The day I let my kids in on my dream

ready to fly Today I sat down with my kids to have a little chat with them over a cherry smoothie and those veggie snacks that taste like greasy air (oh, is it just me? my kids love them, but ew.)

I don't always sit down with them to eat during the day because I'm usually doing like five other things while eating or drinking. But today, I sat. I think they all knew we were going to talk about something because they looked at me expectantly.

"What do you think I wanted to be when I grew up when I was a little girl?" I asked them. They were a bit dumbfounded by this question actually and I had to help them out a bit.

"Do you think I wanted to be a mommy?" They nodded enthusiastically. "Yep, I did. Do you think I wanted to be anything else along with that?"

They  mumbled a few answers (I think Gigi mentioned teacher, which was a pretty good guess, and I think Brody mentioned cowgirl. Okay then.) and then Hallee, 3.5, said, "Work? Like on your computer?"

I smiled. "Do you know what I do on my computer?"

Gigi knew this answer. "Blogging?"

"And what is blogging?" I asked her.

"Talking to people? And writing stuff?" I think she gets the basic gist. ;) But I tried explaining it a bit more, and then I went on to tell them that, guess what! Mommy actually always had a dream of writing something else... books! So when I blog, I do it both to encourage people (hopefully) and also to practice writing so that I can someday (hopefully) achieve that dream of writing books.

letting the kids in on my dreaming

And then I went on to share a little more of my heart with them. It went something like this.

I'm trying to work on being more present with you during our days together. To really focus on you guys and be there when you need me or when you want to show me something or talk about something. I want to do my best to really be with you when I'm with you, ya know? {Nods around the table.}

We do lots of fun things together, right? The beach, the park, school, playing outside, reading books, having playdates etc, etc, etc. But sometimes I need you to occupy yourselves, right? Be creative, read a book, play with toy, stuff like that.

And since I'm trying to be more intentional about this, I'm also going to ask that you give me some time to work on my writing dreams too. When do you think I do this? Yep, early in the morning, during quiet play time, and sometimes (when I'm not too tired) after you're in bed. So when I ask you to occupy yourselves for some afternoon play time after we've done lots of fun things together all morning, does that seem fair?

They nodded again and answered affirmatively. It was a good conversation.

I'm hoping that laying this foundation will help them see that as a mom it's okay to have dreams still and to work towards those. I'm also hoping that during this season of Lent I can die to myself a little more in my parenting.

I didn't give something up for Lent, but instead I'm digging in here, trying to be more intentional and more available in my mothering. Be all there, and then not feel guilty when I take some time for myself as well.

During the season of Lent, we try to give things up to train our raw fingers to let go of old ways. But to reconcile with God and to breathe in the springtime, we have to do more than just let go. We have to replace our icy vices with the good, warm things of God...

This lenten season, let’s do more than suspend our vices—let’s run to Christ. Let’s be brave, come out of hiding, and be reconciled to Him. ~SheReadsTruth's Lent study, Day 3

The day I let my kids in on my dream

I scratched out this post on February 19th and since then I've gotten into a good groove of intentionally leaning in with my kids while also carving out time to work on my own writing. I don't feel like I've "arrived," but I do feel like the days go smoother when I intentionally decide whether I'm focusing on the kids or my own work (whether that's writing, housework, communication with other adults, or whatever) for the time being, rather than always trying to multitask.

Last week I submitted my first short story for a writing contest, and it was really cool to be able to share with my kids this little milestone and know that they are along for the ride on this dream journey of mine. 

Leaving auto for manual: thoughts on stepping out

Leaving auto for manual and other thoughts on stepping out My friend Kacy has a phrase she has used a lot-- leaving comfort for courage-- that has always stuck with me. Isn't that just how we are to live? Outside our comfort zone, being courageous in the face of what may come, being bold, and strong in grace and in the gospel.

from auto to manual-1

It might be a stretch to make this analogy, but bear with me here. I recently started shooting photos on manual. This month's 10 on 10 was my first all-manual set. On Sunday, we spent a family day at the beach for my birthday (it was a gloriously lovely simple day).

from auto to manual-2

The fog rolled in thick and low, while the brightness of the sun still fought to shine through, making the lighting incredibly tricky.

from auto to manual-3

For quite a while now I've been shooting on A which means that I adjust the shutter speed but my trusty camera figures out the rest for me. It was a good stepping stone, but I've been standing there perched for far too long. (Professional photography is not my goal; I just want to learn how to use my camera better and get the most out of my photos.)

from auto to manual-4

I decided it was time to jump off that step and just start doing my best to set the camera right (armed with a couple of ebooks on photography and a skilled brother as references).

from auto to manual-5

I made a lot of mistakes and had to reset the camera with almost every shot. It was challenging and yet the photos that came out spark a lot of joy in me, knowing that I had to work at achieving the correct lighting.

from auto to manual-6

You know what holds me back and has me switching back to A or even to Auto in a dicey light situation? It's fear. Fear that I'll miss out on the perfect shot because I had the settings wrong.

from auto to manual-7

But the wonderful thing about digital photography is that we can take a virtually endless amount of photos (depending on media card size, of course). We just keep shooting and shooting and adjusting as we go, and checking to see if we get it right. Eventually, I think I'll get the hang of it (or I'll at least remember which way to dial the f/stops). It won't be so touch-and-go, and I'll be more confident.

from auto to manual-8

Any time we try something new, it's this similar learning curve.

from auto to manual-9

It feels like it takes this enormous amount of boldness to step out into the unknown or into a new direction, but the truth is that when we step out where God is calling us, we're stepping out onto the path that has already been prepared for us.

from auto to manual-10

We don't actually have to bolster up all this faith, all this courage, all this boldness on our own. He actually provides it for us as we go. We just have to ask for it! God's pretty great like that.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 4:14-21

A fresh start for 2015: from Gidget Goes Home to Nicole V. Bennett

Welcome to my new online home! Same me, same content; new, fresh, exciting look (and name). going boldly into 2015, one blog post at a time

It's a bit hard to believe I've been blogging for six and half years (that's gotta be like 20 in interweb years). A few months ago, I was starting to feel the spark of change barely starting to smolder.

It's like that itch I feel when I really really want to move the furniture around right now. Maybe this was inevitable since my house is too small for changing the configuration. It had to bleed over somewhere...

This time, I didn't scratch that itch right away though. I pondered a bit, prayed about my calling and direction, talked to friends and mentors, did some research, and looked for inspiration.

(Leaving my old online moniker behind is a bit scary. That name and identity were comfortable. Change is exciting, but it's also intimidating.)

It didn't take too much deliberating, because this new direction was pulling me strongly. And I already owned the domain. So I did it. What the heck! Here goes nothing! I took the plunge.

cropped-Nicole_Logo.png

I hired a very talented and sweet artist, who hand-lettered/painted my pretty logo. Don't you love it?

I'm been feverishly working to get this new blog up and running and I'll be honest, it's given me a renewed passion for blogging, taking me back to the hours I spent getting Gidget Goes Home up and running in my early online days. I've been fiddling with widgets and code and let's just say it's a bit out of my comfort zone and every time I click "save" I cross my fingers that I don't break the blog. :)

The biggest message that this re-branding says to me, to my own heart, is that I'm stepping out, making a bold statement, that I am actually pursuing this writing thing in a more intentional way.

I'm looking at myself as a writer who blogs, rather than a blogger who writes (which for me, is scarier, because the word writer feels so much more official, like it has to be earned or something).

So here I am. I'm a writer. Always have been.

A bit about the blog

I hope you like the new design-- my goal was that it was really user-friendly and that you'd be able to find your way around easier here.

You can see all my categories laid out up top in drop-down menus, and a highlighted post in each main category over on the sidebar. Down at the bottom of the page, you'll excerpts from me around social media. I even started a new Facebook page.

Maybe most exciting of all, is my updated newsletter. I've renamed it The Scoop and hope to use it a bit more this year to connect with my subscribers with special content and notes. If you haven't already, I hope you'll subscribe.

A little look back

As I say goodbye to Gidget Goes Home, I thought it'd be fun to take one last look back at some of the different styles she's worn over the years.

2008 (um, yes, that's Gigi, my seven-and-a-half-year old)

gidgetheader

2009

GGHnewheadermay09

2010

GGHnewheadermay10

2011

ggh-header-sept2011

2012

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 10.32.11 AM

2013

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 1.26.28 PM

Thanks for being here, reading along, whether it's since the beginning, or just recently. I'm grateful for each one of you, for the ministry God's given me here, and for His calling on my life to use this blog for fun and for His glory.

xoxo,

nicole :)

P.S. I appreciate your patience as I iron out the kinks. Please feel free to email me if you see any broken links or anything looking wonky.

This is how I know I'm a writer

I love to read, and I have a real love for books. The earliest memory I have of loving a book is first grade, when I fell in love with Harriet the Spy. I loved how she kept a journal and took notes as she observed the world and the people around her.

And I remember how proud I felt when I wrote my first book that year in school-- it was "bound" and covered in rose-colored contact paper and told a story of a panda who was happily surprised to have a baby (seriously).

In junior high, my dad and little brother played hockey and we were obsessed with The Mighty Ducks. I wrote my first (unfinished) novel about a girl who played hockey. I think I sensed, even at a young age, that I was designed for this, created to string words together in one way or another -- be it a novel, a thank you note, a research paper, or a poem for my kids. Like others, I'm realizing, that it has always helped me process my thoughts and feelings to write them out.

The more I read books, watch movies, and observe stories unfolding around me in real life, the more I feel the tug to write. To write blog posts, articles, stories, memoirs, even just to narrate my own life in my head (I really do that, but only after I read a novel whose voice I really connect with or like).

I can't read, watch, or observe without thinking about writing. That's how I know I'm a writer..jpg

That's how I know I'm a writer; because I can't read or watch or observe without thinking about writing. I think about all those who have gone before me as writers and what that looked like for them, whether it was ink on parchment or fingers on keys, I wonder how they constructed such a plot (and thought of such a twist!), or whether they took lots of notes while they traveled, or what inspired their story.

I read a lot in the cracks of the day, early in the morning, and late at night. And I can't read without longing to write.

Of course, I'm a mom in the trenches, too. I've got mouths to feed, lessons to teach, playdates, and activities to drive to, but underneath it all, I think I really am a writer.

I feel a little brave and audacious saying that out loud here on the internet: {I'm a writer.} I feel like I'm daring myself to believe it and to walk forward in that truth.

****

Have you heard of MOOCs? MOOC stands for massive open online course and the classes are taught by real professors through real universities. My husband has been taking free classes on line for "fun" for a couple of years now. His usually have to do with programming or statistics or something nerdy like that. :)

I'm starting one this weekend called How Writers Write Fiction through the Writing University, which is part of The University of Iowa.

****

Books to inspire me to be more brave that I'm reading (or will be soon):

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman

The War of Art: Break Through Your Blocks and Win Your Creative Battles by Steven Pressman

Glitter in the Blood: A Poet's Manifesto for Better, Braver Writing by Mindy Nettifee

You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins

****

Tomorrow starts October, and I'm hoping to join in with the other 31 dayers to (casually) process this a bit more. Not writing itself per se, but well, you'll see... :)

Affiliate links included. Thanks for your support!

My first Jane Austen Society event

IMG_8815 When I decided to start the book club, it only seemed fitting that I also venture out and meet up with some other serious Jane-ites. So in December I somehow found a way to squeeeeze in a little morning out to celebrate Jane's birthday with some other ladies in my local JASNA chapter..

IMG_8813

IMG_8814

There was tea, an abundance of snacks, Jane-related gifts and even a few people dressed in regency attire.

IMG_8008

I happen to have an empire-waisted maxi dress that my mom bought me that actually looked quite regency-esque in context.

This is the dress (I also wore it to a Cru vision dinner recently, so this is a photo, with a dear friend of mine, from that event).

For Jane's party I wore it with a long-sleeve white tee shirt under it.

We played a few games to honor Jane-- it was truly like a classy grown-up birthday party. The first was a guess-which-JA-character I am ice breaker. We each had a name tag with a quote by or about a character. I felt like I picked a pretty obvious one, can you guess who I was?  (I'll give the answer in the comments).

"Nobody can tell what I suffer! But it is always so. Those who do not complain are never pitied."

We also played a game of charades. Regency charades are actually word riddles; it's the modern game we play where we act words out silently. Some of these were quite tricky. Our group solved a few of them... naturally, when I quizzed David later, he was able to figure out all but one (he's a clever one). Are you in the book club? I'm going to share a few over there for fun.

IMG_8819

Then we worked on "translating" a letter Jane wrote to one of her nieces- she wrote each word backwards, showing what a fun, playful aunt she was (something that I feel like Elizabeth Bennett would have done).

IMG_8817

Other than one other younger girl who came with her mother, I was definitely the youngest one there. But I loved it! The ladies (actually there were also a couple of gentlemen there!) were all so sweet and welcoming, and they truly had a love for Jane. I really do think I'll be joining JASNA and returning again.

Have any of you Jane fans been to a JASNA event? Local friends, who wants to come with me next time?

On defining myself as a writer {and am I ever going to write that ebook?}

one day

When I think about writing, I vacillate a lot about what kind of writing I want to do, and what I actually do as well. I've always wanted to be a writer, from as long as I can remember.

In college, I started out as a journalism major, and that writing style was ruined for me by one bad class and a professor I didn't like. But I also realized I didn't just want to report the facts. I like adjectives and creative syntax and exclamation points too much.

I never even considered English Lit even though my high school English classes were among my favorite. I think my adolescent rebellion kept me from pursuing English (because that was my mom's major in college and heaven forbid I follow in her footsteps), although in retrospect that may have been the best path for me.

In the end I went with another favorite subject, and it turned out to be a great fit for me. I studied Modern Languages & Literature and developed a real passion for language and linguistics and wrote a ton about Spanish, Latin American and even French literature.

But now that my passion for those subjects has waned a bit, I find myself going back to my roots of just wanting to write. My background and experience would make nonfiction a good fit for me, although I don't feel called to write about a certain topic, and writing a novel has always been a dream. Lately I'm most intrigued by memoirs although I don't feel like I have something particularly memorable to write about right now.

Reading Shauna Niequist is inspiring me that I don't need one Big Thing to make my life book-worthy, but maybe just a lifetime of ordinary bits of beauty is enough. Reading Cold Tangerines feels like the word version of 10 on 10 and I'm loving it.

Right now, I'm in the trenches of motherhood, and while some women successfully juggle that career along with a writing one, I don't see myself as being that disciplined or motivated. So I'm taking my time right now. Over the next few years my goals are to hone my craft a bit, maybe narrow down what my actual writing goals really look like, and seek out what God would have me do with my words. And just write.

Oh, and that ebook I've mentioned. I really do want to get going on that and actually release it later this year. Finding the time when I actually feel motivated and my kids are occupied or taken care of is challenging though. Writing the Sewing School eBook is not going to fulfill my writing dream per se, but I do feel like it's a great first step.

 I've been reading through Self-Publish by Erin Ulrich and Teri Lynne Underwood and it's been a really practical and inspiring guide. I feel like I really don't know what I'm doing in the self-publishing realm so it's nice to feel like I have a couple of coaches walking me through the process.

This resources of course provide babysitting, but I figure if I can find myself more equipped and motivated then maybe I can steal time here and there to get the project done. I'll keep you updated as I go, and maybe a little accountability (i.e. writing about my goals here) will also serve to inspire.

 I know some of you are writers or have writing aspirations. I'd love to hear what some of your goals are and how you're working toward them. Maybe that will inspire me or help me define myself as a writer a bit more.

What I'm Into...

Magazine readers I can't seem to stop sharing good things with you. It makes sense, because for all the years that I've been subscribing to Martha Stewart, her Good Things section has always been the most fun part of the magazine for me.

And I'm trying out another new (to me) linky, since I had so much fun with sharing what I learned in June. If I keep going with both of these memes, I suppose I'll need to differentiate them a bit, but for now, bear with me if this post seems a bit reminiscent of my last one. So without further adieu...

Read and Reading

I came to a realization last week. I'm not really in a good season for fun fiction, as I like to call it. I have this problem where I get so immersed in a book that I can't really think about anything else until I finish it. It's --ahem-- not very conducive to running a household and taking care of kids.  So, I might take a break from reading so much fun fiction. I'm in love with memoirs right now, and they read at a pace where real life seems to be within reach between chapters, which seems sorta important.

Yesterday's Tomorrow

yesterdays-tomorrowI think this last book I read was what really did me in. Yesterday's Tomorrow was intense and there was really no way I was going to drag out reading it over a period of days or weeks. With a father-in-law who served in Vietnam and an interest in journalism (I almost majored in it), I was drawn into the story basically couldn't put it down.

Author Catherine West did a wonderful job developing her characters-- they were very raw and real. Their relationship intrigued me and the complications they had to overcome surprised me. The wartime setting made the book an obvious page-turner, but it was also the characters that made me want to read more, to watch them grow and change and experience life, love and a deep sense of God's sovereignty. This may not be a relax-on-the-beach type of book but I wholeheartedly recommend it to fans of adventurous romance stories.

Vietnam, 1967. Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father’s memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother’s wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he’s hiding something. Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they’re forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

Thanks to Litfuse for the review copy.

IMG_5934

Currently Reading

Been working on these a while now: The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Desperate (Sarah Mae & Sally Clarkson), Toujours Provence (Peter Mayle), Nurture by Nurture (need to pick this one back up!); recently borrowed from a friend: Cold Tangerines (Shauna Niequist); picked up at the library: Food Rules (Michael Pollan).

TV

Can't stop watching Hart of Dixie. Sad to be almost done with Season 1 because Season 2 is not on Netflix yet. Still working our way through the new Arrested Development-- I still see it as a darker version of the original, but we're enjoying it nonetheless. And of course, the Dodgers are a constant in this house. You've never really experienced baseball unless you've watched/listened to Vin Scully call a game.

The kids and I are now obsessed and in love with Olive Us (thanks, Melissa!). I can't recommend these adorable short videos enough. It has also inspired me to get back to editing our own little home videos that have been waiting patiently in the recesses of my computer for the last couple of years.

Movies

We haven't watched much of note lately, although last weekend I watched What to Expect When You're Expecting with a girlfriend and enjoyed it-- wasn't expecting (no pun intended) the sweet adoption storyline. Seeing Dennis Quaid (who I normally love) play a jerk was a bit of a shocker though. I always love movies with a million little storylines that eventually converge (is there a name for that kind of movie?).

Music

Do you ever get overwhelmed with the prospect choosing something out of pretty much all the music in the world? (I'm talking about Spotify of course.) Sometimes I just don't even know what to listen to. But lately, I can't seem to get enough of Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, and Joao Gilberto. My username is nicoleakagidget there.

Also of note, while not technically music, is a fun podcast I started listening to on our recent road trip: Spilled Milk. Just think a dude and a girl (both married to other people, both quite funny), exploring various food topics. David and I did the shared-ear-buds thing (which was very romantic until he had to turn his heads to change lanes) and listened to a few of them together on the drive.

Things I love:

~ The Honest Company. I think I'll write about this more later but if you are looking for quality disposable diapers (i.e. not chemically-laden), these are an adorable option. I'm loving everything I try from Honest so far (including their sunscreen and I'm a stickler on that one).

Hallee's Bummis

~ Bummis swimwear. I was sent this adorable swim outfit for Hallee to try out and I just love it. The velcro swim diaper is easy to get off and on and doesn't store tons of water like some other reusable swim diapers do, she actually keeps the hat on for a while and the rashie is nice and thick which I know means good sun coverage (and less sunscreen to apply!).

~ Staying with friends on road trips. Enjoying other people's hospitality and having so much quality time with friends is such a treat.

~ Seeing David with his buddies from the days of old like happened last weekend. Wish we could live closer to all the fine folks we visited.

Gigi and baby Charlotte

~ My baby nephew and my baby niece who are both equally squishy, cuddly and just plain cute. I can't wait to hold them again!! (But no, I don't want any more babies of my own). ;)

Molly and me

~ Instagram friends who become real-life friends. My brother can back me up here. Meeting the lovely Molly and her family was such a fun treat, she is a true kindred spirit!

Sparklers!

~ Sparklers!! This is a pretty novel thing to me because home fireworks are not legal where I live (fire hazard anyone?), but they are super fun, and our kids loved experiencing them (Gigi was a little unsure but warmed up a bit).

In the blogosphere

Back in the day you could "share" things on Google Reader and that was how I kept track of inspiring blog posts I found elsewhere. That's been gone quite a while and now Reader itself has gone the way of the buffalo. I'm reading blogs in Feedly now and will try to stay more up-to-date on sharing worthwhile blog posts on my Tumblr page or occasionally on Facebook.

Yesterday I had my monthly post on Simple Mom, where I shared how to make the adorable yo-yo earrings that I often get compliments on. It's a quick and easy project!

What are you into?? 

Linking up (eventually, I'm a bit early) with Hopeful Leigh.

What I'm Into at HopefulLeigh
This post has affiliate links in it. Thank you for clicking them and supporting my work here. xo