Giveaway: Footprints on the Ceiling

Update: As of 11/26/2014, this giveaway is closed.

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Dear folks, I’m delighted to announce two things today—

First, Dorcas Smucker is paying a virtual visit to this spot {right here right now} as she makes her rounds on a blog tour, with our own private interview coming right up…

And second, she is giving away an autographed copy of her brand-new book, Footprints on the Ceiling, to one of you!

This is her fifth book. Some of you know

Ordinary Days
Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting
Downstairs the Queen is Knitting
Tea and Trouble Brewing (also available on Kindle)

All are worth your time… now, Footprints on the Ceiling joins the pack.

It’s a collection of stories drawn from real life in an Oregon farmhouse. Dorcas is a pastor-and-teacher’s wife and a mom of six. She writes about daffodils and mysterious spots on the ceiling, yellow teapots and foreign travel, frantic searches through trash cans and the irresistible Christmas Eve kitten (who wouldn’t stop yowling).

What I like about Dorcas is that she’s down to earth. She is at home in her house, her family, her skin; and while she is always interested in learning new things, she doesn’t reinvent herself or pretend to be something she’s not. But the best thing? She believes that all stories should come out right in the end. She blends ripping good humor with real-life wisdom, always set against the backdrop of that firm and quiet optimism.

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Today she’s offering a copy of Footprints on the Ceiling for free, to one of you readers. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment, and answer this question for me: What is your favorite book in the world?

(You are not allowed to say “The Bible” unless you really want to be stubborn–in which case be my guest–first, because it is the Ultimate Book: that’s a given and nothing else holds a candle to it; second, because I don’t want you coerced/ guilted into saying it; and third, because you would be missing the point, which is giving book suggestions to each other. Forgive this interruption.)

Dorcas blogs here, at Life in the Shoe. And now, as nearly face-to-face as we can get.

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Hi Dorcas. I’m going to pretend we’re chatting over tea… You write a lot about your children. What’s some of the most pure fun you’ve had in mothering?

There’s been a lot of fun but my favorite times are when we’re all in the kitchen, maybe eating, maybe doing dishes, maybe just hanging out, and there’s this snappy, loud, constant, funny conversation going on.  The older they get, the better the conversations get.  I sit back and just listen and smile.  One of my children’s friends said recently, “People don’t have these kinds of conversations at my house.”  So I know how fortunate I am.  Otherwise: there’s that adorable stage at maybe 18 months when they laugh at everything.  And the fun of dressing little girls in matching dresses and going off to church.  And going to visit adult children on their own turf.

Does it get easier or harder as they grow?

I think even the worst adolescent drama is easier than colic, and teenagers learning to drive is easier than getting up three times every night and also chiseling smeared mashed potatoes off the high chair.  However.  When the baby is asleep in his bed you know where he is.  And when the teenager is late coming home and won’t answer his phone, well, there’s no anxiety in the world quite like that. So things change, but the easy/hard question varies so much with each child.  And sadly, you still don’t get much sleep when they’re teenagers, what with midnight fridge raids just across the wall and noisy late-night conversations upstairs.  Erma Bombeck said there was a study that said women in their 50’s have trouble sleeping.  She said it’s no wonder–by that time, they’ve forgotten how.

Have any advice for young moms?

Maybe this should be my next book. 🙂  In a nutshell: if you show up and do the best you know, things will probably turn out ok.  You can chill just a bit, you know.  Not everything is a crisis.  However, if you’re the sort of mom who lets her child break the eggs in the grocery store and thinks it’s cute, please chill a bit less.  You’re the mom, after all.  So be the mom.  Ultimately, your own character is the deciding factor–your child will likely be a lot like you.  Also: read to your child for 15 minutes a day.  And answer their questions, although you’re allowed to ask for silence after the 85th question of the day.  You’re the mom, you know.  You make the rules.

I noticed this book is dedicated to Ben. Is there a book for each child?

I’m working my way down through the list, and it was Emily’s turn this time, but she wanted me to dedicate my first novel to her.  So I skipped her, and dedicated this one to Ben.

A novel? Really?

Well, I’ve kind of crossed the Rubicon there–I now HAVE to write a novel so Emily isn’t left out. The short answer is yes.  The “when” is far less certain.

I love the shoe theme in Footprints on the Ceiling! What’s your own favorite pair of shoes?

I love my white Clarks sandals in summer, and in winter my basic Naturalizer slip-on Mom shoes that look dressier than running shoes but still take me to town and prayer meeting and the dentist, in all kinds of weather.  And I can wear them with socks.  I also like my one pair of high heels but I seldom wear them because I lose my balance.  I wore them to a wedding last summer and told Paul beforehand that he has to stay close by at all times because I need to hang onto him so I don’t fall.  And later a young friend said, “It was so sweet.  Paul was just so attentive to you at the wedding….”

What’s the craziest thing about publishing your fifth book?

The agonies of editing, and the self-doubts.  Seriously, you’d think I’d be beyond ten minutes of deliberating over a comma.  And you’d think the nasty voices would stop–you know, the whispered “stupid stupid” “dumb dumb dumb” “shallow shallow” as I review each chapter.  I’m told there are writers [Harvey Yoder who wrote for CAM in particular] who pretty much scrawl a good rough draft and then let the editing crew take over and finish it.  I absolutely cannot do that, even when I hire an editor to go over my manuscript.

Any idea where you want to go from here?

So many ideas, so little time.  My next project is typing up and publishing my dad’s memoirs.   I’ll keep writing for the newspaper as long as they want me and/or I feel led to do that.  A novel, of course.  Maybe a compilation of blog posts.

How fun!!

Footprints on the Ceiling is available for $15 per book, postage included.  You can mail a check to Dorcas Smucker, 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446.  US addresses only.  To send a copy to Canada or overseas, email Dorcas at dorcassmucker@gmail.com.  Also available here through Amazon.com.

This post contains affiliate links.

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Now for the giveaway: What’s your favorite book in the world?

Open to US residents only. Giveaway closes in one week.

Update: As of 11/26/2014, this giveaway is closed.

From 9 to 16

The final three interviews today!

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Ms. Tabitha Schmidt of 16/10 said:

I limit my blog reading because I still prefer to read from real paper, not the screen. I was surprised how many of the blogs I subscribe to are written by people I know, probably because two of my favorite bloggers are women I haven’t met. If I don’t know the writers personally, I stick with blogs that speak to my life, and that I know are worth every minute of my time. If they don’t meet that criteria, I usually end up unsubscribing.

I like how you’re thinking about blog reading. You seem to have found some good criteria for navigating in a world that can take as much time as you give to it!

What do you like to read? And how do you find the time?

I love to read stories — fiction mostly, or really good nonfiction books.  An inspirational/self-help book has to really speak to me for me to keep at it.  And how do I find the time? That’s a trick question for me — there is just always time to read! If nothing else, I’ll read in bed at night. And yes, I get to bed too late.

Is a Kindle real paper?

Well . . . Next best! It beats a screen hollow, and even an iPhone. You can take it to the bathroom with you, and use it while eating lunch. 🙂 But it does run out of batteries. Books just don’t need recharging. And you can go back and find something more easily.

What’s your greatest frustration with the blogging world?

For the best reading experience with blogs, I need to be at my computer. I don’t like to read from my iPhone, as I said. And it takes time to keep up with them. That’s why I keep unsubscribing from the blogs that barrage me with too many posts I don’t always want to read.

Your criteria for blog-reading centers around writers you don’t know personally. What about the writers you do know? I assume your reasons for reading may be different—not so much “worth every minute of your time” as “worth it because I care.” Do you ever feel obligation to keep up with what your friends write?

The “worth it because I care” nails it. Yes, sometimes I feel obligated to keep up. But then I may postpone the catching up until I have “lots of time” and do it in one sitting. I stay subscribed because I genuinely want to keep up with these friends, or encourage them in a fledgling blog or a difficult world, even if it’s only by reading what they have to say. Both reasons apply. And I would like to clarify that these blogs also speak to my life, and that is another reason I follow them.

What are your favorite ways to keep up with friends and connect with people?

Probably by going out for coffee together. If that’s not possible, then a phone call, when I’m in the right mood. And then Facebook or blogs. Email is good, but it takes time. For some reason, it’s easier for me to take the time to talk on the phone than to take the time to write a long, heart-baring email. Some deep-seated laziness on my part, perhaps, or the feeling that email is just not as private. Someone else in the family might open it first and see something completely personal, not meant for their eyes. Yikes. Horrors.

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Ms. Janine Stutzman of 15/4 said:

I enjoy reading, and reading a blog is less involved than sitting down with a book. With kids, I have less “reading a book” time. I gain ideas for decorating, parenting, and new foods by reading blogs. On the flip side, I also get frustrated and sometimes angry at some of the stuff I read… so sometimes I’m not sure how much I actually “gain”.

You expressed both enjoyment and frustration, and I’d like to hear more! What books do you like to read when you have the time?

I read a variety of fiction and nonfiction. At this point in my life, it has to be easy reading though, nothing too deep or theological. Something I can read with lots of distractions happening around me.

What’s your greatest frustration with blog reading?

My greatest frustration with blogs is the “perfect” blogs where the perfect mom blogs about her perfect vacations from her perfect living room, with perfect pictures scattered throughout all taken with her fancy camera. I enjoy the bloggers who keep it real without having to prove it with pictures or words. The blogs that I will continue to come back to are the ones with one or two paragraphs of concise, easy reading on any subject or good tutorials on different things that not everybody else is doing. There are some really great photographers out there that I enjoy as well.

Have you found ways to avoid or filter out the irritating sides, and maximize the good?

I don’t have a good method for filtering the irritating. I just remind myself that what I take from it is my choice and I really don’t want it to ruin my life or change who I am as an individual. Remembering that I don’t know the whole story helps me to be less critical towards the things/people I read.

What are your favorite ways to keep up with friends and connect with people?

My favorite way to connect with people is face to face or just simply interacting with them on a day to day base. I find it a little disconcerting at times when I think about the details I know about people’s lives just because I read their blogs. The idea of having “blogger friends” or friends that I have never met is just not “me” and for that reason I am mostly a silent reader, who hopes that the blogger can’t see how many times I keep checking in for a new post. 🙂

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Ms. Marlene Stoltzfus of 9/6 said:

My blog reading is a mix of keeping up with people I know and things that pique my interest. I find it important, as a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t like to run around much, to make sure that I’m getting positive input on my professional development. (Yes, truly. It deserves the same learning intention that my husband practices at his job.) I have learned so much practically, aesthetically, ideologically from blogs, though the fragmentation of input drives me crazy sometimes.

I like your terms! Could you explain “professional development”? What does it look like?

Professional development sounds more hip than it is. 🙂
A few years ago, I was in a class that talked about the importance of continuing to develop and stay sharp in your field, no matter what the vocation. Homemaking was mentioned as one of the examples. It was refreshing to think of homemaking as a legitimate field for seeing past the urgent (and immediate) to long range.

I think of homemaking as general categories that break down into a myriad of facets. General categories might be household and land management, interacting with children, and personal development (because a woman alive apart from her job ends up being a better, healthier worker). There are general tasks that everyone has to do (we gotta eat), but we usually pick and choose among the facets for what is more important to us (what will we eat and how much time will we spend making it?). So, I’m interested in knowing Jesus, mommying, and living simply/greenly with a dash of good literature and food. I tend to subscribe to blogs that share several layers of these interests. Some are like swapping kitchen tips with a group of women; others are for ruminating.

Do you like to read otherwise? Blogs and books: which do you find most enjoyable and beneficial?

I enjoy reading. When I really want to learn or luxuriate, I go to a book first, hands-down. I don’t have as much      unbroken time now, so blogs are the daily bursts that keep me engaged and still kicking. But it doesn’t quite cut it. I have to have the slower-moving nourishment of a good book at the same time.

I hear you expressing both appreciation (for all you’ve learned) and frustration (with the fragmentation). How do you access the one without getting overwhelmed by the other?

This one needs a lot of work. I try to keep blog reading to one span of time. I also try keep a steady flow from several blogs rather than flitting from article to article through social media sites. At the most basic level, I have to get up and live, letting what I’ve read solidify in my mind, rather than hunting for some kind of perfect life by gathering more ideas and picture candy through The Screen.

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Well said, ladies! Thanks for being brave!

From 1 to 99

We’ll start with the north and south poles—those who read lots of blogs and those who read almost none at all. By their request and my own, we are keeping the names of specific blogs out of it. Enjoy.

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Ms. 99/41 is my friend Anita Yoder, also a blog writer. She initially commented—

I read blogs because they give me reading material and inspiration. I live in a non-English speaking country and if I don’t read, I feel I will die. I follow blogs that are sparkly and alive, honest but kind and modest, and brave enough to push boundaries to say things as they are.

Anita, you were so brave to post as 99/41; I like that about you. Is 99 a real number? You didn’t pull it out of your hat?

99 is what Feedly says I read. I have very few blog posts come via email because I don’t like a cluttered inbox. Having a blog reader keeps all my sources in one place. (I still grieve Google Reader.)

Aren’t you tempted to make it an even 100?

It’s possible that it’ll be 100 next week if I notice especially good writing somewhere.

I know you, and your interest in the stories of others has always inspired me. But how do you deal with blogging nonsense—the worthless, the offensive, or the repetitive? Are you ever disgusted…

Yes, I’m disgusted frequently. That’s what the ‘unsubscribe’ button is good for.

…Or jealous, or competitive, as you move about in the blogging world? You seem almost immune.

You honor me with the word “immune” because that’s how I want to be.  I try hard to know and be true to my ‘me’ and I also know that falsification and showmanship is so ugly and repulsive. I don’t have anything to prove, so that gives me a lot of freedom. There’s a blog speak out there that is cheesy and saccharine, and some people like that, but I don’t talk that way so I don’t see why I should write it.    I’m not interested in being artificial just to gain more readers. But sometimes I do wonder what it would take to see my stats go up.

I know you also read many books. How do you find the time?

I wonder sometimes if I read so many books, or if I just talk about them so much that people think I read a lot. ‘Many books’ is relative. I read in most every spare minute, and always, always at least 10-15 min–sometimes an hour– before going to sleep. I always have at least 2 or 3 books going simultaneously. When I don’t have something meaningful to read, something inside me dies.

What are your favorite ways to keep up with friends and connect with people?

Over coffee or tea in real-time, of course. Blogging for me isn’t so much a way to connect as it is a way to communicate. It gives the exhorter/teacher in me a chance to tell the world what I’ve just seen. Living at great distance from many of my friends has made cyber connections valuable, and I’ve been hugely blessed by blog connections. But a blog is too public to feel very personally meaningful to me, so emails and chats and Facebook messages are my choice of connection with friends. Apart from the timeless value of letter or card.

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Mr. 1/1? My man Ryan Zook, who commented–

I only follow one blog because I have a secret crush on its author. She’s honest and articulate and creative and beautiful and she thinks I’m crazy. So.

(You are crazy. No argument there.) Why don’t you read more blogs? Do they bore you? Disgust you? You just have other things to do?

I find very few blogs that consistently suit my interests. Blogs that would interest me are topical or technical. I find them when I search for key phrases or when others link to them on social media. I have followed many blogs that eventually lose my interest. I never read mommy blogs or foodie blogs. I cannot stand blogs that need a good copy editor.

Do you read much otherwise? Good books, news, comic sections of newspapers?

I read news and opinion editorials in the Washington Post daily. I enjoy classics and some more modern fiction and nonfiction. For work I read and write so much email in a day that I get tired of receiving one more blog notification that begs my attention.

What are your favorite ways to keep up with friends and connect with people?

I use social media and email to keep up with some friends. They help me to reconnect in person after we’ve been apart for a while. I think things might be different if a bunch of distant friends blogged about their lives. I might be more interested.

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And Ms. 1/1 is my friend Rebekah Miller, who commented:

As one of your former mentorees, I love “watching” you engage with life on this blog. You come across as authentic, caring, and delightful. I also read blogs that my friends recommend on Facebook, but not regularly.

So good to hear from you! though you were kinder than I deserve. Is there a reason you don’t read more blogs?

Good question. I don’t have a top-of-the-head answer, so after scratching the head a bit, I’ll give you an example. I’ve often seen links on facebook to [a popular blog by a male author]. I usually read it, but thinking about following his blog regularly just makes me tired. [A popular blog by a female author] is another one that I enjoy reading when I see it linked, but there again I can’t find much joy in becoming a regular. It has something to do with knowing or having known someone personally. There’s a level of trust that comes from knowing you, and knowing the direction of your heart.

I’m not sure how this makes sense with the fact that I like to keep up with facebook, and spend way too much time there.

Do you read much otherwise?

Oh goodness do I ever! In a recent come-to-Jesus meeting with my husband, he revealed that he sees reading as an out-of-place top priority in my life. I can get wrapped up in a book and happily forget all else. Wintertime especially is my time to read, and our local library has a program called “Blind Date with a Book” during the month of February. They wrap books in Valentine’s paper, put little book reviews on the wrapping, and then I get to pick my “date.” Also, I get entered into a drawing for free stuff if I read these books. What Mennonite wouldn’t love this? I’ve had some real [yikes] humdingers come from these, but I’ve also discovered a few authors that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

My last selections from the library included a book about the stock market, a comic book about Jews in Nazi Paris, two books about growing plants, and a novel from a New York Times bestselling author.

I am also reading through the Bible this year, and learning many disturbing things from the OT. I am loving Jesus in the NT.

I could go on and on about books and what I am learning from them. I love filling my husband’s ears with everything I’m gleaning.

I know you well enough to know you’re good in relationships. What are your favorite ways to keep up with friends and connect with people?

I connect with my oldest friends by doing Saturday morning breakfast every now and then. I love having coffee and then working out with friends I’ve made at my job. Recently the young married ladies from church spent an afternoon in Cleveland shopping, eating at a hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant, and then enjoying scrumptious desserts at a little cafe. Also recently, a dear dear friend from Kansas and I spent time at a coffee shop talking for hours. When my dear dear friend from Ohio was still here, we used to go to coffee shops, or go to gardens for solitude and sharing. I just spent a lovely week in Charleston connecting with my friend-for-a-lifetime.

After writing this, I have a smile on my face, realizing how richly blessed I am with relationships. Perhaps one reason why I don’t follow many blogs is because I don’t have a context for doing so in relationship… Quality time speaks the most to me.

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Kudos to these brave folks!

Any common themes you hear yet? Questions you want to ask?