How to accomplish “productive”

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I would not even begin to claim that lists are the only way to be productive, only that they are one way that can jump start you into getting there 🙂

As I was sitting in church the other day listening to one of our pastors preach on a chapter in Psalms, my mind suddenly became full of all that I had to do, so I did a quick information dump on a slip of paper I had tucked into the front of my Bible. I don’t normally encourage my brain to get so distracted from a sermon, but I knew if I didn’t “dump” just then, my mind would be drifting all over the place for the remainder of the message. So, I jotted down a quick list, gave a sigh of relief and returned my attention back to the Psalms.

My list was simple:

-Justus’s closet

-Kitchen cubboards

-Hallway and hallway closet

-Tool closet

Pregnancy has kicked my butt, as usual, but my energy is steadily returning and so I wanted to again be productive… only I’ve picked up the art of “sedentary” and would wake up each morning feeling completely overwhelmed with all that had to be done and end my day feeling as though I’d accomplished nothing.

So to my list I’ve gone. I gave myself complete permission to ignore everything else around the house except for the one thing at the top of my list. I worked on Justus’ closet (which was all random storage) and room from morning till about 7pm before I finally finished with a very exhausted smile. My honey came home to a horrible mess in every other room, but I proudly stated that, “Cleaning the house wasn’t my goal today, this closet was my goal… and I finished it!” I felt productive all over 🙂 He just smiled and said, “It looks good.” He is a man a few words, and even fewer emotional responses, haha. He’s very mellow, and in times like this, it suites me well 😉

The next day I kept to my list. Kitchen. Check! Next day. Hallway. Check! I’m moving right along, and loving it 🙂

Making lists isn’t everyone’s cup of tea…especially for those who can’t take living in a mess while they only get one thing done a day. But! If you’ve been finding yourself in a mess lately, and you feel that glazed sort of look come over your eyes and that numbness in your limbs that threatens to paralyze you from doing anything because “who can concentrate on doing anything in a mess this big!” feeling, than tackling one thing and being able to check it off your list is highly exhilarating. In fact, I’m pretty sure it releases some major endorphins. Just sayin’… Make a list and then CHECK ! CHECK! CHECK! AWAY!

 

The Adventures of Teddy Chapter 1

…by Justus Knizley (8 yrs old). My aspiring author 🙂

My sweetie asked if I would post this for other kids to read, so if you have one please pass it on 🙂 It would make his day!

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Translation for those who can’t read through crayon 😉

Two explorers go out into the night. It was stormy. The car gets stuck, but it launches out the Pterodactyl. The avalanche came and it knocked down the Pterodactyl. Teddy sent out a rescue team to search for them.

The rescue team saw footprints leading up to the mountains where the avalance came from. They realized that someone made the avalanche on purpose. Then they heard a “Rawer!” A dinosaur came and chased them away, as Queen Hummy and King Cutie were coming back from the real world.  

*Story inspired by toys and stuffed animals (Teddy, being his favorite).

Have a great Wednesday, everyone. I’m off to Bible study! 🙂

Tortilla Soup

Don’t ask me why I’m posting a recipe when I’m still not quite over my morning sickness.  I still make icky faces whenever I run across a facebook post of someone’s “amazing dinner,” BUUUUT… today I ate a small piece of steak my husband grilled and survived, so I thought I’d celebrate by posting my favorite recipe for tortilla soup. It’s so easy it’s ridiculous.

In a soup pan, sauté some diced onions and garlic in a little bit of oil (whatever your preference…1/2 an onion or 1/4, doesn’t matter).

Add about half a can of diced tomatoes with green chili

Add chicken broth (just 2 of  your averages size boxes or two of those really large cans…really it’s however much soup you want) and stir.

Add:

-some frozen corn (not canned, it tastes gross in this) or a drained can of hominy (I prefer hominy)

-a drained can of black beans or white beans

-lime juice (about one lime)

-diced cilantro (or however you prefer it)

-diced chicken …Options for preparing chx: drained canned chicken (looks like a can of tuna), grill or boil fresh chx and dice that up, or (what I do most often) buy some rotisserie chicken from the store and dice up what I want from that. There are tons of options.

Stir it all up and wait for it to heat through.

Meanwhile for toppings: Half an avocado for everyone to half at their plate so they can scoop some into their bowl (or dice it all into a bowl), prepare some shredded cheddar or buy a bag of pre-shredded Mexican blend cheese, and toast up some corn tortilla strips.

*I never buy tortilla strips, though you totally can if you want it extra easy. We usually, cut a pile of corn tortillas into strips and fry them in some oil an then set those out into a bowl. It’s just what I’m used to.

*I don’t like spicy food, but if you do, be sure to have handy whatever hot sauce you like best…or add some jalapeños in from the beginning.

Sooooo… soup, tortilla strips, cheese and avocado. I know I didn’t give very specific amounts, and perhaps it’s the Mexican in me that is totally okay with eyeballing it, but honestly, with this recipe it really doesn’t matter too much. It usually comes out tasting about the same…which is AWESOME!

I can’t wait till I want to cook again… I can’t wait for it not to be 300 degrees outside so that I want hot soup 😉 Oops…perhaps you won’t want to eat hot soup either. I didn’t think of that, haha.

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My 6 yr old is scared of prenancy

This was the conversation I overheard while my ten year old was cleaning the bathroom with her little sister by her side.

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Selia (6 yr old)- Aloria, aren’t you afraid of having them cut your butt so you can have a baby? I don’t want to grow up. I just want to be ten so that I don’t have to have a baby.

Aloria (10 yr old)-They don’t cut your butt, Selia, they only cut your tummy if it doesn’t come out your butt. But you don’t have to worry because they give you a shot and you don’t feel it.

S- What if it comes out your butt?

A-Then it hurts a lot.

S-Isn’t there any way where it won’t hurt? Not even if you close your eyes… or get an ice cube?

A-Nope, that’s why I’m going to have my tummy cut open when I have babies.

At this point I interject from outside the room.

Me-Actually, they won’t cut you open unless there is some reason you can’t have it the regular way. I’m being cut open because your brother got stuck.

S-I don’t want to have babies!

I walk away and they continue on…

A-Selia, the only way to not have a baby is to not get married, because you have to have a man to make one.

Justus (my 8r old boy)-Actually, Aloria, you could get married and just not make a baby together.

Selia comes out to me.

S. So, Mom, I don’t want to grow up and live alone, so if I get married I don’t have to have a baby if we just don’t stick our butts together?

I’ll spare you the rest, but after a brief explanation of how you can only make a baby on certain days, I switched the topic to adoption because Selia was seriously working herself up. After another round of questions on this new subject, she seemed to leave with some semblance of peace. <smile> Poor thing. My pregnancy has seemed to cause some anxiety for her. (Learning about the birds and the bees was evidently no big deal, but delivering the product of such actions is terrifying) She is determined not to grow past 10, and has said that she hopes that Jesus comes back before then so that she can go to Heaven and tell Him that she doesn’t want to grow up. This brought her even greater peace, as though she had just settled the matter. Sweet girl! She then went off to tell her 3 yr old sister about Jesus. She gave her the full on gospel message from start to finish, ending with “Isn’t that so great!” I just sat there in the other room with my mouth hanging open, wishing I could take credit for that. They are now running around the living room screaming like banshees. I’m pretty sure I can take credit for that. Anything loud comes from my side of the family… or just me. Okay, me.

On a very different note: Our bicycles were stolen. Not the children’s …just ours. Spent some time on the phone filing a police report and with our insurance company filing a claim. BUT THAT’S OKAY! Becaaaase… I made a goal and finished it today. Not only did I completely clean out a horrendously cluttered closet in my son’s room that he was previously not allowed to enter, but his room is spic and span as well. Nothing else in the house is… but the rest of the house wasn’t my goal 😉

Book 2: Sneak Peak

Hope this scene doesn’t give too much away 😉 But here is a sneak peak of the second book in my Walk With Me series, currently being edited. Forgive me, it sort of picks up in the middle of things.  

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“And where’s Lord Tristan this fine afternoon?” Molly asked, suddenly. “Not like you to be around without the esquire.”

Stuart turned away from Velena, giving Molly a suspicious look—which she ignored. Two could play at this game.

Velena only smiled. “I couldn’t tell you Molly.”

“Well that is something isn’t it? So often together, I figured you could read each other’s thoughts by now.”

Velena laughed. “We very nearly can. But today our connection must be severed for I hear nothing.”

“And neither can the rest of us,” Molly teased. “No bickering means peace and quiet for us all.”

“Surely, we’re not that bad?” Velena quipped. “Ah, well, perhaps the break will do everyone some good then.”

“Perhaps, but I’m sure he’s heartbroken even if you’re not.” Molly folded the lump of dough onto itself with one hand, and then the other, glancing over at Stuart as she spoke. “This girl’s as important to that young man as air is to any human being.”

“Molly,” Velena chided, picking up the basket to leave, “there’s no need to exaggerate.”

Stuart pursed his lips, deciding finally to speak up. “I’m curious as to why you speak of the man as if he’s my cousin’s suitor. I know this to be an absurd thought, since until just recently she was engaged to my brother.”

Molly clucked her tongue, enjoying the discomfort she was causing him. She leaned forward and whispered in mock confidence. “Engaged or not, he’s in love with her.”

“What?! Is this true?”

Velena glared at Molly. “No. It’s not. She imagines things, and is trying to cause me trouble on purpose—though I couldn’t say why. Keep to your work good Molly, we’ll be taking our leave, I think.”

“As you like, my lady—my Lord,” she said bobbing her wimpled head and smiling to herself. “God be with you, then.”

Stuart didn’t know what to think of this Tristan person, but just his name seemed to be getting stuck his throat. Then and there, he determined to find out what manner of man he was and if he posed any real threat to his plans—but not now. Right now he wanted to dwell on Velena; which was by no means a difficult task, as dwelling on her was something he did quite often. In fact, she was all he ever thought about lately.

Stuart watched her now, as she walked beside him, light on her feet and in high spirits. He slowed his pace a little letting her walk ahead; her figure from behind was pleasant. The curve of her hips—the way she walked. “You look lovely, Velena.”

Velena turned around to face him, but continued in a backward walk, a full smile alighting on her face.

Stuart continued, “The color of that gown is pleasing, and it suites you well.”

“Thank you, Cousin. I believe it’s your favorite color on me.”

“…and you remembered?”

“A woman always remembers when she’s been given a compliment by a handsome man—no matter how much time has gone by.”

Stuart raised his eyebrows. “So you think me handsome, then?”

Velena took in her cousin’s muscular frame and cinnamon colored hair and eyes, resting above a strong jaw line that narrowed at his chin. There she noticed a fading scar that he must have received sometime in their absence from one another. Still, it in no way detracted from his looks, which, consequently, had always stood out in complete contrast to his brother Peter’s blond hair and blue eyes. Standing side by side, Peter had always been the one more admired, but Stuart was still, in no way, someone to whom any young woman would stick their nose up at.

Velena giggled. “The world thinks you handsome, Stuart. As do you, yourself, I’d be willing to wager. How many times a day do you stop and compliment yourself?”

Stuart laughed, not used to Velena’s flirtations, but very pleased. He could get used to this, he thought as he caught up to her so that they might once again walk side by side. “You should try it yourself. I’m always able to leave my room bright and cheery that way.” He was rewarded with a hardy laugh and another smile. “But don’t worry,” he added, “I’ll be doing the complimenting today.”

“Oh really?”

“Oh yes. I have several others I plan on delivering as time goes by,” he said, chuckling then at her expression. Their friendly banter continued as they walked on towards the orchard, recalling days before the Plague—child hood memories when their families were once whole.

Having no expectations of what to expect from this older, more womanly version of his cousin, Stuart found himself thoroughly taken with her. They took their time walking in and out of the blossoming quince trees, until they came to one with especially low hanging branches. There, Velena set up their picnic, as Stuart plucked one of the pale pink flowers from its place above their heads and handed it to her. It had a sweet aromatic quality that seemed to be affecting them both. More and more, it began to appear that Peter’s death had not been the end of a thing, but rather, the beginning of something else entirely. Velena had never supposed to love Stuart, but found herself now blooming under his attention.

After all the food was gone, Stuart took great joy in making Velena laugh until her sides ached, as he detailed some of his more comical exploits with his cousin, Squire Jaren. Velena finally begged him to stop, as she wiped at the tears seeping from the corners of her eyes.

“No more,” she begged, “I have to catch my breath. I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed so hard.”

Stuart paused then, staring very directly at his cousin until she began to fidget beneath his scrutiny. He couldn’t help but smile, finding her innocence charming. He reached out his hand to gently cup her chin, swiveling her head from one side to the other as he examined her profile. “Do you know what your hair needs?”

“What?” Velena asked in surprise.

“Flowers.”

She inhaled. “You would put flowers in my hair?” Her pleasure was made obvious in her tone.

Without another word, he helped her up and led her over to a large patch of them, where Velena felt like a queen sitting in a sea of red and blue poppies. She could feel Stuart’s hands on her hair as he tucked stems in and around her circlet, creating a crown of flowers. As he worked she began to pick daisies within her reach, making a chain—blissfully unaware that Stuart was having a difficult time not letting his fingers linger too long on her hair as he pressed the flowers into place. What he wouldn’t give to see it loose, tumbling down about her shoulders.

Stuart imagined himself removing her hair pins and slowly unwinding the long dark tresses. He wanted to run his hands through them—bury his face in them and breathe her in. First, he’d move his hands from her hair down to her neck, over her shoulders, and then…

“…can you believe that?” Velena’s words interrupted his thoughts.

Stuart blinked. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Tristan has never made a daisy chain. I think I’ll bring him this one.”

Here was this Tristan again—interrupting his thoughts. Stuart had plans now that he was here, and he wasn’t going to lose her to this Tristan or anyone else. Before today, it was clear that Velena had seen him only as her cousin, but now—now he felt confident that things were beginning to change. He had hoped to act slowly and delicately, allowing her time to love him, for he didn’t just want an arranged marriage, he wanted her devotion. But as he knelt beside her, listening to her bemoan Tristan’s lack of female-type craftsmanship, he began to feel as though time may not be on his side after all.

And the rains came

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Last night, sometime after 10:30 in the evening, my husband and I cuddled in bed while watching an episode of Horatio Hornblower off of YouTube. The episode ended, and as my sweetie got up to turn off the computer, my super smeller pregnant nose picked up the faint odor of dirt.

“I smell dirt…or maybe dust. Oh it’s awful, it feels like it’s in my face and hard to breath. Can you smell that?”

He looks at me, “Nope.”

“Really?” I asked, pulling the sheets up over my head. “Wait, wasn’t there supposed to be a dust storm today?”

He pulls back the curtains of our bedroom and… sure enough! Nothing but palms and ficus trees swaying in a haze of brown. Woa! We hadn’t been able to hear the wind through our window, but there was obviously enough of it to toss around all of the sand in town. I figured if I could smell it inside the house it must be seeping in from somewhere. I asked my husband to shut the cat door so that it wouldn’t let in any of the dust that way.

5:00am KABOOM!!! Thunder, lightening, and torrential downpour … and seemingly right above our home. It was so loud… and awesome! Having just finished that George MacDonald book, it brought to memory the scene of little 8 yr old Sir Gibby climbing as high as he could up a cliff, and standing there as a storm thundered around him… too enthralled and enchanted to be scared.

Just then I heard a little “mew” and figured the cat had been left outside when Aaron shut the cat door. Sure enough, I got up to open it and in came a very wet Rose. The two older kids had woken up, and like Sir Gibby, were utterly taken in by the whole noisy event (we don’t get much rain in the desert, after all)… not scared at all. The two younger ones slept through the whole thing.

I reread an article the other day on the role that the weather plays in stories… or should play. That when writing, you should treat the elements like one of your characters, allowing it to weave throughout your story and interact with those that come into contact with it. How would one of your characters react to a thunderstorm? Would they love it? Hate it? Would they be frightened? Could you use it to change your character’s mood so that he/she starts an argument for no good reason? Or make them more likely to become amorous?

Speaking to my sister-in-law about it today, she mentioned how scary it was for her feeling like the storm was just above their heads. She didn’t like it all. That was certainly different from my reaction, but probably not that uncommon. The article suggested, that when writing a story, you might want to ask friends and family how they would feel in such or such weather. Different people react different ways. What’s the personality of your character?

In my first book, Beneath Outstretched Arms, my husband caught some of this for me. I had written that it was Christmas time in December when Velena left her family’s manor, but had described the wagon rolling along a dusty road. He pointed out that in England the ground would have been covered in snow. I had totally missed this, and was once again grateful for his help. I was then able to go back and have her interact more with her cold surroundings… adding in that she pulled a fur lined cloak closer about her body, or that she was warmer by the fire than in her tent, etc… I think that I probably could have used weather a whole lot more than I did, and hope to improve on this in the future. Weather was used hugely in George MacDonalds book, The Baronet’s Song, and I could tell how fine a book it was because of it.