Friday, May 09, 2014

Milestones

When I was younger, I used to wish life would move faster. I longed to grow up, get a job, buy my own place, and go after my dreams.

My mom used to tell me that life would go by more quickly each year.

This year, I noticed.

Last week, I taught the girls to wash their own hair. This may sound ridiculous, but many of you know what a feat this is with 7-year-olds who have hair like my girls. 

Before hair washing, I needed to cook dinner. So I gave the girlies a crash course in taking out twists and gently finger detangling hair pre-shower, and I told them to get to it. What a time saver - they can take down each other's hair now while I make dinner or do laundry or clean or maybe just read a book! I think this summer, we will do some more tutorials. ;)


 We finally, nearly four years later, readopted the girls in the state of Texas. Wish I could post the family pic on here, but hubs says no. 

By the way, what a complete money sucker that process was. In Maryland, the process was simple. Fill out a paper, get a court date, pay around $50 or $75, and show up at the court house. Here in Texas, apparently you need a lawyer. All we're doing is applying for a Texas birth certificate and a legal name change. Two thousand dollars??

Kai got his first cell phone.
Noah is pretty jealous.
I'd been telling him I was going to get him a flip phone that could do nothing but place emergency phones, so when he got this cheapy Tmobile phone from Walmart that does a few other things, he was maybe the happiest fifth grader on the planet.




We went camping for the first time as a family of six.
Plus three dogs.
We've tried to go several times. Usually, N gets really sick leading up to our trip and we have to cancel. This time, all systems were a go. And we had a crazy good time. We even went all radical and banned electronics from the trip--even in the car, and it was a four-hour drive. 
Instead, we ate, napped, played road trip games, and read books. It was really eye-opening. I am usually all about letting the kids have electronics during long road trips so I can have some peace, but forcing myself to really connect with everyone reminded me how precious and fleeting this time is. 
Of course, then today I was a Mama Bear yelling at everyone and going bananas and sending all munchkins to their rooms.
we


Our sweet Abby turned ten years old.


Another time saver. We bought two of these crates for the pups. I charged the boys with opening the packages and figuring out how to assemble them. So, the assembly was more of a pop-up type thing that took a matter of seconds. but they felt accomplished, and it saved me time.   


Reese and Rolo turned five months. They are crazy, wild, hilarious, exhausting, and goofy.


And, happily, I submitted my revised manuscript to my editor. I am terrified she is going to call me in a couple weeks and tell me I ruined it and the deal's off. But, assuming I am just being crazy like usual, Undercurrent is slotted to be published in January.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The At-Home Trim - Updated

So, I forgot to post my update to our first At-Home Trim experience. 

I have been distracted by the revisions process....much more difficult than I had anticipated.

Unlike my revisions, the at-home trim was easier than I expected. The girls loved their straight hair for a day. As expected, it began to really puff out the next day. But we fanagled it a few times and were able to wait about ten days before washing. I sure would like to find a product to put in before straightening that could help it stay longer. And, by longer, I just mean one full day! :) Hint hint. Anyone?

Anyhoo...here are the results - FUN times, ya'll!

First pass through - couldn't believe how long!  
Aaliyah's hair--all straight & trimmed!
 Aaliyah's hair before the trim          And just a little styled...

 Rayne's hair, straight & trimmed          A little styled...
Rayne's hair is longer than Aaliyah's by about an inch.

 On day three, I wrapped their hair in curl formers. I thought the results were adorable! 
They didn't love the "big" hair, and they were disappointed about the length curling right back up.

On day five, they rocked some super cute pony tails! 
They wore these for a couple days to school.

It soon became clear I needed to do something before things got out of hand, so I brushed it all out and put it up like this...

Got another few days out of it, thank you very much.

All in all, after purchasing the flat iron, scissors, and new hair clips, I spent $90 less than when I brought them to the salon for a trim--and two less hours. A success!


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Attempting the Trim

The girls are in desperate need of a good trim.

The first and only time I have taken them to get a trim was the month before kindergarten, which means they have not had a haircut in 19 months. 

Not good.

Their ends are a mess. I am sure I will have to cut about two inches all around. 

The thing is, the last time I took them, it took a total of 6 hours and $160. Also, OUCH. It was painful to watch!

So this time, I bought a flat iron ($60), and some hair cutting scissors ($12), and I am attempting the trim myself.

Today, it began. Their hair has been in plain old twists for a week. This style only takes about 30 minutes, and holds up pretty well, and as long as I don't wait too long, it's also easy to take down.

First, I unraveled the twists. Too bad I couldn't let them wear the twist-outs because I thought they were adorable.



I have started finger detangling with conditioner before the girls get in the shower lately. It really helps with the detangling process. So I sprayed their hair with water, coated with conditioner, and finger detangled.

Aaliyah giving a silly look...


Then it was in the shower to wash and condition, and do some more finger detangling. Of course, then I had to really detangle once they were out, but it was a breeze. Once I found my Tangle Teezer. Seriously, how does anyone detangle with a wide tooth comb and Denman brush? I tried that tonight first, but it wasn't working out.

Pre-detangling hair...


After detangling, I  twisted it all back into random sections. Ideally, I would have banded their hair tonight, but all our hair bands are getting old and kinda smelly. I didn't want to put them in freshly washed hair. So I took a little extra time and twisted their hair. Then I bobby pinned it down to keep it stretched a little more, and pulled it back gently with some scrunchies before securing their night caps.



It's kind of a cute, random, easy style (30 minutes). I will take a break tomorrow, and Monday is the big day. I will untwist and flat iron each section as I go...then attempt a trim all by myself! More pics to come...

Friday, March 14, 2014

Revisions

I began my revisions last week, based on a very detailed e-mail from my editor. (MY EDITOR!!!! Yes, I am still basking in the crazy of it all!) 

I must say that her ideas are spot on, and it's obvious why she has the job she has, because as I'm rewriting and reworking and restructuring and deleting entire chapters (oh, the pain!), I see the book shaping into something much better. But I'm constantly battling the fear that I'm ruining it...that the editor will read my resubmitted manuscript and say something along the lines of, "Um...actually, this stinks and we can't use it."

Funny how despite all that prayer and all that "only if it's your will" stuff, I'm still fighting the fear of failure. 

I have been somewhat paralyzed for two days, stuck at page 107 of my revisions and eating a lot of junk food while staring at a bunch of words on my computer screen that just can't seem to right themselves. And then, today...

 I received my contract!



It was just the pick-me-up I needed.

Monday, March 03, 2014

It Finally Happened.

It's been almost a year since I last recorded anything in this blog. 

It's not for lack of things to report. It's simply for lack of time to report them!

The latest is too good not to write about though, and I kind of miss this old blog anyway, so here I am to say IT FINALLY HAPPENED.

I SOLD MY FIRST BOOK!
(really? that's as large as I can get the font??)

 

Yup, that's a photo of a browser address. I couldn't help myself. 

I got the call last Monday, February 24. But let me back up, because remember how last May I wrote about praying with the expectation that God is going to answer?  Well, the prayer journal I started last spring has been piling up with examples of His faithfulness--and the story behind my first book sale is too neat to keep to myself.

So somewhere early last spring, I got to talking with my author sister about how much I wanted to start writing again. I'd put it off for so long, I told her, because it seemed like a waste of time. Between teaching piano, taking care of the house and kids, and solo parenting during N's relapses, I consistently feel that I can never give my all to any one thing--and that someone or something is always suffering. I simply couldn't give myself the luxury to write amidst all my other responsibilities.

My sister, who shares my passion for written words, suggested that writing was probably exactly that thing I really needed to commit time to. She mentioned an upcoming contest I could enter. The editors at Harlequin's Love Inspired Suspense were holding a contest called "Happily Editor After." All I needed to do was go into a chat room at a designated time and pitch my idea in 100 words.

100 words, I figured, I could do. 
So I wrote them. 

And I began to write the first few chapters of the story, you know, just in case the editor actually liked my pitch. In the meantime, I prayed about the contest. I wrote it down in my prayer journal and told God (as if He didn't know) that I was really busy and overwhelmed, and as much as I have always dreamed of becoming a published author, I really wasn't sure if this was a good time. I specifically asked Him not to open the door if this was going to simply be a time and energy drain. 

The day of the contest came, and I waited until my turn in the chat room. Heart racing, fingers trembling, I pasted my 100-word pitch and pressed SEND. Then I stared at the screen, completely paralyzed--somewhere between terror and hope--until the response came. The editor wanted to see my proposal.

I spent a few weeks polishing my synopsis and first three chapters while also writing more of the story. I prayed over this step as well. I was starting to get nervous. I knew that if the editor liked the proposal, she would request the full manuscript, and that would be a big time commitment. At this point, I wanted to sell my book so badly, but I still managed to pray that God would orchestrate it all for His honor and glory. I reminded Him of how overwhelmed I had been lately, how I really didn't have time to be writing fanciful novels that would never be published. And then I sent in the proposal and waited again.

A few weeks later, the editor requested the full manuscript. I spent three months finishing it, and finally submitted my book on November 3. I started thinking that perhaps I would get a quick rejection. I began to reassure myself that if the rejection came, God probably had other reasons for allowing me to use up all those precious hours for absolutely no gain. Maybe He knew I needed to write again. Maybe it was a precursor to my next book. A practice run to get the creative juices flowing again. 

A couple months passed, and I started to think that maybe, just maybe, the editor actually liked it. By the middle of February, I was so anxious for news that I considered e-mailing the editor to check the status. But I didn't because I was afraid she would say something like, "Oh, I'm so sorry--I thought I sent that rejection letter weeks ago."  

And then Monday, Feb. 24, rolled around. And I was pretty much grumpy that morning, and tired, and telling N (who was home sick) how my life is so full that something has to give, something has to change. And I made us tuna fish sandwiches for lunch, and cracked open a Coke Zero, and just as I was picking up my dish to bring to the table, the phone rang. 

And the Caller ID said Harlequin.

The editor said she was calling to make me an offer, and I responded very loudly. I'm not sure what I yelled. I think it was something like, "OHMYGOSH, REALLY?!!" And we spoke for several minutes, but I don't recall much of what was said, except for how much the advance would be, when they hoped to publish it, and that I would need to submit some revisions. Also, she asked if I would like to receive my royalty statements quarterly or twice a year.

MY ROYALTY STATEMENTS!

Now, I'm still not exactly sure what all of this means for my life. I did tell God many times that I don't have time to write, so I'm thinking He's trying to tell ME something, and I'm pretty sure it will become clear soon. At first I thought perhaps I should just stop cooking meals for my family. That would free up 15-20 hours per week. But I love my family, and I don't want them to starve, so I will have to consider other lifestyle changes that could free up my writing time without causing undo harm to my loved ones.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Expecting Great Things

I have started a prayer journal. It is A.W.E.S.O.M.E. You want to know why? Because it is a record of how God hears my prayers and answers them. I have kept prayer journals before, but they have always been just kind of like a running monologue of prayer. After reading about a missionary who for years recorded all his prayers and how and when they were answered, I was inspired. Instead of a monologue, how about a dialogue?

This photo doesn't fit here, but isn't it cute? My mom sent those Easter dresses, and the boys were very stripey.

How about praying with the expectation that HE WILL ANSWER?

I turned 34 this month, was raised in a Christian home, came to know Christ very young, but I don't know that I have ever prayed with expectation. Hope, yes. Desperation, absolutely. Expectation? Not so much. 

In Philippines (4:6), we are told not to worry about anything, but make our requests known to God by prayer and supplication and with thanksgiving. In James, we are reminded that when we ask, we must believe and not doubt.  Yet, I would have to admit that much of the time I am praying about a specific issue, I am praying with anxiety and doubt. What does that say about me? I am worried that He may not come through.

Which is ridiculous. 

Because He always has, and He always will. I have some major life examples to draw from that show God's faithfulness, but this journal reminds me of the small things, and it reminds me that He is near me at all times.

I will give you one small example from my journal. During the first weekend in May, I was reviewing our budget and feeling frustrated at our debt-payoff progress. The progress is slow and steady. Now, slow and steady may win the race, but we are five months in to the Dave Ramsey program, and I want to make faster progress! I was praying over the situation, and I wrote in my prayer journal a request that opportunities to generate income would open up so that I could put more money toward our debt. 

On May 6, I had breakfast with a friend and got to talking about how she picks up side jobs as a piano accompanist at the local schools. I mentioned I may be interested, and it just so HAPPENED that she was looking to cut back, and she offered to recommend me when another job becomes available.

The VERY NEXT DAY, she got a phone call regarding accompanying, and she passed my name along. Now, I have not accompanied or performed in around eight years. I was terrified, and looking for an excuse to pass on the job...even though I had prayed for it...and even though my calendar showed a strangely completely empty day on the day of the recital. But I accepted the job, made a bit of money to sink into the debt, and got to jot all that down in my prayer journal. 

Of course, I will admit that I had more in mind the idea that Nate would win a monetary award at work, or a random check would arrive in the mail for some long-forgotten bill I'd overpaid on. He is not a magic genie, but He does give great gifts.

When did you last pray with expectation? Have you ever? Do it. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pushing out the Shadows

You know what I am really good at?

Paying close attention to what makes me uncomfortable, and then avoiding it.

For example, do you want to know what is worse than spending 9 hours installing yarn extensions in your 6-year-old's hair?

Spending 5 hours taking the yarn extensions OUT just five weeks later.

Yeah. So the yarn extensions did not work out. They looked beautiful, and for four solid weeks, I had to do pretty much nothing except keep them moisturized. But they were supposed to last around 12 weeks, and I say NO FAIR that they did not. 

Let's do some basic math.

In a typical week, I spend one to two hours on little girl hair. Sometimes I do fancier styles, but the max I spent per week is usually 4 hours.

In May, I spent almost 20 hours over the span of three days of our spring break putting in yarn extensions, and now, just 6 weeks later, I have spent 8 hours (and have about 3 hours to go) taking them out. That's 31 hours of hair in 6 weeks, or an average of 5 hours a week if you were to spread it over time. 

My friend Bev tells me not to give up, and that I may want to try again some day. 

NOPE.

I admit to the cuteness factor, but that is all. 

Still, I suppose if I really look hard with a big old magnifying glass, I can find a handful of good things that came from all of those hours. 

In the van at football practice, the girls have been helping me take each other's twists out. The weather has been nice, so we have the windows down, and we all sit close together. The girls are quick learners and are able to unravel the yarn easily and without making extra knots in the hair. It's pretty amazing for 6 years old, I think. Meanwhile, the one getting the hair done sits happily playing with the yarn that we hand her, one slow strand at a time. They giggle and laugh and don't seem to mind one bit that we are spending hours of their life dealing with hair management.

I finished taking down Aaliyah's hair Monday night. It was 10:30 p.m. when I got her ready for bed. Everyone else was asleep. We were both hungry. I poured us each a bowl of sour cream and onion potato chips and made her a cup of chocolate milk. We sat on the couch and giggled and ate our snack together in the quiet. We held hands on the way up the stairs to bed. "You're a good Mommy," she said as I tucked her in.

So many moments amidst all the drudgery that I just let slip by my heart, not taking root. 

I can hardly believe May is approaching. The past four months have shown me so much. I feel as though a dark shadow has lifted. A shadow that had hidden quite a bit from view. 

I've been playing the piano again. It's been years since I dedicated time to work on it.

I've been running. Even though I have not kept up with logging my times, I have finally made it to the end of the Couch to 5K program, and I can now run (well, jog) for 30 minutes without stopping--and most, importantly, without dying. 

I've been writing. That's a dream I've put on hold for years. I am working on two works of fiction, and I am wrangling with a nonfiction idea, praying about how it may somehow come together. 

I've been reading. Aside from a couple of vacations here and there throughout the past five or six years, I have had very little time or desire to read. I have read a couple of books a month this year, and I can't get enough.

I've been reading the Bible. Out loud, when no one else is around.

And singing. Also out loud, and also when no one else is around. 

You may laugh. But there is this peace...and it's pushing out the shadows. And it's making it easier for me to see...