Book-y Things

Dancing and Doughnuts Book Tour

Dancing and Doughnuts blog tour 2

My Grandma always had stack of Louis L’Amour books lying around her house somewhere, but I have to confess–I don’t think I ever read one! I preferred to be swept across the ocean to explore Europe, instead of stuck in the dusty old west. But when I first read Rachel Kovaciny’s novella The Man on the Buckskin Horse several years ago, I started to wonder if I’ve been missing out on a fun genre all my life…

Rachel’s newest novel, Dancing and Doughnuts, is releasing this Friday, and I’ve got an awesome interview with her today + a giveaway you won’t want to miss! So I’ll stop rambling and introduce Rachel to you.

The author

Born only a few miUR0A3711bwsepia (2)les from where Jesse James robbed his first train, Rachel Kovaciny has loved the Old West all her life. She now lives in Virginia with her husband and their three homeschooled children. In her free time, Rachel writes for the magazines “Femnista” and “Prairie Times,” reads, bakes, blogs, watches movies, and daydreams.

Her book “Cloaked” was a 2018 Peacemaker Awards finalist for Best Western YA/Children’s Fiction.

 

So please, cozy up with a cup of tea, give Rachel a virtual round of welcoming applause, and enjoy our interview! I had about a million questions for her, but I’ve tried to whittle it down to a more manageable amount . . .

The interview

On the genre …

I was first introduced to you when I read The Man on the Buckskin Horse, and I was surprised (and delighted) by the combination of western + fairytale! Why do you write westerns?

I write westerns because I love them, and I’m a firm believer that you should write what you love.  Not what you know, because with a bit of research and some patience, you can know a lot about a lot of things.  So write what you love, because if what you write does well, you’re going to be writing more of it.  Better love it.  I love westerns, have ever since I was a toddler, so… that’s what I write.

(K, let me interject here that I really, really like this advice. Because let’s be honest here: I know pretty much nothing. And I still want to write. So thank you for giving us all some extra confidence, Rachel!)

When and where does this story take place? Do you have an actual physical location in mind as you write, and have you ever been there?

It takes place in central Kansas, south of Abilene and the other big cow towns, in the spring of 1867.  I’ve driven through different parts of Kansas quite a few times — I was born in Iowa, and most of my extended family lives there still.  Whether I’ve been through the particular area where this would take place, I don’t know.  Not recently, that’s certain.  I rely a lot on internet research, travel books and videos, and my imagination to fill in the details.

If time travel were possible, would you want to live in the Wild West, or stay here with running water thankyouverymuch?

I would like to live in particular parts of the Wild West.  I don’t deal well with heat, so as much as I adore Texas, I might not want to live there.  Put me in Wyoming or Colorado or Montana, though, and I’d be a happy camper.  Running water is nice, but I could live without it.  Antibiotics, I would miss, though.

On fairytales …

Why do you think it’s important to re-tell a story that is already familiar?

Fairy tales teach us things.  That was their whole purpose, originally — they were cautionary stories, advice passed along in a memorable way.  Should little kids go wandering around in the woods alone?  No!  They might meet up with a witch who wants to eat them… or get kidnapped or fall in a hole or be eaten by a wild animal, anyway.  Should you treat your stepdaughter badly?  No!  She might end up marrying a handsome prince and you could be in serious danger for having abused her… or she might just marry a nice guy who doesn’t take kindly to his new wife having been pushed around by you.
Some fairy tales don’t seem particularly applicable anymore, but so many of them are based on human nature, which has not changed through the ages.  So we can still learn from them.
Also, they’re fun 🙂

Interjecting again (sorry I’m the worst I know) to appreciate this, too. I can’t add anything more eloquent but I want y’all to know I am 100% here.

Did you have a favorite fairytale as a child, and is it the same as your current favorite

As a kid, “Twelve Dancing Princesses,”  “Rapunzel,” and “Cinderella” were my favorites.  And they still are — those three really hit my storytelling buttons.

Why did you choose Twelve Dancing Princesses?

Because it’s long been a favorite of mine — might still be my #1 favorite, to be honest — and because it translated so easily to the Old West.  The original story has a soldier returning from the war wandering into a kingdom and solving a mystery.  I made him a soldier who fought in the Civil War and wandered into a Kansas town to solve a mystery.  It didn’t take much rejiggering for the basics to all fit.

If your life were a fairytale, what role would you play (fairy godmother, knight in shining armor, damsel in distress, the unwitting animal that gets turned into something else)?

Definitely a fairy godmother, as I love giving people unexpected gifts and granting wishes.

On the writing process …

Are there any real-life people or events that served as inspiration for Dancing and Doughnuts’ characters or plot?

Yes!  I don’t usually do this, but I actually named a whole bunch of minor characters after people I know.  The church I grew up in down in North Carolina has a book group comprised of about a dozen wonderful ladies.  I’ve known most of them since I was twelve.  When I released Cloaked last year, they asked me to come talk to their group about it.  During our discussion, they announced that they thought I should put all of them in my next story.  I kind of laughed it off at the time… but they’re all in there now.  They’re not the twelve “princess” characters, but they do get a fun scene in the book.

How do you do your historical research? Is it easy for you?

I LOVE history.  I minored in both English and History in college, and I currently write a column for the newspaper Prairie Times about the history of the Old West — that’s how much I love history.  So research is usually a pure delight.  I generally start with a good, new-fashioned Wikipedia search, then look at the books listed at the bottom of various articles to find sources that could help me.  I get what I can from my library, but sometimes I end up buying some books too.

I try to do the bulk of my research before I start writing because a lot of times, I’ll learn things that spark ideas and change the course of a story.  That’s the best feeling.

While writing, I’m constantly looking things up online and in books.  Maps, railroad records, clothing fashions, whatever I need.  And I’m always searching for the etymology of particular words to make sure they were in use at the time my story is set.  It’s always so jarring to read a book set in the 1700s or early 1800s that uses the word “okay,” for instance — that phrase wasn’t really coined until the 1830s, and didn’t become common until the 1840s.

What was the most interesting thing you learned/researched for Dancing and Doughnuts?

How prevalent soda-pop was in the Old West!  It turns out, carbonated beverages date back to the 1600s, and bottled soda-water mixed with flavoring was very popular by the 1860s.  Many saloons would serve it, as would restaurants and general stores.

And the miscellany …

If you had to watch the same movie every day for a month, what would it be?

There are a LOT of movies I could do that with:  The Man from Snowy River (1982), The Lone Ranger (2013), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), 3:10 to Yuma (1957), The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)…

And finally, coffee or tea?

Coffee in the morning and tea at night!  But if I HAD to choose one over the other, coffee.

That’s all the questions I’ll barrage you with today–a huge thank-you for joining us!

(You can interject Rachel saying something like, “Oh it was my pleasure, this was fun, I really like your ‘not putting any effort in’ outfit,” etc. Like she probably would have said those things if I would have included that last line in the original interview.)

(Wait. Does suggesting–even in a jocular manner–that Rachel said things she did not say compromise the integrity of this entire thing?)

(Please ignore the words I put in her mouth and just focus on the blue ones instead. I promise I didn’t make them up because, as you know, I ramble a lot more that that.)

The book

Dancing and Doughnuts cover small

Twelve Dancing Princesses… reimagined.

Fifty dollars just for asking a few questions? Jedediah Jones figures it must be his lucky day. What dancing and doughnuts have to do with anything, he neither knows nor cares. He’s only interested in earning that money so he can finally eat something other than the apples he’s been living off for days. Once his stomach and his pockets are filled again, he plans to move on.

But answering the advertisement plunges him into a forest of painted trees, twelve pretty sisters, trouble, and more trouble. And, yes, doughnuts.

So many doughnuts.

Can Jedediah Jones solve the mystery and earn that fifty dollars when the whole town has failed? Or will the twelve sisters lose their family’s business no matter what he does?

You can find Rachel on her website, facebook, instagram, amazon, and goodreads. Add Dancing and Doughnuts to your Goodreads shelf too, and watch for it to release on Friday!

Head over to Rachel’s blog to see the schedule of all the other tour stops–more interviews, book reviews, and more chances to enter the giveaway!

The giveaway

Dancing and Doughnuts Giveaway Prizes

Rachel has put together a very fun bundle of prizes: an autographed copy of Dancing and Doughnuts, a copy of Log Cabin Cooking, and a Once Upon a Western tote bag! You can enter the giveaway here. There are a number of ways to enter, including visiting the different stops. The winner will be drawn Sunday, September 9th!

And, if you’re new here and came because of Dancing and Doughnuts: welcome! You probably don’t want to read the archives because I haven’t redacted all the really weird stuff out of my past yet!!!

Drop a comment below if you’re somehow still reading (I think every post I write gets longer and longer?). Are you a fan of westerns? And has everyone in the world heard of the Twelve Dancing Princesses? *whispers* because I had never even heard of it before I read a different retelling and I still haven’t read the original and I’m ashamed. Are you with Rachel on team time-travel, or my “indoor plumbing is the bee’s knees!!” camp?

 

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Book-y Things

Book Review: King’s Warrior

Hello lovely people! Back today with more book-y things–I know, I know. I keep cycling between “now I’m an author with author friends YAY!” and “now I’m a bitter infertile woman who can’t stop talking about my feelings YAY!” and it’s probably really annoying as a reader. I don’t have any more feelings posts planned for the near future, so if you’re here for that (why on earth would you be here for that) you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, I’m switching into my bibliophile mode for the foreseeable future, starting with this review! Or, really, continuing with this review, since my last post was also book-y.

ANYHOW.

I was first introduced to Jenelle Leann Schmidt through her novella Stone Curse, published in Rooglewood Press’ Five Glass Slippers anthology. (You can read that review here!) It was a sweet story and I enjoyed it, so when I heard that she was looking for reviewers for King’s Warrior, the first novel in her Minstrel’s Song series, I jumped at the chance.

KW Front

When Dark Warriors invade her country, it is up to Princess Kamarie to seek out the legendary king’s warrior and request his aid. The feisty princess has spent her life dreaming of adventure and is thrilled to be tasked with such a quest. There’s only one thing that can dampen the princess’s excitement: Oraeyn. The squire views his task of protecting the princess on her journey as an inglorious assignment and makes no attempt to hide his disappointment.

Despite a rocky start to their journey – in which Oraeyn throws the obnoxious princess in a river just to get her to call him by name – the travelers soon learn that they must depend upon one another if they are to locate the man they have been sent to find.

The adventure merely begins when they meet Brant: a warrior with a mysterious past. He joins their cause readily, his heart smoldering with a vendetta Kamarie cannot completely understand. But whether she trusts him or not, the hope of their world rests on the steel he wears at his side….

Let me get one thing out of the way here: I have no idea how to write this review. I have a lot of thoughts and I very much doubt that they’ll be expressed as coherently as I’d like. Also, I just read that official blurb and I feel like it only covers the first seven pages of the book? The book had like a lot more than that.

Overall, I’m going to give this book 3/5 stars, which makes me feel terrible.

The good stuff:

The fantasy setting. Ms. Stengl is obviously quite imaginative, and her worldbuilding was fantastic! Everything from geography to the cultures of magical creatures was carefully thought out. Planning all of those details is a lot of work, and she did it well!

The cast of characters. I love dragons, OK?

The adventure. I don’t read a whole lot of fantasy, I guess, which is sad, so I enjoyed diving into this kind of “questing.” Knights and magic swords and lost princes and mysterious wizardesses (is that a word?) are just fun!

The morality. Now, let me ramble here. I don’t love books that preach at me (unless I’m reading a book of sermons). It is incredibly hard to discern how much is too much when it comes to writing about morals and honor and whatnot, and to be quite frank, this book bordered on the “preachy” side once or twice. However, I’ve recently read some books that were just really worldly, and I know I’m not going to review or recommend them, even though they were excellent as far as the writing goes. Ms. Schmidt’s book, though it has its flaws, is clean and moral. That is important to me.

The not-so-good stuff:

The grammar. If I hadn’t been given this copy to review, I honestly don’t know that I would have read the whole thing, simply because some of the grammatical errors at the beginning drove me crazy. Either it got better as the book went along, or I started ignoring it.

It was long. I have mixed feelings about this. I love long books. I like stories that make me work a little bit sometimes. I like to be engulfed in a world for longer than 24 hours. So long doesn’t necessarily equal bad, unless the length is just redundant. Here, I felt it was. There were some scenes and sentences that could have been easily left out, making a slightly lighter read without hurting the story.

Honestly, I think both of these things could have been fixed with better editing. I think Ms. Schmidt definitely has the makings of a good writer, but I hope that she’s investing in a better editor now than she did when this was published.

The takeaway:

If you enjoy fantasy, want a nice long series to dive into, and can handle some grammar issues, this book is for you. I said before that I probably wouldn’t have finished it if I weren’t reading a review copy, but I’m very glad I completed it–it was a worthwhile story by an author I want to support. I’m decently curious about the rest of the series; though I don’t have plans to purchase them soon, I’d like to read the rest eventually.

Head over to Amazon to purchase the book, or check out Ms. Stengl’s blog to learn more about her!

Ok, your turn to ramble! Do you read much fantasy? What are your “story turnoffs” that would cause you to put a book down and not pick it back up? Are there any books that you made yourself read? Were you glad you did, or did you feel like you should have gone with your gut and not wasted the time?

disclaimer that I feel like I should include but I’m too lazy to look up the rules so I’ll post it even if I don’t need to because I’m constantly terrified of breaking the law: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book-y Things

Fairest Son Blog Tour

I haven’t quite figured what this blog is about. I know recently I’ve mainly been venting about my ~feelings~ which you all find quite exciting. But I also want to continue to be involved in some bookish things–should I keep two separate blogs? Probably. Will I? Hahahahaha

Anyhow, all that to say that today I’m switching personalities to my non-grumpy fangirl side so I can share an exciting new book with y’all (and by y’all, I mean the two people that are still ready after that convolution of a first paragraph).

(Does convolution mean what I think it means?)

Anyhow again.

I’m quite excited to be sharing Fairest Son today! Snow White has never been a favorite fairytale of mine (maybe because of the really weird non-Disney movie I watched as a kid?) but I finally started appreciating it last summer when I began writing my own retelling. Hannah has long been on my radar as the talented artist behind the Goldstone Wood Coloring Book (also, please someone take this as a hint for Christmas ok), and her take on this classic story sounds lovely and intriguing!

About the Book

The Fair and Foul courts of the fey folk have long yearned for one to bring them together in peace, but hopes are dashed when the fairest prince and the prophecy concerning him are laid to ruin. Burdened with shame and sorrow, the prince flees to the cold mountains far above the forests and lochs with nothing but animals and goblins for company.

When a human huntress stumbles upon him in her search for a legendary predator, their fates are intertwined. But she hides deadly secrets, and if he dares to trust her, he may risk the doom of both courts to an ancient evil…

A novella retelling of Snow White

About the Author

From the beginning, H. S. J. Williams has loved stories and all the forms they take. Whether with word, art, or costume, she has always been fascinated with the magic of imagination. She lives in a real fantastical kingdom, the beautiful Pacific Northwest, with her very own array of animal friends and royally loving family. Williams taught Fantasy Illustration at MSOA. She may also be a part-time elf.

Author Site: https://www.hsjwilliams.com/

Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hsjwilliams/

About the Artist

Irina Plachkova is an acclaimed artist, freelance illustrator, and fashion designer, better known as PhantomRin. You can find more of her work at phantomrin.tumblr.com.

And allllllll the links!

Add FAIREST SON to your Goodreads shelf

Pick up a paperback copy on Amazon

Or grab an ebook from Hannah’s site (don’t wait, as the special launch price won’t last long!)

You can also check out the rest of the blog tour, including author AND character interviews, following the links below. Most people probably won’t sound like me so that’s good.

August 4th:

Book Spotlight with Bryn at

https://todaybybryn.wordpress.com

August 5th:

Book Spotlight with Skye at

https://skyehoffert.blogspot.com/

August 6th:

Book spotlight with Jemma at

http://thesherwoodstoryteller.blogspot.com.au/

Author interview with Sarah at

http://dreams-dragons.blogspot.com

August 7th:

Author Interview with Olivia at

https://the-book-sprite.blogspot.com/

August 8th:

Book Spotlight with Amber at

https://seasonsofhumility.blogspot.com/

Book Spotlight with Rebekah Gyger at

http://backingbooks.blogspot.com/

August 9th:

Book Spotlight with Shantelle at

http://shantellemary.blogspot.com/

Book Spotlight with Laura at

https://unicornquester.com

Book Spotlight with Emmarayn at

http://writinginrivendell.blogspot.com/

August 10th:

Book Spotlight with Betsy at

https://metaphoricalcello.wordpress.com/

Character Spotlight with Jenelle at

http://jenelleschmidt.com

August 11th

Author Interview with Beka at

http://www.rgremikova.wordpress.com

Character Spotlight with Kendra at

http://knittedbygodsplan.blogspot.com/

Ok please remind me to edit this before I publish it because my tablet won’t let me fix these ugly formatting issues. If you’re reading this it means I was too lazy to use my actual computer and I apologize.

What are you waiting for? Go forth and read!

Infertility

Shiloh’s Message

Shiloh.iPhone Jan 2018 1229

Out of all the locations on our itinerary, this was the one I felt the most about. Excitement. Dread. Hopefulness. Longing. Comfort. Nervousness. Anxiety. Grief.

It was a Sunday, a little over halfway through our trip. We were spending the day with a renowned archaeologist, touring the region of Samaria: Bethel, Ai, Shiloh, Sychar, Shechem. Ancient cities which had been lost and rediscovered. Places where sacred history happened. Bethel, where God appeared to Abram. Sychar, where Jesus spoke to the woman at the well. Ai, where Israel lost their first battle due to Achan’s sin. Shiloh, where God’s tabernacle stayed.

Shiloh, where Hannah prayed for a child.

December days in Israel are short; we were racing the sun all day. “Let’s make Shiloh a brief stop,” I overheard our guide say to another leader as we loaded into the bus. “We don’t need to dawdle there.”

We stopped at several sites near Bethel first, and then Ai. Both locations had much to see and discuss. But my heart was already anxiously racing with the thought of Shiloh.

Shiloh, where a barren woman went to ask God for a baby.

I didn’t know what I was feeling, or what I should be feeling, so I tried my best to ignore whatever it was knotting up my stomach. I tried to focus on listening to the archaeologist, tried to appreciate the moment. But my thoughts kept jumping ahead to Shiloh.

Shiloh, where a woman like me prayed so hard that the priest thought she was drunk.

Just before noon, we arrived. Our guide had explained on the drive that we were going to stop rather quickly so we could fit in several more locations before the afternoon light started to fade. We had to walk a short way to get to the actual location of the tabernacle itself; along the path, we passed a visitor center. “This building was funded by a wealthy Jewish woman,” our guide explained. “She tried for years to have a baby, and finally pilgrimaged here to pray just like Hannah did–and then built this center in honor of her son, Samuel!” Someone who knew what Logan and I were facing nudged my arm at this story. “See? Maybe it will happen for you, too!” she whispered. I looked away, knowing I would cry if I made eye contact.

Shiloh, where God answers prayers.

I remember very little of what our guide said once we actually reached the site of the tabernacle. I prowled along the outskirts of the group, hiding my teary eyes by taking pictures. I wanted silence, solitude, time to reflect and pray–a chance to fall on my knees and beg God to send us a child, too. But our group was large, our guide was hurrying to get to the next destination, other visitors kept coming and going. iPhone Jan 2018 1228

“Well, I think that’s all we need to cover here. Let’s head back to the bus.” Slowly, reluctantly, I fell in with the rest of the tourists, though I desperately wanted to linger, to sit in quietness and feel God’s presence. Perhaps He would grant me peace. Perhaps He would give me assurance that I would someday give my husband a child. Perhaps He would send a sign that I could cling to.

But instead, I walked back down the path, clinging to Logan’s hand with all my might, keeping my head down so people couldn’t see that I was sobbing.

Shiloh, where God was silent to me.

I had hoped for some kind of sacred experience, some sort of message from God. But as we left Shiloh and headed to our next destination, I had no more assurance than before. God had not given me inward peace. I received no special feelings of joy or hope. Six months later, we are seemingly no closer to parenthood.

Shiloh, where my prayers were not answered.

Perhaps it was for the best. Had God done what I wanted–had He orchestrated the day so that I could have lingered and prayed at the site of the ancient tabernacle–perhaps I would have made too much of the experience. Perhaps I would have turned Shiloh into a shrine, begun to worship the place more than the God who sanctified it.

Shiloh, where I could not feel God’s presence.

Alone in our hotel room that evening, I wrote in my journal, venting my disappointment. I will probably never be able to revisit this sacred place; I lost my chance to pray where Hannah did. I left Shiloh with no peace, no confidence. And yet–I remembered that I serve a God who is everywhere. The One who loves me is always near.

I do not need Shiloh to get me closer to God. He hears the prayers I offer while I drive to work each day. He sees the tears I cry on my couch late at night. I cannot always feel Him, but I know He is here.

Shiloh, where the tabernacle is no more. 

For now He is here in us.

 

 

But Seriously, Infertility

Adoption Won’t Cure My Infertility, part 2

A friend recently shared an article with me that talked about infertility treatments, specifically the problems with IVF procedures. It was a pretty decent article, and I agreed with many of the hesitations the author had concerning IVF . But she lost me at the conclusion: “maybe a better alternative to IVF would be adoption.”

In my last post, I expressed some frustration with people who jump to adoption as a treatment for infertility, but I want you to know that isn’t the same as just a caring friend asking about our plans and if we’ll ever consider adopting. I already talked about how infertility can’t really be healed by adopting a child, but my second problem with the “adoption as an infertility treatment” mindset has to do with the serious and heartwrenching act of adoption itself. Relegating adoption to merely an infertility treatment diminishes its weightiness.

{Ok, I admit I’m delving into a topic in which I have no experience, as we haven’t yet started pursuing adoption. So if I’m way off base, please feel free to call me out!}

Adoption brings its own emotional trauma

I already talked about the mess of emotions infertility brings (and lets be honest, I’ll probably talk about them again because talking about my feelings is one of my main hobbies anymore). Not only does adoption not “fix” most of them, the adoption process is pretty stressful on its own. There’s the initial stress of meeting all the licensing requirements, then the uncertainty of waiting for a placement; the headaches of endless paperwork and legal proceedings. In many adoptions, the birth family will still be at least somewhat present in the child’s life–and the spectrum of experiences accompanying that interaction can be anything from 100% positive to nightmarish. Adoptions through foster care can include another level of issues and trauma. Jumping into adoption as a way to “fix” infertility is trying to merge two broken families and expecting no subsequent wounds.

Adoption shouldn’t be about the parents’ needs

Yes, we want to be parents. I would give virtually anything to suffer morning sickness and writhe through labor pains, to hear a little boy call me “Mama,” to be the one who has to tuck the kids into bed because Daddy just doesn’t do it right. I long to see Logan as a father, singing his weird little lullabies to our babies, immersing himself in the pretend world of a five-year-old, teaching a little girl how to spot all the turtles when we go for walks. But we can’t choose to adopt just because we want kids, and not because we are burdened for children who need families.

Adopting should be about what the child needs–unconditional love, commitment, safety, home. Infertile couples often make wonderful adoptive parents because their love and attention can be given completely to children who may need extra care. But I shouldn’t expect any child to erase or to resolve the issues I’m dealing with–especially not an adopted child who brings his own baggage to our family.  If I go into adoption expecting it to meet my needs and fulfill my desires for motherhood, how will I react when I discover that bonding doesn’t always happen immediately? When, instead of finally feeling healed and fulfilled, I must bear the added weight of a child’s past? And how will that child feel knowing she was the second choice for our family, that if we had been able to have “our own” kids we would never have considered her needs?

It may well be that infertility is the path that God will use to lead us to some special children He already has in mind for us; that our current experiences will shape us into parents ready to bear the burdens of an adopted child. Perhaps the cares we wear right now and the prayers that remain unanswered are the tool He’ll use to make us ready to love a child we wouldn’t have known otherwise. But when the day comes that we are Mom and Dad to children not born to us, I earnestly pray that the first thought on our hearts is the best interests of those children and their first families and not about treating my problem.

Adoption isn’t just for infertile people

When writers publish articles that say adoptions a “better option to treat infertility,” and when people suggest that we should “stop trying and just adopt,” (again, not the same as just a friendly question in a conversation about our struggle so far!), we start to get the idea that adopting is something that’s the sole responsibility of infertile couples. Those who have “their own” kids are content to admonish infertile couples to stop wasting money on treatments and think of the kids without homes instead, never considering if they themselves have a responsibility toward those children. Would adoption be more difficult with a house already full of kids? Probably. Is every family called to adopt? Of course not. But speaking about adoption as something infertile families should do leads to the idea that fertile families don’t need to.

ok, call me out. Am I completely unqualified to write about this? Am I still looking at these issues way too naively? What’s your experience with adoption, and what should I know as we prepare for that in our eventual future?

But Seriously, Infertility

Adoption Won’t Cure My Infertility, Part 1

It’s a message I hear often, normally from very kind, very well-meaning people.

“Have you considered adoption?”
“Don’t you think it’s selfish to pursue treatments when there are kids in foster care that need homes?”
“Maybe adoption is the answer for your infertility.”

I recognize that my thoughts on this are purely from the currently childless side. Someday, I trust that God will lead us to adopt, and I can only guess how my perspective on things will change then. But I’m fairly confident of one thing: adoption won’t cure my infertility.

It seems so simple, so easy, so rational. Can’t have kids? Just adopt! But the problem with this line of thinking is that it reduces both infertility and adoption to very one-dimensional issues. In this kind of rationale, infertility is code for problem: wants a child and the only emotion associated with this problem is sad because doesn’t have a child. If this were true, yes, adoption would be the “easy” solution. A child would be obtained and the sadness would dissipate into joy. Unfortunately, infertility is much more than the basic lack of a child, and its accompanying emotions are persistent and tumultuous.

Adoption won’t heal my physical condition

While I often focus on the “babyless” side of things, my infertility is actual merely a symptom of a much broader problem–an incurable syndrome that affects my metabolism, moods, and general health. While I hope on my more optimistic days to eventually find the panacea that will completely reverse my symptoms, it’s just as likely that this is something I’ll be living with for the rest of my life–with or without children.

Adoption can’t fix my emotions

The last year and a half have been emotionally turbulent. In addition to basic sadness and grief, infertility has also brought feelings of inadequacy, depression, loneliness, jealousy, anger, fear, guilt, and doubtfulness. Sometimes I let them get the upper hand; sometimes, by God’s grace, I manage to control them. Either way, most of these won’t be addressed by adoption. Adopting won’t heal the loneliness I feel when my friends share their birth stories. I doubt it will completely fix the twinges of envy I feel when I hear pregnancy announcements. I don’t think it can silence the “Why, God?” I cry when someone else is blessed with a child and abuses him. It can’t magically restore faith in a God who has answered so many of my prayers with “no.” It can’t help stave off the self-loathing whispers of Logan deserves more than a broken wife and no matter what I do, I’ll never be good enough to deserve a baby. While parenting an adopting child will, I’m sure, bring just as much joy as having a biological baby, there are so many more feelings than the simple interplay of joy and grief.

God doesn’t explain His plan to us. And while I pray that His plan for us will eventually include adopting, I want my future adopted sons and daughters to know that they weren’t just a bandaid solution to my issues. When God brings them to us, they’ll be getting a Mama with some baggage, some scars, and those children won’t be responsible to fix these wounds for me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue! Have adoption and/or infertility been part of your life? How have they affected you? Do you think I’m being an opinionated drama queen (always a possibility)? 

Part 2 to come (because yes, I have more opinions with little to no life experience backing them up!)

Home, Infertility

Voicemail

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017.

I finished teaching my last violin lesson of the morning and loaded up my stuff into the car. My stomach flipped as I pulled out my phone—I had heard the buzzing while I taught. Was it the call I was waiting for so impatiently?

It was. My whole body tensed up. I was still new to the smartphone thing, so I couldn’t help but read the transcribed voicemail before I tapped play.

Hi this is Dr _⁠_⁠_⁠_⁠_ the tally just letting you know that your progesterone levels was 0.15 which they need to be greater than 10 for us to consider them positive for ovulation so if you can call me back…”

No. No, no, no. That couldn’t be right. Obviously the transcription was faulty—it had had no clue what to do with my doctor’s name, so maybe the numbers were wrong too.

Fingers shaking, I pressed play. My doctor’s voice—educated, confident, and rather unemotional—rang out of my phone’s speakers while I sat in my car stunned, broken, unable to think. I played it again.

Your progesterone levels were 0.15 … they need to be greater than 10 …

Tears started pooling in the corner of my eyes. “Why, God?” I whispered. No other words would come. I was still sitting in the parking lot of the church where I taught violin, and I knew I needed to get out before someone strolled past and saw me, still sitting in my car, crying uncontrollably. I blinked back the tears as hard as I could while I drove out. When I was safely alone on the roads I let them flow.

I prayed as I drove, the broken, raw kind of prayer that doesn’t happen during church services.

“God, I don’t understand. I thought this would work … why didn’t this work … help me, help me, please, please help me …”

The phone call was in response to the blood draw I had had two days prior. Three weeks ago, I started my very first round of ovulation-inducing medicine. As a woman with PCOS, both my doctor and I were fairly confident I was never ovulating on my own—which is a pretty big problem, especially when you want babies. But the drug was supposed to fix me, at least for one cycle, and though I knew that many healthy people take more than one cycle to actually make a baby, I had faith. I believed that the odds didn’t matter. This would work; this would be our baby. Sometime between our winter birthdays, we would be visiting the birth center and bringing home our twins. Yes, twins. We have to work extra hard for kids, so why not make it a two-for-one deal? We prayed together, and I prayed alone, and I quoted all the verses that talk about God answering prayer, and I believed He would give me what I asked for.

And then—The Voicemail. Not only was I not pregnant (twins or otherwise), my body had not even responded to the medication. I didn’t understand—I had been tracking my symptoms, positive I felt the classic mittelschmerz of ovulation. Logan and I had talked about “if it doesn’t work,” but even those discussions assumed “not working” just meant “not pregnant.” I hadn’t let myself consider what would happen if my body simply … didn’t respond.

But that’s where I was now. When I finally got home, I tried to sniff the tearfulness out of my voice before I called the doctor back. I don’t remember who I called first, Logan or the doctor. Probably Logan, though I doubt he would have been able to answer at work. I remember talking to him on his lunch break—I was curled up on the couch, crying, by myself, and all he could do was say “I’m sorry, I love you, it will be ok.”

The doctor, while nice enough, wasn’t quite as tender to my raw heart. She explained what I already understood—my body was so broken that the meds couldn’t get it working. She said we’d try again and sent me a prescription for a bumped-up dosage. My heart sank even further when she told me we were skipping the middle level and going straight to full strength. That means she’s not very hopeful about this.

Neither am I.

That one brief voicemail was enough to strip me of my simple faith. Did I still believe God would answer my prayers? Yes. But it wasn’t a brightly optimistic belief like at the first … now I was paying attention to statistics, obsessively reading success (and failure) stories, preparing my heart for the possibility that this time might fail, too. I couldn’t recapture the innocent faith I had before, where I just thought if I believed hard enough, God would do as I asked.

I knew now, somehow, that our fertility journey would not be as simple as I had hoped. The miraculous healing I hoped for probably wouldn’t come. We may only be able to afford one pregnancy instead of the dozen kids I had always dreamed of.

Today is the anniversary of that loss of “naive faith.” I can’t say that it was a bad thing to lose. We’ve had to work to replace it with a pushy faith, a faith that chooses when odds look grim. A faith that understands God may not answer how I want. A faith that acknowledges He is still good. A faith that refuses to give in to the pessimism, the despair, the statistics. A faith that says, “God, if You let my heart get broken again, I believe You will somehow carry me through that, too.”

“Lord, I believe, only help my unbelief!”

Home

Bittersweet.

Look! Two posts less than a month apart! Boy, am I with it or what? (Though I’m ignoring the groceries that need to be put int he cupboard, the dishes that need to be done, the laundry that needs to be folded, the supper that needs to be made, AND the library books that need to be returned to write this . . . so maybe I’m not “with it” at all. Ahem.)

A friend who blogs* recently wrote a post describing her current life. God has blessed her in many ways, and somewhere in her writing she said, “I’m in love with my life and with the God who gave it to me.”

I don’t know why that stuck out to me the way it did, but that phrase has been nagging at me since I read it. Because, some days, I am not in love with my life. In fact, reading about the specific blessings God has given to this friend, I caught myself thinking, “Of course you love your life! You have everything you could want!” Jealousy hissed, and superiority smirked. “Why does she get things so easily?” said Jealousy. “You’re certainly more spiritual, since your life is more difficult,” said Superiority.

But these old enemies are wrong. I don’t actually know all the circumstances and trials this sweet woman faces–just like I won’t share every detail of the difficult things I might face here. But even in times of smoothness and tranquility, having the right attitude does not come easily; we are tempted to still long after more, or look at our blessings as being earned and deserved. And certainly, undergoing one specific trial doesn’t automatically boost our levels of spirituality. We remember the stories of the saints who faced bitter and difficult times–but there are many, many saints to whom God has given a sunnier path. Abraham had every material possession imaginable, didn’t he? Yet he was a righteous man.

So I squelched the voices that wanted to drag me down into a bitter, sinful swamp, and I thanked God for the blessings He bestowed on this woman. He is truly good all the time to all His children.

And yet . . .

I am not in love with my life. The thought kept nagging.

Did this mean that I do not love the God who has assigned this path to me? Is such a  thought a symptom of a faithless heart and a discontented spirit? Or is possible that God leads us through seasons where we can cling to Him in love and in trust, recognizing that the circumstances surrounding us are less than lovable?

Certainly those affected by the recent fires and floods and hurricanes and earthquakes do not love what God has done–but they can still love God Himself.

Certainly the apostle Paul did not love being in prison–but he saw and rejoiced at the good God brought from it.

Certainly Horatio Spafford did not love the circumstances that led to the penning of his timeless hymn–but he recognized that underneath the sorrows, it was well with his soul.

I do not compare myself to the victims of Harvey, or to believers persecuted for their faith, or to those who have lost the people dearest to their hearts. I see and give thanks for the thousands of beautiful things God has graciously given me: peace with Him. A wonderful husband. A nice home. Forgiveness every day. Provision for Logan’s school bill. Friends to laugh with. A cat (yes, this is an undeserved blessing of God–she makes the evenings when Logan’s away a little less lonely!). Peace and joy. Flowers in my windowsill. A good night’s sleep. A car with working air conditioner. Yarn to crochet with, a piano to play, warm blankets to snuggle under, a recipe for low-carb waffles . . . The list of things–both trivial and eternally significant–could go on forever.

But somehow, at the same time, I realize that there are situations that I wish were different. They do not need to be listed–that would too easily turn to complaining, which is not the point of this post–but they exist, and I imagine you, too, can think of at least a few things that you would change if you could. These are the things we take to God in prayer, the things that too often lead to grouchiness instead of gratitude, the things we must choose to find joy in.

I felt this conundrum for a while. If I really love God, does that mean I must be excited when bad things happen to the people I love? If I am really thankful, does that mean I must be filled with gladness when things don’t go as I wish they would?

Can I be thankful and sad at the same time?

I think that the answer to that last question is yes. When Jesus prayed all night in the garden, agonizing over the suffering He would endure, “I love my life!” were not the words on His lips. “Your will be done,” He prayed–but only after He said “Please take this cup away from me.”

Compared to the pain Jesus suffered, of course my little burdens shrink to inconsequential specks of nothingness. And compared to the burdens many others undergo, the things that grieve me seem light. But this does not mean I  must force a smile and grit through it, preaching “It’s not that bad!!” to myself day in and day out.

No.

God accepts my sorrow and He comforts me on the days when I hurt. He reminds me of the blessings He has bestowed on me and does not let me forget His unfailing love. He allows me to grieve, and at the same time, gives me peace to say Your will be done. I do not have to explain away or ignore the bad things in life to accept the fact that God is good–somehow, in a way I do not yet understand, He is teaching me to temper sadness with contentment and thankfulness with earnest prayer.

Some days are bittersweet–and in those days, God is still good. May He be praised.

*Dear friend who inspired this post: I am truly, truly glad for the way God has blessed you, and I am truly, truly glad your life is lovable right now. I know you’re heading into ministry, and you will face your share of difficult and painful days, so I’m thankful that God has given you this season of gladness first. May He continue to bless you and keep you close to Him!

 

Home

Hello Again

Dear blogosphere;

It’s been literal ages since I’ve last written here (though, to be honest, I’m not sure what the actual definition of an ‘age’ is, so it could be non-literal ages). Anyhow. It’s been quite a while. But I’m back for today at least, and maybe next week–or maybe not for another year. Who knows? Such is the beauty of my wild and free life. (Note: my idea of “wild and free” includes, ideally, the option to be in bed by 9:30 P.M. each night. So yeah. Pretty wild, amiright?)

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure why I am writing today, or if I really should be at all. This little blog was my outlet when I went away to college four years ago man am I old or what? and I’ve grown up just a bit since then; if I really want to do grown-up blogging, this isn’t really the place, with its awkward archived stories that are probably only funny to me anymore. But I’m not going to start a whole new blog when, in reality, today’s writerly mood may be a very brief whim, so instead I’m juxtaposing my newer, (slightly) more sober thoughts on top of a foundation of silly holidays and stories from the library. There’s probably a metaphor for life in there somewhere but I’m not that grown up that I care to flesh it out. You can be the thought-provokingly analytical one if you want.

(One thing hasn’t changed, at least: my inability to flesh out one coherent thought without rabbit trailing down several other more nonsensical thoughts, all included in the same smorgasbord of an over-comma-ed sentence.)

Things that have changed:

  • My glasses prescription. I’m squinting at this computer screen and that’s probably a sign I need a check-up, hmm?
  • My marital status. Well, that’s changed from what it was at the beginning of this blog, though not since I last wrote. We’re coming up on our second anniversary already–but you probably don’t want to hear my philosophical thoughts on a theme of “my, how fast time flies!”
  • My home. When I started writing, I was a girl from St. Louis going to school in West Virginia, and now I’m a girl from who knows where, really, settled down in North Carolina for the foreseeable future.
  • My taste in food. Y’all. I like cabbage. This was a small revelation to me recently and I just wanted to share.
  • My accent. I’ve started unconsciously imitating my sweet husband’s pronunciation of “violin” and “child” (VAAAAH-lin and chAAAAAHld, respectively). Do I despise myself for it? Yes, yes I do. I need a cleanse in the good old old midwest, please. Then I can say things like “let’s have a little bit of lunch!” and “who’s that pulling up onto the yard?” and “oh fer sure” again.
  • My job. Four years ago, I was a college student/library assistant/fast food worker, and now I’ve become a pastor’s wife/nearly-full-time piano (and violin) teacher, with a dash of nannying thrown in for good measure. I stuck my toe in the direct selling business recently, too, but turns out my toes don’t like that stuff. (Sorry, person under whom I signed up. You’re welcome, all y’all facebook friends who are relived to NOT have another person begging you to buy their life-changing products.)

So. Why exactly am I writing again, when the internet has been merrily spinning on without me for a full year? I can’t tell you, really. I’ve just got a writing itch recently; I suppose it’s rather selfish: my thoughts are not exactly wise enough that I need to share them with the world at large. But sometimes, there are just things I want to say, and facebook doesn’t seem to be the place to compose drawn-out, rabbit-trailing essays. Maybe a true sign of maturity would be peacefully keeping my thoughts to myself, so there you go–I still am the little midwestern girl who felt the need to start a college blog four years ago.

The beautiful thing about the internet, of course, is that no one is obliged to read my pretentious ramblings, so my need to SPEAK MY MIND!!!! and SHARE MY WISDOM!!! can be sated without actually inconveniencing anyone at all. Simply leave here and head to an truly grown-up blog, or Pinterest, or an actual printed book (gasps of surprise are heard throughout the room!) and you will no longer have to deal with my introspection, poorly timed jokes, and miserable use of commas. For those of you who do take the time to read all the way through this, though–firstly, thank you: your dedication and perseverance are truly admirable; and secondly–no really why are you still reading this?; and thirdly–I hope that maybe, just maybe, someday I can say something that will be just a little bit encouraging to your heart. I can’t pretend that I’ll ever write anything truly wise or new, but I’d like to share what God is gently and patiently teaching me. You who are certified Real Adults ™ may quietly chuckle to yourself while sagely shaking your head. “What a youngster!” I hear you saying in the future. “She thinks she’s getting so grown-up and she’s really only displaying her ignorance!” And, of course, future hypothetical you is right–four years from today maybe I’ll feel the same about this post as current me feels about my first posts.

But that’s OK, I think. God designs us to grow and change and go through different seasons. My college season was a good one. I was very young and I had fun and I made good friends and I learned a lot. Now I’m in a different season–I’m still very young, in the grand scheme of things. I still have fun (though not quite the same kind; there’s a certain kind of fun that can only be experienced on a college campus surrounded by fantastic people, so those of you still in college, enjoy it. Wait. Do I have any friends in school anymore? Boy, I am old.) And now God is teaching me new things, and sometimes I need to keep them and ponder them in my heart like Mary, and sometimes I think it’s OK to share them. So I guess that’s why I’m here, though man it took me a lot of words to figure that out. Writing is therapeutic, y’all.

Welcome back to my blog. Though there might not be as many silly stories, I promise I’ll still overuse commas. Because some things never do change.

 

Book-y Things, Home, Marriage

We Try to Get Along . . .

. . . but sometimes we just don’t see eye-to-eye. Examples:

  • Pickles
  • Mustard
  • What to do with days off
  • How to organize closets
  • What temperature is “cold”
  • Movies

For the most part, these aren’t issues. We compromise: Logan lets me eat my pickles and mustard as long as I brush my teeth extra-good later. I went hiking on his day off instead of doing laundry. I re-organize his clothes every time I hang things up. He gets me extra blankets.

However. Other things are really too hard. Continue reading “We Try to Get Along . . .”