Monday, March 12, 2018

The Importance of Saying No

Not long ago, I was asked to help with an upcoming event. My response was a quick and resounding "No". The speed at which I delivered this reply actually surprised me. My style in years past was to hedge and/or apologize. But time and experience have taught me a few things, and it's gotten easier to say no. (I must give credit to my husband too. He sees my stress level escalate and encourages margins.) I felt badly about turning this opportunity down, but saying no was the right choice.

This got me thinking - what causes us to say yes when we should say no?

  • We feel guilty.
  • We want the approval of others.  
  • We think it'll further our cause or career. 
  • We want to help family, friends, community, etc. 
  • We're afraid we're missing out on important opportunities.  
  • We think we can handle it, not fully grasping the effects of another commitment.

Why is it important to say no? Because it offers opportunities to properly align our priorities and life. If we don't, it will affect our quality of life, spiritual growth, relationships, health, and work in a negative way. Many of us are too busy, not allowing enough margins or down time. When we set boundaries by saying no, we open the door to time and possibilities - to think, pray, brainstorm, learn, daydream, recharge, do quality work, and build lasting relationships. More time, less stress - the benefits are obvious.

Saying no sounds good in theory, but what can we do to put it into practice and see resulting benefits? Here are a few things that help me.

Define priorities. What are the non negotiable, must-do commitments? It helps to first fill the schedule with people, tasks, and items that reflect our beliefs and what's most important to us.

Don't respond immediately. While it's courteous to reply to the request, we don't owe anyone an immediate answer. Ever. And if they expect one, that's their problem. Take time to think on it, pray about it, and consider all the angles.

Think about the consequences. Consider how you'll feel once you commit to this new thing. Do you imagine feeling overwhelmed, annoyed, stressed out, and otherwise agitated? Or is this a good fit, something you feel led to do? Is it a long or short term commitment? How will it affect your life and family? It's always better to feel peace versus angst about a decision.

Find your good balance. Sure, there will be busier times, extra favors or necessary tasks for others, interruptions, and emergencies that arise that complicate and clog your days. But what's your bottom line? What has God placed you on this earth to do? Use that as a guide and aim overall for the structure that is the best fit for your faith, family, health, and other priorities.

Set boundaries. If you don't define your parameters and priorities, someone else may do it for you. Defend your space. Allow yourself grace. And guard your time. It's a precious commodity and once it's gone, that's it. You don't get it back.

No regrets. Will saying yes cause you to have regrets over doing it, or not having done something else? Consider how you want to spend the remainder of your life. With whom do you want to spend it? Go and live life. A real one. 

Remember this. When you do say no, it gives you the ability to say yes at just the right time. Who knows what great things are just around the corner! :) 

What would you add to this list? Do you find it difficult to say no? How do you manage your priorities and time?

Taking a week off to catch up on some things. Will return on March 26. Enjoy your week! 

Happy writing, 

Image credit: Pexels

Monday, March 5, 2018

Celebrating Magnificent March

Well, here it is, March already. How is that possible? I've barely adjusted to 2018. Guess that just goes to show that time marches on whether we're ready or not. (No pun intended, but hey, if it works...:) So rather than playing catch up for the year, I thought it best to focus on what's happening this month.

Did You Know?

March 5 is National Cheese Doodle Day. Who knew? But any excuse to indulge, if you happen to like cheese doodles, can be a good thing.

March 7 is National Cereal Day. Do you like cereal? What's your favorite kind? I'll take Multigrain Cheerios, no milk, straight out of the box, any time of day.

March 8 is National Proofreading Day. More than likely many of us will be doing some kind of editing or proofreading that day.

March 12 is National Napping Day. Since it's the day after Daylight Savings, we all might need one.

March 14 is National Write Your Story Day. Who wants to get their story down?

March 20 is National Ravioli Day. Nuff said. I'm in, are you with me?

March 28 is National Black Forest Cake Day. Yes, there's a food theme here. I'm hungry at the moment. :)

Women's History Month

What memorable women in history come to mind? There are so many who made magnificent contributions large and small, not only in their day but for future generations.

Off the top of my head, individuals like Clara Barton, known as the "Angel of the Battlefield", who I did a report on as a 6th grader, stand out. Then there's my long admired favorite Harriet Tubman, champion of freedom, mentioned in last week's post. Harper Lee impressed this high school sophomore some years ago too, after reading To Kill a Mockingbird for English.

The most influential women in my life would have to be my mom and grandmothers. These lovely and inspiring women left a wonderful legacy; they loved my three sisters and me deeply and taught us much.

How about you? What great women shaped your life in a positive way?

A Blogoversary

March marks nine years of blogging here at Write Now. My goal, when starting, was to gain blogging experience. I've gained that and a whole lot more. The best part about it has been making friends with all of you. Wouldn't trade that for anything; you're treasures, all. Thanks for making this such a wonderful adventure!

What are you writing this week? What women were/are most influential in your life? How long have you been blogging? What magnificent things are you doing in March?

Happy writing,

Photo credit: Pexels

Monday, February 26, 2018

February Fun

The fact that January is National Soup Month was completely lost on me until I saw Pen and Prosper's post celebrating it near the end of the month. I am a fan of soup and have a handful of homemade favorites that my family likes. In discussing this with P & P's Jennifer Brown Banks, she suggested I share a recipe on my blog.  So I thought, why not? Better late than never, right? So if you're hungry for soup, I invite you to try it. :)

Santa Fe Soup 

A friend shared this recipe with me and it's become a family favorite. When the whole gang visits, I double or triple it.

  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 2 packages ranch dip/dressing mix
  • 1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes (or other brand tomatoes with chilies)
  • 3 cans beans - your choice, a combination of kidney, black, northern, or pinto
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • 1 small package frozen corn (1 can works too)
  • shredded cheddar cheese 
  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips

Brown ground beef or turkey, drain. In large soup pot, combine cooked beef/turkey, water, taco and ranch seasonings, and both cans of tomatoes. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Drain beans and add to pot, then add corn. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. When serving, top with sour cream and cheese. Some like to eat it like soup, some like a dip with tortilla chips - either way, it's delicious!

Black  History Month 

I did remember that February is Black History Month, so I'm not totally out of the calendar loop here. :D  The Underground Railroad and those who made it happen have always been an interest of mine. So imagine my delight when I learned that Harriet Tubman frequently visited southern New Jersey, just minutes from where I grew up.

Harriet often worked in Cape May, NJ, a shore resort town, to earn funds to help rescue friends and family. It's exciting and sobering to learn that I've walked the same streets as Harriet did. When history becomes more alive like this, learning interesting tidbits and such, I appreciate it more. If you like, you can read the full article here in Cape May Magazine. Many thanks to my cousin Edie for sharing the link!

Winter Reading

What does your winter reading list include? I'm always reading several books, and this month the stack includes Laura Frantz's The Lacemaker, You've Already Got it! by Andrew Wommack, and Rosanna White's The Lost Heiress. I'm also rereading Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf - you might recall January's post, Training Your Brain where I mentioned it.

I recently finished These Healing Hills by Ann Gabhart. Ann stopped by for this post in November to share about her latest release, but I hadn't had a chance to read it then. I've enjoyed all of Ann's books, and this one was no exception. Here are a few of my thoughts about it:

This story had me staying up way too late to finish chapters! But I'd say that means Ann Gabhart wrote another good, engaging story.  I enjoyed reading about and learning the history of the Frontier Nursing Service. I also enjoyed getting to know the characters, Francine, a "city girl" and Ben, the "country boy". The secondary characters were fun too, and added much, from Woody and Sadie to Granny Em and Betty. In addition to being rich in history, this book reflects some of the struggles we all face at times - decisions, direction, and following our heart. I give it two thumbs up! I'd enjoy seeing another book that continues Francine's and Ben's story.

Are you a fan of soup? Do you have a favorite you enjoy during the winter months? Have you come across any great tidbits in relation to Black History Month? What's on your reading list for February?  

Happy writing,



Photo credit: Pixabay

Monday, February 12, 2018

3 Reasons Why Breaks Reduce Stress

Most people would agree, a break in the routine can be a good thing. We spend hours devoting our lives to work and creative pursuits, family and community, and other required and voluntary commitments. While these are all noble, good, and necessary, we need a change of pace on occasion.

Take writing and blogging, for instance. They both require big chunks of time and energy. Inspiration and creativity are necessary too, to yield good results. When you add these activities to an already busy schedule, sometimes it's all you can do to keep up.

I think that a pause in the routine, whether a quiet afternoon alone, a long weekend or vacation, a blog break, a night out with your spouse or friends, a walk in the woods, a leisurely drive, a day trip, or whatever else you enjoy, is a good thing. Here are three reasons why: 

1) Mental and physical space are essential to function well. 

With today's technology, we're potentially connected all day, every day. There are benefits to this, but hazards as well. Do we want this connectivity and screen time to consume our waking moments? Influence relationships (or lack of them) with important people in our lives?

Real life happens to some degree on our laptops, tablets, and smartphones. If we're honest though, genuine living happens mostly apart from these devices. So we need to set boundaries and allow healthy space between us and them. We need uninterrupted time to think, to communicate in person, breathe fresh air, and see sunsets and other amazing wonders in God's creation. These are good and necessary activities that refresh, stimulate, and stretch our minds and bodies.

I read an article recently (sorry, can't recall where) that said that due to too much screen time, some adolescents have difficulty functioning in real life. They don't know how to communicate effectively or how to form and maintain relationships. They are experiencing high levels of depression and dysfunction. While there are other causes for these issues too, it's sad to see how the potential overuse of technology negatively impacts these young people.

We can't run on the hamster wheel 24/7 without feeling the effects. Setting parameters for mental and physical space will benefit our relationships, productivity, and quality of life. 

2) We need to get away to maintain health and peace.

Years ago, I heard a pastor say it's important to "Come apart, before you come apart." Being self employed for over 30 years, my husband and I've learned that this is true, and essential for our health and sanity. Getting away from the routine does wonders for one's perspective, allowing time, space, and rest to breathe and regroup. 

3) Rediscovering our creativity is a wonderful thing.

Life's constant demands can leave our creativity high and dry. I liken it to being on a treadmill. While it has its benefits, it has its limits too, and it only takes you so far. When we step off the treadmill, our world opens up, offering creative refreshment and opportunities.

While all this is nice in theory, it's harder to practice. What can we do to facilitate more breaks in our routine?

1) Just do it. 

Treat breaks like any other item on your list of commitments. From a vacation to a day off, add it to the schedule and go for it.  Be open to a spur of the moment hiatus too, once in a while, for a breather and change of scenery. Call a friend, meet for coffee, take a brisk walk, or whatever floats your boat.

2) Be purposeful.

This is your time off! Be determined and stick to it. Set boundaries, limit time on social media, do whatever is necessary to ensure that you actually get that break. Make a list if that helps, stay focused, and don't stress. Your break is intended to produce healthy benefits.

3) Get off the treadmill.

We often don't realize what we're missing until we get off. The world around us has much to offer and is worthy of exploration.

4) Remember that it'll all be there when we return.

Life as we know it will continue to move forward in our absence. And that's okay. We can jump back in when the time is right.

Speaking of breaks, I'm taking a short one next week for President's Day; will return on February 26. See you then!

How do you get a break and recharge your creativity? What kinds of breaks will you take this month? I'll be taking some walks outside to enjoy February's scenery. Anyone care to join me? :)

Happy writing,


Photo credit: Pexels

Monday, February 5, 2018

Are You Yourself?

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

Oscar Wilde

Today's original post isn't done yet. Last week was full of deadlines, and there are more in the queue this week. So rather than stress over finishing, I decided to save it for next Monday. I hope you don't mind. :)

This quote has always intrigued me; it causes me to consider who I am and where I'm headed. Not a bad thing for the new year, yes? Speaking of thinking, if you happened to miss this recent post, Training Your Brain, we had an interesting discussion about where our thoughts take us.

What's your take on Mr. Wilde's quote? Do you believe your writing reflects your true self? What are you working on this week?

Happy writing,

Photo credit: Pexels

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Visit with Susanne Dietze

Susanne Dietze, one of my more recent favorite authors, is celebrating a new release this month. Her book, A Mother for His Family is a lovely and heartwarming story. I thought it would be nice to have her stop by and share a little about this engaging tale. 

Susanne, congratulations on A Mother for His Family! I'm so excited for you. :) How did this story come about? Was there any particular inspiration?

Thank you, Karen! I appreciate you celebrating with me. 

I have always wanted to write a marriage of convenience story featuring a house full of children. I also wanted to write a story where the heroine struggles to see herself as Jesus sees her (which I confess is something I struggle with sometimes). Helena, the heroine, appeared as a minor character in my first Regency novel with Love Inspired Historical, The Reluctant Guardian (Helena is the cousin of the hero from that book). Her role is tiny in that story, but she comes across as cold and judgmental. One day I realized why she was the way she was, and my heart broke for her. I was honored to write about her overcoming her difficulties and stepping into her new identity in Christ. 

It sounds like a wonderful basis for a story. I'm glad you decided to tell it. Which character was the most challenging to create? Which was the easiest? 

In some ways, Louisa was both the easiest and most challenging to write. She is five years old, her personality, perspectives, and attachments (in this case, Tabitha, a sticky doll in need of a good bath), were fun to explore. 

Louisa is also blind, and I wanted to write about her blindness as accurately as possible. I researched blindness in the Georgian era—a time before Braille or much in the way of education or institutions to assist individuals or families. At the beginning of the story, Louisa is treated more like a doll or a baby than a little girl, which was not necessarily out of place for the times—although Louisa’s situation was heightened by her mother’s fears for her. 

I was blessed to ask a few authors with experience in the area of blindness and education for their advice: Laurie Alice Eakes and Kathleen Fuller. They graciously answered my questions, but any errors in the book are mine alone. 

It's interesting to learn how the sight impaired were treated back then. Society has made tremendous strides, hasn't it? Was any additional special research necessary for the story? 

In addition to learning about blindness (then and now), I spent time researching the Peterloo massacre of 1819 (when people in Manchester demanded better representation in Parliament), the death of King George III, and how peerage worked in Scotland during the Regency. My hero, John, is a Lord of Parliament, a Scottish title that, despite its name, doesn’t necessarily serve in Parliament. One of my favorite things to research, no matter the story, is the fashion of the times, and this was no exception! 

That detail about Parliament surprised me as well. I had no idea. And the Peterloo event, how terrible was that? I learned a lot from reading John's and Helena's story. So, what's next on the horizon for you? 

At this moment I’m working hard on proposals! However, I do have two novellas coming from Barbour this year. In April, my story First Things First will appear in First Loves Forever, and the heroine in that story, Georgie Bridge, first made her appearance in For a Song from The Cowboy’s Bride Collection! In the autumn, I’m thrilled to have a Christmas story out: Star of Wonder in Victorian Christmas Brides. Both stories are set in the 1870s: the first in Texas and the second in England!

I remember Georgie! Will look forward to reading about her story soon. Sounds like you've been super busy writing and editing these past months. Appreciate you stopping by this week. May you enjoy great success with all your books! :)

Thank you for having me, Karen! 

My Review of A Mother for His Family 

It’s July 1819, and Lady Helena Stanhope has a dilemma. Due to an interesting set of circumstances, her reputation is questionable at best. Her parents wish to remove her from society to avoid further scandal, so they arrange a marriage between her and a Scottish Lord of Parliament. John Gordon is a widower in need of a mother for his four children. With his busy schedule, he’s looking forward to having a responsible young woman assume the duties of caring for his family. 

Helena and John marry and become acquainted within the boundaries of friendship. They hit a few bumps in the road, but begin to earn each other’s trust. The children – twin boys, a blind little girl, and an orphaned niece provide ample mischief, which often complicates Helena’s and John’s growing relationship.

As if four busy children aren’t enough to test the newlyweds’ mettle, the author throws a little blackmail and a series of robberies into the mix. This isn’t your typical marriage of convenience story. The twists and turns are intriguing and entertaining. It was enlightening to watch the main characters evolve and work through the hardships and events thrown their way. The result is a captivating story that will make you stay up way too late because you just can’t put the book down. (This may or may not have happened to me.) 

Susanne Dietze is a wonderful storyteller, and has written another captivating and heartwarming tale. Helena learns that she is loved, and that God’s redeeming power can restore what’s been lost. I was challenged and able to identify with some of the main characters' inner struggles, and found myself considering my attitude and actions lately.  This delightful story will appeal to historical and other fiction fans, as well as anyone who loves a happy ending.

Find Susanne

Twitter  - @SusanneDietze

What is your favorite genre to read in winter? Do you have any questions for Susanne? What type of research do you conduct for your writing?

Happy writing,