Monday, June 27, 2016

A Woman's Right

I am a woman. I am proud to be female. I have the special privilege of carrying life within me. Actually, I have carried five lives within me, one ending prematurely in a miscarriage.

My rights as a woman are the same as any other person in my country-- I have the right to LIFE, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

My rights as a woman are the same as the rights of any living person in this world. To breathe, to survive, to prosper.

The decision to kill a living human within me, is not a right. It might be a desperate choice of an individual in dire circumstances. Or perhaps it is an irresponsible choice of an individual who doesn't want to raise a baby or give one to someone who will.

In the first case, I have an obligation to show my compassion and embrace that woman who had no support, with the hope that my support could give her more choices than abortion. In the second case, I have an obligation to show my compassion, educate, and embrace that woman who chose to rid herself of a mistake.

But don't tell me that abortion is a right.

It is far from it.

It's a sad reality in our overly-entitled, grace-lacking, narrow-minded society who just want a law instead of a change of perspective.

Abortion is the last answer. Compassion is the first.

Mr. & Mrs. Clique: High School Drama All Grown Up

I have felt the sting of cliques as young as 2nd grade. And I know I have contributed to stinging an innocent bystander (or wanna-be-included gal), plenty of times.

But I never thought the drama of cliques would graduate into adulthood alive and well and…shall we say, stinging?

Yep. I have felt the sting as a thirty-something. And I just gotta get it out…


I have seen it as a transplant who didn’t place their roots in a town early enough and had to squeeze into well-established groups of old friends, tight-knit mom’s groups, church families (squirm).

AND…I have clung to a welcoming clique, turning my stinger on eager friendship outside the circle, causing hurt and heartache.

We’re all adults, we shouldn’t let it get to us right???

But, just cuz we're all grown up, doesn't mean that cliquing hurts any less.

The thing is, we all want to belong, and when we have a husband and children involved, it can sometimes feel like the shunning extends beyond ourselves, and to our loved ones.

That’s when it really bugs me. 

Even if it’s unintentional, even if it’s “normal”, clique-ing is an inevitable force to be reckoned with…or to stand against and try and strengthen your heart for the blast.

Lately, I have felt it most even though we have finally stayed put in one place for longer than a couple years. And while I will be the first to admit that I have a group of close friends, I will also be the first to say that I am the eager parent sitting on the sidelines, wanting to connect with those in my community.

And sometimes, I do.

And sometimes, I feel like a fly on the wall of a social extravaganza. 

It’s easy to shrug off most days, but when I start noticing a trend of it affecting my kids’ chance to be part of something…I feel panic bloom in my chest and I brainstorm a million reasons why I am not “cool” and how I can get “cool” before high school sports begin!


Today, as I was driving home from my son's football practice, I was shuffling through my brain to reason myself out of the "what if me not always fitting in affects his not fitting in..." And, a truth swarmed my mind and rested in my heart.

God's got it. He knows our coming and our going, and He places people in our lives, friends in our paths, opportunities in our reach, for a reason.

If we find ourselves within the group, outside the group, or on the fringe, He is still there with us--shaping us and loving us.

Everything can be used for our good and His glory. So why the heck am I fretting so much about silly things like being known and knowing my kids will be given the chance to belong, too?

I am confessing this to the great blog world out there. And hoping that this little post keeps me accountable to myself. Even as I type this, I want to slap an ad on Facebook, “If you see me clique-ing, please slap me up the head”… Or, “Wanna be friends? I don’t care where you belong.”

"High School” me is awakened, and I’ve sooooo grown past that. If I could just ignore the growing pains.

**Disclaimer: To my dear sweet friends--This post is written with no one person in mind, but based on a social occurrence that I have noticed since post-college life...which has been many many years of data. HA! I think most of you who are in my every day life, know exactly where I am coming from, but for those who don't, really this is an "in-general" observation and not a hint or a nudge or a slap...I am as guilty as much as anyone!**

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Second Phase of Mama Guilt

The fast pace of life steals my attention. Sometimes, I sit and look at my growing son and try to remember him as a young toddler. Believe me, often, it's easy to at least recall his toddler behaviors. I wonder if teenage years are just a second round of the "terrible twos"--but on a grander scale, a more critical scale, a more delicate one?

Like, I remember holding his pudgy two year old hand and walking to a parade and feeling the excitement and joy in the first of it, and patting myself on the back knowing I was carving out this rich childhood memory bank from the very beginning.

And then, I sit here, in a deep pit of defeat, the arguments echoing off the walls and in my heart and my growing man-boy icing himself in, in his own frustration, and that long ago childhood seems so futile, and distant, nothing that will do anything but bring me remorse.

I remember the first time I spoke harshly to my firstborn. It was probably not long after that parade memory. I can't even recall what had happened but I snapped at him and said "no" loudly. His chocolate eyes grew wide, he paused, and he frantically ran to my arms and hugged me. The fear, the surprise, the worry of losing my love?

Back then, there was mommy guilt, for sure. Guilt during the sleep training, diaper rash mania, accidental sunburns, and lack of consistency with timeouts. But, now, we've entered this whole new phase of mama guilt. And it's swelling and suffocating my heart. The snapping moments are mounting and his desperate reaction for my acceptance diminished somewhere down the path behind us.

Mothering now, brings a deep agony. One that twists with a gruesome grip. Perhaps, I am a better mother to four years old and under? Because this mothering a teen is nothing more than a trudge through a swamp of hypocrisy. Everything I said I wouldn't be as a mother seems to escape me like a monster turning me inside out.

Everything I said I wouldn't be as a mother, somehow, has become me.

I opened the flood gates to my impatience and short temper, and he's become callous to it--he's found
his defenses and I am left with the aftermath no mother wants.

Wounds and scars of ugly words and wild emotions sour all the sweet memories.

Life is messy. It's not what I thought it would be. It's not what I prayed it would be.

The moment I held my son-who-made-me-a-mother-for-the-very-first time without another soul in the room, I looked at his precious face and praised God, and promised I would guide him wisely in this world.

That is still my heart. But I am not achieving it well. There is some broken line, some miscommunication between my head, my heart, and my mouth. And we're just going down the dark and windy path, instead of the sunlit mountain top trail I envisioned.

One day, I hope that he'll reach for my hand and call a truce on all this garbage we sling at each other... I know I've tried to make that first move plenty of times...but I am a hypocrite. And I bypass the high road.

If only's and should'ves just bog me down and I can hardly imagine a time when we were at peace and I was his world and he was mine. What's on the other side of this second phase I wonder...and often dread. Because, I am not sure we are going to walk on that mountain top any time soon, and I am afraid I might lose him along the way.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Nitty Gritty On Friendship

Over the years, some of my most important life lessons, besides as a parent, are those I learn as a friend. Actually, my friend lessons have come about long before any of my children were a twinkle. Last night I surrounded myself with neighbors and friends. I've come to realize that I am truly in an amazing place as far as friends are concerned. I used to have tumultuous seasons concerning friendships. But I think I've grown up a little. ;) And as I've grown, I've learned how to be a friend, and the kind of friends that stick with me.

Are you in the market for a friend? How about tweaking your end of the friendship bargain? These are my observations, in no particular order, (except maybe the first one):

Authenticity is key. I can tell when someone is treating me in a "bless your heart, you dear one" kind of way but really thinking--maybe subconsciously-- "I have no desire to know you."

Like KNOW me.

Like, really allow me to be me without a blank stare or a brush off, and if you're my friend then please act like yourself, too. I don't like feeling like I am the basket case someone has to put up with. Be a basket case with me every once in a while. ;)
 Honestly, I've tried to hide my garbage. I've tried to be all surface-y and a braggart and the mirror to that "perfect" person. But along with that comes a big two foot thick wall between us, and we both forget each other in the bustle of life. Soon, we're passing each other in the grocery store with merely a nod.
Life is too short to put on a show. Life, unfortunately, is not a fairytale, but it's a journey. And I have been blessed to have gathered friends along this road who are willing to stick with me through the ups and downs. Authenticity is not vulnerability...or actually, maybe it is. There might be risk that your heart is exposed, but there is great reward in sharing life with others. That's what God made us for--community. Community and friendship start with authenticity.

Reciprocate. It's the way to be! I have this friend. She poured words of affirmation, gifts, and time on me when I was at my worse. And when I picked myself up by the bootstraps, I was able to bless her in the same way. I have many friends who invite me, or I invite, to Girls Nights, playdates, coffee breaks. And all of these friends have busy seasons, just like me, but because we've reciprocated acts of friendship, we remain strong even during our absences.

I so appreciate this because I have had those friends who only seem to remember me when I force my way into their sights. I am not talking about busy friends. I am talking about the friendships where it's so heavy ended, you wonder if the person would even miss you if you left for good.

Sometimes, this happens because you really don't click, and that's okay.
Sometimes, this happens because you just have too many of the other kind of friends to invest...that's kind of okay.
Sometimes, you just sit there baffled wondering how you missed the sign that friendship was a one way street?

 Ever been there? I never want to put my friends to the test, but a natural, heartfelt reciprocation at some point in a friendship only secures it for the longterm.

Acceptance. This has been my hardest lesson. Because, I come from a long line of thinking "my friends have to be just like me," and I always struggled because I often found friends who were nothing like me! I was a conservative military kid who surrounded myself with thespians all through high school. Me, the squeaky clean, apprehensive young lady, and them, the out-of-the-box, artistic, bend the rules types. I truly think God put friends with different lifestyles and opinions in my path for a reason. It made me think. It made me critically discern exactly who I was, and what I believed. And the only way friendship on the long term can work, is if I accept my friends regardless of our differences, and I love them for who they are. I used to try and change their opinions...yikes. I can give you a handful of people who are no longer my friends because of our constant heated debates and misunderstandings. A true friend feels accepted and worthy in my eyes. Doesn't mean I have to agree with them, and we can discuss that, but the friendship is without strain or worry because of an underlying acceptance.

Above all else (guess this should have been at the top), Grace is best. I can only manage my own actions, words, and preferences. If I start taking apart someone else's actions, words, and preferences and devaluing them as a friend because of it, then I probably don't deserve to be their friend! Do you have any observations on the best ingredients for a lifetime of friendships?

Monday, June 13, 2016

When Your Kid is Golden: Mama Drama Monday

I learned a lot this weekend. I hate to admit it, but it was in the setting of youth sports. And I hate to admit that because I despise how important that setting has become in our family's lives. Mainly, I despise it because of the emotions, the politics, and the injustices that occur more often than not. It seems like no matter how hard we as a family try to be level-headed and team players, we always find ourselves swept up in the political current of youth sport drama. And it sucks.

You know how Scripture often talks about the refiner's fire, and how you have to take the heat to come out on the other side better--like gold? While I have found myself far from the finished product (actually, this weekend I may have taken a couple steps back into the fire's core), I have this kid who's shining bright.

This kid.

I get so wrapped up in the woes and heartaches of the siblings on either side of him, that I hardly take the time to tap into his heart. But, Someone has been there all along, working and refining and polishing him to this unbelievable shine.

When I see injustice--my son says, "It's just a game, mom." But yet, he gives 110% when he's in the "game".

When I see someone else gaining the favor that he truly deserves--my son only compliments the kid without a sliver of envy.

When I see an opponent get a base hit to first where my son plays, and we grumble--my son gives a fist bump to the opponent and says, "good job".

Geez. I felt like a lump of coal this weekend sitting next my shiny boy in the front seat of the car. Youth sports had gotten the best of me, Mama Bear emerged, and the fair/unfair banter in my head was loud and obnoxious.

Yet my eleven year old took it, tossed out the crap and held onto the gems of the day.  I mean, he's got his flaws...not saying that he doesn't feel the sting of disappointment. Actually, the day started off that way. He came up to me disappointed in the start of the game. Which is probably what triggered my own downward spiral. BUT, what he did with that disappointment revealed all that I learned this weekend.

Now, he's starting his first day of summer camp...what he so excitedly refers to as, "the highlight of his summer". I am so happy for him. That he gets this time to spend with friends, and God, and goodness.

THAT is what his shiny heart truly deserves. Praying he comes back rested and ready to show his mama up, once again. ;)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Character Is Out-of-Fashion

My husband and I don't agree on many things, but one thing that we are both passionate about, is raising our kids with character. From the inappropriate playground talk my boys share with me, and the entitlement factor that seems to thread its way through every age group under eighteen these days, I feel like we are walking a very strenuous uphill trek to instill the integrity, character, and respect that seems to lose value every second of my children's growing up.

We see it in our school systems where kids don't have to do their best on their homework or tests the first time...because they are offered a make up date for EVERYTHING. I am not quite sure if this is because of entitled parents pushing school policy for their kids to get the grades they need for acceptance at their alma mater, or if it is an outcropping of a new kind of student that teachers and schools are forced to give that extra chance for their own funding.
Either way, it lacks character and integrity on both sides, in my opinion.

We see it all over youth sports. Where kids no longer know what it means to play as a team, but because of the examples around them...ahem, parents (I am guilty here)...they expect to get their way in the lineup, on the field, and even in a summer baseball camp where they push and shove their way to the front of the line because they are the deserving "A" player.

We see it on the news when politicians, lawmakers and judges decide they just don't care about how their decisions affect others as long as they cater to an elite few. The loudest most obnoxious get their way...and the one with character and steady footing is forgotten (I can think of a candidate who never got the chance he deserved to become a presidential hopeful).

And speaking of presidential candidates, what do our two choices for this upcoming election truly teach our children about integrity, character, and respect?

Just that they really aren't important.

Money is important, fame is important, slander is important.

I don't know about you, but I am not 100% committed to a date at the polls this November.  I am just going to focus on my family...and build character here. Maybe one day, it will be in fashion again.

Here's a telling article on character:

Monday, June 6, 2016

What Every Married-With-Children Needs

Excuse the shoe!
I will never forget the time my grandfather told me that I needed to get a babysitter. That my husband and I needed time without kids.
He was very progressive. ;) I was a young mother, probably overly attached to my little tots and
running a bit ragged. When the boys were young, they clung to me and would meltdown in anyone else's arms. Looking back, it was no biggie. Actually, it is kind of nice to know that there was one point in their lives where I was numero uno. But at the time, my grandfather wasn't thinking about the motherhood of it all, he was actually speaking about the marriage of it all.

And, although I savor the moments with my children, I have to agree with him. Leaving the kids in someone else's care is a very good thing--especially for marriage.

It's been three years since we last went on a grown up trip. The last trip we took sans children was on the brink of the worst year of our lives. And as we walked through the valley, and seriously wondered if our marriage would survive, I had absolutely no desire to spend more than a couple hours alone with the man, let alone a week vacation.

But, 2015 had been a very good year for us. Still hard, still rocky, but a time of rebuilding our marriage in a new light, with different expectations. We've become friends again, something I thought could never be. And because of this, and the fact that we had bid on a trip to support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation which was about to expire, we decided it was time to get away.

I had forgotten how important a getaway is in our marriage. It's a time where we must depend on each other for everything because we are in a unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people, and nothing but time on our hands. It seems that we step into a time warp of young Mr. and Mrs. Dicken who were friends as much as newly weds. But with age on us. 
Everything's better with age, right?
Our friendship is deeper, more intellectual. Our love is stronger, especially after the storm its weathered. And when our hearts aren't spread thin among the needs of our children for a few days, we find devotion and strength again. Our marriage only grows.
On this Mama Drama Monday, as I face a summer schedule chocked full of camps, activities, and appointments, I reflect on the time just a week or so ago, where I sat on a beach, walked through a forest, and sipped a glass of wine on the very ground the grapes were grown, all beside my husband and my best friend. My marriage is better for it. I hope my family sees that too.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

One Sheet Recommendations

It's that time of year again...a big writer's conference is just around the corner, and while I busily try and generate word count, I LOVE to stir my creative juices and help out my fellow authors with ONE SHEET DESIGN! Check out these testimonials from my happy clients, then click on the page link up top called, "CBA eBook Cover and  One Sheet Design" to check out details!

NEW: I design ebook covers  and bookmarks too!! If you are published and would like to have some bookmarks to share at conference, contact me!

"Angie's one-sheet blew me away. She listened to all the details I gave her and came up with something that really captured the flavor and setting of my book. " 
- Sally Bradley, 4-time ACFW Genesis Finalist

"Angie Dicken was amazing with my One Sheets. Not only was she extremely timely, she basically hit the nail on the head with the very first try. She got my story, understood my needs, happily made tweaks and supplied a product over and beyond my expectations--in an affordable price range. My agent appointments noticed and commented on the fantastic layout of my One Sheets. Highly recommended for the conference bound writer!" -Casey Herringshaw, Frasier Finalist

"After much frustration creating my own one sheet and never being satisfied with the result, Angie was so sweet and offered to help a girl out. The result was SO much better than I could have imagined! I highly recommend Angie for all your one sheet needs!" 
-Krista Phillips, author of Sandwich, with a Side of Romance

Happy June: Visiting Others!

These first two days of June are social ones for me! I am the Contest Diva over at Seekerville today,
and a guest Alley Cat at Robin E. Mason's blog tomorrow! Come check out a little bit about me and my writing journey! 

Have a great Wednesday!