Last year I had great fun with my “38 Things” post, and on my anniversary in June I had a blast with “20 things” about marriage. So of course, I have to keep up the tradition and give you “39 Things” from this past year. =) My birthday is on Saturday, but I figure I’ll post it a couple days early so it’s on my usual day. These are in pretty much random order, but here we go. Let’s dive in!
1. I’m now a D-Mom
For those of you with no reason to know, that means a mom of a Type 1 Diabetic. This is without question the biggest change of the last year, and one I certainly didn’t plan on or want…but which has had some surprising blessings. My son Rowyn, 12 at the time, was life-flighted to Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital on September 26, 2020, in what’s called DKA–Diabetic Keto-Acidosis. Basically, his body had decided to attack the insulin-producing cells in his pancreas, which means he can no longer produce his own insulin, which in turn means his cells can’t get the sugars they need to survive. To compensate he began to break down fats, which released an acid called ketones into his body; normal people can then burn those ketones, but that requires insulin, which he was no longer producing, so instead they built up in his system and became toxic. After 5 days in the hospital, we emerged equipped to handle this new insulin-dependent life. It was quite a learning curve. I was exhausted for months. But as we approach 1 year of living with diabetes, I’m getting to the point where I’m not just seeing the struggles and the work and the exhaustion…I’m also seeing how strong and responsible Rowyn has become, I’ve seen the encouragement and support within the diabetic community, and I’ve learned so much. The biggest of which has nothing to do with counting carbs or calculating insulin doses. No, it’s more…
2. We All Have a Thing
Living with something as life-altering as insulin-dependent diabetes has shown me that we all have a “thing.” Something we struggle with. Something we battle. Something that’s shaped us. Something that brings us to our knees before the Lord. Something we’re passionate about. Something we’re willing to stand up and fight for. And we don’t generally understand each other’s “thing” until or unless we live it for ourselves. But we CAN. We can understand, at the very least, that we each have something like this, even if we don’t know the details of living with it. We can be more compassionate. We can give people the benefit of the doubt. We can ask questions, not only about the struggles of those around us, but about how we can help and support each other. And we can know, no matter what the mountain we’re climbing, that God will use it to shape us into the people He needs us to be to do the work He’s called us to do.
3. Checking In
For the last year-ish, my best friend/critique partner Stephanie and I have been doing weekly check-ins. Now, let me explain, LOL. We chat via Google Chat pretty much every day. But each Friday, we’ve been having a set time to talk specifically about the work we’ve done in the past week and share our goals for the week to come. Often we’ll do this over Zoom, so we actually get to see each other, which is nice. And the practice has proven SO HELPFUL! Not only does having a list of goals for each week help keep us on track, but listing out what we’ve actually done helps us to see that those weeks that feel frustrating and unproductive usually aren’t…but that sometimes we didn’t accomplish as much as we thought we did, too. Having it all in writing, and then sharing it with a friend who holds us accountable, is just a fabulous practice, and one I look forward to continuing indefinitely.
4. 25 Books and Counting
Last year I’d mentioned turning in my 25th book to my publisher. Well, this year I get to say I officially have 25 titles in print…and more in the works.
5. Ongoing Harry Potter-dom
Last year I’d mentioned that I’d begun reading the Harry Potter series, largely because I was tired of not knowing what people were talking about. 😉 I’d listened to the first couple on audio and was enjoying them but not in love or anything. Well, at this point I’ve read six of the seven, and I’m a much more avid fan! I’m making myself space them out and read other things in between, but wow–the series really does get better and better as they go. I’ve switched from audio to paperbacks, and I have to say, though, that those enormous later books put a real strain on my wrist, LOL. 😉
6. My Happy Place
Sometimes, the moment you come up with an idea, you know it’s a winner. That was the case with the “My Happy Place” design I created last autumn. I promptly put it on tees, totes, and even a coffee mug, and I said, “I think these will be popular.” I was right! Within weeks of announcing it, this design outsold everything else I’ve done. And I gotta say, I wear my long-sleeved tee constantly in cool weather, and we fight over who gets the mugs each day. 😉
7. Another story nearly 20 years in the making
I have so many unpublished books just lounging around my computer, but none so dear to me as the one I’ve called Yesterday’s Tides. I wrote it originally as a contemporary right after graduating college in 2004, and for years I’ve been contemplating how to best turn it into a historical, going so far as to plant my hero in my codebreaking world of Room 40. 😉 And I am SO THRILLED that this year I sold the book to Bethany House! I’ll start writing it next month, and I cannot wait!!
8. These Pretzels
I tried these Prince & Spring peanut butter filled pretzels from Boxed.com on a total whim a few months ago–I needed a few more dollars in my order to qualify for free shipping. And oh my gracious. The whole family is addicted. These are by far the best PB-filled pretzels I’ve ever had and we keep joking that we could just eat nothing else all day and be totally happy. (Haven’t tried that yet, but seriously…)
9. Seeing the Story
The events of the last year combined in my head with the release of Dreams of Savannah and the writing of To Treasure an Heiress, both of which touch on how we’re shaped by stories. Not just fictional ones, but also the ones that brought our families and communities to where we are today. These thoughts led me to create Seeing the Story, a site where YOU can share your stories either in writing or as an audio or video recording. It’s still growing, but I really believe in the idea!
10. 20 Years
This year David and I celebrated 20 years of marriage! Woot! You can read my musings on that here. =)
11. We Have a Driver!
Xoe turned 15 this year, which in West Virginia means she can get her learner’s permit. Which she has done. =) So this summer especially, we’re working on teaching our girl how to drive, which I’ll admit is terrifying–not because she isn’t doing a fabulous job, but…yeah, you get it. How is she old enough for this??
12. Dreaming Big
Last summer David and I both read Dream Big by Bob Goff and loved it SO MUCH that we ended up doing the workshop with our church and then hosting an online version too. What a blessing! We love to explore what God-given dreams are in our hearts and help others to do the same.
Another diabetes-related one, yes. 😉 Blood sugars in a Type 1 are constantly fluctuating, which can be dangerous. We have to check them frequently…or get a continuous monitor to do it for us. We now have the Dexcom, one of those monitors, and it’s such a blessing! We can now look on our phone any minute and see what his blood sugar is, which means not only peace of mind, but the ability to be proactive. So grateful for this technology!
14. I have a kid who’s taller than me!
I’ve been waiting and waiting to be able to say this, and you wouldn’t think it would be too difficult, given that I am a towering (ahem) 5’3″. 😉 But Xoe actually stopped growing at 5’1″ so she could never claim this. Rowyn finally can though! Which means no more excuses not to put things away on the high shelves. 😉
15. Big Screen at Home
We’ve been trying to be intentional with our family time, so we decided it would be nice to have a way to watch shows and movies together. The TV we had in the living room is ancient and was in desperate need of replacing, which meant we seldom wanted to watch anything out there. So we decided to spend Christmas money on replacing it…and that for the price of a TV of the same size as the one we had, we could get a projector and screen. So we now have a true big screen in the living room, and we love it! It’s retractable, so other than when we’re actively watching, you wouldn’t know it was there. So cool.
16. The Expanse!!!
One of the things we’ve watched on said screen is The Expanse, a sci-fi show on Amazon Prime. And OH MY GOODNESS. The whole family was addicted, and we can’t wait for the next season. My best friend Stephanie tipped me off to this one, and she was so right. Not only is the plot riveting, the writing spectacular, and the cinematography spot-on, the characters are so well developed that they just stick with you forever. Love this show!
17. David working toward his dream
I’ve mentioned in various places how grateful I am that, after decades of supporting our family while I chased my dream, David finally gets to chase his. In addition to running our publishing company, he has a passion for film, and this last year he’s made some amazing strides toward realizing those dreams, including working with a ministry to produce their talk show, which goes out on 26 satellite networks, if I recall correctly. He’s also working on some projects of his own. So cool!
18. Xoe the makeup artist
While working on the above-mentioned show, the crew had need of a makeup artist, and our daughter Xoe got to go along with David several times now to train in and then actually do some for-the-camera makeup! She’s always loved makeup and what you can do with it, so this is really cool. Plus she’s learning all about TV production, which we decided counted as a high school class. 😉
19. And Xoe the artist
In addition to makeup, Xoe’s just a flat-out artist! She’s done illustrating for us before, but this year she had the chance to do a watercolor drawing for one of Chrism Press’s first releases. Here’s the sketch, and the cover too.
20. My new desk area
So after dreaming for a while about how nice it must be to have dedicated work space (I’ve been working from the kitchen table for 8 years), I eventually realized that the desk we had in the kitchen for Rowyn’s homeschooling was NEVER used for such, so why didn’t I just take that over?? I set it up in January, and it’s been amazing! I now have a beautiful view out the window, I can keep my stuff organized, and I don’t have to move everything off the table every night for dinner. YAY!!! (Downside: this desk belonged to the cats for the last 7 years, and they did not give it up graciously.)
21. My last year reading to Rowyn for school
So for the last 11 years, at least an hour of my day has been spent reading to my kids for school. We’ve used the Sonlight curriculum, which involves parent read-alouds up until 8th grade. I have loved doing this! But Rowyn just finished 7th grade, which means next year he’ll be entirely independent. No more Mama reading! Bittersweet. I’m going to miss it, but at the same time I’m glad to have more time for work and am proud that both kids have moved on to that level. =) Though I’m now going to be much more purposeful about checking their progress on other assignments! I was terrible about that this last year…
Ever since I attended my first writers conferences and listened to the amazing keynote speakers, I dreamed of someday being in a position to keynote. Ten years ago, I had no idea if or how that would ever happen. But it has! I received my first invitation to keynote for the Oregon Christian Writers fall 2020 conference…which obviously ended up online. And I ended up not doing any keynote addresses, just taught some classes and had a (wonderful) live Q&A session instead, which was a real blessing. And I’ve just received an invitation to keynote for the spring 2022 Lancaster conference, which (God willing) will be in person! I’m excited to speak to other writers…and it’s also just so humbling and amazing to realize that those goals I set so long ago are beginning to be realized.
23. Classes and Workshops
Last autumn I decided to record my classes on writing and offer them for sale on my website. It took me months to get them all recorded, but it was fun to do–and I’ve gotten some encouraging feedback from writers who have taken them! I’ve also discovered it’s handy to be able to direct conference directors to that page on my site to choose which classes of mine they’d like me to present in person. And also, for those who take the classes, I’ve been doing…
24. Live Q&As
I have live Q&As for my classes and all things writing-related via Zoom once a month, and those have been so much fun! I have a couple regulars who join me for these Wednesday night events, a few who have come once or twice, and regardless of how many of us there are, it’s always a fun conversation.
25. Xoe’s writing skill
And while I’m thinking about budding writers, it’s been a joy this last year to see Xoe fostering her love for writing too. She’s been working on sci-fi and fantasy novels, and when she lets me read them, I’m always impressed at her voice and talent.
26. Rowyn’s world-building
Rowyn, on the other hand, still hates reading and writing…but that doesn’t stop him from telling stories in his own way. He’s been building a multi-verse in his head for years and frequently builds bits and pieces of it in his video games. I love going back and seeing the remarkable buildings he’s created in Minecraft–almost always part of his storyworld. His media may be different from mine, but he’s living out his creativity regardless!
27. Star-gazing together on vacation
Last September the kids and I spent hours up on the rooftop deck of our rental house, star-gazing and talking about stories. It was an amazing time that I will cherish forever. Not just pulling up the starmap on my phone and identifying all the things we could see in the sky, though that was fun…but it was also the first time Rowyn told me about this multi-verse he’s been designing. He and Xoe were brainstorming together, playing with names suitable for galactic entities and locations, and I was just lying there grinning like an idiot to hear them.
28. Bittersweet book stuff–Culper Ring
Well, I’ve had another series go out of print. This is inevitable in the writing world, but it’s always bittersweet to get those rights handed back to me. It’s sad to sever my last official ties to Harvest House, a company I so enjoyed working with. But it’s also fun to get to design covers for the series myself and put them all up in my store.
29. New phones for all
We did not get our kids cell phones when they were younger. And in fact, we wouldn’t have gotten Rowyn one now, except that we had to for his Dexcom. Our original plan had been to get them each a flip-phone when they started driving (fewer distractions than a smart phone), but Ro needed a smart phone for that app, and we couldn’t exactly not get Xoe one then…and David and I both needed new phones to run the Dexcom Follow app too. So we all got new ones. And I admit, it’s nice to be able to call or text them when we’re apart and check in. =)
30. Racial Reconciliation
Last summer and fall I decided I wanted to be more proactive about learning about racism and racial reconciliation, so I’ve read quite a lot of books, joined some Facebook groups, and generally try to make conscious choices every day to consider my lens and how I can alter it. I admit that some of my efforts got a bit, er, interrupted by the advent of diabetes in our house around the same time, but it’s something I continue to think and pray about and look for ways to contribute meaningfully to.
Not sure why I’m putting this so low on the list, ha ha, but my word of the year has been “intentional.” And I’m really making an effort day by day and week by week to live it out. I’m being more intentional about the spaces in my home and how to use them, about my time and how I’m spending it, about my foods, about my books and study, about my faith and prayer life, about my family…some parts were easier than others to do this with, but I do love looking back over the year thus far and seeing how I’ve made choices with purpose.
When my husband and I were talking about being intentional in January, I mentioned that I’d like to be more intentional with my food too. Yeah…I was failing at that pretty spectacularly, I’ll admit. And I was also getting steadily more tired and exhausted, despite sleeping enough hours. My muscles felt like lead when I tried to exercise, and I wasn’t sure what to do. My doctor verified that my thyroid levels were normal, so that just left me scratching my head. I did some research and kept coming across the keto diet–which I was familiar with a bit because my best friend’s son was on this medical diet for years to cure his epilepsy (and it did!). The keto diet resets your metabolism, so we decided it was worth a try to see what it could do for my energy. I’m only a couple weeks in, but thus far it’s going well. I’m spending a lot of time cooking homemade meals, and doing a LOT of math, but my energy levels are improving, I’m losing weight, and I’m honestly enjoying the foods. We only intend to do it for a few months, but I’m praying it accomplishes what I need it to!
33. My desk chair
This goes along with the dedicated desk I finally have. It also involves a real, honest-to-goodness desk chair! I’ve had this chair for years over at our office, but when I set up the desk in the kitchen, we decided to bring it over. Oh my gracious. After a decade of working every day from a kitchen chair, this thing feels divine. (The cats think so too–see the picture above.)
34. Passport renewals
This summer we had to get our passports renewed…which reminds me so clearly of the passing of time. We got our passports so that we could go to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls for our tenth anniversary…and then we got the kids’ passports in 2016 so we could all go to England and Paris for our 15th anniversary…and now another five years has gone by! And all those renewals came due at the same time. The new ones just came back to us, so we’re now free to roam about the world again. 😉
35. Painted edges!
One of the fun things I’ve stumbled into this year is painting the edges of my books. Xoe and I have been wanting to do this for over a year and finally started experimenting with it this spring. It is SO MUCH FUN! Also, I just adore how they’re turning out! They’re available for sale in my shop too. And have also inspired me to get…
36. Purple-foil certificates of authenticity!!
These things are so pretty they just deserve their own number on my list. Aren’t they cool?? I designed them and had them printed at a place specializing in foil printing, and they’re just gorgeous in person. Each hand-painted book gets one—signed, sealed, dated, and numbered! And also…
37. An Embosser
The certs also required (obviously) an embossed seal, so I also designed and purchased this cool stamp and embosser with my logo on it, and a roll of gold foil stickers. I felt so cool when I opened it, LOL.
38. Notes from readers
It’s not as though this is new from this year, but when I look back over the highlights of the last twelve months, many of them are the emails, letters in the mail, and messages on social media from people who have read my books and then gotten in touch to tell me how they touched them. So often we write in a bubble, and these notes are reminders that though the work is solitary while we’re doing it, the purpose is to reach out into the world. I’m always humbled and awed at how God uses my stories for His purposes.
39. One more year until 40…
In my head I think I’m still 28, but nope. One more year until I hit the big 4-0. I decided over a decade ago that I was always going to embrace my age, whatever it may be, so no hiding it around here! Still, the 30-decade has been pretty sweet. Here’s praying it wraps up well with a year full of joys!