Test everything, especially what you believe

Several years ago we moved to a distant community we’d visited only once, and felt fortunate to find a couple willing to help us get settled. We took their advice about jobs, housing, schools, and the people, although at times what they claimed didn’t ring entirely true with my limited experience there.

Soon after we moved in, I began to realize that this couple perceived things very differently than we did, pointing out negatives which weren’t there and criticizing the sincere efforts of others they felt were “beneath them.” The picture they had been giving us about the community had been quite distorted.

Within weeks it became apparent that they had an agenda and were grooming us to support their efforts. As quickly as possible we severed ties with the couple and endeavored to learn the truth about our new home, which proved to be far better than we had been conditioned to believe.

Over the years I’ve ceased feeling embarrassed about being duped by this couple, and instead have grown grateful for the experience which taught me three important strategies for life:

  • Gather several points of view about a situation before making decisions.
  • Look for someone else’s agenda in what they proclaim to be the truth.
  • Don’t make hasty decisions but weigh them out before acting.

And I’m doing all of that more each day, with every news broadcast, every political stance, every health report—pretty much everything.

I get different viewpoints, even–and especially–from those “on the other side” politically. Don’t be afraid of the opposition; learn what they believe. Debate their positions in your head.

I look for agendas and what they ultimately hope to accomplish. The end result may be hard to discern, but their ultimate goal tell you all you need to know about how they will treat you and others in the future.

I don’t make hasty decisions, especially if someone is telling me exactly what I want to hear. That’s called bias confirmation, and in our zeal to be proven right, we may be unintentionally agreeing with something wrong.

Most importantly, it’s ok to take some time to form an opinion. On many issues, I still can’t make up my mind about who to trust, so I trust no one and remain floating in a pool of ambivalence until greater light and knowledge come to me.

And how do I get that greater light and knowledge? I pray and ask God about everything, and I mean everything, that I come across.

Quite often He gives me a clear answer in the form of peace in my mind about a matter, a calm reassurance that fills me with warmth.

I’ve learned to question everything, and not to simply take someone else’s word or testimony about an issue. I’m entitled to my own answers, and God wants to give them to me, and to you, if you want them.

Sometimes He doesn’t answer me immediately because either I’m not ready for it, or I have no way to discern the truth . . . yet.

But then later the answer comes, exactly when I’m ready to accept it and act upon it. It always comes. And it will for you, just as quickly as you’re ready to accept it and move on it. With answers comes responsibility. Where much is given, much is required.

But you don’t have to trust me about this–test Him for yourself. He’ll always tell you the truth and what to believe. Always.

The joyful heartache of growing up

I seem to stay the same, but all around me children are moving on. The semester is ending this week, my students will wave good-bye and new groups will come in, many I’ve had before but are now older, many seniors for whom this will be the last semester of high school. Then they’ll walk away.

At home, I will have new grandbabies this year, a new in-law joining the family, and adult children on the move in all directions. I feel the need to chase them down, as I did when they were toddlers racing to the toy section of the store. But now, they run faster than I can.

My only consolation is that my adult children with families also express their happiness at their babies’ milestones, then complain that their children are growing too fast.

I think every generation for thousands has endured the same joyful heartaches.

Children grow away

 

It’s time to be brave and fight the current

“It’s time to be brave.”

My friend messaged me those words yesterday after we had been chatting about Ricky Gervais and his audacity to public tell his “Hollywood friends” what hypocrites they are. I wrote that I wished I were so brave, and she replied with only five words that have been echoing in my head:

“It’s time to be brave.”

I have another friend online who every day stands up for his beliefs in religious and moral issues, and is castigated by dozens, if not hundreds, of people. I’d cower under such scrutiny, but he wrote, “I have to say what I know is true, so that others know they’re not alone.”

“It’s time to be brave.”

In towns, in cities, in states, in countries, lines are being drawn, and we’re no longer able to straddle two worlds and pretend they’re not at odds with each other. We can either drift along helplessly with the current, letting it drag us wherever and act surprised when we find ourselves somewhere we really didn’t want to be.

Or we can fight the current, swimming with those who school like fish alongside of us, refusing to drift to an uncertain end. There’s enough of us willing to stand for our beliefs in God, in morality, in family, in our country, and in each other.

It’s time to be brave. I’ll fight the current.

rather fight the current

“Why fight it?” Mahrree asked her neighbor. “Because what if everything we believe is wrong?”

Mahrree saw her poor neighbor’s eyes glaze over. She knew better than to get into a debate with Mrs. Shin. That was something else everybody ‘knew.’ If Mahrree didn’t break people down by logic, she did so out of sheer persistence. Mrs. Hersh realized too late she’d been dragged into the discussion, and the dread in her eyes demonstrated a frantic desire to escape.

But there was also something else there: a sudden loyalty to her society that demanded no one step out of bounds. “Then we’re wrong together,” Mrs. Hersh decided. “Being united is important,” she said as if realizing she actually believed that. “What everyone thinks together is correct,” she reasoned out loud, “and so if you follow the crowd, you’ll never be wrong.”

Mahrree’s shoulders fell. How can you open someone’s eyes who holds them firmly shut, yet claims she sees just fine?

“It’s like the river,” Mrs. Hersh went on, emboldened by Mahrree’s discouraged silence. “Everything flows downstream. Simply . . . go with that flow. It’s just easier that way.”

Mahrree saw her way back in. “Fish don’t flow downstream.”

“Yes they do.”

“No, they don’t.”

Mrs. Hersh put her hands on her hips. “Why wouldn’t they?”

“Because then there’d be no more fish up here in Edge!” Mahrree pointed out. “I’ve seen them when I’ve taken my students to see the river, and when I’ve dragged my fishing husband home again. Many fish swim in the same spot, fighting the current. A few species even swim upstream, against everything pushing them to the southern ocean.”

Mrs. Hersh pondered for a moment. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why wouldn’t they just go with the flow of the river?”

“Because,” Mahrree tried not to sigh at her neighbor’s inanity, “maybe they don’t like where the river is going. Salty water at the end of it likely kills them.”

Mrs. Hersh squinted. “How would they know about the salty water? Besides, so what? At least they had an easy time getting to it. They’re going die eventually, so might as well go easily instead of fighting the current.”

And right then Mahrree realized, to her horror, that the Administrators had won.

People didn’t need to think for themselves, they only needed to think what everyone else thought. They didn’t need to worry about the color of the sky, because everyone agreed it was only blue. They didn’t need to worry if they were drifting to an irreversible tragedy, as long as they were doing it together, united.

Because as long as everyone else was doing it, you should too. Hold hands and jump off the crevice together, never questioning why.

“I’d rather fight the current,” Mahrree said quietly.

Mrs. Hersh shrugged her shoulders. “You’re a lovely neighbor, Mrs. Shin, always willing to lend an egg, but I truly don’t understand you.”

The debate was over.

~Book 2, Soldier at the Door, available here.

Book 5 cover reveal coming next week!

By Wednesday I’ll have completed the cover for Book 5: Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti! 

Interestingly, I’m using my oldest son on the cover, the one I wrote about earlier  who’s been ill with a strange viral infection for the past week and a half, and now a secondary bacterial infection. After three hospital visits, he’s finally on the mend.

Just a couple of days before he fell ill, we did his preliminary photo shoot. I told him that past experience showed we’d need to do a second shoot, because even though I took fifty shots of him, I’d realize they were all wrong, and we’d have to redo them. And perhaps a third time. (Maybe this is why my family is reluctant to dress up for my book covers?)

Well, after going through his photos, I realized they were pretty good, and I didn’t need to redo them after all. Good thing, because being ill has taken a toll on him, and it’d be a few weeks before he’d be back in shape.  Tig as Peto (First off, he’d have to shave his two weeks’ beard growth, and that would nearly kill him. I purposely took pictures of him right after he got home from the army, so that he’d still be clean shaven. I didn’t need Goatee-Man on the cover, although he pulls off that look pretty well.)

I changed his eye color, turning his dark brown eyes to light gray. (Any ideas who he’s going to be when his editing’s all finished?)

I did the same thing to his brother, who I used on the cover of Book 2: Soldier at the Door. It’s strange how merely changing one’s eye color suddenly changes the whole person. Both of my sons have very dark brown eyes, but not here. They’re no longer my boys, but new characters.

Bubba with blue eyes

(This change to blue eyes still creeps me out.)

While the rest of my family groans quietly before agreeing to be on my covers (they work for cookies, fortunately) my 8-year-old daughter, however, is DYING to be on a cover, so I may have to write a small book, just for her. (Working title: The Life and Times of a 3rd Grade Narcissist.)

 

 

Parenthood, summed up in one horrible bathroom incident

My four-year-old is my youngest of nine children. You’d think that after 25 years of being a mom, I’d be an expert, but you’re never an expert, I’ve decided.

Especially when it comes to potty-training.

With our first child, I took the excellent advice to “not rush it.” This was the early 90s when having your barely-know-how-to-walk one-year-old potty trained was the rage.

It was actually the mom who was trained, to rush her tiny charge to the bathroom every two hours and plop the toddler on the toilet with great hope. Never being that disciplined, I instead encouraged and suggested, and finally had a trained daughter when she was three.

I followed that same laissez faire approach with my other kids, too, but my sons took a bit longer.

Ohhh . . . my sons and potty training.

Boys are the worst, and I have five of them.

I won’t name names, but one son had a propensity for “forgetting,” and he was well into preschool age before accidents weren’t a weekly—or daily—affair.

Another son would, in a half-asleep stupor, mistake his closet for the bathroom every night. It took us weeks to figure out where the smell was coming from, and why. Once we did, we had to replace the carpet and pad in there, along with a few toys.

Another son simply refused to use the toilet, afraid of it. One of his first public potty encounters was with a toilet which automatically, and noisily, flushed itself. He was sure that all toilets were ready to swallow him whole.

Another child was perfectly easy to potty train, leaving me to believe I’d finally figured things out and was a fantastic mother.

Nope. He was just an easy kid.

And we’re not going to talk about the years of bed wetting. Which were years. (I wept with joy when Febreeze was invented.)

So when it came to potty training Boy #5, I didn’t have any illusions that I knew how to do it within 48 hours, or tear-free, or bribery-free. We just went for it.

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(We’ll allow #5 to retain his dignity and remain anonymous.)

(If you’re a bit squeamish, perhaps you don’t want to continue reading. But if you’re a parent, none of this will be new to you.)

Fortunately #5 had no problem with #1. Watching his older brothers (who were happy to show off their skills) encouraged him that he wanted to be as big as the teenagers he adored.

It’s #2 that’s been the horror.

He won’t do it on a toilet. We don’t know why. It’s not as if toddlers are good at articulating their reticence about certain activities.

We started trying waaaay back before his third birthday, and while he’s been an expert at shooting the water for over a year (we won’t discuss aim, which even my bigger boys seem to struggle with until they leave high school), the idea of sitting and plopping was a no-go.

Instead, he grabs a pull-up, puts it on himself, hides in the privacy of his bedroom, then comes out ten minutes later with a coy smile and says to me sweetly, “Mommy? Can you please change me? I love you.” Batting his lashes is the crowning touch.

“But I don’t love doing this,” I tell him each time he assumes the position and I pull out the baby wipes.

“Yes, you do. Because you love me. But don’t tell Daddy I do this.”

It always makes me feel dirty when he says that. But Daddy knows.

Daddy frowns at Pull-up Boy, and promises greater things, like setting off smoke bombs or exploding fireworks tanks, if #5 puts #2 in the potty.

We had success after Christmas, when we promised him a shiny new fire engine that makes noise if he went. (Go ahead, judge me for bribing my child. I don’t care what anyone thinks anymore.)

He did it once, and we immediately took him to Walmart, and he loved his fire engine . . . and he never went #2 again because he got his reward.

I hate it when the kids are cleverer than me.

But yesterday, something changed.

I was in the kitchen making dinner when suddenly my 4-year-old stood there, beaming. The fact that he wore only a t-shirt, and nothing below, gave me a hint as to what he was going to exclaim.

“Mom! Mom! I did it! I put stinkies in the potty!”

“Really?!” I don’t know who was happier.

“Come see!” and he took off running to the bathroom.

That’s when I realized that not all of the stinky got into the toilet. A lot of it was smeared down the back of his legs.

As a parent, there are times that you brace yourself for what you’re about to find, and you recite in your head, No matter what, I’ll be cheerful. No matter what, I’ll be cheerful . . .

When I arrived at the bathroom, the story was waiting for me.

First were his pants and underwear, tossed on my bedroom floor as if he were in a hurry.

Then, the pull-ups, left sadly next to the door, because there wasn’t enough time.

Then . . .

The bathroom.

I steeled myself, because sometimes, no matter how often you tackle a mess, it’s shocking when you first encounter it.

But #5 stood next to the toilet, beaming in joy. “Look! Some of it got in!”

It did, along with half a roll of toilet paper.

The rest was on the seat, the floor, and the bath mat.

Boys struggle with having two outlets, and sometimes they don’t have full control of either. My son stood in a yellow puddle, grinning madly.

There was only one option for me as his mother.

“I’m so proud of you!” I cheered and clapped.

Full of praise and happiness, I suggested we finish wiping him up, waist to toe, and I sent him to tell his siblings the good news so I could tidy up the bathroom.

That’s where my 15-year-old found me a few minutes later. “He actually went stinky in the toilet? Whoa . . .” and he backed up when he saw how I straddled one mess to wipe up another. “I was about to say, Bet you’re glad he didn’t give you a mess in a pull-up, but—”

“But say nothing to him,” I warned Big Brother. “This is a huge step for him—”

You’ll have to take a few huge steps just to get out of there—”

I pointed at him. “The mess isn’t important,” I said. “Nor is it important that I had to use five baby wipes on him, and that I’ll use about a dozen Clorox wipes in here. What’s important is that he finally did something hard for him. We cheer and praise, and clean up the mess quietly later, without making him feel anything but joy for his accomplishment, which has been years in the making.”

And that, I realized, summed up parenthood.

Along with this request to Big Brother, “And bring me another trash bag, please.”

Oh yes, being their mother was by far the most difficult work she’d ever undertaken. And it also was, by far, the most satisfying. At the end of the day she knew she’d accomplished an enormous amount of work, even if the house looked as messy as it had in the morning. But at this point of her life, messy meant success. Things happened.

~Book 2, Soldier at the Door

Don’t judge me=I’m already feeling guilty

Some time ago I came to the realization that whenever someone throws out the “Don’t judge me!” line, it’s because at some level they suspect that they’re in the wrong, but they’re not ready to admit it, and certainly not ready to resolve it, and would rather that everyone STOP REMINDING THEM about it.

It’s called GUILT, and for some reason we often think we shouldn’t have to deal with that emotion.

My most amoral character agrees:

“Man’s greatest weakness! Guilt, regret, feeling bad about behavior . . . It’s a forced condition, you know, shame about a misdeed. A behavior taught to humans that can, and must, be overcome. Ignore it long enough, it dies away as simple as that . . . Humans abuse themselves. With guilt. With regret. It holds them back, makes them feel as if they owe some duty to others, as if there should be some level of behavior all should aspire to. Well, there isn’t! 
~Chairman Nicko Mal, Soldier at the Door

Well, there is!

And my, do we hate it when someone tries to remind us that the purpose of our lives isn’t to indulge ourselves and hope there aren’t any consequences.

I first encountered this very weak logic back in high school in the 1980s, when punk music hit the US. I had a few friends embrace the culture, dyeing their hair black and using a bottle of mousse each morning to make it stand up straight, putting spikes on every inch of clothing, then scowling when people stared at them.

“Don’t judge me!” I never understood that; they purposely put themselves on display, then didn’t expect people to look?

As a senior in high school I became grunge before Kurt Cobain made a name for himself. I wore holey jeans, didn’t bother with make-up, spent only 5 minutes on my hair (and yes, a few boys commented that I needed to “do something with it”—which pronouncement meant they weren’t boys I’d ever be interested in) and I did so for a purpose. I wanted to prove that I didn’t care about my appearance, but wanted to focus only on trying to get a scholarship (since I hadn’t been the best student for the first 11 years of schooling). Yes, people looked at me–this was the height of preppiness; watch “The Cosby Show” to see how I should have been dressing–and I rather enjoyed it. It was also a good test for my vanity; am I still worthy, even though I don’t “look worthy.” I was trying to make a point, and I made it. Judge me! Go ahead!

Social media has given us even more ways to stand up and be judged, or to scream, “Stop judging me!” Today I read Matt Walsh’s blog on why Christian women should hate Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ll state right now that I think the novel is women’s porn, so I agreed completely with his position.

However, the real lesson is in the comments, as it always is; scattered among the remarks of “Thanks for stating what I always suspected about that horrible book,” were phrases such as, “Hey, nothing wrong with reading about a little sex,” or “So what if I like a little excitement in my books?” and, most common among the dissenters: “Don’t judge me based on what I read! How can you be a Christian and be so judgmental?”

Ah-ha . . . someone’s conscious has been pricked, yet again. If they didn’t feel any guilt, they wouldn’t be justifying themselves, and in the huge social media presence of Matt Walsh, no less. There, for thousands of readers to see, they declare their stance yet demand that no one judge them. How very odd.

Weird Al, Mandatory Fun, Word Crimes, Grammarly

I have no doubt a few grammar Nazis wished they could find a similar uniform.

I see pricks of guilt and judgment everywhere on the Internet, and it always tells much more about the responder than what they respond to. For example, Weird Al Yankovic just came out with a brilliant parody about common grammatical errors, and Grammarly interviewed him about it. Again, the great lesson was in the responses to the interview, because poor Al accidentally used the pronoun “that” instead of “who.”

Oh, there’s no group more self-righteous and unforgiving than Grammar Nazis. (I’ve ranted about them here. Grammar snobs put the Pharisees of Christ’s time to shame.) These responders, instead of appreciating the incredible work of Weird Al, which he shares freely on YouTube so that all of us English teachers can kill another five minutes of class time; instead of being grateful that someone with a greater sense of humor has taken up the grammar cause; no, instead of applauding him, Grammar Nazis vilified him:

“People that know me … people that still haven’t figured out” 😦 And he thinks he’s a grammar nerd. <shaking my head>
[As of this is some kind of special club, and he just violated its most sacred rule.]

I, too, was shocked to see that he used that instead of who. 
[Yes, she actually wrote “shocked.”]

Fortunately there was some reason among the rabble:

Alright, everybody caught the “that/who” error. He’s still a satirical genius. Disagreement with that proposition is dissent up with which I shall not put.

Judgment is everywhere on the Internet, and just as we’re quick to not have people point out our faults, we’re even quicker to point them out in others. I think that’s because when we’re feeling guilty, the fastest way to assuage that guilt is to point out how someone is guiltier than us.

For example, I read an article about a woman who recycles clothing from a thrift store, updates it, then donates it back. I was amazed and humbled to realize she’d done over 700 pieces. I can sew (sort of), but it never occurred to me to use that minimal talent in such a generous and creative way.

Again, the lesson was in the comments. There were plenty of judgments which, I suspect, arose out of guilt.

“Look at the photos—she’s just shortening the hems and sleeves. That’s nothing too special.”
[And yet, still likely more than you did.]

“She’s only taking fat clothes and turning them skinny.”
[And what have you done?]

“As a plus-size woman, I take offense that she’s reducing the amount of clothing that would fit me, making it for skinnier girls. They already have plenty of clothes . . .”
[Seriously, she wrote, “I take offense.”]

And on, and on.

What I don’t think people realize is how transparent they are, how they give the world a telling image of themselves through their comments. Invariably, the more defensive people become, the guiltier they demonstrate themselves to be. I find myself cringing at their responses, pitying them that they’d expose themselves so freely and easily, showing the world their self-centeredness and pettiness.

Oh, he’s not getting out. Trust me.

It’s the old crabs in a bucket. If any tries to climb out, the rest drag it down, until eventually the crabs have torn each other into pieces. We envy others who dare to climb higher, feel guilty that we’re not doing likewise, don’t want them looking down at us from above in judgment, so we drag them back down and tear them apart with our criticism.

Now, I realize that what I’m doing here is also criticizing, on the Internet, and demonstrating my own transparency. I’m judging and doing all of the same things I’m nagging about here. I’m not going to rationalize away my post, but I will draw a distinction: our society is very loath to declare something “moral” or “immoral.” You want to see declarations of “Don’t judge me!” fly? Then make a declaration of what’s right or what’s wrong. Oh, they’ll be coming out of the woodwork like termites exposed to sunshine to come after you.

Yet, this is what we must do:  make evaluations—of products, of ideas, of media, of people—in order to recognize the strengths and weaknesses, the logic and fallacies, the truth and errors, and publicly declare what we have recognized.

And then, this is very important, then do NOT be offended at what comes back at us. If we’re going to be brave enough to take a stand, we have to remain brave enough to let people see us standing there.

As a practicing Christian, I believe wholeheartedly in the Judeo-Christian beliefs of accountability to a higher Being, in following the 10 Commandments, in realizing that life isn’t about getting what I want and when I want it, but in serving others first. It’s crucial for me to recognize what elements in society detract me from pursuing my chosen lifestyle, therefore I not only read about but also comment on those elements.

However—and this is a BIG “however”—we must also be honest with ourselves as to WHY we are making these public evaluations, these statements of “this is bad, and this is good.”

  • Are we doing so because we are truly concerned about the direction of our society, and we want to point out the slippery slopes to help our friends and family avoid them?
  • Or are we critical online because it gives us a sense of superiority?
  • Because we displace our guilt when we shame others?
  • Because we’re merely crabs in a bucket, unwilling to let anyone else rise higher?

And when we decide–and it is a decision–that we are “offended,” we also need to be honest as to why.

  • Has someone pricked our conscience?
  • Demonstrated where we’ve strayed from our personal yardstick of acceptable behavior?
  • Were we looking for a reason to hate “X” or shun “Y” and so we’ve chosen to be offended?

Sometimes we swing that word around proudly, as if being “offended” is some kind of virtue.

Personally, I think it’s a weakness. Years ago I heard someone state this philosophy, and I’ve taken it as my own: “You cannot offend me, for I simply refuse to take your criticism, to see your opinion as overriding my own, to give your hurtful words any room in my mind. If I am right with God, then I needn’t worry about where you think I am wrong.”

(Yeah, it’s a lot like, “I’m rubber, you’re glue; whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you,” but a bit more eloquent.)

I’m not saying I live this philosophy perfectly—I took a beating from trolls not too long ago that really tested my resolve—but I’ve found that when someone says something that threatens to offend me, it’s usually because they’ve knocked something inside of me that I’ve tried to hide, like C.S. Lewis’s proverbial rats in the attic that we’re shocked to discover, but were always there, hiding despite our attempts to ignore them.

Over the years I’ve learned to not blast those “stupid people!” in online forums, but I instead I retreat to my closet, get on my knees, and ask where I should be doing better.

And I’ve also realized that God’s criticism is much gentler, more instructive, and more uplifting than any arguments I engage in on the Internet.

In the meantime, I appreciate those who state boldly their opinions on issues that concern me. Even if they declare, “There’s really nothing wrong with a little bit of porn,” I’m grateful, because then I know who I need to distance myself from in the future.

My 10th child

Yesterday a delivery arrived–one that I’d been waiting for, for more than four years now–and once I lugged it into the house I couldn’t bear to open it.

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It was, what I’m now starting to think of it as, my 10th baby.
I have nine children (yeah, really–all birthed by me, no twins), but the amount of effort and sleepless nights I’ve put into the Forest at the Edge book series feels very much like another child.
And yesterday it arrived. And, just like my human babies, I happily cradled the bundle handed to me, but didn’t dare inspect it. Because . . . what if something is seriously wrong?
What if this amazing little thing isn’t as perfect as the doctor proclaimed, but has three nostrils?
Or a large birthmark on its neck like I do?
Or . . . looks more like me than like my hunky husband?

And it’d always be my husband who’d take our newborn out of my arms and start to unwrap the impossible blankets. “Let’s see what we have here!” he’d say cheerily, while I clenched my hands by my face and worried that my sweet darling would have some defect that would cause him or her heartache, and that I wouldn’t know how to alleviate that pain.

Yes there were birthmarks–cute ones, on the tuchus or the bottom of a foot–and there were minor oddities and bizarre flexibility that, as my children grow older, proudly demonstrate to squeamish by-standers. But all in all the baby was pretty darned good.

I needed my husband again yesterday.
He saw the box on our bed and, always eager to open a package, asked, “Ooh–what’s this?”
“My books,” I whimpered.
“Open it!”
“I can’t!”
What if something was horribly wrong with them? I already knew of a couple formatting glitches I can’t seem to work out, and a few typos despite my going through it 30+ times . . . but what if there was something far worse?
I couldn’t bear it.
“I’ll open it,” my husband decided.
“No! Yes! I don’t know–”
He already had out his keys and slashed the tape. Then he opened the box and looked.

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Cringing so hard my cheeks hurt, I asked, “Well?!”
Slowly he nodded. “Look pretty good to me.” He was reading the back cover of one of the books, still nodding. “Do you want it?”

Do I want my 10th baby? The actual paper copies of the books I’ve been writing since early 2009? (Actually, since it’s two books, maybe my 10th and 11th?)

I held out my hand nervously . . . then sighed in relief as he gave me Forest and Soldier. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Then, just as I did with my babies, I suddenly wanted to show them everything in the world. And, just like my babies, I started taking pictures.

First, I introduced them to my hero and mentor, Terry Pratchett. Don’t they look cute on the shelf together?

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Then I introduced them to the bathroom, which is always a good place to know in a new house. Top of the tank, for your reading pleasure.

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Then, the bathtub–waiting for me to actually dare take them near water–

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Oh no! They fell in!
Oh, there’s not water.
Silly Forest and Soldier!

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They also liked the baby swing in the backyard. Hold on, boys!

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Then it was time to have a tea party with their friends . . .

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And at this point I began to think, Maybe this is a bit silly?
I mean, seriously–would books really have a tea party with themselves?

Of course not.
They’d have a tea party with OTHER books!
So I introduced Forest and Soldier (they were pretty uncomfortable at this point, but already they have some sense of propriety so they soldiered on) to my other three inspirations; women who demonstrated that even “regular moms” can create books, and they unwittingly dared me to write: Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, and Joanne (J.K.) Rowling. (The books all want to have a sleepover later. With popcorn. But I just vacuumed, so I’ll have to think about it.)

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(I’ve met two of these authors, and bashfully said nothing about how they inspired me.
But some day I will. )

Finally I brought Forest and Soldier back to where they were conceived–my computer. On the screen is a list of the current drafts I have of the entire series (my file of past drafts is immense) and I showed them where they began. I’m going to save this picture as motivation; I’ve done it twice before, so I can do it six or seven more times to bring to life the entire family/series.

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And then, I put Forest and Soldier back into the box.
Not because I’m still overwhelmed or anything by being a real mom, I mean, author.

Just because it’s nap time.