Something Other Than God – A Book Review

Thanks for stopping by to read my first ever book review!  I’m so excited to share my thoughts on this great book.  Enjoy the review… and grab a copy of the book for yourself when you’re done! :) The review does include affiliate links.  Thanks for your support!

You may be familiar with Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog, Conversion Diary.  I adore her self-deprecating sense of humor, and was thrilled when I was finally able to read her memoire, Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It.

The book is the story of Jennifer’s Fulwiler’s journey toward Christ.  Having grown up with a strongly atheist dad and a mother who didn’t discuss religious beliefs, Jennifer followed in her father’s footsteps.  As a tender fifth grader, placed under duress by a rabidly Christian camp counselor, Jennifer assigned a label to herself: atheist.  For the next several years, she endured the pain of being ostracized from her Texas school’s social scene because she hadn’t been “saved” and “born again,” and wouldn’t participate in their Bible studies.

Jennifer learned from her father that “[b]elief in gods and angels and stuff like that is a comfort to some people,” but clearly not for her.  She ascribed to a scientific world view, devoid of any divine hand or direction. The first notch in the armor of this “logical” thinking appeared when Jennifer was only eleven years old, searching for fossils with her dad.  Upon finding an ammonite embedded within the rock wall, Jennifer was faced with the brevity of her human life and the fact that, according to her belief structure, her “fate was no different” than that of the ammonite.  In ten million years, she would not exist, not even in the fossilized form of the ancient mollusk she had found.

After this dose of “reality”, Jennifer was filled with a desolation which was only relieved by fleeting moments of happiness, and Jennifer spent the next decade desperately trying to capture those elusive moments of joy.  It was only after the birth of her first son left her in a deep depression, filled with the sure knowledge that her child’s fate was no different than her own – a finite life on earth, followed by an empty void of nothingness – that Jennifer began to question her views on divinity.  Surely atheism could not explain the love she felt for her husband and son.  “There was more to human life than the atoms that made up our bodies – I was sure of it.”

Initially filled with questions and doubts, Jennifer methodically sought out answers, and shares this process with her readers in this humorous and endearing memoire.  With her husband, Joe, Jennifer traced the roots of Christianity to find where Truth really lies, including an excellent exploration of her last hold-out on joining the Catholic Church, her battle to maintain her pro-choice views.

For those of you familiar with Scott Hahn, I have referred to Something Other Than God as “the new Rome Sweet Home, for “real” people.  While being extremely informative, the book is also entertaining, and a delightful read.  I would recommend this to any non-Christian seeking to understand Christianity, any Christian seeking to understand Catholicism, and any Catholic seeking to better understand their own faith.

The Big Move, Explained

Many people have asked what led to our decision to move to another parish and school, so I’m going to take a moment to try to sum it all up.  First, let me say that we have been very blessed to be a part of our previous school and church community and that it is comprised of an amazing group of people whom I will miss dearly, looking always forward to when I get to come for a visit. (Which will be often, I hope, since we’re only moving twenty minutes away!)

  1. First and foremost, both of my sisters – and their boys – are now going to the “new church and school.”  I love the idea of having all of us in one place.  Not to mention the fact that poor Dude was feeling extremely left out, since his cousins were sharing many things that he couldn’t be a part of.  I felt that, in fairness to him, we needed to at least consider this move. This alone would never have been enough to actually go forward with the change, but it was a vital consideration.
  2. You all know that I’ve been a “bit” involved in the anti-Common Core effort.  I toured the one classical Catholic school in our area last fall, and I fell in love.  Sadly, what would have been a fit for me and some of my children would not have been a fit for Ray and others of my children.  The Dude, in particular, would have been miserable. While our new school does not offer a classical education (and honestly some of its curriculum components are inferior to those we are leaving), its religion education is much more classical than our old school, and the attitude that the children are taught in Mass and in the classroom more closely mimics a classical environment.  And, while there seems to be absolutely no chance of transitioning to a more classical education at our old school, the possibility does appear to exist at the new school.  So, yes, a bit of this is being done on “a hope and a prayer.”
  3. The “attitude” that I mentioned above is a big part… reverence and respect are something that are difficult for a mom to teach without a community to back her up.  If the kids look around and see a bunch of people acting in one way, they wonder why they have to act in a different way.  At our old church, an awful lot of people leave Mass early, talk during communion, and dress like they’re going to a football game.  The children don’t do that during school Mass, of course, but I noticed when visiting the new church that the parishioners at Sunday Mass were dressed in their Sunday best, didn’t leave early, and respected the celebration.  Visiting the school, I saw this general respect and reverence evidenced in the classrooms and in the halls, and I liked that.
  4. I’ve always wanted to live in the area we’ll be moving to.  Shallow?  Maybe. 
    Houses in Woodruff Place (not the exact 'hood we're looking in, but close enough)

    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

  5. I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that there were some errors being taught through the actions of a few, and I felt it best to remove my children from their influence.
  6. The old school doesn’t have any male teachers or administrators, and I’d like my boys to have the influence of great male teachers in their lives.  In addition, the priest at the new school is exceedingly involved in the school, and the kids adore him – an added bonus.
  7. Finally, the altar servers.  Oh! The altar servers!  I can’t describe it.  They’ve got 150 altar servers, and those boys show a reverence and respect (there are those words again!) for the Mass, the Word of God, and the Eucharist that I’ve rarely seen in young men.  They love to serve, and the priest reports that he frequentlyy has boys show up before Mass, unassigned, asking if they can serve.  Every Mass has ten or more servers!  There’s incense, bells, and the Gospel is escorted with candles.  It’s a breeding ground for vocations, I believe, and an environment I hope my sons will choose to participate in.  Whether they are called to the priesthood or not, developing such love for the Mass will serve all of those boys well.

Zdzisław Jasiński Palm Sunday 1891

“Palm Sunday mass” by Zdzisław Jsiński Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The above is an incomplete list and I must emphasize that I LOVE many, many things about our old parish, and am very sad to leave those things behind.  I have been incredibly blessed by our mom’s group, which must be among the most generous, loving, faith-filled group of women known to mankind.  I have also been blessed by the willingness of the priest and parish staff to do anything suggested which would build the faith life of the parish – so long as someone was willing to lead the effort – and there are many, many parishioners leading efforts to do many great things.  Lots of Bible studies, Mary’s Way dinners, retreats, etc.  It is a vibrant faith community.

Every family is different, and the reasons which make the new school and church a better fit for our family apply only to our family.  Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the presence at the new school of my sisters and my children’s cousins, plus my search for a less “Common Core Saturated” environment, we never would have even considered this move in the first place.

The grass is always greener on the other side, and I’ve spent enough time with my sisters to know that no school, and no church, is perfect.  Perhaps I’ll be disappointed, but after much prayer and consideration, I felt that this was the best decision for our family.  Fortunately, Ray agreed, for reasons of his own, some of which match mine, others which differ.  Regardless, the papers are signed, expectations are set, and we are moving forward with “The Big Move”!

 

Seven Quick Takes – Catching Up

After such a long hiatus from blogging, I thought I’d better use today’s quick takes for a quick catch up on the happenings in the Engelman family.

— 1 —

I am a terrible mother for not having written about this with huge fanfare, but on April 27th, Bonita received her First Communion.  What a joyful experience.  Bonita has always possessed a strong faith… or, at least, stronger than other children with whom I’m closely acquainted.  And so, this was a special day that she looked forward to with great anticipation.  Not because she got to get dressed up, be the center of attention, and receive lots of presents – though those things were also highly anticipated! – but because she finally got to partake of the Body and Blood of our Lord.  What a blessing to have played a role in that, to have been her catechist from the day she was born, and to look forward to watching her continue to grow in the faith in the years to come.

20140613-083436-30876425.jpg 20140613-083440-30880036.jpg

— 2 —

The date of Bonita’s First Communion was extremely significant.  It was also the day that Ray and I bought our first home, and, two years later, sold that home, while closing on the next home – in Colorado – that same day.  A year after that – to the day – we got married.  (Cart before horse? Who, me?  Remember, I have not always been a woman of faith!)  One year after that, I started my new job back in Indy.  Five years after that, Bear was baptized, along with my nephew and Godson, Joe.  Another four years and the same day would see my other nephew and Godson, John Paul, receive his First Communion.

Needless to say, the date of our wedding anniversary is one we will not forget.  Sadly, on the actual day, the celebration of said anniversary is generally… forgotten.

— 3 —

 Shortly after this time of celebration, the dog nearly died.  I mean, we’re talking his fur was soaked by my tears of farewell after I texted Ray to come home to help me take him to the vet for that final shot nearly died.  And then he rallied.  And then he took a turn for the worse and we were ready to call it again.  And then he rallied.  And then… well, you get the picture.

It all started when he ate something he shouldn’t have.  That messed his system all up, and he didn’t do what dogs need to “do” for several days.  Even when he did do the do, he still didn’t get better.  We took him to the vet, gave him massive amounts of laxative, which made him violently, horribly ill… (so bad I nearly sat vigil with him all night.  But then I came to my senses, went to bed, and he had to suffer alone.)  After nearly killing him in and of itself, the laxative finally worked, but then he didn’t eat for five days and could hardly be coaxed to walk 30 feet.  I kept him going with sugar water, and he lost an immense amount of weight.  Finally, I gave him an anti-inflammatory tincture, he started eating again, and within a couple of days was back to normal, although he’s still skin and bones, nearly a month later.

20140613-083438-30878358.jpg

Keyser wanted to be outside while he was at his worst, and even spent many nights outside.

— 4 —

Once the dog came back to life, baseball season was in full swing.  The Dude has decided that it’s his favorite sport, which I find a great relief over his prior devotion to football.  His team this year is very good – for a nice change - and they’ve won most of their games.  He got to pitch one inning and did a great job once he’d warmed up.  Sadly, things have stagnated since then and he’s been stuck on second base or, worse, in the outfield.  His league here is extremely competitive, and numerous sources have led us to believe that an average player in his current league will be the star of his new league.  We’re rather looking forward to next year.

Zach pitching

Zach pitching

— 5 —

And then there was the end of the school year.  Why is it always so crazy?  I’m really not sure, but I can’t begin to say how thrilled I am by the prospect of not having to sort through any school papers for the next two months.

— 6 —

This was an emotional end to the school year, since we will be switching schools next year (and have already, technically, switched churches).  The Dude was fine, since his new school boasts his cousins, who also happen to be among his best friends.  Bear didn’t say much, but comments occasionally that he wants to stay at his old school.  Bonita refused to discuss the impending end to the school year, and hugged the toilet briefly on the morning of the last day, saying that she felt physically ill.  Poor thing. :(

— 7 —

With the impending change of schools comes a change of address as well.  First, though, we must get our house ready to sell.  We’ve lived here for nearly eleven years.  We painted most rooms shortly after we moved in, and haven’t touched it since.  The finger prints no longer wipe off, and many projectiles have dented the walls.  We’ve made good progress in the last few months- I’ve trimmed plants outside, painted the kids’ bathroom, touched up the living room, and am about five square feet from finishing the two story entry, upstairs hall, and loft (Hear me roar!).  Ray’s laid wood laminate floors, installed a new kitchen faucet, and pressure washed the deck.  My wonderful electrical engineer dad wrapped up some lose electrical ends from our basement construction.  Still, though, we have a long way to go!  I’m beating this horse as hard as I can, allowing the kids to watch more tv and play more video games than they should, trying to get this puppy on the market so we can enjoy the rest of our summer.  And so that I can write consistently again.  In the meantime, if you don’t hear from me, assume I’m working on the house.  Feel free to stop by and grab a paint brush!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

 

 

Pray Against Harvard’s Satanic Black Mass

Have you heard about this?

(Photo courtesy of www.tfpstudentaction.org)

I heard about it on Women of Grace last week, but caught the tail end of the story and didn’t know the details… namely that it is taking place at a major American University, tomorrow night at 8:30.

Apparently, the “Black Mass” takes the actual verbiage and rubrics of the Catholic Mass and makes a mockery of them, removing the names of God, Christ, and the saints, and replacing them with those of Satan and his demons.  They really love it when they have a consecrated Host to defile, though they’ve said that will not occur in this particular case.  They often use the body of a naked woman as the altar.

Every Christian – Catholic or not – should be deeply offended by this.  In fact, it’s not just Christians.  Can you imagine the outcry if a mockery of a Muslim prayer service were to be performed?  All those of faith should be horrified, and should voice their disgust!

Please take a moment to sign the petition against this abomination, here.  After you do that, you’ll see a phone number and email address for the President of Harvard.  Take a moment to give him a call and send him an email.  Call on Monday, though.  You can’t leave a message if you call today (Sunday). I tried.

Here are a few other ideas of things you might do in reparation and prayer that this farce will not take place:

  1. Fast tomorrow.  I mean a hard fast.  This is serious business.  A wise woman recently told me that her mom used to fast from hot showers and crossing her legs when she sat.  Add those in!
  2. Pray the St. Michael prayer every waking hour until you go to bed tomorrow night.
St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, Satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

 

3. Spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, adoring Our Lord.  In fact, I would love to flood the adoration chapels during this “Black Mass”, at 8:30pm EST tomorrow night.

4. Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

5. Pray the Rosary.

6. Pray

7. Pray

8. Pray

9. Love

10. Love

11. Love

May God Have Mercy on Us and On the Whole World.

 
Please leave a comment with additional ideas for prayer and acts of reparation!

Witness to God’s Goodness

When we finally got a warm day in March, I decided it was high time to take the Christmas wreath off the back door. Much to my surprise, I discovered that a pair of birds had been industriously at work, and their new home was nestled in among the faux evergreen branches.  Though I knew it would make a mess, I didn’t have the heart to remove the home these birds had worked so hard on, and so I left the wreath – and nest – in place.

What followed was a huge treat for the whole family.  We watched, day by day, as eggs were added to the nest, ultimately totaling five.  We observed the birds coming and going, and, when their blue eggs surprised us - these definitely weren’t robins! -  we did research to determine that our birds were house finches.

The eggs, visible through the glass door

The eggs, visible through the glass door

I felt it was significant and special that the eggs hatched on Good Friday.  The children were even able to watch one of the baby birds emerge from her shell during our annual Good Friday tea with friends.  It was a reminder that, even on such a sad day, we had the celebration of Easter to look forward to.

Our tiny baby birds

Our tiny baby birds

Of course, the newly hatched eggs meant that I didn’t want people going in and out of that door to access the deck.  Climbing in and out of the window was a bit inconvenient, especially for all of us women, who were wearing skirts, and even more so for those women wearing skirts who were also pregnant, but… we made it work, nonetheless, and I daresay that none of my guests will ever forget that particular Good Friday Tea.

For over two weeks after that day, we had a treat waiting for us each morning, as we quietly peered through the glass door to see how the babies had changed.  The tiny birds started off as furry pink blobs, eyes closed and utterly unaware of the faces peering at them through the clear barrier.  After several days, their bodies became covered with tufts of hair, and after a week or so, they opened their eyes.  In two short weeks, their wings and feathers became visible and their awareness developed so that they would shrink down into the nest whenever we moved the curtain to take a peek.

On Monday afternoon, at two and a half weeks old, three birds had already left the nest,  and we were blessed to watch the final two muster up their courage and take flight.

I realized that we could learn a lot from these birds, and I’ll share that in a post on another day. For now, I thought I’d just share this little miracle of God’s creation, and His goodness in letting my little family be witness to it.

I’d love to hear how God has blessed you recently!  Please share your blessings in the comment section, below!

My “Point” About the New Indiana State Standards and Common Core

Yesterday, the AP picked up this story: Indiana Approves Common Core Replacement Standards, complete with this photo:

Common Core Indiana
It ran with this caption: “Stephanie Engelman makes a point as she and other community members speak to Board of Education members, who will be voting on controversial new academic standards that would replace Common Core in Indiana, Monday, April 28, 2014, Indianapolis. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Robert Scheer)”

Hey, that’s me!

So, what’s the hubbub all about?  What point was I making, exactly?

Well, actually it wasn’t just me, but literally twenty to thirty concerned citizens who came down to the Indiana Government Center to express our views.

I was but one speaker yesterday, and so many of them were excellent,  making their points, backed by facts, figures, personal anecdotes and emotional pleas, that I feel humbled to have wound up as the “face” of us all in this AP article which is now gone global.

Sadly, our voices made little difference and the State of Indiana now boasts new educational standards which are being widely mocked as inferior, even to the Common Core from which we had worked so hard to disentangle ourselves.

The news outlets really did not present our side of the story well, even though they used sound bites from yours truly. :)  Here and here and here.  (Yes, I do look like I’m about to cry when talking to Derrick Thomas.  I wasn’t, really.  I guess I just look a little tragic when I’m nervous.)

So I’d like to attempt to succinctly share why so many of us would take time out of our lives to fight for this cause.  Not an easy task, and I’m sure I’ll leave much out.  (Hoosiers Against Common Core is an excellent resource on this topic.)

Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin, but here goes.

First, let’s just get this out of the way:  The new Indiana State Standards contain 70% of the same content as the Common Core.  One can easily identify many standards that were literally cut and pasted from CC into the Indiana standards.  This is not “for Hoosiers, by Hoosiers” as Gov. Mike Pence is claiming.  (here’s a great article from Michelle Malkin).

These new Indiana standards are, indeed, a sloppy rewrite of Common Core, with a few things added in, but it didn’t come together to form a meaningful whole, and Dr. James Milgram, in an open letter to Hoosiers, has described them as “a dramatic example of what not to do.”

But what’s it matter?  After all, the standards are only a guideline of what needs to be taught, and it provides the floor, not the ceiling, right?

Sadly, that’s not true.  For one thing, the teachers want to teach what’s going to be on the standardized test, close to the time at which it’s going to be tested, so that the students will perform well, the school will receive good marks, and the teacher will keep her job.  This prevents teachers from reaching for the ceiling, as they fear the students will forget what’s on the floor… the floor being that which will be tested in the next few months.

In addition, the standards drive our curriculum.  That’s why nearly every school in the country has purchased new textbooks in the past few years.

(Do you hear that “CHA-CHING!” coming from Pearson, Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill? And people wonder what’s driving this!)

So what’s wrong with those text books?  Well, if you have elementary school kids in a mainstream school, you’ve seen the “fuzzy math” that they’re bringing home in their backpacks!  Math that’s filled with confusing story problems.  Math where they’re asked to explain their answers – a task that I would find difficult, and which is definitely developmentally inappropriate for elementary school children!

This is math where students learn three or four different methods to arrive at a solution, before finally learning the standard algorithm at the very end.  They then practice that algorithm nine times before moving on to the next topic.

What’s missing?  MASTERY.  They never MASTER their basic math facts, let alone that standard algorithm.  I’ve seen my own very bright son struggle with this very challenge.

Sadly, Stanford Math Professor, James Milgram, has evaluated the Common Core and maintains that, by the eighth grade, American students under Common Core will be two years behind their international counterparts.  (Here’s a good article.) In a world where our children compete with international students for college placement, this is especially concerning.

How about the English Language Arts standards?  Board of Ed member Andrea Neal addressed these beautifully yesterday, a bit of which was quoted here.  Another excellent critic is Dr. Terrence Moore, professor at Hillsdale College and author of The Story-Killers: A Common-Sense Case Against the Common Core.  Moore refers to the “dumbing down” of our education, and reflects on the fact that the focus is taken off of true literature, and placed on informational texts and short stories, which do not contribute to a student’s understanding of “the human condition.” A great article can be found here.

I could go on and on, my friends, but the bottom line is this:  The Common Core standards will not drive our educational system to produce students who are brilliant thinkers.  Instead, it will lead to students who are automatons.  Students who might be ready to do a job, but will not be ready to use their God-given talents to create, develop, and innovate in order to make the world a better place.

And make no mistake.  Common Core is very much alive and well in the state of Indiana.

Many thanks to the leadership of Erin Tuttle and Heather Crossin here in our Hoosier state.  Without these two powerhouse women, our fight against Common Core never would have gotten off the ground. And thanks, also, to my sister, Suzanne, who brought this issue to my attention and finally convinced me to (begrudgingly) get involved.

I know that I’ve only begun to make the case here, and I’m sure there are many who agree and disagree with what I’ve said.  What would you add? Please tell us what you think!

Christ’s Thirst for the Love of Souls

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”  – John 19:28

When we read these words, we tend to assume that Jesus’ thirst was a bodily thirst.  After all, the man had suffered terrible torture, carried a heavy burden for some distance, and hung suspended on a cross in the midday sun for several hours.  Yet, what among Christ’s life would really lead us to believe that a reference to a bodily need would be among His final words?

Indeed, Our Lord’s cry was not for wine or for water, but for the love of souls.  In crying out His thirst, He was pleading with us – with you, and with me – to know in our hearts how very much He loves us, and begging us to return that love to Him.

A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. -John 19:29

When they heard his cry, the soldiers cruelly gave him sour wine.  Yet, are you and I any better?  How much time do we spend soaking in His love for us?  How much time and effort do we spend, actively returning that love?  Do we feel it in our bones, so that the mere thought of Him brings us to our knees?

No.  Instead of giving him our very best, the finest wine from our tables, we give him our sour left overs.  We spend time in prayer… when we can.  We give to the poor… when we have a little extra money.  We offer help to one who’s struggling… when we’re not in a rush to be somewhere else.

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. -John 19:30

And yet, Christ knew our inadequacies.  He didn’t argue with those soldiers, “No, no, I said I’m thirsty!  That sour wine isn’t going to help at all!”  He “received the sour wine,” spoke His final words, “It is finished,

and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

He knows we are sinners, and yet he loves us.  He knows that we will offer him our leftovers, and yet he loves us.  He knows that a tragic few will strive for perfection, and yet he loves us.

Loves us so much that he died on the cross for us.  Loves us so much that his cry continues, I thirst!

He accepted the sour wine – our sour wine – knowing that it was the very reason why he had to offer Himself up.

And still he thirsts.

Cristo crucificado
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Reflection inspired by the book,  33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration, by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC (affiliate link, thanks for your support!)

Comment Trouble Fixed… I hope!

Thanks a billion to everyone who replied with encouraging words to my previous post, The Realities of Writing, whether via the blog post or Facebook.  I greatly appreciate it and your kind words truly do keep me going!

I heard from several people who attempted to comment, but received an error, and know of another friend who thought she had commented, but I never saw it on my end.  I called a meeting with my Senior Webmaster (AKA, my husband) and we believe we have identified and corrected the problem.  If you have had trouble in the past, if you wouldn’t mind attempting a comment on this post, and seeing if it goes through, I sure would appreciate it! (That was my best Gomer Pyle.)  If you still have trouble, please email me at Stephanie at afewbeadsshort .com.

(For any techies out there, the comment problem was apparently related to the Jet Pack plug in. I wasn’t using it, so I just de-installed it.)

Speaking of Gomer Pyle, a little teaser about my book… two scenes are set at the Mayberry Café in good ol’ Danville, Indiana.  Hmmmmm…. now, what would my young heroine be doing at a restaurant in a podunk town in Indiana?

Don Knotts Jim Nabors Andy Griffith Show 1964

The Realities of Writing

Like most wanna be authors, I went into this whole idea of writing a book – and getting it published – with a sweet naiveté akin to a toddler approaching a pit bull that was trained by a backwoods psychopath.

Pit Bull with baby 1892

All it takes is a great story, well written, with likeable characters and some good imagery, right?  A wonderfully intelligent and inspired publisher will pick it up and – voila! – I’ll have myself a contract, with plans for publishing the whole series.

Oh, how wrong I was.  There’s so much more to it.  First there’s the editing process, which I am beginning to realize could go on for years.  Every time I reread a passage, I want to write it a little bit differently.  And, as I’ve received reviews from a few friends (which, fortunately, were generally very promising), I recognize still more passages that need improvement.

Then there’s the question: to agent, or not to agent?  I was blithely on the path toward submitting to publishers without an agent, but then a talk with my friend Kyra Jacobs made me doubt the wisdom in this.  So, I’m now in the early stages of researching and querying agents.

Another thing to consider:  Publishers want an author who already has a national platform.  My blog gets an average of 375 hits a day, about 80% of which might actually be people.  Honestly, I can’t imagine who these 300 people are.

Hello? lo…lo….lo…

Hello? lo…lo…lo…

Did you hear the echo?  Try it yourself.  I swear there’s an echo.

Seriously.  Sometimes I don’t think anyone’s really out there.  I’m convinced that I have five friends who read the blog, but perhaps a publisher can be convinced otherwise?

Honestly, though, when I looked at my numbers today and compared them to those from a year ago, I realized that my traffic has actually increased by about 2.5 times.  Do I have the national platform publishers want?  I’m not sure.  But, I’ll celebrate the growth, and thank the readers who are out there for their ongoing support. (Now, would you please, please, pretty please add a comment, so I know you’re really out there?  I swear I hear crickets chirping.)

Regardless, I need to continue to grow this platform, so now I’m researching how to increase blog readership.

Then, there’s the fact that my hubby isn’t a big fan of my “work” that has yet to bring in any real money, so I also need to make a better effort to monetize the site.  How to do that?  (Note the new Google ad.  My old blog was still somehow drawing in a few pennies a month from a Google ad, even though I haven’t posted to it in a year and a half, so I figured I’d better throw one on this site as well.)

Then there’s the fact that I need to get out and network with other writers, to share in the joys and sorrows of this biz, learn from them, and hope that – maybe – they can even learn a little something from me.  I think I’ll enjoy this aspect of author life, but for now I’m just struggling to figure out where, how, when, and with whom I should do it.

So, that’s the reality of writing.  It’s one tenth creative art and nine tenths research, marketing and administration.  The creative art fills me up to overflowing, makes me feel that I am fulfilling my purpose in life, and using my God-given talents for His glory.  The research, marketing, and admin part sucks me dry, uses up what little spare time I possess, and leaves me feeling that I’m peddling and peddling but my tires are bare and I’m going up the road to Mt. Evans.

Don’t worry, I’m keeping the faith.  I believe this is God’s work, and He will provide everything I need.  Nonetheless, I ask for your prayers, encouragement, and any advice you may have to give!

P.S. Thanks to my friend, author Kyra Jacobs, who has very generously shared her time and knowledge with me. If you enjoy a good romantic suspense novel, grab a copy of her book, Armed With Steele!  The cover may seem a little steamy for my readers, but I promise it’s quite tame by romance standards!  :)  And as an added bonus, it’s set in my hometown of Ft. Wayne, IN!
And, yes, that’s an affiliate link. Monetize, right?

 

 

 

 

 

7 Quick Takes, Lying on my back with my head in a cabinet

— 1 —

One more day till spring break.  One kid has a fever, and two are complaining that their stomachs hurt.  This does not bode well for our “vacation”.  Not that we’re going anywhere, but I’d like to do something other than nurse sick kids all week.  Please pray that the amazing Lear immune system kicks in and everyone gets/stays healthy.

— 2 —

The Dude unknowingly paid me a lovely compliment recently.  In sharing with me how he would describe me to a priest that he was looking forward to meeting, he said, “You might know my mom.  She’s kind of tall [what?!], with brown hair, green eyes… and she’s freakishly Christian.”  I said, “Dude, did you just describe me as freakishly Christian?” to which he replied, “Yeah, mom.  You’re like Jimmy John’s.  They’re freakishly fast.  You’re freakishly Christian.”

A mom could be a lot of “freakish” things to her ten year old son.  Freakishly Christian?  OK.  I’ll take it.

— 3 —

Now, this might lead some of you to wonder as to the spiritual life of my dear son. I’m trying, folks.  ‘Nuff said.

— 4 —

My Catholic birthday was Wednesday!  I had great fun telling Bonita that I’m only one year older than her… in the faith that is.  Boo and I usually attend Mass on Wednesdays because that’s when the big kids go with school.  It wasn’t easy getting there this week, but we made it, although we arrived a few minutes late.  I’m so glad we did.  There was something incredibly special about receiving the Eucharist, reflecting on the fact that it was nine years ago to the day that I first received this precious gift, and feeling incredibly grateful for having been called into the Church.  I guess I’ve never knowingly attended Mass on my Catholic birthday before, but you’d better believe I’ll never miss it again.

— 5 —

The same day happens to be my patron saint’s feast day.  My RCIA class was never encouraged to choose a patron saint, so I found mine a few years later, when I was struggling in my Arbonne business and seeking support.  I Googled “patron saint for business women” and discovered St. Margaret Clitherow.  At the time, the similarities between my life seemed quite remarkable – and, no, not because of the second sentence of the link referenced above. :)  She was a convert, whose husband did not convert in her lifetime (Ray at this time showed no signs of conversion).  She had three children, two boys and a girl, as did I at the time.  And she was a business woman, helping her husband in his business.  In addition to these similarities, I hoped that, if ever I were presented with persecution such as she underwent, I would respond in the same manner.  And thus, I took St. Margaret Clitherow as my patron saint.  It wasn’t until later that I realized her feast day and my Catholic birthday were one and the same.  The actual day of her death – March 25th – also happens to be a notable day in our family; the day Bear finally came home from the NICU.

margaretclitherowright

 

— 6 —

With the housing market going crazy, and our neighbors having sold their house four days after they put in on the market, we are in a frenzy to get the house ready for sale.  For the first time in my life, I painted a room all by myself.  And I put up the new shower curtain rod and towel hooks.  OK, OK, this may seem silly to you do-it-yourselfers out there, but this was a major accomplishment for me.  It left me feeling empowered that, just because I’m a woman with four kids, doesn’t mean I can’t tackle a project and get ‘er done.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture before the kids made their usual mess in the bathroom and Boo screwed up the aesthetic anyways by peeing on her white towel so now a pink one is hanging in her place.  Maybe next week I’ll get that picture up for you. ;)

— 7 —

Since I don’t have the aforementioned pic, I’ll grace you with another, less flattering one.  In fact, this may be one of the most unflattering pictures ever taken of me.  OK, probably not, especially since the illusion of a possible six pack under the IU shirt does exist (trust me, it’s only an illusion).  Since my dear husband posted it all over Facebook, I might as well share it here as well.  Take note of the absolute glee with which I appear to do plumbing work, with a huge smile and arms uplifted as if to say, “GOOOOOOO, Pipes!”.  It’s like I’m the plumbing cheerleader or something.  Instead of pompoms, I hold a wrench, and in lieu of a cute little cheer costume, I don elegant safety goggles.  I don’t jump up and down and do acrobatics, though.  My work is done lying on my back (People! That is not where I was going!) with my head stuck in a cabinet.

From there we could go off on all sorts of tangents, so I’d best end this post.  Thanks for reading, and please leave a comment so I know you stopped by!

fixing the sink cropped

 

 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!