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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My Super Duper Top Secret Writing Project REVEALED

IMG_20131211_205004I have been tormenting some of you for a while now over my super duper top secret writing project since NaNoWriMo. I can finally reveal what I've been working on.

So... when I decided to do NaNoWriMo, I was in an interesting situation. I always do NaNoWriMo. And, because I feel like it's sort of a rebellious thing, I always try to write a weird book completely outside of my comfort zone that I don't entirely intend to publish but secretly hope it will become a bestseller. So far, no secret hope come true, but maybe someday, right?

This year, I entered NaNo season after talking with my 13 year old about books and how it was hard to find a book for her to read. So, being the slightly insane woman I am, I decided to take on the challenge for NaNo. Yes, friends, my secret book was a Young Adult. Let's be clear here- the book was solely written with my daughter's tastes in mind. Which means a ton of stuff blows up, there's a dragon, the heroine can totally kick anyone's butt, and there's a nod to her favorite character from TV. This also means that I have no idea if there's a market for it, or if it's even wise for me to try to sell a YA at this point in my career, so this book may never see the light of day. And I am perfectly okay with that.

I decided that this book would be my daughter's Christmas present. I wrote it, and I'll be honest, I LOVE THIS BOOK!! Which probably means it's total crap, but I don't care. Did I mention I blew up a ton of cool stuff in it? I also decided that I was going to keep this a secret and make it a surprise, which was REALLY hard to do because I REALLY loved writing this book. And I was REALLY excited to see what my daughter thought.

And then, sometime in December, as I was patting myself on the back for being THE BEST MOM EVER, I had a horrible realization. I had another child who would be really hurt if I didn't write HER a book for Christmas. Thus turning me into the worst mom who ever walked the planet and would cause my child years of heartache and therapy to get over the fact that I clearly liked her sister better because I wrote her sister a book and not her. Crap. So I wrote ANOTHER book.

Yes, friends, once my big December work project was finished, I wrote another book. For my 9 year old princess. I call it, "Mommy needs her head examined." Fortunately, I could get away with writing a shorter book with a less complex plot. I think this would fall into the middle grade category, except that I may have pushed that line a bit. But hey, the point is, I wrote a book for my other kid, and finished it on Christmas Eve at 11:54 p.m., which means that I SAVED Christmas. Or at least I saved myself from the guilt trip I would have been given for the rest of my life for writing a book for one kid and not the other.

Sadly, the second book is not as good as the first. I am not in love with it. It is, after all, a rough draft, but this kid, bless her little heart, is yet old enough to understand. She just thinks that having mommy write her a book is the coolest thing ever, and that her mommy is awesome. Yay me.

The kids opened their presents, and were not as excited as I hoped they'd be. But they were still happy, and Cowgirl, who was sick, spent the day reading my book. She finished it already and liked it. She did not say it was THE BEST BOOK EVER, which makes me sad. Clearly my children do not think I am as brilliant as I think I am. Oh, wait. No kid thinks that of their mom, so we're still good.

So there you have it. My Super Duper Top Secret Writing Project. Two books in less than two months. One that was totally awesome (as far as I am concerned), and one that was not so much (but the recipient thinks it is).

Which means I'm taking a tiny little writing vacation until I hear back from my editors. Or not. Maybe I should write a book for my dog next...

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Deepening the Psalms through Art Journaling

20131203_232046My art journal journey has been really great for me- but because I am not an "artist," I don't always have clever ideas about what to do. Last night's Advent Bible reading had us read Psalm 6. Now, I've read the Psalms a hundred bazillion times. Okay, maybe not literally, since I don't even know how much a hundred bazillion is. But it's a lot. However, as I read Psalm 6, verse 4 really stuck out to me. It says, "Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love." Now, I am not a theologian, and I don't claim to understand even half of the Bible. So when something really hits me, it hits me hard and I can't let it go.

The part I couldn't let go is this: He wasn't asking God to save him because he was super awesome. No, he asked God to save him because of God's unfailing love. God's loving character was the reason God would deliver him. How many times do we ask God to save us because of all the different reasons on our list, most especially, the reason that we are worthy? It hit me then, as I read those words over and over, that I do not have to be worthy for God to save me. Theoretically, we know that. But what I found interesting was that this was in the Psalms, aka before Jesus came and assured us of our salvation. Even before Jesus, it was in God's good character to save us because He loved us. His love for us, despite our unworthiness, is unchanged.

Which leads me to my art. This message was so powerful to me that I really wanted to do some kind of art to remember it. To let this beautiful thought about God sink deep into my heart. But it's such a short verse, and I am so bad at art, and I don't have a very creative artistic mind. Some of you are probably looking at my picture thinking that I am SO creative and SO good at art. Trust me, that's not talent, that's just being a good student of a few simple techniques. (For which I am very grateful, and if you want to learn some of this, you should take the Made Art class. LOVE it!) Anyway, as I was really trying to think of ways of expressing what was in my heart, I felt really inadequate. And I was tired, so I prayed about it, then went to bed.

Tonight I sat down to make art, and I realized that I still have nothing. So I went to Pinterest for inspiration. I saw a lot of great pieces of art in other art journals, and for whatever reason, I was drawn to tree pictures. I thought about it some more, and then I remembered a project we did with Kelly Watts on the Proverbs 31 woman. Which is when I decided to combine the cute little circle thingys she taught us with my tree and the other ideas floating in my head. Why am I telling you this? Because you need to know that I am not an art genius. I just wanted to make something cool to express my joy at seeing something beautiful in God's Word.

And that leads me to the art I created. Maybe you didn't get a good look at it, but when I look at it, I think, um, that's really depressing!! The landscape is barren, the girl in on her knees crying with her eyes closed, the tree is bare, and even my cute little flower is falling apart! I felt so much joy in God's word, but as I created the art, I was creating depressing stuff. I didn't feel depressed, but I don't know, it just came out. But the more I worked on my art, and the more I contemplated the verse as I made the words, I realized something. How many times do I resent other people's blessings from God because in my mind, they don't deserve them? It really humbled me and struck me in a lot of painful places. And so, I painted, I sharpied, and I prayed. I thought about how imperfect I am, how I wanted people to know that I made so many mistakes in my art, and it was okay. I thought about a quote I once saw attributed to Bob Ross, and how if you make a mistake, you just turn it into a bird. It made me happy to think about making birds in my art. No, I did not actually put a bird in my art. But I think about my life mistakes, and how God has let me turn them into birds instead of leaving them as big ugly blotches on the canvas of my life.

So my picture looks kind of depressing. A depressing situation, and I guess, a depressed person. But God's Word is surrounding her, and it is full of hope. I realized that it's actually a hopeful picture, because no matter what is happening in our lives, God's love is unfailing. Which led me to the final touch on my picture. I'd planned it only being about Psalm 6:4. But as I thought about how thankful I am for God's love, I couldn't help but add a reminder to my rather pathetic tree- my favorite verse of praise: Psalm 106:1. Versions of it appear in different places in the Psalms and I love that it is so often repeated. My favorite phrasing is a mishmash of versions, and I think that's okay too.  "Give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good. His love endures forever."

What I loved about taking this verse and making it art is that in all, I spent about four hours on one verse. I think if you'd handed me a verse and asked me to spend four hours on it, I would have said you were nuts. But because all that time marinating in this one verse was spent doing art, I felt like I got so much more out of it. I dug deeper into the verse and I feel like I know it intimately. Yet I also know that even with all this, I still don't fully understand it. And I'm okay with that too.

Have you read something recently that's spoken to you? Consider turning it into an art project to see if you can dig deeper.


Monday, December 02, 2013

Lesson in Writing Productivity

2013-Winner-Vertical-BannerThis is my (I think) 8th year of doing and finishing NaNoWriMo. I ended with just over 62,000 words, plus I also wrote a proposal and sample chapters that didn't get counted in this number. Some of my friends get freaked out over those numbers. I will say that this has been my most productive word count writing month ever- I probably wrote somewhere around 90K.

I'm not saying this to brag on how well I did. Honestly, I think a lot of it comes from knowing myself, my process, and accepting it. I wanted to share some of what I learned because I hope it will help some others figure out their process as well. The key, in my opinion, is accepting and following your own process. We all work differently. So take a look at what worked for me and see if you can apply it to your own process.

I do work full-time. I've been telling myself it's part time, but I finally accepted the writing on my timesheet, and so I am admitting my full-time status. :) So how do I write that much AND work full time?

1. I recognize and respond to my productive hours. If I sit down to write at 9 a.m., I'll have maybe 1K done by noon. If I sit down to write at 9 p.m., I'll have 1K by 9:30. Therefore, I only write during my productive hours. This does mean, with a full time job and a family, that I went to bed later than I wanted to and I have been really tired this month. But with an active family and a husband who worked 60 hour weeks in November, plus a major work event, I didn't have a choice to put off other responsibilities to write. I wrote when I could, and I made it as productive as possible.

2. I recognize and respond to other productivity cues. I can't work with any background noise or the TV. I mean, I can, but if I have the TV on to catch up on my favorite show while I'm writing, I'm lucky to get a page written. With the TV off, I can write 1K in the time it takes to watch a show. So I made a choice to let the DVR record my shows, and when I have time, I catch up on them. I also recognized what an easy distraction the Internet is. Even though I told myself, "I'll look this up real quick," it ended up sucking a lot of my time for writing. So... I found times and places to write with no Internet access. My best writing days were in a coffee shop with no Internet access and in a car as a passenger on our Thanksgiving trip.

3. I accept my choices. It's easy for all of us to say, "I have no time." But when you look at ways you waste time, then you can examine what you could be doing instead. So when I felt like reading a book instead of writing, I was conscious of that being my choice and reminding myself that I DID have time to write, but I was choosing something else. I didn't do a lot of things I wanted to do this month, but I accepted it as MY CHOICE. By owning my choices, I felt a lot better about writing and taking the time to do the things I needed to do and also taking the time to do things I wanted to do. I did make choices to spend time not writing, but I accepted that as my choice, and I didn't feel guilty. Personally, I think there is a lot less guilt whether you write or don't write, when you accept the choices you make in that direction.

4. I accepted it as a fun "want to" instead of a "have to." I never go into NaNoWriMo with a lot of pressure. This year, I had a plan to write a book that is completely not in my genre and I haven't even decided if I'm going to try to get it published. I broke a ton of rules and had a lot of fun. I chose to see this book as a "play" book, to experiment and explore. Yes, I kind of had that luxury because all of my writing deadlines have been met. But I think sometimes we approach our writing with a lot of pressure and an idea of the rules and a list of everything we have to accomplish and I think that stifles our creativity. Every once and a while, I think it's good for our brains to have a break from that pressure and just let it go crazy.  My book is kind of crazy. But I'm really pleased with it, and I'm proud of what I did.

5. I nurtured my creative spirit. Remember that accepting my choices bit? Well, this month, I did a lot of art journaling. I really did not plan my time well at the start of this month. I joined three art challenges, a fitness challenge, NaNoWriMo, and had my usually busy life. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I did not fully complete my fitness or art challenges.) Some days, I ignored my art challenges to write. Some days, I ignored writing to do art. Some days, I did both. I remember from my time doing The Artist's Way that Julia Cameron suggests having artist dates with yourself. One day, when I was struggling with the writing, I closed my computer and went to the art museum. I came home to free flowing words and felt capable of handling what was a tough scene. I am learning that when I take time to nurture my creative spirit by playing with stuff in my art journal or going to the museum, or doing something creative OTHER than writing, my writing flows faster and better. If I art journaled and wrote in the same day, I averaged about 2k in an hour. If I only wrote that day, I averaged 1K an hour. To me, those numbers are significant, and it tells me that allowing myself creative freedom in another arena makes me more creative in general.

So that's how I got it done. It wasn't pretty at times, and please don't come to my house anytime soon or you will see the things I chose not to do so I could write, but if I could go back and choose how I spent my time differently, I wouldn't. I think I learned a lot this month and I'm excited to apply it to future months.

How did your writing go? Do you have any productivity tips that make your writing go faster?


Sunday, December 01, 2013


20131201_214012I'm doing a lovely Advent art challenge from Claudia Love Mair on the word behold. I was really trying to think Advent, but this beautiful stream is what kept drawing me. Perhaps it's because in this season of crazy, I crave peace, and the peace of this scene soothes me. Not that it has anything to do with beholding, of course. Unless I think about all the beholding we do in this season. If you look at many of the houses in the neighborhoods, and in all the stores, you'd think that someone vomited Christmas all over the place.

I don't think it's any different if you compare Christians and non-Christians. Just because it says, "Jesus," doesn't mean it's any less noisy. The noise of the holidays starts earlier and earlier, and I was thinking the other day that the longer we draw it out, the less special the decorations seem to me. A friend of mine likes a particular song, but it's such a special song that she hates to hear it very often. She says that when you play it too much, it becomes common, and when it becomes common, it becomes less special. That's how I feel about everything Christmas. I don't feel like Christmas decorations are very special. Or very honoring to Christ. Yes, I'm even talking about those plastic baby Jesuses you see in manger scenes. Really? Does beholding that draw me closer to God? Not really.

That's not to say I'm anti-Christmas or even anti-decorations. We just pulled a huge tub out of the attic to dig out our Advent wreath to light our candles and say our blessing as a family. I think we have about five more tubs full of Christmas junk to put out. And yes, Santa still comes to our house, and we're participating in our church's Advent Conspiracy project to build a well for a sister church in Rwanda. But I'll be honest. Those things don't draw me as close to Christ as a peaceful spot far away from the craziness, a place where I can be still, and BEHOLD!

I hope this holiday season, you take a moment to find the place where you feel closest to God, and just sit there- away from what everyone else tells us is supposed to represent the season, and find peace.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

When you fertilize, don't forget to water!

215So I totally just gave away my takeaway with title, but bear with me anyway. I laughed at myself for using a gardening analogy, because even though I love playing in my garden, let's just be honest. I am not very good at it. This year was yet another checkmark on my box of miserable gardening failures. Why didn't I post many pictures of my garden this year? Because it was really pathetic this year, that's why. I have to remind myself of my own advice about being an imperfect gardener.

But you see, that's not really the point. Today's garden post is really about the garden of your soul. I've spent the entire month really taking care of myself, tending my own personal garden, and doing things that bring me joy. I've been doing a lot of art journaling. I've been writing. I've been taking naps. I've been exercising. But as I realized today, it's all fertilizer, and I forgot to water.

One of my most important self-care items is that I take baths. For me a bath is not about getting clean. That's what I use the shower for. For me, when I take a bath, it is all about cleaning my soul and filling my spirit. Now before you think I'm going all deep and spiritual, let me reassure you. I tried to do personal growth and Bible study in the tub. It doesn't work for me. No, for me, the bath is all about taking my mind off of whatever is on my mind, not thinking about anything, and just relaxing. I realized a few weeks ago, during a massage, that I don't always know how to relax, even when that's the task at hand. My therapist kept saying, "relax," and I kept saying, "I am," and then I realized I wasn't. Why? Because I was thinking about it. When I'm in the bath, I bring a book, not something that will make me think, but something that will make me not think of anything beyond the black and white print. I stay in the tub until that book is done. Sometimes, I take a stack of books, and I seriously will not leave the tub until those books are read.

What does this have to do with water and fertilizer? Other than I take a bath in the water, and I usually put Epsom Salts in it (which is a kind of fertilizer, I think- well, at least it helps plants grow).

With all this great fertilizing activity I'm doing to feed my soul, I forgot my water. I haven't taken a bath in at least a month. No gasps of horror, please, I still shower. But for me, that weekly, sometimes nightly, activity is what waters my soul. The fertilizer is great, but without water, my poor little soul has been starving.

I had a weird moment this evening. I was doing all the things I know to do to take care of myself. I even skipped a social event I was really looking forward to because I was having a mini "crap, I've been around too many people lately" attack. I was being really good to myself, and yet I just wanted to cry. I had this horrible feeling in my chest, and I thought, "there is no logical reason why I want to cry." But no matter how hard I tried to feel better, I couldn't. And then I thought, "I just need a bath."

As soon as I lowered my body into the tub, I felt better. I read a long book, and as I contemplated a second book, it hit me. The water is what sustains me. My regular baths are my way of watering my soul, and I haven't done it in a long time. I tried arguing with myself for a while, and then I realized that all the other good things I've been doing, that's the fertilizer. Fertilizer is a good thing, but if your plants aren't getting water, no amount of fertilizer is going to make them grow. They're just going to burn out and die. Which is why I sat here, for no good reason, wanting to cry.

Lesson learned. I'm not going to skip bath time just because I'm doing other good things for myself. I think we all have things in our lives that are our water. Mine just happens to be kind of literal.

Are you feeling unbalanced? In what ways do you need to water your soul?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Facing my fear

20131122_140015I have a confession about my fears. I'm afraid of a lot of seemingly dumb stuff. Fortunately, I've been able to avoid a lot of the things I'm afraid of. I mean, why face your fears unless you really have to, right? Okay, fine. I'm a pretty avoidant person. But sometimes, I'm forced to do things on my own, even if I really don't like it.

Today was one such day. This year our family "adopted" a foster child to buy presents for. We had a lot of fun shopping for our foster child, and we really loved getting to do something to make a child smile. If you have the opportunity to do something like this, I highly encourage it!

The fly in the ointment of our perfect fun is that we have to have our presents wrapped and turned in by Monday. This poses a slight problem for me because I have a very firm "do not take out Christmas things prior to Thanksgiving" policy. We have a ton of wrapping paper, so I didn't want to buy any. I'd meant to ask hubby to get some wrapping paper out of the attic before he left for work, but I forgot.

This is where my fear kicks in. I am TERRIFIED of the attic. First, you have to climb a rickety ladder to get there. Second, the attic is dark. Third, we have a mouse problem, and I think the attic is a perfect place for them to live. Since I am afraid of heights, rickety ladders, the dark, and mice, I think we can all agree that the attic would fit my definition of hell pretty nicely.

But I needed boxes, labels, wrapping paper, and all that stuff I did not need to buy. And I had to get this all done today.  So I braved the rickety ladder and peered into the attic. I spied a roll of wrapping paper within easy reach. I grabbed it and realized I could make it work. I started wrapping presents, then realized I needed boxes and did not have labels. However, we re-use boxes every year and I decided it would be a bad idea to give our icky boxes to someone else. I needed to go to Target for something else, so I thought, perfect! I'll get boxes, labels, and I'll be set.

I went to Target, finished my presents, and ran out of wrapping paper. So I had to brave the attic once more. This time, there were no wrapping paper rolls within easy reach, but I talked good talk to myself, like, "you won't die immediately if a mouse bites you. It'll take time for it to take effect, and maybe they'll have a cure if you go to the hospital in time." I found the wrapping paper box, grabbed the first roll I found, and came down. Unfortunately, it was a small roll, so I had to go back up for more. That roll was also small, so I needed to go up again. Finally, I had to go up ANOTHER time because I miscounted the boxes I needed and had to go up and look for a decent box. All this to say, when I thought I'd need one more roll of wrapping paper, I was DONE. I pieced together some paper for the last two gifts and made it work. There's fighting fear, and then there's just saying, "I did it, and that's enough for me."

Since I am writing about this, you know that I did not die during my excursion. I was not injured. No mouse bit me. In fact, I did not see a mouse or any other creepy crawly creature. I am currently not exhibiting symptoms of being infected with hantavirus.  Nothing bad happened.

Right now, I feel pretty proud of myself. I did it! Of course, it did take all day, and now I have to figure out a different time to deliver the presents, which means that I could have waited for hubby to get home and do all this FOR me, but... that's okay. I did a very good thing for myself, and for some cute little kid who has no idea the struggle I went through to get her presents wrapped. And that's okay too. She'll rip the paper off in about thirty seconds, and that will be the end of that.

20131122_143603Wait, I was supposed to be encouraging here. Bottom line is that I did it. Mostly because I had some kid I will never meet counting on me. Weird motivation, except that as I look at how blessed my family is, it doesn't seem right to not pass that on to someone else. The financial sacrifice did not hurt as much as the five minutes of terror it took to climb down that stupid ladder- five times. Am I the only one for whom down is worse than up?

Anyway, the good thing about facing my fear is that I feel better and stronger having done it. I don't plan on climbing up there again anytime soon, and preferably not in this lifetime, but if I have to, I know I can do it. I think we're all stronger than we think we are, and that we are capable of a lot more than we think we can do. I don't know what you're avoiding because you're scared, but I encourage you to take a leap of faith and try it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The pain behind the productivity

[caption id="attachment_4496" align="alignleft" width="300"]This is what my broken heart looks like. This is what my broken heart looks like.[/caption]

Tonight was a great night. I got to spend time celebrating the launch of my friend's book. It was one of those mountaintop moments when you're bursting with pride because of your friend's success. I talked with friends, and a couple of them commented on how my personality is such that as soon as I make up my mind to do something, it's done. I don't see myself that way, to be honest. Mostly, I feel pretty weak-willed and unable. But I was really flattered, and it made me feel good to see that my friends think I'm capable of more than I do.

Then I came home, and without going into detail, something happened that sent me into a valley. There's an issue I've been struggling with for several years, and some days I do great, and other days, not so much. Now before you assume you know what it is, trust me, you don't. It's something that I keep very private, and I really don't want to share. Sorry. There are limits to things I'm vulnerable about. :)Besides, that's not the point. I was sitting there, feeling really sad. Trying not to cry. Trying to be strong. Trying to tell myself all of the logical reasons to move past what I was feeling. And I couldn't. I still can't, to be honest.So I did the only thing I know to do. For some people, it's taking a drink. Some eat a bag of chocolate. Others might go do something crazy. Me, I work. I find something productive to do that has a measurable result. Tonight, that was working on my office clearing project so I can sell my desk and finally get the treadmill in my office and have a treadmill desk. As I cleared off my desk, I could look at my desk and see the progress. I can't see the progress in my heart. As I worked, I thought a lot about the Brene Brown course I'm taking right now, and how she talks about how we numb our pain. For the first time, I realized that my productivity is how I numb my pain. I can't do anything about the thing that hurts, so I find something I can do something about. A lot of people turn to something self-destructive, but I turn to something I think is constructive. Except, as I'm starting to realize, it's just as destructive because I'm not really dealing with the thing that caused me pain to begin with. With that realization, I stopped working. I had definitely made progress on my office project, but the truth is, I still hurt. Ordinarily, my solution would have been to keep working until I felt nothing but exhaustion. Tonight I've chosen to let it out. To feel the pain. There's so much work I could do, but instead, I'm going to be brave. I'm going to make art, and I'm going to talk to God, and I'm going to cry- a lot.How do you numb your pain? And how do you learn to stop?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What pisses me off... an exercise in humility

I'm doing a couple of personal growth type classes right now, and I'm really enjoying myself. Well, most of the time. Okay, to be perfectly honest, I'm having to do a lot of digging into my heart and into places I don't really want to dig. I think that's been making it hard for me to blog, because there aren't a lot of great things I have to say right now. Mostly, I spend my days sobbing because of something else in my life that needed to be broken. I know, fabulous, right?

So today, I had to do an exercise where I had to do a free write on the topic, "what injustices piss you off?" I'm kind of one of those, all injustices piss me off kind of girl, but hey, I'll play along. I started writing, and where it took me, well, I didn't like it. I'm going to share what I wrote, mostly because I don't know what to do with it, but I hope, that as you read it, you'll find some gem, and maybe together, we can find a path to a solution.

What injustices piss me off?

Being judgmental. I hate it from all angles- Christians and non Christians, whatever faction you are, I hate it. I don't even have to agree or disagree with the viewpoint, the judgment itself pisses me off. Denial of human rights in the name of a god pisses me off. Hypocrisy pisses me off. Unkindness pisses me off. Inconsiderate people piss me off. Self righteous people piss me off. Selfish people piss me off. Lack of acknowledgment of another person's humanity pisses me off. The state of the world in which we are all out for ourselves at the expense of others piss me off. And yet, as much as I passionately detest all of these things, I realize that I am just as guilty as anyone else of these things. How do I be the change in the world I want to see? How do I get past my own hurts and prejudices to bring healing to others? Is it a lost cause?

I haven't been able to stop thinking about what I wrote, mostly because with each sin I list, I can say with great certainty that I am guilty. Mostly what I think is wrong with humanity is how we treat each other.  The lack of respect and regard for each other- it really bothers me. But I also know that there are so many times that I fall short. So how can I stand on my soapbox and say that we need more kindness and consideration in this world when I have no room to throw stones?

So I am humbled. Realizing that I don't have any answers, and that as much as I struggle to get it right, how can I expect anyone else to either?


Saturday, November 09, 2013

Loving your body

One of the things I've learned over the past few years, but really hit home with me when I finished my weight loss plan is our desperate need to simply love our own bodies. A few months ago, and I was talking with some friends, and as part of the conversation, I mentioned that I had recently looked in the mirror at my own naked body and declared myself hot. They were horrified.

Apparently, we are not supposed to look at our own naked bodies and say, "wahoo, baby, you're hot. I'd totally do you." Seriously. I think I look better naked than I do in clothes. Unfortunately, I have NO desire to join a nudist colony, nor do I want anyone else to get a glimpse of all my hotness. So, take my word for it. Naked, I'm totally hot.

One of the deals I made with God about my body during this journey is that when I came to what I decided was the end point, I was going to love my body and accept it as the body God gave me. I'm at that end point. Sure, I someday hope to walk into my doctor's office and have him declare me the perfect weight. But for me, my weight, my body, and how I treat it is all about being healthy. If healthy means I have tummy rolls, then I'm going to love my tummy rolls. For those of you who keep telling me I look great, I would like you to know that yes, I do have tummy rolls. Note the use of plural.

I was thinking a lot about this today when I took my daughter to the Denver Art Museum. We walked through the Passport to Paris exhibit, and I have to say, I was utterly fascinated by the nudes. Not in a pervy way, but in a way that appreciated the beauty of curvy women. When the painters painted these women, they were the epitome of beauty. And you know what? They had these beautiful rounded bellies. Their arms were supple and lush. Their rounded bottoms were full. If you threw some modern clothes on those women, they would not be your Hollywood stars. They'd be the average woman of today who wished she could lose a few dozen pounds. Some of them would be the fat lady everyone likes to make fun of.

But what do we idolize? The women who have to starve themselves so we can see the outline of their bones. Or every vein and sinew in their muscles. Can I be honest? There's a mom at my daughter's school, and she's a personal trainer. Disgustingly thin, and when you look at her arms, sure, they're well-muscled, but you can see all of her veins popping out. In fitness circles, this is a highly desired look. But I look at her and I'm kind of grossed out by the bulging veins. I see her jogging through my neighborhood almost every day, and when I run into her at the grocery store, her cart is full of protein bars. Who wants to live like that? Maybe she does, but I sure don't. So if that makes her happy, great. It's just not for me. And as much as I don't personally like her look, it isn't for me to judge.

Whatever our bodies look like, we have to learn to love and appreciate them for what they are. Some women are super thin no matter what they do. Some women are kind of medium sized. Some women are a little larger, and other women are really large. To me, they're all beautiful. And I like to think that God thinks the same thing. He sees the curves, the stretch marks, the cellulite, and He thinks, "I want to hang that in a museum." The artists of old, they saw that. And in some way, we see that too, otherwise, we wouldn't still pay the big bucks to go into a museum and look at pictures of curvy naked women.

So whatever size you are, the next time you are naked in your bathroom, take a look at yourself in the mirror. Don't compare yourself to the starving models of today. Think about the beautiful curves that you've been given. Accept your flaws and imperfections, and ask God to help you love your body. If you're tempted to put down one of your physical features, ask God to give you HIS eyes to see them. It takes a while, but keep doing that exercise until you can proudly stand in front of the mirror, fully accepting whatever body you have, and say, "Man, I am SO hot. I love this body!"

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trick or Treat!!

One of the things that's been really weird for me since becoming a published author (YAY- does this EVER get old?) is promoting myself. Promoting others is so easy for me- that's been my job for 11 years. But ME? Yikes! It's kind of scary, to be honest.

So... in the spirit of pure self promotion, I'm over at the Craftie Ladies blog today. Stop by and say hi. Pretend blog hopping is like Trick or Treating. You'll find me there in my costume


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Celebrating the hard moments

One of the things I learned on my weight loss journey that deserves its own post is that it's important to celebrate the hard moments. In every journey, there is a hard moment that seems to take everything we have in us to make us push through. At least in my case, those seem to be the things I have to do alone. Granted, for this journey, I purposely did it alone- for me, the fear of judgment has been so strong, because people's attitudes toward me and my body were so hurtful. So now that I'm through it, I want to celebrate.

Here are my top three celebrations:

1. When I planned this program, I forgot it fell during my daughter's b-day. I hated not getting to have any birthday cake, but in the book, she was very specific about not cheating, and how it will ruin your progress, so I didn't. There's some leftover birthday cake in the freezer, and we're going to have it tonight. I CAN delay gratification!

2. Sometimes your best laid plans fall through, and that's okay. I went to lunch with some friends at one of my favorite restaurants. I LOVE their rolls, but I couldn't have the flour, so I passed. It was SO hard. Everyone else was eating rolls, and I couldn't. So I ordered my sandwich and salad, knowing I'd only eat the meat from the sandwich, and then the salad. Perfect meal. Except I got home, realized that half the veggies I'd eaten on the salad were not okay for that phase, and I was disappointed I hadn't done better. But I let it go and forgave myself, because I'd done the best I could. And I resisted the thing I knew I couldn't have.

3. During my last few days on the program, we were at the kids' annual show. Which meant a weekend long potluck. Again, totally forgot about it when deciding this time period for the diet, but I was determined to make it work. I was not going to cheat on my last three days. I made a promise, and I had to see it through. So I looked at the food list of what others were bringing, and I brought things I knew I could eat. But, just in case, I also packed myself a lunch bag full of snacks I knew I could eat. Despite a lot of really yummy foods I wanted to try, and a really yummy looking cake, I did not eat anything I wasn't supposed to.

Celebrating these moments is important to me also because the remembrance of getting through the hard times helps get you through the next hard time. When I saw that yummy cake at annual show, I remembered the cake at my daughter's birthday, and the strength I had to not have a piece, or even lick the frosting that got on my hands. I knew I could do it because I did it before!

I'm not the first to come up with this idea- One of the things I love about reading the Old Testament is how there are so many moments of remembrance- remembering the hard times, and how God got them through. Because really, even though I chalk this up to my willpower of resisting, it wasn't all my own willpower. All of these times of resistance had some serious, "God, please help me," moments. And, as I look back at those moments of being able to resist, I know that before each one, I specifically asked God for help. I KNEW those were going to be hard times. And I told God the only way I'd get through them was with His help.

Come to think of it, the two days a week that had me in abject misery and hunger because meat and veggies alone just do not do it for me, those were the days when I prayed the most. Because I was miserable, and I could not do it on my own. Two thoughts sustained me- I've done it before, and I can do it again, AND, God, please get me through these two days.

But these hard moments- they're not just about my diet. They're about so many more hard moments I have walked through in my life lately. I'm in a season of hard. Funny, since I've had so much outward success, but inward- holy cow. It seems like every day for the past couple of months, it's been a new level of "really? I have to face THIS now, too?" But I do. And because I have reminders of the things God has helped me conquer, I've been able to conquer those things too. Okay, maybe not conquer. But they haven't defeated me either.

I don't know what battle you're facing. But I think we all have some kind of battle in our lives- whether it's something private or something public. I encourage you to sit down, search out the victories in your life, and celebrate them. Call on them when things get rough. Remember that you've been victorious before, you can do it again.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Diet Lessons

I've been on a secret mission for the past month. I haven't told many people, because honestly, I didn't want their opinion. This past month has been about ME, and doing something good for myself. I spent the past month on a weight loss program. And this is where I mute all the comments. In the past, when I've talked about losing weight, I either hear, "you don't need to lose weight," or "it's about time." We've all heard hurtful comments about our weight, and even though my weight has never been an extreme, I've been hearing the "you need to lose weight" lecture from my doctor for several years. I've also been shamed by a number of people close to me because they thought I was overweight.

Over the years, I've tried different methods of losing weight. I've tried exercise (I always gain both weight and inches with exercise alone), diet (which has also made me gain), and a combo of diet and exercise. I have never tried any supplements- for a variety of reasons, but we won't go into that. My point is, nothing has worked. Then, a friend told me about Haylie Pomroy's Fast Metabolism Diet. I was a skeptic, so I borrowed it from the library and read it. What she said made sense. The problem with this program is that you have to stick to it strictly for a full four weeks. With my busy life and travel, I had a hard time finding four weeks where I was home and able to do it. This past month was finally that time. I'll review the book in a later post, so if you're interested, stay tuned. :)

Because this post is not about the book. It's what I learned about ME.

When I began this month, I made myself and God a promise. With everything I've tried to get my weight under control over the past few years, I've always had the thought, "maybe this is the size God wants me to be." But then I wondered if it was a cop out. Was I just making excuses for those extra pounds? Then I went back to asking myself if I could accept my body as it was, no matter what. This brings me back to my promise. I would do this diet, no cheating, exactly as I was supposed to for the month. Whatever body I ended up with at the end of the month, I was going to be happy with. Even if I didn't lose a pound. I was going to embrace my body and love it.

Here is what I learned:

1. I am not a slave to food. Yes, I like food. Yes, I like to eat some foods that are bad for me. But I can easily do without. I had no cravings that I could not control with a diet-friendly food. The hardest thing for me to give up was tea. Yes, tea. No real tea for an entire month. For those who know me, you know that would be hard. But not only did I do it, I had absolutely no withdrawal symptoms from lack of tea or caffeine (another no-no).

2. I am happiest eating a balanced diet. The diet requires you to eat different combinations of food on different days. Two days of the week, you eat nothing but meat and vegetables. I was MISERABLE on those days. The days in which I could have all food groups (minus the bad foods), I was completely happy and satisfied. This tells me that I need to always remember to eat a variety of foods.

3. It matters what you call your food. For the most part, every food I ate on the diet are things I normally eat. My family did not know for the first two weeks that I was on a diet. They only noticed when we were at a restaurant and I asked about ingredients in a dish. Then of course, they whined about eating my stupid diet food, which cracked me up because it was the same stuff I'd been making.

4. Planning your meals and snacks is important. I loved this diet because it came with menu plans that suggested what to eat for each meal and snack. I followed this quite often, and I realized that my primary food problem is that I forget to eat, or, when I decide I should eat something, I don't know what to eat, so I make a bad choice. I now feel more confident in making better choices, even when my cupboard is bare. My new favorite snack- take some frozen blueberries from the freezer, sprinkle a little cinnamon on them, microwave for 30 seconds, and YUM!

5. Regarding the "E" word. Everyone who knows me knows that I hate to exercise. My doctor claims that is my primary problem regarding my weight. I've worked with personal trainers, and honestly, it always made me feel worse. I was sore, cranky, and still gained weight. With this diet, you do one day of cardio, one day of weights, and one day of something like yoga or massage- something to calm your body and make it happy. I'll admit the cardio was a challenge, and I probably didn't do it well enough. I don't think I will ever love cardio, sorry. But I do love my kettle bell workouts, and I realized that doing shorter versions, twice a week, plus my daily walk with my dog, and then giving myself one day of pampering myself, that makes me feel great. I think sometimes we overdo the exercise and we don't listen to our bodies. The daily gym thing made me miserable (and I know it brings some people joy). But thinking of exercise in terms of being good to my body, and making it healthier and stronger a little bit at a time, that made me feel really good.

So why does my weight loss program of the past month matter to you?

One size does not fit all.

The most valuable lesson I learned is that one size does not fit all. I have friends who have lost incredible amounts of weight doing different things. I've seen people lose weight doing things that make me gain weight. It's so discouraging! The friend who recommended this book to me couldn't stay on the diet because she got horrible migraines from lack of soy. So here is where I want you to take heart. Take my lessons and apply them in a way that fits you, and your lifestyle. I spent years doing everything "right" diet and exercise wise and still gained weight. We read articles and books, and listen to advice, and the truth is, our bodies are all different. It took me a month to find the right combo of exercise that made me feel good. There are certain combos of foods that make me feel good, and others that leave me miserable. It is your body, listen to it!

You have to learn to forgive yourself.

Though I never "cheated," I did make mistakes on this diet.  The primary driving force is that on certain days, you eat certain food combinations. I don't think there was a single week where I did not accidentally add a food that wasn't allowed on that day. The first time, I was so disappointed in myself because I wanted to do it right. I made a mess of finding the right cardio, and didn't come up with something until the last week. I honestly did my best, and when I look back at my choices, I may not have done everything perfectly, but I did give it my very best effort. Rather than giving up with each mistake, I forgave myself, and moved forward. Forgiving yourself is the best way to keep going.

Ultimately, I did not lose the weight touted by the book, or even the weight I wanted. My doctor will be pleased I've lost weight, but according to the number in his head, I have about ten more pounds to go. My nutritionist thinks my weight is fine, and she's hoping I don't lose more weight, so go figure. That said, this is the most weight I've ever lost in a month. I feel absolutely great. People tell me I look great. And, according to the promise I made to myself and God, this is the weight I will be happy with.

For those obsessed with numbers, here's the breakdown:

Total weight lost: 7 poundsWaist inches lost: 4
Hips inches lost: 0
Chest inches lost: 4
Bicep inches lost: 2

I also want to point out that my face seems thinner to me, but I don't know how you'd measure it.

Tell me about your weight loss journey. Are you trying to lose weight? Are you encouraged by the process, or are you like I was, discouraged by doing everything you can with no results?



Thursday, October 03, 2013

What doesn't change when you get published

Hi everyone! I'm guest blogging over at Seekerville today, so stop by and say hi!



Seeker Guest Danica Favorite


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The sickness of a "me first" culture

[caption id="attachment_4464" align="alignleft" width="279"]021 Danica's dream home[/caption]

I posted the other day about being an introvert. The truth is, if I could find a way to make my life work this way, I would be one of those crazy ladies living on top of a mountain and never leave my house. That's right. Never. Because as much as I long to travel and see new places, people terrify me.

Today I had a terrifying experience out in public. I went to the library on the way to the girls' piano lesson. That shouldn't be a scary experience, but it was. We pulled up to the drop off lane, just as we normally do when dropping off a book. My daughter returned the books as normal, and then I went to leave. I was parked normally- legally- and there was about half a car length between me and the car behind me. A lady, who decided that her need to return her books was more important than decency, parked crookedly in that spot, making it seemingly impossible for both me and the car behind her to leave. I surveyed the situation. There was a line for the book return computer. The people in the car in front of me had gotten out and were playing in the grass. I would be stuck for at least ten minutes. We had a piano lesson to get to. So I decided to see if I could wiggle my way out.

As I started doing the back up, turn the wheel, go forward, turn the wheel, go back, thing, the lady who'd parked so inconsiderately jumped between my car and her car and started pounding on the back of my car. She was lucky I'm good on the brake. She then came around to the driver side window and started pounding on it, demanding that I roll my window down. Um, no. She's already demonstrated that she's crazy by her banging on my car stunt, there's no way I'm going to not have a big sheet of glass between the two of us. Lady starts screaming at me.

Hadn't I noticed that she was parked crooked behind me? Um, yes, actually I had. Let us examine who was parked illegally here. But I didn't say that. Because my heart was pounding and my kids were terrified that some crazy lady was banging on my window and screaming at me. I told her to get out of my way. She responded by saying that she wasn't leaving until she got her books returned. Okay, fine. But you can't return your books standing in front of my car, blocking it from leaving. She told me that she was just trying to keep me from getting a ticket. Actually, no. She was trying to keep me from hitting her car, but I would say that if there was enough room for her to walk between my car and her car and pound on my windows, I still had enough room to back up and get out.  But hey, what do I know?

This lady kept pounding on my car, screaming at me. Now here's what I want to know- now that I'm not in the middle of the situation and not extremely scared of what crazy lady is going to do, and thinking that my kids are in the car, and God only knows what crazy lady is going to do- what exactly did she think she was going to accomplish standing there, screaming at me?

Finally, after the second time I told her to move, I realized that she thought I still wanted her to move her car. So I said, well, okay, yelled, because I did have my window up, and I was a little freaked out, "move your body." After the third time, she finally got out of my way, I backed up a few inches, moved forward a few inches, backed up a couple more inches, cranked my wheel, and got the heck out of there. As I was pulling out, she was still standing on the sidewalk, screaming at me.

Please note: I did not hit anyone's car. No one moved their car but me. Which is to say, all the bad things going on in this lady's mind did not come to pass. But she did scare the crap out of me and my kids.

I try really hard to remember the cute little pic going around the Internet about not knowing the battles people are fighting. And I get it. The lady was driving a nice, clearly new, car. Obviously she was terrified of some minivan momma hitting it and causing her precious baby damage. Or maybe the car wasn't hers. Maybe she didn't have insurance (then buy a cheaper car!). Maybe she'd once been hit by someone without insurance. Maybe she'd just had a bad day. Maybe everything else in her life was falling to crap, and I was the easy target for her rage.

But here's the thing: Why is it okay for innocent people to become the punching bags for someone else's nightmares? Why do people like this woman think their need (to have a close parking spot to return her books) is more important than the needs of two other people to get on with the rest of their day? She could have parked another four car lengths back and still returned her books. But she had to be first.

It's this whole "me first" culture. Every time I leave my house, I run into one of these "me first" people. Whether it's the lady who thinks it's just fine to go through the ten item line with her full shopping cart, cutting in front of the person with two items, or the guy who cuts you off in traffic, or the people who push ahead so that they can get the magical spot first, I feel like I am bombarded with people who want their own way at any cost. Most of the time, I'm pretty nice about it. I've tried to have the attitude that I don't need to be first, and I can let the other person go ahead of me. I've gotten to be pretty fast on my brakes. I've learned to shrug my shoulders and put up with the bad behavior of others.

But you know what? I'm also really tired of being legitimately afraid for my safety, or the safety of my kids. I'm tired of getting into my car and wondering if some crazy whose need to get to whatever place they're going to is going to end up injuring me or my family. I hate having complete strangers getting in my face and yelling at me over something that amounts to a temper tantrum.

And sure, I know that I'm not perfect. I've made mistakes, and I can own that some of the "complete stranger yelling at me" moments are the result of my own carelessness. I can even admit that I've been a jerk at times. So maybe all the crazy people who upset me- those are their few crazy moments, but the rest of the time, they're really great people.

I don't know what to think. It just seems like, more often than not, when I leave my house, I run into people like the lady, who thought that her need to protect what she thought was hers outweighed common sense and common decency. I try to pray for people like that, although I admit that in the moment, I didn't even think to pray. I try to let it go. I try to be kind, although again, I admit that in this situation, I was yelling right back.

Still, sometimes, I'd rather just not leave my house. I'm tired of being caught in the crossfire of other people's selfish needs. Maybe that's me being selfish. Mostly I'm just tired. And sometimes, like today, scared. Whoever that lady was, I hope that her day goes better. I hope that God will heal whatever wound is in her that is making her so full of rage.

How do you handle the "me first" strangers you meet?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Confessions of an Introvert

215I am an introvert. Those of you who only know me online or via conferences are thinking, "liar." I've had arguments with friends about whether or not I am an introvert. I am a really big introvert, I promise. While I can be friendly and nice online or at conferences, the truth is, being around people is absolutely draining and exhausting for me. The reason I don't have a smartphone (other than not wanting to fork over the extra $) is that I LIKE being able to close my laptop, and if I don't want to deal with anyone online- whether it be Facebook, Twitter, email, work, etc., I don't have to. I get no notifications, and until I turn on my computer, I have no idea what's going on with the world, and I LIKE IT THAT WAY! When I go to conferences, I literally plan time in my schedule to go to my room and hide. Or nap. Or read. Or whatever I want, as long as there are no people involved.

The past two weeks have been rough for me. First, I was at the ACFW conference, and while I truly love seeing everyone, I really hit my people limit. And it was hard for me, because I wanted to socialize and catch up with my friends. But I hit the wall- several times. Usually when I come home, I get a day or so to rest. But because of the conference schedule, I came home and worked a major online event. Plus had needy children and husband, plus had needy dog, plus had needy chickens, plus, had two major events for the kiddos.

Which brings us to today. I finally got my introvert recharge day. I've been told by a therapist that I'm a strong enough introvert that I really need at least one a month (HA!) for my sanity. I've had none in a few months, so today, I took my day. I hid (literally) in my bedroom and ignored my family. I read old journals. I goofed off. I napped. I drank tea. I took my daughter to the library, so I guess I cheated a little, but when we got back, I went and hid in my office and wrote. I hadn't planned on writing, but I had a new story idea I wanted to play with, so I did.  I finally did a little work, mostly because I do have job responsibilities, but I've kept my online interactions to a minimum. Oh, and I did weird OCD cleaning stuff. Which is what I do when stressed. Weird, but effective. Plus, if my family sees me cleaning, they avoid me, because they're afraid that if they engage, I will give them a job. :)

So... here I am... at the end of my day. My "me" day. I admit, I didn't even go to church, which is sad, because I've really been missing my church. But I honestly couldn't face speaking to one more human being and being forced to be nice or talk or smile or interact in any way. I woke up this morning feeling dead inside, like every bit of life had been sucked out of me. Now that I've indulged my need to be alone, I feel better. Not 100%, maybe 50%, but definitely capable of facing the world, taking care of my family, and doing what needs to be done.

If you're an introvert, it's okay to take the time you need to recharge. If you're an extrovert, please understand that when us introverts are grumpy or hide from you, it's not that we don't love you. But sometimes, when we've been too long without our own company and the stillness of not having other voices crowd our heads, we just aren't capable of being what you need.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What helps you recharge?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The biggest lesson I learned at a recent writing conference- forgiveness

012I didn't want to go to this ACFW conference. Everyone kept asking me if I was excited, and my honest answer was, “no.” My closest friends were not going. I felt pretty meh about the class offerings. I wanted to go for one class, and to be honest, I wasn't terribly excited about the rest. But I went.

Years ago, I had a situation with a person that tainted my conference experience. This person had been spreading rumors about me and there were a number of people who were unkind because of it. Someone once asked me, “what did you do to this person,” and my honest answer was, and still is, “I don't know.” I tried finding out, and I tried fixing it, but I learned that there are some situations and relationships that can't be fixed. However, because of what I knew was said, I have felt for years like there was a target on my back. I was afraid to talk to people because I didn't know if these people knew the things said about me. I didn't know if they believed the rumors.

Several months ago, I had a moment when I realized that I forgive this person. Truly and deeply. I used to have to stop and pray a lot that God would help me forgive. I wondered if I would ever be free. It felt really unfair that to my knowledge, I had done nothing wrong, yet I was stuck with this deep feeling of ick and no matter how hard I tried, how many times I prayed, it wouldn't leave me. But since my moment of true forgiveness, I have not felt any ick about the situation or toward this person. I even feel, dare I say it, compassion.

When I arrived at the conference, it felt different. I realized, upon my first interaction, that I felt different. The target I thought I once bore with the silent pain borne of not wanting to share for fear of being seen as a gossip no better than the person who'd gossiped about me- that target was gone.

I was able to enjoy the conference- and the people- in a different way. I felt free to be me. I had so many beautiful moments running into friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, and realizing that they accept me for who I am. I spent most of the conference fighting a headache, and at times was disoriented and probably even a little crazy. But the responses were not the ones I feared- so many people showered me with grace and mercy and love.

Even now I have a hard time writing about it. My chest is tight with so many things I can't express, and my eyes are full. In some ways, I am still too close to the story to tell it. And yet, I need to tell it or else I think my heart will explode.

Here's why my story is important to you- I know that so many people out there are hurting. You're bearing the weight of things you don't know how you came to bear, don't want to bear, and don't know how to get rid of. The hope is this: I have spent years praying, struggling, wrestling with this issue. Knowing that what I'm feeling is wrong, but not being able to control it. Those moments have had me on my knees more times than I know how to count. But if you continue drawing near to God and letting Him into those hurting places, He will set you free. I think we sometimes think forgiveness should be an instantaneous thing, and we're disappointed when it's not. Continue to press on. It will be worth it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Essay about Cowgirl

071Or, as one might say, why you shouldn't make parents write an essay about their kid for their kid's homework. This gem was assigned by one of Cowgirl's teachers. He gave us a million words or less to write what he needs to know about our kid. Here's my contribution. Read and enjoy!

It would be difficult to write something as long as a million words, considering the average novel is somewhere around 75,000 words. And while I could easily write a novel about Daughter, that would spoil the fun of getting to know her yourself. Since I have to write something about her, I will tell you some of the things that I most appreciate about her.

Daughter is a very creative person. She's always got a new idea for something she wants to draw or make or build. She gets an idea in her head and finds a way for it to become reality. From paper horse stalls to stuffed animals to things she draws on the computer, and even the things she draws freehand, Daughter is a creator. Not just in art, but in the things she writes as well. Daughter writes stories- mostly involving dragons and wild adventures, but sometimes she'll write about her favorite horses.

I mentioned her love for horses and dragons. The nickname my friends and colleagues know her by is Cowgirl, and that is because of all the time she spends with horses. Daughter is in Westernaires, and does everything she can to find extra horse time. Someday, when we have a house where we can have a horse, her bedroom will be in the barn. I suppose, since you're a mandatory reporter, that I should say that of course Daughter will have a warm, safe place to sleep in our home. However, even if I do give her a real bedroom, she'll just sneak out to sleep with the horses. So I say, why make things more complicated than they have to be?

Though the saying goes that diamonds are a girl's best friend, in Daughter's case, it really should be changed to dragons are a girl's best friend. You can make her watch any movie or read any book if it has a dragon in it. Daughter likes to read in general, but if you hand her a dragon book, she will most likely stay up all night reading it. So if she shows up to school some days looking really tired and bleary eyed, you can probably bet that her evil mother handed her a book that she just could not put down. If it helps, we tend to go to the library on Tuesdays, and her list of inter-library loan books she's waiting on is probably larger than your grocery list. But hey, anytime you have a recommendation for a book Daughter should read, let us know, and we'll add it to the queue.

Other than that, there is probably not much you need to know about Daughter. Those are her primary interests, and I have a hard time getting her to take her focus off of those things and realize that there are many other wonderful things in this world. Things that are less smelly, for example. That part about her wanting to sleep in the barn? Well, I should probably mention that sometimes, she smells like it. We're trying to teach her that most people don't think horses smell good, especially their poop, but you'll have a hard time convincing her of that. Heh heh. I probably just embarrassed her with that. I think that's okay. I was going to give you a one sentence statement about Daughter, “Daughter smokes crack,” but then Daughter was worried that because there's a police officer in the school that you might take it seriously and report her for drugs.

So, to be clear. Daughter is a crackhead. However, she does not do drugs. She thinks drugs, alcohol, and smoking are disgusting. But just to be sure, every once and a while, I like to have little talks with her about the dangers of such horrible habits.

Daughter does have a lot of horrible habits besides her love of stinky horses. She can be as stubborn as a mule, and you do not want to mess with her if she thinks she's right. It's best to remember that she's a crackhead and move on. Oh, right. You want to teach her. Very well, then. There are definitely areas where Daughter can learn and grow, but sometimes it is hard to convince her of that. Her comfort zone is pretty narrow, and I'm always encouragingly nudging her in the direction of widening that space. She doesn't like it much, but you're her teacher, so if you challenge her, she'll be more likely to do it.

Challenge is good for Daughter- I think at times she finds school a little boring. She also gets mad at me for saying that, because she doesn't like to work hard. She's never really had to. However, I'm of the mind that she needs to learn how to do it now rather than later so she doesn't become some college washout working at the local laundromat. Which is my way of saying, please challenge her. She will get mad, and she won't like it, and she's really not going to like me for saying that. But I'm her mother, and I love her, and sometimes when you love someone that means you push them in directions that make them grow.

Another challenge Daughter has is in the social area. This is another place where I'm pushing her to grow. When she was little, she was so friendly that every time we left the house, she came home with a new best friend. However, as she's gotten older, she's gotten a little more closed (that whole comfort zone thing) to new people, and she's pretty stubborn about sticking with the people she knows. (Back to the mule idea again- I'm not really sure why she likes horses so much, I think it should be mules.) She is very friendly with people she knows and likes, but has a hard time warming up and being social with new people. Because she is an introvert, she doesn't always like to be around a lot of people, and when she feels pressured about being around a lot of people, she shuts down. So if she comes across at times as being a little standoffish to others, that probably means she's a little overwhelmed by someone new.

New things are not really Daughter's cup of tea. Change is not something she embraces. But she often finds that once she's in the middle of the new experience, it's not so bad. Like middle school. I have to say, she was not looking forward to middle school, but now that she's been there for a week, she's really enjoying herself. She's made new friends. Gasp! New people aren't so scary! And she's found that the classes are very interesting.

Her favorite class is pre-engineering, and that's not an attempt at kissing up for a better grade. She really likes building things and making them work. Her dad is an electrician and scary smart at making things in general, as is her grandfather. I've often said that her grandfather is one of the most brilliant men I know when it comes to coming up with a concept, designing it, and then making it work. So I think she's genetically pre-disposed to wanting to create things. The problem is that her dad is really busy with work and her grandfather is always traveling, so I have a very long honey-do list. If you could help her learn a few more of those skills, there are many things I can put her to work doing at home. I'm only half-kidding. She has such a long list of her own projects that she'd like to make and create. When she came to me with the last one, I told her to take it to her dad. She sighed and said that he hadn't finished the previous project they started together. Personally, I think that pretty soon, she's going to be able to show up her dad on some of these things. Ha! Girl power rules. That's not to say that her dad is not active in her life- on the contrary, he's a pretty hands-on guy who is involved in all of her activities. He's just a little short on time, and the lists we give him are pretty long.

All that said, after watching Despicable Me, I have been in love with the idea of wanting a minion. Daughter refuses to let me call her, “Minion,” so perhaps you all could work on building me a minion in class. I think it would be a really nice challenge for her. And you would become my new best friend.

Back to Daughter- sigh. Seriously though. Do think about that minion idea. It's positively brilliant, if I do say so myself.

Daughter's just an all-around good kid. I know I'm her mom, and everyone says that about their kids, but I have to say that it's really hard not to like Daughter. We're supposed to love our kids, and I do. But I also genuinely like her and really enjoy her as a person. She's funny, intelligent, and a lot of fun to be around. I enjoy spending time with her and just hanging out. Some of our best times together is when we take our books, go to Starbucks, have a hot drink and sit together and read. As in, she reads her book, and I read mine. Maybe that sounds a little boring, but I think it's really nice. Just being in her company is fine way to spend time.

Perhaps the reason she needs so much downtime is that there is so much going on in her head. There are knights, warriors, mystical creatures, horses, adventures, sword fights, explosions (is it okay to say that? I don't want to make the police officer at school nervous. She's absolutely not a danger to society), societal shifts (blame that one on The Hunger Games), animals, flying, and a whole lot of other interesting stuff rattling around in that brain of hers. Personally, I think Daughter's going to end up doing some pretty cool things. I don't know what they are- they probably haven't even been invented yet. Or maybe they have. She doesn't really want to be an inventor. She wants to train horses and write books. I'm fine with that. As long as the guest room in her house is not downwind from the stable.

So that's Daughter. I didn't quite use 2,000 words, which leaves you with a whole lot of words to fill in your own story to get to a million. I suspect by the end of the year, you'll realize that I've barely begun to give you a decent characterization of one of the most fascinating characters I know. Daughter's pretty awesome. I tell her that all the time (that, and that she's a crackhead, but apparently, I'm not supposed to say that and get her in trouble). I'm pretty sure that as you get to know her, you'll come to the same conclusion too.

Friday, July 05, 2013


Yes friends, it's finally true!! I sold my first book to Love Inspired Historical!! I think most people already know via FB, Twitter, etc. but I thought I'd also make it official here on my blog and website.

Sadly, I don't have a lot of details yet. I got The Call on a Thursday, left for vacation the next day, and now my agent is on vacation, so we've had no time to go over the contract for the important details, like when everyone can buy a copy. The vacation is also the reason why I haven't posted about my sale yet. I hardly had time to go online (yay!) and am still playing catch up. But YAY for vacations!!

In the meantime, if you haven't headed over and given my Facebook page a "like" I hope you do so!

Friday, May 17, 2013

NIV Real Life Devotional Bible for Women, Insights for Everyday Life Notes by Lysa TerKeurst

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

My Review
I really liked how this Bible has an easy to follow reading plan. I think this will be a great tool for me.

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card Insight Notes author is:


and the book:


Zondervan; Special edition (March 19, 2013)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***


Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and national speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith. She is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, author of 15 books, and encourages nearly 500,000 women worldwide through a daily online devotional. Her remarkable life story has captured audiences across America, including appearances on Oprah and Good Morning America. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and five children.

Visit the author's website.


This Bible will help you live up to your God-given potential. Insightful daily devotions written by the women at Proverbs 31 Ministries help you maintain life's balance in spite of today's hectic pace. Dive into the beauty and clarity of the NIV Bible text paired with daily devotions crafted by women just like you---women who want to live authentically and fully grounded in the Word of God.

Product Details:

List Price: $34.99

Hardcover: 1536 pages

Publisher: Zondervan; Special edition (March 19, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0310439361

ISBN-13: 978-0310439363







Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zoo!!

You could take that one both literally and figuratively, because my world does often resemble a zoo. Certainly my schedule does!

However, since I have some cute pictures, I'll talk about the literal zoo. My family and I have memberships to the zoo and we love going there. I know some people don't like seeing animals in cages, but I'm actually okay with it because I know the zoos are protecting species that may soon be gone. It makes me sad to see the diversity of life on our planet, and how it's disappearing. Maybe I should accept it as the circle of life. Except I think back to creation and I feel like it's our duty as human beings to care for the planet and all the living beings on earth.

Argh... well, I was going to add some cute pics of the zoo, but the photo uploader thingy isn't working.

So, I guess we'll just talk about the zoo. Do you have happy memories of the zoo? Or do zoos make you sad?



Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for youth

One of my friends celebrated her 40th birthday Saturday night. This isn't a terribly unusual thing for me because I tend to have older friends. And then I realized that 40 isn't so far off for me.

Where did the time go?

As part of my friend's birthday celebration, we went to a nightclub. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that the nightclub scene has just never been my thing. But that's what she wanted to do for her birthday, so we went. It was kind of weird, doing something that I didn't do back when I was of age to be doing such things. I concluded, about ten seconds after walking in the door, that I hadn't missed out on much.

But there I was, dancing with my hubby, to a song that I remember from when I was young, and I wondered how it was possible that I'm not as young as I think I am. I certainly don't feel very old, and sure, when I look in the mirror, I look a little older. But I feel the same.

My example of who I want to be when I grow up is my FIL. He's 75, and he and his girlfriend are training to do a bicycle tour through Germany this fall. I had dinner with them the other night, and they casually mentioned that they'd ridden 30 miles that day, and were disappointed because their goal had been 60. I can't even do that now! But that's what I aspire to. My FIL is one of the youngest old guys I know, so maybe the key to staying young (and feeling young) is not acting like you're old.

That said, I don't think I'll be going to any more nightclubs anytime soon.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for Xenophile

Okay, I admit it, this is where my perfectionist rule-following tendencies just can't be broken. I searched and I searched for a great X word without fudging or making one up. It's a sickness. But, as you saw with my Q post, I am working on it.

I love traveling and having new experiences. I love learning about new cultures and people who are different from me. I love trying new foods. In essence, I am a xenophile.

Which is weird, because I hate change. So I guess I like experiencing new things, as long as I get to go back to my same old, same old.

I think that's what I like about living in America. I love getting to see and experience the different cultures that exist all around us. I feel especially grateful that I have friends of different cultures because they teach me so many interesting things.

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Writing Journey

imageI don't always talk about my writing, at least not in online form, because sometimes there's a blurry line between being a writer and working in the publishing industry. Plus, it's a little weird given that as much as I've been in the business and know about the business, I'm still waiting on that elusive book deal. The waiting can be hard. I've learned a lot from waiting, but I can also say in all honesty, that I'm really done waiting. But that's not for me to decide.

In terms of the wait, agent Rachelle Gardner just wrote a great post on the subject. It inspired me to talk a little about my waiting journey.

Here's what I've learned about waiting.

1. Publishing really is a crapshoot. I've seen books that have made it that leave you scratching your head as to why, and also books that are excellent that sit in someone's drawer for lack of publishing. As much as you want an explanation, you're just not going to get one. It's the same deal once a book is published. Excellent books miss the bestseller list, and really bad books make it. Why? The person who figures out the answer to that question will make gazillions in the industry.

So here's what you do about it. Write the best book you can. Learn from the experts. Keep improving. Be willing to let go of your expectations. Understand that the journey is going to look a lot different than what you thought it would be.  Every single one of my friends from when I first got started (except those who quit) are now published. I never imagined that it would take this long for me. But it has. And ultimately, I have to be okay with that. My time will come. Hopefully before I die.

2. Take the waiting time to learn. I'll never forget the early days of going to writer's conferences. I ran into a woman I knew, and she proceeded to tell me how much she thought going to conferences was a waste of time because it was always the same information and same people, and she never learned anything. That writer is still not published. I contrast that with the time I sat next to bestselling author Joan Johnston at a small writer's group. The workshop was geared mostly to beginners, with very basic information, but there was Joan, taking notes. At the break, she made a comment to me about how the presenter said something she hadn't thought of before. The lesson I learned- even the pros have things they still need to learn.

3. Keep writing. I know so many people who spent years on that one book. And then, when that one book sold, they had nothing to come next. They struggled with how to start another new book, and couldn't figure out how to get it written in a timely manner. I have completed somewhere between 15 and 20 books. I lost count, and that's okay, because I imagine some of those books aren't very good. But I know how to write one, and I know how to get it done. I've learned something new with every book. My fabulous agent, Chip MacGregor, says that eventually, we can go back and sell some of those old books, so maybe... someday.

4. It's okay to be frustrated. I get really upset at people who want to offer pithy statements about bucking up and not letting you be upset about disappointments in the process. I cannot tell you how many times I've had to screw a smile on my face as some Pollyanna gives me lame advice about my crushing blow. You suck it up, and when you can, do whatever it is you do when you're angry and hurt and frustrated. Go ahead and cry. Write a cathartic piece about your feelings. Use those emotions in a scene that you're writing. Sometimes, you just have to let the emotions be what they are. This does not mean you post a blog rant about the editor who rejected your masterpiece or send that same editor black roses. Make sure you have a small group of writer friends you can trust- talking about it with them can really help. My go-to group is willing to kick my butt when I need it (and sometimes when I don't see it!) but also love on me just as much.

That said, there is a point at which you do have to pull yourself out of it and move on. I found a rejection letter the other day for a book that, at the time, was the book of my heart. I was depressed for WEEKS over that rejection. I was sure the editor was some kind of horribly mean human being for not seeing the beauty in my brilliant piece of work. But now, 8 years later, I looked at that letter, and went, "huh. I didn't know that editor rejected one of my books." It would be nice to do something with that book someday. But in the meantime, I've written at least ten other books, and I've been able to move on.

5. Your journey is your journey. I can't tell you how many well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) people want to compare your journey to someone else's. Heck, sometimes I want to compare my journey to someone else's. But that's not fair. The timing is just different for some people. Even once you sell a book or two or ten, you could have a dry spell of years without publishing a thing. Or you could consistently publish for the rest of your life. I don't know what it will look like for me or for anyone else. As hard as it is, and as much as I want to analyze it and find a formula, there just isn't one. So accept it. Accept your journey. Sure, you're going to be upset and disappointed from time to time, but accept that piece of it. Think of it as a journey to the new world- you don't know exactly where it is, or how long it's going to take. And maybe, though you're expecting to land in India, you'll end up discovering a whole new continent.

Are you a writer? What's your advice for people on the waiting portion of the journey?



Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Vegetables

[caption id="attachment_4104" align="alignleft" width="300"]Harvest Some of last year's harvest.[/caption]

Not as in, I am one, though to be honest, my brain feels like it is turning into one.

Actually, today's post is more of a wishful thinking post because I am DYING to plant some vegetables. But given that we seem to be getting snow every Tuesday this month so far, I don't dare. I have a few peas and some lettuce planted, but that's about it. Plus, I'm really concerned about the whole GMO vegetable thing, and I think that's going to make finding some nice seedlings a little harder for me this year.

Because I do want to be healthier and am trying so hard to eat more vegetables, I try a new vegetable in my garden every year.

I'll be really honest here- I do not have a green thumb. Stuff grows in my garden, and I'm usually mystified at how it all worked out. I tend to grow more than my share of weeds because I don't always know what is a weed until it's too late. I also never really know if something is ripe, or overripe, or what. I just guess. I mean, I read the books and I think I know what I'm doing, but it's really just me playing roulette with my plants. Some live, some die. Some taste good, others not so much.

But hey, I'm trying, so that has to count for something, right? Besides, even though my garden is a beautiful disaster, we still do get some yummy veggies that as of yet, have not killed us.

I'm also looking for more creative veggie recipes. Especially in terms of side dishes because I'm kind of bored with just a bowl of some veggie as a side. Surely there's something more creative I can feed my family, right? I had a really yummy purple yam at a friend's house once. I saw some in the store the other day and I bought them. I'm going to make them for dinner and hope I don't mess it up. And that my kids like them. Maybe it's weird, but the one thing I always buy at the store when my kids do the "buy me this" stuff is produce. If they point and demand in the produce aisle, the answer is almost always yes.

Do you have a garden? What do you like to grow? And if you're not the gardening type, but like to eat veggies, I'd love to hear your yummy veggie suggestions.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Uh...

magic-wand-mdYeah, that.

I wanted to write something about being unique.  Only I don't feel very unique and I don't feel like I have anything unique to say.

And then I thought about writing about things that are useful, only that felt boring to me. So then I thought writing about useless things would be fun, but then I thought that might come off as being too negative. I'm in a funk, and I suspect that what I think is a little negative will sound really negative to others since my filter is clogged.

I could have written about unicorns. I like unicorns. Except I don't have a picture of one, and really, what's the point in writing about a unicorn if you don't have a picture?

The next thing that came to mind was underwear. Which I KNOW no one wants to see, and that isn't really what I was thinking of anyway. I was thinking of those jokes little kids tell where the punchline is always underwear, and it's hysterically funny to the kids, but makes absolutely no sense to anyone else.

Actually, if we use underwear in the sense of the joke analogy, it makes perfect sense. Because it doesn't. Which is kind of where all of my thoughts are going these days, so I guess, if you don't take the word literally, my U word should be underwear.

Except that with all of this underwear talk, all of the spam bot troll freaks have now targeted my blog. This is why we don't talk about underwear. Which I have, so I guess it's too late now. Besides, I get a ton of spam bot trolls. Do they really think that by saying this is the best blog they've ever read I'm going to click their link?

Uh... yeah. Off topic, I know. It's been that kind of week. I feel like I'm in the middle of a really bad joke that is supposed to be funny, only it's not. But everyone but me is laughing. Actually, they're not. It's another bad analogy, I'm afraid. I guess I just feel really disjointed and out of touch with reality.

Maybe I should go find a unicorn.