Friday, February 26, 2010

No Time For School

Three day weekend! My kids are off school today and I find myself wondering just when it is that they are at school any more. In the month of February (granted it's a short month), my kids only had one full week of school. Looks like it will be five days of school next week, but then only three the following, followed by another five day week. Then it's a four day week before Spring Break starts and we're off for a bunch of days.

It's really messing with my writing mojo. I can't get back into the rhythm of things with all these days off. My productivity is waaaay down for the month of February. I know, poor me. But here's the thing - if I'm not getting much done with all these days off, what about the kids? Well, they aren't getting as much done either. How do I know? My third grader came home last night bringing homework to do over the long weekend. And it's not the first time. The teacher openly admits that there is not enough time in these shortened weeks to get it all done. So she's had to resort to sending work home in order to keep pace with the district's expectations.

Here's the funny thing: just this morning I was surmising that I'd found the reason for all the homeschoolers getting ahead of our public school kids in their class work. They have the opportunity to spend more time on their schoolwork than my kids do. And my guess was confirmed. Some homeschool friends just arrived, so I asked them, did they do school today? And their answer? Yes, they've been particularly working on the days the public school is off, because they're planning to head south for a couple of weeks and need to get nine days ahead of public school (I should clarify that they're doing a bit of hybrid schooling where some subjects they do at the public school, but most at home). Aha! I was right!

If the excess of days off frustrates me, I can't imagine how working parents must feel. What do they do when the kids aren't in school on work days? Aye yi yi!

Here we are. Another three day weekend. My kids are playing. I'm not getting much done. How about you?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Forgive Me For Being Less Than Perfect

I made a mistake today (big surprise, huh?). I got caught up being social and forgot a group of children who were waiting for me to come during their lunchtime to discuss a story with them. A friend pointed out that the children would have waited a little bit for me and then gone on to eat their lunch and enjoy recess. End of story for them.

When I realized my mistake, I quickly emailed the teachers and parents to apologize. Who knows what reaction I'll get from the parents. Most, I think will understand or at least accept my apologies. And any that might be annoyed by my mistake will get over it pretty quick. Already I've heard back from one of the moms indicating that she completely understands. No problem. Mistake forgiven on that count.

There's just one person that I know is definitely having a hard time being forgiving about this. She does it every time. Every little mistake I make she gets annoyed at - as if I'm not human and shouldn't ever make a mistake. She's angry. She's disappointed with me. She wants to exact payment of some sort for those poor kids. She's embarrassed. And she's not at all forgiving.

Who could be so hard-hearted toward a simple mistake? Me. I can't stand it when I make a mistake or a bad choice or lose my cool or do anything other than be perfect. Uh, yeah. Picture that. How often do you think I have to deal with the results of one of the above? Daily, sometimes hourly. And honestly I'm tired of this voice of perfection that can't handle even the slightest misstep. So I'm telling my perfectionist self one thing this afternoon: get. over. it. Everybody else will. And if my voice of perfection can't do that much, then's not perfect either!

How about you? Do you hold yourself to an impossible standard, one that you'd never expect of anyone else? If not, how do you give yourself room to fail? I'm working on this one and would love to hear what you think.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Reading Goals & Current Reading List

Last month, in keeping with New Year's, I set myself some goals for the year. I made goals for my writing and goals for my food consumption and goals related to personal fitness. And...I made some reading goals. I made it a goal to read one parenting book, one marriage book and one book on the writing craft each quarter. So far I'm on target with those goals. Admittedly, they aren't that aggressive. But that's the beauty of well set goals - they're realistic. So I expect to have the satisfaction of reaching those goals four times in the next 11 months. And with that, here's my list:

  • Stein on Writing - by Sol Stein. This editor and author has had a part in the works of some incredible writers. I am thoroughly enjoying this book, both for the practical advice and for the great examples he provides. I've been pulling it out to refer to during my writing time recently. Thankfully it's a copy I own so I can keep going back to it once I've finished reading it. I'm marking it up a lot too.
  • Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining & Bad Attitudes...In You And Your Kids - by Scott Turansky & Joanne Miller. An excellent book with a horrible title. Instead it should be titled something like Parenting On The Honor System. It introduces the concept of honor as being central to changing the way your family relates to each other. And I can testify: it works. Since introducing the framework of honor to my family, I've seen my kids doing some really neat things for me and for each other (that could be a whole blog post of it's own). Plus I've be able to pinpoint some parenting tactics I've been using in error. If you're a parent and you haven't read this book - check it out now! It will be worth every minute of your time.
  • The Spiritually Intimate Marriage - by Donald Harvey. Pulled this one off my bookshelf to give a more thorough reading. I've only gotten through one chapter, which tells me I need to put this closer to the top of my pile now. I like the topic it tackles, since it's one that's important but rarely addressed: how do you create a spiritual life together as a couple? I can't give a review yet and but maybe I'll do so later, although it's no longer in print.
  • The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society - by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I was very disappointed that I had to return this novel to the library before I could finish it. Guernsey Literary is about a British author (Juliet Ashton) who is looking for a new book idea during the post-war years. A letter from a farmer in on the island of Guernsey regarding a used book that once belonged to her, leads Juliet to begin correspondence with all the members of the literary society of the book's title. I won't give away any more. The delivery of the story through a series of letters might sound like a tricky concept. But the authors' voices are so unique and charming, that they absolutely pull you in. Actually, the voice, the time period and the setting all contribute to making this book an enchanting read. If you haven't read this book, I suggest you check it out. It makes for some very delightful reading - a great evening's companion.
There you go: three nonfiction titles, one novel and a few new releases this week. I hope you've gained some new ideas for your own reading list.

I could use some new ideas myself. So tell me this: what have you been reading lately? Or if you have reading goals of your own, feel free to share those too. I'd love to know.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Introducing: Never Say Never

Today's featured book is a new novel by Lisa Wingate. I've been up late more than one night following the stories of Kai & Donetta in this enjoyable Texan saga.*

Paperback: 352 pgs
Publisher: Bethany House Release Date: Feb. 1, 2010
ISBN-10: 0764204920
ISBN-13: 978-0764204920
Retail: $12.95
About the Book:
Kai Miller floats through life like driftwood tossed by waves. She's never put down roots in any one place--and she doesn't plan to. But when a chaotic hurricane evacuation lands her in Daily, Texas, she begins to think twice about her wayfaring existence. And when she meets hometown-boy Kemp Eldridge, she can almost picture settling down in Daily--until she discovers he may be promised to someone else. Daily has always been a place of refuge for those the wind blows in, but for Kai, it looks like it will be just another place to leave behind. Then again, Daily always has a few surprises in store--especially when Aunt Donetta has cooked up a scheme.

Some Background information from the author about Never Say Never :
1. How did you develop the initial story idea/plot line for this book?
Some book ideas you search for, and some just blow in on the wind. For the past several years, dating back to Hurricane Katrina, we in Central Texas have been the recipients of massive hurricane evacuations. These massive exoduses of people, pets, and belongings are frightening, frustrating, challenging, and at times oddly wonderful. When so many are on the road seeking shelter, the worst, but also the best qualities of humanity come to the surface. Hurricane evacuations truly provide times when we ask the question, "Am I my brother’s keeper?" In answering that question, we’ve enjoyed amazing moments of friendship and fellowship, family reunions, and chances to share a food and space with strangers from other parts of the country. We’ve traded stories and recipies, laughter and tears.
One thing we’ve learned about hurricanes, living here, is that the paths are never predictable. Storms waver, hesitate, speed up, slow down, and sometimes change course unexpectedly. Evacuations needs can change and develop quickly. What better way for the beauty shop girls to find their inner strength and to show Daily hospitality, than for their cruise plans to land them smack in the middle of a sudden and chaotic hurricane evacuation?
2. Almost every author puts a little of themselves into their stories—what did you put of yourself into this one? (personality traits, life events/jobs, settings, characters based on people you know, likes/dislikes, etc.)
There’s a bit of me in the setting, of course. I love Texas, in all its variety of cultures and landscapes, but, living in a small town, I have a particular affection for little bergs like Daily, where the coffee’s always hot, and a good slide of pecan pie can cure most ills. Having watched our little town mobilize to take in hurricane evacuees several times now, I’ve been reminded that sometimes the worst things that can happen bring out the best in people. Given the opportunity and faced with the need, regular people can rise to the occasion in amazing ways, as do the citizens of Daily in the book.
Some members of the Wingate family might also claim to recognize themselves among the citizens of Daily, Texas. I would offer the disclaimer that any resemblances are completely unintentional, but that would be a bald-faced lie. When you come from a family of great storytellers and colorful characters, there’s nothing to do but make use of what you’ve got.
3. Did you encounter any interesting challenges while writing/researching for this book? Please explain if so.
The most difficult part of working on Never Say Never was researching and reliving the devastation left behind on the Texas gulf coast last year after Hurricane Ike. While interviewing family members about their experiences during the evacuation and return, we shared laughter and quite a few tears. For those who have lived in southeast Texas all their lives, talking about familiar landmarks, heirlooms, and old family places that were washed away forever, knowing some things will never be the same, is both difficult and devastating. For those of us who have so many memories of family gatherings and vacations there, it’s hard to believe we’ll never visit the old places again.
4. Why is this book/story relevant today?
Despite our best-laid plans, we all experience storms in life—whether those storms be of a weather-related nature, or due to an illness, death, or in recent months, job loss and financial misfortune. When the parameters of life and our ability to control fate suddenly change, we’re confronted with our own helplessness and need to rely on other people and God. In a culture that values independence and self-sufficiency, it’s important to remember that we all have a common need and a common responsibility for each other and that without faith we really are alone in the storm.
About the Author:
Lisa Wingate is a popular inspirational speaker, magazine columnist, and national bestselling author of several books, including Tending Roses, Talk of the Town, Drenched in Light, A Thousand Voices, and A Month of Summer. Her work was recently honored by the Americans for More Civility for promoting greater kindness and civility in American life. Lisa and her family live in central Texas.

Lisa Wingate’s
How to Talk Texan
Road Trip Tutorial
A couple dozen phrases that'll keep you from lookin' like you don't know gee from haw. You can hang your hat on it!
Hey, y’all!
If you’re planning a road trip across Texas, well, my friend, you’d better get your trottin’ harness on, I’ll tell you that right now.
This state’s wider than a woodcutter’s pile. You’ll be so busy here, you’ll think you’re twins. You might even meet yourself comin’ and goin’ or travel so fast you’ll catch up to yesterday.
One thing’s for sure--there won’t be any grass growin’ under your feet, especially if it’s summer, because it’ll be hot as a nanny goat in a pepper patch. Don’t let that trouble your mind, though.
Seeing the whole state might seem about as easy as tryin’ to saddle up house flies or put socks on the rooster, but here’re a few phrases that’ll make your trip just as smooth as a calf’s ear. You’ll find this little bit of Texan talk just as handy as a pocket on a shirt. With these phrases, you’ll be right at home in jig time, and happy as a pig in sunshine, I promise.
Folks’ll think you’re just as fine as frog hair split four ways. Why, you might even find yourself a Texas gal who’s cute as a bug’s ear or a fella who catches your eye like a tin roof at noonday. Even if you don’t find love here, you’ll run across lots of folks who’re so friendly, they’ll add a cup of water to the soup and tell you to get your sittin’ britches on.
Some of them might be full of wind as a corn-eatin’ horse, but you’ll be welcome ‘till whenever you figure it’s time to put the chairs in the wagon and turkey-tail it toward home.
When you do, we’ll keep a light on and a hitch out for ya, just in case you miss us like a west Texas farmer misses rain. You’re welcome to darken our door any old time. Long as we got a biscuit, my friend, you got half, and if that ain’t a fact, well, then I’m hip high to a horned toad.
Y’all come back now, y’hear!
--Lisa Wingate (and the REST of the folks in Daily, Texas, too!)
For stories with Texas flavor
and fun, come see us at

And announcing a special Blog Tour Drawing (one lucky commenter will be entered in a drawing for the following fantastic prize):

Grandprize Drawing
Donetta and Imagene's Texas Road Trip Basket (approximate total value over $150)

Take a Texas road trip, without ever leaving home!


The Daily Texas Series by Lisa Wingate:
Talk Of the Town
Word Gets Around
Never Say Never

The Blue Sky Hills Series by Lisa Wingate:

A Month of Summer
The Summer
Beyond Summer (a special advance copy not available in stores until July 2010)

Road Trip Snacks (Straight from Texas, of course!)

Wrap it all up with a fuzzy, fleecy Texas throw blanket for those cold nights on the road (or curled up with your books!)

*Kathy Carlton Willis Communications provided me (Amusing Mom) with a review copy of this book.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Celebrating the release of Thin Places

Today I'm glad to share with you about a new book by Mary DeMuth, called Thin Places. I've had the opportunity to meet Mary at a writer's conference and have benefited from her wisdom on writing and navigating the publishing industry through her blog, So You Want To Be Published. She's both an excellent writer and a delightful, authentic woman.

Mary has worked hard to earn her right to be heard, with more than a half-dozen books already to her credit. With this book she reveals some of the most difficult experiences in her life. She does so with taste and and huge amount of grace. The context in which she explores her past in this spiritual memoir lends a redemptive tone to both painful and ordinary experiences in her life. It's well worth a read.

Now that I've shared my brief thoughts on this book, let's hear from Mary about her journey to the publication of Thin Places:

What trials did you face as a child?
Childhood sexual abuse at five
Parents with addictions
Feelings of being unwanted
An unsafe home
Death of a parent
Suicidal thoughts
Three divorces

It’s hard to write all that out and not feel bad for little me. But even in the recounting, I’ve been able to see the thin places in my life, those snatches of moments where God came near. That’s the message and hope of Thin Places, being able to see the nearness of God amidst heartache.

What compelled you to write Thin Places?

I felt sufficiently healed from my past, which had been a long, long journey. And in that healing, I knew I had the perspective I needed to be able to communicate my story with hope. In the past, I’d vomit my story of sexual abuse and neglect on any poor soul who’d listen, not with the intention to help her grow through her story, but to gain empathy.

But now I marvel at the path God’s brought me on, how gently He’s led me to this place of wholeness. From that abundance, I share my story. Why? Because I believe sharing the truth about our stories helps others see their own stories.

While I recorded the audio book for Thin Places, the producer asked me why I’d splay my life out this way.

“Because I don’t want folks to feel alone,” I told him.

“You’ve given a gift,” he said.

I sure hope so.

In this memoir you give readers a candid glimpse into your upbringing. Was it hard to share particular parts of your story?
In some ways, it was easy. I’ve shared my story over a decade now. What was hard was giving myself permission to say it all, to not hold back, to explore the emotions I experienced during the rapes, the drug parties, the feelings of loneliness.

Oddly, though, it was harder for me to share what I’m dealing with now as a result of my upbringing than the actual initial trauma. It’s hard to admit that I’m still so needy, so insecure. After reading the book aloud, I saw I still had areas of growth, particularly in being so hard on myself.

What do you hope readers gain from reading your memoir?
I hope they see hope.

I hope they realize how profound and surprising and radical God’s redemption is.

I hope they’ll see the irresistibility of Jesus.

Some folks wait until grandparents and parents are deceased until they write a memoir, but you wrote yours with some still alive. Was that difficult?

Extremely. In many ways, agonizing. You can be assured that I prayed through every word. I’m thankful for my critique group who walked me through the writing and my stellar editor who helped shape the manuscript into a redemptive story. My goal was not to impugn or point the finger at what went wrong way back when, but to shout about God’s ability to transform a needy, incomplete girl.

It’s never easy to tell the truth, and I know my words may hurt some. But, thankfully, I’ve sought God’s heart in this and I can rest peacefully in knowing that.

Anne Lamott says, “Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.”

Thin Places is my answer to her quote.

But why go there? Why examine the past? Hasn’t the old passed away?
Yes, of course we must move forward. We must move beyond our pasts. But in order to do that, we must mourn the reality of what happened, not bury it under a rug. I love what Sam says in The Two Towers movie about the importance of telling our stories, no matter how dark: “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad has happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you.”

It’s my sincere hope that my story will stay with readers, not because of its sordidness, but because the Light of Jesus has shined so brightly upon it.

What encouragement or cautions do you have for those wanting to write their story?
First, prayerfully consider if this is something you need to do for therapy rather than publication. It’s very exposing to write a memoir. And sometimes we mistake the compelling feeling we have with publication. God sometimes calls us to write unpublished words, to get everything out on the page for the sake of our own personal healing.

Many of you have read memoirs that are self-indulgent or a poor-me fest. You need to evaluate whether you’re at a good place of healing before you embark on writing your story for everyone to read.

Do you worry that writing a memoir makes you out to be narcissistic?
Of course. Because I’m the main character! As I’ve edited, read and re-read the book, I’ve agonized over that. Now that the book’s released, I am resting. What’s done is done. And I honestly believe that the story isn’t about me. It’s about a rejuvenating God who stooped to rescue a needy, frail girl.

What fears have you battled as this book released?
Because this is such a personal book, I’ve worried about negative reviews. In some ways that’s good because it will force me to find my security and love from the One who made me, rather than the opinions of others. I’ve received some great endorsements, but also some harsh reviews. And those are the ones that knife me! Because the book’s about me!

I worry that I’ll be misunderstood. Or that telling the truth will hurt others. I’ve made a point to disguise nearly everyone and everything in the book, but of course the potential for hurt feelings is high.

I fear opposition by the father of lies. Since this is a truth-filled book, displaying authentic struggle, I have a feeling he won’t like it. I’m thankful for a specific, targeted prayer team around me to pray for protection regarding the release of this book. It’s humbling, actually, to see how God brought those pray-ers together.

Author and speaker Mary DeMuth helps people turn their trials to triumph. Her books include Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God; Building the Christian Family You Never Had; Watching the Tree Limbs; Wishing on Dandelions; Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture and the first two books in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy: Daisy Chain and A Slow Burn.
National media regularly seek Mary’s candid ability to connect with their listeners. Her radio appearances include FamilyLife Today, Moody Midday Connection, Point of View and U.S.A. Radio Network and is frequently featured on Chuck Colson’s BreakPoint. She has published articles in In Touch, HomeLife, Writer’s Digest and The Writer.
Mary lives with her husband Patrick and their three children in Texas.

Learn more about Mary at And please, please check out her new book, Thin Places on Amazon.

To read more posts about Thin Places, check out the Thin Places Blog Tour.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

It's Book Week Time Again

It's Book Week time again! This week I'll be introducing you to two new books - one on Monday and one on Wednesday. Then on Friday I'll be sharing my current reading list, along with some goals I've set for reading this year.

So check back in the coming days. In the meantime, what have you been reading lately? Any good books to recommend?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Thoughts on Facebook "Friendships"

I'm beginning to wonder about whether Facebook is actually good for some friendships. It is getting more and more hype these days, particularly for it's ability to reconnect people. But what isn't touted are all the other activities that one can engage in on Facebook that can actually harm a friendship. I'm serious here.

Take the whole "becoming a fan" thing. Just the other day one of my Facebook friends joined a group called "I Hate ___". Except what they were hating is actually something I genuinely appreciate and respect. Then today that same friend loudly proclaimed a political leaning that I'm strongly against. I'm beginning to question whether I want to continue to be friends with them on Facebook and deal with the ongoing passive attacks on my beliefs.

Without Facebook, my chances of being in contact with this person were incredibly slim. And I'd forgotten her outspokeness and political leanings. I actually had fond memories of this friend. Now with all of the silly opportunities to proclaim you're likes and dislikes on Facebook, I've lost a lot of respect for this friend. And I've started getting angry reading about her FB activities. It's made me consider searching for groups to join that proclaim my stance in opposition to her. But it's not worth it and I'd rather not be reactionary.

So for now, I think I might just "hide" her. And I'll definitely think twice before "becoming a fan" of something - not because I'm afraid of offending my friends, but just because maybe my FB friends don't need me to parade my beliefs in front of them.

Oh, and if you're someone who hates Louisiana Hot Sauce? Sorry, bout that, but I became a "fan" today. Supposedly it will get me a free bottle if New Orleans wins in the Super Bowl tomorrow.