Sep 262012
 

I’m in a season of learned, now lived, contentment. While I love my husband, and while I have been known to fly off in a jealous rage at our enemy–only Satan–on his behalf, I’m not at all sad that he’s not home–now. If you can hope beyond hope and still be in no hurry–contentment–that’s where I am. And I like it here.

There are few moments in our day when notes of praise are not hanging gently from our low trailer ceiling or when the walls are not being washed by the Word. The laundry is done if the dishes aren’t. The dishes never are. I’m in the market for a dishwasher–a dishwasher and an espresso machine.

Every morning, I wake up entangled with two dogs and at least one child. So much for having a bed to myself. I pull my heavy winter robe over my matching pajamas, and I stand in front of the space heater for a few moments before shuffling toward the kitchen. I’m after the waiting pot of hot coffee and the Jesus book being read through my CD player. The kids are stirring, so I ask them to lay still for a few more minutes–to listen. I’ve given up waking before them. No more Christian guilt. They’re heavy sleepers in the nighttime and the lightest of sleepers in the morning. So nighttime is mine. They oblige my request for quiet for a little while, but the Word plays on long after–ringing out over the noises of morning and breakfast.

After breakfast, it’s time for school. I scroll Scripture on the black board to be read and copied, and then I sit down at my desk to write. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I check Facebook. Sometimes we glide through that dance of teaching and absorbing like it’s what we were all made to do. And other times, not so much.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, a saint comes over to tutor the twins while I do the dishes or color letters with Baby Bear. On Fridays, unless we need to play catch up, we take the day off and clean. Everything should be spotless by dinnertime on Friday night, cause there is no cleaning allowed on Saturday. And speaking of dinner, sometimes that consists of popcorn and veggies. It’s the number one benefit of singlehood, I think. If I don’t want to make dinner and decide to serve snack food instead, I’m not starving a grown man as a result. I love to cook, but it’s nice to have the option.

Bedtime is unrivaled, it’s the sweetest time of day. It’s earlier than it used to be, for them, and that’s working well. Baths and brushing and bed, and we all snuggle down to pray and talk before I press the play button on the same Scriptures from that morning. We’re soaking. I lie still until Baby Bear sighs that relinquishing sigh (unless, of course, I fall asleep before he does and then wake up a half-hour later in a quiet room), and then I make my way back through our little house and into a time custom made for me. And that’s usually when it hits me, as I reheat my coffee and grab my computer–and maybe the Roku remote. I’m happy. Joy filled, but not lacking happy, either. I’m doing what I was made to do and living a story worth living. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

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 September 26, 2012  Me 18 Responses »
Sep 192012
 

First, you make dinner.

(Actually, they’re not really making dinner. They’re just playing with dough and making a mess.)

Then, you eat it outside.

(PB and J for the kids and tuna for uncle and mom–lemonade for all.)

 

Then, you catch dinner for tomorrow.

Or at least, you give it a try.

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 September 19, 2012  Photo Posts 4 Responses »
Sep 182012
 

Quite a few of you have e-mailed me with questions about my book writing process. It seems I’m not the only struggling or aspiring author out there, and I know I only mentioned that I was writing and editing and then announced that the book was for sale–it was a little bit more complicated than that.

Write

I wouldn’t dare give a “how to” on the actual writing. Everyone has their own process, I’m sure. I can tell you how I chose to write 31 Days to Lovely; it may or may not work for you.

First, I wrote a chapter outline. This changed very slightly as I started to write, but it gave me a confident place to start. Because my book centered around Scripture, my outline was primarily Scripture.

After the outline, I began filling in the chapters–just 500 or so words per night. When each chapter had it’s bare bones information and I had written just over 15,000 words, I was finished with an incomplete book. Still, I felt a little too close to the project to be able to improve upon it without some outside perspective.

Focus Group

I have amazing friends; I like to think that makes me an amazing friend, but they truly surpass me in every way. Because you can now set up completely private and secret Facebook groups, I invited about fifteen friends to a group in which we would read and critique what I had written. These were all women whose opinions I greatly respected (some of them were writers, others were avid readers). Seven of them were enthusiastic about helping and were in a time in their lives which allowed it (although most of them didn’t really have the time; they just made it). The “What exactly do you mean here?” “I think you could expound upon this,”  and “You’ve gotta lay off the parenthesis,” comments they returned were absolutely invaluable. I edited according to their suggestions and added another 5,000 words or so.

Edit

I highly suggest hiring or begging two editors for every major project. The first one should be an in depth editor and critic and the second a consummate proofreader. We [writers] all know that it’s almost impossible to edit one’s own work (I’ve often worked as an editor for others and cannot believe the errors I both make and miss in my own work). Likewise, the editor who begins a project may have difficulty finishing it as he/she may also become nearsighted. Before you run off and spend $1000 or more on an editor, see if you can’t hire an equally talented friend  for cheap or free. Both elance.com and ifreelance.com are good places to look for an inexpensive but talented editor. You may very well have teachers or writers among your immediate family and close friends that would be happy to fill your editor positions for free, however. I was lucky enough to have my cousin edit and my parents proofread. And I’m now paying it forward by editing a good friend’s book (also for free). Just look around, and don’t be afraid to ask! I added another 5,000 or so words at the suggestion of my editor, and she was good enough to read through again after I had made the revisions. If this seems like too much to ask of one person, you might consider finding three editors (two editors and one proofreader) to get the job done in sequence–this is the road I plan to take with book number two.

Design

I had a very specific vision in mind for my cover. First, I knew that I wanted my good friend and the namesake of my youngest daughter to hand-draw the word “Lovely”.

 

I pictured it on a background of white roses. I began searching the internet for the picture I wanted (and I found tons) only to realize that purchasing a picture for use in a commercialized project could easily cost me thousands of dollars. So, I dusted off my camera and drove to the store for white roses.

I have a nice camera and decent (for amateur) photography skills. That was enough to get a usable picture. If you haven’t invested in a quality camera, never fear! You are sure to know someone who has! Again, just ask around.

Without my designer, I would have been stuck with a nice picture and a beautiful but unusable scan. I had no idea how to combine these things and begin to bring about my vision. Luckily, one of the gals who’d agreed to join my focus group is a talented designer. Not only did she design the most beautiful cover I have ever seen (and yes, I might be biased), but she acted absolutely thrilled to do so for free.

If there is not a willing designer in your circle, never fear! Fiverr.com is the place I run for many, many of my design related issues (blog, book, and logos for clients). Just hop on over and look around. There are designers, coding experts, and all around creative people galore! And amazingly, they will do most small jobs for $5 (check the Fiverr’s rating before hiring). Be sure to let your designer know that they are working on a commercialized project so that they can choose their fonts accordingly.

Format

I knew I wanted to publish my book both in print and for Kindle. However, formatting my MS Word document for Kindle was far outside my scope of understanding. After a full day of frustration and about an hour in tears, I remembered Fiverr.com. I would highly suggest not even trying to format your own document unless that is your area of expertise. I paid $10 (because I tipped) to have my document prepared for Kindle publishing. It might also be wise to hire someone to format your print version. This was my very first publishing expense.

Publish

After quite a bit of looking around and reading reviews online, I decided to publish my print version with Create Space. For the most part, I’ve been extremely happy with their printing quality and their customer service. They walked me through the publishing process step by step. Also, Create Space (an Amazon company) makes it easy to sell your self-published title on Amazon. They have a Kindle publishing walk-through, though I chose to bypass this and to hop over to Kindle with my formatted version in hand–therefore skipping the wait and fee that would have been associated with the Create Space to Kindle option.

Create Space is a print-on-demand company. This means that books are not printed until they are purchased. There will never be a minimum amount of books for you to buy; and, like I said, I’ve been predominately pleased with the job they do. I did receive some misprinted books last month, but Create Space replaced them free of charge. Create Space has a completely free option, and because I had already enlisted an editor and designer and was taking and formatting my own interior pictures, free was the option for me. Create Space allowed me to choose from standard book sizes and color options and also allowed me to set my price based on the royalty I wanted to receive.

Royalty rates are higher for self-published authors, because you are the one solely responsible to…

Market and Sell

I’ve read in several publishing articles that the average self-published title sells about a hundred copies [ever]. That hardly makes it worth all the work! No matter how well-written or relevant your book is, it will not sell if it is not marketed. Publishing on Kindle is an essential marketing strategy for a self-published author. In fact, you may decide not to publish a print version at all! When publishing on Kindle, you’ll have the option to sign up for their Kindle Select Program–you want to do this! One of the features of Kindle Select is the option of listing your Kindle title for free (for up to five days). Not only do you want to take advantage of this (whether your title will be priced at $2.99 or $9.99), but you’ll want to use up all five freebie days. There is simply no better way to market, and every single free download will be counted [for ranking purposes] as a sale. In other words, even though my book has only sold a few hundred copies to date, Amazon ranks it as though it has been sold over 14,000 times (I gave away 14,265 Kindle copies).

Because your five freebie days do not have to be used in succession, I highly recommend taking a quick step backward once you are ready to sell on Kindle and before you go live with your print version (I didn’t do this, so you’re learning from my mistake). Activate a twenty-four hour freebie day, but do not advertise it. Instead, send the link to close friends and family, only, letting them know that you’d love it if they would preview your book and point out any errors that might have been overlooked in the proofing or formatting process. Also, ask them to review your book on Amazon, and ask them if they can do all of these things within a specified amount of time (you only have 90 days to use your freebie days, so keep that in mind).

If it becomes necessary for you to make changes to your file, you can simply upload a new file to Create Space. You’ll need to have your Kindle file formatted with the changes. Again, I recommend that you hire someone to do this.

As soon as you’re ready, contact the freebie sites (both miscellaneous and Kindle)  and let them know that your book will be listed for free for four days (give them exact dates). You can find the relevant sites by googling, “Freebie Sites,” and “Kindle Freebie Sites”. Don’t worry about contacting every single one. Just pay attention to the top three or four listings, the rest will take their cue from them.

That’s about it…I won’t say simple, but it’s definitely something you can do. Let me know when you publish so that I can review your book!

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 September 18, 2012  Blogging & Writing 2 Responses »
Sep 172012
 

I was fifteen when he was born; and for a few years, we were inseparable. Anyone who didn’t know our family just assumed that he was mine. I was usually fine with that (kept the riff raff away). Over the past ten years, though, he’s slowly and carefully grown into a precious man of God. And, for the most part, I’ve missed it all.

I can remember his birth as vividly as the birth of  my own kids’, and he’s a senior in high school, now! I don’t like to think about how old that makes me. He doesn’t have much time left at home, and his big dreams will most likely take him far from the mountains. This might be my last good chance to get to know my baby brother. And what did God do? He moved me right next door!

If I need ice or chocolate, I just pick up the phone and call him. If I need someone to come sit with the kids, or to wear them out playing soccer in the yard–he’s there. He has a servant’s heart. So when he asked if I would take his senior pictures, I was thrilled to finally have a small, teensy-tiny way to pay him back for everything he’s been to my children–and for everything he’s meant to me.

Yep, this is where we live. That helps. And I can’t take any credit for the photogenic face of the model. For my part in holding the camera, though, I’m pretty proud of these!

Though not as proud as I am of him.

Ladies, you might not want to even let your daughters see these–he’s not looking. God has all of his heart, and he’s waiting for His leading. On second thought, though, do show them these. Every little girl should know that there are still are pure, God-loving, God-fearing, women-respecting young men out there!

And that some of them look like this…

And sing and play the guitar!

Happy graduation year, baby bro! I can’t wait to see what God does next!

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 September 17, 2012  Photo Posts 2 Responses »
Sep 152012
 

What do I say? What can I write to the One who knows me far better than I know myself? I’m tired. I’m tired and I’m physically cold. Winter is on its way and I’m just not ready. But this morning, I pointed a space heater at the toes of my squinty-eyed children. I opened the fridge and poured cold cups of milk. I turned on the faucet to rinse out five glasses. And I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry because I am silly and selfish, and sometimes that revelation hits like a bus. But when the tears do come, I welcome them. They leave a puddle of perspective for which I am so very grateful.

Out of true perspective comes immediate action; and when I feel the gut-wrench of helplessness, my only obtainable action is heartfelt prayer. So I’m coming to you today on behalf of Sabajit, Rodrigo, and Basu. They have parents who are struggling even to feed and to clothe them, Lord. I know a little about how that feels. Their sons sign their letters as my sons, and I count that as the greatest privilege of my life. Please pour your mercy and grace upon them . They’re heavy on my heart today, Jesus, and I ask that you abundantly bless them–bless them as they’ve blessed me. I’m asking you, on behalf of my five children, that you bless us, too. But more than your blessings, please grant us the perspective necessary to truly know that we’ve already been blessed.

Please help me to raise children who possess open palms. Help us to lay down any luxury for the sake of life. And when it is called for, help us to lay down our lives for the sake of life. Thank you for birthing me, and for birthing my children in such a way as would prevent us from looking downward, so that even in the privilege of our birth, we grasp our equality with those scorned and despised. Thank you for your careful teaching. I acknowledge that any gift worthy of receiving comes straight from you. When we become your hands, our hands are blessed. And when we withhold with clinched fists and worldly judgment, we curse ourselves and refuse your heart.

I ask you to expand my reach and to bless many more children through me. Thank you for the blessings that are poured out, dumped with a drenching force, just through the privilege of serving you. It is such an honor to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have not yet experienced the blessing of a sponsored child, I urge you to be moved with compassion. I promise you, you will never regret it.

 September 15, 2012  Blogging & Writing 2 Responses »
Sep 082012
 

It’s a little bedroom, bigger than mine, but one of the smaller rooms that they’ve had. But is it too small for five kids? Thanks to Wal-Mart.com, nope. It’s just the right size.

I haven’t put up their curtains, yet, but I plan to use the same ones we’ve been using for awhile. And I’m ordering canvases so their walls can feature their own artwork. When it’s all finished and cute, I’ll post again.

Here’s the bed. It’s a twin over full bunk. But there is also room to slide another full mattress right underneath. So, now, it’s a twin over full over full. I think I’m a genius (and Lula thinks so, too).

The bedding is also from Wal-Mart, but we would never be able to find it in our small town store. That’s what makes Wal-Mart’s free site-to-store shipping so awesome. Big city bargains delivered straight to our mountain Wal-Mart! Can’t beat that!

The closet is still unfinished. I really hate sliding closet doors, so I’m thinking about redoing the whole inside with shelves and rods. Maybe something like this. Or a bunch of these. But I really like this, which would leave room for shelves on each end. If you’ve redone a closet, please let me see. When I look here, all I see is wasted space. Which, of course, we can’t have!

But that’s what we have, for now. A very clean and workable bedroom–with just enough stuff and plenty of room for all.

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Sep 062012
 


I have an announcement to make; and it’s big, y’all. Really big. In fact, it’s so big that most of you will either shake your heads in disbelief or mumble something like, “Oh, the naive little fool, she’ll see.” But I refuse to be dissuaded from my excitement, you will not pop my bubble.

Cause, y’all, my kids’ room has been clean all week long! And it’s staying clean…forever.

I’m not even joking, the transformation from somewhat messy to completely clean hasn’t taken more than a five minute clean up before bedtime–all week long! They like being in there. They play in there. I’m placing this right between water to wine and the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. It took a full day’s work on my part, but oh, was it worth it!

The problem we were having was with clothes, mainly. Even after years of purging, they still just had too much stuff (first world problems). Now, they have plenty of clothes, just not so much that each drawer is filled to the top, therefore preventing them from finding an outfit without pulling everything else from the drawer.

I ordered the march while finishing every scrap of laundry. They piled clothes on the living room floor. Clothes from their drawers. Clothes from their closet. Clothes from under their bed. Clothes from…well, you get the idea. The pile was massive enough to warrant to ordering of not one, but two Amazon movies.

I made careful piles, making sure everyone had enough pieces in each size. Not too much. Nothing with stains. Nothing with holes. Nothing they insist on wearing to church even though it’s the absolute grubbiest thing they own. What remains now, fits perfectly. And bonus, they look extra cute every day.

Tomorrow, I’ll get pictures. But I just couldn’t wait to share the news.

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 September 6, 2012  Mommyhood Comments Off
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