April 20, 2015

Writing Conference!

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 3:01 pm by Tamara

Image credit: http://centrum.org/2014/08/creative-nonfiction-workshop-nov-6-9/I have to share a cool story: I’ve been wanting to go to a writers conference for years, and a few months ago I found out there’s a big Christian writers conference in Estes Park in May.  I instantly wanted to go; unfortunately it’s too expensive for me to be able to afford all three days of it, but I found out they offer a few partial scholarships and I thought maybe if I could get a scholarship I could go to one or two days of it.  I wanted to take my time to write as compelling an application as I could, but then morning sickness hit with a vengeance and I could barely get off the couch, let alone write an eloquent scholarship application.

A couple Friday nights ago something (or should I say Someone) made me think about the conference and I got on the website to see when the scholarship deadline was.  I was crushed to see that it was that day.  I told Adam I had missed the deadline, and he pointed out that it was still technically the day of the deadline, even if it was already 10pm.  I was exhausted and feeling miserable but I decided the worst that could happen was that I submitted a horrible application and they rejected it, so I started writing.  I had to tell why I wanted to attend the conference, my writing goals, current writing project, what I’m doing to meet my goals, why I need a scholarship, etc.  What I sent it was honestly pretty pitiful; nowhere near the compelling and eloquent application I had wanted to take my time to write.

I didn’t expect to hear anything for a while, but the very next morning I got an email from the conference organizer saying that she was so blessed by my application that she contacted the man who offers the scholarships to ask him if he would consider covering one more FULL scholarship for me, and he said yes!  She also said she wanted to arrange for me to meet with five agents to present my book, and recommended that I sign up for critiques with two authors.

I was completely stunned and told Adam, thinking there was no way I could leave him and the kids for three days, but he immediately insisted that this was too great an opportunity and I had to go.  My parents and in-laws said the same thing and graciously have offered to help with taking care of the kids and helping pay for my hotel for the conference.  So, it looks like I’ll be going!

The conference looks amazing: the theme is “Write His Answer” (Habakkuk 2:2); there’s a faculty of 56 authors, editors, and agents; workshops on everything from writing in deep point of view to how to handle spiritual takeaways in fiction without preaching to how to market your book; and one-on-one meetings with agents and publishers.  Estes Park is a beautiful mountain resort town; I wish Adam could come with me so we could enjoy it together!  I’ve only been away from Bear overnight once and have never been away overnight since Songbird was born, and while I feel a little heartsick thinking of being away from my family for three days, I also suspect it will breathe new life into me as a mommy!

I’m amazed that God is giving me this opportunity; not only because of the opportunity itself but because of the timing.  We’ve had some really discouraging closed doors lately.  I KNOW the truth that God proved his love for me once and for all on the cross (Romans 5:8), but I’ve struggled to hold onto that lately when so many circumstances seem to imply that he’s just forgotten about us.  The fact that God chose to bless me with an opportunity I’ve dreamed about for years at a time when I have felt discouraged and even angry with him is amazing proof of his gracious love for me, and how his love is not conditional on whether or not I am worthy of it.  What a message about the gracious, generous character of our God!

Secondly, it has reminded me that I can trust God and the members of his body to accomplish what he wants to accomplish.  One of the things that is so intimidating to me about the prospect of missions work is that we will need to raise financial support.  I worry that we will never be able to share our vision in a powerful enough way to compel people to be involved in our ministry.  The fact that total strangers are being so generous to me, even without the perfect, eloquent application that I wanted to write, reminded me that if God wants to take us to the mission field it won’t be through my efforts and clever words, but through his power (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).  It has reminded me that there are believers in the body who are eagerly listening for his voice and willing to joyfully and sacrificially participate in his work.  How encouraging!

The Israelites set up stones to remind them of what God had done for them (Joshua 4:19-24), and I have several stories of God’s provision that I’ve set in my heart as my “12 Stones”–things I can go back to it and be reminded that God loves me and will provide for me–and not just my needs, but often my heart’s desires, as well.  I’m adding this to the list!  (If you want to read other stories, click on the “12 Stones” tag in the sidebar.  Some of them are pretty funny.)

Since I registered so close to the deadline I’ve been SCRAMBLING to get everything ready; choosing excerpts of the book for critique, preparing my “one sheet” and book pitch for the agents, registering for my workshops and one-on-ones, and all the other little details.  The fact that I’m still dealing with pretty severe morning sickness (and even got to spend a day in the hospital last week) hasn’t made it very easy to get my rusty creative brain functioning again, but I’m doing my best.  I’m really praying that I’ll be feeling better by the conference so that I can get everything possible out of it!

If you’re curious about the book, to be honest I don’t feel like it’s anywhere near ready to be sold.  Mostly my goal for the conference is to just learn about how to improve my writing and get some feedback on my strengths and weaknesses as a writer.  The prospect of having my story critiqued by agents and published authors is, frankly, terrifying (!) but I’m going to swallow my insecurities and just try to learn from the experience.
Many of you have been so encouraging to me and my writing dreams in the past, and if you would pray for me related to this conference I would so appreciate it!  Pray that I can prepare well, that I’ll be healthy and have energy for the conference, that I’ll learn everything that God wants to teach me, make good connections, and for my husband and kids while I’m away for the first time!
Write His AnswerI know many of you are also writers, and if you’re interested in attending, here is a link to the conference.  Registration is still open and it would be so fun to have friends there!  :)  http://colorado.writehisanswer.com/

April 14, 2015

11 Reasons Morning Sickness ROCKS

Posted in Watermarks in Progress at 8:17 pm by Tamara

Morning sickness gets a bad rap.  I get it; I was pretty miserable with my first two pregnancies, and this one has thrown me into previously unknown levels of misery worthy of a new level of hell in Dante’s Inferno.  Not only is the nausea bad, for most women morning sickness comes with a side of bone-melting fatigue (for example, I have actually fainted after the exertion of walking to the bathroom to get ready for bed).

However, this time around I’ve realized that morning sickness has some clear benefits, and not just the old rumor that it means you have a healthy baby.  Here are a few reasons morning sickness actually ROCKS.

1.  The Redefinition of “Morning.” I never understood why “morning” sickness torments pregnant women 24 hours a day until I realized that “morning” must not mean what I thought it meant. In fact, Mayo Clinic defines morning sickness as “nausea that occurs during pregnancy…and can strike at any time of the day or night.”  I’ve always felt terrorized by how early morning comes (WHY would I want to be awake before 9am?) and all the expectations heaped on me to be coherent and functional at unholy hours (“Child, what is this ‘breakfast’ which you say you require?  How can it be time to eat again?”)  I now know this is totally unnecessary, because “morning” can strike at any time of the day or night!  Do you realize how freeing this is?  No more guilt over sleeping in until noon—it’s still technically morning!  Boss says that report has to be on his desk in the morning?  Drop it off at 5pm the next day and refer him to the Mayo Clinic for proof that it’s still morning!

2.  Decreased Grocery Budget. The first thing that helps decrease your grocery budget is that the sight of food in any form makes you want to vomit.  The second thing is the exhaustion.  My normal route through the grocery store starts in the produce section and ends in ice cream, but the one time I tried to grocery shop during this pregnancy, I made it out of the produce section only to shuffle into the dairy section and realize that I had used up 98.9% of my available energy.  I leaned forward and draped myself over the shopping cart handle and rolled slowly toward the check out, where the check out lady gave me a weird look as I peered up at her from where my head was resting on our bunch of bananas.  She may have thought I was insane, BUT not only did my grocery bill ring up less than a fourth of what it usually does when I have the energy to shop the whole store, but I looked like a super-healthy crunchy mama who serves her family nothing but raw fruits and vegetables.  Not a potato chip, carton of ice cream, or slice of bacon in sight, because who has the energy to walk to those sections??

3.  Conservation of Natural Resources. Droughts and water restrictions are all over the news right now, and thanks to morning sickness, I am playing my part in saving water!  Due to the fatigue that has rendered me borderline catatonic, I have reduced my showering by 97%, choosing instead to lie on the couch and moan.  I have also lessened my environmental impact by severely decreasing my use of soap, toxic makeup products, and toothpaste.  Everyone can do something!

4.  Sharpened Risk Assessment Skills. Morning sickness has greatly helped me develop the skill of determining the least-worst-case-scenario.  For example, when the kids are crying from hunger and I am lying stretched out on the couch like a melted blob of play-doh, which is worse:

a)  The risk of my kids starving before daddy comes home and can resuscitate them by pouring cheerios into their mouths where they lie passed out from hunger, or

b)  The risk of broken bones, concussions, and brain injury if I let a four year old construct an elaborate tower out of chairs, bathroom stools, and wheeled toys so that he can reach the box of cheerios in the cupboard and serve some to himself and his sister.

5.  A Redefinition of Success. My goal for housekeeping used to be that if someone stopped by unexpectedly, I could let them in and feel something better than “Shame over my toxic wasteland” and less than “Pride over my pristine perfection.”  Now, when I finally gather the strength to roll from the couch to the floor at bedtime, I have no eyes for the piles of Thomas trains and legos on the floor, clothes draped over every chair, mounds of mail, hairbows, and dirty bibs on the counter, or visible dog hair turning the carpet a new color.  Instead, I give myself a Gold Star Housekeeper Award if I gather up the kleenexes that have heaped up around me during the day and drop them into the trashcan as I crawl into the bedroom. I am superwoman.

6.  Bubblegum Water. Maybe it’s pregnancy hormones, or the nausea meds, or just every tastebud in my mouth going haywire, but pregnancy throw up has a more bitter, acrid taste than I can possibly describe.  The upside of this is that I have discovered that after I throw up, plain water tastes exactly like those gobs of pink, mind-numbingly sweet bubblegum they throw in those big bags of off brand candy.  Who needs soda when bubblegum water pours out of your tap for free?

7.  Children Acquire Survival Skills. My kids were pretty dismayed when I suddenly started spending 89% of my time on the couch and responding to their requests with moans for pity instead of cheese sticks.  However, I have seen a vast leap forward in their development while I have been out of commission.  For example, my four year old figured out how to get out of his highchair by himself, find cheese sticks, put on his own pants, and retrieve things from the counters.  All of these were things he was convinced he needed my help for a few months ago, but necessity is indeed the mother of invention!  My 18-month-old daughter has always refused to say “Mama,” probably since crying seemed to summon me quite effectively enough.  But all of a sudden I now find myself frequently roused from my comatose state by the sound of my daughter insistently saying “Mamamamamamamamama!” while smacking me in the head.  It’s a good thing morning sickness doesn’t usually last more than a few months for me, or they’d be driving themselves off to college at four years old and I am not ready for that!  (Unfortunately, she is also in the mimic phase and learning less desirable things: for example, every time she passes one of the many trashcans that are strategically placed in every room, she stops, bends over, and pretends to throw up.  O_o )

8.  Detection of All Odors. I have lived most of my life in terror of being “nose blind” and not noticing smells in the house until my neighbor stops by, takes one whiff, and calls the CDC.  But, thanks to heightened pregnancy senses and gag reflex, I am like a BLOODHOUND.  I can tell you that three rooms away there is a forgotten diaper on the changing table, warn you that the dog passed gas in the living room 30 minutes ago, deduce that the Chinese from last Friday is probably no longer safe to eat without even opening the fridge, and pronounce that every square inch of the bathroom needs to be gutted and the boy taught better aim.  Unfortunately, I cannot DO anything about any of these odors, because I am out on the deck gasping for fresh air while I heave into a trash can.  But at least I KNOW.  Knowledge is power, right?

9.  Baby Exhaustion is NBD. Compared to how wiped out I am during pregnancy, the sleep deprivation with a newborn feels like no big deal.  It’s like training for a marathon and then finding out you accidentally signed up for the preschool bunny hop instead.  As a friend put it, baby exhaustion is like a human tired, whereas pregnancy exhaustion is like a zombie tired.  Give me a sleepless newborn any day!

10.  Go From Zombie to Bombshell Overnight (well, comparatively). Let’s face it, when you regularly smell clean and conceal your under-eye circles, people start to take it for granted.  After a couple months of not showering, shaving, applying makeup, or brushing your hair, it’s amazing all the compliments you can get just for the smallest effort.  I mean, after I spent three months looking like death warmed over, the first time that I washed my hair and put on lipstick before church, my husband’s eyes widened like I was the reincarnation of Helen of Troy.  After my pregnancy grunge phase, I wore a hole-free t-shirt to Bible study and got so many compliments you would have thought I’d spent two hours on my hair, gotten a makeover at Sephora, and worn a knock off of a Kate Middleton dress.  This must be what feels like to be a movie star!

11.  And, finally, the benefit that should be number one: Cementing from Day One How Much We Love Our Children. Pregnancy can be rough (seriously rough), but morning sickness it is our first chance to say “Tiny Baby, I love you enough to do this and anything else for the blessing of holding you in my arms.  I will sacrifice food, sleep, coffee, my ability to function, and whatever else it takes so you can be safely knit together inside me.  And this is just the beginning: for the rest of my life I will be there to give you whatever you need to thrive, no matter what it costs me, because you are the greatest gift God has ever given me.”

So bring it on, Morning Sickness!  Just…could you bring that trash can over too?

A note: I want to say that all through writing this I’ve thought of dear friends who would endure all this and worse 100 times over if only their prayers for a baby would be answered.  My heart bleeds alongside you and I pray for God’s comfort and abundant answer to your heart’s cries.