Dobsons 411

Hanging on for the ultimate ride--God's great adventure.
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Location: Oregon

The author of fourteen contemporary and historical novels, Melanie Dobson lives with her family in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Her latest novels are Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor and Chateau of Secrets. More info at

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Our Pacifiers

Two days ago Karly lost her pacifier.

This may not be a big deal for some kids, but Karly would rather have her paci than anything else in the world including cookies and ice cream. As a newborn, we brought her home from the hospital with her paci in her mouth, and during her first two years, she liked having three or four pacifiers at night. She would suck on one, hook the rest over her fingers, and gaze up at them, obsessed with her rings. As we slowly weaned her off the multiple pacifier addiction, paci became reserved for sleep time though she still tried to sneak it to the breakfast table where she’d stare at it while she ate.

Her paci is almost the only thing that has remained consistent as we’ve moved between Colorado, Tennessee, Ohio, North Carolina, Germany, and California, but after three years, Jon and I knew it was finally time to put it to rest.

Then Karly a few days ago lost her last paci. We searched everywhere for it—under the bed, on the counters, in the toilet—but it refused to be found. Her paci was missing, and she didn’t get to say goodbye.

Karly was up most of the night—crying and kicking like she was in withdrawal. It was exhausting, but somewhere in the midst of the shrieking and flailing, Jon had some great insight.

Like Karly, we crave our own pacifiers because they make us feel secure. Our home. Jobs. Friends. Special stuff. Two years ago, Jon and I lost our pacifiers in a violent jolt. We sold our house and our things and said goodbye to our wonderful friends as we prepared to move to New Zealand for what seemed like an amazing job. But days before we got on the plane, the job fell through.

It was a terrifying year, but we clung to God’s goodness in the midst of the shock. We learned that we could make it without the material things we’d thought were critical. With God as our only security, He provided for us and calmed our fears and then opened a whole new world for us when Jon took the job in Berlin.

As we settle into California life, I’ve built up my pacis again. Our cozy apartment. Internet access. Hot showers. The afternoon cup of tea. A soft bed. And a good book to read at night. If all my comforts vanished tomorrow, it would rock my world too.

Fortunately for Karly, her world wasn’t rocking for long. She slept through the second night sans paci—this time without all the wailing and kicking. And when she woke up the next morning, she was so proud when she exclaimed, “I slept without my paci all night!” She has a brand new confidence that she can make it without her pacifier and we know, through the security found in Christ, we can make it without ours too.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Don't let the door hit you...

So today Karly started preschool. The director warned us that she might cry for awhile when we dropped her off. That we would have to be strong and walk out even if she sobbed.

But crying was not on our daughter's agenda this morning. Instead she walked right in, sat down at the picnic table, and started munching on graham crackers with the gang. Jon, Kiki, and I said goodbye, and she threw us a quick wave over her shoulder (i.e. don't let the door hit you on your way out!!). So we backed toward the exit and watched her watching all her new friends.

Forget sobs. I was waiting for a little tear. A trembling lower lip. A last minute hug when she realized we'd soon be gone.

No luck.

We filled out paperwork in the office, and as we left, I stopped to watch Karly filling a pail with sand on the busy playground. She turned and saw us.

This was it! She would run to the fence, bawling, arms outstretched, begging for Jon and I not to go...

Instead Karly lifted her shovel, and with a smile and a salute, she shouted, "Look at me, Mommy! I'm in school!!" Then she turned back to her sand and overflowing pail.

The house was too quiet when Jon left for work. Kiki and I stared at each other. What do we do now? Karly's the one who makes the noise.

Kiki sauntered into the living room, picked up a book, and sat down by the window to read. I hopped on my computer and hammered out the back story for a novel I've had stuck in my head for months.

I was actually able to think this morning, and Kiki got some much needed quiet...but we still missed Karly. Four hours later, we picked her up from school, and she rewarded me with a hug. Then she asked me if she could stay.


I'm glad she likes school. Really, I am...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Interview with Alison Strobel

Alison Strobel is a talented writer and the author of two inspirational novels--Worlds Collide and Violette Between. She's a new mom as well as an author and business owner, but she graciously took the time to answer a few questions about her busy life and writing career.

Violette Between is your second inspirational novel. How did you get your start as a novelist?

I've been writing all my life, but I never thought I'd actually get
published. I wrote "Worlds Collide," my first novel, when I moved out
to California, but only because I had the idea and was itching to
write because I hadn't in so long. Through a God-designed series of
events, an editor at Waterbrook Press asked to see it when it was done
A few months later they offered me a two-book contract. At the time, I
was a fifth grade teacher--the last thing I expected was to be an
author on top of it! The year after I got my contract I quit teaching
to focus on writing.

What does your typical writing day look like?

Well, it looks a lot different now than it used to, now that I have a
daughter to take care of! Before I was a mom, I would write in the
mornings; it was the most productive and creative time of the day for
me, and the afternoons were reserved for the job(s) I had on the side
to provide income. Writing at home was difficult for me--way too many
distractions--so I'd pack up my laptop and go to the library or
Starbucks. I'd write until I reached my word limit, and if I was on a
roll I'd keep going, otherwise I'd head home. Towards the end of my
pregnancy I was too exhausted to drag myself somewhere else to write,
so I learned to ignore the dishes in the sink and the laundry on the
floor and write with my computer balanced on my giant belly. :)

After Abigail was born I took a break from writing, and I'm just now getting back into it. My husband and I both work from home now, so we're still learning how to coordinate our schedules and balance them with
housework. Right now we have an agreement where he'll go on Abby duty
for three or four hours in the afternoon so I have some alone time to
read, write, and whatever else I want to do. I've yet to get fully
back into the swing of things--there are SO many things competing for
my time and attention, and even when Abby is with Dan I am thinking
about them and whether or not Dan remembers, for example, where I keep
the rice cereal or when she'll need to eat again. And on top of all
that, I'm battling a lot of mental resistance to writing right now, so
there's no such thing these days as a "typical writing day." Hopefully
this month I'll turn that around!

Violette, your main character in this book, is passionate about art. Are you an artist as well?

Well, when it comes to visual art, it depends on how stringent you
make the definition of "artist." :) I've taken some drawing classes,
and when I really put in a lot of time and effort, I can do a darn
good job. But I get easily frustrated because my skill level isn't
where it needs to be in order to create the art I see in my mind.
Really I'm more of a "craft" person than an "art" person--I love to
decorate things, scrapbook, stuff like that. But I'd definitely call
myself an artist--I just paint with words instead of oils or acrylics.

You're a mom as well as a writer and business owner. How do you balance your family life with your professional life?

Sheesh, most of the time I feel like I'm not balancing them! It's
still something I'm learning and experimenting with. I think my
explanation of what my writing time looks like shows just how crazy
things are right now. But a lot of the problem is that I'm not good at
saying I need help; I think I feel like I should be able to handle it
all and be Superwoman. Silly, silly me! So I'm learning to be honest
about what I need so that my creativity doesn't shrivel up. I think
that, for us anyway, it's going to come down to schedules and
discipline--saying, "Okay, today I'll take Abby so you can work on X,
then after lunch you can take her so I can work on Y, and then tonight
we'll do dinner and work on Z together." And then making sure we
stick to that instead of one of us (usually me) saying, "Oh, never
mind, I don't really need that time today--let's go to the mall
instead." :) Abby's just getting to the point now where we can leave
her with my parents for an hour or two, so having that option will
definitely help. This season of life right now, though, is about Abby
first and foremost, so I just keep reminding myself that it's okay to
pull back on the housekeeping and stuff in order to read "The Belly
Button Book" for the twelfth time in an hour. "Balance" doesn't always
mean equal time and effort in every area; it means having proper

More info about Alison and her work is available at her website:
  • Alison Strobel
  • For a free copy of Violette Between, please email me at or place a comment below and I'll draw for the winner.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    Under the Sea

    Silver flecks clung to the fronds of kelp as Jon and I dove through the forest off Catalina Island. Orange fish (garibaldi) raced between the grassy tentacles, their iridescent spots reflecting in the light. I clung to Jon’s hand, focused on the air chugging in and out of my regulator, praying that we wouldn’t see one of the five-foot giant sea bass that makes its home in this underwater park.

    What was I doing forty feet under the water? Swimming with fish??

    While Jon’s parents were visiting, they graciously sent Jon and I away on a weekend getaway to the beautiful island of Catalina while they played with the kids. When we stepped off the boat in Avalon, we felt a hundred miles away from the craziness of L.A. Candy-colored houses were perched on the cliffs overlooking the deep blue sea. People lounged with drinks by the ocean side. Not a cell phone in sight.

    We took a breath of the smog-free air and trekked up a steep road to our inn. As we looked down from our room at the bay filled with swimmers and sailboats, Jon said, “Let’s go scuba diving.” And I, feeling a little daring without kids in tow, agreed. I wasn’t in my right mind.

    Jon went scuba diving a few years ago when my parents treated us to an amazing Hawaiian vacation. He spent an hour in a pool practicing (a great idea!) before they took him out to a clear, rocky reef. He loved it!

    The outfit on Catalina was a little different. Our instructor, Todd, took us right to the dive site—no pool time practice in California. We breathed through the regulator a few times as Todd skimmed the safety info and outfitted us in tight wetsuits, masks, and boots. Then he loaded our backs with tanks and a weight belt, and I struggled to haul my equipment toward the water.

    As Todd started to help me down the slippery stairs that lead to the ocean, a wave cascaded toward shore, knocking us both down. I took a deep breath. So it was a little choppy today. No big deal. Thousands of people do this every day. How hard could it be?

    Into the water we went, and with the waves surging up and down around us, Todd said he wanted me to go first. Figures… I put the regulator in my mouth, grabbed hold of the rope, and feeling quite brave, slid a few feet underwater. I looked below us—tall stalks of kelp crept up out of the darkness. Where was the clear water and coral? For those of you who’ve read Together for Good, you know that bad things sometimes happen in kelp forests. At least in my very active imagination.

    Todd pointed out a school of fish in the murky water, and then he had me practice emptying my mask and blowing out the valve on the regulator and breathe. Breathe?? I wasn’t getting enough air! I pointed up, but he shook his head and pointed down. I shook my head and pointed up again. He pointed down. I shot back up to the surface, spit out my regulator, and heaved in gulps of fresh air.

    Todd stuck his head out of the water. “What’s wrong?”

    “I can’t breathe!”

    “Yes, you can.”

    “No. I can’t!”

    He patiently calmed me down, but I had a few questions. Like what if I couldn’t breathe when we were forty feet under? It’s not like I could buzz up to the surface…not if I wanted to keep my lungs intact. And I happen to like my lungs.

    But who knows when (and at this point, IF) I’ll be able to try scuba diving again? So after a few more minutes of reassurance from Todd, who was now moonlighting as a therapist, I followed he and Jon down through the forest. Todd never left our side during the dive, adjusting our air pressure, watching our gauges. When my leg got tangled in a frond, Todd unwrapped it. He said I used up half of my air in the first six minutes underwater.

    When my racing heart finally calmed down, I enjoyed the last twenty minutes or so of the dive. The view of God’s creation was spectacular. Magenta fish swam past us followed by a rainbowed array of others—blue, silver, and white fish. Gray rocks swathed in lavender and dark green covered the sandy floor beneath us. And the towering stalks of kelp looked like they’d been sprinkled with silver pixie dust. Kicking our fins, we glided through the forest, not knowing what creatures lurked behind the yellowed fronds. I was praying there weren’t any sharks, eel, or giant bass.

    Slowly, we ascended back to the surface, and when we climbed back up the mossy staircase, I spit out my regulator and guzzled oxygen like it was fresh water.

    It’s been three weeks since we dove in the Pacific, and it’s taken me this long to put my experience on paper. I’m still waking up from my part nightmare, part enchanted dream.

    I’m hoping that in a few years, when the girls are old enough to dive, I’ll be ready to try scuba again. In the meantime, I’ll be above the water, savoring one of God’s greatest gifts—AIR.