The closest I can get to dating…

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My friend has just signed up for an online dating service, and she invited me to fill out the forms with her. This is the closest that I can get to the dating scene (being married and all…) and it’s surprisingly fun! I envied her a little–not that I want to date anyone, don’t get me wrong–but answering all those questions, filling out lists, narrowing down exactly what she was looking for… That process is fun! I had to hold myself back from nudging her aside and taking over. (As if she’d let me… ha!) I’d make a good old-timey matchmaker.

“You and you. I’ll speak to your fathers. You’d do well together.”

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I would have to wait until I was an elderly woman with a hunch or something in order to really fill the role, but I think it would be perfect for me! It wouldn’t be nosiness if I was providing a service, now would it? ;)

If I could have a fun part time job, it would be working for a dating service. I’d absolutely love to make introductions. Everyone wants love, and I think everyone deserves it. But in this day and age, stumbling across that perfect match is that much more difficult… So if I ever decide to moonlight, you know where to find me!

And the minute I turn eighty, I’m going to let my hair go crazy and put up my shingle: Patricia Johns–Matchmaking and Fine Goat Cheese.

Because I also like goats.

Dressing up the paintbrush

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I came across this Momastery post, which encouraged me to no end, and since I’ve been telling everyone in my personal life about it, I wanted to share it with you, too.

Here is the premise:

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We are told each and every day that our body is what we offer to the world. Actresses are torn apart for less than flattering photos, and then praised and patted on the head for losing baby weight in 6 weeks, even though it means that all those hours spent in the gym are NOT being used to cuddle, nurture or bond… Don’t even get me started on that one! Advertisements, movies, clothing stores… they all project the same message, that thin is success and anything less is failure. Our bodies are what the world wants. Toned bodies. Appropriately thin bodies. Young-looking bodies.

But Glennon puts forth a different argument. Our bodies are not the masterpiece, our lives are. Our bodies are just the tool that we use to love, create, work… Our lives–that beautiful mixture of relationships, longings, self-expression and worship–are the masterpieces that we are putting out for the world. Focusing on our figures is just dressing up the paintbrush. Yes, we take care of ourselves, but holding out our paintbrush as our “finished product” seems just a little silly, doesn’t it?

My figure is not Hollywood perfect, but it is beautiful. It’s round, it’s soft and it gives terrific hugs. This brain spins stories constantly. These arms can multi-task, hugging a small boy and typing with the other hand. These legs walk me all over town. This face expresses all the emotions that come reeling through me, and the lines around my eyes show you that I’ve smiled most of all. I love my body, and it’s beautiful. But more beautiful still is the life I lead and the love I give.

So let’s keep our priorities straight. It’s not about the paintbrush, it’s about the masterpiece. And that’s where my attention is going to be. <3

Stop spending all day obsessing, cursing, perfecting your body like it’s all you’ve got to offer the world. Your body is not your art, it’s your paintbrush. Whether your paintbrush is a tall paintbrush or a thin paintbrush or a stocky paintbrush or a scratched up paintbrush is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that YOU HAVE A PAINTBRUSH which can be used to transfer your insides onto the canvas of your life- where others can see it and be inspired and comforted by it. – See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/07/06/body-masterpiece/#sthash.UGctjjNu.dpuf
Stop spending all day obsessing, cursing, perfecting your body like it’s all you’ve got to offer the world. Your body is not your art, it’s your paintbrush. Whether your paintbrush is a tall paintbrush or a thin paintbrush or a stocky paintbrush or a scratched up paintbrush is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that YOU HAVE A PAINTBRUSH which can be used to transfer your insides onto the canvas of your life- where others can see it and be inspired and comforted by it. – See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/07/06/body-masterpiece/#sthash.UGctjjNu.dpuf

When teddy bears go bad

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Teddy_bear_-_RoryIn our local library, they have all sorts of fun summer activities for families. The most recent one is The Teddy Bear Sleep Over. Even if I didn’t have a child, this would catch my attention, because it hooks right into my writerly curiosity.

This is the premise: kids bring their teddy bear to the library and leave them there over night for a sleepover. The librarians then pose the bears doing different activities, take pictures of them and post them online so that the kids can click over the next morning and see what their bear was up to during those dark, mysterious hours when the library is closed.

I’m friends with one of the librarians, and we giggled together over ideas for what the bears could do. I thought they should have some clearly posted signs saying things like, “Do not climb on the shelves,” and then have the bears breaking the rules. Then, of course, there could be a teddy bear Time Out Corner where they do their time. It’s all about the drama. And the flouting of the rules.

The teddy bears are a story about to be told. The children provide the characters, and then sit back and wait for the librarians to spin a tale. Stories are important because they ask our questions.

What happens when you break the rules? What happens in the darkness? Are people good? Are teddies good? Is the world safe?

We know the answers that the children want. And we know the truth. Somewhere between the two lies the story.

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Stories

What a charming guy!

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I have a 6 year old boy, so hollering, “No, I’m not helping you pick up your toys. You took them out, you put them away!” is pretty common around here. That is normally hollered from my desk where I am desperately trying to get a bit of writing done while my son is supposed to be otherwise occupied cleaning up… As most 6 year olds, he HATES cleaning up, and will try all sorts of distractions to get out of doing it. In such times, I’ve also been known to come out with, “Do you have two hands? Use them! If you used all this time to just do it, you’d be done by now.”

Well, right after hollering one of the above, I came across this video. (An email from my mom.) I like this guy. He’s handsome, charming and completely winsome!

This was worth my time. And worth showing to my son. <3

Seriously, watch this! If a man with no arms and legs can farm, then… well, the applications are endless, aren’t they?

Caring for the writer in your life

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A portrait of a young woman (so-called Sappho) with writing pen and wax tablets uncovered in Pompeii.

A portrait of a young woman (so-called Sappho) with writing pen and wax tablets uncovered in Pompeii.

Having a writer in your life is complicated. A writer is an emotional beast that volleys between clacking away on a computer in solitude and getting suddenly social at inopportune times. You might notice this around midnight when the writer in your life nudges your back and says, “Are you asleep? How was your day?” This can be annoying, but if you have the energy, or you weren’t actually sleeping, you might consider striking up a conversation with your writer, since it’s downright impossible to do so when she is back to clacking away on her computer in solitude.

If your writer doesn’t get out often enough to socialize, she might get overly exuberant about human contact and smile at every single person who passes her in the grocery store. If you find this happening on an uncomfortably regular basis, encourage her to “get out a bit” with friends on a semi-regular basis. Writers sometimes have trouble self-regulating their social lives, and will appreciate a reminder that other people exist outside of their manuscripts from time to time. Their friends also appreciate this, unless, of course, her friends are also writers…

Sometimes, your attempts to help your writer “be more normal” will be met with irritability. When this happens, back slowly away from your writer with your hands outstretched in a non-confrontational manner and say soothing things like, “Why don’t you do a bit of writing? I can take care of things for a couple of hours.” Once your writer has spent some time with her manuscript, she will be affectionate and cuddly once more, and will even thank you for your efforts.

Woman Writing in an Interior (1904) Félix Emile-Jean Vallotton (1865/1925)

Woman Writing in an Interior (1904)
Félix Emile-Jean Vallotton
(1865/1925)

Having a writer in your life isn’t all work, however. A writer is a great help when you have to write business letters, work evaluations or any other type of writing that doesn’t come naturally to you. She can also be highly entertaining when she tries to figure out back stories for the strangers in shopping malls. Going shopping with your writer after she gets paid is also very satisfying, and when she dedicates a book to you, calling you “her inspiration and her biggest support,” you can know that your efforts were deeply appreciated.

So the next time your writer nudges your back at midnight and asks about your day, wrap your arms around her and mumble, “Do you know what time it is? Go to sleep…” Because, seriously, you don’t need to wake up at midnight. And she’ll understand. She loves you, too.

He’s a good one!

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Click to find this title on Amazon

Click to find this title on Amazon

In my book, Legally Wed (which is published under my maiden name Patty Froese), one of my secondary characters got away from me a little bit… He was my heroine’s father. My readers wrote to me (a few times!) to say that they completely fell in love with him, and there was good reason for that–he was patterned after my own dad.

My dad is a great guy. He’s well-educated, but humble. He has a dry wit and a big heart. He dotes on his two little dogs (black, fluffy dust mops) and is a whizz in the kitchen. In fact, growing up, I have fond memories of my father’s cooking, and my husband has said (more than once) that as much as he loves MY cooking, I’ll never quite match my dad’s! ;)

My dad has infinite patience for the right things. He’s my “long distance babysitter,” which means that my son will pick up the phone and call him, and my dad will chat with my son for an hour or so while I get some work done. I can hear them from the other room playing the gross-out game. “Okay, okay… I’ve got one. How about fish mixed with mustard with worms on top!” Then they both melt into groans of agony and disgust.

My dad was always there for us. We came first, always. And he adored my mom. He still does, for that matter. I learned what a happy marriage looked like by watching my parents together. My dad would have a meal on the table if my mom worked late. He’d be the first to say, “Hey! Watch it!” if we kids got rude to her. He’d tell her she was beautiful all the time, and when she walked into a room, my dad just kind of melted for her. It was from watching my father that I learned what kind of man I wanted to marry–a guy who would always look at me like that.

My parents, last Christmas

My parents, last Christmas

It shouldn’t surprise you that I married a guy just like my dad, and I’m so glad that I did! He’s my happily ever after, and my dad is the same loveable rock that he’s always been, supporting me in the background.

So a very happy Father’s Day to my dad. And to my my husband, who has the same big heart and infinite patience for all the right things…

I love you!

A new contract!

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If you keep up with me on Facebook, you already know that I’ve been offered a new contract for A FIREFIGHTER’S PROMISE. I’m very excited, and already working on the necessary edits. Getting that phone call never gets old, I have to say! I can’t wait to share Matt and Rachel’s story with all of you when it comes out. (The publication date is still to be determined, but you’ll all be the first the know once I get that information.)

Are you curious to know what this story is about?

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A FIREFIGHTER’S PROMISE

A baby was left on the doorstep of a fire station in the small town of Haggerston, Montana, and Captain Matt Bailey was the one to discover him. Six years later, the “baby” is back with his adoptive mother, and the timing couldn’t be worse. Matt is determined to get out of town to escape the horrific memories of a fatal school fire, and while God does give healing, Matt is pretty sure that his healing is going to have to happen from a distance.

Widowed Rachel Carter moved to Haggerston in an attempt to give her adoptive son, Chris, some roots, and the firefighter who found her little boy six years ago seems to be a part of that. Except Matt Bailey is headed out of town, and she’s equally determined to to never become involved with another firefighter again. Her late husband was a firefighter who died in the line of duty, and she doesn’t think she could endure losing another man she loves to the job.

When Rachel agrees to coach Matt on how to present to school groups, they are tugged just close enough to make them wonder if love might be enough… Except there is a little boy whose needs outweigh their deepest desires, and there are some things even a firefighter can’t promise.

Beans from bulk bins

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We planted a pinto bean. I wasn’t even sure if a pinto bean from the bulk section of a grocery store would even grow. I mean, in theory it would, right? But you just never know.

To my surprise, (although perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so shocked when a seed does what it’s supposed to do) it did grow! And it grew and grew into a nice leafy vine. Then it got some flowers on it, and I thought, “There is no way this thing will ever grow beans. I mean, there are no bees to pollinate it.” I’m no farmer, but I have seen some educational TV and bees are a pretty big part of crops and all that, right? (And here is where I should assure you that when I do write a novel about a farmer, there will be massive amounts of research done to close this gap…)

But it did grow beans. These little, fragile pods sprouted, and we watched them get bigger every day. They grew and grew until the plant turned yellow and started to die. So we picked the bean pods and opened them up. I figured if nothing else it could be a learning moment for my son about where the beans in the bulk bin at the grocery store come from. There were these pale little green beans inside that looked nothing like the beans in the grocery store, and we put them on a plate to dry. I thought, “They probably aren’t mature enough. I was growing a bean plant in a tiny plant pot. It probably died before the beans were even ready.”

I forgot about the drying beans. I was busy about other things. I’d really given up on any more “teachable moments” coming out of them. My son tried to eat a couple of them green and new, and I worried he’d get a tummy ache if they weren’t cooked. (I don’t know! Weird mother worries.) The beans were forgotten for the time being until one day, my son said, “I planted the beans!”

Sure enough, he’d shoved a few into that tiny pot that we’d just ripped the last bean plant out of.

I wasn’t holding my breath. I mean, they probably wouldn’t do anything in that soil, right?

But this morning….

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A bean!

I’ve never been so moved by a sprouting plant before in my life. Never underestimate the power of new beginnings, people. You don’t have to have a whole lot of faith in the process for the process to take care of itself.

There is always tomorrow. <3

 

The List

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Everyone has a mental list when it comes to romance. For some people, it’s just a few little things, like not being able to date a smoker, for example. For others the list is a lot more demanding, covering everything from income to family background. From a young age, we’re told not to “settle,” and there is a perfect guy hanging out on the hook, just waiting for those of us who didn’t get side tracked with others. But can our fear of settling for the “good enough” actually hold us back from something fantastic?

When I was 18 or so, I had a list, like most girls do. I wanted a man from a certain religious background, who had a certain (rather high) amount of education. I had a mental image of what he’d look like, and I knew for a fact that he’d fit into my family very nicely. He was a “BMW kind of guy.” It wasn’t that I cared so much about the car (because quite honestly, I’m a person who notices the color of a car and not much else), but it was the idea around the car. Somewhat conservative, but high quality. A good job, financially established and respected. I cringe a bit now when I think of my naive 18 year old self, because I had no idea. Just… no idea.

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Then I met my husband, and that was blown completely out of the water.

I often wonder what would have happened if I’d stuck to my list and snubbed that quiet, sweet guy who stopped to talk to me at church one week. He was the direct opposite of most of my list. He wasn’t even subtly flashy. He was working his way through a college degree, so his money was poured into tuition and text books and not much else. He didn’t have a car–he took a subway, just like me.

9 years later, I’m married to that sweet guy, and the thought of having missed out on a life with him is downright heartbreaking. Anyone else, no matter how great on paper, just wouldn’t be HIM, and that thought puts a lump in my throat. What if I’d held out for someone who completed that naive list? I might have found someone who did tick off all my requirements, but it isn’t so simple as that, is it? Not only do you want him to have all those superficial qualities, but you also want that soul-deep connection. (That’s a harder one to come by, trust me!) Oh, and you want him to be attracted to you, too. And make the first move. What if you held out for your List Guy, and it just never came together?

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We’re told that we “deserve” that perfect man who ticks off all our requirements, but I disagree. When we hold a human being up to a list and expect them to fulfill our demands, we’re missing out on the most important necessity in marriage–Love. And I don’t mean attraction, or compassion or an ability to compromise. I don’t mean an appreciation for just how great that guy is on paper. I mean the kind of love that rides out the hardest times, that would live in a cardboard box with that man if absolutely necessary. The kind of love that would gratefully care for him for the rest of his life as a quadriplegic, just thankful that he’s still alive.

Because we ladies seem to forget that men have lists, too, and it suddenly seems terribly unfair if we are cast aside because we didn’t quite measure up to an unrealistic goal. Of course, we don’t all look like supermodels. Of course, we don’t all come from money. Of course, we don’t all have perfect pasts. So if it’s shallow of HIM to pass us by for something so superficial, what about turning those tables?

So now you’ve heard my opinion, and I want to hear yours! What do you think? Are lists an important part of having standards, or do they hold us back from a life of love? I want to hear your take!

 

The Battle of the Chairs

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Mr. Johns and I have very different tastes. If he had his way, our home would be filled with speakers, massive televisions and two arm chairs. Period. Nothing else. When I married him, that’s all he had–no joke! I, on the other hand, like pretty things. I like mirrors and picture frames, sideboards and accent tables. Our taste is about as opposite as possible, so when we bought a couch about five years back, there was one–literally ONE–that we could both live with. It was a couch shopping marathon.

Well, we recently decided that we needed more seating in our living room, and my husband has been wanting a chair for a long while. Every time he mentioned it, I’d say, “Well, we’ll have to choose it together.” That put off the purchase for several months, until a couple of weeks ago, when we bit the bullet and started shopping.

A chair shouldn’t be that big of a deal, really, but it WAS! I wanted something pretty, something elegant, something that spoke of history and stories…

79924My husband was open to a chair with a cup holder, so long as it reclined. There didn’t seem to be a lot of negotiating room.

I’d been putting off this shopping trip for months because I just couldn’t bring myself to buy some ugly monstrosity for our living room, but when we got into the store, something changed. It was just one of those quiet realizations as we wandered around show rooms…

You know how they tell you that if you had a perfectly clean home then you’d also have no children in it? Well, if I had a perfectly decorated home, I’d also have no husband in it. And our home, and my heart, would be empty without him.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband would never leave me over a chair. In fact, if push came to shove, he’d probably consent to whatever chair I chose if I really dug my heels in. I suppose the beautiful chair in my mind’s eye no longer seemed to matter quite so much anymore, and I said, “Just no cup holder, okay, honey?”

This is the chair we got.

chair

And THAT, ladies, is Love!

Because I really, really like wing back chairs.

And that thing is hideous.

 

 

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