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Faith, Family, Writing

“So, what does D.M. mean?” A tribute to the woman I never met.

It’s a question I get a lot when someone notices my “pen name.” And I always give the short answer: “I have two middle names and since I have a very common last name, I figured ‘D.M.’ was a good way to make it stand out.”

_So, what does D.M. mean__

But there is more to the story. Yes, I do have two middle names: Dolores Mae. But my parents didn’t randomly pick those names when I was born. Like many people, my middle names were inspired by a grandparent. Dolores Mae was my grandmother on my mother’s side. Unfortunately, I never got to meet her. About three years before I was born, she died of leukemia. This coming December 23rd will be 34 years since her death.

This woman has intrigued me my entire life. I’ve always loved hearing stories about her. On the surface, she was a simple wife of a farmer down in Iowa, raising four kids who were all given names with the letter C. But if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll find a woman with a heart for Jesus, loved her kids and grandbabies and had the gift of hospitality like no other. She was ready for company at all times, with the coffee pot always on, and sweets in the freezer to pull out whenever someone came through the door.

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Her and my grandpa had a special kind of love that people dream about for themselves. They were separated by WWII when Grandpa had to fight in Europe, keeping in touch with just letters. Grandma kept a scrapbook of their time apart. She was like any young lady in love, writing down song lyrics that reminded her of her man. Kind of like young girls would do today, but only on Instagram. There was one song in the scrapbook called “Carolina Moon.” I found a 1929 recording of the song on YouTube and the lyrics are super sweet. (Give it a listen: https://bit.ly/2Cp8Cuq ) This scrapbook probably kept her sane through all the years they were separated by war. It’s no surprise that they were married less than a month after he was discharged.

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Even though I’ve never met Dolores Mae, she’s everywhere in my life. Most recipes I grew up eating and now feed to my family are hers. (Her chocolate chip cookies are legendary. And then there’s Klinkers, you know what I’m talking about McCarty family) The lullaby that my mom sang to me and that I now sing to my kids was hers (It goes to the music of the hymn “Love Lifted Me). The two most precious ornaments on my Christmas tree right now were hand painted by her and have her name on them. I have a crocheted blanket in my living room that she started but never got to finish. My aunt had to finish it. A milk can that once belonged to her and Grandpa on their farm now sits in my living room. I plan on keeping that around even after the farmhouse chic style goes outdated.

If someone were to ask me “If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?” No surprise that I’d choose my grandma. But I don’t want to just have dinner with her, I want to help and watch her make the dinner of her most loved recipes. Maybe even see how she makes her cinnamon rolls so I can show my mom how to finally make them. I want to watch her gift of hospitality because it’s an area I struggle in. I want to tell her that her and Grandpa’s love for Jesus still carries on. That her kids and grandkids have carried that love across oceans and to their local communities, through musical talents, through writing, to special needs children, one of whom is her great-grandson.

So, that’s Dolores Mae. A simple but extrordinary farmer’s wife who loved Jesus, and that love carried over to everyone around her.

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Conferences, Writing

Unexpected Surprises at Writers’ Conferences

It’s now spring and many writers are anticipating all the conferences coming up in the next several months. A writers’ conference is a great way to to connect with other writers, learn more about the craft, and meet with publishing professionals. I have been to two conferences in my life (ACFW in 2016 and Northwestern Christian Writers Conference in 2017) and I’m hoping to make it to my third this coming fall. Thankfully, I went to both conferences with some writer buddies that have plenty of conference experience, so I had a pretty good idea what to expect. But even though I was semi-prepared, there were still some things that took me completely by surprise…

Unexpected Surprises at Writers' Conferences


Getting Recognized

This was probably the biggest shocker for me. I’m a nobody 99% of the time and I usually prefer to keep it that way. So you can imagine my surprise when fellow conference attendees would say they’ve heard of me or recognized me after I introduced myself. But as we writers strive to build our platform on social media, the chances are pretty good that quite a few people at the conference have seen your name floating around Twitter or Facebook.

The Emotions
Almost every emotion can be experienced at a writers’ conference. There’s the excitement about seeing your writer buddies. Exhaustion from all the walking (seriously, it’s insane). Nervousness before you pitch. Rejection when the editor/agent isn’t interested in your story or exhilaration when they are. I was very nervous going into my first conference because it was all very new to me. For my second conference, I was still a bit nervous but more excited and eager to learn.

The Fellowship
You know going into a conference that you’ll be around other writers. But holy cow, it really hits you when you’re there. All these people understand this weird and crazy writing life with the writer’s block, deadlines, the ups and downs, and platform building. They get it. They understand ALL of it. A conference is where introverts like me can easily make conversation because we all, at least, have one thing in common. If you enter a writers’ conference not knowing a soul, I guarantee you’ll leave the conference with a handful of business cards and an arm-load of new friends.

 
The After-Conference Burn-Out
I applaud any writer that comes home after a conference and jumps straight back into writing. I’ll admit that it took me about a week or so to recover after the ACFW conference. All those emotions, the walking, the socializing, and the travel came crashing down when I got home. My introvert-meter (as I call it) was completely busted. I don’t think I moved much that first day back. So don’t feel bad if you don’t jump back on the writing train when you get home, there are plenty of us in a post-conference stupor.


Your turn! What surprises did you encounter at a writers’ conference?

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Four Essentials for the Writer-Mom.

I am a mom of two young kids, ages 3 and 1. There are days when it’s hard to put in a load of laundry, let alone write a book. My youngest is at that stage where you have to keep a constant eye on her or she will get into whatever it is she knows she’s not supposed to get into, whether it’s the remotes, my phone, or even my morning tea. So writing is sometimes not in the cards for me most days. But with a lot of prayer and even some caffeine, I managed to get a writing routine down and thought up four essentials we writer-moms need.

And I know, this list could be miles long.

Four Essentials for the Writer-Mom

A Notebook.
If your little ones are anything like mine, then having a laptop around would only trigger curious fingers to press ALL the buttons. A notebook has been a lifesaver for me. When I don’t have kids sitting (or jumping) on my lap, I grab my notebook and jot down ideas for the chapter I’m working on, and ideas for future chapters that I don’t want to forget. So when the kids are finally in bed, I already know what to work on when I’m at my desk. If a notebook is not your thing, there are a lot of great apps for your smartphone that can do the trick (I use WriterPlus).

Some Help.
If you can’t get that hour of writing time when the kids are around, perhaps it’s time to enlist some help. You can ask your hubby, a relative, or a friend to watch the kiddos for an hour or two so you can get some writing done. I have a few writing friends that have done this and it’s been a huge help.

A Whole Lot of Grace.
Don’t feel bad if you have to put the writing aside for a while. The newborn phase is probably the toughest time for some moms. Just know that it’s okay to stop writing for a bit. Use that time to pray for rest (Matthew 11:28), and read some books if you can (Breastfeeding was a great time for reading). Once you start getting into a routine and getting more sleep, you can pick up that pen again. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t written in awhile.

Prayer
Because if God called you to be a mom and writer, you’re going to need Him to help you juggle them both. Philippians 4:6 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” It’s amazing what you can get done when you seek God’s guidance first, whether it’s writing a novel, or getting some housework done with the little ones around.

*BONUS* Caffeine
I’m sure most of you were screaming “When is she going to mention coffee?!” I don’t drink coffee, but I do need caffeine about as much as the next mom. But just in the form of tea. So let’s all get a refill of our drink of choice, and get some writing done.

God Bless!

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Current Season of Life

Sometimes, you can’t write. That was most of 2017 for me.

I know, recaps of the previous year are so three weeks ago. But I promise not to bore you with too many details. In a nutshell, here are a few of the things that happened in my life in 2017:

  • Gave birth to my daughter.
  • Had surgery on my jaw to remove a benign cyst.
  • Turned 30…
  • Started a Book Club at my church.
  • Went to a small writers conference in Minnesota.
  • Bought a house and moved.

But actual writing, you ask? Meh…

Not that I didn’t write, I just didn’t get as far as I would have liked to. Writing was easier when I only had my son around, but once my daughter was born, finding time to write got harder and harder, especially since my daughter is a clingy mommy’s girl.

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It got to the point where I was beginning to question my calling. Writers write, right? Aren’t we supposed to be writing every single day? (Or so they say). My husband just kept telling me “this is just the season of life that you’re in.” But I still questioned God’s calling for me, wondering if I had misinterpreted it somehow. I was basically on the edge of the cliff, ready to jump off and call it quits. But as I was ready to take the jump, I just couldn’t do it. God made it pretty clear right then that He called me to this, and I just need to keep going and trust Him.

About a day or two later, I was looking around on Facebook and found posts by two different writers. Both explaining that they also hadn’t been able to write for awhile, and were now finally getting that itch to start putting words on the page again. I’m getting that itch, too. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one in a rut was so encouraging.

Now it’s 2018,  here’s hoping for more writing, more hugs and snuggles from my kids (and the hubby too 😛 ), a more deepened faith and relationship with God, and hopefully a little less crazy and a more laid-back year.

God Bless.

What are you hoping for or looking forward to in 2018?