Ah, the joys of motherhood. Not.

I frowned at my youngest daughter, sure I’d heard her wrong. “No? But you’re taking a shower later today. Your body’s going to be clean and—”

“No! I don’t want you to change my sheets. The more you wash them, the more pilly they get, and then it annoys me when I go to bed.”

“Okaaaay.” So the dirty sheets remained. But later that night, minutes before she had to slip into bed, out popped her question: “Did you wash my sheets?”

Seriously?

Up went my eyebrow. “You didn’t want me to.”

“Nooo!” Her face crumpled and her fists clenched. “I just took a shower. My sheets are dirty.”

“You told me you didn’t want your sheets washed—”

“I never said that!”

Seriously?

Days later, with twenty minutes to spare before heading to school, she was still in her pajamas. I pointed to her room. “What are you doing standing around? Go get dressed.”

“I don’t have anything to wear.”

“Your bureau is full of clothes. Pick something.”

“I can’t. They’re clean and I’m not.” Pause. “Do you have any of my clothes hanging in your closet?” (It’s where I hang the wet clothes to dry.)

I jammed my hands onto my hips. “Let me get this straight. You refuse to wear clean clothes out of your drawer because you’re dirty, yet you want to wear clean clothes that might be hanging in my closet?”

These are just two snapshots of dozens of scenarios I deal with every day from daughter #2, who insists on arguing over almost anything, whether tangible, intangible, or choice of words. Heaven forbid I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went when trying to defend my position (and if I don’t use the exact same phrasing, then “you never said that!”). This is a child who will insist the sky is green and the grass is blue just for the sake of argument.

I’m mentally exhausted.

If I didn’t know I was in my right mind, I’d think I were going insane.

(My apologies to her grandparents reading this post. Just love on her all the more, please.)

For some reason, God in His infinite wisdom chose to pair up this mother with that daughter. Not only does He believe I’m the best mom for her–and that mothering her will iron out some wrinkles in her character–but He knows that having her as my daughter is the only way to iron out some wrinkles in my character. Because if it weren’t for daughter #2, I wouldn’t have realized I have such a problem with impatience. And anger.

See, scenarios like the above typically go on too long and end in a power struggle. And on really bad days, you’ll want to retreat along with daughter #1 into another room. Though it may seem like I’m being glib about this behavior from both myself and daughter #2, I’m not. I’m not proud of my actions and reactions. A yelling, angry mom is not the motherhood I envisioned when I was a child, myself.

But I share it with you because I suspect I’m not alone in this. I’m guessing many parents share my inner conflict. We think we’re decent people—kind, considerate, easy-going, polite—until we have children. Until we come up against a strong-willed mini-me who doesn’t want to obey and instead demands to do things his/her own way. Then out come our fangs, our insides curl and boil with heat, and we start doling out punishments and consequences as our voices rise in volume until it’s not one child throwing a fit…it’s two!

Lately, it’s gotten worse in this household, since my and my hubby’s tolerance threshold for her behavior is at an all-time low, and daughter #2 does not like that. So she’s pushing back. And it. Is. So. Exhausting.

Yet even this has a positive side when examined in the calmer hours of the day. In the Bible, James writes, “Consider it pure joy…when you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Really? Count it as joy?

Yes, because trials—if we respond to them correctly—are supposed to draw us closer to God. It’s in our distress we cry out for His strength, His patience, His wisdom. We are reminded yet again we can’t go it alone; we need the Holy Spirit to intervene and pull us along when we can’t make our feet move on our own. My walk with the Lord will be stronger tomorrow for the strong-willed child He’s placed in my life today. And if I press into Him now, then years later my patience will be mightier because I will have had so many opportunities to practice it, and my anger will not run as hot.

If I press into Him.

Lord, may I continue to press into You.

I’ve often prayed that He would help me love my kids the way He loves them, but recently one of my girlfriends recommended a more specific twist: to pray that God would help me love those qualities about my children that drive me crazy. Because He has plans for these kiddos and their unique quirks that I know nothing about. Daughter #2’s first and middle names combined mean “defender of the faith,” and the same defiance that rears its head against my parental authority is probably just the thing she’s going to need to wield in the future against a society that’s becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Christians.

Now if I can just make her realize it’s not me she needs to defend against! 😉

Lest I leave you with an unbalanced view of this precious child of God, however, here’s an incomplete list of her awesomeness:

She’s hysterically funny.

She’s extremely intelligent.

When she’s determined, nothing can stop her.

She can be compassionate, loving, and considerate.

She loves little kids.

She loves the Lord.

She’s got a fertile imagination. It’s quite possible I got the writing talent just so I could pass those genes on to her.

She can draw amazing pictures with her tattoo pens.

She enjoys school (don’t think I could manage mornings if she hated to go).

She’s a loyal friend.

She’s overflowing with possibility.

When she’s in a happy mood, she’s an absolute joy to be around, and she loves to make people smile.

Thank you, Jesus, for my children. Give me wisdom and patience to parent them. Grow me, even as You grow them. Amen.

What if We Lay Aside the Blame?

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These days, the nation looks more like the Fractured States of America than the United States of America. There’s so much anger and fear, name-calling and hatred, bitterness and resentment. But what if…

WHAT IF, instead of accentuating our differences, we focused on what makes us the same? Each of us at one time or another has been somebody’s brother or sister, son or daughter, mother or father, wife or husband, lover or friend. Each of us at one time or another has felt sadness and joy, anger and forgiveness, grief and contentment. We’ve all experienced triumphs and setbacks, and we all suffer from insecurities and pride. We want the best for our children, desire financial security, crave affordable health coverage, need shelter from the elements, and we ache find that certain somebody who will love us despite our faults.

We want so many of the same things; we just don’t agree on how best to attain them.

But WHAT IF, rather than pointing a finger at others to lay blame and accusation, we looked at ourselves first?

WHAT IF we took accountability for our own actions and the parts we each play in this fractured nation? We call for tolerance and then become intolerant of those who have different beliefs and values. We speak of love, but our actions scream “hate” when we feel threatened. We desire our own freedom…at the expense of someone else’s freedom. We frown on bullies in the schoolyard but think nothing of bullying strangers on Twitter or Facebook.

Whatever your beliefs about Jesus Christ, I think most of us would agree with him when he said in Matthew 7:12, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (NLT) How many times do I say this to my children? “Don’t treat your sister the way she treated you. How do you want to be treated? That is the way to treat your sister.” Because, like as not, what we dole out over time will eventually make its way back around to us.

Do you want respect? Be respectful of others. Do you want to receive kindness? Be kind to others. If someone insults you, compliment them in return. (We can always find something nice to say if we take the time to look.) It’s hard, though, huh? The adage, “Kill ’em with kindness” sounds good in movies and reads good in books. Yet when the rubber meets the road, when you’re the one on the receiving end of prejudice or sexism, discrimination or racism (and trash-talking a white person is no less racist than trash-talking an African American), it’s hard to implement. It’s hard to show humility when pride gets stuck in our throats; hard to keep quiet when our bodies tremble with the need to scream; hard to love someone who represents everything we hate.

hands-1820675_1280But if we want to repair the hurt and disunity in this nation, then someone needs to take the first step and break the cycle. That someone is you. And me. Not our significant others. Not our children. Not the law enforcement. Not our leaders. Not in the passing of more laws or abolishing others. Not in sitting back and letting “someone else” do the grunt work. We—YOU and ME—must get up, dig in, break the cycle and move one step closer to that common ground. Day in and day out. Hour after hour. Tweet after tweet. 😉

It’s a daunting task, true. But WHAT IF the unity we find, the healing we can give, the forgiveness we experience, results in a far more attractive future than one built on anger and hatred? Isn’t that worth a try?

What’s Your Word for 2017?

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Happy New Year! Are you sad to see the old one go? Thrilled to see this new one come? Vice versa? When I sit down and take a moment to think back over the year, 2016 was a pretty good one, but I’m hoping 2017 turns out to be even better.

Last year, I had two words to propel me into 2016: optimism and perseverance. While I didn’t stay optimistic 365 days out of the year, I did see progress in tamping down my negative thoughts and not letting them drown out my self-pep talks. As for perseverance, my goal was to finish my latest (fourth?) draft of my Christmas story and start sending out queries by summer’s end. I told myself I’d send out at least 35 queries before taking a break and revamping my strategy, if need be. I ended up only sending out 30, because…

…Query #21 to a small publishing company was rewarded with an offer of publication!

Yes, my Christmas YA (young adult) fantasy novel, Tinsel in a Tangle, will be published by Clean Reads in October 2017! *happy dance* More on that in upcoming posts. The decision to sign with CR came with a few lessons and epiphanies, and I really should write down what I learned so I can refer back to it when Negativity comes knocking in the months to come. (Because you know it will; Negativity is relentless that way.)

So what’s my word for 2017? PURPOSEFUL.

Image result for purposefulPurposeful in how I spend my money, what books I choose to read, movies I choose to watch, but mainly, this word has to do with how I will spend my time. Because somehow I’m supposed to find the hours to research book marketing so I can help promote my book when the time comes, find the hours to begin writing a new manuscript, continue posting on my blog, and then there’s the whole non-writer part of my life in which, as wife and mother, I play the part of companion, confidant, laundress, cook, housecleaner, chauffeur, teacher, counselor, shopper, etc.

In order to do these things well—according to how God would have me perform these duties, not according to society—I need to approach my days with purpose and prayer. I need to remember God is in control of my book’s success, not the writing world telling me I’m supposed to do A, B, C, D, and E in order to see success, because that could easily paralyze me. While I will do what I reasonably can for the sake of Tinsel when it’s released, my talents do not fall under “marketer,” or “promoter.” I’m the type of person who’d like to be recognized without having to call attention to herself, yet I’m not naiive to think God doesn’t have some growing for me to do in these areas. 🙂 Somehow, He’ll help me bring it all together, but it will be done with purpose.

How about you? Have you chosen a word for 2017? Did you choose one last year and see an improvement in that area? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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New Perspective…?

My blog has been quiet because my life is not. But here’s a quick post until I have time to sit down and pen some exciting news.

Last weekend my family spent a good portion cleaning our house, and I got a little pushback from my daughters. “Why do we have to clean now for a party that’s not happening until next Friday?” one of them whined.

Up went my eyebrow. “Because I’m not waiting until Thursday to do it—only to realize I’m having to do it all by myself since you’re at school and Daddy’s at work.” Duh. (I learned my lesson of what happens when you procrastinate in high school, thanks.)

What my girls didn’t know then—won’t know until this afternoon—is that my parents are flying in from MA for a surprise visit today (my dad and I each turn a new decade this weekend). So I had to have the house cleaned before Friday. Thus, unbeknownst to my girls, they were going through the unpleasant business of picking up their rooms, putting away toys, etc., in preparation for something very fun in a matter of days.

I had to stop and wonder: how often does God require His children to go through unpleasant business because He knows it’s in preparation for something “fun” further down the road? I’m a spoiled American that can get whiny when life doesn’t go the way I want, but maybe next time I’m grumbling about whatever is going on, I’ll be able to look at it from a different perspective and keep the complaining to a minimum. 😉

Tinsel à la Phone Case

Last week I shared some of the things I worked on this summer when I had limited writing time. But I saved the best for last. Well, best in my opinion. 😉

If you’ve followed me for a while (or know me in person), then you’ve come to realize I love Christmas. Which is part of the reason I want to stay in my Christmas manuscript rather than emerge and hop into something new. (I’ll get there, don’t worry.) And because I’m kinda smitten with my elf, Tinsel (as creator-created kind of way, thankyouverymuch), I’ve been wanting to bring her to “life” in phone carrier form. 🙂

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Traditional dirndl

Now, Tinsel wears a dirndl, a traditional dress worn in Austria, Bavaria, and South Tyrol, so first I drew out how that might translate on a knitted/felted phone carrier, and then I knitted it in bright colors (it was summer at the time, go figure) to make sure it would actually come out looking right.

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No, it’s not a headless doll. 😉

My girls say it looks like Disney’s Rapunzel—which got me thinking of ways I could knit carriers to reflect Disney princesses, but that’s a feat for another season.

Knowing I had the design as close as I was going to get it over a set of 18 stitches and 45 rows, I got right to work on Tinsel. Just kidding. I didn’t start on her until last month, since I was busy with all those other projects.

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Tinsel before needle-felting.

And because there’s a team of Scottish-accented reindeer that play a significant role in my story, they had to be reflected in my phone carrier somehow, right? So here’s my token reindeer:

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And here they are pieced together.

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After needle-felting and sewing.

Though neither of these characters took long to knit, I think it took me almost as long to sew on all the different pieces of the reindeer as it took me to knit them. And sewing the apron string around Tinsel’s torso was not an easy task. Nevertheless, they were fun to make, and since I have lots more yarn…well, a red dirndl-clad elf is calling my name.

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Though Writing Ebbs, the Creative Waters Keep Flowing

I didn’t get a lot of new writing done this summer. With the lack of a schedule, the kids being home for summer break, a family vacation, and the fact I wanted to focus more on querying agents when I did get time to write, fresh words just didn’t make it on the page.

But I stayed creative.

Few words are making it to the computer screen even now that school has started and vacations are over. I’m still querying, but I’m plum dried up and uninspired right now to delve into a new world/new manuscript. Honestly, I’d rather roam around the streets in my imaginary Christmas town, peeking in windows on the lookout for a sequel, but I don’t have enough of a plot to get started. Yet. (Yet–right, Lord?)

Again, however, I’m staying creative.

I’ve come to realize that when my writing well has run dry, the other inventive parts of me flare to life to fill in the void until my well is full again. So…here’s what I’ve been up to over the last few months.

First, I finished some projects that had carried over from the summer of ’15.

Alas, though the tunic top fits great, it doesn’t look great on me. Not my first knitting #fail, and I can always either sell this or reclaim the yarn for a different project, but it’s extremely frustrating to have spent all that time knitting something I won’t wear. :/ The market bag is huge—cuz that’s how I intended it to be—but I keep forgetting I need to sew a liner to the underside of the handle to give it more strength. So…I have yet to use it. #fail again—but only for the time being. 😉

But here’s a #success…

From this:

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As usual, I got too project-happy and forgot to take a pic before taking off the trim pieces!

To this:

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This project had been in the mental plans for at least two years, and last summer I ripped off (gently) the trim pieces and painted inside the cupboards…and then got lost in the plot of my Christmas story and progress careened to a halt. Because who can think about refinishing furniture when there’s a world of characters shouting in your head?

Once I found the fabric I wanted to use for the drawer fronts, I went on a hunt for new drawer pulls. The brass ones I found at Lowe’s, and the two funky ones I found at an Anthropologie store in MA. (And yes, it meant I had to fill in old holes and drill new ones, but the end result was well worth the effort.)

The trim pieces bordering the fabric I cut to size from 8’ trim lengths I bought at Lowe’s. Again. And I might as well say here that the paint I used is Valspar, sold at…yep, Lowe’s. (Love that store.)

After priming the surface, I then painted on three coats of the Valspar paint. I probably would have gotten away with only two coats if my mind hadn’t gone on vacation, because I forgot about my little sponge paint roller I use for furniture and was using a brush, instead. And that doesn’t coat as well as a roller. Thankfully, my mind returned in time for the third coat.

I’ll confess that on my first coat, I did try a DIY chalk paint recipe I found on someone’s blog via Pinterest, which called for some Plaster of Paris. I don’t know how that stuff worked for the woman who claims to have used it successfully, but I should have known things wouldn’t go well when I read on the plaster box that it begins to harden within ten minutes after one adds the water. Say what? But the chalk paint recipe calls for water! Um…don’t use Plaster of Paris if you try a DIY recipe. Thankfully my faux pas isn’t too noticeable. Just don’t get too close!

I’m going to try this chalk paint recipe next time (on a smaller piece of furniture). I’ll let you know how it goes. As for the fabric, I did the same thing here that I do for my doll backdrops: Mod Podge! One coat to glue it to the drawer front, let it dry, then two coats on top to give it durability. I usually sand in between the last two coats.

But my favorite project…the one I finished last week…

I’ll show you next time. 😉

(Hint: it relates to my Christmas story and involves knitting.)

Until then, stay creative in whatever venue God has given you a passion for.

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Something Fun ‘n Flighty…

…Because sometimes a Tuesday can feel like a Monday. So, here’s a little ditty just for fun. I wrote this a few months ago one Saturday morning when I woke up with the first line running through my head. Have a blessed day!

 

What Will I Do Today?

 

Today I’ll cross swords with an armored knight

Or face down a dragon in a deadly fight.

 

I’ll flit through the sky on papery wings

In a land of giants and magical kings.

 

Today I’ll pirate a ship on the seas

Hunting for treasure, attacked by the breeze.

 

I’ll brave the monster squished under my bed

And lure him out with some moldy bread.

 

I’m an agent.

A ninja.

A cat-loving ghoul.

The choices are endless,

For I set the rules.

 

Today I’ll snuggle with laptop or paper.

Immersed in a fantasy, drama, or caper.

 

Black letters adrift on an ocean of white,

I’ll open my mind…and then I will write.

 

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