Monday, January 31, 2011

You Give Yourself Away

Here’s a U2 line moms know well. I sure as heck got familiar with this line in January. I’ve given so much of myself away lately, I’ve been looking for myself since last week and the only thing I’ve found is my fingers to type this.

We celebrated four birthdays in my family this month and I have to admit, I’m spent. Not just cooked. Not just fried. I’m one of those shriveled up, burnt crusty doohickeys you find hiding under your stove burners.

Here are some explanations to why I’m charred:
  • I baked or concocted over nine desserts this month.

  • I threw four parties, a surprise party for my husband, a gathering of four-year-olds dressed as their favorite characters, and two slumber parties two weekends in a row (what was I thinking?). I went through moments convinced my house has never been cleaner to a droopy-faced realization my house has never been such a mess after the parties wrapped up.

  • I finished the rough draft of my fifth novel. (I’ve also fallen madly in love with my next novel concept and characters, etc.)

  • I shoveled so much snow most mornings resembled a scene straight out of Groundhog Day.

  • I bundled my children up to look like the little guy in A Christmas Story enough times I began figuring out ways to beat my zip and button time.

  • I drove on roads slicker than any of the Jersey Shore lad’s hair enough times I clench up just stepping inside my car.

  • I watched as my husband went through some crazy, then exciting business changes.

  • A peanut butter jar decided to take a leap off our pantry door and skydive down onto my foot with a crash landing. Several toes took the hit hard, but they’re making an impressive (yet bruised) comeback.

  • And I’m currently reviewing four books.

Which brings me to one of the books…
Kathi Lipp’s The Me Project: 21 Days to Living the Life You’ve Always Wanted is exactly what the doctor ordered. I’m choosing to pour back into myself. To regroup, recharge and refocus. I’m much better at giving myself away when I have something to give anyway, right?

What are you going to do in February to consciously take care of yourself?

*photo of my little Rapunzel

Friday, January 28, 2011

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Your One Question Friday is brought to you today by my second daughter. On her birthday the question she wants to ask my blog readers is…

What’s your favorite smell?

*photos by flickr
**girl in peace shirt is DD

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Birthday Poem

It’s my daughter’s birthday today so I promised her I’d post something she wrote. She selected the following poem and added a kickin’ endorsement to boot.


Cars zoom past me when I hop on the silver spoon steps. I sit down to think but then I hear children shouting like angry bears. The sun shines on my face as lightly as a firefly. The sun is warm yellow on babies. Doors open with a little creek. I saw that my sisters ran out the wooden door to play in the soft hot sand. I can see my best friend slide down the light yellow slide.
By B. Miller
My mom’s books are the best. I hope she gets published and I’m writing some books myself. I love my mom and I want to be a writer just like her.
(Better than a politician and a baby!)

*left grammar alone
**I love my daughter. She’s a remarkable girl and I’m proud of her.

Anyone you’re proud of?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Calcification of My Writer Bones

Wikipedia defines calcification: the process in which calcium salts build up in soft tissue, causing it to harden.

This is exactly what I’m experiencing in my writing life.

This is an arduous field to be in, this publishing business.

I enjoy celebrating as dear friends like Katie Ganshert make announcements like she’s able to today (I love this woman tremendously). But I’m human. I’m soft tissue and sometimes watching others move ahead on the path can be difficult. My salty tears cause me to harden my resolve. I challenge myself with questions like, am I in this for good? Will I continue to take risks even when the road stretches out longer than any road the Beatles sang about?

Want the answer?


Because resolve is building inside of me. It’s calcifying in my bones—this beautiful resolve that springs from understanding cheering others on can be just as glorifying as receiving the rewards myself. Determination seeps into these bones, a mental and spiritual Vitamin D bolstering the exact skill set needed to keep on keepin’ on. Writing fuels me. It’s my passion. I dream about my stories and wake up excited to see them play out on the page.

No one said this industry would be easy.

And I’ve been blessed beyond belief already. Blessed having written five novels (technically I’m 4K shy of completing the rough of my fifth, but anyhoo). Blessed with publication. Blessed with deeper friendships born from walking this wild terrain together. Blessed witnessing these friends reach desired goals. Blessed with meeting wonderful contacts swollen with potential to get me where I hope to go. I’m blessed with fight and stamina.

Sure, no one said this industry would be easy, but I’m certain it’s the industry for me. So I walk in it. And with every step, every tear shed, every word typed my writing bones calcify and I’m more confident than ever I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to do.

What strengthens your resolve?

*photo by flickr
**swing by to congratulate
Katie. She’s like a sister to me!

Friday, January 21, 2011

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

With a nod to Bono, I ask…have you found what you’re looking for?

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

8 Things I’d Say to 20-year-old Me

This one is much harder to write. I’d slipped away from myself at this age. I’d say a lot of deeper personal things I won’t list, but here are some things I do feel at liberty to say.

  1. You’re extremely disciplined, but your discipline with running is a little overboard, Forest. There is such a thing as being addicted to exercise. And what’s with the picky eating? Sheesh, you love food!

  2. The summer you live in Hilton Head, you’ll run into someone who will mean more to you than you could ever imagine.

  3. You’ll drop at least fifteen of those pounds after a doctor runs tests and discovers your thyroid condition—Hashimoto’s disease (isn't that the hippo from Madagascar?). Crazy, huh?

  4. You are not chained to your past. There is much you still have to let go of. Some of your questions may not get answered in this lifetime. You’ll be more okay with this someday.

  5. Keep reading and diving into your studies. In under a year you’ll receive an honor that will blow you away. It will mean something special to you for the rest of your life.

  6. Stop giving your heart away. Guard that baby.

  7. You’re conscientious, responsible, studious, hard-working, etc. but for whom (of course if I'm saying it I probably wouldn't use the word "whom")? Who are you living for? God is still talking even though you are losing your commitment to listen and listen well.

  8. It saddens me to see you not living in the fullness of freedom you’ve been given. I’ll forgive you for this.

Sort of a heavier one this week. Guess I had a lot to learn (still do, btw).

What would you say to 20-year-old you?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Four Business Moves You’ll Never Regret

I've gathered numerous takeaways from my years in business. I’ve also learned invaluable lessons from my time spent immersed in the publication industry. Growing relationships is one of the most critical moves you can make no matter what industry you’re in. The four moves I’m about to suggest are universally effective. You can even apply them to your personal life.

Reach Out
It’s worth it to take risks on this one. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve established a bonding friendship because I was willing to shoot an email or hang around a blog for more than one comment. If you enjoy an article write a note expressing this. If you found a jackpot blog because someone shared a link, thank the tweeter.

Make it your goal to never burn a bridge. Better yet, focus on building intentionally sturdy bridges instead.
Follow Up
This one marks the difference between “Yeah, I think I remember that woman” and “Oh sure, she sent me the sweetest card in the mail and she writes me an encouraging email at least once a month.” I have a beautiful friend who champions me this way (well, more than one) but one sticks out in my mind because of her incredible persistence to follow up. Thanks,

Be in the Know
Absorb everything you can in your industry. Know what’s selling. Study trends. I’m working to get published so I follow certain blogs, subscribe to Writer’s Digest, and readily buy books on craft. I also talk to people and remain active and consistent (
Jody, that one was for you) with social networking. I hear the buzz. I’m alert and aware of changes.

Best Practices
While I was at Microsoft, teams gathered to strategize about what was working and what wasn’t. During a specific segment of our meetings we concentrated on best practices, brainstorming ways to implement all those things that had gone well and how to magnify or multiply them. You can apply this same kind of evaluation to your blog, your marketing plans, or your word count goal.

Have you applied any of these business moves? If so, what results have you experienced?

*photo by flickr
**take a moment to remember Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream today.
***Super huge Congratulations to T. Anne for signing with stellar agent, Rachelle Gardner!

Friday, January 14, 2011

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Title your life…

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

8 Things I’d Say to 10-year-old Me

Over the next few Wednesdays I’m going to talk to a younger me. Here are some things I’d say to 10-year-old me:

  • You feel like you’re in your sister’s shadow now when you play soccer because of her skills, but you are learning about resiliency and lessons that will bolster you as you are determined to find your own niche. You will find it.

  • You are starting something greater than you realize when you write stories in your journal.

  • Be encouraged, you’re going to embrace the greatest gift possible in just a few years. Hang in there, this gift will change how you see everything.

  • When you are a mom there’ll be a movie made inspired from the Ramona books, and even though you’ll enjoy watching it with your kids, it will never top the books you love to talk about now.

  • Don’t be embarrassed by your deeply sensitive way of absorbing the world and your ability to empathize. Your sensitivity is one of your strengths, though as with all strengths there will be downsides to your depth of emotion.

  • You like to please people and try hard to make peace in the family by putting on all kinds of silly acts. Some of this will stay with you, some of it you’ll release.

  • No worries, you’ll only have poison ivy all over your face as a kid.

  • Your love for dogs will continue to grow and someday you’ll own a dog that doesn’t hunt deer, bark all hours of the night or give you poison ivy.

What would you say to 10-year-old you?

I’m pretty sure I got this idea from Mary DeMuth. I can’t remember exactly what her letter to herself involved, but it sparked my idea for the next few Wednesdays.

*We are under a pile of Snow (snow is in caps because I just finished ROOM. You read it, you get it).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Time to Make the Donuts

Remember this? Who doesn’t!

Sometimes in order to get the freshest ideas we need to make little sacrifices, like waking up early or even in the middle of the night if that’s when our most creative thoughts explode.

I’m an odd bird (should not come as a surprise). No matter what, I cannot sleep past 7:00 a.m. It’s a circadian thing. It’s a rooster thing. It’s a groove thing. Who knows what kind of thing it is, but as soon as my alarm clock shines a Ghostbusters green 6:59 a.m. I’m up and at ‘em.

And it’s likely I’ve already been stretching in bed for a few minutes doing one of three things, praying, smiling as I think about lovin’ on my kidlets or piecing together plans for my blog or my novel.

Like practically every human on earth I crave a little jumpstart to my day. You know, caffeine in large quantities (Barry's Irish Tea). It’s necessary to help put my thoughts into motion. And that’s what’s it’s all about around here—thoughts that move.

How do you kick start your mornings? Do you find yourself making sacrifices to create what’s fresh?

Friday, January 7, 2011

One Question Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Just within grasp or clinging too tightly?

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Columbine Climbed In

I finished Dave Cullen’s Columbine several weeks ago. It’s still with me. I’m sure you’ve had this happen, you’ve read a book and it climbs inside you, matting and nesting inside your thoughts. Seldom does a book linger quite like this one has.

On this I 8 Wednesday, I highlight 8 ways the well-written, New York Times Bestseller, Columbine climbed inside my thoughts:

Reflections on Journal Writing
The two boys who carried out the heinous acts detailed many of their plans and their intentions in their journals. They didn’t censor. In fact, from what I read in Columbine, at least one of the boys repeatedly cried out for help in his journal. It churned my thinking about my own journal writing. I’ve found it cathartic through the years, but for some odd reason I’ve censored myself more in the past few years. I don’t want certain thoughts read by my children someday. Some things I talk out with God alone.

I Googled Patrick Ireland
I was compelled to learn more about Patrick Ireland. After closing the book, I needed to know that he turned out okay. He was the boy in the window caught on tape by media cameras. He flung himself out the library window and onto a SWAT team truck, then attempted to get in the driver seat and flee. He did all this with a pellet in his brain. It struck me, the power of fight or flight. And his attitude following Columbine left a great impression on me.

Watching My High School Video Tape
I’m fairly certain reading Columbine inspired me to whip out my old high school video tape, an amateur documentary of my senior year.

Wondering Who I’d Be
In tandem with watching the high school tape, I contemplated who I’d be, how I’d react if I was thrown into a crisis like that. The mind can’t truly go there, but I sifted through whether I’d be the vocal Christian, or the one mistaken for the vocal Christian. Would I have stepped on someone on my way out of the building or stayed behind and helped stop the blood flow quickly seeping out of a teacher?

Thinking about the Adam & Eve Predicament
I have a name for families having to suffer the aftermath of what their child or sibling does—the Adam and Eve predicament. In the story of Cain and Abel, I imagine people often think about Cain and how he lived knowing what he did. I think about Adam and Eve. I can’t fathom what the weight of knowing what their one son did to their only other son must have been like. In this, Columbine shook up my thoughts about the Klebold family and the Harris family. The parents sure, but even more I found myself curious about the siblings. (My family history likely instigated such thinking. One of my older sisters has multiple mental illnesses and has threatened similar offenses I read in the book. On more than one occasion she called our high school inciting a bomb scare. Knowing what I know now about her mental illness, I understand most of her destruction is turned inward.) But still…

Thinking about the Weight of Suicide
Both gunmen killed themselves. It complicated the town’s urge to blame someone, to hold someone accountable. One of the victims also had to deal with her mother’s suicide a year after the tragedy. A delicate and heartbreaking issue. I’ve skimmed the surface of the devastation suicide invites into a family. My sister (the one I mentioned earlier) has attempted it numerous times. I recall waking up in junior high and high school receiving life-changing late night phone calls. I never knew if this time “she succeeded.” Succeed—an unusual word to describe it.

The Role Media Plays
According to Cullen, the media scrambled all kinds of facts in those first few hours that would impact witnesses and perceptions of the crime for years to come. The boys were dubbed losers. Not so. They were tagged as part of the Trench Coat Mafia. Not so. It would be easy to place blame on the media or one outlet, but Columbine was an explosion of chaos that sent shrapnel of chaos everywhere.

What Does God Feel about Psychopaths
I’m still praying about this one. I wish I had a confident answer. I don’t. I simply don’t know.
The book tackled hard questions. I’m a why woman. I love to learn and often why is the first question I ask. Cullen helped me understand more of the why. But questions remain and I know I’ll still be thinking of Columbine years from now.

The following quote is found several places in Columbine, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” – Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

*photo of columbine flower by flickr

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cover Love

I’m kicking off the New Year with a confession. I judge books by their covers. I often buy them based on my opinion. What do you know, I’m a cover girl!

Here are two beautiful, alluring covers that immediately spark imagination and interest. They offer invitation.
I’m reading The Writing Circle now.

Carla Stewart’s novel, Broken Wings has yet to be released, but I’m counting the days until it is. I love her writing, fiercely identify with it, and when I had the opportunity to laugh it up with her at ACFW, I found her to be a complete delight.

These are the kind of books I’d enjoy setting on a coffee table (if we owned one). They especially appeal to me as a women’s fiction writer.

Literary agent, Rachelle Gardner recently asked on her blog if we, as writers, ever envision or give much thought to our covers. I know I do. I’m a visual person. Playing with certain images helps me to visualize publication, enables me to see it happening. But I’m not stubborn about my mental mockups. Picturing covers for my novels is an excellent way for me to hone in on the overall message or theme of each of my books.

I enjoy covers. I already confessed I buy a book after locking eyes with a stunning cover. I was a sucker for Marley & Me because of the dog on the front. (The book matched the quality of the cover.)

Do you have a cover that takes your breath away or one that you’d like to place on a table for all the world to see?

*photos from amazon

Taking Time

college applications                 homecoming                            flag football                basketball             SATs   ...