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.


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?

Friday, September 7, 2012

If You Can't Say Something Nice... ~ Life Lessons from Buying Tap Shoes

My daughter is in dance class this year. Both of them are actually.

In my efforts to be prepared and efficient, I made sure that both of them had all the shoes and other paraphernalia they needed for class about a week before it was scheduled to start.

On the day of their first class I discovered that my younger daughter was missing a tap shoe. She went to her first tap class in ballet slippers. I turned the house upside down and sideways looking for the shoe. Nowhere.   Our best guess? My son liked it and either hid it somewhere or threw it away.

She went to her second tap class in ballet shoes.

After another week of searching, I gave in and said we'd replace them, but I'd try the used bin and the dance studio first. They didn't have any small enough.

She went to her third tap class in ballet shoes.

So suffice it to say, I simply had to go get her some tap shoes before her fourth class which was this week. There are a few important things to know about the purchasing of the tap shoes.

The shoes. 
1. They had to be tan. 

In case you are a normal person and don't have a daughter in dance class, let me explain the import of this statement. It means you have to go to a dancewear specialty store because places like Wal-Mart, Academy Sporting Goods, and Payless sell black tap shoes.

2. Her foot is tiny.

Which means that not every dancewear store is going to have shoes small enough.

3. There aren't many dancewear stores around me.

In fact, there's really only one. I usually drive to one near my parents' house about 45 minutes away. There's a super nice lady there, she gives me a discount, and my mom swings by to help watch my other children while the one getting shoes is fitted. I didn't have time to do that this week.

4. Dance shoes are a bit finicky in how they fit.

So I couldn't just order a pair off the internet. Which is painful. Because I order almost everything aside from food over the internet. Sometimes I even get food.

5. The dancewear stores that are around me have funky hours.

Even my normal one by my parents. It doesn't open until 2:30 which makes sense as most of her customers have, you know, school. That doesn't make it any less frustrating.

So my mission, which absolutely had to be accomplished, had a lot of difficulties.

Monday was labor day. My husband had it off so I thought we'd go get tap shoes Monday.

The store near me is closed on Monday. It's actually always closed on Monday, not just labor day. But on Tuesday (which, by the way, is dance class day) she's open from twelve to six.

So I think, not a problem. My two youngest usually go down for a nap at noon, but we can delay long enough to run down the street and get tap shoes. Shouldn't be a problem.

There was a problem.

Image: www.morguefile.com
I pull in the parking lot and see a sign on the door that the credit card machine is down so they can only take cash and check right now. Don't have my checkbook or enough cash on me, so I run down the street to the Publix ATM (which charges a fee, but it was ten minutes closer than my nearest bank branch).

I get cash, come back, it's 12:30. Get the kids out of the car, go up to the door. And it's locked. No movement inside. Nobody's there. The store isn't open.

Not getting tap shoes is not an option.

So we pile back in the car, my son is VERY not happy about this, and I'm so frustrated I'm about to cry.

And this is where I make the key mistake in this whole nasty business. I called the store's phone number, just to see if she was in the back and had forgotten to unlock the door or something like that. No answer. In my frustration I leave a polite but not anywhere near nice message about how she should be open when she says she'll be open and I guess she won't be getting my business.

As soon as I hang up I think, "This is going to come back and bite me."

We get in the car and I head toward a big sporting goods store about twenty minutes away. It's my next best shot. I have my mom call around while I'm in route in case there's somewhere else I can go. Well, the sporting goods store only has black shoes and the other dance stores don't open until after school which means I don't have time to get to them and get back in time for dance class.

As I turn around to drive home, I realize I'm going to have to check the first store again and see if it's open. Because I pass it on my way home. And not getting tap shoes isn't an option. By this point my daughter is in the back crying because she thinks she's going to tap class in her ballet shoes again. Not good.

image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Sure enough she's open now.

We go in. It takes me five minutes to get up the courage to confess that I'm the meanie who left the nasty message and I'm really sorry.

She hasn't checked her messages yet. Which, in a way, is a good thing, because when she hears it she'll know I apologized.

We got our shoes.

She gave me a discount because of the earlier trouble.

I felt like dirt.

Why do I tell you this story? Because it just goes to show that the old adage is right. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. You never know when it will come back to bite you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Show and Tell Time!

If you read Friday's post, you saw that I had an epiphany about stress in my life and how I was clinging to it as both an excuse and a motivator.

No more, my friends! This weekend, with the help of my fabulous hubby, we have been tackling projects around the house to relieve stress and increase organization and potential productivity.

Want proof? Just look below. It's time for some show and tell, class.

Exhibit A: The Brown Chair You Can Sit In

Why is this impressive? Because we haven't been able to sit it in since the middle of July. It's where I've been piling the clean laundry and we've been digging through it. Now? You can sit in it and kick your feet up. Which is good. Because it's one of the most comfortable chairs in the house.

Empty Brown Chair

Exhibit B: My New Dress

Yes, amongst the myriad of household makeoverness I found time to go shopping. Behold, the dress I shall be wearing to the banquet at the Moonlight and Magnolias conference where the winners of the Maggies will be announced. Even if I don't win, I'll be up on stage. I would like to look nice. 

Reason this is impressive? Banquet is, get ready for it, an entire month away. Take that procrastination!
Draped waistline of purple dress

Exhibit C: The Top of My Dryer

Please note the absence of various laundry type clutter such as the detergent and dryer sheets. Those are now at home in a new laundry cart between the washer and the dryer. Also absent? The mounds of lint kangaroos (they're bigger than bunnies but still hop) and strange sticky unknown substances that make you wonder if the clothes come out of the laundry dirtier than they went in. 

The best part? I can now return to my habit of taking the clothes from the dryer and folding them on top of the dryer for immediate put away. 

Cleared and cleaned top of a white dryer

Exhibit D:The Almost Empty Cabinet

This one was really all my hubby, but I'm still counting it because it's a biggie. Notice the vast emptiness on both of these shelves. The last vestiges of baby food (stockpile baby cereal) have left the house. What was out of date hit the trash can. Everything else went into the car to go to the food pantry Wednesday. Win-win.  Now there's room to organize the rest of the cabinets.    

Half empty cabinet

Exhibit E: The Carpet In My Writing Area

Probably the most impressive picture in this collection. This is the carpet in my writing area. It's pretty much all of it. My writing area is rather small. Which is probably why the area was full of papers, reference books, notebooks, a blanket, piles of DVDs, and various office supplies. Like Post-its. Yeah. 

Now they are all neatly stored in an end table cabinet directly behind me. (It's really difficult to explain the layout of our living room. It just works. Trust me.)

I vacuumed this area for the first time in about three months. Oh yeah. 

Small expanse of white carpet

There were numerous other accomplishments this weekend, but many of those are in my children's rooms. And they're asleep. So I can't get pictures because I didn't do this blog until the... last... minute...

Oh well. I suppose there's still room for improvement on the anti-procrastination train. 

How about you? Did you accomplish anything fabulous this weekend?