What I’m Reading Wednesday

Margaret Dilloway became one of my favorite authors last year after I read “How to Be an American Housewife.” When I finished the book I checked out her blog and found out she is a former Army spouse who spent some time at Fort Lewis. I wrote a story for the NWG about her time here.

Her second novel, “The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns,” was released this summer and is another great read by Margaret, who draws on personal experiences for inspiration.

Here is my Q and A with Margaret:

Q: For “The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns” how much time was spent studying roses and rose breeding? What is your favorite rose?

A: About three months, all told. I corresponded with a rose breeder named Jim Sproul, who was the first to get the Hulthemia into the consumer market this year, called the Eyeconic Pink or Yellow Lemonade. It’s the type of rose Gal grows in the book. I also went to a local rose society meeting.

I happen to love the David Austin Old English roses, which combine the big fluffy heads and scent of Old Roses with some of the sturdier qualities of hybrids.

Q: You have spoken at numerous events, what are some of the most memorable ones for you and why?

A: I attended an event outside of Sacramento for Omega Nu in September, which raised scholarship money for worthy teens. It was my largest event (130 people) and I also had the chance to meet a very special woman there. She is a Japanese woman who was born in the same town and year as my mother, and who married an American and had children. She had had many of the same experiences my mother had, particularly during the war. Her daughter said my novel, How to Be an American Housewife, let her reconnect and get to know her mother’s life.

Q: What tricks do you use to conquer writer’s block?

A: I have a few different strategies. Powering through generally works — even if it feels painful, like I’m doing taxes. Or, I take a break and go out for a walk to get the blood flowing to my brain again. Or I bounce ideas off of someone.

Q: Are you working on your next novel? What’s next for you?

A: I’m working on a novel about a samurai woman in the 12th century named Tomoe Gozen. There’s also a contemporary thread.

Q: Do you cook Japanese food? What is your favorite Japanese dish?

A: I don’t really cook Japanese food, except for simple dishes. My mom never really showed me how to make her food. The only thing she let me help her with was yaki-gyoza (fried meat dumplings), so I can make those. I love to eat high-quality sushi.

Q: What are you reading right now?

A: I’m reading “The Giver,” by Lois Lowry, which I found on my library’s Banned Books display this month. I can’t quite figure out why it’s banned.

Read more about Margaret and follow her blog on her website.

Thank you, Margaret!


Inspiring Justice: In My Words

Me, Blaire and Amanda at The Justice Conference 2012.

Inspiring Justice is a Tuesday blog series that features guest blog posts from people who are headed to The Justice Conference 2013 in Philly. The goal is to continue to inspire, educate and connect in a community that shares a concern for the vulnerable and oppressed. Please contact me at somerbreeze8@hotmail.com if you would like to participate in “Inspiring Justice.”

A couple of years ago my friend Blaire loaned me the book, “Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian.” I am almost ashamed to admit reading that book was my first introduction to Gary Haugen, The International Justice Mission and the injustices happening all over the world. I sat in my own little bubble completely oblivious to it all, completely focused on me.

Just Courage was an encouraging read in that it told the stories of ordinary — successful — people who gave up careers and really nice salaries to rescue victims of human rights abuse all over the world.

It was soon after reading Haugen’s book that my friend Blaire told me about The Justice Conference in Portland last February. I had no idea what to expect as I had never been to a conference of that size, but I was so excited to be encouraged and inspired by the thousands of people in attendance all wanting a part in trying to change the world.

Eight months have passed since the conference and it’s still something I think about daily. Whether it was something said or something I saw, the impact of that weekend remains with me always. In an effort to continue the connection with the conference’s mission and to pursue my passion to write for a purpose I started this weekly blog series “Inspiring Justice.” It has connected me to people all across the map who all have a passion for something bigger than themselves.

My contribution to the Art Wall at The Justice Conference 2012.

At last year’s conference there were so many amazing, impactful speakers, but my favorite was the final speaker, Francis Chan. He said, “Don’t let anyone talk you out of the passion you feel right now.” My friends and I balled our eyes out during Chan’s session. My heart was broken because I felt so useless. I serve in my church and in my community, but I wanted to do more. I needed to do more. As Chan said, “As we grow in the Lord, shouldn’t our faith increase? Shouldn’t we be doing crazier stuff?” Rather than being focused on what next career move I would take to climb the ladder of “success,” I want to find something that uses my skills and experience to serve, however crazy it will be.

I am looking forward to the cross-country trip to Philly in a few months to be back in the encouraging and inspiring environment that is the conference. To have my heart and spirit broken by stories of pain and then to hear the stories of triumph that comes out of that pain. I look forward to meeting people from all over this world to hear and share their stories.

Music and stories

Jenny Simmons performs at Madigan Chapel. Photo: Scott Hansen

There are many, many reasons why I love social media, but the main reason is how it helps me in my profession as a journalist. I find so many story ideas/tips through Facebook and Twitter! Such was the case last week.

On my way into work a couple of weeks ago I heard on the radio that lead singer of Addison Road, Jenny Simmons, was performing at the Q Cafe in Seattle for a benefit concert. At that time I didn’t realize the band had broken up in August and Jenny was working on her debut solo album. I started to follow her on social media and found out she was stopping at JBLM for a special performance for the military community before her Seattle show.

I was happy I found another story idea via social media, but I was even happier that I was able to go to a performance of one of my favorite Christian artists and get paid to write about it! Seriously, sometimes my job is too good to be true!

Jenny performed a free show at the Madigan Chapel with a live TV feed to the Army hospital’s rooms. She played an acoustic set of Addison Road songs along with some songs from her upcoming solo album. In between each song she shared personal stories of being raised in the military (her dad is an Army chaplain) and helping her sister through her husband’s deployment.

She sang songs and shared scripture of hope. “We want you to know we care and we’re grateful,” Jenny said.

After her performance I interviewed her and couldn’t even be star struck because she was so relatable! After our interview she was asking questions about me!

You can read about my story in the NWG here.

What I’m Reading Wednesday

I have a special treat today for my weekly “What I’m Reading Wednesday” post! This week’s book is by Christian historical author Sarah Sundin (I have previously posted about two other of her novels). Her latest novel, “With Every Letter,” is the first book of her Wings of the Nightingale series, and was released last month.

But rather than doing my usual post about the book and author, Sarah herself offers some insight into her novels!

Here is my Q and A with Sarah:

Q: Your novels include an amazing amount of historical detail. How much time do you spend researching per novel?

A: That’s hard to pick out. I do a lot of research before I start the story to make sure the story works in the context of history, but then I do “spot” research during the writing phase for the little details. While writing the Wings of Glory series, I didn’t have contracts or deadlines, so I had the luxury of unlimited research time. I probably spent about 3 years overall just researching, plus another 3 years actual writing and rewriting. With the Wings of the Nightingale series, I have a year to write each book. I’d estimate about one-quarter of my writing time is research now.

Q: The Wings of Glory as well as the Wings of the Nightingale series takes place during WWII. What is it about that era you connect with?

A: I love so much about the era, from the music to the uniforms. But mostly, I’m drawn to the sheer scope of the war and how everyone pulled together for a common cause. This was an age when ordinary men learned they could do extraordinary things, and women explored new roles—while remaining ladies.

Q: If you had lived during WWII, what job do you think you would have pursued and why?

A: That depends on where I was in life. If I weren’t married, I might still have pursued pharmacy. There was a serious shortage of pharmacists during the war, and women were actively recruited. The idea of being a pioneer—but in a safe and clean profession (I’m a wimp)—would have appealed to me. If I were married with kids, I probably would have stayed at home but immersed myself in volunteering and community work.

Q: You have turned out so many novels during your literary career. How do you conquer writer’s block?

A: I don’t really get writer’s block. I have the opposite problem of too much story, too little time. When I don’t know where to start, usually at the start of a chapter, I do two things. First I read a few chapters of what I’ve already written to get back in the flow of the story. If that doesn’t work, I give myself permission to write garbage. I write something, anything, to get started, knowing I’ll come back and delete it later. The funny thing is, those openings often end up being my favorites and I rarely delete them.

Q: You are a wife, a mother, a pharmacist, a Sunday school teacher and a women’s small group leader, where do you find the time to write?

A: Replace “find the time” with “make the time.” I schedule it into my days and weeks, even when I started ten years ago. At first it was two hours a day during naptime. Now it’s forty hours a week, primarily in school hours, but also bits and pieces on the weekends and evenings—for example, I do a lot of things on my laptop on the couch with my family while we watch TV.

Q: What are you reading right now?

A: I just finished “Flight of the Earls” by Michael Reynolds, which comes out in January 2013. It’s a beautiful story about Irish immigrants in the 1840s. I got to read this debut novel for endorsement, and I think it will be very well received. Excellent writing.

Read more about Sarah’s novels and follow her blog on her website.

Thank you, Sarah!

Inspiring Justice: In Sarah’s Words

Inspiring Justice is a Tuesday blog series that features guest blog posts from people who are headed to The Justice Conference 2013 in Philly. The goal is to continue to inspire, educate and connect in a community that shares a concern for the vulnerable and oppressed. Please contact me at somerbreeze8@hotmail.com if you would like to participate in “Inspiring Justice.”

Meet Sarah. She is traveling to The Justice Conference from the Reading, Penn., area.

Q: How did you first hear about The Justice Conference?

A: You know, I can’t even remember how I started following them on Twitter, but that’s where it all started.

Q: Why is the conference important to you?

A: I’ve been formally advocating for fair treatment of farmers (locally and abroad) for about 6 months (and informally for much longer than that!). Fair trade (among other social justice issues) is not a particularly popular trend in my area (although there is some progress I’m excited about). I think attending will fuel my passion for speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at The Justice Conference 2013?

A: I’m really looking forward to spending concentrated time with people who care about similar issues and understand parts of my heart that can be hard to communicate. I’m also excited to be challenged, make connections, and learn from speakers and attendees.

Q: What do you do or want to do to aid in the justice movement?

A: I distributed free samples of fair trade chocolate (that I purchased myself- that’s how strongly I believe that fair trade matters), information, and conversation at an Earth Day event in my city and organized my own World Fair Trade Day event. I also blog a minimum of once a week (always on Mondays, and sometimes more than that) at thesocialeater.org.

Sarah talking to a woman about fair trade products at her city’s Earth Day event.

Q: Can you tell me more about your blog?

A: I firmly believe that fair treatment of those who produce the products we buy is so important, but I also know that there are a lot of issues that come with it.  I started my blog in April of last year, with the goal of simultaneously advocating for and hashing out issues in the world of fair trade.

Thank you, Sarah! See you in Philly!

The Sock Bun

There is a female soldier that works in the same building as me who has absolutely stunning hair. It’s a very rich brown color that looks shiny, smooth and healthy. Since it’s always pinned up in a low bun I can only guess her hair is long.

I have known this soldier for months and have always noticed how perfect she makes her bun. Do you ever have that frustration when you go to the salon and get a cut and style and it looks amazing? But you know you can never make it look as good as it does when you leave the salon? No? I guess it’s just me…

With this soldier her bun is perfect 100 percent of the time. One time my coworkers and I went out to lunch and one of them asked if a person standing in the line was the soldier from our building. Her back was to us and I knew it wasn’t her based on how hair was coming loose from her bun. Does that make me sound creepy?

Today while she was talking to me about something work related I just came out and said I am always impressed by how good her hair looks. It totally caught her by surprise, but then she explained to me how she does it! It’s the sock bun! Have you heard of it? Me either! I had to Google it when I got back to my desk, but I discovered it’s quite a genius idea!

It involves cutting the toe part of a sock off and rolling your hair into a perfect bun. This link on Weddingchicks.com describes it pretty well. Who knew…

Local Tie to ‘The Voice’

I am a curious person. I love people watching and am always curious about their stories. I think my curiousness, borderline nosiness, is an important trait to have as a journalist. With the position I have now every story idea I come across has to have a military tie to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It’s important to stay informed on current events, because you never know when national news has a local tie.

There are not many TV shows my husband and I watch “live.” We only have the basic cable channels and watch most shows via streaming on Netflix. But there is one show we do stay up on when we can and that’s the reality singing competition, ‘The Voice.’ When season three debuted last month we were watching the blind auditions when one contestant, Mycle Wastman’s segment came on. In his introduction interview he talked about being raised by his grandparents and how his grandmother was his musical inspiration at a very young age. Sidenote, Wastman’s grandmother sang background for Frank Sinatra! How cool is that?

Performing “Let’s Stay Together” at the blind audition. NBCUniversal.

Wastman also said he served in the Army before pursuing a career in music. I instantly wondered aloud if he served at Fort Lewis since he grew up in this area?

The next day at work I did some online research and contacted his agent. Sure enough Wastman served active duty in Germany and Kansas, but served in the Army Reserves at Madigan on Fort Lewis in 1995-1996. I put in an interview request with ‘The Voice’ and the NWG photographer went out to Wastman’s Seattle show last week to shoot photos.

Our interview was this past Wednesday, which is deadline day for our weekly newspaper. I wrote the story in about 45 minutes (I’ve missed deadline writing!) and the story went online that afternoon. It’s out in print today and you can read it online here. The story is also up on Wastman’s website. And check out the photo gallery by Scott Hansen here.

Working at a weekly newspaper can be frustrating at times because you feel like you’re always writing about old news, but in this case I felt like I was “breaking” news, as no other local news outlets had reported his local military ties. I’m sure my coworkers are glad the story is done as it was all I was talking about all week!

Good luck to Mycle!

Looking for a photographer?

Let me introduce you to Ingrid Barrentine. She is a wife, mother and one of the most talented photojournalists I know.

Pregnancy didn’t slow Ingrid down. Here she is covering a triathlon in 2011.

I had the privilege of working with Ingrid at the Northwest Guardian for a couple months. Unfortunately for me she was about seven months pregnant when I joined the staff. When she had her beautiful baby girl she didn’t return to the NWG because she has been enjoying a successful freelance career with her own business, Grit City Photography.

As you can see from her website, Ingrid can do it all: weddings, birthdays, maternity, family portraits, etc. Last week her and I went out to the University of Washington- Tacoma campus so she could take some business portraits for me. I’ve been wanting professional mug shots for my social media sites: Twitter, Facebook, LinedIn and this blog.

Here are some of her photos:

Ingrid’s eye for light and locations amaze me. She even managed to use the back of a roadside construction sign to reflect the sun and create even better light!

I am a huge fan of Ingrid’s work and recommend her to anyone who looking to get photos done!

Thank you Ingrid!

What I’m Reading Wednesday

I first stumbled upon the works of Emily Giffin a few years ago when I found “Something Borrowed” at a used book store. After that first encounter I have read every book she has written, including her latest, “Where We Belong” (finally!).

“Where We Belong” is Giffin’s sixth book and was released on July 24. I placed a hold on it at the library before it was even released and it already had 42 holds on it! Luckily I had other material to tie me over until I received the email saying my requested item was ready for pickup (2 1/2 months later)!

This novel is told from the perspective of two characters: 1, Marian, a successful TV producer who lives a posh lifestyle and 2, Kirby, Marian’s 18-year-old biological daughter that Marian gave up for adoption as a baby.

As is the case with all of Giffin’s book, I finished this one in two days. The story begins when the two characters meet 18 years after the adoption day and follows their complex journey of learning about each other and starting a friendship. Kirby’s adoptive family is also included, and one of the book’s themes is the importance of family, whether biological or not. Coming from a crazy blended family, I can relate!

What are you reading this week?

Inspiring Justice: In Bethany’s Words

Inspiring Justice is a Tuesday blog series that features guest blog posts from people who are headed to The Justice Conference 2013 in Philly. The goal is to continue to inspire, educate and connect in a community that shares a concern for the vulnerable and oppressed. Please contact me at somerbreeze8@hotmail.com if you would like to participate in “Inspiring Justice.”

Meet Bethany. She is wearing the same dress every day for a year to raise awareness and money in the fight against human trafficking.

Day 235.


Ever since I first learned about human trafficking, I’ve been passionate about ending it. For years I had ideas of things that I could do to help bring an end to it, but I never did anything with them. Then, a year and a half ago, Alex and Brett Harris, authors of Do Hard Things, shared on their blog about their friend Elaini who was wearing the same dress for 100 days to raise money for orphans. It was fun to see her creativity and all the different ways that she wore her dress.

Then, that fall, I started toying with the idea of doing something similar. As I talked and prayed about it, I started getting more and more excited. I set my start date for February 1st and began getting ready. However, my dress was done and I was ready before I had expected, so I moved my start date to Jan. 11, 2012. Since then I’ve worn the dress for 272 days (as of Oct. 8) and raised $5,171.09. It’s been amazing to see what God has done.

Day 255.

Through this project, I’ve also learned a lot more about human trafficking and begun seeking opportunities to expand my knowledge and skill set. One way that I was planning to do this was by attending the Justice Conference. However, my plans changed last week and I will no longer be able to attend. I’m still looking forward to hearing everyone’s stories, though. I hope all of you who are going have a great time.

Follow Bethany’s project on her blog: one dress. one year. for freedom.

Inspired? I sure am! Thank you so much for sharing, Bethany!

Continue reading “Inspiring Justice: In Bethany’s Words”