Saturday, April 25, 2020

Jennifer Nielsen Cover Reveal Trivia Question #8

I'm so excited to be a part of Jennifer Nielsen's Cover Reveal for her next historical novel. I met Jennifer at a writers retreat last year and she was so very lovely. She was so generous to uplift and educate us about writing and life as an author.

The best writing tip I learned from her that I use all the time now is to stretch my imagination by thinking of FIVE different possible answers to any question I might have. And to ask lots of questions about everything.

And speaking of questions . . . I have your next one!

Question #8

Which of these is NOT a known SOE weapon in disguise?

a. Exploding pen
b. Poisoned cakes
c. Exploding dead rat
d. Miniature folding motorbikes

Good luck!! Please comment below with your answer for your chance to win! (And THIS question only has one answer. . . ha!)

Use this link to answer the rest of the trivia questions and to see her new cover reveal!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Does your family have a motto?

Jona and I have wanted to have a family motto for years, and we finally found one we love! 
I needed our motto to be something we could all live by, something to sum up everything we are working towards as a family.
And this is it:

This might not mean anything to you so let me share the story that it came from and it’s translation.
There was once an anthropologist studying a remote tribe in Africa. He gathered together a group of children and told them that the fastest one to a nearby tree would win a basket full of fruits and other treats. 
He put them on their mark: “Ready… Set …. Go!” But instead of racing against each other they all held hands and ran to the tree together—arriving all at the same time. 
As they shared their reward the Anthropologist asked them why they didn’t try to win the basket for themselves.
Ubuntu!” They said.
In the African culture this word means ‘I am because we are.” 
The children explained that “How can one of us be happy if  all the others are sad?”
To them winning wasn’t worth it if they couldn’t win together.
None of us have become who we are strictly by ourselves, we all depend on each other and we can accomplish so much more if we recognize this and deliberately work as a team.
I have a hard time with team work in general. It’s hard to let go of the control of doing something myself and it’s also a bit scary to know that others are depending on me and if I mess up it effects more than just myself. So I’m trying to learn the value and practice of Ubuntu—particularly in my family.
My family is my greatest team and the place where I can feel the most ‘at one’ with others. (Except for now at the end of summer when I honestly just need everyone to go back to school and leave me alone. Ha!) Actually, it’s that introverted part of me that probably makes team work so hard! 
But it is something I am working towards, and something we are working on as a family. 
I’m so excited to have Ubuntu as our new family motto, I have already seen it bring us closer together as we work on our goals together and celebrate each-other’s successes and encourage one another through our failures. 
Does your family have a motto?

Monday, July 15, 2019

Are you a Gardener or a Flower?

A couple months ago my husband and I were watching an episode of “A million little things.” Which, by the way, is a great show—you should watch it. So, in this episode one of the characters, who happens to be a therapist, tells another character that ‘in every relationship there is a gardener and a flower.’
I about peed my pants. She stole my insight! I had been thinking along those same lines for weeks. 

I was the gardener. My whole dang family was the energy sucking flower. 

I just wanted to write! And I never had any time because of my family and all the watering and pruning and fertilizing I had to do for their big beautiful blooms. 
If you’ve read any of my past posts you will know that while this particular “Gardner” insight was new . . . these feelings were not. The guilt and frustration over writing and motherhood has pretty much been a lifelong reoccurring theme for me.
But then something happened, or rather a series of somethings happened because I don’t think I can pinpoint one specific turning point but I finally came to the realization that I wasn’t a Gardner because I had to be a Gardner, I was a Gardner because I choose to be one. Wow. That was some deep sinking sand of thought. 

The real kicker was when I realized that my motivation for being a Gardner instead of a Flower wasn’t even actually based on guilt or duty . . . it was fear.

Yeah. It wasn't my families fault. It wasn't my cultures fault. It was my fault.
The real reason I haven’t been blooming is because I’ve been scared and also just plain lazy.
There is a very powerful lie in my head that tells me, quite subliminally, that if I never try I cannot fail. The dream of being a successful writer is so much more satisfying than actually doing the work and taking the scary steps to actually be a writer. There is no pain or sacrifice or embarrassment in dreaming. There is no work in dreaming. 
And wasn’t that convenient that I had a whole family of other people to blame for my lack of trying. It wasn’t my fault I wasn’t writing! Where was the time?
The saddest part of this story is that I’ve been harboring a very unhealthy dose of anger over all this, and the anger hasn’t even been justified. 
They say the first step to change is awareness and while this awareness hasn’t exactly magically made my fear go away it has made me take action. 

I’m pretty sure people don’t actually overcome their fears, they just decide that life on the other side of their fear is better than life behind it. 

My feelings of self-doubt and fear are still here, but I'll tell you what isn't here anymore . .  . my excuses! 
So. Life on the other side side. What does it look like for me?
Well, there's a lot less anger and a lot more writing. I have to reach my writing goals every week or else face the consequences. So far the only consequence I’ve had to endure is a 5 day social media break but if I miss writing for 3 days I have to eat a worm! Turns out the avoidance of insect consumption can be a pretty awesome motivator. 
I also (shockingly) love my family a lot more. And it turns out, with a bit of self-discipline and a few sacrifices, there actually is plenty of time in the day for the gardening of all the beautiful flowers in my life—even my own. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Asking for Inspiration--"What is one thing you want me to do today?"

It’s been a long time since I last blogged—like eight months. I kept meaning to start back up again but being a mom (heck, being a human) is too full to be able to say “yes” to everything and everyone. So blogging became one of the things that was pretty easy to say “no” to, in order to make room for everything else.

But then the other day I read this article.

To Women: “Doing Better Doesn’t Mean Doing More”

And it really spoke to me. The main idea of the article is to ask the Lord, every day this question:

And I asked.

And he said “Write a blog post.”

And so here we are today.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this new adventure I am embarking on, but also a little afraid. I feel a bit like this mom I saw once who let her kids dress her for a whole week. They came up with some pretty crazy attire. I mean, I’m pretty sure God’s not going to ask me to go outside with underwear on my head or anything like that, but I really feel like I’m putting myself out there, wide open like this.

But truth be told, I have a pretty big need for variety in my life and so this is really up my alley. It's pretty appealing to me to wake up every morning, not knowing what the “one thing” will be until I ask. Plus, it feels a bit like having my own personal coach—the best personal coach. You really can’t top God, right?

There is another thing that worries/excited me about this whole thing though. You see, I’ve never really been that good at receiving inspiration. The main problem being that I hardly ever take the time to ask for inspiration, and when I do my questions are pretty vague. I say things like “help me to know if . . .” instead of just outright asking the question and waiting for/expecting an answer. And then, even when I do get answers I often second guess them, wondering if the message was from God or just from me. It’s very easy for me to discount messages that come to my heart and mind. Sometimes I feel like God has to hit me upside my head if he wants me to listen so that's why I’m excited to get more practice and learn to discern his messages to me. My plan is to not only execute the “one thing” but also to record it so I can remember how the inspiration came and what it felt like.

And finally, one of my biggest motivations in doing this is to feel more peace and happiness in my life. I know I will never accomplish everything on my to-do list, but I can already feel the sense of accomplishment that will come from at least doing one thing every day that the Lord wants me to do. That feels like the most important thing. I’ll happily say “yes” to God.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Who are you, and what do you want?

My dad used to get a kick out of answering the door and booming out "Who are you and what do you want?" It would scare the living daylight out of people . . .

Do you want to know what else is scary? Asking yourself that question.

Who am I and what do I want?

My friend recently asked me these questions and I realized I was a bit at a loss. Who do I really think I am and what do I really want?

I have a quote written in dry erase marker on my bedroom mirror, "You can have anything you want in life, but you must take action now." But what if I don't know what I want?

I think it's important to clarify what you want into two different categories: What you want and what you are willing to do (usually on a daily basis) to get it.

You can easily say you want to be a millionaire but if you don't want to work your butt off and take risks and be humble enough to learn from people who've done it . . . than you are probably not going to ever become a millionaire.

I do believe the quote though. I believe that people can have whatever they want--like really practically anything. It's just a matter of what you're willing to do and sacrifice in order to get it. And that maybe some of those dreams pretty much need to become an exclusive dream--it seems you have to give up just about everything else to get that golden egg.

So I find myself wondering . . . what eggs (golden or not) do I really want? And maybe it's my own personal limiting belief that some of the things I want are "golden" and that I can't "have it all."

But I know the other mom's out there have got to be feeling a bit like me right? It's just so hard. I want it all and my egg basket is just not big enough to hold it all.

I want to be a writer . . . like really a writer with published books and lots of readers.

I want to be a mom . . . like really a mom who's always there for my kiddos for all the daily and spontaneous craziness.

I want to be a wife . . . like really a wife who's passionate and Elmers-glue-tight to my husband.

And maybe an artist . . .

Plus . . . all the other things. The list is a mile long of all the things I want to do and be and give and learn.

And then I get overwhelmed and all the eggs splatter onto the ground. Plus there's that one Golden Egg I'm after . . . the "writer" one. I look at other authors, and what they've given up to get there and I find myself shrinking away. I just see so many of them unhappy; burned out or overwhelmed and disappointed or full of anxiety. Is it really possible to stay grounded and balanced? To be happy with all you have and all you want? But I suppose that is more of a "being a human" question and less of a "being a writer" question. I think we are all plagued with doubt and disappointment and worry . . . plus a myriad of other  thoughts and feelings weighing us down regardless of our calling in life.

I think my own major hang-up is daily motivation and faith that I can fit it all in and deciding how much I want to treat my writing like a job. I know not every writer struggles with this, but I also know I'm not the only one. In fact, I even struggle calling myself a writer most of the time. When people ask what I do I'm like "I write . . . but nothing published yet." Like that's a stipulation that must be disclosed. Like maybe I'm not a "real" writer since I haven't ever actually made a dime from my writing.

But . . .

I've been doing some soul searching and I've decided I need to gather up all my eggs (even the broken ones) and pile them up in my basket and trudge forward on my journey of life and stop looking around at all the people that are behind and ahead of me and stop worrying so much about what they think and what "might be." Because the who that I am and the what that I want is really not contingent on anyone else and their paths or their plan. I am me, and the world is open to all the possibilities I want to make of it.

And as far as writing goes I've decided that I need to get off the fence and give it my heart. It's taken me a long long time to realize why I even want to be a writer and why I want to get published and I've finally come to the conclusion that I want to do it because I can and because the journey is fun. Fun has always been one of my major motivators in life and I've let everything get so clouded by other peoples definitions of their "why's" that I've forgotten my own. Going to conferences and learning from other authors has been so good in some aspects and so damaging in others. I've let everyone telling me how hard it is being an author discourage me and get me down. And I've let other peoples definitions of what motivates me degrade my own. I've been searching and searching for my "why" behind my motivation to write and to become published and I keep skirting around the true answer because it just didn't sound good enough. But the truth is that I want to write and I want to ride that train to publication because it sounds fun! It's like a challenge, or a treasure hunt. I feel like I've been given this map of writing talent mixed with the pure gift of having lived a life full of loving family and friends who have fostered my talents and it honestly feels like it would be such an absolute waste if I didn't grab hold of that map and jump into the adventure--full throttle. And yes, there is sure to be disappointments and rejections but really . . . any true adventure would be boring without opposition.

So . . . with this conviction comes the clarity that, while I may not need to treat my writing like a "job," ('cause BLEAH jobs are so totally un-"fun") I do need to treat it with the respect and commitment it deserves. I need to give back to writing what it has given to me. I've got to take that little map that I've been given with all it's missing pieces and tattered edges and make it into something even more than what I've been given. Because I know that I can hunt down that golden egg and I'm just going to have to hold on tight to all those other eggs of mine and learn to stretch myself further and maybe even let go of a few of the unimportant one's, because this bird's about to take flight, we've got treasure to uncover . . .and it's going to be one heck of an adventure.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The edge of the rain

I experienced something pretty cool last Monday. I was driving home from our long school commute in the pouring rain. It was raining so hard that I was having a hard time seeing so I had to crank up the heat on the windshields and put the wipers on their full swishing power. I love the rain, but not so much driving in it. That day was interesting though because although it was dark all around me, I could see the edge of the rain in the distance where the sun was shining through and the skies were clear. As I drove on and eventually made it through that threshold I couldn't help but laugh out loud. It was such a sudden change. One moment I was in the rain and the next I was out. I turned off the windshield wipers and looked back--it was still raining behind me but where I was . . . it wasn't. Usually when I look up into the sky and see the rain it feels like it must be raining everywhere. It's hard to imagine that it just stops somewhere--like the edge of the earth if it really was flat like they used to think.

This experience happened the same day the shooting happened in Vegas and it felt like a metaphor for me. The shooting made me feel like hiding in a cave somewhere and never coming out again, but then I had to remember that even though the world may look so dark and rainy--that doesn't mean the world is all dark and rainy. My son asked me why the shooting happened and in anger I answered "Cause people are stupid and evil!" And he so wisely said back, "But not all people, right mom?" And he's right. It's not all people, it's not the whole world. There are edges to the rain, and breaks in the clouds. There is still joy. Individual bad people cannot take those things away from us.

And even though the world may be getting more and more wicked--that will not be the end. The end is going to be beautiful and God has given us rainbows to remind us of that fact. God will be victorious and merciful in the end. It will all be okay. And in the meantime I will look for those breaks in the clouds where the sun shines through and the rain ends.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Throwback to Josiah's birth story

Birth has been on my mind lately. My dear friend Emily recently gave birth to her third child and listening to her birth story and hearing other peoples birth stories lately has made me think about my Josiah's birth. He is three years old now, and I'm so grateful I wrote all this down because I had forgotten a lot of it. It's so fun to look back and remember all these things. Even if I have sometimes felt like my body has betrayed me after my miscarriages, it's very comforting to look back and remember how incredibly powerful and amazing it is and all the blessings it has brought me.

Our little Josiah is here and I couldn't have asked for a more peaceful or more perfect entrance for him into this world. I am filled with joy and gratitude for the blessing of our perfect delivery. In Spanish to give birth is "dar luz" which translated directly means "to give light." I cannot think of a better way to describe the miracle of birth.

Most people thought I was pretty crazy when I told them I was planning on having Josiah naturally. Although they also thought we were crazy for not finding out the gender until he was born, but it made the pregnancy a fun mystery and made the moment of his birth even more amazing. I highly recommend it. As for the natural delivery, I realize it is not for everyone but it is for me. It is important to me and since natural birth is such a mystery to so many people I would like to explain what it means to me and how I was able to have a very peaceful and calm birth--naturally.

Anyone who knows me knows that I was a pretty miserable pregnant lady so it's not like I have an incredibly high tolerance for pain. What I did have was a lot of preparation, loving support from my husband, and an awesome doula, midwife, nurse and supportive hospital. As well as a belief in my own power and an ability to surrender and trust in my amazing body which my heavenly father gave me and a complete knowledge that my body could do it--I just needed to let it.

The main preparation for my natural birth was hypnobabies which, as my neighbor put it, is basically "brain washing" oneself into believing labor is easy until you believe it. Which is sort of true but there is really so much more to it. I am a bit of a birth "junkie" so I also read a lot of birthing books including Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method, and Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds. These books, as well as my hypnobabies training taught me a lot of things about birth, but most importantly they taught me that birth, in the absence of fear, does not need to be painful.

I'm not going to lie, natural birth is certainly not comfortable. It is intense and powerful and extreme, but it does not need to be the experience of dreaded pain and fear that our society has attached to it. I did not feel pain as I was laboring, not like I did with Noah and Kayla. I was able to stay so completely calm throughout my entire labor that no one even knew I was going through transition and everyone was shocked when they finally checked me and I was at a 9 and a 1/2!  And the main reason for this is that I was stronger than my fear. I did not let my fear overcome me, because I knew from my research that when a birthing mother has fear she tenses up her muscles which makes it harder for them to work their magic. I am not the one to describe the science behind the uterus contracting but apparently there are different sets of muscles that the uterus uses--ones to stop labor and ones to keep labor going and when there is fear the muscles that stop labor start working and if those are working against the muscles that are trying to keep it going that is what causes pain. Having birthed Kayla naturally I can attest to this fact. While I was able to have her naturally it was certainly not without pain, and I truly believe it was because even though I was prepared I was still very much afraid. I didn't know what was coming and instead of working with each contraction as I have since learned with Josiah I was working against them--trying to escape them. I remember that when I was going through transition with Kayla all I wanted Jona to do was to pull me and stretch me, and it was my way of trying to run away from the pain. I was bracing myself against each contraction instead of surrendering myself to them.

And I suppose all of that does not really explain why I choose natural birth, and to explain that I would probably need to do some kind of internal exploration of my belief system and that would just be difficult and probably boring, so suffice it to say that I believe in Natural birth because I know that it is possible. And also because it makes the recovery so much easier, and because I wanted to avoid as many interventions as I could so that my baby and I could have as peaceful and healthy of a delivery as possible.

Soooo onto the actual birth story (if there are any of you still here.)

It started out with weeks of miserable false labor. The thing with the last weeks of pregnancy is that you feel like a walking time bomb (which is manifesting itself as a large bowling ball pressing down on your lady parts.) So when you start to feel contractions you feel happy and excited because GOSH DARN IT you are finally going to give birth to the adorable parasite that has been basically sucking the life out of you for the past 9 months (and I mean that in the most loving way possible.) So when my contractions came and went for weeks I was starting to get pretty miserable. (Just ask my poor husband who had to deal with my numerous nervous break-downs.) But as miserable as all the "false labor" contractions were, it was really probably a blessing because I went in for my 39 week appointment on May 23rd and when my midwife checked me I was already at a 3.5 to a 4. So all those contractions were really doing something!

Later that day my contractions started up again at around 4:00 but I tried to not think much of it because that had been the pattern for the past couple of days. I went on cooking dinner and doing my normal routine. Around 7:00 they had not stopped and were actually getting stronger and probably closer together (although I wasn't sure because I pretty much refused to time them since every other time I had started timing them they had stopped.) So I texted my lovely Doula Amy Dall. (At this point I really felt like the girl who cried "labor" so my text probably didn't sound all that confident.) Then at about 8:30 I had a sudden extra strong contraction and a gush of fluid. I totally thought my water had broken but when we got to the hospital and they checked me we found out that it hadn't. (We won't talk about the possible alternatives of what that "fluid" might have been.) ;)

Sooooo after the supposed "water breaking" things really started to pick up. We called my parents and had them come get the kids. I also got a blessing from Jona and my brother, which allowed for some comic relief because I was trying to tell Jona what he should say before he gave it to me. Good thing he's so patient.

We debated staying at home for longer after that but in the end I decided to just head over to the hospital because I knew they would want to monitor me for a while and ask me all kinds of questions and I didn't want that happening when I was too far along. We got there around 9:30. They checked me and I was at a 5 and a 1/2. Amy, our Doula joined us and we met my AMAZING nurse Michelle. She told me I could change into my own clothes if I wanted so I took the horrible gown off and got back into my comfortable clothes. We dimmed all the lights and got out my "birthing rug" which was a very soft white rug I found to help me focus on staying in my "special place."

At this point I started to feel a little bit of fear creeping in because things were already getting intense and I was remembering going through "transition" with Kayla and I was scared to reach that point so I turned on my hypnobabies birthing day affirmations and was able to draw a lot of strength from their powerful messages and remember that I could do this. I spent most of the time kneeling on my rug and leaning against the couch, letting my whole body go limp with each contraction as Jona and my Doula would rub my back and offer me encouragement.

Then we got into the tub for a while and it really felt amazing. Jona spend the entire time (over an hour!) quietly soothing me with his own hypnotic script he just made up as he went along, talking about my "special place" and other relaxing words and descriptions. All the while he and Amy were rubbing my hands and arms as I sunk into the tub. It was really nice but after a while I decided to get out because I felt like the contractions were slowing down. I'm not sure if that was true or not, I might just have not noticed them as much because I was so relaxed but I really wanted the labor to finish as quickly as possible. I did think I may have been going through transition at this point because I was so shaky and I remember that happeneing with Kayla. So we got out, walked around the room and rubbed clary sage on my belly. It wasn't very long before I felt things get more intense. I felt like the contractions were coming very quickly now. We got out the birth ball and draped a towel across it. I kneeled on my rug and leaned over the ball. This was the point where I was in the deepest hypnosis. I don't think I ever opened my eyes. Every time I had a contraction I let my whole body go limp and focused my energy on "opening and opening" telling myself over and over that it was "easy" and that each contraction was getting more and more wonderfully powerful and I was getting closer to seeing my baby. Each contraction was like a wave that I would ride to its peak and as I rode it I would tell myself that it was "almost over, almost over."

My awesome midwife, Eve Blair, spend a lot of time in the room with me, but was mostly just watching because Amy and Jona were taking such good care of me. I guess it was around this time that Jona went out to the hall for a snack and he and Eve talked for a bit. She told him that it was hard to tell if I was even in active labor because I was staying so calm. I thought they could tell when I was having a contraction because I felt like my breathing got a lot louder but apparently they had no clue. They thought it might be HOURS before the baby was born, so when Jona came back in he really wanted to just take a little nap because he was feeling so exhausted. I am amazed that I was able to even notice him and how he was feeling at this point (because at this point with Kayla I could not talk or hardly even think) but I told him that it was fine and that he should take a nap. I had Amy, and even I didn't really know how far along I was. But a few minutes later Eve came in and asked if I was feeling any pressure and I told her that yes I was. She asked if I wanted her to check me. I hadn't been checked since we got there. I told her I wanted her to check me because I wanted to find out I was complete and have it be done, but I knew that it might not be the case so we talked about breaking my water. She said it would make things more intense but that it would speed things up. I decided I would rather have it faster and more intense than easier and drag on so it was decided she would check me and then break my waters. Jona heard this and decided he wasn't getting a nap after all.

I climbed up on the bed and she checked me. I was at a 9 and a 1/2! She broke my waters, his head came down and I started pushing. With Kayla I really enjoyed the pushing stage because I felt the contractions transform from being painful to being productive. I felt my body just completely take over and basically push her out on its own and that felt really amazing. With Josiah I didn't feel that release, I actually didn't even feel contractions at ALL once I started pushing so it was very different. Mostly I just felt pressure and a need to push. I think I pushed for around 7 minutes. Mostly I pushed when I felt like I needed to, but Eve also directed me a little.

Out he came at 1:46 AM, I barely tore at all, and they placed his amazing body right up on my stomach. He couldn't reach all the way to my chest because we wanted to cord to stop pulsing before we cut it. Ohhhh that feeling. Words cannot describe. He was so perfect and I had done it! We just stared at each other for the longest time, Jona said that I was just lost. I talked to him and loved on him. Eve and Michelle were wonderful. They let me stay with him for over an hour, skin to skin. I felt such an immediate and intense bond with him. It is the best feeling in the world, holding that new perfect being. It felt very surreal because I really couldn't believe he was already here and that the labor was over. I was pretty proud of myself for staying so calm and I couldn't believe how perfectly everything had gone and how amazing everyone had been to me. It was bliss!