Monday, June 27, 2011

"Just Moms" Reading at Frogs & Pollywogs

My very first book reading!  What joy!  I am so blessed and honored to be counted among such lovely ladies and fabulous authors.

The reading was hosted by Frogs & Pollywogs in Albany, Oregon.  Frogs and Pollywogs is a wondrous little specialty toy store that delights both parents and kiddos alike.

I promise you - you will love wandering down the aisles of this sweet store!

Our reading was in "The Lily Pad" which is a loft area upstairs stocked generously with the specialty toys found for sale downstairs, but opened and waiting for kiddos to come play!

And play they did.  
Several of us brought our kidlets with and I imagine they had as good a time as we did!

Two of Jen Rouse's girls, Beth & Lucy
My Sweetheart and one of Cassie's girls, Desiree

One of Melanie's sons perusing the books and Lucy and Siennalee working at the work bench.

Dorcas Smucker kicked things off by reading a her chapter "Wealth Isn't in the Crayons" and then I was next with a summary of mine: "Choose to Be."

 Rebekah was next with hers: "Superhero Jesus" and Jen finished up with a tidbit of her story "Precious in God's Sight" and then a summary of a couple of her favorite chapters.

It was priceless to dialog with these ladies, to hear their takes on their favorite chapters, and to hear - once again - how very important we (and all) mommies are to each other.

We even had groupies there.  :)  Carlie Davis and Cassie Wicks drove up from Junction City just for our reading.  I was quite giddy to have friends there from my home church Christ's Center.  Kristin and Hannah, friends from my Covallis MOPS group (who also hail from Jen and Rebekah's church Grace City - Hannah is the pastor's wife), came as well.
Kristin's the head groupie.  
Word is she even got a "Just Moms" tattoo.  (But you didn't read that on MY blog...)

Top to bottom, clockwise: Carlie, Cassie, Hannah, and Kristin
Our youngest fan - Evie, Jen's youngest

And here are the two ladies who made it all happen: Melanie Springer Mock and Rebekah Schneiter:

And the local writers who attended the reading:

Left to right: Jen Rouse, Melanie Springer Mock, Dorcas Smucker, Rebekah Schneiter, and Jessica Kantola

And just to prove Just Moms isn't just for moms:

My wonderful (and hot) husband Jason also attended the reading.  He drove us up to Albany from Klamath Falls, listened to all of us ladies read and chatter, entertained and wrangled kidlets at large, and then drove us home again.  You're my hero, Love.

What a great day.  Fabulous job, everyone!  Thank you for all being part of such a rich memory.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bad Lady

That's it.  I've had it.  I clean and reorganize and put away, repeat, and repeat again, and still - every single day following quiet time - the room in its toy entirety has turned into some kind of a mishmash between a crazed Pre-K fire sale and a (toy) Woodstock.

And it doesn't get put back - none of it.  Forget being put back even a little bit similar to the way it was found - no, it doesn't get put back at all.  Not at all.  Okay, if I stand there and become a skirted drill sergeant, then some of the toys might get put away.  Sort of.  But there's always too much yelling.  And too many tears.  And - we're one step closer to the neighbors calling social services.  (Okay, I'm joking about that last part.  Sort of.)

So today I had it.

I picked up the toys myself. 

But instead of putting them carefully back in the closet, in an only-the-way-a-mommy-will organized manner, in a way easiest to be taken out by sweet small hands and happily played with, I wickedly put the toys away in MY room.  (At this time, I won't go into how there really is no room at all in MY room for any kind of extra anything.  Because I've had it.  So into my room they go.  Like a strange assortment of adorable refugees.)

At first, Siennalee is wearing a small, happy smile.  Mommy is cleaning for her!  She won't have to pick up her awful mess after all.  Victory.  Then the awful truth dawns on her - assisted by me pointing out the details to the obvious, of course - the toys are not going to be accessible to her.  Not for a long while.

Her little brow furrows and she continues - painstakingly, infinitesimally - with her own little chore of re-folding (I'm inserting an expressive cough here) and putting away the clothes she has yanked out of her drawers, tried on, and discarded in a messy piles around the room.

"Mommie," she finally says to me, heavily, "you shouldn't take away my toys like this.  It- it feels like you are a bad lady." 

A poignant and mother-daughter-dramatic moment hushes over us both.

Now, the "bad guy" and the "bad lady" really are key players in our little world right now.  Siennalee is beginning to understand that not everyone in the big world around us is loving and kind and keeps the best intentions at heart.  She has been very impacted by the mere idea of the bad guy.  Sometimes she opts out of watching a show that might give too much attention to the bad guy.  But me, Mommie?  A bad lady?  Well, yeah, I guess so.  The villains on her kiddo shows are always doing dastardly deeds like pilfering toys and pocketing fluffy puppies. 

And now, Mommy is doing the same thing.

So when her little brow furrows now, I can tell she's really feeling this, not just saying it as any kind of jab or to get a reaction. 

"A bad lady?" I prod.

"Yes, a bad lady.  And," she adds, now with more feeling, "it's not fair."

I look down at her.  She looks back up at me with the quizzical, contemplative look of a four-year-old really thinking life out.

Not only am I a Bad Lady.  But it's not fair.

I choke back the laugh elbowing its way out of my throat and I lean down to the same level as her little face - "It's not fair?"

"No.  It's not fair."

"Do you think, Sweetheart, that it's fair for a mommy to work very hard all day to take care of her sweetheart, to feed her and play with her sweetheart, then to have to spend the rest of the day again cleaning up all the toys that her sweetheart played with - not the mommy played with - that the sweetheart played with and junked?"

She became thoughtful, "No."  Then she added, "but you still shouldn't take away my toys."

So hello, era of "Not Fair."  I, the Bad Lady, will see your bet - and raise you a pile of unorganized toys.

Update: the toys and some books are still refugees in my room (aka, the Motherland), but they now have hope of returning to the homeland (aka, the Sweetheartland).  Siennalee is slowly "earning" the right to free a toy by doing small "clean-up" tasks through the day.  And just this morning, she cleaned up several puzzles - a daunting task - all by herself and thus earned back two toys to keep her company during today's quiet time.  As I type this, I have yet to again be referred to as a Bad Lady, but Siennalee did find my sketch above to be quite apropos.

A Very Happy First Day of Summer to You!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Father's Day

Happy Father's Day 
to the very best daddy I could have ever hoped to have for my children. 

Thank you for working so hard for us.  Even when you'd rather be home.
Even when you'd rather be sleeping.  

Thank you for providing so excellently for us, so I can stay home with our sweet daughter, so we can (unintentionally) manage two residences, so life can be richer and fuller than I ever thought it could be.  

Thank you for loving your family so completely, so deeply, so powerfully that you continually choose
to set yourself aside
and focus on us.  

Thank you for making the hard choices
- even without really knowing that you are -
those choices that so many other men cannot or will not
choose to make.  

Thank you for being such a beautiful reflection of God and his perfect Father's Heart to our little girl.

Thank you for being that man, that wonderful, hero of a man that I prayed for so long ago.

We love you, Jason.  Happy Father's Day!

Monday, June 13, 2011


Well, I have to say this whole post has been a long time coming. 

And I don't just mean a long time from when I was a very little girl, still mastering how to hold a pencil (I still do this wrong) and scribbling away in notebooks, on papers, on napkins, and anything smooth and still enough to hold the words and ideas and pictures zinging around in my head (still do this).

No, I mean this post has been a long time coming because the actual event happened several months ago, 
and I've been keeping it quiet.  

But now, the time has come for me to - actually, the time has now passed and I'm a little late (thanks to an early summer family vacation, among other things) - 
the time has now come for me to finally be able to say:

I've been published.

Sometime last year, my good friend Rebekah approached me about submitting an essay for an anthology she and her former professor Melanie Springer Mock were putting together.  (An anthology is a collection of selected literary pieces or passages or works of art or music - thank you Merriam-Webster. This idea had been some time in the making as Rebekah and Melanie chatted, mulled, and finally birthed the idea through countless conversations followed by countless hours of compilation, author recruiting, publisher/manuscript shopping, and editing.   

I liked the book idea, but I really didn't want to submit anything.  It was a dark time for me personally and Rebekah had asked me to submit an essay on "contentment."  I waited and waited until the very last minute, and then scribbled something out - something raw and bloody and utterly unsatisfying.  And then I sent that to my friend.  Oh well, I thought, at least I followed up on her request.  We went through the editing process - which in hindsight was great experience, albeit a bit painful in points - and then I discovered I'd made the cut.  

Incredibly (and against all odds, at least in my mind) - I was in the book.   

Just Moms: Conveying Justice in an Unjust World

Our book: Just Moms

Re-reading what I wrote, from a new place in life as well as from a renewed perspective, it's not nearly the awful piece I was afraid I'd put together.  I wrote about contentment, yes, but also the principles which I believe are laying quietly just beneath contentment, the main one being: choice.  My chapter "Choose to Be" honors my mother, who taught me that happiness is a choice, not just a feeling.  It also touches on my hopes and endeavors to teach this principle to my own daughter.  (I kept the news of the book as quiet as I could until I could give the book to my mother as a surprise Mother's Day gift.

The rest of the book is a compilation of writings from women, and not all moms either, who share their varied stories of teaching and learning, retooling ideas and scrapping ideals, and above all how being a mom isn't always what it had looked like on paper. 

I encourage you to pick up a copy, read it, and leave a review on

And below, just for fun, is a shot of me and my two dear friends (and also two of the contributing authors in Just Moms), Jen and Rebekah.  This picture is from the story our local (Albany) paper did on us as local authors.
Jessica Kantola, Jen Rouse, and Rebekah Schneiter (co-editor), contributing authors in Just Moms (Photograph from the Democrat Herald)
Jen and Rebekah also happen to comprise my writing critique group.  We meet every month or two and share submissions of what we're up to in our literary lives.  These women have taught me so much.  I'm very blessed to have them in my life.

Thank you, Rebekah, for befriending me, encouraging me, and getting me to write that dang essay.  I love you for it!

Published!  My toes are wet.  Time for the rest of me to jump in.