Friday, December 28, 2012

It's A Wonderful Year ~ 2012 in Review

It's been a great year. I can't believe it's my last post of the year.

I thought I would leave you with some highlights of 2012.

From my blog:

The top two posts of 2012 were Should You Quit While You're Ahead (I'm pretty sure my mentions of popular Olympians at the time brought that one a little more traffic) and my post about The Screwtape Letters.

 When I went looking for my top-viewed posts, I wasn't expecting it to be these. Neither one garnered the most comments or link backs. Those honors go to The Society of Judgement fifth Tuesday rant, I Want to Make Someone Miserable, and a discussion on whether or not you believe in miracles. 

I'm really happy with my blogging this year. I learned a lot that will hopefully make next year even better. 


In my writing:

I joined forces with a group of wonderful writers to start Regency Reflections, a blog for the inspirational Regency reader. We've been having a fabulous time exploring history and books over there.

My third place finish in the Maggies was also a highlight, along with meeting the amazing writer, Julia Quinn.

The progress I have made as a writer this year is just amazing. When I think of where I was a year ago and where I am today, I am stunned by how much I've progressed. This writing business is hard work! It's true that anyone can write a book, but not just anyone can make it one you'd want to read.

In my life:

At the beginning of the year I started this whole word for the year thing. My word was Healthy. I didn't embrace it very well. I thought about it a lot and I think mentally, emotionally, and spiritually I am a lot healthier than I was a year ago. Physically however, I didn't make much progress.


How about you? What were your milestones this year? Share your highlights in the comments.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Now get off the computer and go spend some time with your family! If you were unable to travel this year, go next door and ring the neighbor's doorbell see if you can join them. Who knows? You might make a new friend.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Succeed Creatively ~ Life Lessons from the Family Craft Project

I'm addicted to Pinterest. There are so many wonderful ideas on there for crafts, decorating, cooking, really just about anything you would be interested in.

I particularly like it for finding neat things to do with my kids. I was so excited when I saw this picture for a fun Christmas craft that would hopefully keep curious little fingers off the family Christmas tree.
Cute, huh? If you want to make your own, you get get the super simple instructions here. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page. 

Now, these are apparently really popular this year, because as soon as I plopped the green felt on the fabric cutting table at Hobby Lobby the lady asked me if we were putting a tree on the wall. So I looked around and, sure enough, these suckers are on lots of family crafting blogs. You can see a really nice one here. (I couldn't find contact information to get permission to use the pic, so you get a link instead.)

I really liked the idea of this and thought it would be a fun craft the kids could participate in. They fought, they screamed, they helped me cut the shapes. And our tree looks like this:
Yeah.... just a little different there.... The little white spots were supposed to be the lights, just in case you were curious. 

At first, I was a little bummed and more than a little frustrated with how our tree was turning out. This wasn't the way we were supposed to do it. This isn't how it was supposed to turn out.

But then I watched my daughter happily slapping felt scraps around and realized that what was really supposed to happen was that I spent time with my kids and they learned to make things and do things themselves and find joy in simple things like the fact that felt sticks to itself.

And the smile on her face as she hacked up a square of felt was worth a lot more than a show-worthy craft.

So many times we forget to dig down to the deeper intention of what we're doing. We look on the surface and it doesn't look like we thought it would and we get upset. But we forget to look and see if the intention was achieved. Did we set out to do what we really meant to do? If we did, then we didn't fail. We just succeeded creatively.

Like my tree. It isn't a fail. It's just unique. And my kids love it, which is all that really matters.

Besides, if our tree had looked perfect, I wouldn't have gotten a blog post out of it.

What is the last creative success you had?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Uniqueness of the Universe ~ Jacob's Journal

This is a guest post by Jacob Hunter. Once more I have welcomed my wonderful hubby to the blog to share his theological thoughts and musings. 

I enjoy watching documentaries. I especially like the ones that deal with how things are made or how things work. Recently, I have been Netflixing a series titled "How Stuff Works." Just like most scientific programming you have to take parts of it with a grain of salt. They were doing a really good job on the series and I was learning a lot of really cool stuff. Then it got to season 2 episode 8. The only thing I can figure is that it got a completely different producer and writer. The whole feel of the show changed. They even changed the way the shows where named. Every episode up until this point was a one word title like: corn, salt, rubber, water etc.

The title of season 2 episode 8 was "How Summer Changed the World." It was a collection of world changing events that has some lose connection or another that was affected by the fact that there are seasons. The one that really caught my attention was the segment on how summer allowed life and specifically a large amount of different life (biodiversity) to live on planet earth.

I just sat there and watch and wondered "are you really listening to yourself, do you really understand how mind boggling impossible the things that you are attributing to chance are?" The authors of the show were very willing to see the uniqueness of all the conditions required for the earth to sustain life but not give credit to the creator and sustainer of that life. Watching this vividly punctuated Paul's words in Romans 1:20;

 From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.

A couple of years ago a new mechanic started working at my current place of employment. We got to know each other. He knew that I had gone to Georgia Tech and that I was also a minister. One day he came to me and we were talking and he asked me, "Jacob, how in the world can a man with all of your education believe in God?"

My short answer to him was, "How can I not. Nothing I have been taught precludes the existence of God. On the contrary, it generally points to the necessity of God."

Dumbell Nebula, Picture from NASA, no endorsement implied.


Just a few Unique things about God's creation that are necessary for life that where brought out in the television show:
1. The tilt of the Earth.
2. The moon and its effect on the Earth.
3. The exact distance the Earth is from the Sun.
4. The delicate balance of minerals, elements, and compounds. Not the least of which is water.
5. The size of the Earth.
6. The strength of the force of gravity (actual all of the different forces; magnetic, strong, weak, etc. Any of which if they were the minutest bit different the universe let alone our world would not exist.)

The statistics are astounding...

I have to stop myself here. I could go on and on about probabilities and statics and drowned the whole message of this article in numbers but I will refrain.

The point I want to make is that God is AMAZING and he has made this wonderfully Unique creation specifically and unique for mankind so that His Love and Grace can be shown.

I will end with a quote from one of my Facebook friends. He didn't attribute an author to it so I am not exactly sure where it came from but I think it is a great reminder that everything in creation is unique and one-of-a-kind.

"God Is a Hand-Crafter, not a mass-producer"

Friday, December 14, 2012

Shiftable Priorities ~ Life Lessons from Sick Children

For the last few weeks, my mother has referred to my house as "The Hunter Hospital".

She's not far off.

In the last three weeks we've had just about everything come through our house. At one point all three of my children had fevers well over 100. We've had one trip to the ER, two cases of pink eye, three ear infections, and countless episodes of Blue's Clues and Busytown Mysteries. I kept expecting to get a note from Netflix that the unlimited streaming plan wasn't really supposed to be run twenty-four hours a day.

For a week and a half, during what is normally the busiest time of year, I dropped everything to sit in a recliner and cuddle my children. Why? Because that's what mothers do, at least they do when they can.

By Hmayak Artsatpanyan (1874 - 1919)
via Wikimedia Commons
Around day four, I got to thinking. Apparently, all of those pressing must-do items on my calendar were a lot  more movable than I originally thought. When something of greater priority came along, I discovered there were ways to delegate, reschedule, or cancel things I had previously though essential.

Could I have cleared my calendar like this permanently? No. Things like the dental appointments had to be rescheduled and certain obligations got temporarily shuffled off to friends. Neither of those are possible permanent states, but for a short period of time, I was able to clear my schedule for something more important.

Sick children are a nearly universally accepted reason to toss your priorities in a blender and turn yours three course dinner into an unrecognizable smoothie. I started wondering what other things are important enough to make me drop everything and just make it happen because it needed to.

There wasn't much. As I looked back, I even realized there were times in my life I told God that things He had told me to do weren't important enough for me to adjust my priorities. That saddens me.

Now, looking out at everything I have to rearrange now and the routines I have to settle back into, I'm reminded that things are not as set in stone as it seems. Life is transitory and flexible when it needs to be. I just need to remember what is important enough to engage that flexibility.

When was the last time you flipped everything upside down for something more important? What tops your priority list above and beyond the daily obligations?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Cajun Night Before Christmas ~ A Peek At My Bookshelf

Have you missed me? I've been flying under the radar for a couple of weeks. I'll have a bit more on that Friday. Right now, it's time for me to share another of my favorite books with you.

When I was little, my family lived just outside of New Orleans. If you aren't familiar with New Orleans and the immediate vicinity, there's a unique subculture known as Cajun. (Here's the Wikipedia article on it. While it isn't an authority, it will give you a basic understanding of the culture and it's history.)

One of the things unique to the Cajun subculture is their speech. The dialect and vocal rhythms are unique and intriguing. Someone gifted my parents with a copy of Cajun Night Before Christmas by Trosclair. My father read it to me as a child and I loved it.

In fact, I stole it. One of these days I'm going to buy my own copy and give theirs back as a Christmas gift. Until then, it stays on my shelf and I read it to my kids at Christmas.

The book is written in dialect, so even if you don't know how Cajun people say the word "children", you can read the book, because he writes it as "chirren".

More than just the speech is changed from the classic poem, though. Set in the bayou where many Cajuns live, Santa gets around on a skiff pulled by alligator with decidedly French sounding names. He wears brown muskrat instead of bright red velvet... which he catches on fire when he comes down the chimney.

If you're looking for a fresh story this Christmas, take a look at Cajun Night Before Christmas. It's a delightful tradition. You can buy it on Amazon, or look for it at your favorite book distributor.

Here's a youtube video of someone reading the story. Have a listen and enjoy this fun tale.


Kristi Ann Hunter is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Is Christmas Part of Thanksgiving?

I have heard a lot of people lately complaining about the fact that town Christmas lights are already going up and Christmas decorations are already in the stores. This is something I personally have never had an issue with because, to me, Christmas and Thanksgiving are part of each other. The more I get to talking to people about it, the more I realize how intertwined it is for a lot of other people, even if they don't realize it.

Photo by Diliff, through WikiCommons. 
I've had several conversations lately that go something like this:

John Doe: Christmas is getting so commercial. It's not even Thanksgiving and it's taking over the stores. They shouldn't have the Christmas decorations out yet.

Me: When does your family put up your tree?

John Doe: Oh it's this great tradition. After we eat Thanksgiving dinner we all go out and cut the tree and we decorate it and stuff. It's great.

At this point I stand there dumbfounded. How in the world can someone expect to put their tree up on Thanksgiving if they can't go buy the stuff to do it before then? And yes, I had someone say "We store it all from the year before." The problem is that you had to buy it some time.

For many Christians, the top thing on their Thanksgiving thankfulness list is the gift we receive from Jesus Christ. Our eternal life assurity, guidance from the Holy Spirit, and the sacrifice He made in order to allow all of that to happen. That means Christmas (and Easter) are embedded in a Christian's Thanksgiving celebration.

Photo from WikiCommons, work of the US Government.
So now I'm wondering why. Why do we get mad that they put up the city Christmas decorations (even if they don't turn them on yet) before Thanksgiving, but Friday when we go shopping (another tie in of Christmas to Thanksgiving for many people) we expect to see all the Christmas decorations?

Maybe it's because I love Christmas so much, but the blending of the holidays doesn't bother me at all. I feel like it heightens both. If I join Thanksgiving and Christmas, then I enter the Christmas season with a spirit of thankfulness and giving, focused on the blessing God has given me.

If we fight to separate the two completely, I'm afraid we'll start seeing Christmas as more of the hustle and bustle and presents and lights, instead of a celebration of the most precious gift of all.

The other thing is, that while Christmas Day doesn't occur for a whole month, the Advent season starts, usually, within a week of Thanksgiving. This year it will be a week and a half before the official start of the Christian Christmas season. That's still a very short time in the grand scheme of things.

How do you see it? Do the opening notes of Jingle Bells turn you into a Grinch if you hear them before the turkey is relegated to sandwich meat? (By the way, if you're looking for a few different songs for your Christmas playlist, check out my posts from last year on the Best Christmas Songs You've Never Heard.)

Do you hold off everything Christmas-y until after Thanksgiving? Does it bother you when others don't?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wanting to Make A Difference ~ Life Lessons from The Voice

I've mentioned before that I enjoy reality television. I've been really enjoying The Voice this season - they've made some good changes to the format, I think.

One thing they've done is added more rounds and more opportunities for the judges to compare and cut/save people on their team. The most interesting thing I've noticed about these judges decisions is that frequently, when faced with a hard decision, they said something along the lines of "I think I can have more influence on so-and-so."

Taking them at their word, it seems that the best singer wasn't always chosen. They picked the person who was almost there, but needed a little coaching, a little this or that, a little nudge to be a success. I found this curious, since, in theory, the point of the show was to have the person who had the best voice on your team.

The conclusion I came to is that one of two things were happening:

1. They didn't think the other person had done too well and wanted a handy excuse.

OR

2. Making a difference was somehow more important than winning.

I think it was probably a combination of both, but in the end, wanting to leave a mark on the world tipped their decision.

Most people have a desire to change the world, even if it's just their own little part of it. We want to leave a fingerprint on the lives of those around us. The drive to be noticed and remembered colors more decisions than we realize, sometimes.

Some people choose to become infamous. Others become activists. One person might seek to leave a mark by changing laws and policies while another wants to enrich and inspire through art.

It made me think about what type of mark I want to leave.

Recently, a wonderful, amazing woman that I knew from a former church I attended passed away. We were unable to arrange things so that we could attend the funeral, but it was packed. When her husband died five years ago, his funeral was standing room only.

I don't think you have to make a name for yourself to make a difference. This couple never did anything extraordinary. They just loved people with the love of God and it impacted everyone that ever met them.

There have been moments when someone I've taught or counseled has a life changing break through, an a-ha moment when they realize that God loves them more than anything. I treasure those moments because in that space in time I know that God used me to make the most important difference of all - I loved someone.

So I think we should all take a page from the coaches of The Voice. Let's seek out those we can help, those we can build up. Encourage those who are past the need for you. Pray for them and be there for them because they need the strength to help someone else. But don't get caught up in the search to be or attach yourself to the best. Get captured by the desire to make a difference.

When you live life like that, you'll see the world become a better place.

Who has coached you in your life? Has anyone ever poured God's love into you in such a way that it changed your life?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Gift Of Reading

Brace yourselves. I have an announcement of epic proportions.

Christmas is coming.

I know, I know, it's completely shocking that it is showing up again on December 25. If your family is like mine and highly values the written word, there will likely be a book or two underneath your tree.

It's a tradition for us - there is always reading material in the stocking. Always. One year it was the only thing in mine and my husband's stocking, but there is always a book or occasionally a magazine subscription.

Last year, I got my Kindle. I love it. It's fabulous and amazing. I love having so many books in my purse at one time. But it does make my husband's job a little more difficult. Because I've been watching digital deals all year and been able to utilize Amazon's Prime lending feature, I've kept up with a lot more books than I normally would.

So I don't know what he's going to get me. I hope it's actually one of the books on my writing craft wish list... hint, hint... The list is in the notebook underneath my desk in case anyone wanted to know... Like my hubby... who reads this blog... But I digress.

Since this is the second Tuesday of the month I would normally highlight a particular favorite book of mine, but since Christmas is coming, I thought I'd share some gifts you can give to the reader in your life. If you're like me, you're already shopping and hoping to get it all out of the way so you can enjoy the holidays.

A BOOK

This is the first and foremost gift idea for any book lover. But how do you pick the perfect book?

1. Ask. If you don't mind giving up the element of surprise, you could just ask them if there's a book they've been wanting. This is easiest, but for some people it takes a bit of the fun out of gift giving.

2. Check their bookshelf. You want to do this for two reasons. First you don't want to buy them a book they already have and second you can find out what type of books they like. If you're checking out a bookshelf, look for two things:
       - recurring authors - sometimes it will be very clear that there are one or two authors that the reader loves. You can check to see if that author has a new book out (that they don't already own) but you can also use book reading sites to find authors similar to their favorites.
       - recurring publisher - This is one I didn't realize until I started writing. Publishers tend to have individual styles. And without intentionally doing so or even realizing it, your reader might gravitate toward a particular publisher. I was surprised to find two particular publishers encompassed about 75% of the Christian books on my shelf.

3. Look for something new. Maybe your loved one is adventurous and likes trying new books. There are several places you can go to strike out on your own with book selections.
      - Bestseller list - Some books are really popular. If your reader is someone who likes to see what the buzz is about, this could be a good route.
      - Bookstore employees / Librarians - These people live and breathe books. They will likely have a good suggestion for you.
      - The web - American Christian Fiction Writers has a site called Fiction Finder that will help you find books by genre, author, and many other search criteria.
      - Awards - Nearly every genre of book has an award or two. Get on the web and find the list of winners. ACFW's winning book list can be found here. The Christy Award, another prestigious Christian fiction award, has a list of winners here. 

4. Go back to something old. Check backlists of some of their favorite authors. Are there any older books they don't yet have? I've highlighted a few of my favorite older books this year. You can find those articles here.

AN E-READER

I have my Kindle and I love it, but there are other who love their Nooks, iPads, and other various electronic readers. Even if you know you want a Kindle you have several choices to make. Some things to consider when selecting an e-Reader:

1. Other Electronic Devices If your loved one has a iPhone, iPod, and a MacBook, then most likely they would want an iPad. They already own compatible apps and know the device. On the other hand if they carry an android phone and despise all things Apple, they probably don't want an iPad. Think about what fits in with their existing digital accessories.

2. Price It is a major thing to consider. Determine your price point before you shop. You can find something for any budget.

3. How will they use it? I play games on mine and do a lot of things besides just read, so I have the Fire. My father-in-law reads. That's it. He has the basic Kindle and it's perfect for him. He never goes anywhere without it. Since he got it, I think he reads more than I do.

4. Where the content comes from Many readers are connected to a content source. And while there are ways around it sometimes, you want to make it as easy as possible for your gift receiver. If they love Amazon and buy things constantly from Amazon, get them a Kindle. If they don't want to be tied to anything and want more control, you may want to look at a Windows tablet.


LOTS OF BOOKS/DISCUSSION

If you're a fan of the gift that keeps on giving, consider enrolling your loved one in a book club. Books will arrive on their doorstep all year long, just waiting to provide hours of escape and enjoyment. If they like short, inspirational romances, Love Inspired has three lines to choose from for monthly reading deliveries. 


There are many other book subscription services though. Simply do an internet search for monthly book subscription and look for your favorite service. Sometimes these subscriptions are tied to book forums and clubs. If your reader is into that, consider giving them one that would provide conversation and discussion as well as a good story.


THE GIFT CARD

If all else fails, give them the gift of picking their own reading material. They'll still appreciate it.


Have you ever been given the perfect book? Do you like giving books as gifts? What tips would you add to this list?


All pictures courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 


Friday, November 9, 2012

Not bad doesn't mean good ~ Life Lessons from my keyboard

I finally broke the F6 key off my keyboard. It was bound to happen. In fact, F5 is probably eventually going to meet the same fate. It's almost inevitable.

Right now you're probably wondering what I have against those poor, innocent function keys. The answer is nothing. My desk, on the other hand, thinks they're evil.

My keyboard, sans F6 key. See how much better it fits now?
See, I use an ergonomic split keyboard. It rises up in the middle, making F6 and F5 the tallest keys on the board. They are just slightly higher than the clearance for my keyboard tray when it slides into the desk, which means those keys depress just a little (not enough to activate the key though) when I push my keyboard in.

Occasionally, they wouldn't depress and my keyboard would stop instead of sliding neatly into it's home.

This week, the desk had it's revenge. I went to push my keyboard in and F6 flew off, never to be seen again.
Since F5 was a little lower than F6, my keyboard is now moving with considerable more ease. It's great. Makes me wonder why I didn't pop off that F6 key a long time ago.

It also makes me wonder if there are other F6's in my life.

There's nothing wrong with having an F6 key on your keyboard. In fact, computer standards indicate there needs to be one. It even has a functional use, though I never use it. I didn't even know what it did until I looked it up out of curiosity when I no longer had one.

Some uses of the F6 key:

        - Highlight/Select/Activate the address bar in your web browser
        - Move to the next pane in Microsoft Power Point
        - Open the color selector in Photoshop (at least, I think it's the color selector. It's some type of color window)
        - Adjust the keyboard backlighting if you own a Mac

The poor little F6 key where it landed after the desk rejected  it.
I might have turned it to make the picture better... maybe. 
All of these are useful things for a key to do, but the fact is, I never used it, I don't need it, and my life is really just as simple without it. Simpler, even.

Life is full of things like that. Things other people tell us we need in our lives, things that do good and useful things. But we don't use them. We don't need them. They may even cause physical, mental, or emotional clutter in our lives.

I think I need to look for those and pop them out. Watch a little less TV. Play a few less computer games. Make more time for the things that matter, things that make my life simpler and easier and better. Just because it isn't bad for you or someone says it needs to be there doesn't make it good for you.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Guerrilla Warfare ~ Kindness Style

As the jack-o-lanterns disappear, turkeys and cornucopias slowly take their place. Thanksgiving is just around the corner with Christmas right behind. For many it is a time of love and celebration, but there are also a whole lot of people that dread this time of year because they feel alone, unloved, and depressed. Even more feel stressed and stretched with all the busyness of the season.

While you're giving thanks for all the blessings in your life, try to take some time to give someone else something to be thankful for.

About a month ago, I was privileged to hear a woman speak who really reminded me that the ultimate in selfless giving is an act of kindness given with no expectation of anything in return. During a season of giving, that can be very difficult. I know I always have a generic gift or two under the tree in case someone shows up at my house with an unexpected present.

This woman, known on the internet as The Kindness Girl, has made it a main and vital part of her life to spread kindness in other people's lives in such a way that they can't pay it back, so all they can do is sit back and be loved. It's been called Random Acts of Kindness, Paying It Forward, and countless other things, but the idea remains the same. I like how Kindness Girl phrases it - Guerrilla Goodness.

Guerrilla warfare is a form of combat where small groups of combatants ambush their adversaries, catching them off guard and then disappearing as quickly as they came, leaving devastation in their wake.


Guerrilla Goodness follows the same philosophy - Pop up, spread some love, then run away leaving only the love behind, without any guilt or stress to return the favor. It's good for you, too. Because when you are engaging your brain in finding ways to be kind, you aren't focusing on the bad things. You'll start seeing others with gentler eyes, looking for ways to slip them a smile and remain anonymous.

Love the idea but need some ideas? Try one of these:

Ding Dong Ditch Your Neighbors

We did this with our kids recently. They. Loved. It. This works the same as the childhood prank except that you leave a small gift behind before you ring the bell and run for your life. You can see examples and videos at GuerrillaGoodness.com.

Deliver Cookies to Civil Servants

Police Station, Brunswick, GA, via Wikimedia Commons
This one is a little bit different because you'll actually be seen, but they won't know who you are. Stop by a fire or police station with a platter full of baked goodies. I absolutely love doing this because they are always so appreciative of the gesture.

In my experience, police stations are a little harder to deliver to than fire stations are, but it just depends on how the ones in your area are set up. If you have small children with you and they aren't busy, the fire stations will frequently give you a tour and let the kids see the fire engines. They don't always have time for this so don't be bummed if they just thank you and let you leave.

Mow a Lawn / Rake Some Leaves / Shovel a Sidewalk

The actual act may vary depending on where you live, but the gesture of anonymous yard work is always a good one. It can be a bit difficult to pull off - after all anyone who drives by will see you - but the act is huge. If you really want to be sneaky, do theirs but wait a day or two before doing your own. Then they'll never suspect you, assuming someone did it while they were doing their own.

Pay it Backward

This is really popular right now. When you're sitting at the drive thru, pay for the person behind you. Our McDonalds use the dual window system, so you would get totally caught doing it at one of those drive thrus, but there are still plenty of places where you could be on the road before the person behind you knows what you did.

Looking for more ways? Check out GuerrillaGoodness.com for loads of other ideas for spreading kindness around your life. She even has a Family Kindness Kit that you can download to start the kindness ball rolling right within your own family.

Have you had an experience giving or receiving an anonymous gift of love? What did you do or how did it make you feel?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Make It Happen ~ Life Lessons from Yoda

Do. Or do not. There is no try. - Yoda

In case you missed the news this week, Disney now owns Lucasfilm, which I suppose makes Leia an acceptable nomination for the next Disney princess. Whether or not you are a maniacal Star Wars fan, elements of the movie have made their way into your life as they seeped into our culture over the last forty years.

The above quote from Yoda is one of those things.

I've heard it, I've used it, and I'm guessing you probably have to. If you haven't, then you've at least seen Nike's version at some time in your life, Just Do It.

The mentality behind both of those famous statements is that "trying" makes failure an acceptable option. By saying "I'll try" you are saying that part of you thinks you won't actually succeed. Yoda and Nike both think that's a recipe for failure.

Think of something you've always wanted to do. How many times have you started? How many times have you quit?

I've been thinking about this a lot this week as many friends of mine gear up for NaNoWriMo.

If you've ever wanted to be a writer but aren't sure if you have it in you, I encourage you to tackle NaNoWriMo. You're only a day or two behind right now, so there's no excuse not to jump in. The idea is that you write a 50,000+ word novel in a month.

It's doable. That is what got me started writing (though I did it in June, not November, but still). Because if you nail your butt to the chair and hammer out 50,000 words, you can look at it and say, "I did it. Now is it any good? Is it something I want to pursue?"

If you never get those 50,000 words down? Well, you don't have the option of moving forward.

(One note here, if you do hammer out a novel this month, DO NOT assume it's ready to go come December. The only way you can throw down 50,000+ words in a month is if you ignore editing and rewriting entirely. Please don't assume a publish-ready book will spill from your fingers in 30 days unless your name is Nora Roberts. I think she spits books out in her sleep.)

I'm not in a position to write a new novel this month, but I have other things I want to do. So I'm making November Anti-Procrastination month for me. I have friends doing NaNoWriMo, so I intend to utilize and join in the encouragement but with some slightly adjusted goals.

Won't you join me? Throw try out the window and let's get it done. Where do you want to be on December 1. Break it into mini-goals - one for every day of the month of November. Not do them. No try, no maybe, no we'll see.

I think it's time we all take advice from a small, wrinkly green muppet in swoosh decorated sneakers. Let's do it.

This month I'm getting back into my favorite jeans and finishing some book proposal submittals that have been sitting on my desk for a while. What are you going to tackle this month?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Society of Judgement

I've noticed something lately, and it's a bit disturbing.

We are a society of judges.

Photo by Salvatore Vuono, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Maybe it's the prevalence of blogs, the psuedo-security of the perceived anonymity of social media like Facebook, or the focus on building everyone's self-esteem so they think they're more important than others, but I've noticed an awful lot of people spewing judgments lately.

Most of the time they don't have a lot of information, either.

For example, a few weeks ago, Melissa Rycroft hurt her neck during rehearsal of Dancing With the Stars. Possibly in an attempt to make sure people tuned in to the show, not much was released about the incident in which she injured herself.

Prior to watching the show, I came across an article talking about how Melissa should leave the flipping and crazy stunts to Shawn Johnson because as the mother of a young child she shouldn't risk such a serious injury. While there might be some validity to that assessment - Melissa does try some risky things - I had several problems with the article.

1. Melissa was injured doing a fairly basic move. 

At the time of the article, the true nature of the accident was unknown, but the author just assumed it was a fall during a daring lift. She made her assessment according to that assumption.

It wasn't correct.

Melissa doing some awesome dancing on DWTS. 
In truth, Melissa's injury was one of those freak accident kind of things - like when you turn around too fast when someone talks to you and manage to twist your ankle. Her tennis shoe gripped on the floor and her body twisted funny, causing the injury.

2. The author made assumptions about Melissa's background.

At one point the author says "Melissa was just on The Bachelor" so she shouldn't be doing these crazy stunts and flips.

Melissa was actually a professional cheerleader prior to her Bachelor days. She made be a little further from her flipping and twirling days than Shawn is, but that's a background that would inspire some fancy moves and risk. Admittedly, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders are more of a dance team than a flipping team, but the physical stamina and abilities are still higher than your average woman. That background would inspire me to be a bit riskier.


Then there's the whole Lance Armstrong debacle.

Now, I'm not an avid sports fan, so I haven't pored over every available article or know all the minute details about the case, but from the several things I have seen, the average person doesn't know much.

Here's about all I've been able to find out:
        - The USADA is charging Lance Armstrong with using banned substances and doping.
        - They have several former teammates who will testify to this - some of which are athletes who failed drug tests after previous major races.
        - Lance Armstrong never failed a drug test after winning a race (or ever that I can find documented).
        - Lance is tired of fighting the accusations, which he claims are false, so he is dropping his opposition to the charges.

Photo by de:Benutzer:Hase, via Wikimedia Commons
I'll be honest - that's not a lot of information. It's enough for a lot of people though. There's even several people demanding that charitable donations to Lance Armstrong's charity be returned. Nowhere in any of the articles I've seen does anyone dispute the fact that Armstrong beat testicular cancer or accuse his charity of misusing funds. Also, despite the USADA and several media outlets attempts to make it so, Armstrong's cessation of defense does not equate to an admission of guilt.

I'm reminded of a girl in my high school. She had the reputation as the, ahem, easiest girl in the class. Jokes were made about her, people shunned her, and pretty much her reputation was in shreds. In what is probably the natural progression of that type of reputation, the rumor started that she was pregnant.

I actually talked to her once after this rumor started spreading. She told me she was a virgin and that all of that stuff had been made up. Maybe I'm naive, but I believed her. Given the fact that her belly never got big and she didn't suddenly "move away" for six months, I'm inclined the think the rumors were false.

Maybe Lance is in that kind of position. There's a lot of people saying something different than what he's saying. And because we like to judge, we want the naysayers to be right. It seems we want people to do wrong things and make bad decisions so we can judge them out of turn and have something to talk about on our many blogs and talk shows and entertainment columns.

I don't know if we're snapping to these judgments so we can feel important or smart, or maybe to feel victimized by life, but I don't want a part of it.

That isn't to say that there aren't things or people that are wrong or that we can never stand on the fact/opinion that some things are right or wrong. All I'm calling for is that we gather as much information as we can and we be willing to say when we don't have enough.

Have you noticed a spirit of judgment in yourself or those around you? What can we do to help each other stop, take a breath, and do a little research before pronouncing judgement on each other?



Friday, October 26, 2012

And now a bit of church history...

Normally I share an object lesson or little life insight on Fridays, but this week, Regency Reflections featured an amazing article on the the shifts in faith and religion during the 18th and 19th centuries in England.

I think sometimes in America we forget all the turmoil and change that the churches went through  in Europe prior to the religious history in this country. The article, posted in three parts this week, looks at John Wesley and the start of the Methodist denomination, the impact of science and the industrial revolution on faith, and prominent and powerful English figures that held strong faith and values.

Today, I'm asking you to take the time you would normally spend reading my blog (okay, maybe a little more time than normal) and read God in the Regency by Regan Walker.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Fear of Success

"The more I learn, the less I know." 

I'm not sure who said that. I'd love to attribute it correctly, but the illustrious internet gave me three possible options and about twenty variations, so, sadly, I don't know who actually said it first.

Regardless of it's origins, it's message remains true. At least in writing. I've mentioned before the stunning distance my writing has come in the past year. The thing is, the more I learn what to change in my writing, the more intimidated I get.

Because if I've learned nothing else, it's this: It's hard to write well.

Image courtesy of Phaistoon, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
And the thing is, you don't really "get there". There's always classes, trends, workshops, inspirations, and insights that tweak the writing of even the most prolific of authors. While many successful writers have eschewed the classes and critique partners, you still see progress in their writing from the first book to their most recent.

All of this means it's really intimidating to knock of the door of the publishing world and say, "Hello, I'm ready."

When I first decided to pursue writing for real, my first stop was a GRW conference. My story idea garnered some attention and I gleefully sent off my submissions, excited that I could be the one in a million that gets to succeed right away.

Oh, the bliss of ignorance. I know cringe and crawl under a table when I think of the sample pages I sent to some editors last year.

But now, I've grown. My writing has grown. Several people who actually know something have said it's ready to go. And I find myself again in the happy position of having attracted some interest through query letters and conference meets.

I've had my packets ready to go for about two weeks now.

But still, I sat on them.

I began playing hours of video games and reality television. I was staying up to ridiculous hours, filling myself with mindless junk, until suddenly it hit me: I'm scared.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici,
FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I'm not scared they'll reject me. That will make me sad, but it isn't really that scary.

No, I'm scared they won't reject me. Because if they like it and they take it then that means I'm suddenly supposed to know something. I've gone beyond the student to having arrived somewhere. I would have credentials and they'd expect me to turn around and do it again.

Potential success is terrifying!

But giving up isn't an option, so yesterday I held my breath and hit send. I thought I would throw up. There's still a long road to travel to publication. Don't expect to buy my book on a shelf as a Christmas present this year. But, as Lao-tzu said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

I'm stepping out. I may fall and slide right back to the beginning, but that's okay. I will have seen a little higher up the mountain.

What are you afraid to try? What's stopping you - fear of failure or fear of success?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Background Stress ~ Life Lessons from a Mobile Phone Battery

Mobile phones have become essential to many people's daily lives. Many people have even stopped home phone service because their mobiles have become the only phone they use. Now, smartphones and expansive data packages have increased the amount of attention we pay to our phones.

See how far phones have come in this
display of Ericson cellphone.
Picture from Wikimedia Commons
The first cell phone my family got was actually a car phone. It was semi-permanently mounted in the car. Taking it out required a large battery compartment that you carried around in a bag. Now my phone is semi-permanently attached to my body.

It's caused me to notice something recently.

The battery life has suddenly decreased dramatically.

Phones are so much more than phones now. I play games, check email, text, control my computer remotely, listen to music, use it as an alarm clock, read books, and, oh yeah, make phone calls. All of that means my phone is, or at least feels, essential to me. When it dies, I feel very lost, so this shortened battery life is very concerning.

I set out to discover why my battery was suddenly dying in the middle of the afternoon instead of making it well into the evening. It turned out two applications I had recently loaded were doing some extensive work in the background. Even when I wasn't using them, they were sucking up my phone's resources.

Life is like a phone. When we're young, life seems so much simpler. Most of the time there was only one thing to focus on. Our most difficult decision in a day might be whether Barbie wanted to ride her horse or drive in her car. The older we get, the more hats we put into our repertoire.

I look around now and realize I'm a wife, a mother, a writer, a minister, a daughter... the list goes on and on. I'm not sure I could even make a comprehensive list of all the roles I play sometimes.

Wikimedia Commons
What I've noticed is that sometimes these roles will drain my strength and energy even when I'm not focusing on them. I could be playing a game with my children and part of my mind is thinking about an upcoming church event. Or I'm working on my book and have to stop to write an email to a family member that just keeps niggling at my mind.

A game I play once every other day or so was taking up so much of my phone that at times I couldn't make a phone call or take a picture because the battery had gotten so low. Stress, worry, and a host of other issues related with stretching yourself through life can pull at you until there's nothing left to give whatever is in front of you at that moment.

In 1 Peter 5:7 God commands us to cast all our cares upon Him. God's battery is unlimited. He is uniquely able to carry all of your issues without losing strength, hope, or focus.

What is it for you? Are you thinking about work instead of focusing on a conversation with your spouse? Is waiting for test results (whether your own or a family member's) affecting your ability to worship?

I've changed the settings on that game so that it only runs when I'm actually playing it. What settings do you need to change in your life?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The God Box ~ Jacob's Journal

New column! Starting this month, I'll be welcoming a regular visitor to my blog every month - my darling husband, Jacob. I love discussing theology with my husband and frequently marvel at his ability to explain things. I hope you enjoy his bits of wisdom as much as I do. 

As a side note, sometimes he likes to use the "big words". If I looked up a word or concept while reading his article, I added a link in case you need to look it up as well. 


Luke 10:27 HCSBLove the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

Too many Christians today tend to live their lives compartmentalized. Our lives are divided up into little sections or rooms, like a house. There’s the living room, the kitchen, the school room, the playroom, the music room, the TV room, the bathroom, and the somewhere in the house they have a God room.

For some people the God Room is a tiny closet where they have to duck under the coats just to close the door. For others it is a grand an elaborately decorated space, kept pristine and perfect and separated from everything else. 

We go to the God Room on Wednesdays or Sundays or whatever day it is convenient for us to get a god fix. Some even visit the room every morning and then firmly shut the door before going to the next room. We go through life thinking we can carry God around in a little God box.

Our lives have become compartmentalized to the point that church, work, school, God, family, and every other aspect has its own little space and we do not let them mingle.

God did not intend for us to live with our lives divided in such a way, particularly when it comes to a relationship with Him. He wants us to live holistically with Him.

At times divisions are good and even important. There is some merit to having different personas for different circumstances as different situations have varying expectations. For instance, my father-in-law (we'll call him FIL) has two very distinct personas. Business FIL and Family FIL.

I have had the opportunity to work in business with him before and there is a distinct difference in the way he deals with people in both modes. It is quite funny to be hanging out with Family FIL, laughing and joking and playing jokes on each other, only to have the phone ring. When he receives a business call, Business FIL magically appears.

I learned early on that my wife inherited this gene. She has Business Kristi, Family Kristi, and a special adaptation I have named Phone Call Kristi. Author/Blogging Kristi is a strange combination of all of them. It's pretty fun to watch.   

But back to FIL. Business FIL is a great guy. His employees and bosses alike love him. Family FIL is a great father/father-in-law/granddad. But no matter what mode FIL is in, there’s one thing everyone knows about him: He’s a Christian. It is a part of who he is holistically, no matter what personality he puts on the outside.

The thing is, God shouldn't just have a room in your house, even if it is the best room in your house. He should be the foundation of the entire thing.

The Christian faith isn’t a compartment or room in a house to be kept secret or hid away. It is the foundation on which the house should sit. It is the foundation by which you build your entire life, and every compartment must sit on your faith.
 That means you let your faith bleed through every single area of your life. You should be a Christian at work, with friends and enemies, with your spouse, on your Myspace or Twitter, behind closed doors, and every living and breathing second of your life.
You should live for God, breathe for God, sing for God, read about God, pray to God, fear God, strive to be Godly.” (Are You A Compartmentalized Christian? Judge Yourself!, Revelation.co, September 18, 2009)

Compartmentalization of our faith is one of the biggest issues with Christianity in America today. It makes us look like hypocrites... well, I guess it makes us hypocrites. We want our spiritual void filled, but we don’t want to have to live with it all the time.

God calls us to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. When you give it all, there’s nothing left to divide.

Do you have difficulty letting God into every room in your life? What do you try to keep separate? 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Moonlight and Magnolia Awesomeness

If you have time, please do me a favor and go to the actual blog to read the article by clicking here. I know several of you read this via email or RSS feed, but I need an idea of how many people are actually reading this blog. Thanks!

This past weekend I went to the Moonlight and Magnolias Conference, put on by the Georgia Romance Writers. It was fabulous. Amazing. Wonderful. In other words, I had a great time.

I wanted to share a few highlights with you while it was still fresh in my mind.

1. I met Julia Quinn

Me with Julia Quinn at the M&M Book Signing

 I cannot tell you awesome this was to me.

Even though I write inspirational fiction and Julia doesn't, her writing style is probably what got me into writing in the first place. The inner kid in me jumped up and down all weekend screaming, "It's Julia Quinn!" Fortunately my outer adult had a little more control.

If I ever "make it" I hope I'm like her. A couple dozen books, New York Times Bestseller, RWA Hall of Fame, and she still is comfortable in a Wizard of Oz T-Shirt. Awesome.

2. I won third place in the Maggies

Receiving my certificate from the amazing Debby Giusti. 

I'll be honest, had I won first this would have ranked over meeting Julia Quinn, but I got third. Which is still pretty fabulous. As my dad pointed out, they even celebrate third place in the Olympics so it's a pretty good place to be. 

To have only been seriously pursuing my writing career for a year, it's an amazing place to be. I'm still a little awed. I mean, my name was on the big screen in front of 300 people, most of whom I didn't know. That's pretty cool. 

The hubby even came up and partied with me. It was a rather interesting look into the world of romance writers for him. He's heard me talk a lot about my inspirational writing buddies, but this was an all genre conference. The theme was "Corsets, Crime, and Craft". I'll let you figure out where it went from there.

Me and the hubs. Isn't he handsome? :) 

3. I learned A LOT. 

I don't have pictures and I can't even begin to remember the names of all the workshop people, but I learned so much this weekend. When it comes right down to it, that's what these conferences are for. I learned about period dress and fabrics (important to know when you write historicals!) and setting tones and layering meaning into my story.

Two workshops had big "A-Ha!" moments for me.

One was Lindi Peterson's workshop on sweet passion. I don't care what genre you write, if you have the opportunity to take her class, you should. It's a working workshop (I started to say "hands on", but given the title of the class, someone might get the wrong idea...) and I walked out of it with an amazing scene for my book. I wasn't the only one saying that either.
Here I am with Lindi at the book signing. I'm short, but not THAT short.
There's a table between us that I had to lean over. 
The other was the craft intensive with Jeffrey Stepakoff. I don't know how often he does workshops outside of the college where he works, but if he's ever in your area, check him out.

4. I actually won something!

I never win anything, so I was very excited when I won a critique from Missy Tippens. She's a friend so I probably could have gotten her to look at my stuff anyway, but now I don't have to feel guilty about it. ;)



A huge shout out to the conference committee that worked so hard to make this year's M&M amazing. Next year's will be a bit smaller, because RWA Nationals is in Atlanta next year, but if you are looking for a small conference to put on your annual radar, you can't do better than the M&M.

Were you at M&M? What did you think? What small conference have you been to that you would recommend?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Flight of Fancy ~ Peek At My Bookshelf

Break out the scones and get ready to chat because Laurie Alice Eakes stopped by today!

I'm taking a break from sharing my all time favorites to tell you about a new volume of fantastic story telling that just found its home on my bookshelf.

Flight of Fancy by the fabulous Laurie Alice Eakes is a very unique romance. We're all used to that against-the-grain, buck-the-system, out-of-the-norm heroine and we love her deeply. But Cassandra Bainbridge has a different way to avoid the norms of society - she wants to go over them.

If you follow Laurie Alice on twitter or facebook, you've been seeing her fabulous articles on ballooning. While today it's not all that uncommon to see a hot air balloon float by (if you're in the right place at the right time, you could see a whole flock of them) but in the early 19th century, it was quite a novelty.

Flight of Fancy is a beautiful tale of imperfect people and a perfect God. And a hot air balloon that manages to almost be a character in its own right.

The official blurb for Flight of Fancy:

Her head is in the clouds. His feet are planted firmly on the ground. Can love cover the distance?

Cassandra Bainbridge may be a bit of a bluestocking, but when Geoffrey Giles is near, love seems a fine alternative to passion for Greek and the physics of flight. With his dashing good looks and undying devotion to her, the earl of Whittaker sets Cassandra's heart racing with his very presence. It seems his only flaw is his distaste for ballooning, the obsession that consumes so much of her thoughts.

When a terrible accident compels her to end her betrothal, Cassandra heads for the country to recover from both her injuries and her broken heart. With time on her hands and good friends to help her, she pursues her love for ballooning and envisions a future for herself as a daring aeronaut. But when Lord Whittaker slips back into her life, will she have to choose between him and her dream?


And now give a warm welcome to Laurie Alice Eakes!

What is your favorite procrastination activity for those days you know you should be writing, but don't feel like it? 

Reading either research materials or obscure news articles. I’m a news junky.

What authors have inspired your writing style? 

I’d say Patricia Veryan and, to a lesser extent, Georgette Heyer, Jane Aiken Hodge and, don’t laugh at me, Charles Dickens.

You've written a lot of books. Do you still remember the first time you held a copy of your first book? What advice would you give to writers still trying to reach that milestone? 


Oh, yes, I remember. I was living in a high rise outside Washington, D.C., and the concierge called me over to tell me I had a package. He set the box on the counter, I took out my keys and opened it there, then stood hugging the top book in the box—it was a hardcover.

Advice? Just keep writing. Nothing gets you closer faster than perseverance. And be willing to learn and listen to criticism. It isn’t always nice. It isn’t always right, and it is mostly worth sifting for a crumb of truth for improvement.


What had been your favorite "author" moment? 


Seems like each new one is better than the last. The most recent favorite is sitting down in Dallas with two editors and a marketing person from my dream publisher to talk about my upcoming Regency series for them. I was so excited and nervous I completely missed dinner and didn’t even notice—until midnight when I was starving. I felt like, “Wow, this is really happening.”


You can learn more about Laurie Alice and Flight of Fancy on Regency Reflections all this week. You can also answer some trivia questions for a chance to win a wonderful gift basket that includes an Amazon gift card.

Flight of Fancy is available from most major retailers. Special thanks to Laurie Alice and Revell for my copy of the book.

Friday, October 5, 2012

God Provides ~ Life Lessons from a Barbie Doll

We're filling shoeboxes at my house this week. If you haven't heard of Operation Christmas Child, it is a ministry of Samaritan's Purse. They collect shoeboxes filled with toys, hygiene items, school supplies, and other goodies and distribute them to children in poor countries. Children that have likely never seen a Christmas present before.

Operation Christmas Child As a lover of everything Christmas, I adore this ministry. I love that I can be a part of bringing a piece of Christmas to a child that otherwise would not see any of it. And with each shoebox, they distribute the Gospel message, bringing hope that lasts far longer than the boxes contents.

This year, we are having each of our kids fill a shoebox for a child their own age. My oldest, Bean, is so excited about it that she's about to bust at the seams.

Earlier this week we went shopping. We hit the discount store and the dollar store, snagging some great stuff to put in our boxes. Bean wanted to put a Barbie in her box. I told her we would get one at the dollar store, since the recipient wasn't likely to know or care about the brand of the doll.

I didn't know that the dollar store doesn't carry Barbie-like dolls anymore.

When we left the dollar store it was too late to go back to the discount store. We told Bean we'd pick the doll up later in the week.

She started to cry.

Now it's always hard to listen to your child cry, but it's especially hard when she's crying because she wants to do something for someone else and doesn't think she's going to get to. (As a side note, she has also cried when we forget to bring our food bank donation to the church. I love this girl's heart.) Between sobs, she choked out phrases like, "But I want to get it for her." and "I know that little girl would love the doll!"

As we drove home, I remembered something. Several months ago I received a coupon in the mail for Kohl's. I used it to buy a Barbie doll to stick in the gift closet for Bean's next birthday party invite. There was a doll - a nicer one than Bean wanted to buy - waiting at home.

My husband was talking to my daughter, telling her that God would make sure the little girl got everything she was supposed to get. Finally, my daughter calmed down and remembered the faithfulness of the God she loved. She said that God could do anything. He could even make her a Barbie.

At home I went to hunt down the Barbie doll and Bean hit her knees by her bed, praying that God would make sure that the little girl got the doll she was supposed to have and could He please bring it soon because Bean was really worried about it.

I'll never forget the look on her face when I laid the doll in front of her on the bed.

It's a ballerina with brown hair. Just like my daughter. It's like she's sending herself in the box to that little girl on the other side of the world.

As I sit here, recalling the evening, I am struck again at how God works. He had a plan for that doll. What I thought was just an act of frugality and forethought, He was going to use to teach my daughter, and me, about His faithfulness and love.

Our church is collecting the shoeboxes this weekend. When I see it packed away, I know a piece of my heart will go with it. And I'm okay with that. There's a little girl somewhere in the world that could use that extra dose of love so that she can learn about the God that never fails to provide what His children need most.

Even when it's a Barbie doll.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Clearing Out and Cleaning Up

My house is more upside down than normal right now, but it's gong to be worth it.

In one week I'll cart a van full of stuff of to a consignment sale. It's a win-win! I clear some stuff out of my house AND get paid for it!

One thing I've noticed, for me at least, is that when I'm clearing things out or organizing, things get a lot messier before they get cleaner. Right now my living room looks like it could be a consignment store in its own right.

Clothes are thrown over all the furniture, unused toys are stacked by the fireplace, and supplies and other accouterments cover most every other available surface.

When it's all said and done though, it will be nice to have all of this stuff out of my house. Clutter makes it hard to clean, hard to find things, and hard to store other things that we actually use and want to keep. So while I'm tired of the mess, I'm excited about the outcome.

Have you ever cleaned out for a yard sale or just a big donation run? What was the best part?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Preparing to Flood Your Mind

I have a lot of friends that spent the past weekend at the American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. While part of me is more than a little jealous of that, I am excited that I will be attending a smaller, more local conference in a couple of weeks.

For writers, conferences are like continuing education classes or special training sessions in other careers.

If you've never been to conference, let me explain what it is. Three days of experienced writers pouring knowledge into your brain with a firehose. In the midst of that you pull yourself together to meet with editors and agents and try to sell them your book in five minutes.

Craziness.

At the same time it's absolutely fabulous.

Because there are also experienced writers sitting in the seats next to you in the workshop. Such a fabulous reminder that we never perfect the craft. There is always something to improve upon.

But how do you prepare yourself to take in all of that information?

1. Sleep

I plan on getting to bed at reasonable times over the next two weeks. That way I should be well rested in time for the conference.

2. Exercise

It may seem silly to say that you need stamina to sit in a conference room all day, but if you're going to sit there and pay attention, you need some energy.

3. Write

I have some large writing goals between now and then. That way my mind is in a writing groove when I go to class. I know what my problems are, I know my stories, examples, and can see where their advice will fit.

Do you have any other thoughts on how to prepare for conference? Maybe some of you that just came back can share some knowledge.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What Do You Do Yourself?

I don't know if hubby and I are lacking time, talent, or inspiration, but my extended family seems to be much more inclined to complete Do-It-Yourself projects.

Gotta trim a few strings and
add some clothespins, but
it's looking pretty good! 
Between seeing all the fabulous things that they tackle, the constant influence of gorgeous Pinterest projects, and a general desire to make/have cool things done around my house, one would think I'd be all over the DIY scene. I mean, I grew up doing DIY (see the part about my extended family...)

However, the fact of the matter is that we are just now finishing our first DIY project in years. We turned an old chest of drawers into a dress-up clothes closet for my girls. It's in the last stages. All I have to do is add a few clothes pins and load it up.

I love the feeling of knowing I took something we had and gave it a new life AND filled a great need in our home. Dress up clothes tend to swallow the playroom in about 2.3 seconds. Now they will have a neat little home instead of a box in the corner.

Hopefully, actually finishing this small project will spur me on to other projects. There are certainly a few other things I'd like to see done around my house.

Are you a do-it-yourselfer? I'd be curious to know the biggest project you've ever tackled on your own. Was is a good idea? Do people who excel at doing their own projects motivate you or irritate you?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Moving On ~ Life Lessons from a Bandaid

My middle child has sensitive skin. She also has a tendency to scratch and pick at her scabs. Disgusting, I know, but she is three so I try to cut her some slack.

She had one boo-boo on her forehead that she wouldn't leave alone, so I put a little square Band-aid over it. (Yes, it was an actual brand name Band-aid. :) ) Because I didn't want her to keep re-opening the wound, I left the Band-aid on for a couple of days.

When it did come off, the skin underneath the sticky part was all broken out. We had left the bandage on far longer than it really needed to be there.

Life is like that a lot.

We take certain measures because circumstances at the time require it. These things are intended to be temporary measures to solve a temporary problem. Unfortunately they become permanent fixtures in our life and those temporary measures eat away at our mental, emotional, and sometimes even physical health.

Some things, like a family having to move into their parents' basement, are harder to accept long term. Small, and sometimes big, things keep the fact that the situation is far from ideal at the forefront of our minds. At the same time you get into a routine and eventually things don't seem so bad. Instead of looking for an apartment as soon as its feasible, the family may decide to delay a few more months so they can save some extra money, or put a down payment on a house.

Other things, especially emotional bandages, also tend to stick around far longer than they should. Perhaps you are feeling wounded and raw from a fight with a friend. Sunday morning comes along and you feel like you both just need some time to cool off before you talk it out, so you skip church.

Wednesday comes along and you figure that a week's sabbatical will really help your equilibrium.

There are times and situations where a respite, a cooling off period, could be needed. But it is all too easy to let this temporary fix become an ingrained habit. The next Sunday you might be too embarrassed to go to church. Everyone will ask where you were all week and then you might have to explain the fight. So you skip again. In another week everyone will forget about it.

The next thing you know you haven't been to church in five months.

Habits are hard to break, especially when they were created out of necessity.

I could have taken my daughter's bandage off the next day, knowing the bleeding had stopped and the wound was nearly healed. Instead I left it on because it seemed easier than teaching her not to pick at it. Now I'm having to medicate the entire area as the skin heals.

Are there things in your life that were supposed to be temporary but became permanent fixtures? Do you need to work on getting they out?

Or maybe you've already ripped off your bandages. Did you have some mess to clean up from your fix? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fancy Pants ~ A Peek at My Bookshelf

While I enjoy the western setting for books, rarely do these stories become my all time favorites. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule and today I'm talking about one of those.


I picked up Fancy Pants first because of the cover. If ever there was an example of cover art making a sale, this is it. As you can see, the image of a girl in a tub looking extremely guilty is not common cover art for an inspirational novel. It's not even common art for a secular novel to be honest.

But it is intriguing. Even moreso when you realize it's actually a scene out of the book.

Have I grabbed your attention yet?

Fancy Pants starts out as a classic story of hidden/mistaken identity. To flee her circumstances, Sydney dresses up like a man because, well, it's 1890 and men can still do a whole lot more than women. Plus she's hiding with her woman-hating uncle.

Beyond that, the story doesn't fall into any traditional or typical lines. Watching Sydney come into her own and learn her own strengths is entertaining and encouraging at the same time.

There's just enough underdog in her to make you cheer for her, enough sass to make you laugh, and enough hardship to make you yell at the other characters. I always consider it a good book if I feel like yelling at the characters.

Fancy Pants is written by Cathy Marie Hake and is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Christian Book Distributors as well as many local bookstores.

Official blurb for Fancy Pants:

When Big Tim Creighton spies the mincing fop headed toward Forsaken Ranch, he is appalled. Thankful his boss isn't around to witness the arrival of his kin, Tim decides he'll turn "Fancy Pants" Hathwell into a man worthy of respect.

Lady Sydney Hathwell never intended to don men's attire, but when her uncle mistakenly assumed she was a male, the answer to her problems seemed clear. Her disguise as "Syd" was meant to be temporary...but the arranged marriage she's fleeing, her uncle's attitude toward the fairer sex - and her own pride - compel her to continue the guise far longer than she had planned.

When her deception is exposed, will she be forced to abandon her hopes for family... and true love?