Sunday, September 29, 2013

Choosing Sides

I was pretty young when I first heard the saying, "Love is a choice." I thought it was stupid. I thought there is no way to simply decide to love someone; that you either did or didn't. It wasn't as simple as choosing to make meatloaf for dinner. If you choose to love this person then you will. Also, you will be eating meatloaf.

I had a lot to learn.

You see, the saying isn't "To Love Someone is a choice" - it's "LOVE is a choice."

It's right there.
All you have to do is choose it.

And to understand that you have to understand what all your other choices are: love, yes. But also hate. Or cruelty. Or indifference. Or  avoidance.

See, at any moment, in any given situation, you have sitting before you a table dressed in emotions. It's yours for the taking - what are you going to pick?

Standing in a line that's way too long, in the hot sun, tired and sore, just wanting a drink of water, and you see three women nudge their way in front of a group of people ahead of you. They're lost in conversation and don't see the slip. But you do. And you're angry and annoyed because, seriously? You have been standing there for the past 45 minutes. Who do they think they are disrespecting everyone else like that? This isn't right! Something needs to be said!

And I'm not saying it doesn't need to be said... but I'm telling you that this is when you look over that table and see what's being served: anger? Hate? Rage? Or that one plate in the middle, the one shining in light? The one labeled LOVE?

And when you don't care for that girl your son is dating - the one with the kids and who obviously doesn't take commitment seriously - well, yes, you do have every right to discuss your concerns. But do you choose to do it with love? Or do you pick up that disgusting plate in the corner labeled HATE that smells of rotting eggs and start hurling insults and rude comments instead?

Love is a choice.

I never began to understand that more than when Avery died.

Because even with every step of this grief journey that table is laid before me. And there are times when it's tempting to just pick up the ANGER plate - because that one always seems to be placed in the most convenient spot and is the lightest to pick up. It doesn't take much energy to lift up anger. But that LOVE plate - it's so heavy. That love is overflowing everywhere and you have to use two hands and - well, sometimes it's just harder to choose LOVE.

But I do it. Every single time I go for that LOVE plate.

Sometimes my arms are weak and I can't seem to get a good grip and the plate falls... then I comfort myself with the VICTIM plate. (Never take too much, though. It's like caramel popcorn - it's deliciously tempting, but the whole bag at once will leave you feeling absolutely sick.)

Avery's birthday will be this Saturday. It's a day that I honestly didn't want to come because I can't imagine not having her here for her special day. We had such an incredible time on her last birthday. I cannot even begin to explain how absolutely perfect it was. And I knew it at that time. Because, at Olive Garden, I remember looking over the table at her and thinking she was growing older. I was thinking about how as girls get older they tend to not want to hang around their moms all that much anymore. And I remember thinking, "If this is the last birthday she enjoys with me, I'm pretty lucky - because this has been more than I could ever ask for!"

The next day we were at Starbucks and she decided to sit at a table by herself. I just sat and watched her and thought of how beautiful she was becoming. So grown up. I thought about how quickly time goes by and how quickly kids grow. "She's going to leave me too soon," I thought. But my mind was foolishly thinking she would fall in love with the man of her dreams and move to some faraway place to do mission work. (Ironic, isn't it? That she really has...)

 Did I know, even then, that my time with her was fleeting? Was there some whisper on my soul that was telling me to love tight because our time together was coming to an end? Something that told me to drink in every curve of her face and the sparkle in her eye because it would be a forever time before I would see her again?

Every single second of every single day I look across that table laid before me and struggle to pick up that heavy plate of LOVE. My back aches and my arms shake but I am bound and determined to choose LOVE. And so her birthday - as much as I want to hurl anger and rage and unfairness and victim - I pick up LOVE. And I will rejoice and thank God that Avery is with Him in heaven. I will rejoice and say Thank You, Lord, for those whispers on my soul that caused me to take way too many pictures and to stop and stare to soak her in.

And in the nineteen days following her birthday - when I walk those days straight toward the first anniversary of the day of her death - a day no mother should ever have to celebrate, ever - I choose to walk them with LOVE. I choose to spend those days encouraging others to spread joy and kindness and compassion so that everyone can have the strength to choose LOVE over hate. Regardless of what anyone else picks up from their plates and hurls my way.

And on the 24th of October, when I have no energy left, and it's too hard to breathe, and my heart aches for the child I can no longer hold, for a kiss I can no longer feel; when my soul is weary and I cannot stand, even then I will choose LOVE. Yes, even then.

And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these
is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Giving Thanks In

The other day I posted this on Facebook attempting to be encouraging, inspirational and faith-filled:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18] It's hard to give thanks in ALL circumstances, yet this is what God calls us to do. Sometimes, it's easier to give thanks in all the GOOD circumstances - and to complain about the yucky ones. But God tells us to give thanks ALWAYS. No matter what we're going through.

Some nights, getting a three-year old to bed leaves me feeling anything BUT thankful. I'm frustrated with his excuses, exhausted from my busy day and ready to fall into bed. It's hard to feel thankful when battling for bedtime.

Yet, there is so much to be thankful for! I have a spirited child who is healthy and strong! I have a home that keeps us warm and thick blankets to keep us warm. And I am able to use this time to practice something God always seems to remind me I need to work on - Patience!

Yes, God calls us to give thanks in ALL circumstances. It might take us a few minutes to figure out what that thanks actually is, but it IS there!

As with many things interwebby, I was asked for clarification. Specifically, the part about giving thanks in all circumstances. Because how could I give thanks to God for Avery dying? What kind of mother is thankful that her child is dead?

*Allow me to digress for a second and offer a piece of advice:
if you feel compelled to use any variation of the words 
"I just feel I need to tell you this"
before or after anything you plan to say -
don't actually say it.
Trust me.*

Once the sting subsided, I realized it actually was a legitimate question.

Let me be clear, I do not rise each morning and say, hey, God, just want to thank you that Avery died unexpectedly and I carry a lot of guilt about not letting her lay in my bed the night before she died, even though she came in my room three separate times.

I do not say, hey! Just wanted to thank you for the feelings of incredible pain and anguish and the way I have to stop myself from sobbing multiple times a day.

I do not say, hey! I just want to say thanks because now I'm saving a lot of money on Christmas presents.

I mean, really. Come on. I do not give thanks for this tragic circumstance I find myself in.

But I do believe that God calls us to give thanks in all circumstances. IN all circumstances; not FOR all circumstances. Think about that. There's a difference. In, not for.

As much as this is undeniably the worst possible thing I have ever been in, I give thanks for all the beautiful, wonderful, soul-healing blessings that have found me.

I give thanks that in this incredible darkness, I have the best friends a girl could ever ask for. Friends that dropped everything to run to my side on that terrible, tragic night - not knowing what to say or how to help, and fighting every urge to stay locked in their home sheltering their own from harm - who stayed late and hugged tight and made decisions and talked out loud and listened and mourned and captured photos and tackled projects that were dreamed of better I never thought would ever actually happen until they did it. And they never left my side. They haven't even yet.

I give thanks that in this unbearable pain, I have been able to hear with an indescribable clearness exactly what God wants me to do: create AVERYday Ministries, develop #the19days, encourage kids through Youth ACT! What an incredible way to remember Avery, change lives, honor God and heal my heart. Of course I am thankful!

I have so much to be thankful for in all of this: the afternoon my doorbell rang and before me stood a classmate I hadn't seen in over twenty years, holding out the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp - pages and pages of truth-words that would find their way to every sliver of my shattered heart and slowly bring me back together. How can I not be thankful that in my most broken hour there stood before me the very person I needed to see at that very second, bringing me the very thing I needed in order to heal?

How can I not be thankful that seven days after the death of my precious daughter, seas of costumed children swarmed the streets outside my house, laughing, holding sticky hands and hungry mouths out for candy, and I, in the midst of bitter grief, knew I could not possibly take another breath, sobbing out my pain - and I pulled out the most beautiful handwritten words from my daughter: "I will never forget about you. I will keep you in my heart forever." Tell me, how can I not be thankful for that?

And this? This is not even the beginning of all the amazing, wonderful, beautiful things I have to be thankful for. There is a huge difference between giving thanks FOR a situation and giving thanks IN a situation. I am giving thanks IN.

I don't expect anyone to understand, and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to explain it - I just know with every fiber of my being that joy can coexist with sorrow; that goodness can be found sprinkled over anguish. That there is light amongst the darkness - and sometimes it is really hard to see those things - sometimes I find myself frantically searching for the goodness, for the light - but I know it's there and I will not rest until I have found it.

I will continue, all my days, from here until the day God calls me home, to rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A TROAST TO AVERY: The Most Epic Birthday Party Ever

Sorry, kids, I don't do birthday parties.

Once upon a time, I had imagined I would. I pictured coordinated decorations and pleasant conversation and smiles and laughter and everyone getting along... and then I hosted a birthday party for Jadrian when she turned 5. Or 6. I don't know - I blocked it out.

That was it. First birthday party hosted. Last birthday party hosted. End of story.

Avery never had a birthday party.

Avery always wanted a birthday party.

And so here I sit, wondering why I never gave her a birthday party. Avery deserved a birthday party. Avery deserved the biggest, bestest, most awesomest birthday party ever! Avery deserved epic.

Instead, Avery had to settle with a mom who just didn't want to deal with the complex characters of small children. And so, I protected my sanity and decided I would not do birthday parties. End of story.

Oh, but how she asked.

Instead, I tried really hard to make up for the lack of party. Each birthday she received a handmade birthday t-shirt and a set of Sharpies (so friends could aforementioned birthday t-shirt), and a basket of tiny wrapped packages. Each package held a piece of paper on which a clue was printed... and we would spend the day together, just Mom and Daughter, going on adventures, a scavenger hunt of nothing but fun -- to breakfast, the movies, horseback riding, shopping, pedicures and manicures -- the possibilities were endless, and always meaningful. But it still wasn't the birthday party with all her friends that she had asked for.

So, really, I only have one choice this October 5th: the first birthday that will come and go without the Guest of Honor. I need to have a birthday party for Avery.

The bestest, most awesomest birthday party ever! And with your help, it can totally be epic.

Consider this your invitation, all you who loved and adored Avery in life; all you who never met Avery but have been forever changed by the story of her faith and love and goodness; all you who can't quite put into words why you were touched by the death of a little girl gone too soon --- I cordially invite you all to A TROAST TO AVERY!


Where singer/songwriter Jon Troast will be headlining!

Get this: JON TROAST WENT TO AVERY'S SCHOOL!! Yeah. I didn't know that either. God works in amazing ways, people! Amazing. 


Where local singer Riely Rae Mikrut will be opening!

Get this: AVERY DID THEATRE WITH RIELY!! Here, I have photographic proof:

Avery surrounded by INCREDIBLE TALENT!
JaNelle Powers, Jay Hawk, Riely Rae Mikrut, and Janet Palmer


Where we'll be gathering at the DELAVAN CHRISTIAN SCHOOL!

Get this: this is Avery's school. The halls she walked. The rooms she laughed and learned in. The walls that held me up in her death. Oh, how I love this school!

Where you can sit back and enjoy some incredible music and help support AVERYday Ministries with some great coffee from Geneva Lake Coffee and lots of baked goods and some really awesome merchandise that I have to remember to shop first for, because I've seen this stuff and it is going to go fast!

Where my Mama Heart will be showered with the light of all of you who come together to enjoy an otherwise really sad day for me. And I won't feel so deep in the dark.

So, please come.

Please come to Avery's Birthday Party. I invite you all.
*****          *****          *****

Tickets can be purchased by mail for $12 each, but must be received no later than September 28, 2013. After which, tickets can be purchased for $15 each at the door the night of the event.

If ordering tickets by mail, please include your NAME, total NUMBER OF TICKETS, provide a PHONE NUMBER and an EMAIL. Confirmation cannot be given without this information.

Please make checks payable to: AVERYDAY MINISTRIES
                                               PO BOX 214
                                               DELAVAN, WI 53115

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The WishKeeper

From that very first birthday, we are told to make a wish and blow out the candle! We learn about the magic of a shooting star streaking across the night sky. We're handed coins from our daddy's pocket to toss into a fountain, as he reminds us to be careful and wish for just the right thing.

We learn quickly how to make wishes, and continue to make them everyday. I don't believe we ever stop wishing. But...

"It's not about making wishes,
it's about fulfilling them."

At least, this is what author MAXIMILIAN A. TIMM, wants us to understand. Max is the author of the upcoming Young Adult fantasy novel, The WishKeeper. And it's a book you're going to want to get your hands on. What good is a million wishes if you don't try to fulfill even but one of them?

*Awesome side note: the main character's name is Shea,
which happens to be Jadrian's middle name.

**Awesome side note #2: another character's name is Avery.

 First, you should know a couple things:

(1) The Timm Family grew up in my small hometown of Delavan, Wisconsin. The Timm Children were comprised of three incredibly gorgeous, extremely talented, and wonderfully kindhearted girls - and Max. Don't get me wrong, it's not like Max isn't kindhearted or talented or handsome - he's all of this and much more - it's just that his position as a male caused him to be referred to as "and Max" for many years. As in: Oh, the Timm girls were just here - and Max. So, while Max grew up in my town and went to my school and we share many of the same friends, I just remember him as "and Max."

(2) I consider Max a dear friend today. Why? Well, Facebook has certainly helped immensely and I've really enjoyed getting to know who he is today. Max is a really good guy. Like, really good. He's funny and kind and gentle and warm. He loves his family more than anything in the world (and that right there, ladies, is a sign of a good and decent man). He's smart yet easy going, intelligent yet casual. You won't find ego with this guy.

(3) Max is a brilliant writer with an incredible imagination. You can watch Max here as he talks about his book ---  and, yes, yes, he is single. Dream away, ladies.

Max recently launched a Kickstarter Campaign for his book that you're going to want to check out and  provide some support because what you receive with the different pledge levels is AWESOME! You might even earn his hand in marriage!

I had the pleasure of talking with author Maximillian Timm about his new book The WishKeeper and his Kickstarter Campaign:


Why Young Adult? Why fantasy?

I get asked this question a lot, and it makes me laugh when I answer myself with, "why write something that doesn't involve fantasy?" I know that sounds a bit closed-minded, especially since most of the literary world doesn't involve fairies, wizards or vampires, but my reason for writing young adult fantasy is basically because of the old adage, "write what you know".  Obviously I have never met a fairy, nor do I live in a world where I continually interact with unicorns, but because my earliest and happiest reading experiences involve some form of fantasy adventure (The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings), it's just what I enjoy writing.
I also believe that when you suspend your disbelief and let your heart and mind wander to places that are so obviously unreal, it allows you to open up and accept life's harsh lessons...even just a little more than usual. I like the indirect thematic messages that come through in fantasy and science fiction. While The WishKeeper is about a six-inch tall fairy with shredded wings who wants to protect and grant wishes, it's actually about a teenager with a handicap who refuses to accept that she is any less gifted or able than her peers. I think every teenager who has ever lived can relate to that in some way...with or without a handicap.  At least I know I can.

**** Added Note: Emmy Kuipers (Flaming Colours) reviewed Max's book stating, "It’s not often you find disability in fantasy novels, and even less often is it treated with such love and respect as this writer has done." ****

What (or Who) exactly IS a Wishkeeper?

My official description is, "No smaller than a robin, no bigger than a crow, a WishKeeper is like most fairies you've read about in stories, only with a much more specific purpose than simply to make a flower grow. They have wings that are more dragon-like than a "whispy" Tinker Bell and vary greatly in attitude, personality and ability. Their goal is to serve their assigned WishMaker [human], throughout the Maker's lifetime, in protecting his/her wishes without question or hesitation."
The last bit is important in relation to the overall story of The WishKeeper (as you'll see more clearly in book two, "The WishMaker"). It's also important to point out that WishKeepers do not, technically speaking, grant the Maker's wishes. They ASSIST in the granting.  It is still up to the WishMaker to do his/her part, but without the WishKeeper, a Maker's wishes would wander off, lose their power and never find a safe home.

Of course, I love this book for many reasons --- especially the message that it's not just about making wishes, it's about doing whatever we can to work towards fulfilling those wishes --- but one of the things that just touches my heart is the names of two of the characters: Shea (Jadrian's middle name) and Avery (love!!) What can you tell us about the two of them and their relationship in this story?

I remember when I was finishing up The WishKeeper. I had learned that your daughter, Avery, was lost in a car accident and I was just devastated. I had never met Avery, and had only ever been an "electronic" Facebook friend of yours, though of course you knew my sisters well. I didn't have an intense feeling of loss like so many close friends or family members of Avery's might have had (though of course it was there), but I did have an immediate reaction of an inability to understand why such a thing happened. And I mean that on a metaphysical/spiritual level. While the book itself was already done (minus some basic rewrites and editing), I looked back at what I had written and realized that I'd named one of the central characters, Avery! When I considered what I knew about your little Avery, compared to the little one I created in my book, I was honestly floored at how similar they were.  I like to think of it as a bit of divine intervention, if you will.
While the readers will see that Avery plays a vital role in the book and changes quite a bit throughout the adventure, at the heart of her character is a fairy who only sees beauty in everyone. Despite age, gender, appearance or even motivation, Avery starts out as pure as a fairy can be. She doesn't understand the idea of right or wrong, not because it doesn't make sense to her, but because she just innately knows that it doesn't matter. We are all beautiful in her eyes. What happens to Avery in the book is actually quite devastating because she loses that rose-colored glasses sensibility, and because of Erebus, she goes to a very dark place and from which is nearly impossible to return. I needed a character like Avery because she represents how darkness, negativity, and lack of hope, when compounded over time, can destroy someone. But even more importantly, how friendship and love can help bring someone out of such a dark place.  She comes out of it, and only because of the love from her friends.
When finding out another character shared a name with your other daughter, I just shook my head and smiled.  I had no idea Jadrian's middle name was Shea (why would I know such a thing!), and since I created Shea about five or six years ago, the coincidence is honestly kind of crazy. And the fact that my Shea is a bad ass, and from what I hear about how awesome Jadrian is, I said, divine intervention.
In terms of their relationship, Shea and Avery don't really interact that much in the first book. Their stories are integrally intertwined, of course, but only until the second book do they become close.
If your readers would like to take a glance at Avery and "meet her", here is a link.  This is the first time the beginning of the chapter, "Avery's Secret", has been shared.  Consider it a world premiere, if you will.  I hope you like Avery as much as I do:


Where did the characters come from? (friends, family, enemies....?)

Rarely do I intentionally create a character "based on" someone from my real life.  I'm not sure why, but I think it has to do with the very real fact that no one I know is all that interesting.  I'm kidding! I will say, though, there is some truth to that.  A story, in my opinion, should be grand, lofty, slightly ridiculous in nature and extremely exciting! I honestly don't know anyone who embodies exactly all of those characteristics.  That being said, pieces of people I know, have worked with or encountered during my weird life, do come out in some of the characters.  Shea, for instance, is a combination of my sister Carrie, and the piece of me that wishes to be more bold, daring and determined.
The villain in The WishKeeper (Erebus...pronounced, Air-uh-buss) is a combination of every terrible boss I have ever had. And believe me when I say, I have had plenty. He's manipulative, selfish, egotistical, and cares only about his own reputation and power. Yeah...I've had those employers.
Also, Thane (Shea's friend and co-conspirator), has a lot of the real me in him. He pretty much embodies my uber-organized, by-the-book, extremely hesitant nature. Anyone who knows me and reads the book will probably giggle a little at some of the things Thane says primarily because, well, Thane is me...only better looking and a fairy.

You've had this story brewing for the past 10 years and it wouldn't shake you until you wrote it out? 

Very true! I will say, however, that my drive to finish the book and release it to the public has never truly been one of fierce or impatient determination. It needed to be great before I ever gave it to anyone to read.  And I've never had a pit bull attitude about it. In other words, it was a subtle, almost muted determination in the way that I just simply 'knew' that it needed to get done and released. In no way does that diminish my intent to finish, though. Because I have been working on it for so long, it has become a part of who I am; my identity. To fuel such drive, I somehow figured out a way to keep the story fresh and exciting (at least in my head), and because of how many different iterations, drafts, and versions I've written, I've kept up a constant feeling renewal...albeit, unintentionally.  ha

Let me be completely honest, was never my intention to work on one project for such a long time! I fought through draft after draft, knowing that the last one was only "good enough" and not "great". "Good enough" has never been, ironically, good enough for me!  I highly suggest, to any writer or creative person out there, that you NOT take so long to finish something. It is both a flaw and an attribute to have such wild, nearly uncontrollable determination, and if I wasn't the type of person who finds it extremely difficult to 'let go', The WishKeeper may have never been finished.



You and your sister, Carrie, came up with the basic premise/idea for the book...when/how did this come about? Are you going to give her a free copy of the book? And a new car when it becomes wildly successful?

First, I must credit my sister for so much of the creation of The WishKeeper. Back in 2004, I remember emailing my sister and telling her that I had this idea to write a screenplay based on an old PC video game series called King's Quest. I had only written a script or two prior to having this idea, one of which was a short I directed with Carrie as the star. The other was a terribly melodramatic adventure loosely based on "It's A Wonderful Life".  It was awful. So here I am, in my mid-twenties, thinking I could write a screenplay based on one of the most popular PC games of all time. Naivete can only sometimes serve you in a positive way.

Nonetheless, Carrie heard my little pitch and said, "sure!"  I moved back out to Los Angeles, and we wrote the first couple drafts, and from what I can remember they were actually pretty OK. When we realized we didn't have the rights to the game series (duh), my naive 24-year old self found the executive in charge at Vivendi Universal (the conglomerate who owned the rights), called him up, and started a dialogue. Let me put this in perspective: I'm 24 years old, working my first industry job as an assistant at a tiny distribution company for $15/hour, and I'm calling a top-tier executive (within five people of the CEO of a giant corporation) to inquire about acquiring the rights to one of the post popular video games in history...with no money. What was amazing was how patient, helpful and understanding this man was every time I called - and I called at least once a week for five weeks.  By the final phone call, he said (and I quote), "Max, I'm inspired by your energy and how gung-ho you are about getting this done, but even if Peter Jackson called wanting the rights to King's Quest, we wouldn't do it."  Carrie and I shrugged, and decided to rewrite the script.

It was called "Paragonia" for years (only within the last couple years has it been named "The WishKeeper"), and for the longest time centered around Grayson Brady as the main character. Grayson is still in the book (he is one of the humans who makes the True Love Wish), but Shea didn't make an appearance in our drafts until four or five years into writing the story. There were hardly even any fairies involved early on. It was about Grayson being a "lost king" of this fairytale world called Paragonia, and they needed him to return.  The script was just missing a little something, and when I realized that the fairies were more interesting, especially this little minor character with a broken wing (she only had one broken wing at first), I rewrote the script and everything shifted from there.

Oh, and if the book becomes popular, Carrie will see plenty of reward!


I've seen some INCREDIBLE drawings on your WishKeeper page - does this mean there are illustrations in the book? What made you decide to include illustrations rather than allow the reader to conjure up their own images based on text descriptions?

Artist Dan Howard has done an incredible job with the cover and bringing Shea to life. Because I want this to be a young adult fantasy novel, I won't include illustrations throughout the book. Also, artists of Dan's caliber are very expensive!
Dan Howard

Even though the trend for cover art on young adult novels tends to be much more obscure, mysterious and indirect, I felt that Shea is such a strong selling point for the story. I felt that she needed to be seen, and immediately. Middle Grade novels (a younger audience below that of young adult) tend to gravitate toward placing the main character on the cover...take Harry Potter for example...but since I am creating a new type of fairy, especially one with a very specific type of wing set, I wanted to bring Shea to life and let her be the hero she deserves to be. She wants to be seen! It's the least I can do. There are plenty of characters in the book that are not illustrated, and the audience will have more than enough free reign in imagining what they look like.

You come from a pretty creative family (artists, actors, models) - any writers in the family? How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

This is a difficult question to answer only because there wasn't ever one moment when I realized, "this is what I am going to do now". It was a very slow evolution that involved testing and practicing and curiosity. I will say, though, that storytelling has always been a very big part of my life. I grew up in a rather large family who was more talkative and outgoing than I ever was, or probably ever will be. I'm a relatively outgoing person, but when I sit down for Thanksgiving dinner with my boisterous family, it's nearly impossible to get a word in edgewise.  Sometimes people just "talk" for the sake of complaining or being heard, but while my family complained about plenty of stuff, they complained while telling a story! I know that might sound odd, but since I can remember, if something was to be said in our family, it was done in a way to make it as entertaining as possible. I don't think we ever "try" to do it this way, it's just our make up and how we're built.
I was very lucky in that I grew up in a balanced household.  My Dad was both a stellar athlete but also a lover of the arts (he was an athletic All-American at Notre Dame, and majored in Art). My sisters and I were encouraged to pursue whatever it was that interested us, but I'll never forget when my Dad told me I couldn't read anymore books about athletes (I had just finished Mickey Mantle's biography) and said I needed to read something that didn't have to do with sports.  I thought he was nuts.  But when I found a little children's adventure series called "Bunnicula", I had so much fun reading it that I couldn't stop.  I then found Tom Sawyer, and that pushed me toward The Hobbit...and suddenly I was in love.

I think because of my family's constant (and at times, incessant) storytelling nature, I gravitated toward the world of storytelling once jumping into my collegiate level of studies. High school was a blur of sports, girls, self-consciousness and trying to fit in, but I opened up a lot more in college and discovered that I was actually pretty good at something.  Writing.  It's been an incredibly painful battle ever since.  (I'm kidding...sort of.)


You now live in LA.

Yes, but my friends always tease me about my "author bio" since I have moved to and from Los Angeles five times since 2002. I've driven from Chicago to L.A. 10 nine different cars. Eight of those trips were made solo. I mentioned earlier that I have a little determination.

My adventures between the two cities could fill a book. As a quick news flash, I do have a road trip book that I am writing. Because I have focused so much on The WishKeeper, though, I have barely just begun. The new book will have aliens in it.  No, I never met any aliens on my road trips.


Why a Kickstarter campaign?

There are a lot of reasons for jumping into a Kickstarter campaign, and they primarily revolve around the very logical. It isn't cheap to release a book, and a very specific amount of money is needed to not only pay an artist to create the cover (Dan Howard has done an incredible job), but also to physically print the small run of books, to type-set and format the eBook, to pay a professional editor and graphic designer.  These are all the boring reasons.
While I am obviously not a major publisher, I therefore don't have a marketing machine running full steam behind me and the book. With Kickstarter and because of its notoriety and the fact that it is the most well-known crowd-funding mechanism available, it also works as a marketing tool for the book. While I still need to do all of the leg work in terms of getting word out, Kickstarter helps promote the campaign to people who otherwise wouldn't hear about it.
Plus, it's just fun!

How long have you ever gone without taking a shower?

It's funny because I've noticed that the closer I get to a deadline, the longer it is between showers. Honestly though, I don't think I've ever gone longer than three days without a shower. Just thinking about it makes my skin crawl.


Drink of choice?

If you had asked me this ten years ago, I would have said, "Jack and Coke". Now that I'm older and the mere sound of "club" or "bar" curdles my stomach (try dating in L.A. and you'll know what I mean), I would have to say...Jack and Coke.  I'm kidding, I'm kidding.  A nice microbrew, or beer that I've never tried is fun, but my go to is Stella Artois.

You are a huge Notre Dame fan. Question: if you had to choose between a Notre Dame game and meeting your new girlfriend's parents, what would you do?

It's easy to answer since I am currently single, but seeing as though I am a severely logical person, I would have to answer this with, "which game?" I'll just leave it at that for now.
Isn't he fabulous? Seriously, I could talk to Max all day. On a porch. No, on a swing on a porch. Overlooking some incredible view while drinking lemonade. This book is just incredible. It's got a wonderful message about not letting anything get in the way of fulfilling your dreams - even when life hands you a really raw deal. And the names of the characters - Shea and Avery? I can't get over it.

To learn more about Max Timm's book The WishKeeper, go to:

FIND THE AUTHOR AT and follow @iMaxTimm on Twitter at
REVIEW AT:"It’s not often you find disability in fantasy novels, and even less often it is treated with such love and respect as this writer has done." -Emmy Kuipers at Flaming Colours

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The First Day... Without.

It's the first day of school. I know this for two reasons: (1) I've been dreading it, and (2) every post on Facebook is reminding me of it.

Scrolling through picture after picture filled with toothless grins, perfectly parted hair, brand new backpacks and shoes without a single scuff, I find that most accompanying comments mention something along the lines of time goes so fast... I know what happens when time stops.

Avery absolutely loved school. Loved it! She wasn't a big fan of homework (we had more than our share of "angry Math") but rather felt her school was her home. She saw her teachers not just as rulers of the classroom, but as people who cared for and loved their students; as fill-in Moms and Dads she was blessed with during the hours I was at work.

She could tell me everything about any kid in her school. She knew their name, where they lived, if they had any siblings or pets and what they liked to do for fun. They weren't just "other students" sharing a hallway, they were her brothers and sisters.

She especially looked up to the older kids in school - and couldn't wait to be one. She couldn't wait to be partnered up as a reading buddy to the preschoolers and talked often about when it would be her turn to put the flag up in the mornings.
I want to crawl into bed and never get out. I want to scream that it's not fair. Because it's not. It is not fair that Avery had to die and I have to go without and Brody doesn't get to go to school with Avery because this was not the plan. The plan was that Brody would get old enough to share three full years of school with his big sister. The plan was not to pretend it's perfectly normal for a 3-year old to say things like, "When I go to school, I think Avery will come with me, but we can't see her or hear her because she died." The plan was not to have the weird kid in class who speaks to his dead sister and creeps out the other parents because they don't know our situation.

The plan included volleyball and basketball and Student Council. The plan included weekly gymnastics classes and youth group twice a month on Wednesdays. The plan included getting her braces off and trimming her hair and coming up with something fabulous for her birthday. The plan included yelling over Math homework and getting annoyed that I had to run to the store for poster board at the last minute and reminding her to please put her sweats on after swim practice because it's too cold to be walking through the parking lot in a wet towel in the middle of winter. The plan was stressed out evenings filled with drama practice and trombone lessons and sitting down to play through this week's piano lesson one more time. The plan included fielding complaints about dinner and hating the pair of shoes she just had to have the week before and begging to spend the night at a friend's house. Again.

The plan included Avery just being a kid. A kid who smiled too much and laughed too loud and was way too busy for her own good. A kid who would one day grow up to be an amazing adult and an incredible mom.

The last first day of school photo ever.

I realize I've been quite naïve about how life works. Waltzing along thinking we'll all grow old and grey, while children become adults and give birth to the next generation. I know that God's ways are not our ways. I have always known that tragedy exists and I have always sat back in confused awe at how people manage to walk through those tragedies that seemed so removed from me I was safe.
I know that there is a plan - just not the one I had, and certainly not one I am privy to at this time, and that in order to get through this tragedy I must choose to stay strong in my faith... but for today, for right now, in these moments, I'm just going to grieve the first day of school without my beautiful, incredible, amazing Avery.

Psalm 71:20-21
Though you have made me see troubles,
many and bitter,
you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
you will again bring me up.
You will increase my honor
and comfort me once again.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Love Covers All

Jadrian, surfing in
Tamarindo, Costa Rica 2013
I spend a lot of time on my blog talking about missing Avery. It brings me tears and breaks my heart over and over and it takes my breath away just as it did that very second on October 24, 2012, when I learned she had died. 

But I also know that Avery is in an incredible place. There is no more hurt for her. She will never feel pain or cry or worry or ache or want. There is nothing more soothing to a Mama's heart than knowing your child is happy, healthy and in good hands. Although the hands she rests in are not mine, whose better to be in than God's?

It's strange, though, how my mind can split into three places at the same time: missing terribly Avery, trying to deal with whatever in-the-now thing is happening (make dinner, put on Brody's shoes, vacuum the rug) and praying for Jadrian. I pray for her every single second of every single day.

My heart does not rest. I believe that if I pray hard enough I can take away all her pain. Her tears will stop and the ache will lift. She will no longer want for peace because she'll have it. She will no longer want for love because she'll feel it. She will no longer want for happiness because she will be surrounded by it. If only I pray hard enough. If only I pray without ceasing.

Because my Mama heart aches not just for the loss of Avery, but it aches with every breath my sweet Jadrian takes, knowing that she will always, always, always have October 24, 2012, tragically seared into her heart and soul and mind. And nothing I do can ever take that away. And I know that she still exists in a world full of pain and hurt, and there is no guarantee that she will not be handed more. And nothing I do can ever ensure that she will never hurt again.

And so it just about killed me - killed me - as I scrolled through Facebook and saw this status update Jadrian had posted on her wall:

To the girl who stated that I "killed my own little sister" tonight, there are SO many things I would like to say to you. Instead, I pray that you will never have to go through any of pain that I or anyone else has had to go through when they lose someone so close to them in an event so traumatic. I also pray that you will never have to hear words so hurtful to you because I can honestly say they are words you will never forget for the rest of your life. I hope you realize how strong your words are and hope that in the future you think before you speak.

I wanted to run to Jadrian, pick her up and hurry out with her. Run away from whoever had done this to her, whoever had said such an awful thing. I was angry. I wanted to yell and scream at whoever spat these ugly words out to my undeserving daughter. I wanted revenge. I filled with rage. I filled with hate.

Dear God, I prayed. Please let her be okay.

What did that even mean? Be okay? How does one even begin to be okay with this?

Three days later I sat as still as I could across from her, watching as she folded towels. Inside I was so angry. Wound up tight. I looked at her... this beautiful young woman with dark eyes and the warmest smile. She seemed to be okay.

But that was on the outside. What about the inside? I have seen her hurt over and over and a person can only be beaten down so many times before they just give up.

I thought about the time she was nine and was so excited to finally be old enough to show horses at the fair. How her father went ballistic, something about thinking she was in the wrong age group, and he started yelling at her while she was in the process of showing her horse for the first time ever. How she had stood straight and tall and still as he stomped into the show ring, an attendant yelling, "Sir! Excuse me, sir, but you can't be in here!" How she held her head high, a smile plastered to her sweet, beautiful face as he yelled at her in front of everyone - the judges, the other contestants, and everyone sitting watching with their mouths open. I remembered how she stood so very proud of herself and of her horse as he railed on and on... and then, that second - that terrible, awful second when her shoulders slumped, her head fell, and she just gave up. Shuffled out of the show ring with her head down and tears sliding down her cheeks, the horse following behind her. She couldn't take it anymore and she had just given up. Completely given up.

She has been through so much in her life. And I just want her to feel happy. Why God? Why is her life so hard?

I watched her fold towel after towel. Listened to her chit chat. Sounding just fine. But I needed to know.

"Hey," I ventured. "What was the deal with that Facebook status?" I prepared myself for tears, for hatred, for anger.

She looked up at me.

"Oh. That."

I listened as she explained how she came to find out the feelings of a young lady who didn't know the details splashed all over a Twitter account. Accusations and hate composed within 140 characters.

I listened as she described how her breath left her and her head hurt and her eyes stung and her heart broke as she read post after post.

I clenched my fists as she repeated the words of hate.

And I took a breath as she explained what she did in response.

How she tapped out a message of kindness to this young lady. How she explained that words can hurt. How you can't take something like this back.

I listened as she described a dialogue that opened between her and this young lady, without anger, without hatred. One that included things like truth and awareness and forgiveness.

And I listened as my beautiful daughter of strength said to me, "you know, I'm glad she did this to me, because what if she did it to someone who couldn't handle it? What if she said something to someone that found out and then went home and killed themselves? I just hope she really learns that words can hurt people. You can't take them back."

And my heart spilled open with pride as I listened to her say, "I forgive her, Mom. She was hurting. What she did wasn't right, but I talked to her about it and I know she feels awful for saying those things. Some of my friends think I'm crazy for forgiving her," she said as she folded the last towel. "but forgiving her doesn't mean what she did was okay, it just means I don't have to think about it every single second of my life."

Hatred stirs up strife,
but love covers all offenses.
Proverbs 10:12

Oh, do I have so much to learn from my child! It seems cliché but it is so very true: we learn more from them.

I think about how angry I was; how my first instinct was to fill with hate. What would I have done but simply hated? And what good would that have done? None. No good at all.

I sit here in complete amazement at how Jadrian could face that hurt head on, without raising it with hatred, anger and rage. It would have been so easy. No one would have blamed her. Yet she kept her heart steady as she sought out this young lady and invited needed dialogue. How she didn't slump her shoulders, drop her head, and shuffle away. Instead, Jadrian turned towards the hurt, towards the ugly, and held out her hand to it. Welcomed it into her lap and spoke calmly to it. We must learn from this.

Do you get how very proud I am of this girl?!
Do you get how incredibly blessed I am
to have been chosen to be her mother?

I have no doubt in my mind that God will bring blessing upon blessing to Jadrian in His time. I have no doubt of that. No doubt whatsoever. (It's just really hard sometimes during the period of waiting. I want to fast forward to where her life is full of nothing but love and goodness and people who never, ever hurt her.) God promises her blessings. And they will come.

1 Peter 3:8-9
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 

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