Tuesday, April 28, 2015

SAHM-I-Am

SAHM = Stay-At-Home-Mom. 

From 1981, when I was twenty years old and knew everything, and therefore did not need to finish college - to 1990, when our first child was born, I held a string of jobs.  I was a clerk for the Department of Sociology at Kansas State, a bank teller, a clerk for an Experiment Farm run by Kansas State, a secretary for an insurance/real estate business,and a bookkeeper at a John Deere dealership.  At one point, I scheduled local commercials at an NBC affiliate.  

When Mitch was born, Dave and I decided that I would quit my job and stay home to raise this child and any future children.  Actually, it wasn't really a decision, it was a foregone conclusion.  We both expected me to be a SAHM.  

I loved those years and would do them again in an instant - provided I get to be 30 again and have more energy.  I took pride in caring for my children, running an efficient household, being the "class mom" who got volunteered for every school activity, and discovering creative ways to entertain and educate our children.  I'm proud of the job I did.  

I returned to work part time when they were in grade school - working only during school hours at a medical clinic across the street from their school.  As far as they were concerned, life continued as always.  When they were nearing jr. high, I got the chance to be a librarian - a life long dream - so I returned to full-time employment.  When we moved to Green Acres, both kids were in college, and a second income was helpful - so I found my current job in the office of a manufacturing plant.  

This Friday - May 1, 2015 - will be my last day there.  I am "retiring" . . . at least from the public workplace.  I will be helping Dave run the construction business we purchased at the first of the year.  Along with some bookkeeping duties, my main responsibility will be to feed the crew.  Stopping work to drive into the nearest town (grain bins aren't usually built inside city limits) and finding a cafe or fast food can take a large chunk from the middle of a work day.  And often the nearest town is too small to have a restaurant.  So, on the days that they are working within "reasonable driving distance" of home, I will take a hot meal to them.  On days when the drive is too far I will either pack a cold lunch to go with them or, if available, let them eat out.  W e are also hosting a monthly employee get-together to promote teamwork and a "family" feeling. 

None of this is set in stone.  If I decide to visit one of the kids or my parents, Dave and the crew will fend for themselves as they have in the past.  My parents are now 78 and 80, and they live about three hours away.  I'm excited to have the freedom to visit them more often and be there when needed.  Without a 9 to 5 job, I can also take advantage of deals on plane tickets to visit the daughters in Albuquerque, without worrying about scheduling time off work (cause the deals are never on a weekend!).  

As I was trying to explain to a co-worker why I am leaving, and why I want to take on these new jobs, it dawned on me that I'm returning to being a SAHM.  The family dynamic has changed.  Someday my parents will need more care than my children.  Our six employees and their families have become our extended family.  But the job is the same -- caring for my original and extended family, running an efficient household and business, being the dependable "gofer" and "girl Friday", and discovering creative ways to entertain and educate the "family".

Yes, I'm excited for time to have a clean house and a well-maintained yard; time to garden; time to attend a Bible study; or time to read, sew and paint.  I'm excited to wake up each day and no longer think about what I have to do today, but what I want to do, what I get to do.  

There will be no tears over leaving a career; no feelings of inferiority because I don't have a title; no regrets about what I could have or should have accomplished.  Only joy at returning to what I was created to be - a stay-at-home-mom to all those whom I call family.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Read-a-thon Wrap-up

Unfortunately, there's not much to wrap up.  My read-a-thon did not go as planned - not even close.  I had a little health issue that required me to take a break from reading to pick up medicine - about a 30 minute round trip.  Along the way, I stopped at an estate auction that Dave was attending (sans cell phone) to tell him what I was doing.  The sale was poorly attended because of the rainy weather and things were selling for a song.  I got sidetracked and spent way too much time there.  Eventually, I finished my run to the pharmacy and returned home.  

For the next few hours I tried to read but was just too uncomfortable to concentrate. . . fast forward through several phone conversations . . . finally was told to go back to town for a different med.  By that time it was late evening and I was still uncomfortable so I pretty much gave up and went to bed.

I checked back in for the last hour this morning and found the Share A Song Mini-Challenge hosted by Reno at Falling Letters - Share a song featured in or inspired by one of the books you read today.  Since I got very little reading done, I decided to share a couple songs that fit my entire read-a-thon experience.

First up - - Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show - "I Got Stoned and I Missed It."  No, I wasn't actually stoned, but it was drugs, in some form, that caused me to miss most of the day.



Thankfully, this wonderful day comes around every six months.  So I'll mark my calendar for October and join Carly Simon in Anticipation.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Mini-Challenge: Bookish Brew

Amanda at Fig and Thistle wants to know what we've got brewing - - as in tea or coffee.  The challenge is to post a picture of what we're reading and what we're drinking. 

That calls for two confessions:  I'm still working on my first book, The Girl On the Train,  and I'm drinking plain old water from a Charlie Brown Christmas cup.  Yes, I'm just a kid at heart.

#bookishbrews
#readathon

Mini-Challenge: In 100 Years . . .

This hour's challenge poses the question, "What books will be "classics" a hundred years from now?"  Selections can be made from any book published since 1990 and published in English.  

Here are my three choices:

11/22/63 by Stephen King - It ties the world of 1963 to 2011 (when it was published). I'm sure in another 100 years, the history will be even more thrilling and fun to read.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - In spite of all the hoopla surrounding the movies, the books in this series will hold up as extraordinary writing and a phenomenal story.

For my third choice, I would like to select "everything ever written by Sarah Addison Allen", but since that's probably bending the rules, I will narrow it down to "The Sugar Queen".  Obviously, I love all of Ms. Allen's writing, but the Sugar Queen is her most surprising story.  If it's not a classic already, it should be!



Mini-Challenge: Treasure Hunt

We're going on a readathon treasure hunt.  Remember Indiana Jones' number one rule of treasure hunts - "X" never, ever marks the spot! 

In this case, we're not looking for an X. Our hostess gave us a three items to find on book covers - a tree, snow and a weapon.  This proved to be pretty easy on our bookshelves.  I am nuts for anything Christmas, and especially for A Charlie Brown Christmas.  The covers of any of my various copies contained both snow and a tree.  But to keep things fair, I only counted it as "tree", and added Phillip Gulley's Christmas in Harmony as my "snow" entry.  For weapons, I simply grabbed a paperback off of Dave's shelves containing the complete set of Louis L'Amour westerns.  Nearly every book has a gun of some sort on the cover.  

I found the treasure! and the prize is - - more hours of reading.  


Mini Challenge: Classic Words of Wisdom

Allie at A Literary Odyssey is kicking off the hourly mini-challenges by asking us to share our favorite words of wisdom from a classic novel.  I have to admit that I've only read a handful of classics, and most of them weren't my favorites.  However, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is one of my all-time favorites since childhood, when I listened to Lionel Barrymore read it on a 33-rpm record album.  I re-read it each year in December.   Mr. Scrooge leaves us with these words that should be a goal for all of us.

Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon

 It's Readathon Day!  One of my favorite days of the year.  If you aren't familiar with this event, visit the official site.  There's still time to sign up.  

I created my own graphic to use for this readathon because I'm going to be reading on a rainy day - no sunny afternoon on the swing this time around. 

I have my TBR pile ready to go - but it's always subject to change.  I'll be starting my day be reading from THE good book, then move on to these other good books.  I can't wait to get into "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins.  It was recommended by a lady I met in a bookstore while on vacation.  She was ready to be done sightseeing and return to her motel room to read the last chapter.  "The Day the World Came to Town" by Jim  DeFede was also discovered on our recent trip to Florida.  It was recommended by a man from Newfoundland who was understandably proud of the people in his homeland.  "A Claim of Her Own" is by a favorite author (who also lives in Nebraska), Stephanie Grace Whitson. 

Snacks are always a popular subject during Readathon - one that often takes as much planning as the book list.  I'm trying to keep it light and healthy (relatively) today, so I'm going with fruit, hummus and crackers, and Trader Joe's Blueberry Vanilla Chevre.

It's 7:00 a.m. - opening bell for twenty-four hours of fun.  Let's get reading.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Author Interview: The Grace Impact by Nancy K Grace

What better way to learn about a newly published book than by visiting with the author?  Today Nancy K. Grace, author of The Grace Impact is answering questions and offering insights into her newly released book.  Welcome, Nancy.


How did The Grace Impact develop?

The idea for this book began several years ago. In 2007 I submitted some stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul and a devotional book. The stories were accepted, which encouraged me to continue my writing journey. In sharing this with my friends, I wrote a short devotional in an email and added my publishing news at the end of it. This was the first issue of GraceNotes, my email devotional. It is now offered as an opt-in newsletter on my website, http://www.nancykaygrace.com. I have continued to send GraceNotes each month since then, even through some very difficult and trying times. The Lord encouraged me to keep writing and sending GraceNotes. Eventually I hoped to have enough devotionals to compile them into a book.

In 2012 I was at a point when I was very discouraged with writing. A book project that I started, abruptly ended.  I attended a writer’s conference to hear from the Lord about my next step.  While there I pitched the idea for this book to CrossRiver Media called GraceNotes: Thirty Days of Grace.  The manuscript was accepted. As I worked on it, the publisher noticed that in the past year several book titles included the word “GraceNotes” and suggested I consider re-titling it. After praying about it and researching possible titles, I decided on The Grace Impact. The project went from being a simple devotional about God’s grace to being a book on God’s grace that happens to be a devotional. This change challenged me to go deeper in writing, researching, and showing God’s grace.

 What is the “grace impact?”

God alone is able to set into motion what I call the “grace impact”—His ability to work in and through any situation, revealing His love and forgiveness to us, thereby drawing us to Himself, ultimately through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The initial impact of God’s grace to each of us comes by accepting salvation through Jesus. It continues in us and through us as our lives are transformed by yielding more to the Lord. As we grow in faith, we share God’s grace with others. Like a drop of water released on a smooth lake, the ripples of the grace impact continue to reach outward to many.

Why did you write a book on God’s grace?

I have been captivated by grace for many years, not only be­cause “Nancy” means “grace” but also because grace has transformed me, strengthened me, and sustained me through difficult times. In The Grace Impact, I share how the Lord helped me through cancer, the death of three parents within six months, and other issues. Trusting God is more than a feeling. It is a decision made on the knowledge of God’s character and faithfulness.  Even when He seems quiet, God’s grace is ever present, sustaining us. God’s grace has carried me often, and I desire to share this hope with others.

What makes this book different from any other devotional?

Not only can it be read as a thirty-day daily devotional, but it can also be used as a Bible study guide on grace. At the end of each daily reading there is a section called “Deepening the Grace Impact.” There are additional scriptures for further study, questions for your own meditation, and a prayer. I’m working on creating a thirty-day online Bible study using The Grace Impact. Another option would be to study one chapter a week, making it a 30-week or 8-month study. I will be using the book in an online Bible study in June. If you are interested in the online study, please contact me and I will get information to you when it is available.

Where can we buy the book?

If you would like to have me come to speak to your group, I am available for meetings, banquets, or retreats.  Please visit my website at www.nancykaygrace.com for more information. (While you're there, be sure and subscribe to the Gracenotes newsletter.)

A portion of every book sale of The Grace Impact will be given to the Grace Orphan House (Siyon Social Welfare Society, http://siyonsws.com) in Aurangabad, India. It currently serves as home for thirty boys and fifteen girls who were street children. Grace Orphan House provides a loving Christian environment, education, three meals a day and a comfortable place for the children to live. Anyone who purchases the book continues spreading the grace impact.

You can follow Nancy on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest,

While you are waiting for your copy to arrive, check back here for my posts about my favorite lessons from The Grace Impact.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Grace Impact

Last August, when our youngest child moved to New Mexico, and I was feeling lost and unsure of my next step, I was inspired by an article in Gracenotes, the newsletter of Nancy K. Grace.  In that article, Nancy was discussing "mid-points":
In the past month I've been diligently editing the manuscript for my first book, The Grace Impact. I made it half way through when I came upon a delay. I had a choice--to let it derail me or to press through, remembering the greater vision of the completed book.
 That's how I felt.  I was at a midpoint and, honestly, I was letting it derail me.  
One of the challenges of the mid-way point of a project is pressing on to finish in spite of the setbacks of tiredness, lack of motivation, or loss of vision for the completed project.
That sentence was the catalyst to the blog series "Life Under Construction", which chronicles my efforts to press-on.  I wrote:
I realize 53 is most likely not the "mid-way" point of my life, but I am feeling a decided tiredness and loss of vision for both the blog and life.  So both are getting an overhaul.  Not just a face lift - although that is part of the plan (figuratively for me and literally for the blog) - but a true remodel; tear away those things that are not necessary for the next chapter and start fresh with only those things which ad value and beauty to my "second half."
Nancy did press on and complete the editing and publication of her manuscript. I was thrilled to get an advance copy and the opportunity to introduce you all to Nancy.  

About fifteen years ago, we lived in Beloit, Kansas, where Nancy and her husband, Rick, pastored the church we attended.  The Graces left Beloit shortly after we did and are now in Arkansas.  You can read all about Nancy's achievements as a gifted musician, speaker, and author on her website; but the memories of Nancy that stick in my mind are of her role as teacher.  I attended several Bible studies that Nancy led and the lessons learned still come to mind frequently, even through the fog that is my memory after fifty.  Her insight, humor and ability to make whatever we were studying "real" inspired me to look deeper into God's word.  


The Grace Impact contains that same impactful teaching.  It is a collection of the "best of" Nancy's writing from her GraceNotes newsletter; thirty devotional readings, centered around 2 Corinthians 9:8 and the theme of - what else? - grace!  

Come back on Thursday, April 16th, for an interview with the author, along with information on where you can get your own copy of the The Grace Impact.  Over the next few weeks I will be sharing on a few of my favorite lessons from the book and how they touched me.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  (2 Cor. 9:8)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Life Under Construction: Finding Balance

"There's no such thing as a free lunch."  The origin of that common phrase is contested, but the veracity of the thought is not.  Dave, who has a degree in economics, calls that statement "all the theories of economics, simplified into one truth."  Everything costs someone something.  Even if it appears to be free to you, it is not free to the person who gave it to you.  

On a more personal level, even if we don't care about what it costs someone else, there is still a price to every choice - the "opportunity cost".  Everything we gain in life comes with a price - every choice we make costs us the "could haves".  When I order a corn dog, it costs me the opportunity to have a hamburger.  When I build a house on the beach, it costs me the view from the mountaintop.  Everything is a trade-off in some way.  

Google the phrase "finding balance" and you will get pages and pages of advice to help you balance your money, time, health, lifestyle, relationships and career, but they all boil down to give and take.  What are you willing to give up to have something else?

The dictionary defines balance as

  1. An even distribution of weight, enabling something to remain upright and steady. 
  2. A condition in which different elements are in the correct proportions.
  3. Keep or put something in a steady position so that it does not fall.
  4. To offset or compare the value of one thing with another.
That pretty much sums up life.  We weigh the benefits of each area against the costs until we find the combination that keeps us steady.  My job provides money which allows me to pay for "extras", such as books, hobby supplies, or travel; but at what cost?  I can afford a plane ticket to see my daughters in New Mexico, but I don't have enough vacation leave from my job to make the trip.  Spending my free time reading or sewing makes me happier than scrubbing floors or folding laundry, but it costs me the peace and convenience of an orderly home.  

The purchase of our own business has added a new element that needs to be balanced. I now have bookkeeping and clerical jobs for the construction company, as well as a full-time job and the usual responsibilities at home. There are more duties I would like to assume for our business, but not while working full-time.  We can adjust the budget to live without my income, but we would also give up the benefits.  When we went to Florida a few weeks ago, one of my goals was to spend some quiet time on the beach evaluating options and setting priorities - finding balance. It seemed so simple while we were there.  But in truth, balance is incredibly easy to find when other people are preparing your meals and cleaning up your messes.  It didn't translate well back to real life.

In reality, I spend 53 of the available 168 hours each week preparing for, traveling to and doing my job.  Subtract another 49 hours/week for sleep and I have 66 hours in each week to balance the "need to's" and the "want to's".

I know this is nothing new to any of you.  We all face the same challenges to find balance. In fact, it's not even a new topic for this blog.  Mainly, this is me talking out loud to work it out in my head.


I can hire someone to help with either the cleaning or the yard work.  It's a financial splurge that we can afford as long as I continue to work.  If I quit my job, I could handle the cleaning and yard work, plus the new business responsibilities, but would have less disposable income for hobbies and travel.  However, not working outside the home would cut the expenses of office wardrobe, gas and mileage, and eating out.  Everything seems to be tipping precariously at the moment as I struggle for that balancing point.

Free lunch anyone?




Monday, April 6, 2015

Inspiration on Monday: Painting

Trish at Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity is hosting a new creative "link up" called Inspiration on Monday -
a forum to share things that we’ve created and things that we are doing to help inspire others. Posts about projects in progress, finished projects, tutorials, and how-tos are all welcome. Feel free to share recipes, crafts, lifestyle, organizing, and DIY tips, and any other idea that can spark inspiration.
In search of an idea for a topic to post, I began to ponder what inspires me, and the answer was obvious - not what , so much as who inspires me - my daughter, Amanda.  

I have completed one week of a four week art class taught be a local high school art instructor.  During her opening lesson, she discussed how many people label themselves as "not artsy" so they never try; but most of her students, when given the supplies, the guidance, and the freedom to experiment, find that they can create art.  

I was one of those people for many years.  I loved needlework, but I followed a pattern and detailed instructions.  I wasn't creative.  I didn't try many other crafts, and certainly never anything that required "artistic talent". When Amanda tried painting a few years ago, I was amazed at her talent.  Watching and encouraging her painting and other crafts inspired me!  She taught me that being "artistic" isn't always something you're born with - it can be learned and nurtured.  Most artistic people are simply those who have given themselves the freedom to create - without pretending or apologizing.  

Last August, she took me to a "Cork and Canvas" guided painting party, and I was hooked.

Since then I have branched into watercolors, and am even trying sketching in the art class I mentioned.  There is nothing more relaxing in this world than creating something just for myself.  It doesn't have to meet anyone else's approval or conform to anyone's idea of "art".  It just has to please me.   In fact, sometimes even I don't find the finished product all that pleasing, but the process always is.

To inspire you to stop labeling yourself and loose your inner artist, here are a few of my favorite creations:






For every painting that I like, there are a handful that go in the trash or get painted over, and a few more that are put in the "passable" file.  But regardless of the outcome, the process makes me smile.