Looking for God

This afternoon I was sitting on my porch watching the prelude of an August storm bend the tree trunks in my front yard. The wind tossed the leaves and snapped the American flag hanging from the eaves so hard that my dog tucked his tail between his legs and pawed the front door. Thunder rumbled overhead and I leaned back in my rocker and soaked it in. This is my favorite weather. The only air that feels better than the air right before the storm is the air that comes right after. New air. Swift air. Air that rushes in, shakes everything up and makes the world clean again.

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As I was savoring the drop in barometric pressure I remembered that my friend told me that thunder is God’s Testimony. Could there be a more wonderful way to think of thunder?

God: I LIVE.

The more I watch the people around me the more I am convinced that you cannot find the answers to spiritual questions on the internet. The only thing you will find are the musings of others.

But when I am outside, my thoughts become my thoughts again. Ever since I was a child I have felt God’s presence when I am outside. But we don’t go outside as often anymore. (At least not in August, in the South.) We stay inside with all of our man-made stuff looking into our man-made screens, and we start to believe the lie that the things our brains have made are the most sophisticated things in the world, and that we can learn anything the internet.

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But, of course they aren’t and we can’t, because people are just people after all. So when I get these moments outside, especially on gusty, stormy afternoons like this, I am reminded of His presence again. I can hear His testimony. And His testimony isn’t just in the thunder. It is in a leaf. It is in a bumblebee. It is in everything. Like any great carpenter he left his signature all around us, reminding us that not only He created this world, but that he lives, and that someday he’ll come back.

If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words. But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.   Alma 30:44

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The Last Messenger: FAQs

It is one month until my book The Last Messenger of Zitol will be released. I’ve been getting questions from people about the book so I thought it was time to make sure everyone knew what was up. Here is are my best answers to the most frequently asked questions:

I ordered the book a month ago, why hasn’t it come?

Because you are an early bird! The official release date is September 13th. You will probably get the book earlier than that if you pre-ordered it, but probably not until at least Aug 30. (And you can still pre-order! If you order today you will get a 19% discount!)

On Goodreads I see that some people have already read the book and posted reviews. How can that be if the book hasn’t been released yet?

During the editing process I sent out some Advance Readers Copies (ARCs) to a limited number of people to give it an early review. Some of these people I knew, and some were complete strangers. These copies were not proofread yet, and not ready to be seen by a wide audience, but they helped give me an idea of what the response will be to the book. You can check out their reviews on Goodreads here.

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Can I order it now?

Yes! click here. It will be delivered around the release date, Sept 13.

What is your target audience?

Anyone who enjoys reading Young Adult fiction. People who will particularly enjoy it are: teenage girls, teenage boys, anyone who has ever been in love, anyone who has looked up at the stars, anyone who has paddled a canoe in the ocean, and anyone who loves chocolate. I would definitely recommend this book for mother/daughter book clubs.

Is this book a sequel to your first book The Cenote?

Nope. But, like The Cenote, this book was inspired by the Aztec and Maya cultures of ancient Mexico. The setting for The Cenote was a small village, but The Last Messenger takes place in a dazzling ancient American city at the pinnacle of its prosperity.

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Is this book an allegorical novel like The Cenote?

Yes and no. The main message of this book is a little more obvious than the more covert message of The Cenote, but I love books that take some deciphering, so I included plenty of allegories, metaphors and symbolism for you to savor and mull over.

Tell me what the book is about in one sentence.

This book is a young adult romance/adventure/coming-of-age-story about a girl who is kidnapped and taken away to a faraway city to be sacrificed to the gods.

What point of view is the story told in? 

The story is told in 1st person, from the perspective of a selfish prince.

Will there be a party? 

Yes! There will be a party/book-signing in September here in Hillsborough, NC. More info TBA.

That is all I can think of for now. Did you have a question I didn’t answer? Ask it in the comments and I will get back with you asap!

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Rowing Off Into the Sunset

So there once was a mom who was jealous of her kids.

She was jealous because they got to have piano lessons and violin lessons and swimming lessons and soccer and tennis and etcetera.  The mom watched them learning all of these wonderful things and she wanted to learn something, too. So she decided to sign up for lessons of her own.

IMG_9127She had had her eye on rowing for a long time, and finally a friend told her about a nearby masters crew club that had lessons for novices. The only requirements were that you have to be fit, know how to swim (no one wears life jackets), and you have to be able to lift 40 pounds over your head and walk 75 yards. (The team carries the very long and heavy boat from the boathouse to the water.)

She had the first two requirements down, but she was a little nervous about the last one. (Have you seen the size of her arms? They are like broomsticks!) IMG_9105

Fortunately for her, she was not as tall as the other rowers and once they had the boat over their heads she couldn’t even reach it. A lucky break!IMG_9111

The coach was a fountain of rowing knowledge, and most of the other women were experienced rowers so there was nothing to fear. (Except catching a crab, which she did on the third day of practice. Yikes!)

There were lots new things to learn. Anyone even casually familiar with boats knows that when facing the bow the right side is starboard and the left side is port. But in a row boat you are all facing backwards. So your left side is starboard and your right side is port. It took some getting used to.

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The coach was careful to teach by degrees . . . Sometimes only two rowers would row while the other rowers kept the boat set with their oars. Then the coach increased it to four, and the six. When it wasn’t her turn to row the star of our story would close her eyes and pretend like she was Cleopatra going down the Nile.

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I am in seat number 5, right in the middle with the white hat.

It wasn’t until the third practice that the coach allowed all eight rowers to row and she could now understand why her coach had added rowers by degrees. Eight people rowing with no one to set the boat was quite exciting! And a little chaotic, at first. But eventually she got the hang of it.

IMG_9113The whole experience was a little dream come true and definitely one to repeat in the future. But now it is back to taking the kids to lessons, and watching them grow and learn. Which is not so bad, especially when you have a view like this:

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Book Review: The Sacred Gift of Childbirth

I was asked to review this book for a very good friend. First I will give my review, and then, if you want to read on, I will tell you a birth story of my own and why this book really made an impression on me.

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Every woman who delivers her child naturally gets to the point in her labor where she believes she can’t do it anymore. As miserable as that sounds, this is a wonderful event because soon thereafter she will prove herself wrong.  –Marie-Ange Bigelow

Written by an experienced doula, The Sacred Gift of Childbirth by Marie-Ange Bigelow is an empowering tool to help any mother prepare herself emotionally and spiritually for the event of childbirth. Although the intended audience is LDS women, I think any woman expecting a child can learn valuable insights from this book.

Many women, including myself, go into childbirth with the mindset that as long as everyone is alive and healthy in the end it is has been a successful experience. But this author suggests that modern women are missing a major part of the joy of the birth experience when they decide to use pain medication, and that unnecessary medical intervention can dull or even eclipse what she calls the natural “birth high.” She reminds us that giving birth is the most intuitive thing our bodies can do, and that most women need little if any medical intervention. The pain from the birth experience is a divinely designed process to endow a new mother with an overwhelming and powerful love for her child from the very beginning.

I have five children, and I had an epidural with each one. I don’t feel that any of my kids’ births was a negative experience; they were all exciting and joyous, and epidurals are exquisite. But as I read this book I couldn’t help thinking that even my wonderful births could have been even more meaningful if I had been more willing to accept that I have an innate ability to bear children without pain medication. I appreciated that the author never made me feel guilty for having pain medication, instead she left me with the inspiration that with the right support I could have done it with flying colors.

I also appreciated the fact that the author had a section for new fathers. She says, “For the majority of men, supporting a woman though a birth goes against their nature. Men are fixers, yet a husband cannot step in and “fix” a birth.” With this in mind, she gives a list of very helpful ways the father can be involved in the birthing process as a support and protector. I think any man does better when he is given a task or a role in the process. Otherwise he has little to do but sleep, pace, or—like my husband—pass out.

I wish I had had this book 13 years ago when I first started having kids. It comes a little late for me now (I am 38 years old and 95% sure that I am finished having kids, but you never know) but it is not too late for many other soon-to-be moms out there.

You can purchase Marie’s book here, and here is a link to her beautiful website.

My story 

I had planned from the beginning to bear children the natural, old fashioned way. But that idea was thrown out the window the moment I discovered I was going to have TWINS. After that the desire for an epidural became a no-brainer. I didn’t even consider natural childbirth, even though my next three births, were pretty much textbook, low-risk deliveries. I went into each subsequent birth depending on the arrival of the anesthesiologist, having pretty much no faith in my own strength and stamina.

Because of this, when my fifth child was about to be born and the anesthesiologist was stuck in the OR, I felt real fear. I was not prepared to have a baby on my own and I remember thinking: This is my fifth child, how can I be so scared when this is something I’ve already done so many times? By this time I had conditioned myself to need pain medication. The contractions were coming more frequently and they were worse than I ever remembered. It was so painful that I felt that the birth must be imminent, even though my midwife said I wasn’t ready. Then, about the time of my worst contractions, my husband feinted in the bathroom and had to be revived. At least five people arrived to help him recover, but still no anesthesiologist for me!

Looking back, I believe I was very close to having the baby, and I am confident in retrospect that I could have done it with out medication. What I needed was someone to be there to tell me that I could do it. If the midwife had looked into my eyes and said, “Anesthesiologist, schmanethesiologist. You have born twins and two other children. Your body knows how to do this, even if you don’t. I know you have what it takes to do this and I’m going to be here every step of the way to make sure you can.” Instead she said, “Sorry, hon, I don’t know what is taking that anesthesiologist so long! I called him two hours ago!”

Eventually the anesthesiologist arrived. “Sorry I’m late!” he said. “I’ll give you the big dose.” And let me tell you, it was big and it was dreamy. . . and the contractions came to a screeching halt. Then my husband went to sleep, the midwife disappeared, and I was left in the dark for 6 hours until they gave me pitocin in the morning and I had the baby. It was wonderful to have Levi here, and in the end I was perfectly satisfied with everything about my birth. We all lived, right?

But then came the headache . . .

The next day I developed the most painful headache I have ever had. Every time I sat up it was as if someone had replaced the back of my skull with a red hot sheet of metal. The pressure was searing. Only when I was laying down did I feel a small measure of relief.

Turns out I had a spinal headache, a complication that happens to a small percentage of mothers who get epidurals. I could not sit up for more than a minute without intense pain. They released me from the hospital and Scott drove me home with my seat reclined all the way. I didn’t get out of bed or off the couch for three days because it was impossible for my head to be in an upright position, and I nursed laying down. Scott did everything else. Luckily the headache wore off on the fourth day and I didn’t have to get a blood patch, but even now I still wake up in the morning sometimes feeling the pressure in the back of my head. And it makes me wonder, how would it have been different if I had had someone there to tell me that I could get through the pain on my own like the millions and millions of women who have done it for thousands of years?

As usual, we can always do more than we think we can. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves the opportunity.

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Giveaway! Contest! Win! Win!

Hi everyone! Over the next two weeks I will be having a Goodreads Giveaway! (For real, this time!)

Five lucky people will receive a FREE, SIGNED copy of The Cenote, no strings attached. All you have to do is click on “Enter Giveaway” in the widget below and follow the instructions. That is it!

After June 4 five random winners will be selected and I will mail you a signed copy of The Cenote. But wait–you already have a copy? No problem! Just forward this to a friend or family member so they can enter the contest.

This is the first giveaway I’ve done (sorry it took so long!) and if goes well there will be an even BIGGER giveaway for my next book, The Last Messenger of Zitol when it comes out in September. So stay tuned!! Everybody loves free books!

(Have I told you The Cenote is a great bookclub book? I’m about to go to visit my fifth bookclub for this book next month!!)

 Goodreads Book Giveaway
The Cenote by Chelsea Dyreng

The Cenote

by Chelsea Dyreng

Giveaway ends June 04, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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Teaching Children Obedience and Other Great Mysteries

If there is one thing that gives me panic attacks it is reading parenting books.

Once I read one about raising sons. In it the author encouraged mothers to develop a Look. Some kind of glance, some sort of frown, some frigid, I-am-this-close-to-mailing-you-to-Australia facial expression that would strike instant repentance in the heart of even the most mischievous boy. I practiced The Look in the mirror until I scared myself, and then vowed to incorporate The Look into my parenting as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

Recently I took my kids up to D.C. to see the sights with my sister. My husband had a business conference and could not join us, so it was I, the single mother, who felt the awesome responsibility of preserving her offspring from a myriad of metropolitan dangers.

I wasn’t worried about my three older daughters (a mistake, as you will soon see), since it was my two younger sons (ages 6 and 2) that were the main source of my anxiety.

The Look was a major part of my method.

First there were the metro trains. (Don’t get too close to the tracks–you’ll get electrocuted. Hurry on, hurry off–you don’t want to be left on the train by yourself! Don’t stick your hand out and touch the trains while they are moving, unless you want to look like a pirate for the rest of your life. STAY RIGHT HERE ON THIS LINE until I am done with this gosh-dang-it-ticket machine.)

And there were the streets. (Get off that ledge. Look both ways. Just because you can see the car doesn’t mean it can see you. Hold my hand. I’m serious, you have to hold it or your head will be smashed like a pumpkin.)

And there were the museums. (Stay by me. Don’t get separated. Don’t climb on the statue. Wash your hands. Don’t crawl under the bathroom stalls! Wash your hands again. Please.)

All the while The Look was heavily employed.

Then we went to the International Spy Museum, and while I was engrossed in Looking at my two younger sons, my phone buzzed. It was my 9-year-old daughter calling from a stranger’s cell phone, informing me that she had been lost . . . .for the last 45 minutes.  I eventually found her, teary and trembling, in the part of the museum called “Behind Enemy Lines.”

After that I hovered over everyone, slathering The Look over my children like poisoned peanut butter, and after three days of non-stop anxiety in Washington DC The Look had become my face. I felt like was trying to gather my children like a protective hen gathers her chicks, but to my children I seemed more like Cruella DeVil trying gather puppies. It is no wonder that when we got on the Metro my kids fanned out among the seats to be as far away from me as possible. At one point my six-year-old son turned to me and said, “Next time we come to D.C. I want it to just be me and DAD.”

 

Another Reason to Hate Little Dogs and Love Little Boys

A couple weeks after the Washington D.C. Naggathon, it was Sunday and time for church. It was a rare morning when my husband didn’t have early meetings and we were going to go to church together as a family in one car! Yippie!

Normally I leave for church 45 minutes early, even though the church is 15 minutes away. Why? Because it takes 15 minutes to get from the door of our house into the car. I’m not sure why, but everyone, myself included, has to go back and get something, and sometimes several somethings, before we are actually settled in the car. And what about the other 15 minutes, you say? I also have to allow 15 minutes for the ritual “dog escape” that happens Every. Sunday. Morning.

Inevitably, when the door of the house is opening and closing so many times in succession the dog will find an opportunity to escape and then we have to catch him. The dog was getting faster and faster and running further and further until this particular Sunday when I had not allowed for my extra 15 “dog escape” minutes, and on cue, the dog escaped. There was no time for this circus, so I told everyone to get in the car anyway, the dog will just have to face the consequences of running away: abandonment. No food. No water. No love. For five hours. Because that is how long Mormons are at church. (We tell people it is three, but it is really five.)

But my son didn’t listen. “I’ll get him!” He shouted as he ran after the dog down the driveway. “No! Stop! Come back!” I called. I put my hands on my hips and gave him my most deadly Look but he was already gone, running across the street, up the hill and disappearing into the trees.

Now I had a runaway dog and a runaway son. Nothing obeys me!

Alas, we would have to take two cars after all. I took the rest of the kids to church, and left my husband to stay behind and find our son and dog.

Eventually my husband and son made it to church, and I silently noted that my son was wearing a different set of clothes that I had ironed and put on him that morning.

When I got home and found the original set of church clothes, caked with mud, on top of the washing machine, I couldn’t suppress my smile and admiration for a son who is willing to chase down a runaway dog no matter what the distance or terrain. What determination. What tenacity! What a great sense of responsibility. With all of those great virtues, who cares about obedience?

Kidding.

We recently went to Kohls and found the perfect shirt for Danny: IMG_8400As you can see, he was totally excited about it.

But we ended up getting him a shirt that says “Nothing But Awesome,” which is more his style.

As for The Look, after much experimentation I have found it is not very effective, for, not long after I had started using The Look I found that my son developed his own Look, so that when I narrow my eyes and draw my lips into a tight line, his smile widens, his eyes sparkle, his cheeks get all rosy and, ever so slightly, one eyebrow lifts.

Do you know how hard it is to glare at someone who looks at you like that? Especially when he has golden eyes and long black eyelashes?

So now here I am typing this at the foot of my son’s bed. He is asleep now, and since one cannot disobey when they are asleep, it is most likely he will live for at least another 12 hours.

How do six-year-old boys ever make it to seven? To ten? To sixteen? But then, when I am around people who have sixteen-year-olds it makes me oh so grateful Danny is still little enough that when we are mad at each other I can pick him up and flip him upside down and hold him until he is laughing.

Perhaps I am making this too complicated. Maybe instead of giving The Look I need to focus on giving The Smile.

Luckily, tomorrow is a new day. Tonight I will review my parenting approach, amend it, refine it, rehearse it, pray over it, etc. Perhaps I will even spend some time in front of the mirror and practice my smile. And tomorrow I will try again.

And if you see happen to see a child running though the streets after a dog, please send him home. You can keep the dog.

 

 

 

 

 

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Chelsea Dyreng – Author Interview

My first author interview in Canadian.😉

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What are the odds that out of the two interviews I’ve conducted that both would include the word “milpa”? Read on to find out more about The Cenote by Chelsea Dyreng – a Mesoamerican mystery filled with love, secrets and corn.

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