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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Breaking the Band Saw: An Author Looks at a Change in Plans

Do what you are called to do and do it well.

It sounds like advice a mom would give a child.  You know, be yourself, everyone else is already taken. Pep words.

Actually, it's advice I've had to tell myself as I've embarked on a new journey.  This venture is not one I had on my wish list.  Like any author-at-heart, my list consisted of meg-book deals, fame, and speaking engagements.  A purpose, fulfillment. I also wanted readers to like my stories, of course. Oh, and money for the mortgage, those bills, and Earl Grey tea.  Dear God, please hear my prayer.

So what happened when the tide changed and I found myself sailing away from that sunny island, that big dream, the one I had had a taste of, but wanted more of?  What happened when the boat turned into the wild and windy sea?

In other words, what transpired when a little business morphed into a bigger story?

First, I thought my husband Carl could make all the products and I'd just do what I'm good at---customer service. But after he complained that he needed someone to help him with the increasing orders, I knew I needed to enter the garage-transformed-into-workshop and get to know tools bigger than hammers and needle-nose pliers.

I have no skill set for this, I reminded God in case He had forgotten how I broke the band saw blade one evening last spring. And how mad Carl had been, emphasizing how I don't listen to instruction. God, I'm so much more comfortable creating characters.

As Carl became swamped with orders, I had to put my settings and characters aside and put my full attention into the business.  After all, it was making us money, much more than novel-writing.

Months later, I'm still the one emailing customers, and, when necessary, calling them. I take the photos of our products and write the listings for four of the five online sites where we sell.  But I also get dirty. I stain, sand, and paint.  I help install new lights in our workshop. I use a drill press and don't call it a drill saw and have not broken it. . .   yet. I have been to Lowes and The Home Depot more times in the last three weeks than I've been to my old hangout, the library. I've even gotten bold and tried my hand at making some of my own wood creations on our new laser-engraver.

Carved By Heart continues to evolve and gets noticed for many of its products----especially our Log Cabin Mailbox that was featured in Reader's Digest and at PeeWee Herman's blog.

Instead of a review from a reader, I get emails from customers that say things like:
Wow!!! Just got the most wonderful call from my brother!!! He absolutely loves his gift and said he has always wanted one. Thank you!!! (The brother had lost his young wife a year ago.)

And people have paid money for my mini bird house ornaments and wood Christmas blocks!

Perhaps a book deal will happen sometime in the future . . .  Perhaps not . . .

Right now I'm grateful.  I'm thankful knowing that this business is what God has called us to do.  A husband-wife team of working every day together is not an easy feat and Carl and I have had our struggles. But even in the midst of communication that goes sideways or sheer stress due to machines that need parts that aren't readily available or spending four hours packaging and mailing out orders (13 of them came in just yesterday; we mailed out 31 last week), there is a deep sense of fulfillment.

Best of all, I see that God is doing a work in my heart.  Surrounded by machines and tools, God's voice speaks to me about love, patience, humility, and forgiveness. As I work with pine and birch, I learn the need to pay attention to detail. Along with the wood, I'm being crafted into whatever this is God has for me now.

There is nothing like doing what you're supposed to be doing.

Have faith.  Trust.  In His time, He reveals what He has for us, especially as we enter seasons of new beginnings.

****    Carved By Heart is having a sale this weekend.  Stop by and see what we've got for you!  ****

Friday, November 20, 2015

Author Interview: Carol A. Brown

Hello, readers!  Today Carol A. Brown is my guest and I'll be asking her some questions about her newest children's book.  

Hi, Carol, welcome to The Patchwork Quilt.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog! I always enjoy sharing with others.

For those who aren't familiar with your work, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I began writing in 1996 about highly sensitive people and how sensitivity affects you as in individual. My purpose was to give voice and vocabulary for people’s experience of life. It was a lot of work and I was relieved when it was done! I told God that I didn’t want to do any more hard books. I guess He was good with that because then He downloaded the stories in the Sassy Pants series!

Whether I am writing for adults or children, my focus is to leave the reader not only with a nugget of knowledge, but that they are in some way wiser, stronger in character and more able to make wise decisions. I believe humor helps us learn more easily so you will find I use it liberally!

How many books have you written? 

I’ve written 3 for adults and about 10 for children.  Three of them are published.

What is the hardest thing about writing for you? 

Editing is tedious for me, but the marketing aspects of writing bewilder and nearly overwhelm me. So, I am very thankful for my friend and publisher. She keeps me on task and grounded!

Do you ever get discouraged? 

Yes, but not with the writing as much as with my energy level which impacts how much I can do on any given day.

How do you overcome it? 

I’ve learned that the fastest way to come out of a physical or mental slump is to be gracious and give myself permission to recover at whatever pace my body sets for me. I’ve also learned that growing joy in relationships kick-starts energy.

Can you tell us about your new book? 

Sassy Pants Learns About Strange Creatures finds her worrying about reactions as she tries to make amends and encounters critters that are different from herself or any other resident of Farmer White’s farm. She is not sure how to react! She seeks the advice of someone older and wiser. She learns there is a “strange” that is just different from me – these are friends you have not yet met. And then there is “strange” that is dangerous and that requires a very different reaction! She discovers an entirely different picture of her father.

Is there a message in your book that you want your readers to grasp? 

Yes  Fear and worry exaggerate our problemsThe good news is that we can overcome fear and worry.  And secondly, if we can not be offended by differences (like looks or smell) we may find a good friend. On the other hand, some strangers are truly dangerous. We need to learn the difference and know who to call for help.

What inspired you to write this book?  

My husband urged me to write a sequel to the first book in the Sassy Pants series. He argued that she was so naughty in the first book that I should give her the opportunity to redeem herself. But I didn’t have another story in me. I even asked God’s help in convincing him there were no more stories, and that was when God downloaded the rest of the series. So . . . here we are!

Do you have any other books in the works? 

Yes, there is an adult devotional that is in process and at least three more children’s books in this series.

Do you talk to your characters? 

Yes! Of course, that’s how I find out what is going on with them. Some of the characters in the novels I’ve not yet written will step out periodically and ask if I’m ready to start. I hate to send them back, but I have to finish publishing these children’s stories. Then I will be free to begin the research.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? 

When you have an urge from God, an inspiration or idea, start writing as fast as you can. Don’t worry about grammar and spelling—fix that later when the inspiration is spent. Then go to someone whom you trust “with the things precious to you” and have them read it. Ask for an honest reaction/critique. You can become so involved with what you write—you know what you mean—that you can miss important transitions and places that need further clarification. You can make connections in your mind that you have not put down on paper, which can leave readers scratching their heads. Another writer friend can point these places out for you.

Thank you again for hosting me!  Blessings!

About Carol
“I began telling stories when I had enough brothers to make an audience!” (She has four brothers and one sister!) She and her husband reside in Grand Rapids, MI. with Carol’s elderly mother. They have two daughters on the west coast and five grandchildren. Carol was raised in a farming community in Iowa. She enjoys reading, nature and music, playing the piano, knitting, crocheting, painting and telling stories! As a retired educator, “I dedicate myself to knitting sweaters and spinning yarns!

Find Carol at these links:

Twitter account: @CarolABrown4

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Christmas Comes in Mini Decor

I love little things.  I’m the type that is amazed by doll furniture, baby socks, and robin’s eggs.  So it makes sense that I have a selection of mini bird houses.  These are crafted from birch wood via a laser and assembled to form Christmas tree ornaments. I paint some, stain others with a wood stain, and add ribbons and gold bells.  Perfect for your big (or little) Christmas tree.  Also, these mini bird houses make good decorations to place around the house, on wreaths, or on the table surrounded by candles, holly, or even a dish of chocolates.

Check them out: Mini Bird House Christmas Decorations

From November 26 till the 30th, get 15% off by using coupon code BAMSALE2015.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Love Lives Here: A Message in Wood

What happens when a woman used to pens and paper and a reliable computer takes on a new venture?  A journey of wood, paint, power sanders and other tools she has to learn how to decipher?  Well, there are a lot of stories she could tell.  Some have the word broken involved.  That would be the band saw.  Others have a frustrated husband in them. (Actually, that would also be the band saw story.) 

I happen to have the kind of husband who loved shop class and has been building things since the beginning of time, including a real log cabin.  He's a natural.  Me?  Learning how to craft wood products for customers isn't easy on the best of my days.  And then there's that thing about working with your spouse.  
I've had to learn humility.  Patience.  How to listen and not just hear. How to keep my mouth shut.  

With the laser engraver, I created a set of blocks from end cuts. I'm a missionary kid and frugal to the core, so being able to craft something from wood that would otherwise be tossed away is a great concept for me. I sanded the blocks, painted, set them out to dry overnight, and then sanded for a rustic look.  I used glitter paint for the roof and the block with the heart. I sealed them with a clear top coat.

While working, I felt creative.  Different than when I conjure up characters and plots.  An artsy creative.

Even in the wood, I can put what I like to pen on paper: Love Lives here.

Loving those around us.  Loving God. Loving self.  Reaching out to those who need us. Loving through listening, forgiving, and growing, and being patient.  

We remind ourselves in the chaos of this world, that we make a stand.  We won't be swayed by nasty-doers. We won't let the temptation to be nasty, or sarcastic, or mean-spirited, or rude, take over.  We will remember that we are crafted to love and be loved. 

Love lives here.

I touch the way the words feel in the pine. They match those etched on my heart.

Make a statement.  This is how we choose to live.

To visit our Carved By Heart shop to see more products, click here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fellow Grievers, be that advocate!

When an appendage is removed from a person, a lot of adjusting has to take place.  After the surgery and sutures heal, sometimes physical therapy is needed.  The patient has to learn to adapt without a finger or arm or leg.  Eventually, a new lifestyle is mastered.

As parents with children removed from us through death, we have to learn a new lifestyle, too. We adapt.  We adjust. We cope.  But some days we cry and wonder why the world seems to want to shut us out.

There is no way that a parent who has not lost a child to death will ever understand the pain, the agony of absence, and the multitude of emotions that are attached to living without a son or daughter. It's just impossible.  I've never lost a limb (in the real physical sense) and I would never pretend to understand my friend Stella, who lost both legs when she was hit by a car.

Yet other parents feel the need to act like they get our pain.  They sit with their healthy children surrounding them and tell us not to be so sad.  "It'll get better."  "You'll be okay."   "He's in a better place."

You want to fight back and tell these parents that they don't get it.  But instead of trying to get them to understand your grief, there are more dynamic ways you can choose to spend your time.  Educate.  Be an adcocate.  Teach others in a way that they might be able to comprehend.  Share with them how they can help you to make the world a better place.

Did your child die from an overdose?  What leads to a life where one might die in this manner? What misconceptions do people have about teens and drug usage? Become an advocate for better awareness in this arena.

My son Daniel died from cancer treatments at age four.  September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, a month when I reach out via social media to let others know that kids can get malignant tumors.  Kids can be born with cancer from no fault of their own or from their parents'. And yes, little children do die from cancer.  Parents are empathetic in helping me get the word out because they realize that cancer shows no mercy to age, color of skin, or socio-economic ranks.  If they are realistic, they know that any child can get cancer, just as any child is capable of dying from any disease or sudden accident.

I''ve written articles for magazines and newspapers about what striving for a cure means to me as a mom whose three-year-old was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, and what it means to thousands of parents across the country. I wear the gold ribbon as a visual to show my desire to fight for better clinical trials and for a cure for childhood cancer. And I think of  my sweet bald-headed Daniel who called himself a Brave Cookie.

Find your place of passion and let others know about it.   Use your energy, be fueled by it, even if it stems initially from angst at others' ignorance.  Be that advocate in your child's memory! Let your lifestyle be one that encompasses the need for change.

Monday, August 24, 2015

One Tough Mama

"You are Wonder Woman. You know that, don't you?"  The nurse in the recovery room kept her eyes on a drowsy Daniel but I knew that she was addressing me.

Me, the mom with an eleven-month-old son in a stroller, a child of unknown gender in my belly, and four-year-old Daniel in the hospital bed, about to wake up from his third radiation treatment.

I only smiled.

"One tough mama," she said.  "You are amazing."

My daughter would have smiled at me had she been in the room, but she was in first grade learning to write about her brother Daniel.  He and I like to red funny books. He has a boo-boo in his neck.

Daniel opened his eyes and looked around the room.  "I had a nice nap," he said.

The nurse and I laughed.

This scene is only a memory now, a memory I have recalled over the eighteen years.

Eighteen years ago I did not think that I was a wonder woman.  I was merely doing what any mom with a kid with cancer would do----one foot in front of the other, moving forward.  It was a season of getting my three kids to where they needed to be when they needed to be there.  For Daniel that meant getting him to radiation treatments every day at 6 AM for three weeks, and to the hospital once a month for week-long cancer treatments.

Tears?  No.  Sentiment?  Who had time for that?  I was one tough mama.

Eighteen years ago I was thirty-six, and believed that if you prayed hard enough and dreamed big enough, you would never have to live a life of heartache.

When Daniel died at age four, people told me that they didn't know how I did it.  They used words like brave and strong and inspiring.

But now I wonder if they would understand that eighteen years since my little boy's body could no longer fight the battle, I'm a crumbling mess.  I cry because at The Home Depot a tool set has been reduced to 1992, the year Daniel was born. There's a car in the parking lot with Dan on the license plate.

Days before my Daniel's birthday (he would be 23 August 25th), I am reduced to an ache so large that I wonder if the years have stitched up my wound at all. I recall his death and his birth and the four tiny years between the two events as I prepare dinner for the living.

I stir the spaghetti sauce with blurry eyes. Tears splatter onto the counter.  My other children are 25, 19, and 18.  They have grown used to me, they know me.  I'm the mom who collects watermelon and tells the story of how Daniel stored left-over watermelon in his hospital bathtub after the Fourth of July. I'm the one who searches for rainbows after every thunder storm, keeps Curious George books in a dusty book shelf and uses Daniel's phrases----like, "A spider for a pet! I have a spider for my pet!" and Daniel wisdom----"I know why they call it a parking lot, because there are LOTS of places to park."

My kids don't mind tears in the sauce.  But they also know that I won't become sad when they head off to college or leave home for a dingy house with a group of boys before completing high school. They know I value the "normal" things kids get to do as they grow older and find their paths.  I cherish them and that they get to grow up, fall down, get up, and try again. (And am grateful that the middle child did graduate eventually.)

This is who I am, this is the life of one tough mama.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Laser Project 2015

The laser machine in the room after the walls and floor were painted

When you get a laser cutter machine to expand your business, sometimes you have to build a room to keep it protected from the dust that is created by other machines in the garage.  And so the plans were laid and the work began for a new room inside our old garage  . . .

My brother and his dogs came up to help us with our Laser Project.  He has a truck which is very nice for hauling dry wall and lumber from The Home Depot.  Also, a door we got on sale for the room.

The Truck

 Dixie and Zoey with our Levi Boxer Dog

After removing many items from the garage outside, the construction begins . . . 

The frame is up!

The dry wall completed!

Visit us at Carved By Heart.