Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Next Step On My Writing Journey

In February I began this blog as a way to share my journey toward publication. In one of the first blog entries I shared an old Chinese Proverb: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step."

I'm finding, on this road to publication, some of those steps are more like leaps and bounds, and some are like tiny shuffles, but each one takes me closer to the goal, especially when those steps are guided and directed by God.

On Thursday I'll be taking a huge leap. I'll be submitting my manuscript, for the first time, to two large publishing houses that requested it at the ACFW Conference last month in Dallas. I'm still amazed at how these awesome opportunities were presented to me and I can see God's handiwork all over it. I don't know what the outcome will be, but I know that no matter what, I was able to watch God weave together a chain of events that made this next step possible, and I'm still in awe.

I went to the conference with few expectations. It was my first conference, so I wanted to go and learn as much as possible. The first day I attended the My Book Therapy Pitch & Promotion Seminar by Susan May Warren and I had the opportunity to practice my fifteen minute pitch with her. I loved telling her my story idea and I was thrilled when she told me she liked it and thought I could sell it. She asked me who I was pitching to and I told her I had only made Mentor Appointments and didn't have pitching appointments planned. When my amazing writing friends, Melissa Tagg and Lindsay Harrel, heard that, they both offered me one of their pitching appointments - to the top two publishing houses on my list.

Armed with support and encouragement from my friends, I went into the two appointments with confidence and practice - and I came out of both of them with a huge smile on my face, and requests to see my work. (To all my writing friends, I have to admit, I really liked the pitching experience!)

After I submit my manuscript, I don't know what the next step will be on my journey, but I'm fully confident that God already has it laid out. I just need to walk in faith.

What about you? Have you seen God's handiwork in your life? Where are you at on your writing journey?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Counting My Blessings

Last week I had a discussion with my fellow ECFE (Early Childhood/Family Education) parents about teaching our children how to appreciate what they have. We talked specifically about when our children don't eat the food we put in front of them and how they whine, complain or refuse to eat it. I mentioned how I've often talked to my children about the "starving children in Africa." I've even pulled up pictures my husband took when he was in Africa to show them the reality, but they still complain.

Tonight I realized I needed a "starving children in Africa" example, too.

So often I worry and stress over the silliest things. The laundry is piling up, the floors need to be mopped, the bedding needs to be changed, the refrigerator needs to be cleaned and on and on and on. I find myself complaining and not appreciating that I have a home to clean and a family to care for.

A few minutes ago I read a CaringBridge Update from an influential member of our community who has been battling cancer for three years, and yesterday he was told there is nothing left for the doctors to do.

He wrote the update himself and his words are so beautiful, they left me in tears. His faith is astounding and his outlook has always been incredible, and remains so. He offered God thanks and praise with each word he wrote. The snow my husband and I were complaining about this morning as we brought our family to church, is the same snow that he appreciated.

I can't imagine what it would be like to write the update he just did - and it was the wake up call I needed.

I have so much, including good health, but I still complain and whine. The word that continued to come to me is trite. My complaints and troubles are so trite. There is so much to be thankful for, but like my little children, I whine and complain even when I have a bountiful feast in front of me.

What must God think? He sees the horror in this world. He hurts with each person who hurts. He stands beside the person who has been sold into sex slavery, He holds the hand of the sick on chemotherapy, He cradles the grieving parent, He directs the hands of the children digging through the dump heap, He sooths the battered bodies, the wounded souls, the addicted minds - and when I bring my incomparable troubles to Him, He still comforts me as much as He comforts the others.

But, like my children, He tells me: You have so much. Appreciate what you have and be thankful for it.

The Bible calls our praise and thanksgiving a sacrifice and I believe one of the reasons it's called a sacrifice is because it's not something that comes easily to us. We have to offer it to Him in every area of our lives, by the way we treat others, by the words we speak, by the things we do with our time, in every action and decision - from a heart that truly believes we are blessed. It's not a matter of lip service, but heart service. When we do this, when we look for the things to be thankful for, we'll begin to see them more and more and we'll truly live a life that reflects the blessings of our Father.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."
1 Chronicles 16:34

What about you? I'd love to hear what you're thankful for today. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

An Arizona Girl’s Take on Minnesota: Guest Post by Lindsay Harrel

This week I'm on a deadline, so my good writing friend Lindsay Harrel agreed to do a guest blog post for my Friday Fun: Minnesota Style Series! She and I were roommates together at ACFW in Texas and then again last weekend at the MBT Storycrafter's Retreat in Otsego, Minnesota. Thanks for visiting my blog home, Lindsay!
~ ~ ~ ~
Lindsay and I in Minnesota

This last weekend, I visited Minnesota for the first time.

I was attending a writer’s retreat and Gabe was kind enough to drive to the airport (totally out of her way!) to come pick me up. I was afraid I’d have to rent a car and potentially get lost.

Now, I’m an Arizona girl. I live in Phoenix. Yeah, that Phoenix. The one that hits about 117 in the middle of July.

So naturally, since Minnesota was so foreign to me, I had a few…misconceptions before I came.

I didn’t freeze.
I was pretty sure I was going to freeze my rear off. I brought the warmest thing I had and was just sure it wasn’t going to be enough. Despite the picture below, it wasn’t too bad. Well, sure, the wind sliced through me a few times, but it felt much like a January evening in Phoenix.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I WAS cold, but I didn’t freeze. So there.

People don’t really go around saying “You betcha” and “Donchaknow.”
Up until I met Gabe, my only knowledge of Minnesotans came from the awesome cartoon Bobby’s World. My little brother loved that show. Anyone remember it? Anyway, the mom ALWAYS said the aforementioned phrases in this extreme accent.

Although I will say, I smiled when I heard Gabe say “beg”—and no, I don’t mean what people do on street corners. Hehe. (No offense meant to at all. I’m sure I say things “wrong” too. Don’t we all?)

A circular body of water is not necessarily a lake.
Minnesota is supposed to be the Land of 10,000 Lakes, right?

Well, apparently a round body of water does not a lake make. Er…or something like that. As Gabe drove us to the retreat hotel, we passed some water. And I said, “Oh cool, is that a lake?” Gabe laughed and said it was more like a pond, if that.

What?! Don’t judge. The only lake near me is man made. LOL. 

So yeah, my visit to Minnesota cleared up a few misconceptions I had. In all seriousness, it was a really great visit and I was sorry to see it end so quickly!

Your Turn: Have you ever been to Minnesota? Have you had any of these misconceptions or known anyone who has?

Since the age of six, when she wrote the riveting tale “How to Eat Mud Pie,” Lindsay Harrel has passionately engaged the written word as a reader, writer, and editor. She holds a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication and an M.A. in English. In her current day job as a curriculum editor for a local university, Lindsay helps others improve their work and hones her skills for her night job—writing inspirational contemporary fiction. Lindsay lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband of five years and two golden retriever puppies in serious need of training.

Twitter: @Lindsay Harrel: https://twitter.com/LindsayHarrel

Monday, October 22, 2012

On a Deadline

I'm on a deadline for the next week and a half, so I've decided to take a semi-blogging break. What does that mean, you ask? :) It means I'm going to blog if I can get to it, but if not, it's because I'm working on my manuscript.

What about you? Are you on a deadline?

Thanks for stopping by today!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Storycrafter's Weekend

Me, Melissa & Lindsay at ACFW
 I'm off to pick up my good friend Lindsay Harrel from the Minneapolis Airport this morning and then we'll be spending the weekend with My Book Therapy and Susan May Warren at the Storycrafter's Retreat. We'll also be rooming with Melissa Tagg, so I'm not planning on getting much sleep!

I'll have lots of pictures to share when I return.

Happy Friday!

What about you? What are your plans this weekend?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Celebrating the Little Victories

Me (left) and my lovely sister-in-law
One thing I've learned on this writing journey is to celebrate even the smallest accomplishments and victories. Just today I received a phone call from my sister-in-law that made me do a little happy dance.

I've known her for seventeen years and she's one of my very best friends. She's supportive of my dream (she took the picture of me to the right), but she's made it abundantly clear that she's not a reader by nature. She's told me many times that she doesn't like to read, and only does it when it's necessary. This doesn't bother me in the slightest - I've told her she's missing out on one of God's greatest gifts to us - but, her loss. :)

So when I thought about people I could ask to be Beta Readers, my sister-in-law didn't even come to mind.

One day, when she was at my house, a copy of the first six chapters was on my counter. I said: "If you'd like to read it, let me know." Secretly, I wanted her to say yes, but I didn't think she would.

Then she surprised me. She took it and said she'd read it.

Two weeks went by and I forgot all about it. I thought she was just being courteous to me by taking it, so I was further surprised when she handed it back to me with some comments in the margins! I quickly gave her the next twenty-one chapters, and again, I forgot about it.

Today I received her phone call in the middle of her work day. She'd finished what I gave her (with more comments and notes in the margins) and she asked me if I could get her the last four chapters. If I couldn't, she had already talked to my other sister-in-law and could get it from her. I quickly told her I'd print her off a fresh copy and would get it to her when I picked my kiddos up from school.

After I got off the phone I had a smile on my face - and I did that little happy dance. In my opinion, this is one of those victories worth celebrating. Even if my book is never published, I was able to encourage one more "non" reader to read a full length historical novel - and enjoy it. I've already read her notes and I'm blown away with how thorough they are.

I can't wait to find out if I've made a reader out of her, yet!

What about you? What small victories are you celebrating?
~ ~ ~ ~
Post Script: She called at 8:30 tonight and told me she finished the book and she liked it! I told her she was the subject of today's blog post. :) I'm so happy she enjoyed reading my book - it gives me hope that if I've converted one non-reader, I can do it again!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Flu

I've been in bed all day with a fever, chills, headache and sore throat. I haven't felt this sick in many years and it's been that long since I've spent a day in bed. :(

I will be taking today off from my blog. Hopefully I feel better soon because I'm supposed to go to a My Book Therapy Storycrafter's Retreat on Friday and I don't want to be sick.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Friday Fun: Minnesota Style, Folsom House

One of the things I love most about Minnesota is its diverse history. Last weekend Dave and I took our two girls to Taylors Falls, Minnesota. It's a little town on the Southeast border of Minnesota on the St. Croix River. This part of Minnesota is especially beautiful with the rocky bluffs, dipping river valleys and historic buildings.

We went to Taylors Falls to see the Folsom House, a historic home built in 1855 and owned today by the Minnesota Historical Society. My current story, Forgiveness Falls, is set in 1857 in Central Minnesota and I wanted to make sure that my historic details were accurate. We toured the home and I was able to ask lots of questions.

It was fun watching my girls be enthralled by the old home. They aren't strangers to historic sites (how could they be as my children?), but it was fun to watch them discover chamber pots, spittoons and coffin pianos.

It was a lot of fun spending the day in Taylors Falls (and St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, across the river) with the girls. My time with them, and the memories we made, were priceless. I'll share some incredible pictures of Taylors Falls next Friday, but today I want to share some from the Folsom House.

I'm amazed at the beauty and craftsmanship of a house
built in Minnesota Territory in 1855. There was very little
in Minnesota at that time and everything they used for
the house had to be sent from a great distance.

The main staircase was very wide. The tour guide couldn't
really explain why...

Mr. Folsom's Office. While we were there, they were
having a quilt show, so that's why you see quilts in
all the pictures.

Spittoon in Mr. Folsom's Office
Dining Room and my oldest daughter
The paint on this hutch was tinted blue with blueberries
and these are Mrs. Folsom's original dishes from 1855.
Mrs. Folsom's coffin piano - it was huge!
The "Men's" Parlor is in the front and the "Women's"
Parlor is in the back. I wish there weren't so many quilts
lying around! The furniture underneath was gorgeous.

Me in the Men's Parlor

Two connecting bedrooms, separated by a pocket door

Mrs. Folsom's Bed

Chamber Pot

My daughter thought we should take this potty chair
home for the twins :)

The back of the Folsom House
What about you? Have you been to a historic home lately? What is your favorite architectural period for homes?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My 100th Post and 25 Things About Me

A couple months ago some of my blogging buddies (Beth Vogt, Melissa Tagg & Lindsay Harrel) participated in a 25 Things About Me Blog Theme and as I contemplated how I could celebrate my 100th blog post, I thought it might be fun to do a little 25 Things About Me post of my own!

I started blogging full time in February of this year, and, as of today, I've shared 100 blog posts on my blog. Wow. Somewhere around 95 I started to wonder if I'd run out of things to say... :)

So, without further ado, here are 25 random things about me.

1. I'm married to my high school sweetheart, David. We met when we were sixteen and I unashamedly chased him for nine months before he realized I was the most incredible woman on Earth. :)

2. My mom & dad were high school sweethearts and all three of my siblings married their high school sweethearts - crazy, huh? I've known my in-laws since we were all teenagers - and now we're all in our thirties.

3. My maiden name was VanRisseghem - pronounced exactly how it's spelled. Van-Riss-eg-hem. It's hard to learn how to spell Gabrielle VanRisseghem in Kindergarten, but by the time you learn it, you almost know the entire alphabet!

4. We live on the banks of the Mississippi. God opened up an opportunity for us to buy this house last year. I still pinch myself when I wake up in the mornings - it's absolutely beautiful.

5. I live in my hometown where my mom is the mayor - and I love it! Our community is big enough that I don't know everyone, but small enough that I can go to the grocery store and run into a handful of people I want to visit with.

6. I worked at a historic site for ten years - it was my dream job and I'd love to go back one day when my children are older.

7. I love pasta. All kinds.

8. I have four children, the youngest are twin boys. One of my earliest memories as a three year old child was running around the house with a ball under my shirt, pretending to be pregnant! Being a mommy has been my greatest dream and God has blessed me in big ways.

9. I have a phobia of wood ticks. Eww. They suck your blood - can it get any more disgusting than that?

10. I love watching golf on television - but I don't play it. I know - it's kind of weird, but it's so relaxing.

11. I love to travel. It doesn't matter where or for how long, but I love seeing the world.

12. I've been on an airplane at least once, if not two or three times, every year since 1996 - with the exception of 2010 & 2011, when my twins were very small - but I've made up for it by taking two trips BY MYSELF in 2012. :)

13. I bit my fingernails until I was twenty-four years old! It was a terrible habit I'd tried to break my whole life, but I finally did it when I was pregnant with my first child. Now I enjoy great nails! :) Ha!
Doris Day

14. I love old movies - almost anything pre-1965. I love Doris Day, Gene Kelly, Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Roc Hudson, Van Johnson, June Allison, Howard Keel, Lucille Ball, Maureen O'Hara, Elizabeth Taylor - the list goes on and on!

15. I have 17 biological aunts and uncles - and over 40 cousins! My dad is from a family of 9 and my mom is from a family of 10.

16. I LOVE historical fiction - both reading and writing it! The first historical book I read was Love Comes Softly by Jennette Oke - and I was hooked.

17. I made almost 1,000 flower pins last year. I had a booth at a craft fair with my sister-in-law and I sold quite a few (but have many more left). I started making the pins as a way to enjoy a creative outlet when my twins were still small - until I could start writing again.

18. I'm a huge fan of MOPS (Mother's of Preschoolers) and have been involved for seven years now.

19. I took ballet lessons on and off from the age of five until I was seven months pregnant with my second daughter at the age of twenty-six. Now I enjoy Zumba as my preferred method of exercising!

20. I love living in a state with four distinct seasons. Winter isn't my favorite, but it always makes Spring so much more amazing.

21. I write because it's like food for my soul. I thank God for my love of writing. Someone recently asked me how I find the time to be a wife, mother, volunteer, writer, etc. and I told them that writing energizes me to do all my other jobs well. It doesn't subtract from my life - it adds to it.

22. I'm an old-fashioned girl at heart. I often think I was born in the wrong century - but I'm reminded that God sent me here for such a time as this and my times are in His hands.

23. I'm wildly hopeful about my writing. My husband puts it this way: be hopeful, but don't get your hopes up. I know God has a plan - He's given each of us a gift - a commission to plant seeds of His Kingdom on this Earth through Faith, Hope & Love. However He chooses to use my writing, I'm wildly hopeful I can plant those seeds and see His Kingdom grow.

24. My husband and I disagree about how we're going to retire. We both want to travel the United States - but I want to do it in an RV and he wants to do it in a two passenger sports car, so we've come up with an agreement: whoever pays for our retirement gets to decide how we will see the USA! Maybe, if we play our cards right and follow Dave Ramsey's Plan, we can tow his sports car behind my RV. :)

25. I am a sinner saved by Grace. I was raised by parents of deep and abiding faith and I've never known a time in my life when Christ wasn't the center. My faith is the bedrock of my existence - but it hasn't always been an easy road to travel. I've had doubts that have shaken me, fears that have tripped me and questions that have stretched me - but through it all, I've had a faith that has sustained me. God defines my life, and orders my days, and I humbly seek His will.

So there's twenty-five random things about me in celebrating my 100th blog post.

What about you? I'd love to learn something random about you in the comments - and feel free to participate in this fun blog idea!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

ToddlerS...Need I Say More?

I have two and a half year old twin boys.

I think I could end my post here and you'd totally get what I mean. Two two-year-old boys. Enough said.

The twins were born after our daughters, who are now eight and six, and I'm amazed at how different my boys are from my girls. I think this difference is accentuated by the fact that there are two of them - and one of them happens to be my "spirited" child.

Things are interesting around our house, to say the least.

I never thought I'd hear my high school sweetheart utter these "old" man, dad type sayings:

"Can't we have anything nice around here?"

"We're not buying anything new until these kids move out."

"Who broke this table - is nothing safe?"

One of the biggest differences I've noticed in the girl vs. boy comparison is that my boys are much more independent than my girls ever were - and that causes a lot more trouble. The girls used to whine until we'd fill up their sippy cups with milk - the boys just take it upon themselves to fill up (and spill out) the milk on their own. The girls used to cry until we'd help them change their clothes - the boys do it themselves, thus a dresser full of clothes on the floor every morning. The girls would ask for something to eat - the boys are constantly in the upper cabinets getting their own food (and this includes getting out the popcorn maker, filling THE WHOLE THING UP with kernels and turning it on).

I don't know if it's a boy thing - or a twin thing - but the boys are always doing things for themselves. It's a great character quality - independence - but it's very inconvenient for Mommy.

I thought I'd share some pictures (evidence) of what I'm talking about. Note that none of these things EVER happened with the girls (not that girls can't be "independent" - you may have one or two yourself).

I rarely take naps - so when I told my husband I needed
one this afternoon, he was happy to let me sleep. But - I
woke up to him saying: "Who clogged the toilet with
toilet paper?!?! The bathroom is flooded!!!"
Thus, the wet towels and rug...

My older twin has been walking around with blue,
sparkling nail polish in his hair all week because
 his "little" brother thought he'd look pretty...
There are three locations on our daughters' bedroom
floor that are now permanently pinkish-red (and crusty)
 from nail polish (and this happened five days after
I had them professionally cleaned) - yet another example of
my "spirited" child's activities... His "older" brother
was pink for a week after that episode, too.

Pink permanent marker on my living room couch (also
my "spirited" child's creation). We keep these destructive
things hidden from him (lest you think I have them
readily available!) - but he seems to find them...clearly.

As I was walking around the house taking pictures this
afternoon I caught the culprit red crayon-ded!
And here is my sitting room in it's unnatural state...clean.
(You can't see the hundreds of endearing fingerprints
on the windows...)

I value a clean, neat house...

My twins do not.
But for all the mess and destruction, I wouldn't change having twins for anything in the world. I know one day the mess will be long forgotten, and my children will grow up faster than I can imagine, but the experience and joy of having two little boys to fill our heart and home will last forever.

What about you? Have you noticed the girl vs. boy differences? Do you have a "spirited" child? What things have your children destroyed over the years - or, if you don't have children, what did you destroy growing up?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Friday Fun: Minnesota Style, Fall Colors

"Nature gives to every season a beauty all its own." ~ Charles Dickens

It's no secret that I love Minnesota, but I must say that Autumn in Minnesota is one of my favorite times of the year. Actually, I don't know many people who live here who wouldn't say the same thing. The heat and humidity of Summer has dissipated, the frigid winds of Winter have not started to blow and the air is filled with the sounds of geese taking flight. I love to hear the rustling of the fallen leaves, see the bright blue sky like a canopy overhead and cuddle up in my favorite sweater. Ahh, Autumn. The only other time that rivals Autumn in Minnesota may be Spring, with Summer coming in a close second...

The Mississippi behind our house

Our front yard