Friends, it is absolutely true what they say. Time really does fly. I'm keenly aware of this as I realize that my first baby is now 13! Her birthday was yesterday and I'm still recovering from the shock of how quickly we came to this moment in time.
I wouldn't trade a moment. Not one. There is something magical and life-changing about loving a child.
Don't have kids? No fear, it doesn't even have to be your own child that you love. There are lots of ways to love a child. Families are made in so many ways.
In my novel, When Chicks Hatch, infertility is an issue for some of my characters. It's something I experienced in my own way for a time.
I was never supposed to have children, or so the doctors claimed. My body was too effected by endometriosis to sustain a life within it.
Wherever you are at, whatever your situation, find a child to love. They just make everything better.
Here are ten suggestions:
1. Love on a nephew, niece, or cousin.
If you have read any of my previous posts, you have probably heard me mention my little cousin (who isn't so little now at 22). Shayla was the first child I ever loved with a sense of ownership. She was born right around the time that I was first dreaming about being a mommy. Since I was far too young to be one, I sort of claimed her as my own. She was like my little doll, my tag along. At first she called me Heffer. She couldn't say my name. Later I became Momma Her and finally I became friend.
My relationship with her is so special. Though she isn't mine, I know I would jump in front of a bus for her without batting my eyes. She's that special.
Don't discount your little family members. They are great training ground for motherhood and a perfect opportunity to practice love.
2. Help a kid who needs you.
When I was 18, a cousin on my father's side needed a home. He was in a very bad situation and needed somewhere safe to heal and grow. He came to live with my mom and I. As old as I was, he didn't feel like a little brother. He felt like my child. I helped him pick out his clothes, nagged him about bathing and brushing his teeth, helped with homework, drove him to school (when he didn't ride the bus), advocated for him to his teachers, took explicit notes about everything he said about his life before us, and met the bus after his school day ready to give him a snack and help with homework. I wasn't his parent, but in so many ways I felt like one.
This arrangement didn't last forever. Eventually the state of Tennessee made him come back and placed him in foster care while his parents did back flips to regain visitation and eventual custody.
I was just a stopping point in his life, but I believe it made a difference. I hope it did.
3. Become a babysitter or nanny.
When my husband and I were engaged, I had an opportunity to be a nanny for a couple at our church. They had two kids when I started and, before long, she became pregnant with their third.
After I got married, serving this family was sometimes very hard. I was trying to get pregnant and couldn't while their family was growing. I was jealous of them and fulfilled by them at the same time. I loved those kids. I mean, I really did.
The oldest was sarcastic and witty and thought he was just "the man". He was independent but clever and cool to have around. He must have been at school or out playing when the picture above was taken. His little sister was a pip. She was a strong-willed princess with quirks and character. She exhausted and excited me at the same time. She could cuddle like nobody's business and I loved feeling needed by her.
The baby was my little buddy and I could have happily done nothing but hold him all day. I sang lullabies to him and played on the floor with him every day. I was dreaming always of when I could do those things with my own baby, praying it would really happen for me, someday.
4. Be a mentor.
After I got married, there was a little girl I met at church. Her name was Ruth Anne and she had a hard life. She lived in a rough part of town and had been through things I didn't want to think about, but she was strong. Quiet, timid, but strong. There was something about her that just screamed out to be seen and I saw her. We went out a couple of times. I took her for ice cream and the park. I talked with her mom and encouraged her family however I could. I let her talk and kept her secrets. I prayed for her. I was there, witnessing her life and caring. Never underestimate these things. They matter.
5. Work in children's church or the church nursery.
Why is it that moms are always recruited to work in the nursery? They are with their children all day, everyday. Let's give them a break, can't we?
My husband was a Children's Pastor for 10 years and we were children's volunteers before that.
None of those kids were our own, but we cared about all of them. We made a difference with them. We taught them about God.
6. Wait for your miracle. Prepare.
We had tried to get pregnant for months and nothing was happening. Doctors had already stolen our hope away. A lump had appeared on my left side. It was painful and forced me to wear dresses, oversized sweat pants or overalls all of the time. I knew something was wrong and I was afraid. On Mother's Day, a group of women at church prayed over me and as their hands touched that area, I could feel the lump go down. One of the people praying prophesied over my husband and I telling us to act in faith. He specifically told us to "prepare the nets". God was going to answer us soon and we needed to be ready.
We heard and responded to that advice. We prepared for a child that didn't exist yet. We set up a nursery by faith. We moved our focus from "can't" to "if it's God's will, may it be".
7. Have your own child.
By the fourth of July we had a little one swimming in my womb (that 13 year old I spoke about earlier). Our miracle expanded every 2 years until we had 5 blessings (one in God's care).
I'm not naive, I know that belief does not always make things happen. Faith is not a magic wand, but it's worth resting on.
The miracle may come from inside you, or it may come another way.
8. Foster A child.
We began looking at foster care when our youngest was still an infant. We never finished the process.
I have a very good friend who has fostered several children. She says that people hear how many children she's had and they immediately think she's an ignorant woman with the sex drive of a rabbit. When she explains that they fostered, they suddenly view her as Mother Theresa. She says that honestly, she's neither. She was just open to love. It's her reality. She was needed and she answered the call.
My best friend is adopted. My husband is adopted. I am incredibly thankful that adoption existed so these amazing people could be here and part of my life.
Adoption is beautiful. My best friend's mom used to tell her "Some babies grow in their mom's bellies. You grew in my heart." I loved that.
We tried to adopt a baby that my friend was fostering and did not have room (or desire) to adopt. I loved Victor. He was never in my home but, oh my word was I ever attached to him. My children were as well.
Victor's social worker said that we would qualify for kinship adoption and began preparing us for it. We were told we could have him by Christmas.
My husband got a new assignment in another town. We confirmed that it would not mess up the plans and that everything was still on schedule for December. I couldn't wait.
My husband went ahead of the family to secure us a home in our new town. He was gone when I received the phone call that still makes my heart sick to talk about.
A family member had come out of the wood work. They wanted Victor and now the social worker had decided that we would not qualify for kinship adoption afterall. My heart broke. Like that our dream was over.
Why am I telling such a miserable story? Because I don't regret this either. I loved a little boy who needed love. I held him, fed him, saw a future in his eyes. I pray for that little one (now 7 and no longer named Victor). I know God did what was right for him. I pray for him when I pray for my other babies. I know he's in God's hands.
Love is NEVER a mistake. Get that. Live that. It's true.
10. Try IVF.
This is the option my characters used. It's an option. I have a relative who is trying to build her family this way. If it's a valid option for you, why not?
One of my mom's friends tried this many times. It was hard. There are emotions and challenges that I honestly can't comprehend, in spite all of my research.
Still, it is a way to love a child, to form it when your body won't comply by natural means.
It's okay to try. It's okay to risk your heart. Again, love is NEVER a mistake.
Bonus: Since my baby is 13, I thought I'd throw in 3 extra ideas.
11. Be a friend to your child's friends.
Eventually, when you have your child (through birth, adoption or borrowing a friend or family member's kid to love on) you'll find that other kids come with them. Friends flock to your house and, before you know it, there are more kids in your yard then you know what to do with. All of these children will watch you. All of them are special.
12. Enjoy sons or daughters-in-law.
As I said at the very beginning, time flies. Someday your child will have a spouse and you'll have new "children" to impact and love.
13. Spoil those grandchildren.
I'm told this is the pinnacle of loving a child. This is the kid you get to spoil, play with, hype up on candy, give loud obnoxious toys to and send home to Mom and Dad at your convenience. They get to be your friends and playmates; your legacy.
There, you have 13 ideas. Whatever you do, open your heart to a child. Time flies, make it count. Leave your mark.
The top 10 genres I love to write in are:
1. Christian Women's Fiction
This is the main genre that I write in. My first published novel, and the future editions in the Chicks of Corbin Bridge series were (or will be) written in this genre.
2. Chick Lit
This is probably my favorite genre to read, so it's a fun genre for me to write. I don't have any works published in this genre yet, but I am working on one now that is currently titled Remodel. Technically, Remodel might be able to fit in the Christian Women's Fiction genre, since my main character is a new believer, but it has some of the classic chick lit traits that would make me fight for this classification.
3. Regency Romance
In high school I was obsessed with the regency period. I saw Sense and Sensibility and fell in love with the time period. I completed my first novel (never published) in the twelfth grade. It was titled Addie Cole. Though it might not be my best, it's still my favorite of all my writing.
When I finished writing Addie Cole, I went back and hand wrote all of the final draft in calligraphy. Then I tied the manuscript with raffia and tucked a flower under the tie. I seriously thought a publisher would love that. It was my homage to Louisa May Alcott and the best fictional character ever, Josephine March.
4. Victorian Gothic
I used to devour Victorian Gothic stories. There was something about the language and setting that was so dark and haunting. The stories stayed with me long after the final page. That is what I strive for as an author. I want to lock my readers in so that, when the story is over, they can’t shake the ideas and sort of linger in a half reality mulling over the characters and plot for days. For this reason, I studied these writers endlessly. I don’t write Victorian Gothic stories much anymore, but I’ve taken away some of the best parts of this genre that I pray I never lose.
5. Historical Fiction
I am not a big lover of research, but when a time period excites me, I can’t get enough. This was the case when I wrote The Legend of The Ruby Cross Medallion. This novel was finished, but never published. After seven moves since then, not much of the work remains. I have the first few chapters and the rest exists only in mmy memory. The story centered on castle life in the 1400s and would fit best in the subgenre of historical fantasy. My daughter found parts of this novel in my writing folder a while back and has been begging me to rewrite it. Someday, maybe I will.
6. Juvenile Fiction
The best example of my writing in this genre is Jelly Bean and the Christmas Visitors. The first little bit of it can be read here. I had the fun of reading it aloud during a holiday party for the Fellowship of Christian Writers in December. I loved writing in the voice of a young child.
7. Childen's Picture Books
I can't honestly remember which I wanted to be first, and artist or a writer. This genre invites me to play around with both. I was active in SCBWI years ago when we lived in Michigan. That group was amazing and I learned a ton from them.
None of my picture books are published, but I've written more than I care to admit. Here are a couple images from my favorites, A Wishing Stone and Mine! A Wishing Stone is about a girl who wishes she fit in at school, then her wishes get carried away. Mine! teaches the importance of sharing with the friendly simplicity of a board book layout.
8. Flash Fiction
I was recently part of a chapbook project for The Fellowship of Christian Writers. The theme was gratitude. My story, Gratitude in Black, can be found on page 1.
As a busy writer with a lot on my plate, flash fiction is a great genre with great appeal.
You can read Roar, another flash fiction piece, here.
9. Historical Romance
Romance is always fun, but when it's set in a special spot in history it can be even better. I have only written a couple stories in this genre. I tend to gravitate toward the mid-late 1800s or the 1940s.
This is a natural genre for me. Most of the time I don't plan to write poetry, I just catch myself doing it. When I feel introspective or quiet or a bit on the sad side, it just comes out. Here is one example of planned poetry.
For me, the best thing about poetry is that I can pass the love for it along to my children. While they whine and carry on about writing longer pieces, I find that they usually welcome the opportunity to write poetry. My son is becoming a budding little poet.
Now you know what I love to write. What are your favorite genres? Answer in the comments section below or tweet your answer to me (@HeatherMRandall)
It's Top10 Tuesday. Are you ready for another list?
The 10 Reasons to Love Reviewers are:
1. They lead you to your audience
You may think you know your audience, but maybe you overlooked a certain niche. For example, my target audience for When Chicks Hatch was 18-40. A recent reviewer above 40 pointed out that my book contains the topic of raising adult children. This tells me that a peripheral character spoke to her and helped her find herself in the story. It showed me that I have a wider audience that I hadn’t marketed to before.
2. They boost your exposure, promoting you to readers who might not have known about your book otherwise
A strong reviewer is generally active on Facebook, Google+, Twitter and Instagram. She likely has a strong blog following as well. This means that her review of your book could quickly go viral. This puts your story in the faces of thousands of internet users who may have never heard about your book, but suddenly want to know more.
3. They give honest feedback that can offer valuable insight for you
I cover this subject on my blog HERE, so I won’t elaborate too much. Just know that those “bad reviews” will turn out not so bad after all providing you learn something from them.
4. They build your credibility on Amazon
The number of reviews you have and the average rating are a great testimonial of how your book is resonating with readers. The viral nature of a successful review will expand your platform by bringing new fans your way. Platform is a key element in cementing a great publisher. The larger your platform, the closer they’ll listen.
5. They are more likely to be built-in influencers for your next projects
The reviewers who brought your first book acclaim should be the first people you reach out to when your second book is complete. They can be your earliest influencers. Send them ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) and let them loose to promote to their audience and build excitement.
6. They make you aware of editing and formatting issues that even your editors may have missed
I have a slew of grammar gurus on the CWA Review Crew. These ladies may not always include all of the editing/ formatting issues they find in their reviews, but they do send private messages to me to pass along to the author. This feedback is gold. It’s seriously crazy what an editor can miss sometimes.
7. The best reviews could be used in your author promotional materials
You’ll find my reviews listed HERE on my blog. Of course I think my book is great, but I want would-be-readers to hear the praise from other readers. Then, potential readers will understand that this is a book they’ll like too.
8. The more a reader feels they know you, the stronger their fan connection will be. If you interact with your reviewers, their audience will notice and you then break down the invisible wall between author and reader.
Interaction is so important. The more connection the readers feel towards you, the greater their influence will be. It just makes sense. I would promote my best friend (or even the random writer I met once at a writer’s meeting) before I’d promote a stranger. Relationship builds trust. When you fail to publicly thank a reviewer for reading your book, you miss an opportunity.
9. They can make you a household name
You can actually track a reviewer’s influence online, but what you may not recognize is that these are opinionated people who likely share their opinions outside of the blogosphere. They have influence at the gym, in their churches, at the school yard, in their work place, at mommy’s night out, at sport’s games and various other events. At some appropriate setting your book may be the basis of their conversation. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been to dinner with friends and something in the conversation will bring me back to “That reminds me of this book I just read . . .” Don’t underestimate that influence that you can’t see.
10. The reviewers who love your writing will become your greatest cheerleaders, urging you to keep writing.
This is my favorite part. Sure, I love the promotion. The high rating make me grin for days, but what truly touches my heart is when a reader sends me a private note. I recently received a private Facebook message that began “I just finished the book....tell me there will be a sequel”. This makes me over-the-moon happy. When I want to quit, when I feel insecure and my inner critic is tying me in knots, I can look at that message and remind myself that I have readers itching for my next book. I have to get this done. I owe them. It’s an outstanding motivator for me.
Now, you probably noticed that one BIG thing is not on my list, sales. Many authors see reviews as just a way to make sales. Unfortunately, there is no credible evidence that a review promotes a sale. The sale could occur because that reviewer made your book viral and people who saw it purchased. The sale could be a result of that table conversation over dinner that piqued someone’s interest and led them to buy a copy. It could be a result of the primary blog post or even your own marketing efforts that did the trick. You won’t know for sure. Hear my heart on this: A reviewer’s primary mission is not to sell your book, but to share their thoughts on it with their audience. This is enough. Knowledge is power and (more often than not) knowledge means sales.