what i’ve been reading | nicholas sparks

I did something this summer I haven’t done since grade school.  I joined the summer reading club at the library.  I know it sounds a little lame but it’s given me an excuse to read what I enjoy and I just finished my fourth Nicholas Sparks novel.  You already know I love a good love story but I’d also love to write one, and Nicholas Sparks seems to be the author with the golden pen when it comes to that genre right now.

If you’ve ever read Nicholas Sparks you’d know he is a brilliant writer, but Sparks has the kind of big-time success most authors only dream about.  According to his newsletter he just finished touring the US and Europe to promote the film release of The Lucky One and the international publication of his book The Best of Me.  If that didn’t make him successful enough, the film adaptation of his book Safe Haven just started shooting and he’s writing his next book.

To put it into perspective, at a writing workshop I recently attended the speaker deftly explained that to see a hardcover copy of your book published by a major publishing house and sitting on the shelf at Barnes & Noble would be almost impossible due to the increasing numbers of titles that come out every year (328,259 for the US  in 2010 alone).  In other words, if you want to write, don’t quit your day job yet.

Granted it has taken Nicholas Sparks nearly thirty years to attain this kind of success, but he is working on his nineteenth book and his eighth movie adaptation.  Pretty freaking incredible.  I can’t say that I’ve discovered the formula to his success, but he intrigues me as an author in much the same way that his novels compel me to finish them in a crazy obsessive kind of way.

On to the links . . .

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In much the same way that I’m slightly obsessed with the trajectory of Nicholas Sparks’ success, the creators of superhero comics fascinate me.  Sometimes I wonder if seventy plus years ago the illustrators and story tellers could have predicted their characters would achieve such immortality in the hearts and minds of little boys (and big boys) all over the world.  Interesting side note, lots of the creators were Jewish.

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My sister-in-law Abby passed along a post from mint.com called Free Ways to Market Your Freelance Services.  Very helpful for all us freelancers out there.

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I literally laughed out loud when I read this post from Kate Elizabeth Connor.  Oh how I can relate to those crazy days with two children.  Nice to know I’m not the only one :).

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Though I’ve been posting less about it, I am still do-it-yourself-ing.  I’ve been using this recipe for homemade laundry detergent from my friend Samantha at The Peanuts Gang, and this recipe for homemade pancake mix from The Food Network.  Pinching pennies where we can :).

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You already know how much I love Jon Acuff’s blog, but his post How to Stop Worrying about Your Blog Traffic was incredible and really made me feel more confident as a blogger.

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Happy Monday grateful for a coffee break readers!  Hope you have a fabulous week!

what i’ve been reading | help for the writer & a momma dreamer update

I just finished reading The Help and was reminded again how deep my dream to write runs.  To have the time and space to craft a meaningful story is something I l-o-n-g for.  I feel like I might have a story forming . . . but it’s going to be lots of slow teetering baby steps before it’s ready to share.

Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally) I’ve run across some pretty fabulous posts/resources on writing.

You all probably know already I’m a fan of Jon Acuff.  I loved his post on finding your writing voice.  I’m not really sure what my writing voice is yet, but am encouraged through the process.

My Mom is an avid listener to Moody Radio and specifically their Midday Connection program.  I missed hearing their publishing broadcast, but was able to catch the podcast.  To read more about the panel and download their list of resources for writers, click HERE.

The WordPress Email Newsletter blog is one of many I follow.  Scott Berkun’s post How to turn your blog into a book was really interesting & chocked full of great links for the aspiring writer.

Mariel from Or so she says shares an excellent post for any blogger called Top 10 Blogging Tips for Beginners.  It’s a longer read, but definitely worth the effort . .  big fan of points #3, 6, & 8.

Another 10-things-I’ve-learned-about-blogging-post, this time from the Pioneer Woman – more relaxed, more poetic, but still pretty powerful.

My friend Amber is working on a novel and mentioned something about the snowflake method.  Clueless, I did a little googling and found THIS post from Randy Ingermanson very helpful.

After I let this story germinate a little more, I’ll be diving in myself :).

My friend Mindy recently made a pretty exciting announcement over at her place.  All of her dreaming and planning has been paying off!  Mindy is now a photographer for the Misha Media Bench Mob, an associate photographer team for Misha Media Photography.  Not only will Mindy continue to photograph children’s/family portraits and party plan on her own, with MMBM she will photographing weddings and engagement sessions as well.

HUGE CONGRATULATIONS Mindy!

what i’ve been reading & a piddle story

Someday, when we buy a new car, I will be strongly advocating for the purchase of WeatherTech floor mats.  I don’t know if you’ve seen them advertised on TV, but they look pretty spectacular.  Spill your coffee?  No problem.  Drop an ice cream cone?  Don’t think twice.

If you click here you can see pictures of all the things these mats can protect your car from, but I personally think they forgot one.

This is a picture of me and my dad cleaning out the car from a piddle accident sans aforementioned fabulous mats.  I’ve wanted them in the past . . . but not more than I did today.  I think WeatherTech is missing out on a huge niche market.  Just saying . . .

In other news . . .

Special thanks to Nichelle at Vintage Wanna Bee for letting me guest post my Easy Birthday Banner and the girls at How Did We Meet for featuring the first installment of Mike and I’s love story.

Don’t forget to stop by THIS FRIDAY to link up your Momma Dreamer story.

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I’m always always always refilling my bathroom soap dispenser.  We buy the jumbo soft-soap from Costco, but we still run through it pretty quickly.  Love this post from The Hosanna Hill Project on DIY Foaming Soap Refills.  The soap’s still going to run out, but it’s roughly a 1/3 cheaper now ;).

Moms of daughters will benefit from this post at Femina by Rachel Jankovic.  If you like it, check out her book, which was super influential for my personal take on the whole of parenting.

And not to leave out moms of boys. . . my friend Leah recommended this fabulous blog called MOB Society to me.  I subscribed almost immediately and was really inspired by two recent posts Loving the Process and It Matters.

My friend Mindy forwarded me this video on the creative process [as understood by Ira Glass].  Anyone who attempts to live life in the creative lane should watch and be encouraged.

A dear friend of my sister-in-law (who designed keepsake name frames for both our boys) was recently diagnosed with brain cancer.  She’s also pregnant with her fourth child.  Her mom posted A Mother’s Prayer for Susie’s Birthday on their family’s blog for her birthday.  Moved to tears . . . and reminded to keep praying for a miracle.

I’ve told you before how much I love Jon Acuff’s blog, but two recent posts have really caught my attention.  Does the world need your dream?  Yes.  And for all you aspiring writers out there How to find your writing voice.

Happy Tuesday!

Is anyone still talking about their [New Year's] resolutions?

It’s somewhat inevitable that after the hype and excitement of the New Year, when our resolutions are juxtaposed with the reality of life, we might get a teensy bit sidetracked from accomplishing our goals.  I’m sure that never happens to you . . . I’m just saying it’s something I might struggle with knee-deep into February.

Jon Acuff recently wrote, “If January is the month of setting resolutions, then February is the month where they go to die.”  Bummer.  Last month I enthusiastically blogged about my goals for 2012.  Four days later we were slammed on our back-sides by the stomach flu.  Sickness caused us to change the sleeping arrangements in our house and to date we are still trying to find out what the new normal looks like for us.

Time to think about New Years resolutions has been a bit sparse, but because I’d like my resolutions to last beyond February, I thought it was time for some self-motivation via blog update.

LOSE WEIGHT (30+ lbs) | EPIC FAIL
I’ve been very naughty and terribly lazy but recently encouraged privately by many of you to try again (thank you :)).  To help me stay motivated I’m going back to regular updates – but I’ll post my change in weight (Mondays) and measurements (monthly) on my Facebook page.  You’ll still hear about the journey here, but I’ll only post to share about the struggles or triumphs as they come along the way.

If you want to join me (or if you just like the updates) hop on over to the Facebook box at right and click “like” – you’ll be subscribed to all the lovely details of my losing and can throw in your own two cents as well :).

REMAIN UN-PREGNANT | A++
Definitely not pregnant.  Hoo-ray.

OLD SCHOOL DEVOs | B
I am proud to say I’ve consistently followed the reading plan I started at  YouVersion.  There are inevitably days I miss, but I’ve managed to catch up and stay on track.  I am excited to keep pushing through . . . I’m currently getting a little lost in the detail of Leviticus . . .

EXPERIENCE | C
When I wrote this, I was hoping to be more intentional and purposeful with the everyday experiences of life.  This is forever a challenge for me because I like to get things done, but I have noticed when I intentionally slow down how incredibly wonderful it is.

CREATE | A
This is one resolution I have fought myself hard for despite my being sometimes sleep deprived and a little crazy by the end of the day.  I feel like I’ve given myself permission to pursue the things I am most passionate about while letting some other less important things slide in the chaos of “the meantime.”  I think it’s all about healthy balance, and I feel good with where this resolution is at.

ORGANIZE | B
Despite bills and paperwork and finance maintenance being one of my least favorite things to do during the month, I signed up for a finance class by Dave Ramsey  hosted at our church from March through June.  I think this class is going to help me knock this resolution out of the water.  That, and I’m excited to get out of the house (by myself) every week!

How are you doing on your New Year’s Resolutions?

Momma Dreamer Manifesto

When I became a mom I didn’t believe the words “dreamer” and “mother” could coexist in the same sentence.  I felt very much like motherhood marked an end of sorts to my dreams.  I hoped if not all together lost, they would become dreams deferred, but I never expected them to exist in my current reality.  It’s no wonder I felt discontentment and frustration alongside the intense joys of mothering thinking the dreams that breathed life into me were no longer attainable or somehow no longer important.

One night last year, Mike sent me a link to this video from Jon Acuff.  I listened to the audio of his book Quitter and subscribed to his blog.  I saw Shauna Niequist at a women’s event and read her book Bittersweet.  I started noticing the dreams in other moms daring to believe I could still dream too.  I felt like someone was slowly pouring water on the cracked soil of my heart making it alive again to the possibilities of the future.

I’m sure I’m not the only mom who has ever struggled with the balance of mothering and dreaming.

I’ve asked four other Momma Dreamers to share their stories – what it is they dream for and how they are making those dreams possible in the midst of their mothering.  Their voices are varied and their backgrounds diverse, but they have all been a tremendous inspiration to me in my own journey to rediscover what it means to dream as a mom.  Every Friday through March, we’ll be checking in with a Momma Dreamer.  On our final Friday, I’d like to invite anyone who wants to add their story to do so at the Momma Dreamer Link Party.

I believe that it is possible to embrace all there is to motherhood, and still pursue the dreams that make us feel most alive.  The dreams may change.  It may take some hard-core scheduling and juggling to see them come true, but they are no less important to our lives and to the lives of the children we are raising.

There is a dream inside of you.  I hope over the next couple of weeks you give pause to remember.