts and, so far, his healthy blood. Lord knows where she gets her height.

But her eyes. Who’s eyes are those? For a while I thought they were mine. But no, they are not mine, nor my husband’s. The shape, the gaze, the color, they are another’s. But whose? It didn’t begin to worry at me until recently when my growing little girl paused in her play and look up at me in a quiet, calm, old soul way, totally unlike her boisterous, free-spirit norm. It bothered me, disturbed me in the way a tune you catch a whisper of bothers you when you try to recall the words, or a name you know you know, but it escapes you at that moment. Your mind mulls over it, repeating itself in your subconscious, relentless and frustrating. I know those eyes. Where have I seen those eyes before?

The other day I was spring cleaning our living room. I have several old time photos of my Pop-Pop and his wife, a woman I’ve never met but have heard much about. I have three black and white photographs, varying sizes, of her on our piano. The question begs to be asked, “Why do I have a picture of someone I don’t even know, much less multiple pictures on display?” Perhaps we save things for future relevance, not just past mementos. Regardless, display them I do. In one picture, the smallest, she is a young mother holding her tiny crippled son. She is beautiful, stylishly dressed and poised, yet everything about her in that picture suggests a fierce protectiveness, a quiet determination. She is a lioness. I know of her all night vigil in prayer when he was a baby with a high fever. They thought he might die. Pop-Pop thought he should. Knowing Uncle Barry’s sad life, I wonder. God does all things well; I have not His mind nor Pop-Pop His ways.

In the largest picture I have of her she is a post WWII wife of a prominent New York banker, the man standing beside her, my Pop-Pop. Her head is tilted back slightly, lips compressed into a thin line. I’ve seen my mother, her granddaughter, do the same thing, I can’t help but wonder if I do that too. It’s a sign of “staying the course”, no matter the cost, of making herself do something she doesn’t want to do, but feels she must. Her hands are clasped tightly in front of her. Pop-Pop looks strange too. They look like fashion mannequins, stiff and cold, maybe it’s the weather. A closer look reveals something else entirely. Though they stand side by side, instead of holding hands, their sides are fused together. It seems they are pressing on each other, communicating something only they know. They look alone in the world. They look shell shocked.

In this picture, she’s no longer young, or beautiful, though my Pop-Pop looks only about 30 years old. Here, she is sick, and getting sicker. She is dying of cancer. There’s thinness to her frame, her lovely rounded cheeks are sunken, gaunt with dark circles under her eyes, accentuated by the black and white of the photo. I feel I know their thoughts…will this be our last picture together?

The final picture I have of her is her cameo picture. I love that photograph. I could stare at it for hours. I was told it was a picture she had made especially for Pop-Pop when they were engaged. Her hair is short, dark and wavy, slightly frizzy, perhaps the effect of the newly invented “perm”, and pinned back with a single black bobby pin. She looks like a debutante out of a Nancy Drew novel. Only she is mysteriously dark, dark hair, olive skin and the eyes, yes the eyes, That’s where I’ve seen my child’s eyes before. Thick brows and under her brows, wide lids, wide horizontally, not vertically like mine. There also seems to be very little depth to the lid, as though the upper and lower brow and lower lid are separated by only creases, not dimension.

I cannot know the color of her eyes. They are not brown, of that I’m certain. So I look at my child’s irises, and as they are the same eyes, I have no trouble ascribing their hue to her great-great grandmother’s eyes. A casual glance at my daughter’s eyes, one might think them simply pale, but they are rather like the billowing storm clouds rolling in off the bay during a summer squall instead of the ominous thunderstorms of changing seasons. They are gray-blue and very easy to pass over unless you take a moment to look. Oh, sweet sight for those who take the time. Beautiful.

Mona Lisa should have had eyes like these, for all the fuss ascribed her portrait.

Comparatively, Mona Lisa’s expression is placid, ambivalent, dare I say, empty? My great-grandmother’s eyes are direct. There is honesty in her gaze which life seemed to tuck away from view in the later pictures. Her eyes exude intelligence. I always get the sensation she is asking questions with her eyes. Perhaps “ask” is too polite: she seems to be pulling for answers, not her own, she’s found them, but yours. There is a genuine feeling of her wanting to know, wanting to know you. Not just general answers about you, but the big ones, the ones some never come to know, the ones Pop-Pop died not knowing.

There is another in my family, named after this distant relative. A perfect complement to her grandmother’s name, she was bold and sensual, sensitive and loving, and the brightest light in my small world. She was my aunt and how I loved her. Charismatic, she drew people to her without ever trying. She was into back cracking, crushing hugs. I can feel the essence of these hugs 30 years later. Her laugh, I can still hear it when I close my eyes, loud and full. She knew how to laugh. The last time I saw her, I hugged her gently, carefully and everyone was quiet…so quiet. I miss her. I named my daughter after her, middle name only. Her grand-daughter will be born this month. She too will be named after her, middle name only.

What is her name? On the bottom of my great-grandmother’s cameo are two of the most elegant words in the English language. So elegant, in fact, they are married together in one of the most prominent tales in English literature. A tale so beautiful and tragic only one name could be given to the heroine of such a love story.

Words penned to her future husband said simply, “Love, Catherine”.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

God Breath Days

New Jersey gets a lot of flack from everyone; my husband calls it the armpit of the United States. So there it is, the place where I was most influenced and most effected, for better or worse. I remember a perfect day from my childhood, and even though I would not say there were few of these perfect, flawless days, I wonder sometimes if I fused several of them together in my mind, making the day brighter, longer, happier than it was actually. It was to be the first of what I like to call my God breath days. I have lived in four states on the east coast and have visited half a dozen more. There are some days even moments which come close to this atmospheric anomaly of which I write, but none have matched it. Perhaps because I experienced them in my youth, while fresh and free from the harness of practised, purposed sin, both mine and other's. Or perhaps they truly are the way I remember them, inherent only to the Jersey coastline in a broken little town called Bayville.

Regardless, I know them and I carry the thought of my God breath days at the end of every spring and the beginning of every autumn, wondering if hiding somewhere between the leaving warm winds and the coming cool breezes will there settle a place of complete balance between the two when the temperatures in that moment do not match my temperature but compliment it with mute grace. These are the days of my childhood when in a moment of running, and I was always running, I felt neither the cool wind against my arms or the warmth of the sun on my face. When, as I look back, I feel I could have been naked and completely comfortable being so, and not ashamed. As such, to me, these were the days of Adam and Eve, times when they walked in the wake of God's breath and knew neither mortality nor immorality. They knew life and loved it, having not the quiet, yet insistant, sensation of air against their flesh.

I have drempt of heaven, my heaven, the place where God will land me, once it's all over. It was full of green foilage and wood, foreign and strange, smelling of earth and strawberries. It was my heaven...at least on earth. For as His word says, Eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither has entered into the hearts of man, the things which God as set aside for them who love God. With that in mind, I tread very carefully. My dreams...my dreams are another matter entirely. ;)

aside~~~I was talking with my daughter the other day about clothes and Adam and Eve and them realizing they were naked after sinning and I didn't realize there was an assumption about the first man and woman in my daughter's mind until I corrected her about her own clothing. She said she was naked in a situation...and I thought about it and said, no you had on your underclothes. She crinkled up her nose and said, So when you say Adam and Eve were naked...you mean they weren't wearing anything at ALL? Not even socks? Oh that made me laugh~~~