Goodbye to a Season

Last week, I boxed up about 20-odd books, slapped a shipping label on them, and sent them on their merry way to the southeastern U.S.

All the books in the box were books I was supposed to read and review for Christian Children’s Book Review. Many of them I’ve had for two years. Sitting. Collecting dust. Some went from Kansas City to Seattle and back again with me. I feel a little sorry for the woman who will open the box this week (maybe today) and find dust on many of the covers.

I first started reviewing for CCBR when my daughter wasn’t yet a year old. The founder and managing editor I count as a friend, and we were both delighted to meet each other when I went to the Pacific Northwest two years ago for my son’s bone marrow transplant.

Since transplant, it had become increasingly obvious that the time I had for CCBR was basically nil. During transplant, my son spent 70 days of the roughly 160 days we were there in the hospital. After we returned, my time and energy was devoted to putting out the fires associated with his care, growing more determined that my books were publishable, and reestablishing a normal relationship with my daughter and husband.

But I wasn’t ready to declare defeat.

I tried putting weekly reminders on my phone to do reviews. They were ignored by yours truly, other than having a guilt trip every week, at least once.

I tried moving the books so they were accessible, only to have my husband gripe about the piles of books everywhere. (Admittedly, we live in a tiny house, and there’s just not enough room for everything.) So back to the bedroom they went, where I only really saw them when I went to bed around midnight, or later.

Until a couple weeks ago, when my editor asked me what was up, and I admitted I just couldn’t figure out how to fit CCBR in with everything else I had going on. I’ve published three books in the last eight months, with a fourth in the works, and three more in the pipeline for (hopefully) by the end of the year. I’m a homeschooling mom. And my son still sees multiple specialists and therapists, with appointments at the minimum of once a week. We both agreed that it was probably best if I passed along my books to another reviewer.

You can’t imagine the sigh of relief I had. A burden had been lifted.

I’m incredibly grateful for the time I spent with CCBR. Kristina, the founder, has helped me figure out a few nuances in grammar that I, admittedly, still screw up a lot. And she has been a truly good friend throughout the last several years. I don’t regret the time I was there in the least, although I do regret that my pride kept me from throwing in the towel much earlier.

Advertisements

Counting My Blessings

I am a very blessed woman.

I live in America, in relative peace.

I have a family who loves me, children who are (mostly) healthy whom I adore.

I get to pursue my passions, and enjoy the work I do (on most days–every once in a while I hate it.)

And I’ve gotten to spend three decades of my life with all four of my grandparents living.

Last year, when we returned from Seattle following my son’s bone marrow transplant, I lost my first grandparent the night of our arrival home. I was lucky to be with her when she passed away, to have the chance to say goodbye.

Last night, my family said goodbye to my grandfather on the other side of my family. I was with him, as well, when he went to be with Jesus.

He was 94.

As I hugged my aunts, uncle, grandmother, and cousin, we were able to reminisce a little about the life he lived. He was born in rural North Carolina. Had several brothers and sisters. Served in the Pacific Theater of WWII. Married my grandmother before the end of the war, celebrating 69 years earlier this year. Worked for the post office. Raised my father and his siblings. Could be very loving, but just as cantankerous. He was a bit eccentric, and many things we did, many of us in the family shook our heads over. But he loved us, and adored my son, calling him his buddy.

In recent years, he’d gone down hill, and for many years, I’ve wondered if he’d see another birthday, another Christmas, another wedding anniversary with Grandma. I’d held out hope he’d get to celebrate 70 years together with Grandma next year, but it wasn’t to be.

While I remember the cantankerous man who could snap at us grandkids, I also remember him and Grandma gardening with me, tending their cows, and taking me on rides on their property and picking wildflower bouquets for me along the way. One of my fondest memories is knowing that every night, both he and my Grandma would read the Bible. I have no idea how many times they’ve read it through, but that has always been a stand-out memory of him (and her.) Every Sunday that I was at their place, we’d go to church, almost without fail. And he took my family and me to see the Passion Play when I was 5 or so.

We’ll say our final goodbyes next week. In the meantime, I will be reflecting on my memories of him. Hopefully, a few more I’d forgotten about will surface as I talk with my family.

Go hug your family. If you’re blessed enough to have grandparents with you, be sure to tell them how much you love them today. I’m glad my final words to him were, “Grandpa, I love you.”

Until next time…

Adventures in the Great Outdoors, I

If you took the way that my husband (The Man Of The House, or TMOTH) and I grew up and compared them, you would see the reason why the two of us are vastly different. Unless we were at my grandparents’ farm, we didn’t do much outdoorsy stuff–camping, hiking, fishing, etc. My husband? was outside ALL THE TIME.

Ironically, my husband and I met on a camping trip–the weekend was the first time I’d ever stayed overnight in a tent.

While I’m still not an “outdoorsy” girl–I’d still rather be at home with my books and laptop–I’ve been getting better about being outside. Or at least I’m trying to be.

Frequently on the weekends, my husband says for me to pack a cooler and grab some diapers for our three-year-old, and off we go. Sometimes I grumble, if not to him, to myself. I’m not a spontaneous person, I like to have some time to plan things when possible. An hour to pack everything we’ll need for the rest of the day and it’s 11 AM? Yeah, doesn’t thrill me too much.

But, I like what it’s teaching my kids–to be flexible, roll with the punches, and most importantly, enjoy the outdoors (although, much of the time, all they’re enjoying at this age are movies in the car and an excessively long car ride.)

Father’s Day was one of these days. On the way to church, TMOTH made noises that he wanted to go fishing. So, I had about a two hour warning before we got home that this was on the plate. Get home, pack lunch, grab the diapers, head out. 

Then, what inevitably happens with us, “Where are we going?”

“I don’t know. You tell me.”

“It’s Father’s Day. You pick.”

“I don’t know where to go!”

A bluegill our daughter caught on Father’s Day

I sigh, make a few half-hearted suggestions. We stop and he retrieves the Gazeteer from the trunk. I start telling him directions. The kids watch “How to Train Your Dragon” for the 17th time in the last few weeks. The younger one naps. The dog is cramped, on the floor between the front and back seats of our mid-sized sedan.

We’re all wishing we had a Suburban, especially the dog.

Eventually, we find a spot we’ve been to before, a long, long time ago–maybe before the kids came around. TMOTH and our daughter fish.

Our daughter catches two small bluegill, TMOTH catches a small catfish and a small bluegill.

I keep our son from falling into the water, take pictures of dragonflies when I can get close enough to them without our son getting too close and scaring them off. We huddle down together after retrieving our hats from the car as light showers come across the lake and hit us head on. By the time we leave, my T-shirt is soaked from the rain.

I’m cold, haven’t had dinner, and am tired, but other than gently reminding my husband he neglected to get me something to eat when I couldn’t eat at Subway (I started a gluten-free diet last fall, so Subway is NOT on my menu,) I don’t say too much. I do adjust the thermostat in the car to something a little warmer, then help my husband figure out where the heck to go. We take a wrong turn or two (I’ve gotten turned around on where we are,) and I mark the Gazeteer in ink on where to go again, and scratch off roads shown on the map that aren’t roads.

It’s been a successful day overall. We made it home in one piece. The kids got to run around and fish. I took several pictures, none I’m thrilled with, but they’re okay. And more importantly, my husband got me out of the house. I’ve become quite a homebody the last couple years. Having your life center around the health and wellness of your immune-compromised son will do that to you.

Next up on our list of challenges–a possible weekend trip to a cabin, or maybe even in a tent.

I’m not sure I’m ready yet.

Until next time…

On Meeting "Strangers"

While I was in Seattle, and even on the way there, I was able to meet some “strangers”. All of them were WRITERS!

Honestly, one of the highlights of my five-and-a-half months in Seattle was being able to meet some pretty cool people I’ve known online, some for upwards of seven years, a few of which are familiar commenters around these parts!

Today’s post is more of a “travelogue” as I’m just going to share some pictures of yours truly with those I was finally able to meet in person.

Author K.M. Weiland & Liberty Speidel
It was a very brisk March night when we
met over cheesecake.

Five Christian writers gathered at Starbucks
Left side, front to rear: Lynnette Bonner, DeWayne
Ruggles, Steve Mathisen
Right side, front to rear: Janalyn Voigt, Liberty Speidel
Liberty Speidel & Kristina Seleshanko
I was so grateful that she & her family opened their
home up to my son and me for a day!

In addition to the writers, we also met a bunch of fellow Shwachman Diamond parents and patients… too bad I didn’t get any pictures that I can post to here!

Until next time,

Always with the Questions…

“What do you write?”

My husband and I were in a doctor’s appointment with a doctor who may potentially perform our son’s bone marrow transplant. He had asked me if I would be the primary caregiver while in the hospital. “Yes,” I reply. “I’m a stay at home mom and a writer.”

That’s when I got THE QUESTION.

I’ve gotten it over the years, so the reply has started to just roll off my tongue.

“Murder mysteries, book reviews, and the occasional sci-fi,” I say with a smile.

The doctor and transplant coordinator laugh, and the doctor says, “Well maybe while you are here, you will get an idea on something to write!”

Sadly, I thought later on as we left for the parking garage, he’s probably not far from the truth, especially given my propensity for hating doctors and hospitals in general, and this situation in particular. And, I tend to have a running list in my head of things that will be useful down the road where stories are concerned.

But, then, you never know where that one little detail may come in handly. So, it’s good to stay on your toes.

So, will a scenario with a murdered doctor in a children’s hospital come up in my writing? You never know… Most of the time, I don’t always know where my brain is headed. 🙂

———————-

By the way, if you’re in the United States, don’t forget to vote tomorrow. And, if you’re a Republican, a new law passed by Congress gives you the right to vote twice, three times if you’re in Chicago. 😉 j/k

Until next time,

Liberty

Topsy-Turvy

The last ten days have been anything but normal. And, the news TMOTH and I got last week has definitely turned our world on its ear.

Our son is headed for bone marrow transplant.

When I got the news a week ago, I fell apart. My world has been rocked. How could this bubbly, hyperactive, absolutely most adorable little boy in the world need such a risky procedure?

But, at this point, he does. We’ve got a lot of steps to go through before the ultimate decision will be made. And, we have to find a donor–it’s not certain any of his immediate family will be a match. The likelihood is 25% for his sister, and 2% for both TMOTH and me–29% chance that one of the three of us will match.

The dust is just starting to settle and I can think straight again after getting the call last Tuesday. But most of my energy is being spent trying to figure out what’s next, and looking down the road to the next few stages of treatment. Still hoping that when we go in to do another biopsy prior to transplant that the numbers have changed and we can hold off. I’d rather deal with biopsies every 3, 6, or 12 months than transplant.

I don’t know what this means for my blog, or even my writing in general. I know I’ll need to write to deal with the stress. And it seems like I’ve had three major things happen in just the last few weeks: first, deciding it was time to say goodbye to “Homebody” and move on; second, a personal decision to work on something I’d been struggling with for a long time; now, this. All in a matter of just a few weeks.

I’ll check in when I can, try to post as I’m inspired or led… and this blog may turn into more of a journal of our journey, at least for a while.

Thank you, loyal readers, for any prayer you happen to send my family’s direction.

PS: If you should feel so led, please consider becoming a marrow donor. It’s an easy, painless process to get on the registry (although there is a small fee unless it’s associated with a donor drive). Please check out Marrow.org for more information. — LS

Growing On Up: 5 Lessons on Writing Learned in the Garden

I started a garden this year.

It was sort of a last minute thing, and I really didn’t prepare like I should have, but despite it all, it’s been fun to see my plants grow… a few taller than TMOTH and myself (and TMOTH is 6’4″/1.93 meters tall!!)

My garden at the beginning of  the year

My previous gardening experiences have left much to be desired. I grew up with a large garden in our backyard, where my mom would (sometimes) plant a ton of tomatoes, and occasionally other things like corn, peppers, and melons. But, since I married TMOTH, I’ve mostly had a black thumb. I can’t start seeds to save me, and many plants I’ve bought at the store die.

This year, I was actually successful (at least up to now!) Eight tomato plants, five sweet pepper plants, and one lonely chili pepper plant. Oh, and an ever-expanding patch of oregano.

Of course, my water bill has been going up thanks to the huge drought Kansas is in… *sigh*

TMOTH was adamant–he wasn’t going to tend to my garden for me. I have a tendency to not go outside at ALL when it gets hot. So, having a small garden seemed reasonable.

And, I’m kind of glad I started small.

So far as I write this, my city has had 20 days in excess of 100° Fahrenheit. We’ve had less than 4″ of rain since June 1, 2012. Normally, we’d have had about three times that by now. I’ve had to be out pretty much every day to water, occasionally twice, or my plants start wilting.

Homegrown, home-canned tomato sauce

Because of the extreme heat, I’ve forgone any trips of any lengths of time. My plants would be dead or close to it, I fear, if left for four days (and yes, I know I should get a water timer, but that hasn’t happened yet.)

Of course, all this has led to some fruitful results. I’ve picked a few peppers so far, but even more tomatoes. And, I’m flexing my canning muscles. So far, I’ve canned my own tomato sauce, and am hoping to soon have enough tomatoes again I can do my own salsa, too.

In the midst of it all, I’ve learned quite a few lessons, some that I can translate into writing lessons.

  1. Plan Ahead — My decision to do a garden was made hastily. If I’d started working on it earlier, I could have had much more space cleared, and hence, more plants/more produce. As a writing lesson, this is translated to outlining. I’m not a firm believer in outlining, but it’s growing on me. Especially given this experience.
  2. Give Me Space — You can probably see that my first picture, I had things planted kind of close. I was ill prepared for how well my plants would grow, since my previous attempts at growing tomatoes and the like had produced straggly-looking plants. Writing lesson: don’t jump right into editing. Let your writing sit for a while.
  3. A Mariana’s Peace Tomato from my garden — not a Roma!
  4. Do Your Research… or Not — I bought 8 tomato plants from a local grower. I’d been adamant–I wanted Roma Tomatoes, the kind best suited for canning sauce. The grower told me she’d give me some Roma’s, but she also had a different kind of Roma called a Mariana’s Peace. So, I bought four of each. Well, the Roma’s grew like I knew they should, but when the Mariana’s Peace started to get big, I knew I’d been sold a bill of goods. These weren’t Roma’s, but beefsteaks! After I’d harvested quite a few of the tomatoes, I researched them–something I should have done right off the bat. However, I was pleased to learn they’re an heirloom variety, have a lot of meat to them, great flavor, and seem to have mixed well with the Roma’s. Writing lesson: I’m not huge on research, never really have been. Being a pantser, I rely on intuitive or stored knowledge, occasionally a blog by Lee Lofland, Wikipedia searches, or my small writer’s reference library in my bedroom/office. Really have to stop doing that. I’ve had to rewrite more scenes because I later learn of major inaccuracies. Which is why I’m contemplating asking a couple of my legislator friends to allowing me to shadow them come January–despite the fact I’ve been a legislative intern twice–since I’ve got two new ideas for novels that would involve a legislative setting. I need to be a bit more disciplined about research.
  5. Deal With Your Circumstances — I had no idea I was going to deal with a drought like we’d had. Even though I follow Gary Lezak who came up with the LRC (Lezak’s Recurring Cycle) which is a weather theory I believe has a great deal of scientific merit, I didn’t see us having a drought as extreme as we’ve had. I figured it’d be hot–we had a mild winter, more rain than snow, and I think I was wearing shorts as early as February. So I was prepared for the heat. But, I’ve had to be out every day, usually in temps nearing 100°, and that’s not something I’m used to. I actually hate the heat. But because I saw my little tomatoes growing, and had visions of maybe supplementing our food sources in a significant manner, I was out there, watering, tending, trimming, and harvesting, even if I was tired, hot, sweaty, or sick. Writing Lesson: Your circumstances are your circumstances. Deal with them as best as you can. If your schedule is unpredictable, fit in 10 minutes of writing between appointments.
  6. My tomatoes quickly became overgrown.
  7. Learn From Your Mistakes —  I desperately needed to have about twice as much space for my tomatoes as I ended up having. I can access them only from the perimeter, otherwise, I have to crane my neck and sometimes reach in blind to find my ripe red fruit. Next year will be different. Come fall, probably in October, I plan to Round-Up a significant part of the yard (probably much to our landlord’s chagrin!) and add compost to all our areas that I’m clearing after a couple of weeks of killing off the weeds and crabgrass. I hope to have twice as many tomato plants next year, maybe even three times as many, spread over at least four times the amount of space. Writing Lesson: As I detailed in last week’s post, I made the hard choice to give up on my project “Homebody”. It was a tough decision, but one that needed to happen. While I’d hesitate to call “Homebody” a mistake, I definitely learned from it. Maybe I’ll detail some of the lessons learned in a future blog post.

Question for you: What lessons have you learned about writing from your outside activities?

Until next time,