Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Good Enough Author

If there is a back-door way of authoring a book, I have found it: Spend years and years copy editing other people's books, and then have your mom run into an old acquaintance and let them know that you are an editor who likes to write, and then do some work for them that turns into a little more and a little more, and the next thing you know they will realize that you wrote a significant portion of the book and offer to let you have the credit for your work. The whole process takes about 15 years, some providential "coincidences," and a good deal of generosity on the part of the publisher.

Nevertheless, I am now a published author.
It feels sort of like I just had a baby. Here's hoping there are more to follow in the years ahead (books, not babies).

Friday, February 13, 2015

For the Ladies on Valentine's Day

By my calculations dear hubby and I have been together for 19 Valentine's Days. Maybe it's 20--I can't quite keep track of the with the on again/off again nature of those dating years. The one I remember best is when we were still dating, and I cleaned and decorated his apartment as a surprise when he got off work. Most have gone by with little fanfare. A dinner out around Valentine's Day, perhaps ordering takeout and watching a movie. Often a card, sometimes flowers or chocolate.

Here's the thing: Valentine's Day is pretty hard for most guys. We gals have high expectations that we will feel loved and cherished on that day. But sometimes we haven't communicated what we want. Or there just isn't quite enough money left in the budget for what we really want. Or he's so stressed by work and life that writing a romantic note to us just might be asking too much. Or circumstances (young kids, finances, work trips, and the sheer exhaustion of helping our grade-school age children get to school with Valentines, boxes, and party supplies) prevent us from celebrating the way we'd like.

So here's the challenge: whatever he does, accept it as an expression of love. He bought you the brand of chocolates you don't much care for just when you decided to eat healthier? Enjoy eating one or two and appreciate that he thinks you're beautiful just the way you are. He splurged on flowers when you would have preferred something less conventional and less expensive? Accept the extravagance as if it were a love note expressing just what you wish he would say. He bought a card when what you really wanted was for him to plan the date? Appreciate how hard it is to be a man on Valentine's Day (oh, the pressure!) and enjoy the date regardless of who planned it.

You see, when someone does something for us--especially when it's our spouse--we can choose to nitpick that it's not exactly what we wanted them to do for us and feel sorry for ourselves that they don't know us well enough to read our minds. Or we can graciously accept the gesture and feel it as the kindness it was intended to be. It would be nice if love was always expressed to us in the way we can most readily receive it, but this side of heaven that is impossible. So in the meantime we will be a whole lot happier if we learn to receive love however it comes to us: a kind word. a simple date spent watching a move on the couch, Dairy Queen blizzards optional. flowers and chocolate and love notes. a cup of coffee. a full tank of gas. the day-in, day-out showing up for one another in a million little ways that could easily be overlooked, or could be interpreted as enduring love.

For the record, dear hubby did a good job of making me feel loved this Valentine's Day in spite of the fact that we won't be spending it together. He's learned a lot in those 19 years. And I'd like to think I've learned a lot about receiving love so that I can feel loved no matter how he expresses it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Craigslist Kitchen

This is the story of a happy couple who moved from a home with a kitchen they had redone themselves--and loved--into a house with a kitchen that was a little past its prime. 1960s cabinets may be sturdy, but they do have a lifespan and they are not as space-efficient as modern-day cabinets. And Linoleum also has a lifespan. As do peach-painted-over-wallpaper-that-was-half-taken-off-leaving-rough-spots walls. In a word, the kitchen made me feel tired. So tired, in fact that this is the only picture we have of the kitchen in its original state.

But a redo was not in the budget. Still, I took my sister-in-law's advice and shopped around on Craigslist to see if I could find a pre-used kitchen that we could affordably re-purpose. A few days later I found one. For $1,900 we could get a kitchen with granite countertops and almost enough cabinets, albeit in a different layout than our kitchen, with most appliances included. Sold.

A few weeks later we had moved those heavy slabs of granite into our garage, stowed the cabinets in every possible corner of house and garage, and the kitchen looked like this. It turned out the walls needed to be completely replaced because of that old paint-over-wallpaper trick, so the project turned slightly larger than anticipated. Although it was easier to move plumbing and electrical with the walls completely gone, so there was that.
One fun aspect of the remodel was the fact that the refrigerator moved places nearly every day. It added a little excitement to my day to hunt for it each morning.
In the meantime I had a little makeshift kitchen in the back hall (what will someday be the mudroom). It was very functional, but did feel cramped after a bit.
Four months of rewiring, re-plumbing, floor installation, and granite fabrication

. . . countless trips to all the local hardware stores . . . and several thousand dollars later (all work done by my talented husband, with a little help from his handy parents . . . I just "supervised" and tried to keep our home life intact), we present to you the Craigslist kitchen.

Note the second sink. My handy hubby cut that sink hole and polished it himself! He was sure we needed one, I thought it was an unnecessary hassle to add plumbing, etc. He was right on this one, for sure. Cleanup after our Christmas dinner for 23 was a snap.

The backsplash was not originally intended to have those white tiles interspersed, but they gave us two boxes of grey tiles and one of white, and rather than drive all the way back to Bollingbrook to replace them, we just made it work. I think I actually prefer it with the white in there.
Hopefully before too long there will be cute little shelves in that space between the cabinets. When you buy a galley-style kitchen and put it in a square one, you have to get a little creative.

(Yes, Taylor family, that is the table and benches that have always lived at grandma and grandpa's house. They have been lovingly preserved in their approximate original location.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Living within the Budget: God's Provision in the Little Things

I wrote yesterday about my project of living within the budget. This is a little story about how God shows up when you take a few steps of faith.

A few weeks ago I was grocery shopping and noticed this picture in the window of my favorite resale store:
I instantly loved it. The three little girls remind me of my three close-together girls, I love the colors, I love the frame. But it was not in the budget, and I thought it was overpriced. So I didn't buy it. But I kept thinking about it. A week later I window shopped and saw it again. Still out of my price range. I remember thinking to myself, "well, if it was half price I would buy it. But by the time they mark it down someone will have bought it, and the white tags never go on sale anyway. Oh well."

The next day I opened my email and lo and behold, I had sold a piece of jewelry. Which never happens. My etsy site is so sorely neglected that I have no idea how someone found it, let alone decided to buy something. I was delighted with my unexpected "extra" money, and I instantly thought of this little picture hanging in the window down the street. Unfortunately, my profit still didn't match the price of this painting. But after I had shipped the earrings, I had to go to the grocery store anyway, so I went to the store that was next to the resale store with this painting. And what do you know, all pictures were half price that day! Coincidence? I think not.

Sometimes God gives us these little gifts to show us that we're on the right track. To encourage us to carry on in obedience. I am so thankful, not just because I love this happy little picture hanging in my home, but even more because it is a reminder that God cares. He cared that I loved this little picture, and he cared that I stuck to my budget and didn't buy it when it was too expensive.

Here's one more look at my pretty little corner.
Don't you love it when God sends you a little surprise? Tell me YOUR story of God's provision in encouraging ways.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Snowball Effect

We're digging out from the fifth-largest snowfall in Chicagoland this week. Yesterday we woke to a winter wonderland, and it was glorious to drive to church in it. Even more glorious to discover that most of the congregation and a full quota of the choir had also braved the elements to worship together. We shared a moment of calm together, the Lord's Table, and profound reminders of God's deep love for us while we were at our worst--ungodly and weak-willed, unable to do the right thing even when we knew what it was. What a great way to spend a snow day. We enjoyed watching the Super Bowl as well--probably the first time we've had all our kids watch the whole thing with us.

January and February are often months of paralysis for me, probably the effect of not enough sun. The irony is that these are the very months I'm often trying to reassert some sort of order in my world. Out with the Christmas decorations and holiday eating habits. In with more discipline in my walk with the Lord, in my health, and in our spending habits. Out with the toys that no longer fit now that Christmas gifts are put away. In with better study and practicing habits. Out with time-wasting on the computer, in with weekly blogging--that's the goal, anyway!

This year I'm trying a new strategy: instead of working on everything at once, I'm trying to focus on one thing and see how discipline in that area leads to discipline in another. It's what Dave Ramsey calls the snowball method, where you tackle the smallest debt and the other ones naturally follow. I don't want to get overwhelmed with everything I'd like to see run better in our lives, so I'm letting myself just work on one thing with the other things coming along as I'm able.

The big area I'm working on is our finances. Now that our big move is done and life has settled down a bit, I really need to work on getting our spending habits--my spending habits--under control. It's not that I waste money, but I do not do a good job of sticking to the budget. So I'm taking baby steps toward better planning and money management. Maybe soon I can blog about extreme couponing!

In the meantime, it has been healthy to spend these dark winter months focusing on manageable steps toward success in one area instead of feeling down on myself for not being as far as I'd like to be toward ten different goals. And I think it's working. When I'm feeling pretty good about accomplishing one small thing I tend to want to take a step toward accomplishing something else as well. Today's victories were spending some time with my Bible and my gratitude journal when my attitude was heading south, not eating the leftover junk food from yesterday's Super Bowl bash, and doing pretty well with my budgeted Walgreens run (although I hope to do better next week). There are more things I wish I had gotten done, but instead of beating myself up about those things I'm going to choose to focus on the few things I did right. Tomorrow is another day, and perhaps I will have five or six victories instead of only three. Especially since school will surely be back in session and I will presumably have fewer interruptions.

How about you? Is there a goal you're working on? Have you taken some baby steps in the right direction that have helped you gain discipline in a second area as well?