My children are all away at school now.

I have no goats to milk, rabbits to groom, or chickens to keep alive (as my once-necessary source of eggs-that-don’t-give-me-migraines).

I have read over 180 books this year, since I quit feeling embarrassed for my high-consumption of novels, and for the first time in forever I can sit still and feel a sense of choice and options in how I will spend my time.

Years ago, when Jay was traveling, and I had rabbits/goats/chickens (and rats, God-help-me) in the depressive dark of winter, along with three beautiful children who looked to me for all things good, I was much more limited in my choices.

One funny part, in a quirked way, was that I couldn’t choose to write. Writing wasn’t optional if I wanted to be sane, kind, and have any energy at all. Writing was essential like showers were essential: maybe not to life, but without question to quality of life.

I remember the moment when I realized that I was perpetually falling into “crisis mode,” that lifestyle where nothing mattered but staying warm fed and sane. Trouble with that, was the niggling part of my mind that insisted healthy also needed to be in the equation somewhere, especially since this looked to be my lifestyle for a while.

This resulted in a life-changing awareness:

If I’m going to spend this much time in crisis mode, I need a way more efficient crisis mode!

And you could say that’s what I’ve spent the last three years learning.

We’ve gradually removed stressors from our lives — first the rabbits, then the goats, then the little house, then the chickens…

We’ve added margin: Jay travels less, we have more physical space, we live closer to Jay’s work, so we have more time-space, and now the children are all off being taught by somebody else.

One of the intriguing things about being on Facebook is watching trends within my own news-feed. A kindergarten mom shared her tear-red face on day-one, and asked the next day if she’d ever get used to giving up her boy.

I’ve never been particularly sentimental, but I’ve also been particularly good at treating whatever it is I want to do as simply normal. I never considered sending my kids away for kindergarten. I didn’t seen the point, really. Natasha’s first day of school looked a lot like every other day of her 5/6-year-old existence, with reading, songs and a bit of colored-bear mathish games thrown in.

The main difference was that I mentioned her neighbor friend was going to his first day of school. Natasha froze, then, very carefully said, “I’m not ready to be away from you all day. I’m not big enough.”

This, I loved.

And I also loved how everyone was ready this year.

So now we’re on day-three, and I have the option of sitting quietly. Having learned and lived a sustainable “crisis mode,” having become familiar with the absolute minimum that will keep a home together while those in them are at their weakest, I am reminding me to pace myself.

Usually I do my best work when I’m alone in the house, so the last two days have been a bit tense while I find a balance between maximizing my alone time (so I will be able to focus better on the kids once they’re back), and doing it in a way that doesn’t leave me physically exhausted.

The thing is, all this margin and reading and rest has been *wonderful,* but in a way it’s underscored how much the last five years have sucked out of me. I tried to be active and productive and go maximize my empty house (clean! organize! exercise!) and I was reminded that I am still low on stamina and strength.

So I’m still playing things by ear. My one big goal this semester is to finish the second part of my lindorm story, with the smaller (as in quieter, less-forceful) goal of recovering health is working in the background.


December 2013 (Facebook Compilation)

December 3

Elisha: I can’t sleep. Too many scary thoughts.
Me: Choose nice thoughts.
Elisha: [more rambling excuses]
me [going back to Hulu and the Castle episode with the baby that is totally cracking me up]: Fine. Diaper’s clean. Snap up the baby’s onesie.
[He does. Tries to come over and watch with me.]
Me: Nope. Now snap closed his jammies. You’re not doing anything anyway. “Can’t sleep,” remember?
E: I don’t want to snap his jammies closed.
Me: You can do that or go to bed…
E: I’ll go to bed. [Walks off.]


December 5

Jay and I are still trying to see if we can get away without putting up a tree this year.

I held the kids off with “wait till Daddy gets home [from Antarctica],” and so far the delight (and work– we restarted schooling) of his return has kept it out of mind.

We parents would be fully content with no seasonal rearranging.


December 10

Good list.

It has been said that the Church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners. Yet, most of us would much rather pretend to be a saint on display than call…
Joanna Holman: Yes x5 (especially for discussions on loneliness that are more than just join MORE things!)
December 12
Becky Heishman's photo.

Since taking in a baby at the beginning of November, I’ve had a few people ask how they could help me out.

The consistent answer I’ve settled on is giving me time to write.

That is, if I trust you enough to watch my kids (and I am pretty particular on this), and the “you” is also willing to watch a baby, I will have you here, or drive to your place, then tuck into a corner somewhere and write for an hour or two.

The funny thing to me is how people respond.

I had two different ppl volunteer for this, and others who shrug and roll with it, but a couple people hesitated, or offered and alternative before I insisted there was nothing I needed more.

My guess was the fourth kid (and being a baby) was a sticking point. But I saw another commonality between hesitaters.

Best I can read them, they’re all extroverts. Asking for help to be alone has got to seem like raking snow: “What’s the point?!”

~ ~ ~

Grammarly's photo.
Grammarly's photo.
December 13

One of the things that went wrong while Jay was gone (other than crazy weather– slick roads, -30, and two huge dumps of snow that I had to personally shovel while the surprise baby slept– and the water pump dying and needing to be replaced) was that my dishwasher also died.

So for the past month my inefficient self (and my wonderful mother, weekly while Jay was gone) has been hand-washing all our dishes.

Replacing said dishwasher is tricky, b/c it’s the portable type you roll from its waterless resting place to the sink where you hook it up for the wash cycle.

New is over $600, so I’ve been watching Craigslist for a month praying for an adequate replacement.

And that prayer was answered this week. Another family replaced their old portable DW, and put this one up as free. Jay said he wouldn’t have paid money, looking at it, but it WORKS!

I just loaded my third batch of dishes, and I’m finally guessing my source of unexpected margin.

I’m trying to decide if this is the first time this year I have both a settled baby and dishwasher that works.


December 15

Know what’s interesting? Running into grown-ups with kids your age who knew you when you were little.

They remember things you don’t.

And what they remember is interesting, because it was writ large enough to stick in their brain all these years.

Today I spoke with a woman who remembers me as a very detail-oriented child who liked things *just so*, very orderly.

And that sparked some long-buried memories about my child self that still has echoes today: I was never orderly in the clean-room sense of the word, but even now I have categories for everything, and (for example) out of hundreds of books in my home I can put my hand on exactly what I’m looking for in less than a minute.

I don’t like detail-management (which makes life tough for a homeschooling mama of three) but I relish precision.

And somehow these truths have coexisted for over 30 years.

Jen Sparks: I ran into the father of a primary school friend yesterday. Apparently, he thought I’d never have kids, as I was “too much of a free spirit”. Wasn’t quite sure how to process that one. I never thought of myself as a free spirit.

Me: Jen, I see your spirit “free” in its resistance to being put down. I see your spirit unwilling to accept the you-diminishing roles other people have tried to write for you– whether in church, relationships or even body image.

You are a formidable woman, and six kids only underscores your great strength.

Jen: I’ll be over here trying not to cry…

~ ~ ~

Equal opportunity snuggler.

Amy Jane Helmericks's photo.

New blog post at Untangling Tales.

By writing about what we fear, we invite others to see us, and to be known, even if the reader is someone we will never meet, because there will be that person whose fear matches mine.
December 19

Deep breath.
Walk on.

Kitchen Stewardship

“In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.”

For all the times you say, “This world is starting to scare me,” and “It seems like things are just getting worse and worse,” remember that We Were Made for These Times – cling to the Cross and stand strong!

(The rest of the article from The Unbounded Spirit –>

“A depressive person sleeps less, and the nighttime becomes a dreaded chore that one can never achieve properly.”

(from, A First Rate Madness, by Ghaemi)

So well-said! I laughed out-loud in the bookstore.


December 23

Appointment-making has never been so soft and cuddly.

Amy Jane Helmericks's photo.

Just passed 70K on the Novel I started last month. My goal: finish the first draft– the whole of the first draft– by the end of Christmas break.

Huge thanks and kudos to Jay for making this possible.

December 24
Not ready for Christmas? You’re not alone, and it’s okay. Here’s why.
December 27

Fresh Sherlock (fanfic) news, Tiana and Becky.

The legendary detective and his sidekick, Dr. Watson, are now in the public domain, a judge has ruled.
December 28

So much beauty and truth here:

“I’m a lesbian. You’re talking about all of this love and mercy. What does this mean for me?”
I answered, “It means the same for you as anybody else.”

For all I don’t know, I am confident that nobody gets a separate gospel.

~ ~ ~


Becky Miller: That made me burst out laughing.

Me: YES! Me too!

~ ~ ~

You need to read this.

Yes, you.

You train those around you how to treat you. Never say no? Here are four types…
December 30

So happy:

The Good Samaritan with the plow truck was working across the street again today.
I grabbed the braided loaf out of the freezer and ran it across the street to him.

Poor guy seemed to think I was asking him to do it again, but I said my husband was home and we have a snowblower now, this was just a thank-you.

Backstory for you new folks– we had a 10″ snow dump less than a week after Jay left for a month in Antarctica. I was shoveling like Crazy– 3 HOURS!– when this old guy drove across the street and took over. 5 minutes and things were clear.

Absolute Godsend.


December 31


Thomas Crandall

My New Year’s resolution is to write ‘2014’ instead of ‘2013’

My year-end letter is up at Untangling Tales.

Here’s my annual letter, the one I decided not to mail because I prefer readers who volunteer to read the info (blog visitors) rather than “forcing” it on folks. 😉 I would describe 2013 as the mos…

November 2013 (Facebook compilation)

November 2

Brought home two shy bengals this week.

Hid the whole first day, enjoyed the couch while we were gone the second day, and lasted on the couch today until the kids came out.

I think we call that progress.
The brownish gray one is Tiger. The ruddier one is Garnet.

Amy Jane Helmericks's photo.
Amy Jane Helmericks's photo.
November 4

5:42 am: /end 30-minute mild theological rant about [mumblemumble].

Jay: I’m off to shower. I don’t have any answers.

Me: I don’t expect answers; that wasn’t the point. I just don’t want us avoiding the questions because of that.

~ ~ ~

Four days into ?#?NaNoWriMo?.

Passed 25,000 words (due to a lot of hours from Jay over a long weekend. About 25% of the way through my story and enjoying a speed of ~ 1200 words/hour, due to the month of planning that led up to November.

My first (and maybe second/third) NaNo, this was the time I wanted to quit: before the end of the first week.

I was making my 1,667-word/day minimum each time, but I wasn’t sure I could maintain the pace and wanted to quit before I failed.

Sticking it out each time proved something to ME.

Noveling is WORK, it is worth it, and it is worthy work I am capable of.

Consider what you are doing– what you spend your hours on– as practice. Practice what you want to perfect.

Be encouraged: now isn’t forever, and it might help us toward the future we’re wishing for.


November 7

So, those new Bengals I mentioned? They don’t “meow.”

They “Mama” and “menow?” And “Ohwaow.”

The difference these last couple nights has been the being up an hour or two, so they (the cats) don’t startle me awake wondering who’s calling for me.

Just at night up til now, but Garnet seems to be transitioning into “I deserve more of you, desirable person,” and will come just close enough for me to touch he before throwing himself onto his back just out of reach.

I totally don’t play along: if he wants my attention he has to come to me: I won’t trail after him.

I am continually amazed how solidly muscular he is.

His interaction is v. unsophisticated– like the boy who throws mud on the playground and feels love when you throw mud back.

Pushes really hard against my hand, so simple petting/stroking seems to be under proportionate. So I scratch or rub harder, and he leans harder and I keep going, “You’re a cat, right? Are you sure you like this?”

Garnet has officially integrated with the household. This is so awesome for me. Tonight he joined us on the couch for bedtime reading.

Amy Jane Helmericks's photo.
Amy Jane Helmericks's photo.
Amy Jane Helmericks's photo.
November 10

In awe of the amazing range and dexterity of hands: from wrestling goats to cradling eggs, from forcing a shovel through deep snow to touching a baby’s cheek.

All with the same hands.
I’m so, *so* thankful.

~ ~ ~

Link: Every Mother’s Dilemma

~ ~ ~

I spent three hours making a dent in the fresh snowfall in my driveway (8 or 9 inches overnight).

I was just about at the place where the worst (stuff that would become an ice-rock when the temp drops again) was just about managed when the man working with the old truck and plow drove across the road and started clearing my driveway for me.

In five minutes he did everything I’d calculated the minimums on, and more.

The right tools make a difference. I’m so glad and thankful he shared with me. *Such* an encouragement on what could have been a (more) exhausting day.


November 11

Feedback from my latest beta [reading Lindorm King] was squee-inducing yesterday. I love it when people *get* my story:

“So, I had a bit of time on mine hands, took a look and then was thoroughly hooked. Meaning I read all 344 pages last evening.

I totally adore your women characters. They are strong, but not in the way that “Now I do stuff like the boyz” that so often gets mistaken for strength. I’m fascinated by how they struggle and try to cope with the roles their restrictive society cast for them.

Also, I wanted to hit Tykone over the head frequently for all his subconscious sexism. Very good job on that one, maybe one day a guy reads it and has a d’oh-moment.”

[This last, in particular, was an awesome affirmation to specify on her own: it was an experiment on my part, since I wasn’t sure it would even be recognized as sexism since it’s so “normal”.

She also had some very useful structural feedback that was very meaningful. Moving back to revision after NaNo is going to be a blast!

~ ~ ~

Soooo a “family emergency” kept me from writing-time all but two days in the last week. Maybe 3500 words since last Monday.

Fortunately I was far enough ahead from earlier “uninterrupted” work that I’m still past 31,000.

I ran into a local fellow NaNo-er, and while we were exchanging stats I gave the obligatory, “Real people are more important than imaginary people” line.

“Yes,” she agreed. “But sometimes the imaginary people keep us sane for the real people.”

I’m so thankful for writer-friends. Nobody understands that (big) part of me as well as they.


November 12

Well, I tried to so the nice thing. I made these beautiful loaves. Three, actually. One for the kids– they’re gluten bread– and an extra to take over, in case the home owner wasn’t the driver– then I would just be, ya know, 3 years late on the friendly neighbor thing.

Didn’t work. frown emoticon
Driver must be hired.

Amy Jane Helmericks's photo.
November 13
All the kids slept under my (loft) bed last night. Now I’ve still got the curtains drawn, no illuminated clocks, and the kids are whispering super-soft in their spot. I wonder how long this can last…
~ ~ ~
For writers, tone is a tricky thing to get right. It’s also one of the most important things to get right. And like most writers, sometimes I get tone right and sometimes I get tone wrong. As a Christian, I work especially hard to make my writing as irenic and…
November 18

I don’t know if this is confidence… Or codependency. :}

KWHL Alaska's Rock's photo.
November 19
“Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness.” ? Walter Brueggemann

I sweet-talked Natasha to kindly fetch my kindle, since I’m on the couch and my hands are full.

She turned it on, and I can only pity you all that I didn’t think to snap a picture while she tried to read.

“I don’t get ANY of this,” she said, handing it over.

I began to read it aloud, imagining that might help, and recognized once again how important context is to understanding.

From *The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem* by Nathaniel Branden (recommended):

Amy Jane Helmericks's photo.
~ ~ ~

E learned how to make boiled eggs today.

Amy Jane Helmericks's photo.
November 20

I need to reiterate how much I love (need) spoilers.

Person of Interest had a huge (as in, Somebody dies) episode last night, and it was a relief to read about it in the morning-after discussions rather than experience it first-hand.

So for you non-spoiler POI fans, stay out of the discussions till you’ve seen the episode.

~ ~ ~

THIS is why writing– especially noveling– is my go-to.

Flow is the mental state of a person when he is completely immersed in one activity or event—a moment in which all of his energy is focused on one thing so that he is oblivious to the world around …
November 21

Yay! over 1600 words on… not-my-novel.

Heh. It’s an outline for a talk I’m calling “Personality and Purpose.” A discussion of how type and tendencies can help us find direction and purpose in our lives.

I’m giving the talk at a women’s study group tomorrow night, 7pm at Lily of the Valley Church, in case anyone is interested in coming.

November 22

(Image shared by Carolyn on her Facebook)

Carolyn Mahlen's photo.
~ ~ ~
Because this question comes up every holiday season, I thought I’d help everyone out with a handy chart.
November 23
Identity is what we have that is uniquely ours. After my mental illness diagnosis, my identity changed. Or so I thought.
November 23

Current word count: 45,698

I am so thankful for the generous people who will juggle my kids so I can write.

Brian Lotze: Juggling three isn’t too bad, but four requires throwing them higher and using a different pattern, they really don’t like the change in heights and then when you mess up and drop one, you never hear the end of it. :)

I’m probably 10k up b/c of people who specifically said, “I’ll do this so you can write.”

When ppl encourage me in what I value– that feels like love.


November 24

What is a mental disorder diagnosis? What do mental health professionals use to determine one? Should you know your diagnosis?

This is why I needed my own.

Amy Jane Helmericks's photo.
November 26

The pickings at Wyn have been a bit slim this month. Becky wrote a blog post explaining why.

After 9-ish months of anticipation, I added a new baby girl to my family. My fourth child and third girl, Providence, was born on November 8th. This was my first baby in the Netherlands (the others were born in the US), my first home birth…
I began to finally understand myself and see past the debilitating effects of my ADHD diagnosis to solutions I could manage.

NaNo *win*
Broke 50K.

Now to breathe and finish.

October 2013 (Facebook Compilation)

October 1

Today begins the ?#?31Days? of ?#?NaNoPrep? on the blog

If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, check it out and subscribe to follow along. 2013 might not be your year for a full-blown ?#?NaNoWriMo?, but you’ll get some good ideas and framework in place for when you *are* ready.

For people who do not write for recreation, the idea of tackling a novel in a month is as foreign as the food you’ll never be able to spell; but for those who’ve always felt they have a story inside…
October 5

My kids are having a few friends over today, so yesterday I was host(ess) coaching them– in my way– asking what they had planned, and how they wanted to fill the time.

“What is there to do?” I prompted.
“It’s okay, Mama,” 7yo Elisha said. “You can work on your novel a bit. Or talk a little to any Mamas that stay.”


October 7

Um… Mama fail: I have officially taught my kid to swear.

Jay did some awesome progress on the water tank room (water tank takes up most of the room and our brilliant engineer STILL managed to install the 12-foot-wide vinyl flooring).

Elisha came to check it out and with an admiration-loaded voice he said, “THAT is so. darn. awesome.”

Then this afternoon, while Jay was on his second run to town (for the glue that would hold the filling pipe together), the water-delivery guy showed up.

“CRAPcrapcrapcrap,” my mouth said as my brain ran the options.

“CRAPcrapcrapcrap,” my 7-yo chanted gleefully in chorus.

I am NOT ashamed. But it makes me crazy glad not everything in my mind comes out my mouth.


October 8

Kids are playing a story with their little animal toys.

M: And this story has no magic.

N: The animals can talk, there’s a dragon and a unicorn. Of COURSE there’s *magic*.

M: Okay. There can be magic.

~ ~ ~

“Eat with Joy” author Rachel Marie Stone, who lives in Malawi, got #addawordruinachristianbook to start trending.
October 9
Actually, concerning reading, I’ve found my attitude is very like it was toward having children:

The last one was so great, how could this one be as good. Whew. This one’s amazing, too. I enjoy her! Oooh my luck’s going to run out now… Statistics won’t let the streak hold up and– huh. He’s pretty awesome, too.

Books give me the same anxiety, which I TOTALLY need to get over. Every reading becomes a desperate thing. A fear-laden expedition that I wonder whether it can pay for itself. {*shiver*}

I just got asked what I read the most, and I couldn’t say. I read 30-40 books a year, keep a list on the computer and still. can’t. say. what I read!? Talk about shame…

October 13
Ethan Howe's photo.
October 14
M: She’s being annoying!
N: I’m being *funny*!
Me: If it’s only funny to you, you can do it later by yourself.

Teena Helmericks: I can so clearly hear that conversation. smile emoticon

Kim Eames: The “LIKE” button is so inadequate for this!
October 21

Using N’s choir rehearsal to sort my action cards into their story slots.

*So* excited about this novel!

~ ~ ~

What a beautiful idea.

Beth Zapf's photo.

Beth Zapf

Did you know: As a nursing mom, you can help heal your sick baby by kissing her? You introduce her germs to your body, you make antibodies, and they get to her through your milk. I will be kissing this one lots tonight.


September 2013 (Facebook Compilation)

September 1

Had to update my bio on the SCBWI website. Included on-the-fly invented one-liners for each of my novels (in v-a-r-i-o-u-s stages of development. #5 doesn’t even start growing till November).

“My novels are all on the speculative-fiction spectrum:

1. Lindorm King: A crippled shepherdess allies with a lindorm (dragon-sized snake) to escape from her abusive stepmother.

2. Lindorm Queen: The former shepherdess learns more about the magical knife left to her, and her role, with the lindorm, in thwarting the magical enemy that seeks to destroy their kingdom.

3. Shadow Swan: A 17-year-old honors student finds himself in another world over Christmas break, and ends up bringing home the princess he disenchanted, just in time for the spring semester.

4. The daughter of a successful cancer-researcher must try and heal a dying mob boss and decide what her relationship is to each of his three dynamic sons.

5. Stolen: A piano-scholarship university student finds herself in another world, needing to learn a new system of survival that works long enough to find her kidnapped infant and return home.”

I tried to make them intriguing and indicative of feel and content (e.g. #4 is a sort of romance, I think).


September 3

E, finishing up school: How do you say… B-i-t-c-h?
Me: What are you reading?
E: Oops. *P*-i-t-c-h.

Kim Eames: Oh, the heart attack that comes when kids ask something off-kilter like that.

Joshua Kugler: He could have been reading about dog breeding…
Me: He was in an English book put out by a religious publisher. Unlikely they’d be discussing breeding, even if it wasn’t 2nd grade.  Because of the goats and rabbits they already discuss breeding more casually than most of their peers are comfortable with.

Brooke Bonett: Lol.

~ ~ ~

New article up at Wyn: Is it Bad For Christians to feel Bad?

Western Christian culture has a special fondness for positivity and a suspicious unease about “negative” emotions. But does this actually reflect the Bible?

September 5

This is so SO great people! I wish everybody could learn this stuff!

If you are trying to help a friend heal from trauma, you need three key qualities: empathy, patience, and encouragement.
When the time comes, this is a conversation I would like to have with my son about how he looks at women.|By Nate Pyle


September 6

E: This is the first time ever I cook for myself!

Amy Jane Helmericks's photo.
Rachel Feldhaus: How old is he?
Sarah Arnold: Oatmeal or noodles?
Teena Helmericks: That’s great, Elisha. Grandma is proud of you. Knowing how to cook is as important a skill for you as for your sisters.
Me: Elisha is 7.  He wanted oatmeal for Bfast, I told him it was time for him to learn how to make it himself (since I was making something different.)
September 10
ComicMix's photo.
September 11

Wow. And yay. And yes.

I am used to issuing tips and advice for persons who suffer from depression. I haven’t really described my own lately, because I thought it would be too painful. But since I’ve had a few good days …
September 14

Melody found a vole nest, Teena. Jay talked to the kids about leaving the grown ups (biters) alone and let them play with the kits.

In the house. Iris was *very* intrigued.

Amy Jane Helmericks's photo.
September 18

Totally me.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like in my head (a few brave souls have wondered that aloud), here’s a good example.

A few weeks ago I went to the salon to get my hair cut. One of the little lifehack-y things I do is to think carefully about what luxuries I’d most enjoy, so that when Joe or my parents ask what I want for Christmas or my birthday, I can give them a list…
September 21

So Jay asked me to YouTube this and decide if it’s something I can do, so we can do the testing ourselves.

I’m already experienced at giving shots and sewing (gaping flesh) wounds closed, so I suppose this is a reasonable progression.

Sometimes I think we’re weird. Sometimes I think we’re kind-of amazing.

A real short simple video on how to draw blood from a goat to things like CAE and CL testing. This draw went smooth but sometimes it can be difficult.
September 26

E, putting away clothes: Pants! Glorious pants!

I really need to teach him how to do his own laundry so he’s not waiting on me. :}


September 27

Writings from Dr. Philip Monroe on trauma, complex trauma, counseling, and recovery.
Insights from Esad Boskailo, a Bosnian doctor who survived 6 concentration camps and is now a psychiatrist in the US helping victims with trauma recovery
September 30

I think (as a writer) that perfectionism and writing go together better than most things.

That is, everything else you do, you just DO (or don’t because you know it won’t be perfect). With writing, everything you do is part of the process, and you can always remind yourself that “Now isn’t forever.” It is a fabulous step away from crippling perfectionism without surrendering that important part of you that desires excellence.

The familiar mantra, “real writing is re-writing” can remind us the great freedom we have as writers: we are not bound to what we first see. This trains us in the great freedom available in the rest of life as well, a freedom to explore and experiment and remember/realize that LIFE isn’t a finished product either!

August 2013 (Facebook Compilation)

August 7: So Much YES!

chainsIt’s not the Rules That Are the Problem

August 9:

You don’t have to see these two romantically paired to see the sweetness of this video.

August 19: I found her observation about “nonchalance” fabulous.

[Article:] Why Women Can’t Have it All

Amy Jane Helmericks has written a brilliant article (again) for Wyn this week: Sadness– Grieving Through Fiction.
August 21:
Wired and excited.
Just sent a round of requests for “short order” recommendation letters. I was handed a deadline last night.I’m participating in the Fairbanks Arts Association Artists-in-Schools class/training.

There’s an appropriate number of hoops to jump through before I can be hired by a school, but if I get all my boxes checked by the end of the month I could have my offerings (storytelling and noveling– two different workshops) in the current school-year’s “catalog.”

Soooo if you’re the parent of a student 5th-grade and older, and your child is interested in (and/or needs help with) public speaking or structuring stories, you could mention my name…

August 26:
So, I know I should encourage Melody to go back and actually follow the directions…But I kinda like this version.

M's worksheet
August 26:
Two lovely, encouraging letters of reference turned in.I’m growing convinced these should be a regular part of relationships.

August 27:
Elisha kinda-almost got hit by a car yesterday.The horror of it is just sorta growing on me, and I’m still in awe of the perfection of his escape.

A driver turning right looked to the left before pulling into traffic, and connected with Elisha.

The girls were already past and didn’t see a thing, my mom was bringing up the tail of the train and shouted STOP! at the driver. Poor Elisha thought she was shouting at him (“I put on my brakes but they didn’t work!”) before he ran into the car.

That was the version I understood when I showed up to give the official, “He’s fine, Ambulance, you can go” signature. And he really was: no scrapes or anything from falling off his bike (and the woman was someone whose name I knew from some interaction in the past. Looking shook up herself, and like she expected to be chewed out). They took his vitals, agreed they were fine, took my signature and left.

The State Trooper took statements from my mom, the driver and the taxi driver who saw it all and called 911.

Thing was, when we got back down the road to my folks’ house, I saw the bike. It was damaged and not in a cute, boy-ran-into-a-car way. The chain-guard and the fork of the back wheel had pinched the back tire, and the side of the bike seat was scraped through the cover.

“*What* happened again?!” I asked, starting to wonder if I should be traumatized.
Elisha did fall off his bike, and then the bike had a car vs. vehicle incident.

The driver was at fault, but, ultimately, no one was hurt.
Makes me glad I didn’t know when I was face-to-face with her, because I don’t know if I would have wigged out on her.

/ / /
Jay’s photo: Yea. Step 2 done, now it can rain. Next up: sides.
Roof on
August 29:
Ultimate homeschooling threat: “Next ‘reminder’ [to stay focused on your work while sitting on the couch] will put you at the table!”
August 30:
I’ve been making my GF pancakes with pumpkin lately (“punkin pie” pancakes), to add variety to their nutritional profile. This morning Elisha asked if I’d made “puncakes” again.I hope it sticks.

/ / /

Just hit *go* on my first grant application.
Connie Boochever Artist Fellowship
11 minutes before deadline.

I am *not* going to choke went through my head at about 9:24.
And I didn’t.

The joke/entertaining (not-really) part: I just learned about it last night, at my last Artists-in-Schools class. I stayed up till 2+ in the morning pulling pieces together, homeschooled my kids today (Thank God for my new Homeschool Helper app that I assembled two days ago) and finished compiling/proofreading writing samples tonight.

Sent a chapter from my novel, a short folktale I tell, two blogposts and two Wyn articles. (They say you can have “up to” 20 pages. So I took them all.)

The end was that I didn’t get it, but it was good practice, anyway 😉

July 2013 (Facebook compilation)

July 2: Jay is building me a new workspace for this corner!


July 3:

“This doesn’t make Sense!” is Melody’s cry for help with schoolwork.

I’ve been asking her to use the phrase “I don’t understand,” but I think she’s resisting taking ownership of her problems.

After the latest one I finally snapped, “There are lots of things in this world that do not make sense. 3rd grade math is not one of them. Don’t waste your ‘Doesn’t make sense’ on this.”

Mitzi Barber:  Don’t you think “this doesn’t make sense TO ME” is just as valid “I don’t understand”?

Amy Jane Helmericks: Yes! I tried to get her to add that, too. Just as much resistance.

Making progress. Clamping/gluing/screwing on the bits to make the countertop level.



victory A victory B

July 4: Cat-friend vs. Dog-friend videos (part 1) (part 2)

July 16: Shared one of my fav YouTube Sherlock vids with a friend.

So, I stayed up way too late last night, was taking a ‘nap’ this afternoon (trans.: lying still, appreciating my children’s respecting my tiredness and watching my consciousness come and go).

M runs from the back of the house: “Natasha! The bathroom sink is overflowing!”

N runs after her and I. don’t. move.

After I get up, this is what I find in the bathroom.

towel pile

Not bad. Worth staying in bed.

July 18: “Smells like Grandma Teena’s house!” Natasha said this morning

N's bacon

Jennifer: “Well, I read Pride and Prejudice.”
Me: “Good for you, I still haven’t.”
“Do you have the movie?”
“I have two of them.”
“Great. I want to watch the movie. I’m not sure I got the gist of Elizabeth fully from the book.”
“Ooo that’s heresy. I’m totally putting it up on Facebook.”

July 19: Finished my proof-reads on Lindorm 13.1 (the version I sent out the end of May).

Celebrated by writing next month’s “Life & Fiction” column for Wyn.

Mama’s tired, now. But content.

July 20: The room progress: floor clear/vacuumed, and individually owned stuff on the beds of their owners.

I wouldn’t let them watch the initial sorting (which I did) and have offered to finish the job with similar oversight.

They are currently moving forward, on their own. Slowly.

Room A Room B

July 23: Got praised tonight (by someone I’d known ~5 minutes) as being very well-spoken and articulate. (I’d jumped into a debate before I knew the people, just the topic– and my fierceness could have alienated my listener, but it didn’t. And that felt a whole lot like love.)

Still feels wonderful to have my strengths noticed.

Also at that get-together, was asked to share “as much of [my] story (context of what I was fighting for) as [I] was comfortable sharing.”

Started by saying, “My parents were in leadership at basically every church they’ve ever been in, so I was one of those kids/ teenagers whose ‘fishbowl complex’ was actually grounded in reality.

“I’ve spent much of my life expecting to be seen, and often making choices within that context. It made the jump to blogging very natural…”

I laugh, now, because I’d never thought of that context before tonight, but it makes perfect sense.

July 26: Finishing up some writing tasks while my girls learn how to find letters on their keyboards (aka, write down their own stories).

Melody was w.i.g.g.i.n.g. out about formatting (where the words fall on the page) and I said, “The important part now is to build up a nest of words that we will then make tidy once all the materials are collected.”

And she said in a little voice, “okay.”

Melody: “I want my book to have a hard cover. Not be the kind you buy on facebook. How do I make sure of that?”

Me: “You start by finishing your book.”

June 2013 (Facebook Compilation)

June 5: Our new in-house OCD test:
Real-life picture layout on our welcome-wall (first wall you see walking into house).

welcome wall

June 8: The newest member of our crew at Willow Rock Farm: flew her home from the Palmer airport.

Plane ride home

June 13: My work over the last week: organizing (and thinning) the books in my library.

A job I haven’t done since before we moved here.

It was fabulous to discover/recognize the pattern of my “collecting.”

books 1 books 2 books 3 books 4 books 5

June 15: Got all three freezers emptied/defrosted/inventoried this afternoon. A few people commented on the soggy ice cream. (It all took about as long as you’d expect…)

Still in awe of the accomplishment, and figuring out the best way to meal-plan with the new information.

June 18: Pleased to announce that ‘that magazine project’ I’ve been talking about for months is now live.

Wyn ( is an online magazine focused on providing resources and hope for mental and emotional healing. Each month’s issue has a specific theme that runs through all the articles.

I am so excited to be a part of this project with amazing women from around the globe.

Please stop by and join the conversation on the blog.

June 19: Wheee 2a.m. and a gentle tiredness on top of a feeling of productivity. Got some good writing done and kids are at Gma’s so I can sleep in.

June 21:

Dunno if you can tell from these pix, but this is Griffin scratching himself six ways from Sunday.

Can’t tie him out b/c he’s helpless against the bugs, and now I can’t even walk him, because we’re both *mobbed* instantly.

Finally just turned him loosen out the front door (which I *never* do on purpose). He was back five minutes later: more itchy, but less whining. Took care of business, I assume.

griffin itch A griffin itch B griffin itch C

June 27: Vamp bucket. The mosquito magnet catches them, but this model at least has trouble getting them into the collection plate.

Freakiest part: we’re still chewed on in the length of time it takes to cross the yard, and the dog continues to be scared to go outside.

vamp bucket

Elisha [getting ready for a camping trip]: “But what do we need to bring *toothbrushes* for?!”

May 2013 (Facebook Compilation)

May 2: EEP.

So I’m slowly and in a not-actively-marketing way growing my business (Untangling Tales: Professional Bios and Story Coaching), basically praying about it, staying “available” but not pushing anything because my life is full-enough, and I’m sort of being asked for the next level.

That would be being paid for my talk/workshop on writing professional bios.

In other (big) news, my Lindorm novel is now officially long enough to be two books, and part of knowing that is announcing Book-One is *finished.*

70,000 words. (Approximately.)

Next step is proof-reading the and writing a query letter. (But you can get as many details as you want at Just search Lindorm for the latest.

May 7: Okay, how much of a story-geek does it make me that I’m reading the Sparknotes summary of “The Importance of Being Earnest” and cracking up multiple times?

Never saw or read the play before. Just had it referenced *again* and decided I needed to know what’s going on.

Anyway, totally worth the read. Just the *summary* got me belly-laughing. Can’t know if the whole play would be worth wading through, but this I loved.



I’m editing my novel, right?
Which means I’m entering other skins and descriptions.

Here’s what I’d just. finished. reading:

**For some reason it made me remember my revulsion in the lambing pen when large spiders, drawn by the warmth of new life, skittered across the straw and, three different times, onto the face of the new lamb itself.**

And something was skittering on my wrist under the desk.
I whacked it automatically and it *crunched* under my fingers. An ant as long as my fingernail.


May 10: And to celebrate (the previous post), I’m… scrubbing out our oddly-discolored dishwasher.


If it goes squicky again before next year, we’ll just keep suffering through. (Aaand it finally died. 11/13)

Also: Something that made me *wail* with much-needed-cathartic-laughter–

Dogs don’t understand basic concepts like moving.
Pretty much the whole time.
Every next-line started me over again.

I did not know how much I needed to laugh.
Or remember how good laugh-tired feels.

May 14: My subconscious is so *cute.*

The way things can layer and still make sense.

My dream this morning included a note from a “friend” in New York (someone I knew in the dreamworld) I’d apparently given a guinea pig to.

She (the human) was both true to her own beliefs (agnostic/atheist– no afterlife) and either very kind or “socially discrete.”

She had a note sent to me in my (1800s era) hotel room with a the item, “[Guinea pig name] went to China.”

Once I understood the animal was dead, it made sense: into-the-ground=traveling to China.

I thought it made a surprising amount of sense for a dream.

May 16: 2nd goat went into labor today, and I got all James-Harriot up-past-my-elbow in her uterus for two hours trying to straighten out the kid’s head. It was snaked back behind his shoulder, blocking progress.

I was keenly reminded of my own weakness this morning. Kept feeling as though greater endurance could have won the day.

Finally my hands were just too painful to try any more (the dizziness and weak arms were also contributing factors).

Thankfully we found a vet answering the phone (I called four numbers, left messages and kept calling back to catch the person I did).

She got a C-section.

There was only one kid, already dead. A buck, so I felt less disappointed than otherwise. But also the vet said he was probably too big to get out anyway, and that assuaged my self-disappointment.

Thing is, the adventure/ emergency forced me to cancel the dr. appt where I hoped to ask what is up with this persistent weakness.

Now I have to start over again.

Praying for a full recovery and good milk supply from our bereaved doe.

And strength for me. I’m still a bit wobbly here at the end of the day.

May 21: Words often say more than what they say: “A Fate worse than Death.”

May 31:

Girls walking through: Ow! Ow. OW.
Me (noting the fairy wings): Are those pretend ‘Ows?’
N: Yes.


So I seem to have a habit of giving people more than they’re [really] asking for.

Gerald, my Toastmasters mentor, called up over his lunch hour and opened with some species of “How’s it going?”

I’m often very good at giving the standard flippant response, but I’ve been mulling over that same question all morning, so instead I said, “Well, I’m a little traumatized right now, actually.”

“Ah,” he said, still in convo-lite mode. “That snow coming down.”

“No,” I said, suddenly realizing I’ve been surprised by it all four times I’ve walked out the door since it started. “I had a trauma yesterday– The goat went into labor, I spent two hours with my arm inside her trying to straighten out a baby that was too big to get out anyway. We ended up getting her a C-section and the baby was born dead. So, yeah, traumatized is a good word for ‘how I am’ right now.” Then I rushed on, recognizing there’s probably no way for him to recover from that statement. “But that’s not why you called, how can I help you…?”

More trouble is that the surgery cost twice as much as the goat did, and she’s still not voluntarily walking around, she’s shivering in the warm barn, and too many things look swollen that shouldn’t be, so I am still concerned for her life/health, and the whole thing doesn’t feel over yet.

I had two appointments Thursday morning, because usually I take the kids to school and it’s a good day to get stuff done.

I had to cancel the doctor appointment, but it looked like I could make the consultation at the IDEA (homeschooling) office, so I pressed into that.  I felt really shaky, and every time I told the next person (four people over five hours) what I was doing/looking for and why, I got teary and self-conscious.

But I kept pressing because I wanted answers. I wanted something solid and concrete so I could wipe this question off the front of my mind.

The result is that I came home shaking and exhausted (I hadn’t brought any food or eaten lunch) but I had all the pieces I needed to loop the loose ends together and make a coherent whole.

Winterdust wasn’t then and still isn’t now seeming better as I’d hoped, and I’ve fallen back on my old standby (denial?) just staying inside and moving slowly forward on some small projects, like getting that broth canned, so it’s not wasted, and running the dishwasher.

One sad thing is that being the time of year it is I can’t even de-stress by catching up on TV shows, because they’re all finales, so my whole reason for watching shows right now (closure) is unlikely to be fulfilled.

Along the same line I’ve been delaying the dive-in to the next novel (Shadow Swan, NaNo 2010), because I dipped my toe earlier this week and all my intensity jacked up, full-throttle. That is, I usually feel the tension/stress of my stories until they’re completely written– which explains why I haven’t had the emotional energy to do a lot of work sometimes.

NaNo has been the exception– the pace of writing (and the legitimization of making the Story almost my main world of occupation…) it seems to work out.

There’s a *lot* that needs to be fixed and added to finish it from “just” 50,000 words, and I need to treat this like a marathon, not a sprint. But that looks like it’s going to take some rewiring.