Monday, November 17, 2014


Today I appear to be here, but I am actually not. I'm in Asheville, NC, joining the talented ladies featured in this video. Some of you know my talented friend Rachel Olsen, author of one of my favorite books and go-to resources MY ONE WORD. (Ahem, now is the time to read that book if you haven't so you can start mulling over your word for the coming year.)

But you probably don't know Katie Hicks, another talented woman who read my first novel THE MAILBOX and up and decided to create a Kindred Spirit mailbox and enter it into the National Gingerbread Competition at the Grove Park Inn. Here's a sample of her genius-- she made this cake for my signing when THE BRIDGE TENDER came out this summer. That's the bridge and the logo of The Old Bridge Preservation Society, where the event was held. And those are all my book covers-- made in sugar!!

I hope to post soon about my time in Asheville-- a combination of girlfriend time, mountain time, creative rejuvenation time, and the surreal moment of seeing this full circle moment of my book becoming a gingerbread creation! I am so excited, I can't even tell you.

And so, this week, my scrap is simple-- this video news report about the lovely ladies who are doing the hard work behind this venture.

And here's some links about the competition, in case you'd like to see the masterpiece for real!

Grove Park Inn Gingerbread Competition

Romantic Asheville: Gingerbread Competition
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Monday, November 10, 2014


On Mondays I talk about scraps... odds and ends of stuff I want to say that really can't be its own blog post, so I hodgepodge it all together here.

I am not talking about my new novel. To anyone. Not my husband or my best friend. Not to my kids or students or strangers on the street. Not to my mom or potential agents. I am not talking about the characters or the setting or the plot or the title. I am silent about this book until I'm done with it. Reading this from author Jane Smiley made me feel like this is one of the smarter writing moves I've made recently. Whether or not it will pay off, remains to be seen, but in the meantime, it feels like I'm on the right track:

 "Exhaust your own curiosity about your project before showing it to someone else. Let your own ideas play out without getting input from others, then, after you show them your work, use their responses as input to push you forward. It may take you several drafts and a long time to come to the end of your ability to tackle a given subject, and when you do, you might be satisfied or dissatisfied with your product. If you are dissatisfied, the input of others will give you ideas for how to shape your novel further. If you are satisfied, the input of others will let you know if your novel is readable and accessible." Jane Smiley


Here's how to make this meat (since I was remiss in posting the recipe in a separate post). It's delicious and you should make it for your family this week! I have no name for it-- feel free to name it whatever you like!

3 lbs beef tips
1 pkg fajita seasoning
2 cans Rotel

Put all in crockpot and cook all day. When ready to eat, shred meat with two forks and serve with the juice over yellow rice. Serve with a salad or your favorite green veggie. My husband and I thought it was the tastiest meal I've made in a long time. (We might have fought over the leftovers.)

This is going to be a strange week with half of my children off for Veteran's Day tomorrow and half in school. Kind of weird to have a day off smack dab in the middle of the week. I've got plenty to keep me busy this week-- writing, She Reads, teaching etc. I've at least got my meals planned for the week, which is always a good feeling. I'm actually speaking twice this week-- once for a girls' night out event and once for the Women's National Book Association local chapter. I'm looking forward to both events. It's good to be speaking again, especially when I believe in the message like I do. This is a message I live daily, which makes me feel more qualified to bring it. (Want to know more about my speaking? See that little tab on my header that says "Need A Speaker?" Click on it to find out more.)

Finally, here are some links to things that have inspired/intrigued me recently.

Chris Botti (if you've been reading here long you already know about my feelings for him) playing the National Anthem before Monday night football. He made grown men cry.

This interview with Robert Harling, who wrote the play Steel Magnolias based on the loss of his sister. Even though the movie is 25 years old (not possible!) I learned things I didn't know.

This Christmas Pledge-- while I'm not sold on the entire thing, she makes some good points about getting ready now instead of later. Although just typing that makes me want to cry.

And finally this video of Brene Brown talking about faith and the truth about love. Good, powerful stuff. I think Daring Greatly should be required reading for all humanity.

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Friday, November 07, 2014

Why I'm Not On Instagram

"I'm serious," my friend says. "You need to be on Instagram. It kills me you're not on there. Like, it's to the point that if you don't get on it I'm not sure we can be friends any more." She's totally kidding about not being her friend any more but she's not kidding about wanting me to be on Instagram. She assures me I will love it. I'm sure she's right. But the trouble is, I tell her, I just can't do one more thing. Between blogging (which you all know how haphazard that has been of late), Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, I have my fill of diversions, am at my limit of the voices I let speak into my life. As good as Instagram sounds, it also sounds like another rabbit hole to fall into, another time suck when that's the very last thing I need.

These two quotes below, taken from two unrelated blogs, best illustrate my feelings on social media as of late. While I see the advantages, I am also increasingly aware of the disadvantages. Social media has added to my life, but it also has potential to cheapen it if I allow it to. I'm becoming more militant about doing whatever I can to keep that from happening. Including staying off Instagram-- that "one more thing" when I don't need one more thing. I appreciate these authors echoing what I'm feeling, and speaking up for what I've been thinking for a while. Their voices make me feel braver. It's good to know I'm not the only one who thinks that all of this at times can feel like madness... when what I want most is sanity.

From Elizabeth Foss:

I know that I write way too often about the perils of fast-moving technology, especially social media. Increasingly, I find that mine is a lonely position. The reality, however, is that, for some of us, it's all too fast. It's all too disconnected. We sit here wonderingly, while the people we love are swept along in the fast-moving tide of constant interaction and constant change. And we know that we will  be left behind. We might be able to maintain our own calm and our own capable, but we will be in that peaceful state mostly by ourselves.
...between digital technology and rising complexity, there's more information and more requests coming at us faster, and more relentlessly than ever. Unlike computers, however, human beings aren't meant to operate continuously, at high speeds, for long periods of time. Rather, we're designed to move rhythmically between spending and renewing our energy. Our brains wave between high and low electrical frequencies ,  our hearts beat at varying intervals our lungs expand and contract depending on demand. It's not sufficient to be good at inhaling. Indeed, the the more deeply you exhale, the calmer and more capable you become. --from Manage Your Day to Day.


From Allison Winn Scotch:

But sometimes, as in all things in life, it’s best to know when it’s time to shut up and reflect, and I guess I’ve reached that point. That point where I’m ready to be a listener and apply this quiet space to my writing. I’d never have imagined it but the quiet space is comforting now: I gravitate less to Twitter, away from chatter and blogs and comment sections, totally content not to document every last thing. (When and why have we become a society who documents every last thing? As if we don’t document it, it didn’t actually happen.) To instead, save some of that for me. My characters. My writing. My home life.


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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Your Down To My Up

The other day I was running uphill. It was hard. The hill was steep. I was in pain every step of the way and most likely looked it. In the distance I saw someone approaching on a bike, the wind rushing through the spokes, making a whizzing noise. She was coming down the hill, I was going up. She was moving fast, I was moving s-l-o-w. She looked free and happy. I looked miserable. It turned out I knew her and we exchanged a quick greeting in passing.


After she was gone, I thought about that exchange, and felt for the briefest moment a bit of jealousy. I wished I was on a bike, that I was going downhill. Then I realized how absolutely stupid that thought was. We were on completely different journeys. I was in a tough spot, moving slowly and painfully uphill. She was whizzing along, the wind at her back and a smile on her face. But to compare our situations would be futile. She was on a bike. I was running. She was going down the hill, I was going up. It wasn't the same. Our paths may have crossed but comparison had no place in that encounter.

As I ran I thought of how many times I've done that-- compared someone else's down to my up, someone else's up to my down-- when the truth is, we were on completely different journeys and comparison was ridiculous. And as I ran I thought of how I needed to share this with you, because perhaps you've found yourself making the same mistake as I did. Whether someone is doing better or worse than you, there is no reason to compare. Because their journey will always, always be different than yours-- different income, home, family, past, physical and emotional limitations, etc. There is no one like you, and no one else that can do your life the way you are supposed to do it.

So if you see me running uphill give me the thumbs up and keep moving forward in your journey. And if you breeze past me on your bicycle, I promise to do the same.

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Monday, November 03, 2014

Monday: Scraps (The Photo Edition)

Every Monday I share scraps of stuff all in one post. This Monday I've done it using photos I took during the week and weekend.
My reading for the coming month. At least, that's the plan. My reading list is constantly in flux.
Not pictured: an ebook, The Storytelling God and 2 audio books, The Good Girl and We Were Liars. I listen to audio books on cd in the car when I'm out running errands and sitting in the carpool line and I can usually finish at least one a month that way. I typically read (or listen to in some cases) 6 books per month. In November I just might make 7!
My youngest went trick or treating with neighbors on Halloween which meant this was the first Halloween in 22 years we didn't have to take anyone out. It was also, consequently, the first Halloween we didn't have photos of her all dressed up. Our neighbors promise that photos are forthcoming. In the meantime, I have this one pre-game shot of the two buddies. They've known each other since they were babies and have grown into such lovely girls.
This is my youngest son after he got home from his candy-hoarding exploits. He's quite proud of his haul, as you can tell. He is missing his silver skeleton mask I bought him at the Target for $8.

And no Halloween would be complete without the obligatory silly shot. This is a husband who can't believe he got to sit inside the whole evening. Though I did make him answer the door since he's never done that before. (And lest you think I am embarrassing him by sharing this, he made it his profile pic on Twitter.)

Speaking of candy, I've been trying to eat healthy. (Confession: I did have 3 pieces of the kids' candy when they got home. What can I say? I am weak.) This is my new answer to my occasional craving for a good ole pb&j: Ezekiel bread, almond butter and sugar free blackberry jam. It's surprisingly good (as evidenced by the missing two bites I immediately took) and filling too.

This week's menu plan, all ready to go. The flash covers up the "roast beef with gravy"  and a little bit of the "white chili" that my husband asked for. And yes, I did spell penne wrong-- not sure what I was thinking except that someone was probably talking to me while I was writing. That happens a lot.

Required reading now that we're into November. I need some Thanksgiving inspiration as I start to think about that massive undertaking. (Source: Pioneer Woman Holidays cookbook)

My novel in progress, all printed off. It's not finished but there's a beginning, middle and end and just seeing it in this form feels like progress. I plan to spend the month of November shaping it into a story that people might actually want to read. Right now that is not the case.
I am basically starting over with my writing-- right now I have no agent, no publisher, and no book. Hopefully by the end of this month at least one of those things will be different. I remain hopeful, and honestly? Excited. I know I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing and moving in a direction I'm supposed to be moving. It's out of my comfort zone, but that's not a bad thing. I'll keep you posted.

And finally, I made this this past week. It might not look like much in the picture but It. Was. Delicious. I plan to share the recipe this week. Seriously. You have to make it once I do.

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Monday, October 27, 2014


I've had feedback that you guys like it when I just share ordinary stuff from my ordinary days-- the books I'm reading, the things I'm seeing, the recipes I'm cooking, etc. But I never know quite where to put it all. Do I blog about little random things all willy-nilly like? Do short snippets count as whole blog posts? Because lately short random bursts are about the only blog posts (for lack of a better term) that I seem capable of.

My mind is a hodgepodge of thoughts that seem to zigzag around inside my head, careening into each other and sometimes getting knocked out. Just last week I forgot my stepfather's birthday, my mom reminded me, I said I would call him later (since clearly I was past getting a card to him through the mail) and... that was the last time I thought about it. On Friday I received a text that said "Hey is your daughter still coming?" And I got that heart-seizing thing that is forgetting something and letting someone else down. I had told a neighbor up the street that I'd send my 14yo up to talk with her about babysitting, committing her to Friday after school. And after I sent the "I'll send her up" text I... never thought about it again. (It all worked out, she ran up there and met the neighbor but still... I hate forgetting things.)

And so you see why putting out cohesive, insightful, relevant blog posts on a semi-regular basis is probably not gonna happen. But scraps? Scraps I can do. And so on Mondays it will be my aim to pull together a post of scraps-- random thoughts, links I think you'll like, recommendations for products that help me (sort of) hold it all together. I will start today with these scraps, and hope that in some way they serve you well.

I am making this this week. I will also probably make chocolate chip banana bread because I have two sad looking bananas that need to serve a greater purpose.

I made these last week to take to some friends' house. They asked that I bring dessert and that it be something pumpkin. These were like pumpkin pie if it were on a shortbread-type crust with a really good topping. I am thinking they might make it onto my Thanksgiving menu.

This woman's blog is just lovely. I loved her reading lists and general discussion of lovely things. I can't believe I've never heard of her before now, but I'm glad I finally did.

I'm participating in this this coming Christmas. I love love love Shellie Tomlinson and I'll pretty much do anything she tells me to. So, expect to see five days of posts about her Heart Wide Open Christmas blog hop here. There's a link on the post to sign up if you'd like to participate. This is going to be fun so don't wait! (PS. Please don't hate me for bringing up Christmas in October.)

And finally I liked this article. It's about how print books are better than ebooks. Yes. They are.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dinner Without Daddy

Whether you have a husband who travels or are a single mom, you still have to get dinner on the table for yourself and the kids. But if you're like me, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to put a full course meal on the table. Because typically kids don't care like grown men do. At least, that's been my experience.

I usually see nights when my husband travels as a night off from serious cooking. But the thing about kids is they still get hungry and expect a meal around dinner time. And I'm concerned with not spending a ton on constant ordering out and providing a (at least semi) nutritious meal. So today I'm sharing some of my go-to meals for those nights when I want to get a decent dinner on the table with minimum input on my part. I hope these quick and easy meals will inspire you!

Rice Bowls: shred the meat from a rotisserie chicken, cook up some brown rice, heat up some black beans and open a jar of good salsa. Put out various favorite toppings (avocado, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, black olives, sour cream etc.) and let the kids assemble their own bowls. So quick and everyone loves it.

Baked potato bar: bake some large potatoes (I do mine for one hour at 500) and put out a bunch of toppings (margarine, jarred gravy, chopped broccoli, cheese and sour cream are faves at our house) to let everyone make their own potato. If the potatoes are large enough these are quite filling.

Breakfast for dinner: I do this in a variety of ways. Sister Schubert's Sausage or cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, and grits with some cut up fruit is pretty common for us. I've even got my 12yo son making the scrambled eggs now so all I have to do is pop the frozen rolls in the oven and microwave some grits. Super easy!

Salad with chicken tenders on top: Get some frozen popcorn chicken (you could also do grilled if  you wanted to be healthier) and add it to a bagged salad. Put out a variety of toppings and dressings to let everyone construct their favorite salad. If you want to get real fancy you can prepare some French bread to go with it.

Grilled chicken in marinara sauce over whole wheat pasta: I use Perdue Short Cuts (I get them when they're on sale) and toss them in jarred marinara sauce, then cook up some whole wheat pasta (bonus if it's in a fun/different shape) and dinner is served. I make sure to have some good parmesan and/or mozzarella cheese to sprinkle on top for my cheese lovers. (Bonus: same idea except you buy some frozen meatballs and serve the marinara and meatballs on subs.)

Subs with chips and salsa and fruit: Speaking of subs, I get a couple of half pounds of various favorite meats, buy some good dill pickles and sub rolls, along with cheese and the bagged shredded lettuce. Cut up a tomato, put out all kinds of condiments and let them go to town making their own. (Make your own is very big with me, if you can't tell.) The nice thing about this meal is there's usually enough to take for lunch the next day. I serve the subs with some good salsa and tortilla chips, and some of the pre-cut fruit they sell in the produce section. Or sometimes I'll just serve it with apple wedges. If I'm feeling especially generous, there might even be some of those big deli chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

Rotisserie Chicken, baked potatoes, and corn: Buy a rotisserie chicken, throw some potatoes in the oven, and heat up some frozen corn. Doesn't get any easier.

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese: I'm pretty sure this needs no explanation.

And for those nights I am just really over the whole thing, there is always the frozen stuff-- lasagna, corn dogs, pizza, burritos, etc. It's not something you want to do all the time but every so often it's gonna happen. At least, if you're anything like me it is. Happy (minimum) cooking!

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