My Books

Friday, January 29, 2016

Vacation Time With Family

I've been in Oregon since Wednesday, visiting my daughter and her family. Oh, the joy of being with them again! Here are some pictures of some of the fun I'm having. I'll leave you with these, cause I've got some playing to do and some hugs to give. See you sometime next week!

Grandpa Rollin with Solomon and Lilly






My mom and Solomon having a good laugh.

My daughters, Ashley and Jessica, look like twins here
despite their 12-year age difference.

Lilly and Mamaw sliding together.


Ashley and Jessie

Four ladies who are really happy to be together again.
Jessie, Ashley, Me, and Mom

Ashley, Ethan, Seth, Jamie, Grandpa, and Solomon

Thursday, January 28, 2016

One-of-a-Kind You

Yeah. That's totally cool. Remember your uniqueness. Celebrate how you're different from others. Don't judge others because they're different from you, unless it's to judge that they're totally awesome just the way they are. Because we're all masterpieces, made in the image of God Himself. He made us the way we are for a reason. Live fully like yourself.

Happy Thoughtful Thursday.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bending Down to Listen

I love this verse and the tender image it paints of God bending down to listen to us. It reminds me of a parent squatting down to a child's level to talk to him, a thing that all good parents do. God is a good Father. He listens to and answers our prayers.

Happy Timeless Tuesday!


Monday, January 25, 2016

I'm a Downton Abbey Fan

It's Me Monday and I thought you should know that I'm a Downton Abbey fan. I was a late bloomer in this regard, not watching until the fourth season. But my mother had the DVDs of the previous seasons, so we were able to watch them all and continue from there. I was eager to see what all the hype was about and what fans so adored about this Masterpiece Theater show.

It did not disappoint.

Let me start by saying the cinematography is lush and beautiful. I always scold my husband if he fast- forwards through the opening credits because I love seeing its elegant beauty. From the outdoor panorama of Downton's grounds to the indoor shot of that singular rose petal falling on the mantel, it's absolutely delicious. The rest of the show is just as picturesque.

Second, the costuming is to die for. The men look grand in their suits and the women are feminine and demur in their stylish frocks. The fashions of the early 1900s make me long for those styles to come back. Contrast these with the working staff in their uniforms, always ready to pleasantly serve the Grantham family.

Which brings me to the characters themselves. The Granthams are the owners of Downton and they are served by a host of staff. From footmen to kitchen staff to general servants who help the family with everything from dressing to cooking and serving their meals, they do it all with a smile and formality reserved for those held in high esteem. The Granthams love their servants in an aristocratic way. They're not quite family, but they hold a special place in their hearts. Some, like Mr. Carson, the butler, have been with the family since the Grantham daughters were infants. He loves them like a doting uncle, especially Mary, the oldest daughter.

This is the last season of Downton Abbey. A slow, simmering romance between Mr. Carson and the head housemaid, Mrs. Hughes, has been brewing for several seasons and the two finally wed, thrilling fans to no end. I can't wait to see these two middle-aged lovebirds as a married couple the rest of the season. I was also over the moon to see Tom Branson reappear during their wedding reception, with daughter, Sibby, in his arms. What a happy reunion for the family!

I predict this sixth and final season will end with Tom and Lady Mary falling in love and marrying. With Downton under their charge, the season could close on a hopeful note that the grand estate wouldn't have to close down due to financial instability. I've heard other viewers suggest that perhaps Downton will indeed have to close its doors and the season will end with the family and staff leaving the estate and walking into a new chapter of their lives.

Regardless, I'm so glad I've been a Downton Abbey fan all these seasons. Its grace and beauty is a bright spot on television. I'll surely miss it when they draw the final curtain.

Are you a Downton fan? What/who do you love most about it?


Friday, January 22, 2016

Doggy Day

It's a big day in our family. We're adding a new canine member. We already have our wonderful chihuahua, Kobi, who is five years old. He's the cutest, most fun dog ever.
Actually, all our pets belong to our youngest daughter, Ashley, who came from the womb an animal lover. God hard-wired her that way and we, as her parents, have tried our best not to quench what God put in her heart. That means we've learned to become pet people. Currently she has a rabbit, a 95-gallon aquarium, a 35-gallon aquarium, a betta, a hamster, and a dog.

For years we said "only one dog at a time." But that was before last week when a stray dog wandered into Petco where she works. After some sleuthing, they found he had a microchip and my daughter and her manager took the little guy back to the shelter he was adopted from. They tried calling all the phone numbers they had on record but they were all out of service. So they sent a letter to them old-fashioned style to give them one final chance to claim their dog. The shelter's policy stated they needed to hang on to the cute little miniature pinscher for a week to see if they owner came for him. No one came.
Larkin going home.

So today, two-year-old Larkin becomes Ashley's dog. We couldn't stand for him to be left in a shelter any longer. Apparently the poor pup has been passed around to about five different homes in the last few months since his original owner moved to Germany. Today he gets his forever home and Kobi gets a brother.

New brothers Kobi and Larkin,
Do you have a pet you love? How/where did you find him/her? Share your pet love in the comments.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Honoring People You Don't Respect

You may wonder, Why would I want to honor someone I don't respect? If I don't respect them, do they really deserve my honor? 

Chances are, you don't want to honor that difficult person in your life. And no, they probably don't deserve your honor. There. Glad we've settled that, So now what?

As a Christian, I can't leave it there. Because God challenges me to honor people I may not respect. It may be a boss, a fellow church member, or even a family member. Check out these verses: 

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 5:16

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 1 Timothy 5:17

Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. 2 Peter 2:17

Not one verse says to honor people if they deserve it. It really has nothing to do with the difficult person's behavior. It has everything to do with the person being asked to do the honoring. It makes them better people. It makes a better life for them. In Deuteronomy the Israelites were told if they honored their parents, they would live long and things would go well. Who doesn't want that?

Isn’t that still true today? When you dishonor people it stirs up strife in your relationships. It becomes hard to be civil. Stress builds, blood pressure rises. Life doesn't feel so good.

But what if you tried to see that person through God’s eyes? What are their fears, problems, struggles? What do they love? What are their interests? What makes them unique?

Try focusing on compassion instead of frustration when you see that person who's a thorn in your side. Kindness trumps impatience. Smiling wins over rolling your eyes. A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1 niv).

And here's the good news. God will help you honor others. He'll even help you change your attitude toward that impossible person if you only ask Him and believe He'll do it. 

So give it a try. Keep honoring and see your own quality of life improve.

Have you tried to honor someone you don't respect? How did you do it? What was the outcome?


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Language Lesson

There is power in words. Whether they're spoken, written, read, or listened to, they have an impact either for good or bad. So make it your mission to uplift others with your words and in doing so, you'll make the world a better, kinder place. Now that's timesless, on this Timeless Tuesday.


Monday, January 18, 2016

My Book Lists

I thought I'd tell you about my favorite book I read last year, but when I went back to my book list (yes, I really keep a list of all the books I read), I found I'd only read ten books last year. Ten. Looking back, I see I usually average about twice that. Sigh.

But it got me thinking maybe you'd like to know about my book lists and why I keep them.
I started keeping a list of the books I read back in 1999. I keep my lists in a spiral journal and at the start of each new year, I put the year at the top of the next clean page and write "1." on the left side of the first line in anticipation of completing my first book of the year. Usually, I'm part-way through a book when one year ends and another begins, so I likely already know what the first entry will be.

Each entry contains the title of the book and its author. That's it. Nothing fancy.

Why do I keep such a list? That's a good question. I somehow find comfort in it. I like seeing what I've read. And when I go back and look at what I read in a particular year, it spurs memories of what I was doing while I read that book. I suppose it's a journal of sorts. Some books I read while on vacation and I remember where I was and how relaxed I felt. Others I read during difficult times in my life and I'm able to see that period of life in a different light now than perhaps I could then. If someone asks me if I've read a particular book and I'm not sure, and I can go back and check. Or, if I want to recommend a book to someone and I can't remember the exact title or author, I have record of it and can give accurate information.

I know, I'm weird. But that's okay. I bet you are, too, in your own special way.

So, tell me, do you keep a book list? Or do you have another quirky thing about you that you'd like to share in the comments?

Happy Monday!


Friday, January 15, 2016

Ready for Flip-Flop Weather

I live in Arizona. I have absolutely nothing to complain about when it comes to the weather this time of year. It was in the low sixties today, but the low last night was in the thirties. To my thinned out Arizona blood, that's cold. And even the low sixties is border-line chilly.

Sunset at Usery Park in Mesa, Arizona
Though the sun is shining today, we've had more cold weather and rain than usual over the past year. I love when the blistering summer comes to an end and cool temps take over. I adore snuggling in my sweaters and blue jeans. But enough is enough. I'm ready for cool winter weather to take a hike and warm spring air to move in.

I can't wait to pull out my flip-flops. I want baseball to begin. I can almost smell imaginary orange blossoms wafting through the air. I long to get into a sweltering hot car after it's been sitting in a parking lot. I want the days to last longer and the nights to get shorter. I want to turn on my ceiling fan because the house feels a little too warm instead of adding another layer because I'm too cold. I look forward to regular pedicures because my toes need to look pretty in sandals. I love being able to walk out the door into warm weather without having to put on a sweater.

Those are just a few of my favorite things about living in a warm climate. I'm a true desert rat, having lived in Arizona for 46 years. I can think of no other place I'd rather live. Sure, the summers are hot, but I'll take that any day over the cold winters of snowy climates. As we like to say around here, at least we don't have to shovel the sunshine.

Where do you live? What is your favorite season? What do you love about that season? Sound off in the comments below.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Distance Yourself from Negativity.

The opposite is also true. Ugly things happen when you live near negativity. Choose wisely who you spend time with. Control your negative thoughts. Create a positive environment for yourself and others.

Happy Thoughtful Thursday!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Trusting God Without Fear

Just a little reminder for your day. But I know trusting God can be scary at times. That's why the Bible also says, "Fear not" and "Don't be afraid" over 100 times. Some say it's used 365 times, one for each day, but that's only if you use it in a context it wasn't intended. There's a cool printable at the site below that I found as I researched this. I thought you might like it too.

Have a wonderful Tuesday and keep trusting, not fearing.


Monday, January 11, 2016

My First Crocheting Project

OK, folks. If you're following along, you'll remember I posted Friday that I really wanted to learn to crochet. I went straight-away to buy myself some crochet hooks at Walmart because probably whatever I make will be a suitable fashion statement for someone who shops there. I admit, I didn't even wait to hear from you crocheting pros as to what size hook I should buy. I bought a 3-pack with 5.75mm, 6.5 mm, and 10mm hooks. That's enough math for today.

My crochet hooks
I had enough yarn at home already from previously abandoned projects that I didn't need to buy any. I chose a minty green from my yarn bag and googled "how to crochet," then watched a couple YouTube videos to show me how to get started. It looked vaguely familiar because of kind-hearted souls who have taught me in the past. I decided to use the biggest hook I bought (10mm) figuring a bigger hook might help me keep my stitches looser and be better for learning. I sort of equated it to buying the big, chunky crayons for toddlers before getting them the elegant, slimmer style for more dextrous older children.

So off I went. I made a long tail of foundational chain stitches, then figured out how to turn it and start the next row. I was so uncoordinated that I may as well have been crocheting with my feet. Seriously, I couldn't come up with a good way to hold the hook or keep the yarn in the right place. Some of the sites offered ideas on how they do it, but went on to say there's no right way to hold your hook. You just have to do what feels right you. Nothing felt right. So I kept practicing, all thumbs, or toes in my case. Lo and behold, it started getting easier. After a couple hours, I was getting a bit of a rhythm to making my stitches. Glory! After I felt like I had a bit of a knack for it, I stopped, unraveled it all and started again. This time it went even better. I was crocheting!

Now, mind you, my crocheting doesn't look beautiful like most of my friends'. Not yet. But it will. After one more round of practice, I unraveled again and decided I may as well practice on something I can actually use. I decided to make myself a throw blanket. It will consist of lots of colors that I already have in my yarn bag. It won't have any fancy stitches and will probably have plenty of mistakes in it. But it will be mine and will show that I didn't give up. I can learn new things even at age 56-and-a-half. Imagine that! So far my blankie only looks like a curly snake, about an inch-and-a-half wide and around four feet long. I spent about two hours working on it last night to get that far. But doggone it, I've started, which is an accomplishment in itself.

My yarn bag
Most of the people I've talked to have said to start on a small project. I respect that and see the logic in it. But I've never been one to start small. Most people also say that when you begin a writing career, you should start out writing articles before books. I didn't listen to them either. I write from my heart and if my heart holds a full-sized book, that's what comes out. Same with my other projects, I guess. I want a blanket. I don't want to mark time by crocheting purses, hats, or potholders, though all are worthy projects. I'm crocheting what my heart desires, and that's a blanket. I will post pictures when I'm finished. In the meantime, here's what it looks like today.

The beginnings of a blanket
So there's all you never wanted to know about my crocheting and were afraid to ask. I promise I won't post about it again until I finish that blanket. :)

Let me see a project (crocheting or something totally different) you're working on. Post a picture in the comments.


Friday, January 8, 2016

Learning to Crochet

I am not a crocheter. I'm not even a knitter. I've been taught to do both, but I find it difficult and my stitches always end up so tight I can't even get a needle through them to keep going. Sigh.

Problem is, I see all these super cute things I want to make! Just look at these adorable little hats posted on Facebook by Dianne Poeschel Knapp (who I don't even know).

I soooo want to make these for my one and only little granddaughter before she's too old to humor me by wearing them.

Or how about a beautiful afghan? I'd love to make one to wrap myself in on cold evenings or to give as wedding gifts.

And I'm a scarf lover in the winter. I wear them every day. I even blogged about scarves last year. I could make myself some awesome scarves.

Anyway, I am determined to learn to crochet. If you are a crocheter, will you give me your best tips? How do I keep my stitches loose? What is an easy project to start on? What size needle is best for a beginner? Oh, so many questions!

Let me hear from you in the comments with any helpful crocheting advice you can give me. There may be a cute hat in your future...


Thursday, January 7, 2016

My New Author Website

I'm in the process of getting a new author website up and running with the help of my super-smart son, Tyler. He has asked me to send him some links to websites that I like or are similar to what I'd like to have on mine. I've only begun that process and have sent him one so far.

But it got me thinking, are there certain author websites you've visited that you found easy to navigate? Did the design delight you or seem to match the vibe of the author's books? If so, will you be so kind as to post the link in the comments below? It would be a tremendous help to me and it will also give your favorite authors some much appreciated free publicity.

Thanks a bunch! You'll be the first to see my new website when it goes live!


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Power of Persistence

I have big news.

Not only was yesterday my 25th wedding anniversary, but I also was offered a three-book contract for my middle-grade fiction series. Now that's what I call a good day!

Book contracts are a big deal because they're so hard to come by. It takes years of dedication and hard work to ever see one come about. For some writers, it never does, so I am thanking the Giver of all good gifts for this amazing blessing.

The first book of this series is already written and that's what the publisher read. I'll share more about it in the coming months. In my book proposal I pitched it as the first in a series and gave them ideas of what the next several books might be like. The second one is already half written. But to add even more joy to this big news, I wrote that first book over ten years ago. Actually, it's been so long ago I can't even remember for sure when it was. Maybe even fifteen years? At any rate, I've been shopping that manuscript at publishing houses for a looonngg time. It has been reworked, rewritten, sat silent in my files, and then resurrected for yet another metamorphosis. So to finally land a contract for it? Gold.

I believed in this story from the beginning and always thought it would be published one day if I could just find the right publisher. I loved my characters and their interactions. I loved the story line. I felt like it was good and so did my critique group. So why couldn't I sell it?

Because it needed yet another rewrite. My editor, Renae, from Armonia Publishing who offered me the contract, suggested I buy the lecture notes of Margie Lawson's "Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues" online class. I did, and became a better writer in the process. I worked what I learned into my manuscript and resubmitted it. It made all the difference and I have a contract offer to prove it.

My point? I've been writing for over thirty years. I have six published books. But there's always something more to learn or a way to improve my craft. It takes persistence, hard work, and a humble heart.

I wouldn't be celebrating today if...
I'd gave up on this book when I received my first (or twelfth) rejection.
I gave up when my first agent went out of business without selling my book.
I threw in the towel when my second agent released me because he couldn't sell my books.
I hadn't believed in this story idea from the get-go.
I listened to the inner voices that tried to make me doubt myself and my abilities.
I hadn't maintained a teachable spirit and kept learning and improving my writing.
I didn't take the time to write, rewrite, add characters, revamp characters, and rewrite again.
I didn't listen to the helpful advice and suggestions of my critique group and my editor.
I didn't hunker down and submit my manuscript over and over again.

And most importantly, I wouldn't be celebrating today if not for God and His perfect timing. I would rather have sold my book years ago but if I had, it wouldn't be nearly as good as it is today and I might just be celebrating a one-book deal instead of three. I wouldn't be working with the awesome editor I now have the pleasure of working with. God, in His wisdom, gave me His best when I would have settled for His okay.

So be persistent. Don't give up, whether it be on a book project, a class you're struggling through, a parenting challenge, a difficult marriage, or some other thing you believe in but are having to wait to see results. God is there. He's waiting to bless you with His best in His perfect time.

And believe me, it will be worth the wait.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My Wedding Anniversary

Today is my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Yep. Twenty-five years (and fifty pounds) ago I said, "I do" to this wonderful man, Rollin Carlblom. Doesn't he look fun? Well, he is!

My Rollin
As a matter of fact, he's so fun that he coined the phrase "fun faces" for pictures where people look really happy and like they're having fun. Here's a picture of us from 2012 with our fun faces on. We were on a sunset cruise in Hawaii with some of our dearest friends, Ron and Janet.
Hawaii Vacation, 2012
One of the best things about Rollin is that not only is he super fun, but he's also a hard worker. Seriously, early on in our marriage I had to begin the process of teaching him how to relax. He was always working on something. He has successfully owned and operated his own computer consulting business for most of our marriage and provided for our family faithfully and without complaint. This allowed me to live the dream of staying home with our children and launch a writing career, neither of which supplements our income with any regularity. Most years he has been the sole bread-winner. Other years we can go out to eat a time or two on my writing income. Yeah, writing isn't the glamorous job it appears to some. He's an honorable man who cares for his family. Did I mention he doesn't even complain about it? That's just the kind of guy he is. 

When we married back in 1991, I had two kids, ages seven and four, from a previous marriage. Rollin loved those kids like his own. Then, a year later, he adopted them and gave them his name. On their adoption day, his eyes filled with tears and he told me, "I didn't think I could love them any more than I did, but somehow I do now that they're really mine." He's been their dad, completely, and we added one more to the mix five years later.
Adoption Day
Above all, Rollin loves his family and his God, not necessarily in that order. Both are at the top of my list for most important qualities in a husband. He's a great example of how to walk with God in everyday life, in his everyday dealings, both at work and at home. His faith dictates his conduct. And though his work is super important to him, he always makes time for his family. He never missed a kid's concert, birthday party, or other important event. He's always there for me, even when my introverted, independent self doesn't know that I need a strong shoulder to lean on. But when I do lean on him, it's a relief. And just to know that he's there no matter what? Well, that's pure gold. And it's not just our immediate family he cares for. He also tenderly helps my aging mom and so many others in our church family. He's a fabulous grandpa to our seven grandkids. He can fix anything and does so with a loving, servant heart.
Rollin with grandson, Solomon.
So today I honor my husband, the great love of my life, my best friend, my spiritual leader, and fellow adventurer. We've been on lots of vacations to fabulous places and there's no one else I'd rather share those special times or my life with than this kind, loving, faithful, fun man. Happy anniversary, Hon. I'd do it all over again. 


Monday, January 4, 2016

Taking Down the Christmas Decorations

The holidays are all done and now comes the work of taking down the decorations. Ugh. That's my least favorite part of Christmas.

We already disposed of the worst Christmas tree we've ever had. You can read about it here if you missed it. I was in a little more of a hurry than usual to get that tree down and out to the curb for the garbage man to come collect it last Wednesday. Hallelujah, it's gone. And as you may recall, we only decorated it with lights and an angel on top, so the un-decorating was a breeze. That was my favorite thing about that tree.

But all around my house are still the lovely decorations I blogged about and took pictures of on the Christian Children's Authors blog. That will take a bit more work. So much, in fact, that I find myself procrastinating. I've decided to leave them up at least through tomorrow. After all, my writer's critique group, Tuesday's Children, is meeting at my house and I want it to look nice. (Translation: I don't dare take down the fake evergreen garland around my banister or there will be needles everywhere and I don't want to vacuum.)
So, it's still a bit Christmas-y around here. Just for the record, I stopped wearing my Christmas earrings on December 26. See? I'm not that bad of a procrastinator.

At what stage are you in the un-decorating of your house? Or did you never get around to it to begin with? No judgment here! Let me hear from you in the comments.