Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!!!!

I hope you all have a super happy Christmas! I'll be back after the new year, excited to read your blogs and see how the holidays went.

God Bless.

Friday, December 21, 2012

"I Will Never Have Him Again"

About a year ago, I saw the saddest sight I have ever seen so far in my life. I talk about it a little more in depth here, but it was the sight of a friend carrying his son's casket down the aisle at church, all by himself, tears running down his cheeks, as he carried him outside to the waiting car. My heart broke for this dad and this family, who was now facing life without their precious son. Every painful year, day, minute, and even second, they would feel the loss of this little person who had filled their lives with love and joy. But, the family  said, we know we will see him again. Because of Christ, we know that he will live again.

Last night, while winding down after a long day, I turned on CNN to watch a few minutes of news before bed. Pierce Morgan was talking to the dad of a child who had been killed in the Newtown shooting.

My heart went out to this father, who was so dignified, so compassionate, and yet, at times, the pain would overwhelm his features as he spoke of his little boy. I still get tears in my eyes when I think about his parting words to Morgan about his son. As his face filled with anguish, the dad said: "I will never have him again."

I can't even write these words without crying--the saddest words I believe I have ever heard. I will never have him again. I cannot imagine the pain of believing that your child is lost to you.

I thought about this phrase all night long, wishing I could tell this father that he will see his son again. That, though his body is dead, his spirit lives. That, though he is lost to him now, Christ came that lost things may be found again. Every lost thing.

My mind is heavy with thoughts of these families facing the holidays without their precious children--perhaps because I have a son who is five years old and in kindergarten and my mind keeps putting him in the place of these kids. Perhaps because I have seen friends go through the pain of losing a child and those feelings are still fresh.

I have a favorite conference talk that I share with people often. I carry a copy of it around with me, and I've had the opportunity to hand it out several times to people who are struggling with the the loss of a loved one and share with them the most hopeful words I've ever heard. Here's the link if you want to read it in full, but I am going to include my favorite passage from it. Not only is it appropriate for what has happened in Newtown and for anyone who is struggling right now through unimaginable trials, but also for Christmas, when we remember the Light of the World and the great gift He gave us.

And if you're thinking: Kaylee, this post is too serious and too long and I'm going to skip this quote... I get that. I know I've had a series of kind of heavy posts, and it won't always be this way over here, but sometimes life gets serious. And sometimes we need a reminder of hope.

I've underlined the very best part of this quote, the life changing, hopeful part that I have memorized and think of whenever I get overwhelmed with this life, so if you are going to skip everything else, at least read that.

"I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross.
On that terrible Friday the earth shook and grew dark. Frightful storms lashed at the earth.
Those evil men who sought His life rejoiced. Now that Jesus was no more, surely those who followed Him would disperse. On that day they stood triumphant.
On that day the veil of the temple was rent in twain.
Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were both overcome with grief and despair. The superb man they had loved and honored hung lifeless upon the cross.
On that Friday the Apostles were devastated. Jesus, their Savior—the man who had walked on water and raised the dead—was Himself at the mercy of wicked men. They watched helplessly as He was overcome by His enemies.
On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled.
It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God.
I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest.
But the doom of that day did not endure.
The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind.
And in an instant the eyes that had been filled with ever-flowing tears dried. The lips that had whispered prayers of distress and grief now filled the air with wondrous praise, for Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, stood before them as the firstfruits of the Resurrection, the proof that death is merely the beginning of a new and wondrous existence.
Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.
But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.
No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come." --Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

Monday, December 17, 2012

Superlative Fiction Blogfest

Today is the first day of the Class of 2012 Superlative Fiction Blogfest.

So, here is where I TRY to remember all of the awesome books I've read this year.

Disclaimer: I am going to shamelessly bend the genres so that I can get most of my favorite reads from this year on here...

Favorite Dystopian:

The Selection (The Selection, #1)

If you are a follower of my blog, it is no secret that I am a huge fan of The Bachelor (Go Sean!) and I think that's what I loved about this book. It was a unique take on the idea of The Bachelor--with a prince as the prize. The whole book was just pure fun.

Favorite Science Fiction:
Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)
I picked this one up by accident, thinking it was a different book I'd heard a lot about, and ended up LOVING it. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down. So exciting and a love triangle that actually kept me guessing to the end.

Favorite Fantasy
Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)
I loved Fire and I loved Graceling, so I couldn't wait to read Bitterblue, and for me, it didn't disappoint. I thought that Bitterblue was a great character, and I really felt for her. In fact, I thought this book was so good, that when I put it down, I wanted to pick up another fantasy, and I'm normally not a huge fan of fantasy.

Favorite Contemporary:
The Fault in Our Stars

Hands-down, the best contemporary I read this year. I recommend it to everyone. It's wickedly funny. How John Green can take a book about two kids with terminal cancer who fall in love, and then make me laugh so hard throughout it, I don't know. But it was awesome. And poignant. And heartwrenchingly beautiful.

Favorite Mystery

Breaking Beautiful
 Fantastic writing with an edge-of-my-seat mystery. And I had to read to the end to see what in the world happened the night of the accident.

Favorite Romance:

My Life Next Door

Romance is my favorite genre, so it was easy for me to remember the romancees I read. The love story in this one was so sweet.

Yummy. I gained about five pounds just reading this book... It was a great story with the perfect amount of emotion and love and everything else that makes YA my favorite books to read.

Favorite Paranormal
The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1)
So unique and fun. Lots of twists and turns that made me want to keep reading.

Favorite Family Drama
Slammed (Slammed, #1)

I've dragged my heels on reading this one for some reason. I don't know why. Maybe because of all the hype. Or maybe I'm suspicious of books that have a ton of really high ratings. And for some reason, I was under the impression that "slammed" meant something completely different (despite the cover, I'm clueless, yes.) But curiosity got the best of me, so I read it. Tonight. I finished it about ten minutes ago. And I loved it. So good. So worth the high ratings. It may not officially be a "family drama", but hey, there was a lot of drama in Will and Layken's families, so this is where it goes in my list.

A Happy Story About Good People

When I was about four months pregnant, I learned there was a good chance that my son would have Down Syndrome. I worried about his health. I worried about his growth. I worried about how he'd make friends, if people would make fun of him or understand if he did strange things. I met many moms of kids with Down Syndrome while I was pregnant, and they assured me that their kids did well at school, had friends, and were well-liked for the most part.

But, I still worried. Because that's what I do. (I think it's what a lot of mom's do.)

When I was growing up, all of the special needs kids were in a different classroom, clear on the other side of school. Our class would visit them once or twice a year, but I was always very uncomfortable and didn't know what to do or say around them, so I mostly stayed quiet and helped where I was told to help. I never reached out and tried to befriend any of them on my own. I didn't know how, to be honest.

Now, the special needs kids are mainstreamed into the regular classroom, so my son is in the main class over 50% of his day. The result of this is that most of the kids are used to Spencer's random loud noises, the fact that he doesn't talk much (all of about ten words), that he sucks on his hands when his stomach hurts or if he's cold, he doesn't understand "personal space." They also know he loves to give hi-fives and knuckles, that he loves to laugh (and they do silly things to make his laugh,) and that he loves to say "hello."

Yesterday at church, the primary kids (probably around 40ish of them) were playing a game called, "Who's got the button?" The kids were passing around the button really fast and then whoever was picked had to figure out who had the button.

It was Spencer's turn to figure out who had the button. His adult helper watched really closely and figured out who had it, and pointed at the kid. Spencer pointed to the same kid and made some noise to indicate that he was the person who had the button.

When they realized he'd guessed right, the kids all started clapping and cheering and yelling, "Good job, Spencer! You found it, Spencer!" Then they were holding up their hands so he could run around and give high-fives to them. He had a huge smile on his face and was so happy with the praise and attention from everyone.

I so wish I could have seen it, but I had several people tell me about it after church--including one of the kids who had been in the room with everyone. These kids are so accepting of Spencer and his differences, and not only that, but they rejoice in his small successes and milestones. They made him so happy that morning, and for that, I am so grateful.

With all of Spencer's health problems, my husband and I are so aware that anything can happen at any time and we try to cherish every special moment, and for me, this was a special moment. This was a great reminder for me that there are a lot of good people raising good-hearted children who can accept someone who is different and love him for who he is.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Moments That Change Everything

Someone said something really wise to me a little while back. He was telling my husband and I about how his son broke his arm in two places while attempting to do a 360 spin off the monkey bars and onto the slide. After two ER visits and a surgery, the boy was fine and ready to be playing again--but his mom and dad were still a little shaken up. Everything had turned out okay--but it might not have.

He finished his story by saying, "You know, we spend all these hours and days laboring to raise our kids and do everything right, and it just takes a few moments to change everything."

I've often thought about defining moments in life. Although the way we are raised plays a huge part in who we are and the decisions we make--those defining moments really set the course for where we go in life.

A friend of mine lost her son in an accident last year around Thanksgiving. His name was Chase. I think of Chase almost every day. His death was a defining moment for me. At the funeral, my friend said, "We don't regret one moment we had with Chase. We loved him and spent his whole life showing him that." It made me think about my kids and how I was spending my time. If they were to die suddenly, could I say that I had no regrets? Had I done the best I could? Did they know how much they were loved?

I am a different mom because of Chase. I am a better mom because of him, and I will never forget him and his sweet, chubby-cheeked smile.

A lot of defining moments are things that we have no control over. These families couldn't control what happened to their children or the outcome of these accidents. I think we find out who we are, what we're made of, and what we really believe in the wake of these moments and in the years that follow.

When I think about who I am at the core--I know a lot of those come from moments where I've had to make a decision that could change everything, or moments when something has happened and I have to choose how to react. Moments that other people may move forward from, but I'll never forget. These have been defining moments for me.

I'd love to hear some of your defining moments.

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Turn on Time

I've read a lot of blog posts where authors talk about where they find time to write in the midst of other obligations. I love reading these posts, because it encourages me that people who are super busy can still find time to write without neglecting their families and work.

I guess I'm not alone in being curious about this, because when people find out I'm an author, one of the first questions I get is: How do you find time to write?

Background info:
I have four kids: 7, 5, 3, 6 months old.

My oldest has Down Syndrome and has a TON of health problems. My weeks are filled with doctor's appointments, medical testing, calling doctors, calling the insurance company, meetings with his support coordinator, with his teachers, researching what's going on with him, giving him meds, changing his diaper, playing with him (and trying to keep him out of trouble!)

I also make sure to give the other three equal amount of attention, play time, running around outside-good-quality-mom time.

Plus regular mom duties like cleaning the house, making dinner, running errands, etc. And I have church stuff of top of this.

So... how do I find time to write?

1) I have an extremely supportive husband. He takes the kids out of the house at least once a week on his day off so that I can get some quiet writing time in. He helps clean, wash dishes, fold laundry, give meds, so that I can have more time to write in the evenings, and he is always encouraging me to go write.

2) I've had to give up some of my favorite primetime tv shows. One of the best times for me to write is in the evening after my kids go to bed. My husband has basketball in the evenings, or scout meetings (he's a unit or district commissioner or something like that. Don't ask me. The scout stuff is gibberish to me. All I know is that he as meetings that he's in charge of and he wears a uniform), so he's gone a lot and I have a quiet house all to myself. I'm usually exhausted by the end of the day, but I force myself to pull out my laptop, and after a few minutes of trudging through, I always get in the groove.

3) I put my three-year-old in preschool twice a week and I put the baby down for a nap, and I get almost three hours of writing time on those days. This is my sacred writing time. I won't even answer the phone on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8 and 11am. People can leave a message. That's my 100%-never-fail writing time and I LOVE it.

4) Sometimes I tell people: When you're scrapbooking (or sewing, or baking, or crafting, or training for a race, or cleaning) that's when I'm writing.

5) It takes self-disciple. When I do get those bits of time, I force myself to sit and the computer and write something. It can be a blog post or part of my outline, or story ideas, or the next scene in my wip. But if my fingers are moving over the keyboard (and not because I'm on Facebook or my email) then I'm good.

When do you find time to write? Have you had to give up anything in order to have time to write?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The End

Just so you know, December is the last month of our group blog, For The Love Of Contemporary.

This is a drama-free ending.

We all still love contemporary.

We all still love each other.

We are just BUSY. It's a lot of work to write and keep up a personal blog (and take care of a family and work and help out in the community) and also add one more thing. And we can't do the blog justice when we all have so many other things on our plates.

Jolene Perry and Nyrae Dawn came up with the idea for this blog about a year and a half ago and invited a few of us to join them in it. These two ladies are some of most ambitious, talented people I know. It's been great for me to get to know everyone and see their insights on the blog.

So go check out our last month on For the Love of Contemporary.

Monday, December 3, 2012

And You Are...?

Here is Tammy and Emily's blog hop!

1. How many speeding tickets have you gotten?
Just one--from one of those stupid speeding cameras. I was on my way to get a Christmas present for my husband a few years ago--and speeding to get to the store in time to get the great deal. A $225 speeding ticket later... (BTW, everyone told me not to pay it. All that got me was a visit from the police and a $25 fine in addition to the ticket I had to pay before my court date. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a court date.) 

2. Can you pitch a tent?
Yes. Kind of. I pitched on in our living room a few months ago so me and the kids could go indoor camping. When my husband got home, he informed me that it was a "creative" way to set up a tent.

3. What was your worst vacation ever?
We went to Mission Bay in San Diego and rode these bicycle-things on the water for hours. I didn't wear sun screen (Rule #1 for redheads: ALWAYS wear sunscreen.) When we got done, I was so sunburned, I couldn't even wear pants. And it was my fourteenth birthday. I spent the whole drive home, moaning and complaining in the back of the car. Come to think of it, it was probably my parent's worst vacation, too.

4. What was the last thing you bought over $100?
A stroller/car seat combo for the baby.

5. We're handing you the keys to what?
A beach house. 

6. What was the last meal you cooked that made even you sick?
This corn chowder mess. I still can't even smell corn chowder without feeling sick.

7. Fill in the blank: Oh my gosh! Becky, look at her butt! It is so big. She looks like a ... Drawing blanks here. Ummm... I feel kind of bad for Becky and her bootilicious butt... so pass.

8. What was your first car?
A 2001 Daewo. Never heard of them? That's probably a good thing. Everything that could break, broke on that car. Including the driver's door. It fell off one day--while I was driving. On the freeway.

9. Your best friend falls and gets hurt. Do you ask if he/she's okay or laugh first?
I make sure they're okay first, then laugh. Except, my husband fell of the bed a few weeks ago while he was trying to reach something, took down the rolling chair, broke his open night table drawer with his head, and hit so hard that he had a huge bump behind his ear. I was laughing so hard I couldn't even breathe. Just last night, I did a reenactment of it for him. I'm a good wife like that.

10. What's the worst song ever?
This is the song that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friends... (you know it's stuck in your head now)

You know I'm editing when...

I update my blog more often.

When I'm writing a book, I get deep into it. I try to spend all of my writing time on my book. I get so little of it, that I have to prioritize it--and writing my next book is always my number one priority.

Right now I'm editing a wip that's taken me about a year and a half to finish. And I'll probably spend the next month on intense edits and rewrites. I cannot wait to get this story out to my beta readers and get some feedback. This is one of my favorite parts of writing. I've talked before how I feel like I can do a lot of the real "art" of writing when I'm editing. It's just so satisfying.

Having a completely polished manuscript would be a great Christmas present to give myself. And what better way to start the new year than working on the new idea I've outlined and I'm completely excited about?

Where are you at in your manuscript right now?

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