Wednesday, December 5, 2018

What I Learned Doing NaNoWriMo in 2018

Ack! This was not a good year for me in regards to NaNoWriMo. I managed to squeak out about 7,500 words. I'd love to list a whole bunch of excuses but I really have none. I wasn't "feeling" the story but honestly, that shouldn't matter either.

What I did learn is this...

  1. Writing is work. Yes, I enjoy it, but it's not always about "feeling" the story. It's about getting the words out of my head and on to the paper.
  2. I have a lot of ideas floating around my head. If I don't put them down somewhere they will fly away forever never to return.
  3. I really do want to write. 
That last one is probably the most important one for me. I have said I have wanted that for quite some time but I have yet to make the time to do anything about it. 

I am using this year's NaNoWriMo to propel me forward in 2019 and work on writing - daily. I will be working on getting those ideas out of my head and on to, um, paper - digitally speaking. 

So while I didn't win this year by completing 50,000 words, I learned a lot about myself and how I need to structure things in order to make my dreams a reality. Here's to more writing in 2019!

Friday, November 30, 2018

{Review} Ellie Claire Art Journals

I have this quirk. I know there are others out there like me since I've met them. Want to know what it is? Well...I love office supplies. There...I said it. I'm not one who collects purses or shoes, but show me a bunch of journals, planners, pens and watch out! I have so many unused journals just waiting for me to write in them.

And pens...don't even get me started on pens! However, I have become a bit more discerning in my older years. I discovered a lovely writing pen a few years ago and now I've become a bit of a snob about what I use. In case you are wondering, I love the Uniball Signo 207 pens. LOVE them!

But journals...there is just something about an unused journal that calls to me every time. I doubt I will ever stop collecting and buying more. This is why I was thrilled to be included in the Ellie Claire Art Journal review. ::sigh:: They are simply divine!

First up is the Illuminate Your Story journal (you can purchase it HERE).

This is a gorgeous little journal. If you've ever seen medieval manuscripts with illuminated letters, this journal is reminiscence of that. It includes a two page spread for each letter that helps you create an illuminated letter. These pages are in dot grid format which makes it easier to copy the style shown.

There are also lined pages throughout for you to journal, additional drawing pages to help with extra embellishments, and a wonderful pen holder on the side (something I've never seen but now want in all my journals). This particular journal also has an elastic closure and a ribbon bookmark included.

Pages are thick and numbered. As someone who uses a bullet journal, I like that fact that the pages are numbered. I do wish there was a page in the front for a table of contents, but this really isn't a bullet journal styled journal so it's easily overlooked. Lastly, there is a keepsake pocket included on the inside of the back cover.

If you or anyone you know would like to learn how to draw embellished letters, this journal is definitely for you.

Next is the Illustrated Word: An Illuminated Bible Coloring Journal. (You can purchase it HERE.)

This is a straight forward journal. It has lined pages interspersed with coloring pages. The lined pages also include a color photo from a piece of illuminated manuscript. The coloring page is a black and white line drawing of that manuscript and/or drawing. While they are intricate coloring pages, they aren't ones that would take oodles of time to complete.

The pages are lovely. It is a wonderful hardcover book slightly over sized.

Lastly, there is the Faith & Lettering Journal (you can purchase it HERE).

This may be my favorite of the three. It is full of fantastic ideas. As someone who has a rather plain bullet journal because I lack the skills to do fancy lettering and embellishments, this journal shows you how to do it! There are two page spreads where you can trace an embellishment and then practice doing it on your own. 

Pages inside include fully lined (go from margin to margin), line grid, dot grid (my favorite for journaling), and lined with bigger margins (see photos below). 

                                                          Fully lined                                  Fuller margin

Throughout the journal are also full colored verse illustrations that are simply stunning. Along with all the various journal pages, there are also practice pages (as already mentioned) that covers everything from various lettering styles to embellishments. I will be keeping and using this journal!

The last two features of this journal make it shine even brighter. There is a pen loop on the spine which I think is just genius. And this journal is also designed so that the pages lay flat. This is a great bonus when not only writing but drawing and coloring. Overall, this was a simply gorgeous journal.

Disclaimer: I was given copies of all three journals in exchange for my honest review. There are no affiliate links included. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

{Review} Literary Book Gifts

As anyone who knows me knows by this point, I love to read. I love books. I think there is absolutely no such thing as too many books only too few bookshelves. Just ask my hubby. Even though he loves books just as much as I do, most of the books in our home are mine or, ahem, "something I need to educate the children with" which is really code for I want it too. Shoot - my secret is now out!

I have no memories of before I could read and some of my fondest memories have to do with books. It's just simply who I am. 

That's why I loved finding this adorable online store that has some very cute book related gifts from t-shirts to tote bags. 

I was one of those weird kids who enjoyed Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre when I was about eleven years old. Hands down one of my absolutely favorite classic books. 

I still remember when I was in sixth grade and one of the classes had been assigned the book Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. I overheard some of the kids moaning about having to read it and I was floored. It was one of my favorite books. I had read it four or five times at that point. How could they not like it? 

See, I was weird even then when it came to books. 

Literary Book Gifts offers up men's and women's styles of t-shirts as well as tote bags. Most of their designs have images for classic literature such as Pride and Prejudice or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or the Secret Garden. They also carry some more generic book images like one that has a "the end" plate on it or, my favorite, an old-fashioned typewriter. 

If you are interested in purchasing gifts ('tis the season!), please use code MAINEBERRYPATCH20 to receive 20% off your order. There is no minimum order required to use that code. I know I will be doing some shopping here for the holidays!

Disclaimer: I was given no monetary gift for writing this review. All opinions are my own. No compensation was given in exchange for it. I receive no kick-back of any kind for any purchases made. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Imaginary Friends

Did you ever have an imaginary friend when you were small? Someone you talked to but never really saw in person?

With the advent of the internet, many of us started having more and more "imaginary" friends. You know, people we would chat with online either via Yahoo Groups (before Facebook) or via Messenger.

Back around probably 2002, I entered the online world. Yes, for those of you young folks out there, there was life before the internet. It wasn't until my second child was born that I joined the online world...via dial-up! Keeping it real here. Keeping it real.

It was at this time in my life that I went from a full-time working mom to a stay-at-home-mom with two young children. I needed some adult conversation. I craved talking with people other than my infant and four year old, who was speech delayed so didn't really talk much at that point! My poor hubby was all for it as he was talked out by the time he arrived home each day from work.

This is when I discovered Yahoo Groups. Think Facebook Groups but via email. We would sometimes have live chats though. They were based on likes and dislikes, hobbies, everything and anything you could imagine, you could find a group for it.

One of the first ones I joined was called Christian Scrapbooking Friends. Hey, this was the early 2000s when scrapbooking was huge and I had jumped in with both feet when my oldest was only 18 months old. I have the albums and supplies still to prove it.

I enjoyed that little group immensely and I made some lifelong friends through it - women I still keep in touch with, now on Facebook mostly. I exchange Christmas cards with some every year. I chat online with them, but most of them I have never, ever met in person.

Earlier this year one such friend contacted me. I met Kay through that little scrapbooking group years ago, before my youngest was born and before her (I think) four youngest were born. The chances of Kay and I meeting had always been pretty slim since I lived here in Maine and she lived way out in the mid-west in Minnesota. However, she was going to be in New Hamsphire and Maine for about a week while her husband was at a work conference. Could we meet?

That's when I looked at my calendar and realized I had one day I could see her as she was arriving the week we were going to be gone on vacation. And I would need to drive to New Hampshire to do it. A three hour drive versus a cross-country drive is a no-brainer in my book and we began to plan our visit.

Kay and her family were staying at a cute little cottage on a lake in New Hampshire. We spent quite an enjoyable afternoon chatting and visiting in real life for the first time ever. I'm hoping at some point we can do it again, but who knows. I was so great to not only get to see her but to also meet her children and her husband.

Sometimes imaginary friends are the best ones.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

{Review} Chris Tomlin's HOLY ROAR CD

I first heard Chris Tomlin sing live in 2005. He was the opening act for Steven Curtis Chapman and I was only vaguely familiar with his music at that time. I was most excited about seeing SCC and Casting Crowns (also the first time I heard Casting Crowns live as well). I still remember that concert. It was one of the first concerts I had ever been to period and it was well worth it. All three acts were stellar and I was now interested in hearing more from this new to me artist, Chris Tomlin.

Over the ensuing years, Chris Tomlin has only gained in popularity. Just last week he released his newest album, Holy Roar. I think most people probably sing a Chris Tomlin song in church at least once a month or more. He's been a very prolific (and excellent) singer/songwriter over the last 25 years. I'm feeling a bit old. I didn't realize it had been that long!

In that time frame, Chris Tomlin has sold over 8 million records (crazy!) and has had sixteen number one hits. He's received many awards and continues to produce new music as well as tour. He is one of my favorite artists to see live and at last count I think I've seen him five times live. 

I've been playing his newest album in my truck over the last few days. Holy Roar has twelve tracks including the title song. One of the first tracks released to radio was Resurrection Power. 

You called me from the grave by name
You called me out of all my shame
I see the old has passed away
The new has come

Now I have resurrection power
Living on the inside
Jesus, You have given us freedom
No longer bound by sin and darkness
Living in the light of your goodness
You have given us freedom

Chris Tomlin has always been one of my favorite contemporary Christian singers and his new album does not disappoint. I have enjoyed listening to it as have my boys. I highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this CD for review.  Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Friday, October 19, 2018


Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

Ever hear of the National Novel Writing Month? It's this crazy awesome thing where people around the world challenge themselves to write a short novel (minimum of 50,000 words in order to "win") during the month of November. You know, during the start of the holiday season, when the days begin to get shorter and colder. Well, at least for those of here in the Northeast. (My hands are freezing even as I type this now.)

I first heard about NaNoWriMo (as it's more widely known) way back in 1999. I think I may have even started to jot down a story on a hand. Needless to say, that didn't go very far. In 1999 I had three year old and I was working full-time outside the house.

I have loved to read since I can remember. Seriously, I don't have a memory before that time. Well, maybe one or two (yes, I have a couple memories from when I was only two years old). I used to take books with me everywhere. I read all the time. I love stories.

It wasn't until 2013 that I took it a bit more seriously. I joined a small group of like-minded "wanna-be" authors and banged out my first 50,000 word novel. The exhilaration in finishing that goal is like nothing else I've experienced. Well, okay, child birth was pretty cool too. And getting married. Well, you get the idea I'm sure.

Since that time I have "announced" a novel every year on the NaNoWriMo website site. My user name there is berrypatch so feel free to add me as a Writing Buddy. The more support the better! I once more "won" last year but that story was only at about the halfway point, partly because I am what's known as a pantser in the NaNoWriMo world. This is someone who "writes by the seat of their pants" without any type of outline or plan. And every year, including this one, I tell myself to use October (or Pretopber) to prep for November.

It's the time where you can write up character sketches, outline the story, create word trackers, basically do anything that will help you reach that goal of 50,000 words in November. I am slowly getting there. I'm using a bullet journal (which I've talked about here before) to help me keep things a bit more organized. This year I'm calling myself a plantser because I know that for all the organizing I do beforehand, I'll still be doing quite a bit of pantsing!

Just today I announced my newest story idea on NaNoWriMo and Facebook. I figured I'd add it here as a bit more accountability.

Story Synopsis:
Amy Peters was a naive city girl who had eloped with the baker's son. She was from a wealthy family and had lived in society for too long. She had enjoyed the benefits of having servants tend to her every need. However, she allowed her new husband, Roy McAllister, to sweep her away to the far west on the adventure of a lifetime. Yet, she knew nothing about how to cook, sew, tend livestock, or really do anything for herself. Winter was coming fast and she was going to have to learn just as fast how to do daily tasks for herself instead of pouting in the corner if she wants to make this new life succeed. Roy is patient and loving but one night he doesn't return from hunting. Amy sits shivering in their small cabin because the fire has gone out. She is waiting for Roy to return to restart it and cook dinner. But the darkness begins to fall, the cold becomes almost unbearable, the wind is howling, and there is no Roy to rescue her this time. 

Photo credit goes to my fabulous sister. She was back at the farm we all grew up on (I have four siblings) and I asked her to snap some photos of the cabin our dad had built for us years ago. I used to spend a lot of time there. There was an huge pine tree right outside of it as well that I used to climb too. The cabin is now in huge disrepair (one entire wall is down) and there are brambles and thorns growing on the path to it. Did I mention my sister rocks? She braved all of it and snapped me a few photos not even knowing why I had asked. Thanks, sis!

I'll post back at the end of November on if I "won" or not. And I may or may not post a few excerpts throughout the month of November.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Time Flies

Youngest without the hat. Middle son with the hat.

I just began my 17th year of homeschooling last month. I find it heard to believe that it's been that long. I started when my oldest son was only five years old. He's now 22 years old and in his third year of college. So yes mamas, homeschool kids do go to college and do well there too! He currently has a GPA of 3.34. (<---proud mama bragging a bit)

This year I currently have a senior in high school as well as a freshman. My freshman, is tall and he loves it. Especially now that he's officially taller than his older brother - at least one of them. 

Down to two boys at home

Homeschooling now is vastly different than it used to be even a couple of years ago. Most of the time I am simply the "scheduler and guidance counselor" rather than the teacher. I don't spend a lot of time in direct instruction anymore. My boys are now pretty independent. 

My senior this year is taking two classes at a local college. He started dual enrollment last year online. It has definitely changed things but he will end up starting college with about 18 credit hours completed. This is going to be a huge cost saver for him as he is planning to get a bachelor's degree in Aviation. This child of mine wants to be a pilot. In fact, he is currently doing his ground school class as part of his dual enrollment. Even with the state paying for his tuition for this class, it still ended up being a bit expensive. The entire program is on the most expensive at our state university. I'm thrilled that they have the program though. It's still new and the only one in our state. He will start flight training for his Private Pilot's license in the spring - hopefully. It will all depend on funding of his flight hours. He's determined though. He's been dealing with learning how to best use his time this year between college, homeschool, and work. This November he will be celebrating one year at his job. We started working with him on a budget last year and I have every confidence he will succeed and do well. 

My youngest isn't quite sure what he wants to do. We're still doing the basics here at home, but I've been contemplating having him try out the local tech center to explore some career options. They do a "sampler" program for ninth and tenth graders. We're considering trying that for next year. The only downfall to this program is it's located in the next town over - about a 20 minute drive. He won't have his license yet as he won't turn 16 until 2020. This means I'll need to drive him or at least ride with him as he drives. I'm sure that will be his preferred method. My oldest still doesn't have his license yet either and will be moving home this December to hopefully transfer to the college in that same town. Mom taxi will be in full force!

Homeschooling at its best

Back to my oldest though...this child of mine has thrived so much at college. He's really begun to come into his own and I'm super proud of him. Not only is he doing well there, but he also started his first job this past summer. My very introverted child is now a cashier at the local grocery store and is getting great reviews on his customer service skills. Mamas in the trenches...hold on. They do grow up and they do become productive members of society if we encourage them to find those skills. 

My oldest in his journalism class. 
They had a local TV reporter come speak to them. 
He's on the far left, back row, full beard. 

Homeschooling has been tough over the years, I won't deny that. There were days when one or all of us were in tears over a tough lesson. However, it's been worth all the sacrifice of staying home and investing into my boys. I don't regret one moment of it. I'm blessed and thankful that I had this opportunity. I'm just a bit sad that I'm starting to see the end draw ever nearer. Not to sound to route, but mamas, enjoy the moments. All of them. The hard, the fun, the messy, the sad, the frustrating - enjoy it all because it will all be over sooner than you realize.