Friday, October 29, 2010

Fiction Friday

Resources and ideas for novelists:

I love this worksheet and have found using something like this to be very helpful.

I just read Susan Kelly's By Accident and was captured by her writing as I've always been. Her novel How Close We Come was one of the first novels to inspire me that maybe a mom could write a novel (back in the mid 90's), and that novels could be about the ordinariness of life. I loved this page where she shares some thoughts about writing, and especially her idea about creating a place to capture those random thoughts and ideas that would be good for present and future novels.

And here's another one about creating a notebook for your writing:

Hope this inspires someone!
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday Thought

In which I answer YOUR questions.

I thought it would be fun to open up each Thursday to answering your questions. So consider the floor open. Ask away! I will collect questions in the comments section (or email me privately if you want to remain anonymous) and I will answer them each Thursday here. I will answer as many questions as I can.

If you have a question about organizing a large family, getting out of debt, writing, books, or anything else on your mind, now's your chance to ask!
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Psalms For Moms

Psalm 116:1, "I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy."

A few weeks ago I got a phone call from one of the moms in my youngest's TK (transitional kindergarten) class. She asked if she could take my daughter for a playdate after school with her daughter, Ellie. I told her she had no idea how much her offer meant to me, because it was an answer to a desperate mom writer's prayer. With my edits I was finding that the 4 hours I had each day she is in school just wasn't going to be enough. And just her out of the blue offer that would provide me with a few extra hours was confirmation that He is working, that He heard my prayer.

Ellie's mom Mandie said "Well if that's the case then why don't I just take her once a week from now until you get your edits done?" I hung up the phone and had to shake my head at God's goodness to me. Once again He had answered my prayer in such an unexpected way. When people ask me "how do you do it?" and I say it's God, I am not being uber-spiritual or giving you a Sunday School answer. It really, really, really is Him. He supplies my needs-- giving me ideas, words, time, and resources to do whatever it is that needs doing. In this case, it was my new friend Mandie and her daughter Ellie.

The very cool thing is that the girls love each other and don't just sit and watch tv when they're there. Mandie is one of those moms who thinks of creative and fun things to do while they're together. They've popped popcorn, played with chalk outside, baked and decorated cupcakes. Today's activity was a trip to a local park. The truth is, ahem, Ellie's house is more fun than ours. I am not too proud to admit it. My little girl doesn't just get shuttled off to someone's house. She has real fun, as you can see from these pictures that Mandie was kind enough to share with me.

Are you facing an impossible situation? Ask God to cover it in a way that you can't see yet from where you're standing. Then wait in expectation, trusting Him fully. And watch Him deliver. Right now I am seeing answered prayer in the joy on my daughter's face and in the kind and giving heart of a mommy named Mandie and her cute little girl, Ellie.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top Ten Tips For Turkey Day... Already

This is the last week in October, which means... the holidays are coming. First off is Thanksgiving! In honor of my favorite holiday, I thought I would post the top ten things you can do to get ready starting... now. It really does pay off to think ahead.

1. Start planning your menu. There are lots of cooking magazines out right now which feature enticing Thanksgiving spreads. Why not pick one up for some inspiration and maybe even some new recipes that will become family traditions? I keep a "holiday" section in my recipe notebook, so that's what I will be pulling out as I plan my menu. This is also the time to start working on your timing so that everything will be ready at the same time. Not as easy as it sounds! If you're not cooking, maybe think of one thing you could make to contribute to wherever you are going.

2. Start your shopping. Our Thanksgiving meal is $100 in groceries easy. Why not break that up into little bits here and there when you make grocery runs? Using your menu you are planning, jot down nonperishable things you can buy ahead of time. You might want to go ahead and get your bird and tuck him away in the freezer!

3. A 14 pound turkey will need approximately 3.5 days to thaw in the fridge so go ahead and circle on the calendar the day you need to move Mr. Turkey from the freezer to the fridge. The rule of thumb is 24 hours for every 4 pounds. You also might want to check out the turkey producers' websites for tips on cooking a turkey.

4. Start thinking about your table. How will you set it? Do you need a centerpiece? Extra utensils or plates? If you're using your fine china, is it clean/polished/accounted for? Is there anything fun you want to do like the five kernels of corn or candles in clips on the plates? (This is featured in my ebook A Recipe For Christmas Joy.) I have special candle holders that clip onto the plates. We go around and light the candles and say what we're thankful for. Everyone groans but I think they secretly like it.

5. You can even go ahead and set your table, laying the glasses down. Then gently cover the table with a bedsheet (clean) to protect everything.

6. Think of what you can make before and freeze-- breads, some desserts, side dishes, etc. Saves time later!

7. Do you need a turkey roaster? A turkey baster? A meat thermometer? Extra serving pieces or storage containers for all those leftovers? Now's the time to think through that and go ahead and purchase those things so you won't be panicking and dashing around on the big day. (Though try as I may, there always seems to be something I send Curt out for that morning. I am always thankful to the grocery store for being open on Thanksgiving morning!!)

8. If you have guests coming, assign them what they need to bring enough in advance that they too can be purchasing and preparing ahead of time. Also think of anything fun you might want to do the day of. (I mean, other than watching the parades and football and perusing the sale ads...) Is there a parade in your area? Do you want to organize a football game in your neighborhood? Dads vs kids? Moms vs dads? We host a dessert open house on Thanksgiving night every year and invite friends to drop in. It's way fun and has turned into a tradition we all enjoy.

9. Start looking through your recipes so you will know what to do with all those leftovers! Turkey burritos? Turkey soup? Turkey Tetrazzini?

10. With all of that done, you have more time to devote in November to being truly thankful. Maybe this week you will want to come up with a focused, intentional way to remember to be thankful all month long as you prepare your heart for Thanksgiving. One year we made a tree trunk from a paper grocery bag and I used a stencil to cut out different colored leaves. I told the children that all month long we were going to take a leaf and write what we were thankful for and put it on the tree. I called it our Tree of Thankfulness. That was a fun little activity and a great visual for the kids. Of course now they are teens and would scoff at such a display-- but even just a pretty fall colored bowl with slips of paper that you add to all month, then read on Thanksgiving, is a good idea.

For the month of November, I am going to devote all my "In A Food Mood" posts to my favorite Thanksgiving recipes and tips. Y'all come back now, ya hear?
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Monday, October 25, 2010

In A Food Mood

First off, I wanted to share this link with you. I found this post of a week's worth of make ahead autumn meals inspiring. I hope you find it inspiring too.

Ok, is it me or does she make cobbler sound so simple in this post? I love cobbler. And I love the idea of being able to make different cobblers using the same basic idea. Check this out:

Off to figure out which flavor to make!
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Fiction Friday: Do The Work

Today I have a devotion running on Proverbs 31's Encouragement For Today. Welcome if you are visiting after reading it!

I shared my story about how, when faced with tough edits for my first novel, I had to simply do the work and trust God to fill in my gaps and show up in the midst of my extreme need. I needed energy, wisdom, clarity and creativity. And He supplied it all. Honestly, when people tell me that they like the book, I feel that I did very little. Between God and my fantastically talented editor, the book got done!

It's interesting that this devotion is running as I am in the middle of another round of tough edits. (I write devotions far in advance so I have no idea what will run when.) With these edits, I've quickly reached the end of myself and had to lean on God all over again. I thought that my second set of edits would be easier... not so. This book is entirely different from Mailbox, and therefore it feels like writing my first novel all over again. This time God brought me to another verse in Chronicles. This one II Chronicles 20:17:

"You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.' "

I have copied the verse on an index card and read it every morning during my quiet time. I let the words pour over me, reminding and reassuring me that God is in this, just as He was before. I will not have to fight this battle either. I will have to do the work-- taking up my position, as this particular verse indicates-- but God will be with me. Knowing He is fighting on my behalf is very comforting as I endeavor to do the best job I can.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday Thought

My thought for today is... I am tired. After a whirlwind trip to Wilmington NC for a booksigning and time with family that lives there last weekend, I returned home Sunday night, was home Monday, then left again Tuesday morning early to fly to NY to speak at West Point. Yes, that West Point. I spoke Wednesday morning and returned home late last night.

It was a wonderful event. I got to meet some great ladies and share about balance. Afterwards, I got a private tour (thanks Eileen!) and learned a lot about the history of West Point. I will never forget my whirlwind day at West Point and seriously, that campus is gorgeous-- especially in the fall.

But today... I am tired. And so I have not a whole lot to say except, I'll be back tomorrow with Fiction Friday! See ya then!
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Psalms For Moms

Psalm 5:3, "In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay
my requests before you and wait in expectation."

It used to be when I left a women's event I would always shrug and say that the only thing I got out of it was the same thing I got out of every women's event: that I should have a more consistent quiet time. That I should get up every morning and have time with God before I started my day. I got tired of hearing that same old message. I had small children who rose with the sun. How could I hope to get up before them when most nights one of them was getting me up during the night as well? I didn't need more guilt heaped on my sleep deprived head. The messages laid me low, made me feel like a failure. The times that I did attempt a morning quiet time, it was with half-heartedness-- a "should" and not a desire. I certainly didn't have that "when" factor that I talked about in a previous week.

So, what I am about to write is not for moms of small children. And by small I mean if you have a nursing baby who is getting you up and little children who always manage to get up before you, don't read anymore. You don't need more guilt and I believe that God has a special grace He extends towards you during this season of your life. Isaiah 40:11 says "He gently leads those that have young." So don't spend years as I did fretting over your lack of ability to have a morning quiet time in a quiet house before everyone gets up.

Trust me, that time will come. I know it doesn't seem like it, but it will. I am living proof. In the meantime, if you can find a few minutes when they're napping in the afternoon to spend with God doing a Bible study, reading a passage, journaling, and praying, it will go a long way towards helping you 1) form a habit and 2) have a better outlook. This is not a magic formula and it doesn't bring about instant results, but it is something that I recommend.

And now for the rest of you. I read this verse this morning in my quiet time and I wanted to share it with you all.

Isaiah 50:4, "He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like
one being taught."

Do you struggle with getting up to have a quiet time? Does the idea of getting up before your family trip you up because you'd much rather set an alarm for the last possible minute? Maybe you're not a morning person. Maybe you're up late at night. Maybe you've just never been able to establish this habit for one reason or another. And so I am going to include what my Bible study had to say this morning concerning this verse. I thought it was an interesting take and may be something you'd like to think about today:

Right now, ask the Father what time He wants you to set aside as time for Him alone. Write down what you sense Him saying.

Now, ask Him to wake you at that time. I find that I often wake up several minutes before my alarm clock is set to go off. Ask Him to awaken you with a sense of expectancy and to impart to you His own eagerness for time with you.

Quote from Live A Praying Life by Jennifer Kennedy Dean

I can testify that God has wakened me before my alarm went off. In fact it just happened this morning! I had to smile because once again, I know His word is true. If God wakes you in the morning, go with it. Keep your Bible by your bed so you can just reach for it, open it, and read. I get up and make tea and get back in my cozy warm bed. Sipping tea and studying God's word has become the way my body expects to start the day. I am not a morning person, but I find that I don't miss those few extra moments of sleep. Hearing from Him really is just as restorative! Try it and see if you don't agree.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Things I Don't Like People To Touch In My House:

(At the risk of revealing the depths of my own selfishness, I am including a list here of the things I do not like people in my house to mess with. I am pretty willing to share. Just not these things.)

1. My tape. When I go to wrap a present or tape up a recipe that's ripped, or just need tape for something, I like it to be there-- not off in some child's room where it's been left after a craft project. Alas, that's more often where it's found.

2. My kitchen scissors. Don't touch my kitchen scissors. Do not carry them out of the kitchen to cut something somewhere else and leave them there. Do not attempt to cut heavy guage wire and break them. Do not move them to some other place in the kitchen. When I reach for them, they need to be where I put them.

3. My special lighter for lighting candles. Don't use it to light the charcoal grill and leave it outside. Don't play with it. Just leave it alone. Again, when I go to light candles, I like to put my hands right on it without scurrying around and trying to find a stray pack of matches because I don't know where the lighter is and people are due to arrive and I can't find the lighter to light the candles and candles always say "welcome" and... you get the picture. Don't touch my lighter.

4. My running socks. Do not borrow these socks. Do not accidentally put them in the wrong pile so they end up in the black hole of one of my children's drawers. When I go running I need these socks. No other socks will do.

5. My diet food. I have several things I keep on hand to eat. It's the stuff I should be eating-- almonds, certain fruits, etc. You can have everything else in the house so why is it you want the precious few things I can eat? This boggles the mind. I might hide things in my room just so they don't get eaten by the vultures (aka, my children). Not that they don't know exactly where I hide such things and snicker at my pathetic attempts to horde food. "Why don't you put it in your secret hiding place, mom?" they say. Then they laugh. Whoever said children are born innocent has not spent time around them.

6. My special drinks. These include my special teas, my diet caffeine free Coke, and my lite lemonade. Don't drink these things. Again, you can have anything else in the fridge so why is it these things are your favorite?

7. My Sharpies. First of all I just don't like the thought of permanent markers loose in the house. I prefer them corralled where I can keep an eye on them. Second, when I need to mark people's cups when we have small group or label something I just want to be able to put my hands on them and not have to conduct a search and rescue mission.

8. My special pens. I have some favorites that I prefer not to get mixed in with the regular pens. These pens write just the way I like. I don't want anyone else to use them lest they run the ink out or mess up the point.

9. My razors. I do not like anyone else to use my razors. Otherwise I can't get a good read on how sharp they are. And plus just.... ewww.

10. My car settings. Don't mess with my mirrors, my steering wheel, my seat adjustment, or my radio stations that I have programmed. When I get in I do not want to have to mess with them before I can get going. I am usually running late and do not have that kind of time.

Ok, so that's the stuff I don't like people to mess with. What's your list look like? Oh come on... you know you have one. And if you are truly a sweet generous person who does not care about such things... I hope you will still like me. And pray for me. Living with 7 other people you can probably imagine very few of these things don't get messed with. It's a test of my patience and whether or not I am truly dying to self! It's a work in progress...
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Monday, October 18, 2010

In A Food Mood

Menu Plan for this week:

Chinese Beef And Noodles

Baked Pot Roast and Gravy

Saucy Chicken and Rice

Pork Chop Potato Dinner

Oven Chicken Cordon Bleu

Chicken Cacciatore

Sausage Pasta Bake

Slow Cooker Fajitas

I sat down with my copy of One Pot Meals and wrote out this menu plan. While I was at it, I made my grocery list. It didn't take but an hour max, and I was watching tv at the same time. (Don't you just love multi-tasking?) This cookbook is filled with great recipes. If you're looking to make an investment in a cookbook, check this one out or any of the other Gooseberry Patch publications.

(I got nothing in return for writing this-- they don't even know I am doing it. I just like these cookbooks a lot. The other day I was browsing when we stopped at a Cracker Barrel and Curt teased me that the last thing I needed was another one of these cookbooks. I flipped open to a random page and said, "Yes but wouldn't you like that for dinner one night?" He had to admit it looked good. I was quick to tell him I didn't have that particular recipe. :) You can never have too many Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, I always say!)
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Fiction Friday: My New Cover!

Thought I'd share the cover to my new book, coming June 1, 2011. I am steadily working away on the edits right now, so this book is very much on my mind. The cover designer, Amy Kiechlin, did such a fabulous job... again! She's my favorite cover designer. :) The cover really does tell the story of the book in a glance. Only a gifted person could do that.

Here's a paragraph about the book just to give you an idea:

She Makes It Look Easy is a novel for every woman who has looked at another woman’s life and thought I want what she has.

Ariel Baxter has moved into the neighborhood of her dreams—and the chaos of raising three children moved with her. Then she meets her neighbor, Justine Miller. Justine ushers Ariel into a world of clutter-free houses, fresh-baked bread, homemade crafts, neighborhood playdates, and organization techniques designed to make marriage better and parenting manageable. Soon Ariel realizes there is hope for peace, friendship, and clean kitchen counters. But when rumors start to circulate about Justine’s real home life, Ariel must choose whether to believe the best about the friend she admires or consider the possibility that “perfection” isn’t always what it seems to be.

I'd love your prayers as I endeavor to make this book as good as it can possibly be!! I will be working on edits until December 1st, so I have a ways to go!
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday Thought

Curt and I talk a lot about financial responsibility. We share our story in our book, when we speak, with people at our church and friends. We aren't ashamed of our story-- of the low places we've been financially. We firmly believe in the verse "And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:32) And we believe that God orchestrated our situation and the timing of getting out of debt when we did so that we could share our story during this dark economic time, offering hope to others. And also on a more personal level, so that we could be prepared for Curt's unemployment during the first half of this year.

On Saturday we drove to Boone NC for a book signing and had some uninterrupted time in the car to talk about money. This is a topic that used to send us into battle mode. We couldn't talk about the state of our finances without it turning into a major fight. I am happy to report, there was no fighting involved. But there were some tense moments. Because we are still cleaning up the mess that got made as Curt was unemployed. We are so grateful for his job-- it was God's provision financially as well as personally for Curt. He's enjoying working again. We're enjoying a steady paycheck.

But we can't pretend that those 6 months didn't happen. And we can't live as if they didn't. We need to buckle down, to recoup our losses and get back into "no matter what" mode. No matter what we're going to rebuild our savings. No matter what we're going to evaluate the necessity of what we're spending. No matter what we're going to clear up the medical bills that have resulted from a few unfortunate events. (We shared in our book what our no matter what's had to look like when we were getting out of debt.)

We determined that it's time to put our noses to the grindstone again. To get vigilant. To be laser focused on that target of a healthy financial picture. We had it once, and I believe we will have it again. As I told Curt the other day, we had no income with 6 kids for 6 months. We can't expect to have emerged unscathed. God did protect us in miraculous ways. He did make us so aware of His goodness during that time. But we also have some remaining work to do to get us back where we know we should be. We have to be relentless. The point is to recognize what's happening and respond properly. It's to catch yourself at the top of that slippery slope before you go sliding down. We were at the bottom of that slope once. I don't ever want to be there again.

If you are in the middle of a mess-- or worried you're headed towards one-- make time to talk to your spouse and create a plan together. Pray first. Ask God to help you talk about this touchy subject without fighting. Ask God to help you see a solution. Ask God to knit your hearts together.

He will do it. It might not be overnight, but He will do it. Curt and I are living proof. I am so glad we can talk about finances in a constructive way now, and that we can make a plan and work on it together. That's what makes all the difference.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Psalms For Moms

Someone needed to read this today:

Psalm 91 (NIV)

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.

7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.

8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-

10 then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."

I had a friend who memorized this and prayed it over her kids every day. Not a bad idea.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday

Thanks to the nice folks at Disney for inviting my kids and I to an advanced screening of the movie. You guys might remember a few weeks ago when I posted the trailer. I've been excited about this movie for months and it did not disappoint. Sooo I decided to post:

Ten reasons why I LOVED the movie Secretariat. (A review, of sorts...)

1. It was about horse racing, which I have loved all my life. My parents go to the Derby every year, and they always bring me back a Derby glass (the kind they put the mint juleps in). I have quite a collection! This is akin to those tee shirts that say "My mom went to _________ and all I got was a tee shirt."

2. It was the kind of movie people clap in. I love movies where the audience is so inspired they have to clap.

3. It made me want to ride a horse again. I haven't been on one in years. You might not know this about me, but I was raised around horses. Had one from when I was 6 to when I was in my teens. Her name was Sugar. I had the kind of life where you could go out back, saddle up your horse and go for a ride. It was a great way to grow up.

4. Diane Lane did a superb job. I loved her in The Outsiders when I was a kid, then the movie Streets of Fire, and later Must Love Dogs... and now this. She reminds me a lot of a friend of mine. I also loved John Malcovich in it, even though I will always partly see him as the creepy dude who tried to kill the president in that Clint Eastwood movie. The whole cast was wonderful.

5. I was able to take my kids and I didn't cringe during a single part-- there was nothing inappropriate (language, innuendo, etc.) in the whole film. How often do you get that?

6. The race scenes were done with a camera angle that made you see the track from the vantage point of the jockey. You really felt like you were there.

7. There's one point in the movie where Diane Lane says "Just let him run!" I think that was my favorite part of the whole movie. It got me thinking about how often we hold ourselves or the people around us back because we're too afraid to push. When they let Secretariat run and stopped holding him back out of fear, they saw what he could do.

8. The movie is about a mom who is pursuing her dream while still trying to be a good mother. I totally identified with that and I thought it very accurately portrays the difficult parts as well as the victories that come with that balancing act.

9. Penny Tweedy (who is now 88) makes a cameo in the movie. I love when they do that.

10. The movie is about how one person's tenacity and intuition can make all the difference. I love seeing that played out in real life, especially when that one person is standing alone-- but has the courage to keep standing up for what she believes. I know some of the story was altered for the sake of drama, but I just let myself get lost in the story as they portrayed it. And what a story it is!

If you can see it, you totally should. Take your kids. Take your friend. Take your spouse. Go alone. But see it. It'll make you feel good.

(To read my friend Lysa's review of the movie, you can go here. She liked it as much as I did!)
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Monday, October 11, 2010

In A Food Mood

Last week I posted a top ten list about all the things I love about fall. In the list I inadvertantly revealed my serious love for all things pumpkin. Here's one of the things I love about blogging... you guys tell me stuff I didn't know and it helps me so much!

For instance, I didn't know there was such a thing as Jello Pumpkin Spice Pudding!!! To think I've been missing out on this all these years. Arlene shared this tip with me and said she makes Pumpkin Spice Pudding Pie. (She didn't tell me what this is but I am picturing Pumpkin Spice Pudding in a graham cracker crust with Cool Whip on top?? I know my kids would devour that!) She also said she makes Pumpkin Spice Cake with the pudding in the recipe. I told her I simply had to have that recipe.

Arlene was so sweet she actually posted it on her blog. So I decided to share the link with you all. It's a super easy recipe. This fall if you have to take a dessert somewhere, you'll know what to make! It would be perfect to take to a Fall Festival (cakewalk anyone?), a Halloween party, or to a Thanksgiving potluck.

If you have trouble finding the pumpkin pie pudding, just ask your grocery manager to order it for you. That's what I did and they had some for me in a matter of days! I won't tell you how many boxes I ordered... cause that would be embarrassing.

I shouldn't get so excited about pumpkin but I do people... I do.

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Friday, October 08, 2010

Fiction Friday

This Friday I am not limiting my post just to fiction. This is for any writer-- fiction, non, memoir, article, etc.

I read the following articles this past week and they really inspired me. I thought that they would inspire you too!

Don't think you have time to write? Read this article!

Are you a mom who writes-- or wants to? Read this one!

Ready to find an agent? This published author offers tips on how to do that.

And finally-- a chance for you writer types to enter a contest!!
Check out author Lynne Bryant's monthly contest. This month's is on the theme "At Mama's Kitchen Table." To read her thoughts about the contest go here. To see her essay that inspired the contest, go here. Have a good story about your mother's kitchen table? This is a good opportunity to make yourself write something, give yourself a deadline, and know that your writing is going to be read! And you might just win-- you never know unless you try!
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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Thursday Thought

Today we have guests for Thursday Thought! I invited the creators of the excellent book Run Like A Mother to drop by and share with us more about the book. This book was recommended to me back when I wrote the post about how I started running. My friend read the post and wrote me privately to tell me I had to check this book out. Once I saw what it was, I wanted to tell you guys about it. I asked the authors to share more with us. They graciously agreed and Sarah Bowen Shea is here today!

Sarah, thanks so much for talking with me today. I appreciate you stopping by my blog to share about the realities of being a running mom. Can you tell me a bit about yourselves?

We're both freelance magazine writers who contribute to a variety of publications, including Runner's World, SELF, Women's Health, the New York Times, and Health. Dimity has two children, and I have three, including boy-girl twins who just started kindergarten. We've known each other since Dimity was in college, about 20 years. (Yikes!)

Where did you get the idea to write a book for moms who run-- or want to?

Run Like a Mother sprung out of our shared experience training for and running the 2007 Nike Women's Marathon. We wrote about it for Runner's World and for On the website, we discovered a vibrant, enthusiastic community of women runners that no book was talking to--so we decided to write one! Run Like a Mother (we loving call it RLAM, pron. "Ruh-lamb") isn't dry and clinical like other running books, and it doesn't have training plans because we figure women can get those online or in magazines (heck, maybe even ones written by us!). Instead, it's 26 honest, witty, straight-talking, slightly irreverent essays sprinkled with advice from more than 150 mom-runners nationwide.

What's been the most surprising part of doing this book?

That women runners are responding to it in such a positive, visceral way. Countless times, women have written comments on our blog ( or Facebook fan page (Run Like a Mother: The Book) along the lines of, "your book says exactly the same things I think while I run!" or, "How did you gals get inside my head so perfectly?" We wanted RLAM to speak to women like no other book does, and the response tells us we nailed it. It's very gratifying.

Describe how each of you fits running into your life.

We both set our respective alarm clocks earlier than we'd like, and run before the rest of our family members wake up, usually. Sure, it isn't a ton of fun to wake up early, but otherwise life intrudes too much. Also, we thrive on the post-run feeling that allows us to tackle our day with more patience and energy--and a smidge of pride. When I train for a marathon, my hubby is on the hook for taking care of the kids during the one long weekend run. It's getting easier--and less stress-causing--as the kids get older and less demanding.

Yes, to moms of young kids I will second that-- it does get easier and less stressful to run as they get older. This too shall pass. Why do you think being a running mom is important for our kids?

It's an amazing role model. It shows the kids that it takes work and determination to meet a goal--you just can't snap your fingers and run a half-marathon, just like you can't just blink your eyes and have your homework done or a soccer goal scored. It also shifts the male-female paradigm that sometimes still reigns in the U.S. Our generation of kids think it's the norm for mom to walk in the back door sweaty, which is cool.

This summer my daughter would meet me at the door with water and fan me with a magazine. So sweet!
What would you say to a mom who says "I am not a runner"?

Every woman needs to find what works for her. Something she's passionate about and that helps her mind and body. If that's running, great. But if her knees are wrecked from skiing, then maybe she's a swimmer or cyclist. Or she volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Or sweats it out at the gym or yoga studio. Maybe this is heresy, but we think moms need to make themselves a priority several times a week, if not daily, and get out and do something for themselves. It makes them better moms and more empowered women.

I don't think it's heresy at all. I think that a mom who is devoting herself to some form of exercise is doing something, yes, for herself. But she is also investing in her future health and that benefits her family too!
What does music have to do with it?

I swear by running to music. It alleviates boredom on long runs, helps me chill on easy runs, and fires me up in races. Plus, being a work-at-home mom, there isn't much time in my life to listen to my own music without interruptions. Sometimes the mere thought of listening to the new Glee soundtrack is enough to get me fired up for five miles.

Ha! That's happened to me as well. I can't wait to get out there and run so I can listen to MY music!!
What are a running mom's secret weapons?

Sex. As in, placate the hubby and relax. Ha, ha: Only half-kidding.
A running mom's secret weapon is a great running buddy. It can be hard to have a fulfilling, vibrant social life as a busy mom, so it's awesome to get to have uninterrupted talk-time while also exercising. I mean, you'd never meet a friend for COFFEE at 5:30 a.m. It's a delight to walk in the backdoor at 7:03 a.m. having sweated for an hour and had a lively, heartfelt conversation.

Thanks guys for sharing some tips and inspiring us to get running! Keep up the good work!
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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Psalms For Moms: When

Psalm 42:2
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

This verse reminded me of my kids when I tell them we're going to do something. For instance, this week we're going to be seeing an advanced screening of Secretariat, courtesy of the folks at Disney. As soon as it gets out that we have some fun plans they start in: "But when are we going to go mom?"

It got me thinking, how often do I ask the question "When can I go and meet with God?"

Am I like an anxious child, longing for that promised time? Or am I grudging and resistant, saying to myself, "Well I guess I better get my time with God in?"

The truth is, the longer I have spent having a consistent time with God, the more my question has become, "When can I go and meet with God?" Why? Because I know that when I get with God, my heart is comforted, my problems become less, my direction becomes clearer, and my soul becomes settled. I long to spend time with Him. The best is when I can spend long amounts of time with my Bible, my journal, and a big mug of tea just soaking and sitting, praying and listening. That's not every day, mind you. But I love it when I can. That's what retreats are good for. Long, uninterrupted time with God.

The other day I saw a mom at Panera alone. She'd ordered her soup and bread and sat down with just that and her Bible and journal. She'd created her own mini retreat. I looked across the room at her and sighed a little. I was there writing and the question from today crossed my mind: When can I go and meet with God? I wanted to carve out a good stretch of time just to hear from Him. My soul was thirsty.

I used to resist having a daily time with God. It felt like one more "have to" and I had enough of those, thank you very much. Now I understand what I was missing. I get why the Psalmist wanted to know when he could go and meet with God. The more you do, the more you want to. The more your soul whispers: when?
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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday

Ten Things I Love About Fall

Now that the weather is turning cooler in our neck of the woods, I am admitting to myself that summer is really over. Instead of pouting about it, I am focusing on what I love about fall instead of how sad I am that summer is over. (Summer really is my favorite season... no offense, fall.)

1. The decorations. It's time to decorate for fall around our house. Instead of going scary for Halloween, I tend to just decorate around the signs of the season-- pumpkins and colored leaves feature prominently around our house.

2. Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. I had my first a few weeks ago and it was every bit as delicious as what I remembered.

3. Pumpkin Muffins at Dunkin Donuts. Some of you might remember I used to get one every Friday as a treat to myself. (There is a DD dangerously close to my kids' school.) I think it's time to start that tradition again!

4. Pumpkin Spice Donuts from Krispy Kreme. Notice the trend? I love pumpkin!! We have pumpkin spice donuts from KK every Thanksgiving morning. I love traditions!

5. The changing leaves. The trees look like an art palette as a drive down the highway.

6. The reduced temps. I don't like cold at all but I have to admit a few degrees cooler than mid 90's is a welcomed change.

7. Soups. It's too hot to make soup in summer. Yet soup is one of my favorite meals to make... and eat. This was very obvious to me when I went through my clipped recipes. I have a penchant for cutting out soup recipes, apparently.

8. Jeans. I love wearing jeans and it's nice to have weather that necessitates wearing them again.
9. Football. Even though I don't watch it, I like hearing it on in the other room. There's something cylical about football returning that signals the passing of time, ushering us from one season to the next.

10. Hot drinks. Though I drink hot drinks in the warm months, I am much more likely to stop for a decaf when I am out once the weather turns cooler. I love picking up a coffee, doctoring it up and taking it with me as I go.

Your turn! What's your favorite thing about fall? What'd I forget?

In honor of all the pumpkin talk, I decided I would link to a pumpkin scone recipe you might like to try!
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Monday, October 04, 2010

In A Food Mood

I liked this post about playing with recipes. Thought you might too!

Have you ever played with a recipe and ruined it?? I have! I am pretty much a rule follower and rarely mess with what the recipes say to do. But once, when I had less experience with cooking, I read a recipe that said 1/2 cup of butter. I assumed they meant melted butter and popped it into the microwave. It was only after I had melted it that I realized it was supposed to be softened butter! Oh well, did it really matter? (For those of you who don't cook, the answer is... yes.)

Well my chocolate chip bar cookies turned into chocolate chip cake! It was still good, but it wasn't what I had in mind.

Lesson I learned: Playing with recipes can be rewarding at times. But it's best to know your way around a kitchen if you're going to attempt anything really bold. :)
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Friday, October 01, 2010

Fiction Friday: The Storycrafter's Retreat

Today I am featuring an interview with my friend Susan May Warren. She's an accomplished author and a champion of other writers. She was just named ACFW's 2010 Mentor of the Year, an award that she definitely deserved!! Plus she's funny. And sweet. And she helped me through a very difficult time during the editing of Mailbox, for which I am eternally grateful.

Through her expert training Susie is helping many beginning writers achieve their dreams of becoming published novelists. I asked her to drop by today to talk about the Storycrafter's Retreat she's got coming up in MN in a month. There's still time to sign up, which I think you're going to want to once you read what she's got planned and the heart behind this amazing time!

Susie, I love your heart for helping writers! Can you tell me what you offer via My Book Therapy?

I started My Book Therapy because I was already working with so many authors who needed foundational help on their writing, and thought perhaps I could help them more by starting a teaching blog/writing community. I also began working with people on a more dedicated level, partnering with them through the writing process. I designed the book therapy program to teach people how to write their own stories – I’m a firm believer that an author should be able to edit their own work into publication.

The tools we teach through My Book Therapy are designed to equip the author for their current WIP and every one after that. Our core values are community, craft and coaching. We offer community through the free forum/club at, craft on the blog, via our Monday night chats and My Book Therapy store. Our annual Frasier contest, our one-on-one mentoring, as well as our retreats are part of our coaching vision. We also have an ezine that captures all of this in one place. Our goal is to be the one place where writers go to learn how to be breathtaking novelists.

I particularly want to focus on the Storycrafters Retreat, which is coming up in a month! Why did you start this particular retreat?

Writing a book doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds, if you understand story structure and how to build characters. I have a process that I find organic and logical and transferable, and I have been privileged to teach it at conferences around the nation over the past few years. However, I always walked away with a desire to help new authors on the journey – to help them apply the things they’d learned, to encourage them along the way. I wanted to invest in a handful of dedicated writers to see them accomplish their goals. So, I created the MBT Continuing Education program.

The Storycrafter’s retreat is the first step on that journey. It’s an intimate, intense story-crafting weekend where people come with an idea (or an entire story, if they’d like – they’ll learn all the foundational tools they need to make sure they’re building it correctly) and leave with their story plotted and the first scene written. It’s strategically scheduled right before NaNoWriMo (The National Write your Novel in a Month – November), so authors can return home and get busy!

In February, we have the second retreat – designed to check in with those writers, to make sure they have their story structure correct and then to teach them wordsmithing. We talk about Emotional layering and Character change and widening their plots and I sit down with each of them to talk through their stories. It’s called the Deep Thinker’s Retreat and is in Florida in February. Teaching time is in the mornings – with one on one and writing coaching in the afternoons. (And fun in the evening!) It’s a limited group, but we get a lot done.

Then, we prepare people to pitch and sell their stories with a by-application-only Summit Conference where I bring in an agent who teaches them about crafting the perfect proposal, and we sit down and write their synopsis together and take them through the pitching process. It’s a weekend where they see all their hard work come together when they are allowed to give a sample pitch to that agent and get solid, usable feedback. I’m proud to say that every one of the attendees who went through the program this year and pitched at ACFW had great responses from agents and editors – most of them requesting a proposal or a full ms.

An author doesn’t have to attend the Storycrafter’s retreat to attend the Deep Thinker’s retreat. Or vice versa. But it’s My Book Therapy’s way of helping both the wordsmiths and the storycrafters write a compelling novel. And, it satisfies my teachers heart to walk with them on the journey.

People can find out more about all the retreats at:

What can a participant expect?

Attention. Creativity. Support. Empowerment. I talk through every person’s story with them and we define the big pieces. And, when it comes to writing a scene, I get right in there with them, helping them draw it out in their voice. The best part is…leaving the retreat is the beginning of the journey. We start a private mentoring loop online at Club Voices where the participants encourage each other and continue to receive help on their story.

What was last year's experience like?

Amazing. God-breathed. Honestly, I ventured forward with a bit of fear (my friend Jennifer Anderson, who helped me organize it, had to practically push me off the ledge to make it happen)..I didn’t know if it would work. God gave me an amazing group of women who encouraged ME right back to believe in this program and God’s blessing on it. I learned tons, and most of all was so blessed when so many of them walked away with smiles after the ACFW conference. I can’t wait until we can start feature THEIR books on the MBT Blog!

What are you looking forward to this year?

God surprises me every year, but I know it’s going to be an awesome retreat because of the prayer behind it. Already, the group of women who came last year are praying for the group this year! Is that the body of Christ at work or what? I’m going armed to teach, ready to pour out and invest, and anxious to see what God will do. And, I’m bringing my talented college kids. Can’t wait to see what stories they come up with!

Your tagline is "come with an idea, leave with a story." Did you find that was true for participants?

I believe so – a number of them came with nothing but an idea, and one of them took that idea, created a story and finalled in the Frasier Awards! And, she has an agent looking at her story. Another woman didn’t even have an idea…and she left with a book plotted. I work hard at asking the kind of questions that find the story already brewing in a participant’s heart. Most likely, God has already put that story inside them…and it’s a nudge from Him that has gotten them to the retreat. My job is to help them find that story and teach them how to tell it.

Thanks so much for dropping by for Fiction Friday Susie. I wish you continued blessings as you endeavor to help writers craft excellent novels. You sure helped me when I needed it and I know that anyone who goes to this retreat will be glad they did!

Thank you for letting me share about My Book Therapy!
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