Family truth

When you’re around the people you love… the people you are most comfortable with… expect to get the most honest of answers.

Relatives are now filtering out, getting in cars and heading to the airport, while my second cousin demonstrates her sign language skills 🙂 I mention that I would like to get my hair permed…

Them: NOOOOOO! (Before I even get the chance to defend my idea.) Your hair is already so beautiful, it’s got so much body, it’ll fry your hair, you don’t want to do that, etc…

Me: “I just want a giant wave,” I defend.

Them: They don’t have anything big enough for your hair.

Me: (I smile at my cousin beside me, who’d remained silent, except for laughing) I guess that was a bad idea. 🙂

Some people get terribly upset at other people telling them what to do or not to do. I just laugh! I feel under no obligation to listen 🙂 Although, I probably will in this case. A perm may not be my best idea. I suppose I’ll stick with working on the prologue I still need to write for my book. That, I know is a good idea.




Gentle rhythms

Quite last minute, I received the wonderful privilege of spending the next two days with my 96 year old grandmother and extended family. I am with  my mother, my two youngest children, and my aunts.

In addition to this, my grandmother’s only remaining sister is here, and two of her nieces, and several of their children…most of whom I have met before, but rarely have had the opportunity to spend time with.

Only moments ago, I was just sitting among them, enjoying the ebb and flow of conversation. This is especially interesting for me because my grandmother’s side of the family is Mexican and most, if not all, speak fluent Spanish. I do not… my aunts and mother can understand more than they can speak. So when they direct their conversation towards my aunts or me they speak in English, when they turn to each other they speak in Spanish, or gently switch back and forth from one language to another mid-conversation. I’ve heard my grandmother (or it could have been my grandfather) say once that this is bad Spanish to switch in and out of English, but I like it.

Some people may not appreciate not being able to understand the conversation around them, but I don’t mind. I enjoy the gentle rhythm of the language, and I can tell by the smiling faces and easy manner that what they’re saying is good natured and humorous. They like to laugh.

Someday, I would like to be able to speak Spanish, but until then, I can sit and enjoy those I love who already do. Did you grow up knowing more than one language, or did you have family members that did? What were your memories like?



Standing the test of time

What makes a book stand the test of time? I was reading a book to my kiddos today that was mine when I was a child, and wondering what it was about it that made it so memorable to me. After reading it, I pointed out the names of the author and illustrator, and then explained the difference. I asked them if they liked the book, and if so, to explain why.

They all said that they liked it, but it was my six year old that spoke up first about the illustrations. This is definitely what stood out to me as a child. As an adult, I still remember the short stories inside (cute, not amazing), but every time I’ve gone to purge the allotted shelves of children’s stories, time and time again, I thought it would be such a shame to get rid of such a beautifully illustrated book.

This particular book is  The Book of Giant Stories by David L. Harrison, and illustrated by Philippe Fix. I found other books authored by Harrison, but they were mostly Level 2 reading books (never knew one to stand the test of time). I then looked up Philippe Fix and found some other books illustrated by him that were very nice looking, but hard to tell without being able to look inside. I guess this one had just the right combo for me. A few good stories and amazing pictures.


If you’ve ever read any of Jane Yolen‘s dinosaur books, you would know how much good illustrating helps. The poems are adorable… but really their pretty simple. Will these books be around in ten years. I actually think they will. But I also think this is in part due to it’s amazing illustrations.

Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Maurice Sendak is a simply written book, but its story is very, very sweet, and the water color illustrations are just beautiful. And if it’s the same person, Sendak both authored and illustrated Where the Wild Things Are, by the way. Which (don’t yell at me) I’ve never read. What?! I know. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be a classic. At least it’s illustrations are pretty exceptional. I’ve never heard if the story is any good. Please feel free to let me know what you think of that one.

The kids love, love, love “Stand Back,” said the Elephant, “I’m going to sneeze!” by Patricia Thomas and illustrated by Wallace Tripp. This story is mostly in rhyme, but I think that the author does such a good job, that I’ve been wanting to look up more of her books.

Lucille by Arnold Lobel (authored and illustrated) is just plain cute all around. Kids love and I’ve loved it since I was a kid. Story and illustrations are great! This is an example of simpler illustrations, but they just stick out to you. Lobel also does the Frog and Toad collection if you’ve ever read those, and Ming Lo Moves the Mountain. I found that out just now by looking on Amazon for other things he wrote. But I just bought it at a used book store last month! I just haven’t read it yet.  🙂 What?! I am now so excited to go pull that one off the shelf.


Now this one will just break your heart as you fight through a constricting throat and teary eyes to get through the last few pages.

What do you think makes a book memorable? What do you think makes it stand out amongst others? I suppose it’s probably purely subjective for many books, as I’ve never heard of anyone else knowing about these that I’ve mention. But let me know what you think. What books have you read that have stuck with you over the years?

For myself, I just started reading The Baronet’s Song by George MacDonald. It’s not the sort of fiction I usually read. There is far more narrative and far less actual dialogue than I’m used to, but I’m enjoying it so far. I looked up this author and found that he’s written a number of stories that are geared more towards older children. One in particular that I remember reading when I was young is The Princess and Curdie. I know he’s a famous author, I was just not very familiar with his works. I’m happy to be reading one now, and look forward to introducing some to my eldest daughter.




Character building

I hope that the title of my blog doesn’t confuse you. It would make sense for me to talk about building characters (as in fictional writing), but the character I’m talking about today has to do with the character traits we are trying to instill in our children. …but I am going to talk about books, also. Two sets of them, in fact. Here is the first.


My aunt is a teacher, and in her pursuit of doing some classroom purging (she’s retiring soon) she gifted me an entire set of books on good character. Help Me Be Good by Joy Berry. If you click on her name here, it will take you to her Amazon author page. Her bio is very interesting, and lets you in on how she came to start the series in the first place.

I’ve had these books tucked into a shelf for months, until just recently. I started noticing my eldest pulling one out every once in a while, and taking it somewhere private to read. So, I thought to myself, I should really pull these out where all the kids can see them. Most of the time I don’t feel good enough to read because of my morning sickness (somehow speaking out loud makes it worse), but I figured if they brought them to me, I’d put in the effort. So I put them out and waited. My 6 year old helped me set them up (she’s my organizer, and wanted to make sure they were color coded).

The kids did, indeed, notice them… and have asked me to read several every day since then (it’s been maybe a week). I usually stop reading after three books, because I figure they need a little time to let each lesson sink in a bit (that, and it’s about all my poor tummy can take). They are very happy to talk about the character traits being discussed, and are especially taken with the thought bubbles of the little animals in the story (go figure). They like these books so much that if I start reading to one child, and any of the other ones hear me, all four are quickly crowded around me on the couch so they can listen in. Pretty cool!

The second series on character, I obtained from a friend who had several extra sets to pass out. 13819408_280450315653084_191664434_n

It is a series called, God I Want To Talk To You About… by Susan K. Leigh and Dan Carr. I have not put these in a place for the kids to find yet. I’m waiting until we finish the first set.

Most of these two series double up on topics, but their are two main differences that I can tell in them so far. The Help Me Be Good series is not Christian, or at least it’s not written from a Christian perspective. I don’t mind this so much, though, because it’s also not written from a performance based perspective either. The reasons behind being good in these books is all about responsibility and the consequences of bad behavior when done among your parents or peers. When it talks about punishment, I find myself inserting the word “discipline” in there instead (because I feel there is a difference) and in the book about keeping your promises, I had a talk with them afterwards about what the Bible has to say about making promises in the first place. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no… basically don’t make promises, just abide by your words. Other than those small issues (and I may even be nitpicking), I think these books are great!

The second set of books is Christian, as can be seen from the titles (God I Need to Talk to You about Lying, Whining, etc…), and seems to come from a much more emotional slant. Our bad behavior hurts others and is offensive to Christ. It calls for apologies and forgiveness and supplies a few verses in the corners of the pages for some further discussion or introspection. I’m not sure what the kids will think of these. My guess is that they will like them as well, and my hope is that having two different perspectives on a subject will be very helpful. We will be able to talk about the physical consequences as well as the spiritual importance of the sin in the first place.

Once we have gotten through both series, my plan is to use them in our discipline when the kids are in need of some. If they fight over something, we’ll handle discipline and then I will pull out the books on selfishness. If they complain, then we’ll go over the books on whining, giving them a chance to put their hearts right and become repentant over their actions. Only God can make us truly repentant, but I’ll do my best to point them in the right direction, and will be using the verses from the Christian series as a jumping board to discuss the sin at hand.

I have several other character curriculums that I hope to implement during the school year, but I’ll post those another time. The books I discussed today are certainly not necessary for training up my children in they way they should go. Our Bibles are perfectly adequate for that. But they are helpful, and I’d recommend them as a spring board for some good conversation. From my 3 year old to my 10 year old… they all bring them to me to read, so I’m going to take advantage of a blessing of a situation.

Are there any books on character that you’ve used over the years with your children? Any you grew up with yourself? Tell me about it. I’m always up for another good book or series.



The Five Senses

Touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. These are our five senses… and what we have to work with in our writing. If we use these enough, we can truly transport a reader into the world we are trying to create.

Do I have this down? With a great big grin, I acknowledge that I probably do not. …thus I will use my friend, Leah, as an example for the sense of smell. It was in fact, she, that pointed out to me how much she thought the sense of smell, in particular, made a scene truly come to life.

Leah is one of those rare and beautiful friends that you have the privilege of making later in life once you’re already married and have kids. The kind of friend that you’re not friends with because your kids get along, but because you get along. And when you get together, you forget to even talk about your kids (other than to tell them to “shush” when they interrupt) because you have everything else in the world to talk about.

One of the things we talk about is writing. She has read many of my chapters before anyone else has, and has helped me hash out several plot problems along the way. In fact, the only reason Daisy is still alive in book 2 of my series is because of her. 😉 I had never intended for Daisy to become such a rounded character, but like a true flower, she has managed to push up through the flatness of her creation and become someone quiet beloved. Everyone seems to love Daisy (myself include). So when you read book 2 and think to leave me a review, remember to add a “thank you, Leah.” That would be fun  🙂

I can tell I’m getting off track, so allow me to make my way back to the subject of senses. I found out, through discussions of my own writing, that Leah enjoys writing as well. She finally worked up the courage to let me read the story she’d been working on, and one of the things that I enjoy the most about her writing, is the sense of being in the same room as her characters. How does she accomplish this? Well, like any writer, you use the five senses to propel the readers forward, but she was thinking that none might be more important in doing this than the sense of smell, and I can’t help but agree. Now don’t quote us on this… it’s simply the opinion of two amateurs, but stay with me for a minute as we explore this idea a bit.

Here are two excerpts from the beginning of her story: (first excerpt opens with a little boy crawling into bed with his mom in the wee hours of the morning. He says that he needs to get some bad guys in the kitchen. Second excerpt is pretty self-explanatory.)

“Okay, baby.  Go get ‘em.”  She said through a yawn.

               “I can’t.”  Mason shifted his position to sit a little higher on her back and leaned over until his face was about 3 inches from hers.
               “Why not?” 
               “I can’t find my sword.”  He was just getting over a cold and his breath still had that thick, germy smell that kids get when they’re sick. 
               Julia buried her face in the pillow.  “Did you look in your toy box?”  Her voice came through muffled.

 “Ma’am,” the male officer said quietly, “Is your husband Nathaniel Henderson?”  His eye contact was unnerving. 

Julia couldn’t speak.  Panic was pulling at every muscle in her body.  She nodded her head, one quick movement.  The smell of the sweet lavender candle she had bought last week mingled with the potato salad and threatened to make her sick.
“Mrs.  Henderson, I’m afraid we have to inform you that your husband was in an accident this evening.” 
I think it’s entirely possible to just leave the portions of smell out… but would you have really felt like you were there if you did? The moment she mentioned smelly kid breath, I was in the moment wrinkling my nose at what was probably just that morning for myself. I always seem to wake up with at least one of my four kids in bed with us (they’re getting pretty stealthy at it).
When Julia walked into her kitchen and smelled potato salad and lavender, I wasn’t just in her kitchen, I was in my own getting ready to go to a friend’s house for dinner and bringing my contribution of food to the mix. In this case, Julia was detained from going due to the police officers as they pulled up to her house.
Here’s a quick experiment. Yesterday, I finally broke away from the house and went to visit my sweet friend, Sarah, who invited us to go swimming. Another mutual friend was there from out of town (love seeing her), and we had 13 children between the three of us, ranging from ages 10 to 2 months old. After the kids had, had their fill of the pool and moved onto the grass for some different water fun, the three of us moms stayed in the pool for a few moments of blessed quiet (no splashing, no screaming, no half choking incidents from swallowing too much water). So here’s the sentence:
I floated, with my arms suspended.
Let’s add touch and sight: I floated there in the cool water, enjoying the  heat of the summer sun on my face and the way my arms felt, lazily suspended over my daughters plastic lined puddle jumper.
Let’s add taste: My tongue still held the sweet and sour sensation of ice cold lemonade, as I floated there in the cool water, enjoying the  heat of the summer sun on my face and the way my arms felt, lazily suspended over my daughters plastic lined puddle jumper.
Let’s add sound: My tongue still held the sweet and sour sensation of ice cold lemonade, as I floated there in the cool water, chuckling at the sounds of bickering children as I enjoying the heat of the summer sun on my face and the way my arms felt, lazily suspended over my daughters plastic lined puddle jumper.
We have a lot here, but let’s add smell now: My tongue still held the sweet and sour sensation of ice cold lemonade, as I floated there in the cool water, chuckling at the sounds of bickering children as I enjoying the heat of the summer sun on my face, the pervasive scents of sunscreen and too much chlorine and the way my arms felt, lazily suspended over my daughters plastic lined puddle jumper.
Vwala! An overly wordy run-on sentence! 😉 But length and wordiness was not the point of this experiment. So what do you think? Do you feel like the first four senses were perfectly adequate? Or do you think there was something gained by the sense of smell, in particular?
Of course, not all senses are required for every sentence. More likely you’ll see them spread out over a series of sentences as the scene is set up. Perhaps not all of them will be used, and perhaps they will. What is the most important to you? Which one put you in the moment?
As an after thought to this blog, I did a little digging in google. Here is a short little essay I found on the sense of smell… and Here a blog on the subject of smell and writing, titled Come to your senses: The art of using the sense of smell in romantic writing.  
P.S. Sorry everything is so squishy… not allowing me to double space about half way through.


How to edit in word

When my first book, Beneath Outstretched Arms, was being edited by friends and family, the process was sort of haphazard. They read it, we’d chat on the phone about it, and then they’d list a few words that needed correction, etc… but nothing too formal.

This time around with book 2, I decided to send my readers “How to edit in Word” instructions, so that they could actually mail my Word doc. back to me so that I could take the time to look over the corrections and really think about their comments.

As I mentioned yesterday, one of my readers has already done this, and it was so helpful! So I thought I would paste a copy here for anyone else who might need a very simple knowledge of very basic editing (I haven’t learned much beyond this point, myself 🙂 so only sharing what I know.)


How to edit in WORD … easy peasy!

Step 1: open the WORD document (cut and paste these instructions into a Word doc to practice on)

Step 2: Go to the top menu bar and press Review

Step 3: Click on Show Markup (you should see a bunch of checked boxes…that’s good) and then Track Changes (again things should already be checked in there and I don’t think you should have to do anything)

Step 4: Make a quick edit to see how it works. Do this by placing your curser in front of a word that I already have written on this document and then delete that word by pressing the Delete button. You should see a colored line scroll through the middle of it. Then write the exact same word next to it. This should also appear in a color (can’t remember if it’s the same color or different…doesn’t matter).

Step 5: If you make a mistake with a change you want to make, you can press Ctrl Z and it will go back to the way it was (hold down Ctrl and press Z multiple times until things go back the way you want them.) Try that on the change you just made. You don’t have to move the cursor anywhere. If you press Ctrl Z it will automatically get rid of your last changes wherever your last changes were.

-Use Step 4 edits on any typos, misspellings, or homophone mistakes that you catch (their vs there, your vs you’re, etc…)

-If you have something to say about the sentence, paragraph or chapter as a whole of what you’re editing that you would like the author to know about… if you are confused about a plot line, if you can’t tell what is happening in the scene, or if you get confused about tenses, etc… (something that may be, but more often is a non-grammatical issue and more of a content issue) then refer to step 6 below.

Step 6: Place your cursor next to the word, sentence or general area that your comment concerns, and then go to the top menu bar and click Review. Then click New Comment (looks like a talking bubble). This will form a talking bubble to the right of the document. Click inside it and write your comment. Try it now in the doc you created for practice. Easy peasy!

*Remember to save the document you’re working on before closing it out so that the changes you made remain.

*When you are finished reading over the document, and making the necessary corrections, you can then attach it to an email and send it back to the author you were beta reading for, including any additional comments you might have by writing them within the body of the email.

*As an added nicety, you might even send the author a review that they could post on their website or fb page. Every little bit of advertisement helps 🙂

Hope this helps someone who has a work in progress or who is helping someone who does.cropped-12823157_1697621133833950_1227264959_o1.jpg