Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Twenty-One Ways to Grow a Reader {Updated}

{I posted a blog quite similar to this back in 2013, but there have been some changes since then. And since the time for summer reading programs is quickly approaching, I’ve updated the post.}

When I was a child, I would frustrate my mother by reading so much. I still managed my chores, and I earned good grades. But sometimes, when I would go outside “to play,” I would climb a tree and disappear into its branches, book in hand. On summer break, before I was old enough to have a job, I would sit and read an entire book in one day.

Are some of us born readers?

I don’t know.

But I don’t want to leave my children to chance. I began, intentionally, to teach them to love reading at an early age. Some of my children are still relatively young, so whether this will stick for life has yet to be seen for them. But my 17yo and 15yo continue to list reading at the top of their hobby list.

Summer reading programs are quickly approaching, so here are twenty-one tips for growing voracious readers.

  1. Read aloud, copiously, when the children are little. Voices, too.
  2. Continue reading aloud even after the children can read for themselves. Voices, too. J
  3. Play with books – spread them out as roads for cars, build them into forts, wear them as silly hats.
  4. Let your children see you read…a lot.
  5. Let your children see their father read, or talk about how much he reads at work.
  6. Ask them about what they’re reading. What is it about? Who is their favorite character? What is their favorite part?
  7. Talk about books…a lot.
  8. When you talk about books, be excited…a lot.
  9. Give your children books for both birthday and Christmas. Our children know that at least one of their gifts will be a book. We also usually give a book or two to the family at Easter as well.
  10. Praise them when they read a book…a lot.
  11. Quote from books. For example, if my husband or I need to call for the children because we’re leaving someplace, we often call out, “Chidlers!” They know that when they hear that call, they need to gather. But do you know why we call them chidlers? We haven’t mixed up our words. J It’s from The BFG by Roald Dahl. The Big Friendly Giant in that book calls children, chidlers. {An interesting aside: in all the years we’ve been using that term out in public, only one person knew where it was from. She was a librarian at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., and the children lit up to be able to talk to her about books.}
  12. As the oldest children become avid readers, encourage them to encourage the younger children to read.
  13. Reduce or eliminate broadcast television. We don’t have television at all, but we read, play games, play together, and talk.
  14. Reduce or eliminate DVDs. Some days, we don’t watch any DVDs at all. Other days, it might be perhaps just a couple of half-hour movies.
  15. Reduce or eliminate video games. We used to have a Wii, but when the remote controls went on the fritz, we ditched it.
  16. Reduce or eliminate phones. Our children {the oldest is 17} don’t have phones or any handheld devices {except kindles J}.
  17. Reduce your use of your phone. Our children don’t see me constantly fiddling around on a hand-held device. I do check a few things now and then, but it’s not a tumorous growth on my hand. J
  18. Make going to the library or bookstore a big deal. At the library, I put very little limit on how many books they can take home. If we go to a bookstore, we usually go to Half-Price Books where we feel a little more financial freedom to let them buy {almost} whatever they want. Hmm…a book for $1.00 or a Wii game for $20. That’s a no-brainer.
  19. Decorate with books on bookshelves.
  20. Talk about the value of reading and how life and learning are much easier and more enjoyable when there is a love of reading.
  21. Pray. I have prayed since their birth that each of my children would love to read.

Happy reading!

Do your children like to read? How have you encouraged that?

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Four Lessons Learned from my Mother's Home-made Estate Sale

Mom is downsizing. In many respects, it feels freeing, eliminating items that have been weighing her down for decades. But it's also emotional. She's moved out of the condominium she lived in with Dad for the last two decades of his life. In fact, they've lived there for most of my married life. It’s the only home my children associate with Grandma.

Now, she’s going to be in a two-bedroom apartment in a retirement village. It’s still a good size, and she will maintain a lot of independence. But it won’t hold everything.

It was time to let go of a lot of things.

I researched lots of different options for her including auctions and estate sale companies. Several items she took to specialty consignment shops. A few things sold on Craigslist. We bought her washer and dryer. But in the end, she decided to run her own two-weekend estate sale. I was there two of the four days and came away with a few observations.

People aren't nearly as dangerous as I imagine them to be. She had advertised the sale in several places, places that warn you to be careful in how you deal with potential buyers. And I’ve had my own run-ins with crazies as I’ve sold my own stuff. Maybe it's because I write suspense. Maybe it's because I read too much news. Maybe it's because I'm a mama bear worried about her cubs. Yes, we need to be careful. But I also tend to see danger in situations where it just isn't. The people who shopped Mom's sale, both in the garage and all over her house, were polite and friendly.

A helpful and knowledgeable friend is a must. One of Mom's church friends runs an antique mall/consignment store type of business. Without her management and expertise, who knows how little of Mom's stuff would have sold? Mom is attached to her stuff (understandably so), but that made it difficult for her to let it go, especially when someone wanted her to come down in price. The reality was, though, that it had to go. This friend helped her price things appropriately and stepped in many times to negotiate the final sale when Mom wouldn’t let me.

Reality can be difficult to face. I'm not sure how Mom handled it all. She doesn't share much emotion with me. But for the first couple of hours of each day I was there, I walked around the condo with a lump in my throat, hiding the tears welling in my eyes. Change can be hard, but we still have to deal with it. I hugged my children extra tight that night and thanked the Lord for both the good times and the bad.

We still have too much stuff. Seeing Mom's accumulated goods spread out on several (several!) folding tables, the counter top, the extra bed that was also for sale, the clothes still hanging in the closets, affected my husband and me…and that doesn't even count what she's crammed into her new two-bedroom apartment. I walked out of that sale determined to declutter more. When my time comes, I want it to be as easy as possible for my children. In the meantime, fewer possessions equal fewer burdens.

And through it all, God is with us, holding our hands, guiding us, comforting us.

Life goes on. How do you handle it? What lessons have you learned from the forward march of time?

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Winner of Under Duress!

Last week, I revealed the cover for my next Love Inspired Suspense, Deadly Disclosure. It's just so exciting that I'll share it again ~~~

It's coming in August, but you can pre-order on Amazon right now.

And the winner of Under Duress is....

~~ Cheryl Baranski ~~

Congratulations, Cheryl! Please email me to let me know if you want a print copy or an e-book, and happy reading!

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cover Reveal of Deadly Disclosure + A Giveaway!

{Affiliate links ahead.}

It's here! It's here! It's here! Wheee!

{Can you tell I'm excited? J }

Without further cartwheels, I present to you the cover for my August Love Inspired Suspense release, Deadly Disclosure ~~~


Getting shot at on her way to work is only the first shock of
law student Hannah McClarnon’s day. The second is when FBI agent
Derek Chambers—her first love—reveals the truth about Hannah’s
family. Though Hannah was raised by a wealthy Indianapolis couple,
her birth father was with the Chicago mafia. And now, convinced she
has information against them, they’re hunting her down. Derek’s first
big assignment is to protect Hannah, and it’s becoming more personal
every minute. He’s never revealed why he left long ago, and he still
believes Hannah deserves someone better. But with the enemy in
relentless pursuit, he’ll risk his life to be the man she needs—
and loves—again.

If you've read Under Duress, you may recognize Derek Chambers. He was an officer with the Heartwood Hill Police Department and the hero's only friend left in town. Deadly Disclosure is his story!

In honor of Derek getting his own book {and since I don't have any copies of Deadly Disclosure in my possession yet}, I'm giving away a copy of Under Duress.

The winner can choose either a print copy or an e-book. To enter, send me an email either by replying to this if you receive my blog posts via email or through the contact form, or you can leave a comment below. I'll choose a winner at random and announce next week. {Only entries from the U.S.A. are eligible for the print copy. A winner from outside the US will receive an ebook.}

In the meantime, if you want to buy your own copy of Under Duress, it's still available in ebook form on Amazon.

You can also pre-order Deadly Disclosure! And of course, there will be plenty of giveaways as we inch nearer to August....

One last announcement ~

I've joined several other authors from the Love Inspired lines in a group blog. We'll be taking turns talking about suspense, contemporary, and historical Love Inspired books as well as some fun mixed in like word searches. I'm sure there will be giveaways as well! You can find us at Love Inspired Stories.

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now...." ~ Philippians 1:3-5

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Talk to the Moon…or perhaps a better title would be “Missing My Dad”

{I was searching for a blog post topic in my stash of ideas and jottings and came across this little piece I wrote nearly five years ago. I was at the college getting some work done while my oldest three were in their dual enrollment class and my youngest three were sitting with me working on their homeschool work…and I started crying. In the middle of the study area. A few tears slipped down my cheek, and I couldn’t help it. I still miss my dad, and he passed away more than seven years ago. My 6yo will never know him, and my 8yo doesn’t remember him at all.

It seemed right to share this with you today, along with the somewhat overdone but still valid admonition to hug the ones you love a little bit longer today. Be sure to say I love you and I’m proud of you. No one knows what tomorrow will bring.}

The storm door creaks, and she steps into the moonlight, carefully lifting her veined feet over the threshold. She pulls her sweater around her in the humid night air and breathes deeply. The moon is nearly full, and she lifts watery eyes to take in its’ brilliance.

“The grandkids were here tonight, Harry,” she says to the moon. “We ate at Monicals, at that table in the back. They’re getting so big, so grown up, and the baby isn’t really a baby anymore. He has our name, Harry, but I think I’ve told you that before.”

The moon gazes down on her, listening intently, as she wipes an eye.

“We had ice cream, too. I still buy the vanilla you like.”

The crickets buzz in her ear, and she shoos a mosquito away. But she can’t … won’t … look away.

“Oh, Harry, I had no idea it would be this hard. We had some good times together, though, didn’t we?” She hums a little bit of I’ll be loving you always, swaying in the moonlight, hugging her arms around herself.

“Happy anniversary, Harry.”

P.S. I'll be sending out my first author newsletter this weekend, and I have a special giveaway for subscribers. I'd be thrilled if you signed up below! Thanks.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Great Purge Continues to My Purse ~ What I’m Keeping and What I’m Discarding

I have a love-hate relationship with purses. Sometimes I love the cute designs, the colors, the organizing pockets both inside and out, the ability to have what I need/want with me. Sometimes I wish I could just stick a wallet in my pocket and not worry about anything else like my husband.

For the time being, though, I know I can’t go without. Some women carry a cell phone in their back pocket and that’s it. But, not only do I generally not have back pockets, but I wouldn’t want an electronic device riding on my bum all day either. I need a bit more available than just my phone.

I can, however, declutter. Now that I’m without a diaper bag, it’s been an interesting endeavor to examine what I carry and why. As it’s been going with our family with our household decluttering, my purse will probably continue to downsize in waves.

For now, I’ve reduced the items I carry to these essentials ~

Phone. I know, duh. J

Kindle Paperwhite. Hundreds of books on my person. I know, another duh. J

A pocket pack of tissues. Tears, blood, boogers….

Personal items. Comb, compact, chapstick, two bandaids, a spare ponytail holder.

Two pens. Sometimes, it’s just easier to have my own. Plus, my baggallini has two terrific pen holders, and it wouldn’t seem right to leave them empty.

A few business cards and bookmarks. Because you just never know when you might need them.

Various cards, including debit, credit, insurance, etc. I’m just not to the point of being comfortable with all of that in my phone. Maybe someday, but for now, my baggallini has plenty of slots to keep them organized.

Small bottle of hand sanitizer. I’m not sure if this will make it through the next wave of downsizing, but for now, I like having it available.


This is what I’ve eliminated ~

Wipes. I still feel the need to have wipes handy when we’re out, especially since my 6yo seems to need to use all ten fingers and his palms to eat tortilla chips and paper napkins only tear at the grease and salt that has become stuck on his skin as a result of eating said tortilla chips. But I don’t generally need wipes for shopping for groceries or a stop by the bank. So, wipes will stay in the van, remaining accessible for eating out.

Small paper notebook. I may regret this someday, like when the phone dies, but right now I keep all my notes on my phone.

Checkbook. I barely write paper checks anymore, and I’m trying out a checkbook register app on the phone. We’ll see how it goes.

Menards merchandise credit checks. I cannot tell you how long I’ve had these in my purse. Seriously? These are only needed when my husband goes to that store.

Lint. J

As I downsize, then I need to buy smaller purses to replace my bigger purses. See that love/hate thing? I love purses…until next time. J

Care to share what you carry in your purse?

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Eight Reasons I Want My Children to Be Best Friends

It's a difficult world in which to raise a family, isn't it? Especially a family that likes to be together.

I'm not sure how we got to this point, but a lot of people seem to value friends outside the family for their children rather than encouraging siblings to be friends. They are quick to get friends together and believe that siblings who are best friends are socially backward, as if they are incapable of making friends with anyone else.

Of course, friends are important, but why does it seem to be at the expense of a close family? This grieves me.

If we read the Bible, starting at the very beginning, we read that the first group of people the Lord God ever created was a family. Doesn’t this mean that family might be important to him? J

We can't assume that siblings will be best friends just by virtue of living in the same house. With so much pulling on our children these days, including churches that separate everybody into age-appropriate groups rather than keep them together as families, we only do ourselves a disservice with that assumption. Friendship among siblings needs to be nurtured, and here are eight reasons why I've made that effort.

A harmonious family home. Even with outside activities, families still have to spend time at home together. If the children are friends, those times can be sweet and uplifting.

Holidays...for the rest of their lives. If you have not experienced a holiday get-together with family that was fraught with tension because relationships weren't what they could have been, then you are blessed. Wouldn't it be more fun, more encouraging, more uplifting to get together with family over Christmas if everyone loved being together?

Vacations. I would loathe having children who didn't want to be on vacation together but kept emailing or texting or Facebooking with friends back home. Vacations are for family-together-time, experiencing the adventure of new things or relaxation and rejuvenation with people you love, and making memories to last a lifetime.

Grandmas and grandpas together some day. Many, many years ago, when the now-13yo boy was just a little guy in a stroller, we went to the airport to see the planes come and go and eat in the food court. {Big doings! J } A pilot waiting for his next flight noticed us and starting talking to the children. He had three children, and he said he encouraged them to be best friends because some day they would be grandmas and grandpas together. Unless a sibling severs ties, brothers and sisters are going to grow old together. I'm working now so that they have the benefit of a life-long nurturing friendship. This goes along with the next point…

Friends move away and don't always stay in touch or make the effort to travel to get together. Siblings do. There's still power in that word – FAMILY.

When others reject them, they have each other.

If trouble arises between sibling~friends {and it will}, a parent is there to sort it out. Friendships end all the time because of misunderstandings or hurts that don't get resolved, but living in the same house, perhaps even sharing the same bedroom, is a great encouragement to conflict resolution.

If siblings are friends, they get along better with mom and dad as well, and that's a win for everyone.

How do you nurture your children to be friends?

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