How to Come Down from a Conference High

Tim, Lisa, Kathrese, & I just returned from Realm Makers. Next month a couple of others will be attending the ACFW conference. ‘Tis the (conference) season. So what do you do when you get home to come down from the conference high?

If you’re lucky, your firstborn will start football and junior high while your second born starts the “big kids'” elementary school. Bonus if it’s the junction of first of the month (status reports) and critical project milestones. Nothing like the outside world to pierce your enthusiasm like an arrow through a hot air balloon.

Even if your week is a bit nuts and especially if you have time to ease back in, do a few things to keep the spirit alive.

1. Post pictures on social media

You get to see the conference all over again. Also it allows you to tag people while your memory is fresh. This helps keep you in the loop.

2. Post highlights on social media

Same reason and purpose as above. If time is limited, set specific times or do this when you have down time.

3. Blog about it

Yes, everyone and their mascots will be writing them too. You may not get many views but then again you might. If nothing else, you have a record of your time there.

4. Make a to do list

Did you have appointments? If so, follow up with the materials each person requested. If the person you met with wasn’t interested, send a thank you anyway. They took their time to meet with you. It never hurts to be gracious.

Gather the business cards you received and enter them into your contacts list. Correspond with anyone who might not have your information. Organize your class notes.

You’re all rejuvenated and ready to write. Set goals and get to work. That’s why you spent the money to go.

Now I’m off to fill out permission slips and emergency contact forms.

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YOUR Chance To Interview Todd Burpo!

 

Heaven's For Real

Every now and then, a book falls into your hands when you most need it. About five years ago, the book that gave my family hope and renewed our faith was a little book called Heaven Is For Real. For those who haven’t read it or seen the movie, the story recounts the experiences that Colton, a four-year-old boy, relates from visits, which he said he made to heaven during a near-death experience. He came back talking about things about their family, that his parents never told him, and little by little, his pastor father began to realize his little boy’s ramblings were the real thing.

Heaven Is For Real was the only book that my mom (in her 90’s) read voraciously from start to finish in a couple of sittings: a feat that truly spoke of her need for hope.

And here’s why…

Murray

Five years ago, my brother Murray had to stay home from work for a whole week with severe leg and foot pain. (It’s just a bit of plantar fasciitis, he told me) While I was helping him prepare meals, he also complained of difficulty swallowing. I dragged him to his doctor, and wasn’t surprised when Murray was quickly admitted to hospital.

After he endured several days of procedures, I arrived to the hospital one day to find curtains drawn around his bed. Then a doctor backed out, saying, “Sorry. I wish I had better news.”

Dread washed over me. I deflated into a chair by his bed and took Murray’s hand. Seeing his tears instantly made me cry.

Fear and disbelief lined his face. “It’s cancer! They think it started in my esophagus and has spread to my liver. My legs are sore because I have clots in the veins!” He gripped my hand as if it were the only thing keeping him from falling into a chasm.

Anxiety clenched my stomach.

Details of those moments are etched in my memory: the terror in his eyes, the steady beep of his monitor, and tears dripping off his chin making dark spots on his blue hospital gown.

We cried and clung to each other. I prayed for strength for Murray. But we both knew that he didn’t have much more time on earth. However, we weren’t prepared that he would only have about three weeks to live.

Murray was literally ripped from our lives. We had no time to adapt or comprehend what just happened to our normally boisterous, larger-than-life brother.

We desperately needed to be reminded that we would be seeing him again. And the book Heaven Is For Real was given to me by a friend.

Of course, as a Christian, I knew about heaven and read about it in the bible. But here was a timely and solid example of how God was reminding me that we would indeed see Murray again. My mom was too overwhelmed and confused at 93 to understand completely what Murray had or why he could have gone so quickly. It’s just not right or natural that a mother should be burying a child.

 

images movie

When the Heaven Is For Real movie came out, my mom and I went three times. And she would have gone again, (that little Colton was such a great actor) if she had her way.

About a month ago, I stumbled on the Heaven Is For Real website, and pressed the contact button before I knew it. What could I lose? Imagine my surprise when they got back in touch with me granting me an interview with Todd Burpo, the pastor and author of the book!

So…

I thought I would open it up to you, as to the questions I would ask in the interview. What would you like me to ask Todd about his life, his experiences, his family, how the movie came to be, etc? In my next blog, I will have been able to interview Todd Burpo with your questions (and a few of my own of course).

 

 

Write Run Live

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Photo from Gretchen E.K. Engel

The Scriblerians regularly “get together” virtual style on Google Hangouts and the topic of our blog came up. We decided to do columns with our individual theme. It was easy for me. I chose Write-Run-Live. My favorite and easiest blogs are ones I do that center around setting goals and encouraging others in their journey.

Right now I’m finishing up the rewrite of a manuscript. I’ve changed it from first-person present to close third, altered the timeline, and changed the title as well as some of the focus of the story. Believe it or not the hardest part was flipping from pantser to plotter. It took a bit of tweaking scenes before I realized I had to strategize. I took the new timeline and made it work. Writing the scenes and editing them have been the easy part.

That’s a metaphor for my life right now. Along with writing, I’m training for my second, and perhaps third half-marathon. Then there’s the kids’ summer activities, and I’m in the middle of a large project with my day job. Scheduling my life is the hard part. Getting it done works with some planning. Did I mention that I’m becoming a plotter in real life too? OK, maybe I’ve always been a plotter who just looks spontaneous.

That said, I do crazy-busy as little as possible. It’s like the speed work part of my training. They’re my favorite runs. I sprint for 400m (1/4 mile) then walk for a 1/4 mile. This alternates for a number of sets. I can sprint knowing that I have time to rest. Toward the end of the rest, I’m ready to run again. Like life. I enjoy seasons of busy when I know there’s an end in sight. And relish the slow times knowing a busy season is around the corner. Another metaphor.

Do you like a scheduled life, being spontaneous, or a bit of both?

Words of wisdom to my 16-year-old self…

In keeping with the recent theme of advising our younger self, I’ve penned some words of wisdom to my 16-year-old self.

Dear me,

I know you want a boyfriend NOW. I understand you’re worried a great guy may never come along for you. Honestly, you should lighten up about that. A lot of things in your life are really good—focus on that. It’s not the end of the world that you don’t have a boyfriend right now.

I can tell you with 100%dating picture certainty that a great guy is on his way and soon. He’s a keeper for sure. So just be patient. I know that’s never been your best quality. In fact, if you could make “chilling out” more of a priority, that would be awesome. You’re too much of a worrier. I know the term “GOD’s got this” means nothing to you now, but HE does have this and that and everything else. HE so totally knows what HE’s doing. Learn to trust
more, worry less, and roll with the punches.

 You know how it bugs you that you’re not part of the “in” crowd? You have friends, sure, but you’re not popular. Well, if that’s one of the things you can learn to “chill” about, that would be best because things in that department don’t get better.  Oh, some of the snobbish folk eventually get neck cramps from hoisting their noses so far in the air. Er… I mean they outgrow the tendency to look down on everyone. But that doesn’t happen until you’re, you know, ancient, like in your mid to late thirties. 

Eventually the whole popularity thing becomes less important to you. You mostly get over being bothered by them. But that’s a lot of years of letting them get under your skin, so I suggest you get over it NOW. Just focus on being the best “you” you can be and don’t worry about anyone else.

too slow clock

And you know how you feel like time moves so slowly and you’re always wishing this or that would hurry up and get here? Well, stop that right now! Stop wishing your life away. Live in and enjoy every moment as it comes. Please trust me on this one. Time is moving at exactly the pace it is supposed to.

 

 

Back to being who you are. You need to believe in yourself more. GOD’s given you abilities and qualities that HE wants and needs you to use. Don’t sell yourself short. In fact if you could spend some time building your confidence, it will serve you well in the decades to come when you have a tendency to shrink back from challenges that you should embrace. So yeah, take a course or read a book. Do something to boost that level of confidence because there’s a whole world waiting out there for you.

Most Sincerely,

Your much older and wiser self

How do you feel when you think back on the person you were at 16?

 

 

 

Save the Bell Bottoms, Trash the Tube Top!

In keeping with Kathrese McKee’s idea of writing a letter to my younger self, I have decided to continue. Only, I’m writing to my seventeen-year-old self instead of the fourteen-year-old version. I went through the biggest transition of my life at seventeen. All through high school, decisions were made for me and my goals were set by someone else. Suddenly I stood on the edge of my future with no one but me calling the shots. Exhilarating freedom, with a huge side-order of fear.

Loraine at 17

Dear Loraine,

First and foremost, stop comparing yourself to others. That girl you think has it all together: looks, brains and a hot guy? She’s as human as you are and is headed for 3 bad marriages and a few other bad choices. And the hot guy? At the 20th grad reunion, he was single and embarrassed himself and everyone else by flirting madly with all the gals. Totally unattractive.

But really, the quicker you realize it’s not about how you look, (because that changes) the happier you’ll be.  And luckily you settle down with someone who loves you. And that’s the very best you can hope for. I won’t tell you how you meet, but don’t underestimate car rallies. Nuf said…

And don’t think babysitting other peoples’ kids will be like having your own. As much as you loved those kids, another whole world opens up and there will be no boundaries on how much you will be able to love your own. So scrap the idea of having no kids in the future.

Beware of that religious group that has no affiliation with a church. Scary stuff!  Mom does have the right instincts on that one. Listen to her!

Please, don’t let the cat sleep with you. I took years of desensitization shots to get over our cat allergy. And also, take better care of our back. Leave the 75 lb. bales of hay for others to drag around. This back won’t last us till ninety if you keep thinking you are super woman!

Much to your surprise, we turn out just fine. The dead-ends and detours are actually moving us forward. They are God’s ways of teaching us some things about ourselves and our dependence upon Him.

Oh, and keep your bell-bottoms, trash the tube-top, don’t buy the Vauxhall, don’t wear the friend’s jade neckless to the dance, believe in your dreams, and get rid of your eyelash curler.

Can I clarify the bell bottom suggestion? For females, the fashion comes back, but, thank heavens, not for men! Seriously is this a good look?

superfly

And, one more thing. Love yourself more. God knew what he was doing when he made us! 🙂

Love,

Your older self.

What would you have told your seventeen-year-old self?

Healthy Alternatives to Torture

“I suggest surgery, but I have to warn you, the success rate of this procedure is not…perfect. And there could be complications.”

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I blinked at the doctor sitting across from me with a pasted-on smile that said “I’m trying to be polite, but let’s hurry this decision. I have to make up time today.”

“I think I’ll discuss this with my husband, and let you know asap,” I muttered. My heart thumped a crazy beat.

What did I expect from a surgeon? I exited and never went back.

I’d been through many doctors, massage therapists, and physios with little or no relief to my back issues. I was desperate. Let’s face it, what does a writer or an illustrator do when sitting is out of the question for longer than ½ hour? Longer would have been torture, and it’s hard to concentrate on being creative in that state.

I know, I know, you’ve heard me expound upon my glorious stand-up chair.

3 in 1 chair

But the picture of relief isn’t quite complete without the full treatment regime.

For all of you who are determined to relieve (or avoid) back issues due to constant sitting, here’s what I’ve found after years of constant pain in my lower back and investigations into avoiding said pain. Every back is different but this is for lower back pain, around the sacroiliac region.

Enter a different physio. What surprised me the most was the vast difference between physios (and chiropractors for that matter). You have to go through a few, unfortunately, before you find one that works.

This fellow took me past my instinctive guarding in my movements and insisted that I was too young to have this lack in range of motion. I of course argued that he needed to know my history a bit better. However, I thought I’d humour him just this once. His approach was logical enough, to strengthen the tissues around the area to take the strain off the bones, while increasing my range of motion.

But here’s the kicker. If you are as determined as I am to not feel like an eighty-year-old yet, you have to put in the effort. Not much, but there it is. Or you can face the pasted-on smile doctor I mentioned above.

Here are some exercises and stretches that work for me. I couldn’t find the exercises on the internet to show you, before I had to remind myself that I CAN draw. So please refer to the below, rather unprofessional sketches for visual reference. (Especially if you are anything like me – totally visually oriented) Before you start, exercise to warm up the muscles. I go to the gyn and hop on the elliptical or go for a vigorous walk.

Strengthening exercises for lower back:

Lie on your tummy. Stretching your arms ahead of you and legs straight, raise your left arm and right leg for a second or two. Then the other side. Do about 30 to begin and work up. This is really good to strengthen all those itty bitty muscles around the spine.

exercises 6

Do a plank. On your tummy again, raise up on your elbows and toes holding your body straight. Hold for 30 seconds to begin with. Then work up.

exercises 9

The horrible clam exercise! Lie on your side with an elastic around your lower thighs. Open your knees against the restriction. Do fifteen at first and work up.

exercises

Stretching exercises for lower back:

Knees folded under you on mat, bow down arms in front reaching. Go into cat stretch. Hold for about 10 seconds. Repeat about 10 times. (I use this many times a day while writing/illustrating. Go into crouching position illustrated below, and feel the stretch on your lower back.

exercises 1

On a mat, fold right leg in front of you, foot under left hip (or pointing that way at least) Lean over your leg. Don’t push it, just feel the stretch on your butt. Hold for about 15 seconds. Work on the other leg the same.

exercises 2

Lie on your back with legs up, bent at knee. Swing them from side to side holding the stretch for about 10 seconds.

exercises 3

 

And there you have it! Not too hard right? It takes me about 10 minutes after I’ve warmed up. I do it 3 times a week or so. (The cat stretch I do many times a day because it feels good!)

 

So, do you have any exercises or stretches that enable you to sit for hours in front of a screen?

 

 

 

WONDER — The Spark of Truth

I’ve been working on a memoir of my sister and me covering the first five years of her life. Struggling with author voice and the art of stringing events together in a cohesive fashion, fellow Scriblerian TJ Akers suggested I read Wonder.

Wonder-by-RJ-Palacio-e1387718254694
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, is a novel, but it reads like a memoir. In both my story and Palacio’s, the subject matter focuses on growing up in a family where one of the siblings has special needs. My sister overcame several physical handicaps. In Wonder, Auggie must tolerate people’s reactions to his facial disfigurements, and he must have the fortitude to become vulnerable to others if they are to ever know the soul behind the face.

 

 
Published in 2012, Wonder has already been noted as a modern classic, and I can see why. Classic literature takes readers beyond a good story, rich in emotion. It takes us deeper into the meaning of life. Secular or Christian, it doesn’t matter. Humans are made in God’s image, and all of us have been created with kindling in our hearts that bursts into flame at a touch from the spark of truth.

spark to kindling
Palacio’s writing style in displaying Auggie’s courage and honesty is such a spark. She has accomplished what I’m aiming for. I want my sister’s perseverance and spritely spirit to set hearts on fire.

 

 
Many of the books I review here at The Scriblerians fall into the “classics” category. Which children’s books have you read that sparked fire in your heart?