2012 Resolutions

New Year's resolutions are a mite hokey. Everyone starts out strong, with the best intentions. But after a week or two...or even three or four...those good intentions typically go by the wayside (my New Year's resolutions not excepting).

This year, however, I'm hoping to break that cycle. I really only have two goals for 2012, but they're kinda big ones. Well, okay, three goals as my husband reminds me. The last one, however, I really don't have total control of, so I'm not sure how much of a resolution it can actually be.

(1) I want to reach my goal weight of 125 lbs. Due to the poundage gained during the last couple months, this is a somewhat more daunting task than it was at the end of June (after I'd lost 20 lbs). That being said, I really believe this is a reachable goal. It will just require a lot of hard work, determination, and more than a little discipline on my part. I want to begin 2013 learning how to maintain a healthy weight. At that point, I will be 37 1/2. My ultimate goal is to have this loss and maintenance stuff down COLD by my 40th birthday. Again, all possible.

(2) I want to finish my novel. This has been a long time in progress, and I just want to have that satisfaction of a finished work. Regardless of what comes of it--even if I have to self-publish on Amazon--I want to be able to tell people that I am a published author. It has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. And it's about time this dream is realized.

(3) I want to celebrate Christmas next year in Costa Rica. For those who do not know my family, this may seem like rather a selfish goal. Christmas in a tropical paradise? Without family?? While I hope to be digging in the sand instead of digging in snow, there really is more to it than just wanting a tropical vacation. We will be spending a year in San Jose, Costa Rica solely to learn the Spanish language. Our time in country will be anything but a vacation. Yes, there will likely be pleasure trips during our days off between each trimester during the year's study. But spending a year doing nothing more each day than learning a language--well enough that it becomes a heart language (my prayer)--is not exactly relaxing by the beach. Whether or not we are fully funded and able to head to language school is somewhat up to us, but it is largely up to God as well.

Imagine if all three of my resolutions are met? What if I am finally that lean-and-mean mama spending next New Year's Eve next year on a Costa Rican beach, reading a copy of my brand new book? Wow. That would be amazing.


How We Roll

A friend of mine once read an article in a magazine, claiming that how the toilet paper is rolled is one of the biggest argument-starters among married couples. I'm hoping the writer of said article was being a bit facetious. Of all the things to argue about, how the toilet paper is rolled was one of the biggest?! Really?? Man, if that's all you've got to argue about in your marriage, then you must have it pretty good.

Or pretty bad, if you think about it. Because if we're being that nitpicky about something so trivial, then how do we react to the really big things? Like finances. And division of labor. Religion. How to raise the kids. Where and how to spend the holidays and vacations. Toilet seat up or down. Which side of the bed to sleep on. These are things that can be far more stressful in a marriage than the way your toilet paper rolls.

Let's face it. All that really matters is that it's there when you need it. We've all had that unpleasant experience of being the only one in the house, looking at that empty brown tube while attending to business, and knowing that another roll was clear in another room. Now that's something worth fighting about, by gum. When it comes to up or down, it really doesn't matter. Both get the job done. When push comes to shove, regardless of which way we have to roll it, we know we're going to get what we need from the roll. So why fight about it? Especially when there's so many other worthwhile things to fight about.

Like whom gets the remote.


Book Review for "The Chair" by James Rubart - Kindle Edition

Corin Roscoe is a broken man. You can't tell by merely looking at him, but inside, he is scarred from the many tragedies and painful experiences of his life. His first marriage ended in disaster. Both of his parents are dead. His brother--easily the most important person to Corin--has completely shut him out of his life. His antiques business is failing.

Until a mysterious woman brings him a chair--but not just any chair. A chair that was supposedly made by Christ, with some of His healing powers within it. When two people are miraculously healed, the quest of Corin's life begins. Does the chair really possess Christ's healing powers? Or does healing really come from knowing the One who made it? Can his relationships be restored? Can he be made new? These are all questions he must find the answers to, all the while trying to figure out whom to trust---and who is really out to hurt him.

I've read all of Jim Rubart's novels, and this is without doubt my favorite. I truly believe that Jim has been blessed with the gift of writing. There are only a handful of authors that can truly make me care about the characters the way he can. But more important than an entertaining story is the message this book presents. There is healing in Jesus Christ. Only through a relationship with Him can our brokenness be healed. In Him, we are new creatures. Obviously, this is a Christian book. So if books about Jesus Christ turn you off, perhaps this is not for you. But if you're willing to be open-minded, there is definitely a message that needs to be heard.


Built-in Alarms

Anyone with children, or anyone who has been around children, can tell you that they come with built-in alarms. And unfortunately, these alarms do not come with a snooze button. Or an "off" switch---although if I could figure out where it is, I'd be a popular woman!

Here's what their built-in alarm looks like. You've just stepped into the shower and lathered shampoo in your hair. Dreaming of enjoying the rest of your leisurely shower? Think again! The kids' built-in alarm has just alerted them to the fact that they must see you NOW. When it is LEAST convenient. Children that can ignore me all day suddenly find an urgent and pressing need to disrupt my shower. It's never as I'm finishing up. Never after I've applied the conditioner. It's always at the point-of-no return, when I know---and I believe THEY know---it will take the longest amount of time until I'm available. Which means one of two things. Either you listen to their whining, crying, and fighting all through your shower (say goodbye to any enjoyment you might've found), or you zip through it as if you are the super hero Flash.

Incidentally, this same built-in alarm is the same one used by infants to help them know when they are hungry. You're just sitting down to a delectable, toasty dinner (which you've miraculously managed to prepare with little ones in the house), and have been eagerly anticipating that first, delicious bite. Sorry! The baby's built-in alarm sounds, alerting the previously contented child that he or she is ravenously hungry and must eat. NOW. Bye-bye hot dinner.

I wish I knew how to disable these alarms. Until then, I guess I can always dream of what it might be like to finish a shower or enjoy 5 minutes in the bathroom uninterrupted.



           They say that confession is good for the soul. God’s Word tells us that it is a necessary part of forgiveness. We cannot be forgiven if there is no confession. There are many confessions I’ve made in my lifetime. Some silly. As a girl I used to pray that Bo Duke was in my closet when I woke up. Some not so silly. This morning, for instance, during a conversation with the friends we are currently staying with, I made a comment about my children (with them sitting in the room) that was completely inappropriate and not at all how I really felt about them. Our friend was horrified that I’d even said it. Really, that should’ve been a big red flag in my face. Because in reality, as soon as it was out of my mouth, I knew it was wrong. What did I do instead of instantly apologize? I did what we as humans often do in the face of our mistakes. I tried to justify it. But God wouldn’t let me off the hook. All morning my comment kept replaying over and over in my head, like a record with a big scratch in it. With each skip, each repeat, my heart hurt more and more. Did I make it right? Nope. I stubbornly, doggedly, kept on justifying. Finally, however, I could take no more. I called my children into the room and apologized for saying it. The ironic thing is that they hadn’t even heard the comment to begin with. But I felt better.
           We’ve been traveling around to various area churches, sharing with others about our calling to minister for the Lord in Mexico City. In the services, my husband has preached the same sermon, so I’ve had the opportunity to hear them many times. As much as I’ve enjoyed the sermons, they’ve also been painful for me at the same time. I’ve had call to discipline my children many times--one of them just today, in fact. It’s sometimes an everyday part of life. And it’s the only way they learn how to behave, and grow. Just as a mother corrects her children, God corrects His children when they stray. So here’s another confession for you: I’ve strayed. Whenever I read about the Israelites’ tendency to worship other gods in the Old Testament, I shake my head and wonder how this can be. The God of the Earth has selected you as His chosen people and you willingly choose to serve man-made gods?! What I often forget is that I do the same thing. The only difference is that I don’t serve the pagan gods like Baal. But what I do serve is very much a god in its own right. Self. I argue all of the time that I don’t have time for daily devotions. You gave me four kids to raise and educate, God. And I have chores to do. And cooking to do. And cleaning to do. And I have to make use of this writing gift you’ve given me. And I really need to get some exercise in, too, God. And sleep. You want me to be rested, right, God? The list goes on. The sad fact, however, and something that both of us know full-well, is that if I really wanted to spend time with Him, I’d make the time. Just like I make the time to read my favorite book. Or just like I make the time to watch my favorite TV show. As much as I loathe to admit it, I am no better than the wandering Israelites of the Old Testament. If you really think about it, I’m actually worse. I supposedly have Jesus Christ residing in my heart. They did not. They had to have yearly sacrifices offered for their sins. I can turn to God in an instant to have my sins forgiven. I can even (and again, supposedly have) have that sin nature purged from my soul by God in the act of sanctification.
           We are only 52% funded. What I’ve come to wonder this week is this: am I in part to blame? I may hold up John 10:10b--”I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly”--and tell people that I want to tell the people of Mexico City about the abundant life in Christ. But how can I do this when I’m not living it? Should God be in any hurry to see us funded and turned loose upon His lost children? I wouldn’t be. What in me is there that would serve to draw others to Him? I’m like a dull mirror at best. Oh, there is some light being reflected. But not enough to light up the room.
           I do not doubt that we are called to minister in Mexico City. Not for a minute. Nor do I doubt that God can provide the funds we need tomorrow. But maybe He is keeping us here for a reason. And maybe it’s so that I can really grow to know Him and be afire for Him before we are released.
           I want to be that person who draws people to Christ like a moth to a flame. I want them to be able to, in a single glance, know that there is something different about me. Someone different in me. And I want to be afire for Him. I want to hunger and thirst for Him that I cannot get enough of His Word and of Him.
          Obviously, there is much I need to learn and change. Please pray for me as I learn to cleave anew to my Father, and that my heart will not be turned again.


My God is a Creative God

I stand on a lookout perched atop a small hill. The air is cool, the sky a mix of clouds and sunshine following a brief afternoon shower. The very earth drips around me. I shade my eyes against the piercing rays of the sun and gaze in awe at the vista surrounding our aerie. Mountain upon mountain--layers and layers of them--all clothed in autumn’s finest colors. Deep reds. Vibrant oranges. Vivid yellows. It is so stunningly beautiful that I am at a complete loss for words. Tears stream down my face. My God is a creative God. These words keep echoing through my mind as I admire the majestic view. Only God could create such hues. This cannot be the work of anyone else but God. Not for the first time, I’m baffled how anyone can witness the same beauty I have today and doubt God’s existence. Do they not see with the same eyes I have? Are they blinded by something? Something that prevents them from seeing things as they truly are? As if they are looking through film-covered lenses, perhaps.

The Bible tells us that although some of mankind refuses to glorify God, the rocks and mountains cannot help but declare His majesty. This afternoon, I have never seen a clearer example of this truth. Although it is actually silent, it is as if the mountains around me are practically shouting out their joy of their Creator.

I close my eyes. Quiet my heart. And join them.


A Storyline Issue

I've mentioned in previous entries that I've been skipping around a bit in my story line. Today I was all set to write the engagement scene. (Because of course my characters get married. What kind of romance novel would I be writing if I didn't allow my characters to be together at the end?! Certainly not one I'd want to read!) And without giving too much away, I was trying to establish a possible time line for this but kept running into problems. One of the crises I've put into the book is a major health issue for the primary male character. It was meant to serve as a "wake up call" for my main female character. But now I'm concerned that it could potentially serve as a major life changer. With a long-lasting effect on the characters' lives. That's not exactly what I'm going for. I wanted drama, but not that much drama. So now I'm trying to come up with a different solution. Something that will bring about the desired effect without completely sabotaging my poor character's livelihood.

I'm beginning to see why the experts all strongly urge newbies (in particular) to thoroughly plan and research their novels ahead of time. Before a single word is written.

Oops. Maybe next time.


On Your Mark, Get Set, WRITE!

I cannot write with a house full of noise. Yet, I cannot write with utter silence, either. I must have music. But not just any music. Upbeat, fast-tempo music does not really serve to inspire. To be really creative, I must have slow, melancholy music. Depressingly melancholy. Y'know, the songs about breakups and heartache. Even when working on happy scenes. Seems weird, I know.

An author friend asked me recently how my writing was going, and I was forced to admit that it's not. Things have been really crazy lately. Excuses and all that. Today however, my husband will be taking the children camping. They'll be gone all afternoon, all night, and probably a large portion of tomorrow morning as well. Yes! A house all to myself! To write! Or not!

I started feeling a little guilty that I hadn't written anything in awhile, so I pulled up the manuscript on my computer and started reading through what I've written so far. Every time I do this, I always find things to fix or correct. A way to word a paragraph or sentence better. (At this rate, I'll never be finished.) And of course, I had to listen to my iTunes playlist of favorite 80s and 90s music.

As we've already established my criteria for music to write by, however, I soon found I was skipping several songs in a row because they were too.....happy. The only solution, of course, was to create an entirely new play list of songs. Which I did. Now I have 3 full hours of all the melancholy music I could ever want to listen to. I suspect that after listening to it though, I'll be in serious need of Winnie the Pooh or something equally cheerful.

No matter what does or does not get accomplished today, I'm satisfied knowing that I'm at least in the story. It's not put away. My characters are staring me in the face even now, waiting for me to give them some forward motion.

While depressingly awesome music plays in the background.


Book Review for "The Only Way: A Tale of Pride and Prejudice" (Kindle Edition) by Ola Wegner

Where do I start? There were many things about this book that I did not like. I read most of the sample and the three other reviews (none of which mention what I'm about to mention unless I was just too tired to notice) and was convinced this was another clean continuation. Alas, if I'd actually finished the sample, I would've realized I was mistaken.

In Hunsford, Elizabeth had only just refused Darcy's proposal when she receives notice that her beloved father is dead. She sets out immediately to London to collect Jane and head on to Longbourn to be with their family. Upon hearing the news, Darcy follows her and, with Colonel Fitzwilliam's assistance, escorts her to London in his own carriage. Once there, he has a most interesting proposal. If she agrees to marry him, he will look after her mother and sisters. He will purchase a house in the area of Meryton and settle a sum upon her sisters as their dowries. A serious choice is before her. By marrying Mr. Darcy, she can, in essence, do what she would not do when Collins proposed--see to her family's support and safety. Of course, who in their right mind wouldn't choose Fitzwilliam Darcy over Mr. Collins? She unhappily accepts the proposal. This is a thoroughly interesting premise, so much so that I rushed into purchasing this book without really finishing my homework---a mistake I will not   make again. If you are one who enjoys these romps in the hay with the Darcys, you may really enjoy this book, as there were many things to like (as well as many romps in the hay).

However, if you, like me, cannot stomach reading about most beloved characters' every sexual encounter, then you will not be satisfied with this book. I do not agree that Mr. Darcy kept lovers prior to meeting Elizabeth, despite the fact that I know this to be a common practice of the day. Jane Austen's Darcy, I believe, was above such a thing. Even in the book, he grew to heartily rue this behavior--even so far as to mentioning to the Colonel that if he ever had sons, he would discourage them from the practice. So I can take some pleasure in that. But still. There's no need to go there to begin with. I also detest reading about the sexual encounters of my favorite characters. I read the book and have seen the movies. I know that there was a love and passion between them. Moreover, I am married with four children of my own. So I can put two and two together as to what that passion translates into behind closed doors. I just don't want to read about it!!!!! I cannot put a stronger point on it than that. Yes, upon realizing what was to come, I should've just deleted it off my device. But I had this perverse need to know how it ended. Suffice it to say, there were many parts I skipped over.

Beyond that, however, there were other changes to my beloved characters that I just couldn't stomach. Jane Austen's Elizabeth and Jane are both respectability personified, who would never even so much as allow physical liberties to be taken with them prior to marriage--with, perhaps, with exception to a chaste kiss. Although, I do not recall ever reading about a kiss between Bingley & Jane and Darcy & Lizzy in the book after their engagements. Therefore, I do not believe Elizabeth would allow Mr. Darcy the extremely physical intimacies she permits him prior to their marriage in Ms. Wegner's book. Nor do I believe Jane would secretly conduct a correspondence with Colonel Fitzwilliam (what???!!!!!), agree to marry Mr. Bingley, and then, only weeks before the wedding, elope with the Colonel! She also allowed him to kiss her after only their third meeting. That is not the Jane Bennet that we know and love. Finally, as silly and irresponsible as she is, I do not believe Mrs. Bennet would encourage Lizzy to sleep with Mr. Darcy before their wedding, just to further ensnare him, nor encourage Lydia to entice an officer on her visit to Brighton and allow him to carry her off to Gretna Green.

These are not the characters I've come to love and admire over the years. But if this version of Darcy and Elizabeth is how the author views them, I will not be reading anything of hers again.


Progress Thus Far - 26,000 Words

They say that life imitates art. But in my case, the opposite is true as well. When I read a book, especially one where the author has been successful at drawing me fully into the story, I very often will skip to the end to see how everything turns out (or to see if I've guessed the plot resolution correctly).

Well, just as in my reading, I have skipped around in my writing as well. Normally, I tend to write chronologically. Sometimes, I don't even know where the story will take me at the end. I just write and allow the characters to dictate what happens. Not this time! I've completed (and edited to death) the beginning chapters, detailing the first (and main) crisis in the book. But then writer's block struck. Major. So, instead of stewing about it, I skipped ahead to another section. And then another section. And still another after that. I've skipped so far ahead that I'm now within a couple chapters of the story's conclusion.

As my story is fairly typical of all romance novels--characters meet, fall in love, realize their mutual love for each other, a crisis separates them, followed by a reunion and conclusion of the story--readers will likely surmise the events to take place early on. But that's okay. If they enjoy the journey as much as I have, they'll walk away contented.

It is very strange to think that I am very close to being at least half-way finished with this manuscript. After over two years with these characters languishing on my computer, I've spent more time with them in the last two months than almost anyone else. While, once completed, I will be immensely satisfied to have finished a story, a part of me will be sad to end my time with the characters as well.

Perhaps this is why I've restlessly skipped around in their story, focusing mainly on the end. I want to be assured that these beloved characters are given the happily-ever-after they so richly deserve.


Nothing To Complain About

When I overhear children or teenagers complaining because they don't have a certain toy, or their parents won't buy them the newest iPhone, I just want to shake some sense into them. If only they could understand how privileged they really are. Most of the children in this country have food to eat every day. Most of the children in this country have clothing to wear, and a roof over their heads. Most of the children in this country have at least some toys and books with which to entertain themselves. Most of the children in this country have at least someone in their lives who loves about them. And most of the children in this country are safe from harm.

However, there are children around the world who do not have enough food to eat. They might get to eat today. There are children around the world who are naked, or poorly clothed. There are children around the world who are homeless, forced to live on the streets. There are children around the world who have never had a childhood. Have never played a game of soccer or own a book, let alone know how to read it. There are children around the world who have been betrayed by their own family members. Abused, or sold for little money into slavery. And there are children around the world who are in constant danger--sometimes put there by people who were supposed to love and cherish them.

When I hear people in this country say that they've had the worst day imaginable, I am incredulous. Because what could be worse than some of the things women and children the world around have been forced into? On our worst days, odds are that we still have something to eat. On our worst days, odds are that we still have a roof over our heads, and clothes to wear. On our worst days, odds are that we still have people who love us to come home to. And on our worst days, odds are that we are still safe from harm. Free to live our lives. Free to have a better day tomorrow.

There are women and children in many countries, sold into the sex trade, who do not have that guarantee. Every day is their worst day.

We have absolutely nothing to complain about. It's time we took a hard look at ourselves and asked what we can do to help.


Some Advice From the Voice of Experience

Hello. This is the Voice of Experience calling. I thought you might be interested in some nuggets of wisdom in helping your child prepare for siblings.

(1.) Expect to have some jealousy from your oldest directed at the new baby. Even if that child is excited to have a new brother or sister, there will be a moment when he or she is insanely jealous of the attention that sibling is receiving. Beware. It emerges at unpredictable times. For example, due to an illness, our oldest was barred from visiting Mama and her new baby brother at the hospital. The result was that she was furious with both me (for abandoning her) and her newborn brother. Less than 24 hours after arriving home from the hospital, our 13-month old stomped on her brother's head as he lay on a blanket spread on the floor. After that, she loved him. It was as if she was having her say, and then she was over it. (She was, however, furious with me for far longer.)
This behavior also manifests itself in older children (four and up) who are used to being the center of attention--particularly first borns who are also the first grandchild, niece/nephew, etc. Our nephew altered his baby brother's perfectly nice name into something that wasn't, all from changing one little letter. In that one tiny change, it was obvious to all how he felt about the new addition to the family. Amazingly, when our eldest child--the first girl on my husband's side and the first grandchild on mine--appeared a mere three weeks after her cousin, our oldest nephew became her biggest fan. He would sit next to her and hold her hand. We often wonder if, in the beginning, he would've preferred it if we had swapped babies.

While you should plan for the inevitable, there is something you can do to circumvent it: bribery. Purchase a toy that is from the baby to the big brother or sister. It is not from Mommy & Daddy. It is not from Grandpa & Grandma. It is not from Aunties or Uncles. It is from little brother or sister. And it works. Especially if it's a toy the oldest has long been eying.

(2.) To help children get excited about welcoming a new sibling home, allow them to show some pride in as messy a way as possible. We've all seen those adorable "I'm the Big Sister!" or "I'm the Big Brother!" shirts. Avoid them like the plague (they really are overpriced, anyway. Particularly hospital gift shop t-shirts). Unless your child is still really a baby herself (as in the case of our eldest, who was, as I said, only 13 months old when little brother came along), let him or her make their own shirt or onesie. Get a new garment and some fabric paints and let your child design the shirt. Unless your child is a young prodigy, you will need to write the words for him or her. "I'm the Big Sister/Brother", along with any other writing your child can think of. We added little hearts with the names of that particular sibling with the new baby's name in them, but of course this only works if you know ahead of time what the baby's gender is. Leave all coloring and design aspects to him or her. Then set this aside for the first time he or she visits their new sibling in the hospital. Our kids still have all of their shirts (mainly because their Mean Mama, yours truly, only let them wear them a couple times before packing them away). For our youngest daughter, who was not quite 2 when little brother came along, we decorated a onesie for her to wear.

(3.) Many people videotape messages to their child while Mama is in labor (or while awaiting the c-section). Why not include older siblings in this ritual as well? You'll have some precious memories recorded of the excitement everyone felt as they prepared to welcome the newest family member. One of our favorite video clips is of my oldest son, who was just shy of 3 at the time, welcoming "baby Tohwe (Tori)".

(4.) Do not refer to the baby as "my" baby. Refer to the baby as "our" baby. Allow the older child some ownership and pride in the newest little one.

So there you have it. Probably the best advice you'll ever need with regard for preparing your children to be big siblings. It is a big transition going from no children to one and from one to two. After that, it's just addition. Enjoy!


Just Keep Swimming...

Just like my favorite little blue fish, I need to just keep swimming in this giant sea of creativity. (Now you're gonna have that song stuck in your head, aren't you?) If I have not posted with regularity here, or on any of my other blogs for that matter, it doesn't mean that I'm not writing. Because I am. Really.

The last couple weeks my time has largely been consumed with writing my manuscript. I've spent hours at a time immersed in the lives of my characters, letting them take shape on paper. Er, on the computer screen. The story has already taken a different direction than I anticipated, but that's okay. The characters themselves are now the ones telling the story, which is very interesting. I'm learning so much about them and what they've been through, that it's hard to tear myself away. But tear myself away I must. We have neither a live-in-nanny nor a housekeeper, and so those tasks are relegated to moi.

So, until the day we either move into a house with an office, or can afford to hire said professionals, I am thankful for the--mostly--helpful assistance of my family and for the sage advice of my favorite little blue fish. To just keep swimming.


Interesting Development

Up until now writing has been strictly something I do for enjoyment's sake, and has tended to be infrequently done. I've been working (off and on, of course) on a story for about the last year or two about a woman who loses her husband on the night of her high school reunion.

Last month while we were attending CROSS training, a thread was started in the Amazon Kindle forum asking if there were any readers who were secretly writing books. Through some encouragement from the woman who began the topic (I'd originally only wanted to post a link to this blog, given how many people feel about Christian fiction in the forum), I went ahead and posted the prologue to my story.

Almost immediately, another woman expressed some interest and even referred me to her boss, a woman who works at a new Christian publishing company that is geared toward CF e-books! I've been in contact with her and she invited me to send her my finished manuscript!

I've met enough struggling writers in the last year to know that being published is definitely an uphill battle. And once you're published, there's often a ridiculous amount of self-promotion that needs to be done in order to get folks to buy your book. So I know this is not necessarily a guarantee.

With that being said, this is more than I had going into July. I am not even close to being finished with the book, having only about 1/3 of it finished at this point. To that end, I am working hard, trying to write at least a little bit every day. I've also asked five ladies whom I know will give me honest feedback to read what I've completed so far.

I have no idea where this path will take me. All that matters is that I've begun the journey.

In Between a Marshmallow and a Jalapeno

If you know me only through my writings, my blogs or Facebook statuses, you might have the preconceived idea that I am a confrontational person when it comes to things I don't like or injustices that I see. And you'd be sorely mistaken. When it comes to confrontation, I am a marshmallow. A big, soft, fluffy marshmallow. I'd no sooner approach an adult who'd done something wrong than poke myself in the eye.

For instance, yesterday as we were leaving the Walmart, I spotted a man park in the last handicapped parking spot remaining in that row. Why? I suppose it's because he didn't feel like walking from farther in the parking lot. Why does anyone do things like this? Selfishness, plain and simple. Did he consider that an actual handicapped person might actually need that spot? Probably not. And maybe he did, but didn't care. Just to make sure I wasn't making a snap judgment (and because I couldn't see the license plate--I could only see that he didn't have a handicapped tag hanging from his rear view mirror), I sat there and waited for him to get out. Neither he nor his female passenger were handicapped. Now, I know there are plenty of handicaps that are hard to detect. But if you're able to drive and walk away from your car without any assistance, you probably don't need to park in that space. And while we're at it, if you are driving a car belonging to a handicapped person, and they are not with you, that does NOT give you the right to park in a handicapped spot. Glad I got that off my chest. But see? I'm all bark and no bite. Did I actually say anything to the couple? Nope. I'm not even sure I made eye contact enough to give them a good self-righteous glare. Marshmallow.

As a missionary, I may very likely be approaching strangers and asking them if they know Jesus as their Savior. There will be opportunities for me to befriend people before talking to them about Him, as well. But at some point, I will need to ask. I will need to be bold in my approach.

We've all seen people who are far too bold for their own good. Most of the time, these people tend to turn others off. Nobody really enjoys confrontation all of the time, right? These people are kind of like jalapeno peppers. They are spicy and have quite a kick to them. Most people enjoy a little spiciness in their lives. But not all the time. Spicy cereal? Spicy ice cream? Spicy watermelon? Some things are just not meant to be spicy.

What if I were to give up some of the marshmallow and adapt some of the jalapeno? I'm not entirely sure what food that would make me, but let's just consider for a minute what that would look like. I'd be bold enough to speak up when I need to, yet sensitive enough to the situation to be gentle or quiet when I need to be. I'd be bold enough to witness for Jesus without fear, yet careful not to push people away who are not ready to hear about Him.

May I grow to be in between a marshmallow and a jalapeno.


Born to Soar

The following is something I wrote back in September and I was reminded of today.  I've also posted it on my weight-loss blog.

Yesterday, I had an epiphany.

For almost a week now, I’ve been faithfully keeping track of what I eat and how much I exercise.  It hasn’t necessarily been enjoyable.  I never have been the type to critically analyze and calculate every single piece of food I put into my body.  Nor have I been one who thrives on exercise.  So it is little shock to anyone why I’m in the terrible shape I am.  But that wasn’t my epiphany.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a writer.  My earliest memories of writing take me back to the 5th grade when I began writing down certain dreams I had and then embellishing them.  Then, in sixth grade, my class received a writing assignment.  We were shown several pictures and told to write a story about one of them.  I don’t remember how much time we had to work on these stories.  But I distinctly remember coming home from school that day and immediately getting to work on mine.  From the time I came home from school until the time I went to bed each night, and then all day on weekends, I wrote.  When the time was up, I still wasn’t finished.  So my teacher gave me a little extra time after I submitted an outline of my story to her.  Once finished, I had somehow worked each of the pictures into the plot line of my story.  The day we received them back, before handing them out, the teacher made an announcement.  She typically did not give out A+ grades because she believed that there was always room for improvement.  However, she felt that one student deserved an A + grade for their story.  Without revealing whom had earned this high honor, she instead began to read the opening of the chosen story.  It was mine.  Everyone immediately knew it was mine as well because of the deep shade of red I turned.  All through junior high and high school, and even somewhat into my college years, I spent many hours during and after school writing story after story.  Then, after my babies were born, there weren’t enough hours in the day for sleep or showering, let alone writing.  I set it aside, telling myself that I’d pick it up again when the kids were older.  Now, they are older and time is still at a premium.  But that wasn’t my epiphany.

In my life, I’ve sat through at least twenty-five years of Sunday school, attended a Bible college for eight years (yes, I crammed 4 years of study into 8), and have watched each and every VeggieTale countless times.  I know God made me and loves me very much.  I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  I’ve known this for 31 years (I’m not counting the other four years of my life because let’s face it, who remembers much before they’re four?).  But somehow knowing it and knowing it were two different things for me.   And that was my epiphany. 

Because God loves me enough to send His Son Jesus to die for me, and because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I am beautiful in His sight.  I am worthwhile.  I matter.

I realized that because I matter, I don’t want to be overweight any longer.  I don’t want to keep setting a bad example for my children.  Therefore, I am actually excited about this new weight loss journey I’m on.  And so if using a website to keep track of everything I eat and each time I exercise helps me to finally lose the weight once and for all and reach a healthy me, then I am excited about it!  I deserve to be healthy.  I deserve to be happy.

I also realized that because I deserve to be happy, it was a mistake to put away a gift that God gave me.  To that end, over the weekend I began writing again.  Each day, I’ve spent a few hours writing--losing myself in a world entirely of my own making.  I’m not just doing this for my own pleasure and enjoyment, however.  I want to use this gift to glorify the One who gave it to me, whatever happens.  Whatever comes from it.  Even if nothing comes of it but a closer walk with Him.

My epiphany was that I was born to soar--we all were.  And I’ve decided to spread my wings and let my Heavenly Father teach me to fly.


Book Review for "Leaving" by Karen Kingsbury (Kindle edition)

For me, a mark of a good writer is the ability to make readers feel the same emotions as the characters they are reading about. This is something Karen Kingsbury has always been able to do, in my opinion, and Leaving is no exception.

Many of us have followed Bailey and the rest of the Flanigan family ever since the Redemption series. We've watched Bailey grow into the beautiful young woman of God that she is. Yes, these are fictional characters. But after many years and several series, they've begun to feel like friends. The characters inspire us to be better mothers, siblings, children, and friends. With so many broken families, it's comforting to read about families that are loving toward each other.

I've also had strong opinions about Bailey's relationship--or lack thereof--with Cody. Obviously, as this is the first book in a series, there is not a final resolution between the two of them. In fact, at the end of the book, we are left wondering if indeed the two of them will ever end up together. There are potential love-interests for each that could be made to work. I wasn't originally thrilled about this when I heard about it (before reading the book), but after reading about Brandon's relationship with Bailey and Cheyenne's relationship with Cody, I'm extremely intrigued to see what Ms. Kingsbury will do with these relationships in the remaining books.
Leaving is an enjoyable read and I cannot wait until later this summer when the next book in the series, Learning comes out.


Book Review for "The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy" by Mary Lydon Simonsen

This book was referred to me by one who described it as "not a bodice-ripper". While I can say that it does not go to the extreme that some of the P&P sequels I've heard about do, I wouldn't exactly call this give-to-your-Grandma clean, either. There is some "minor" language that I didn't appreciate (I say "minor", even though there is no such thing in my book. Foul language is foul language. I say "minor" merely because there are those who would not consider taking the Lord's name in vain, the word "bas***d", or the word "d**n" as foul language). However, what really bothered me the most about this book was the allusions to Mr. Darcy's illicit affairs with widowed women and his lustful fantasies about Elizabeth. Ew! I have nothing against sex between a married man and wife, but I certainly do not need to read about it. And call me a prude if you like, but I've always imagined that Mr. Darcy lived a chaste life until he met Lizzy. I understand that it was all the rage for gentlemen to take mistresses. But you will never convince me that it was something Mr. Darcy did.

Ms. Simonsen certainly gave us a new picture of Anne de Bourgh, however, as a feisty schemer who plots a way to bring her cousin and Elizabeth together at Pemberley. This is certainly an Anne we need not feel sorry for, as she is quite capable of taking care of herself thank you very much.

She did not paint Georgiana in quite the same way, either. In this story, Georgiana is a bit flighty, hopelessly obsessed with gothic novels and tragedies. At Ramsgate, Georgiana discovered on her own what a despicable cad Wickham was and was preparing to tell him off when Darcy entered the scene---quite a bit different than any other version of P&P I've read. This Georgiana is far more independent than the Georgiana I am accustomed to and doesn't really seem to need the loving instruction from new sister Elizabeth.

Jane also gets a makeover--and a backbone--in Ms. Simonsen's book. Will a curious (and odd) new suitor throw a monkey wrench in Bingley's plan to win back Jane's heart?

In the end, no matter how well the story may have been written (I'll grant Ms. Simonsen that), I just could not get over her portrayal of my favorite literary hero. A pervy Darcy is one I just cannot stomach. Give me the gentlemanly Darcy any day.


Change of Heart - "The Reunion" Prologue

I had a change of heart and decided to post the prologue to my story, "The Reunion".  Due to security issues, this is probably all of the story I'll be able to show, however. Hope you enjoy it!

The Reunion - Prologue

June - Present Year

    The Durango crept along the cemetery road past rows and rows of tombstones, coming to a stop in front of one underneath an ancient weeping willow tree.  A young woman emerged from the vehicle and reached back inside for a bag and the box of plants sitting on the passenger seat.  She shut the door with her leg and carefully made her way over to the tombstone.  Next to it was a bench, and onto this she set her armful of plants.  Then, she reached into the bag for her gardening tools.
    She knelt in front of the tombstone, digging holes and then planting each of the various bunches of flowers in the loamy soil.  Satisfied with her work, she wiped her brow with the back of her hand and settled back in the lush grass.
    Sighing, she thought again about today’s date: June 2.  Had it already been a year?  It didn’t seem possible.  This was the first time she’d been to his grave in months.  She’d last visited eight weeks after the funeral.  At first, she was in no shape to even leave the house, sicker than she’d ever been in her life.  Then, once she’d started feeling better, Cancun experienced the full brunt of a brutal Colorado winter.  She just couldn’t risk an accident on the mountain road between her house and the cemetery--not when she was the only parent they had left.  And then in recent months, she’d been busier than she’d ever thought possible.  No matter how busy things were at home, or how much seeing his beloved name in stone with those two dates below it, she knew nothing would keep her from being here today with him.  On the very worst kind of anniversary.

Andrew Emmitt Darcy  
Safe in the arms of Jesus 

    She ran her fingers lovingly over the name, melancholy once again at the gruesome thought of his life cut so violently short. He’d only been thirty.  So young.  It still didn’t make sense to her.  But did losing a loved one this way ever make sense?  There was no comfort in knowing that she wasn’t the first, nor would she be the last to experience this horror.
    She listened to the wind whispering it’s words of comfort through the leaves on the trees, closing her mind to the memories of that dreadful night.  Not yet.  She was not ready--there were other things to think of first. Using her sleeve to wipe the tears from her eyes, she brushed her hands off and reached once more for the bag. From inside the bag, she carefully pulled out a small box made of marble.  Lifting the lid, she extracted each item one by one.  A picture drawn by her four-year-old son of his interpretation of Daddy singing with the angels in Heaven.  A small plastic bag containing several wispy locks of hair taken from her two-year-old son’s first haircut.  Another plastic bag containing several pictures.  These she removed from the bag and held up, explaining each one.
    “Here’s Emmitt at his fourth birthday party with the toy train set our parents chipped in and bought him.  And here’s Will taking his first steps.”  She flipped through the pictures one by one, each memory more bittersweet than the last.  She would always treasure these special moments with her sons--Andrew’s sons.  They were pieces of him she would have with her forever.  They both even boasted more of his features and appearance than hers.  Yet, she wished once again that it could’ve been different.  That he could’ve been in the pictures, sharing these precious memories with her.
    There were several pictures that had been separated from the others when she’d first removed them from the bag.  These she now took in her hands. 
    “When I was here last, I told you that I suspected I might be pregnant.  Turns out that I was. Andrew, I’d like to introduce you to your little daughter, Andrea,” she said, and held up a picture of a tiny infant wrapped in a pink blanket.  “I named her after both of us--Andrea Grace.”  One by one, she held up several pictures of their daughter taken at various stages in her short four months of life.  “She was conceived that morning....that morning we were together for the very last time.  She was my very last gift from you, my love.”  A daughter.  When Will was born, they’d talked about trying once more for a little girl.  While he loved his sons, Andrew had always wanted a little girl who would be “Daddy’s little girl”.  And of course, she had dreamed of having someone to dress up and show off.  Now, they finally had a daughter.  A daughter her husband would never hold close to his heart.  A daughter without a father to walk her down the aisle when she married.
    It was still incomprehensible to her.
    She returned the pictures to the bag, gently lay them in the box with the other mementos, and then placed the box behind the flowers up against the tombstone.  She’d leave them here for him.  Even though she knew he wasn’t actually here, it comforted her somehow to know that the box was there.
    She leaned back against the tree, drew her knees up into her chest, and closed her eyes.  Even closed, the words on the tombstone were clear enough that they seemed embedded in her very mind.  Against her will, the memories of that day flooded back to her.  Some of the memories were achingly tender, precious.  But others, like those from that horrible night... 
    The night of the reunion---the night Andrew was killed.


Book Review for "Shades of Blue" by Karen Kingsbury (Kindle Edition)

This is a powerful story that reveals what happens after an abortion. Ms. Kingsbury definitely does not gloss over the fact that abortion is essentially murder (thank you!), thereby having a lasting effect on women (and men) who make this "choice". Brad & Emma's story was powerfully written and I especially appreciated reading about how we as Christians should respond toward others in crisis. As always, her writing ability pulled me into the story early on, making me feel like I was a third party participating in Brad & Emma's journey to forgiveness. At the conclusion of the book, Ms. Kingsbury shared some very personal information with readers that brought me as a reader even closer to her--not many authors are willing to be "real". Shades of Blue is a must-read--not only for those who love a good story. But for those who need to hear that there is forgiveness and redemption following an abortion, as well. For the latter group, I pray you find the healing and forgiveness that is available to you from Jesus Christ.

Book Review for "Rooms: A Novel" by James Rubart (Kindle Edition)

There are no words to adequately express thoughts and emotions reading this book stirred up inside of me. I originally started with only the sample, but had to purchase the rest of the book as soon as I finished those few pages. My family and I were on a long road trip and I literally read Rooms in its entirety on the trip. It was that good. The characters were well fleshed out and seemed very real to me. The description of the house and each new room...amazing. Best of all, however, was the main character's journey back to a relationship with God.

This is definitely not a story to be missed. But if you do decide to read it, I warn you now: you'd better make sure you have plenty of time for reading. Once you start, you will not be able to put it down until the end.

I've seen some pretty negative reviews for this book. Several of them have been because of the book's Christian content. There are those who are bound and determined to give negative reviews to books merely because they are Christian. Fine. I hope the author pays them no mind (because I as a reader sure don't). The ones that I don't understand are the ones from fellow Christians questioning the author's theology, or making assumptions that are just not in the book. Mr. Rubart is not saying that wealthy, successful businessmen can't be Christians or are demon-possessed. That was not at all the message I received from reading the book. It is where and in what Micah placed his meaning for living and all of his importance that was called into question. The Bible is quite clear that our hope and trust is to be placed in Jesus Christ. Our focus of worship is to be God alone. What do we love? Is it money? Our possessions? Power or standing in the world? Even people can take our focus off of God. Money is not evil. Success is not evil. Possessions are not evil. But when we place them in importance above our relationship with Jesus Christ or hold onto them tightly, they become idols. Micah's power and wealth was an idol. Sometimes the happiest, most content people are those without many material goods. Why? Because they are not owned by their belongings. On the other hand, I know several wealthy businessmen and women who are quite generous with their material blessings.

Many have compared this book with The Shack. Honestly, I have serious issues with the theology presented in that book. I do not, however, have issues with this one. This is a book about a prodigal returning Home and how those around him help him find his way back to a relationship with God the Father. Period.

Book Review for "Healer: A Novel" by Linda Windsor (Kindle Edition)

As always, I will not include a synopsis of the book, as the product description and other reviewers themselves have already done a great job at describing this story. I loved absolutely everything about this book. There was chemistry--but clean chemistry--between the two main characters. The historical setting and characters were fleshed out (but, I admit, rather confusing at times crying to keep all the names straight); the inclusion of King Arthur and his contemporaries was extremely interesting and made me want to read more about them.

As a Christian, I also really enjoyed the redemptive nature of The Healer. Christ's forgiveness and free gift of Grace was the central theme of the book, so some who are not Christians may be turned off by this. The author also included the subject of Spiritual warfare in the story, which was also interesting to read about. It is a very real thing, whether acknowledged or not, and I appreciate Ms. Windsor for not shying away from it.

This is the first book of a series and I am eagerly anticipating the release of future books.

Book Review for "Book of Days" by James Rubart (Kindle Edition)

I really enjoyed Rooms (the author's previous novel) and I've got to say that I enjoyed this book as well. I'm not going to give a book synopsis; others have already done this and you get the gist of the story by reading the plot description. Besides, I don't necessarily read reviews to read a regurgitated version of the description. I read them because I want to know what readers thought about the story.

I was completely sucked into the story from the first page.  I appreciated that the behind-the-scenes antagonist in the story was not made known until the very end. And I did not guess it ahead of time (which usually happens). I basically read this book during a 13-hour car trip and it sucked me in so completely that the last three hours of the trip (normally what feels like the longest part of the trip) flew by in a blink of an eye. I love it when authors can sweep me so completely into the story. James Rubart is a genius at this.

The characters are genuine and their interaction believable. I found myself cheering for Cameron and Ann to find the Book of Days and for Taylor Stone to find healing. And the descriptions of the locations and the people in the book were enough that I had a clear picture in my mind of what they were like. Especially of The Place (to tell you more would ruin the story).

Book Review for "Captain Wentworth's Persuasion" by Regina Jeffers (Kindle Edition)

Persuasion has never been one of my favorite Jane Austen novels. I did, however, enjoy reading this version of the story, told through Captain Wentworth's perspective. Can I just say how much I love Captain Wentworth?? While Mr. Darcy is and will always be my favorite Austen hero, Captain Wentworth now rates right up there with Darcy in my book. It was fairly clean with only a bit of "minor" profanity (for those who prefer not to read books with profanity or sex). The couple's sexual chemistry was quite clear without being explicit or detailed--something I greatly appreciate. My only other complaint was that it felt like Ms. Jeffers left us hanging at the end. We're told that both Captain and Mrs. Wentworth were leary of Lord Wallingford and it is hinted that he had a part in the smuggling ring. But there was not really any conclusion to that. Was he guilty? Was he innocent? The reader certainly doesn't know. Otherwise, this was an excellent book--especially for lovers of Persuasion.

Book Review for "Tahn", "Return to Alastair", and "The Scarlet Trefoil" by L.A. Kelly (Kindle Editions)

I originally download this book because it was Christian fiction and it was offered for free (a combination I cannot resist). While I normally enjoy books with this type of setting, I really didn't have high expectations. And then I started reading and was completely sucked into the story. In fact, I practically inhaled all three of the books in the series in one week.

Most of the bad reviews are from people who do not like Christian fiction. So let me make sure I'm crystal clear, this is a Christian book. The characters actually pray. There are Bible studies in the book. The plan of salvation is presented in this series. If you hate Christians or all things we represent or believe in, do not read this book. Because, inevitably, you will write up a bad review about how much you hate Christian Fiction (CF) and this book for its "propaganda". Although, why with all the reviews letting people know very clearly that this is CF, there are still people confused about this, I'm not sure. Perhaps the lesson should be, do some research of any book you want to buy before you actually purchase it. Even if it's free.

Back to Tahn. I loved everything about this series. The setting. The characters. The story line. I especially loved the redemption of such a twisted, pained character. Throughout his short life, Tahn had experienced so many atrocities that he truly believed he was Satan's spawn. Unsaveable. Unloveable. Until he met Netta, who helped him to finally understand and accept the mighty scope of God's forgiveness and mercy.

Tahn, The Return to Alastair, and The Scarlet Trefoil are amazing stories about God's love and mercy and how forgiveness has the power to completely change lives. I loved every minute spent with Tahn and Netta and deeply regret that L.A. Kelly did not write any more stories about them before her death.

Book Review for "Emma & Knightley" by Rachel Billington (Kindle Edition)

I really wanted to like this book as Emma is one of my favorite Jane Austen novels (not as well-loved as Pride and Prejudice, but that's beside the point). Upon reading the sample, I was thoroughly intrigued with the idea of discovering what Mr. & Mrs. Knightley's ever-after resembled. How was life at Hartfield? How did they adjust to living as husband and wife after viewing each other for so long as friends--and friends with such a disparity in ages? How did the marriages of some of the other characters turn out? Would Augusta Elton develop any taste and lose her vulgar sense of vanity? (After reading this book, I can say with all certainty that she did not.)

Within the opening pages, we discover that Jane Fairfax Churchill, after giving birth to a son, met an unfortunate and untimely death. This sets into motion a series of events that completely alters everyone's lives--and the Knightleys' marriage. These events were interesting enough that, despite my utter dislike for the story, I simply had to finish reading the book instead of abandoning it as I heartily wished to do.

Perhaps I've seen the Gwynneth Paltrow version of Emma too many times to be able to accurately perceive the truth in this from the actual story, but it seemed to me that Emma, by the time she married Mr. Knightley, had undergone a transformation in the way she viewed other people. She seemed less of a snob, less concerned about status and such. This, however, is far from the Emma that Mrs. Billington portrayed. Her Emma was just as haughty and snobbish--and judgmental--as the "real" Emma from the start of Jane Austen's novel. No transformation had been made after even a year of marriage, which I find extremely hard to believe.

I also read with disapproval the portrayal of Emma & Knightley's marriage and their lack of communication. How could two people--as portrayed by Jane Austen--with so much ability to make themselves known and heard by the other suffer through so many months of a sudden lack of communication? There were times I just wanted to smack both of them and shout, "Talk to each other!" While possibly more true to real life (especially during those early years of marriage), it was not the Emma and Knightley I've grown familiar with through the years. And while I appreciated not having to read about it (I heartily disapprove and dislike when authors use descriptive sex scenes---particularly in Austen continuations. I believe she would roll over in her grave at such things), I find it extremely hard to believe that there was no passion in their marriage, as Mrs. Billington would have us believe.

Finally, while Frank Churchill's character is far from reproach in Emma, I cannot believe he is so bad, so inherently wicked, as Mrs. Billington portrays him in her novel. He has always been selfish, self-centered, and devious. But I just cannot agree that "womanizer" and "debauched cad" are also traits that should also be added to his list of faults.

This book was very well written and would probably be thoroughly enjoyed by someone who has not previously read Emma. The Jane Austen enthusiasts looking for a continuation of a beloved book will want to keep looking.

Book Review for "Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy" by Abigail Reynolds (Kindle Edition)

First of all, I want to make quite clear at the beginning of my review that if you are looking for a clean Austen variation or continuation (one without foul language or sexual content of any kind), then this is not the book for you. If it had not included taking the Lord's name in vain (something that, as a Christian, I absolutely detest) and some sexual content, I would have enjoyed this book. I read a few reviews before downloading it (and I have to admit I picked this one up when it was offered for free in the Kindle store, so I am not actually out any money) and none of them were very clear in labeling the sexual content. I was lead to believe that there was "hinted" sexual content, but nothing graphic. Apparently my idea of graphic and others' ideas of graphic are two very different things.

I really liked the premise of the book -- that, following Darcy's first proposal of marriage in Hunsford, Elizabeth is not given a chance to refuse before he kisses her twice. Unfortunately, they are witnessed by Colonel Fitzwilliam and a couple groundsmen, so instead of compromising her integrity, she allows everyone to believe she had just accepted his offer of marriage. What must marriage to Mr. Darcy be like under these false pretenses? Especially since he believes her as smitten as he.

Of course, he does discover her true feelings for him, which sets up the major conflict for the story. Will Elizabeth fall in love with her husband as she gets to know him better, and if so, will he ever accept that her affection is genuine?

I literally read this in a day because I was so intent on uncovering the answers to these questions myself. I would have enjoyed the book far more (as it is, I skipped over certain parts) if Ms. Reynolds had left out the parts I alluded to earlier.

Book Review of "The Other Mr. Darcy" by Monica Fairview (Kindle edition)

Ms. Fairview's book, The Other Mr Darcy made me ask myself if Caroline Bingley was perhaps one of the most misjudged people in literary history. When I first began the book, I was skeptical. After all, she is most often portrayed as a bit of a snob, to say the least (and this is probably the nicest thing I can say about the way she is portrayed). But to ascribe real, explainable emotions to her? Unthinkable! Yet, that is exactly what Ms. Fairview does---and quite admirably, I might add.

At the start of the story, we discover that there is in fact, a second Mr. Darcy. No, he doesn't have a secret twin (nothing so sinister for our Darcy); it is an American-born cousin on Darcy's father's side. Mr. Robert Darcy has returned to England on business for his family and unwittingly witnesses a moment of real human emotion from Miss Bingley when he encounters her weeping from her broken heart after Mr. Darcy's wedding. She is horrified and chagrined, to say the least, at being caught by him, even though she has no idea who he is (I daresay it would have made her mortification that much worse if she'd immediately known).

Nearly a year later, he arrives at Netherfield to summon Jane to Elizabeth's side. Of course, Jane and Charles (who has boasted in the past of being able to quit a place within five minutes if he so desired) depart immediately for Pemberley, leaving Miss Bingley and a recently widowed Louisa to travel to Pemberly a few days later in company with Mr. Robert Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam, who travels from London to join the party at Bingley's request. Their journey to Pemberley is beset with obstacles, which force them to spend a few days in the country home of a friend of the Colonel's. While there, when a rumor threatens to ruin Miss Bingley's reputation, Mr. Darcy comes to her rescue--by announcing their engagement, albeit a phony one.

Once the party finally arrives at Pemberley and their "engagement" is known, there are those present who would come between them. Throughout a vast assortment of zany story plots (a bit too many, in my opinion), it is obvious to most anyone else how the couple feels about each other. But will they each realize how the other feels in time?

During the story, we were presented with some explanations of why Caroline Bingley is the way that she is. And although I did not think it possible at the start of the story, by the end, I have come to realize that yes, she really could be a most misunderstood heroine. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to read (or watch) my favorite book quite the same way ever again.

Book Review for "One Hero, A Savior" by John Fitch V (Kindle Edition)

I did not pay close attention to the book description to realize that this is a fantasy book (nor does that really matter). I won't give away details or discuss what readers can plainly discover from reading the book synopsis. So the following are just my general impressions on the quality of writing. The author's description of a weather system in the first couple pages really sucked me into the story. Typically, when they are that good, I know I am in for a treat. As I alluded to in the first sentence, this is a fantasy. The main character, Preston, somehow finds himself actually in the fantasy world he created. Evil has overrun his peaceful utopia and it is up to him to set matters right. Fans of Tolkien will smile to discover familiar races of beings as characters in the story. As a lover of The Hobbit since I was 9 years old, and as a semi-recent lover of The Lord of the Rings as well, I found One Hero, A Savior a light and enjoyable read, thoroughly worthy of the highest praise.

For readers who abhor the very mention of God and Christianity, be warned that Preston's Christian faith is lived out and is in fact the basis for his created world. It is not, however, "rammed" down the reader's throat, so this is something I think anyone could enjoy.


Austen Addicts Annonymous

Hello. My name is Jenny and I'm addicted to reading Jane Austen and Jane Austen continuations/variations. 

It started out innocently enough when I was a teenager and watched the 1940's version of Pride and Prejudice (with Greer Garson and Sir Lawrence Olivier) for the very first time with my mom. It was love at first viewing.  In the 90's, Sense and Sensibility (with Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson) and Emma (with Gwynneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam) served to continue the addiction.  I watched these films repeatedly, chuckling anew at witticisms found in each of the movies. ("Try not to kill my dogs", "You have taken up an idea and run wild with it", "I know how you like news", or "My friends say I certainly know how to make a sandwich", from Emma and almost all of Mr. Palmer's lines---such as "I came into Devonshire with no other view"---from Sense and Sensibility were some of my favorites.) 

Then, about eight years ago I picked up a copy of Pride and Prejudice at the library for the very first time and was shocked to discover that --gasp! -- the movie had not portrayed the book correctly.  Lady Catherine did not in fact approve of Darcy marrying Elizabeth?!  How shocking!  One by one I devoured each of Jane Austen's novels, reading each of my three favorites several times.

2005 brought about the release of the newest version of Pride and Prejudice (with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen).  I was fiercely loyal to the only version I'd seen and railed against this version to anyone who would listen.  But then, for some unknown reason, the urge to actually watch it came over me.  Here is where the real addiction set in.  For after watching it once, I had to watch it again.  Over and over and over again.  Whenever my husband and family are either gone or asleep, I find myself inexplicably drawn to my copy of the DVD.  I've listened to the soundtrack repeatedly; indeed, it has become my go-to CD whenenver I am stressed and need some instant tranquility.

I fed my addiction for Austen by watching as many movie versions of the books as I could find (and stomach, for some of them are really horrible).  Yes, I even subjected myself to watching a wet Colin Firth (not a sight I want to repeat) stepping out of a pond near Pemberly.  Once I had finished with those, I began reading the fan fiction novels based on Austen's works--the variations and continuations.  Some of these are horrendous and, I'm convinced, are making poor Jane Austen spin in her grave.  But some are like pure poetry.  They must be exactly what Jane Austen herself would have written if she'd had the notion.  I read so many of these novels in such a short succession that I could almost fancy myself being Elizabeth Bennett wandering around Pemberly for the first time.  Indeed, these images have often invaded my very dreams at night.

They say that confession is the first step in overcoming an addiction--an addiction that has brought us all together here tonight.  But I've come to realize, however, that I am hopelessly, unashamedly addicted to Jane Austen's characters and novelsAnd come to think of it, I wouldn't have it any other way.


The First Valentine

Yesterday in Sunday school, we wondered how people without the Lord cope during times of difficulty.  Everyone faces trials and tribulations.  Everyone.  A Christian, contrary to what some believe or would tell you, is not exempt or immune from the problems of life.  We still get sick.  We still experience financial difficulties.  We still experience loss.  We even deal with the consequences of past sin.  On top of all of these hardships, we also experience the fiery darts of the enemy of our souls.  A Christian's life is no easier than the life of one who does not know Jesus Christ as their Savior.

The difference, however, is how we cope with these trials.  I know that Jesus is always there for me to lean and rely on.  I do not need to face hardships alone--He is there waiting for me to take His hand so that He can lead me through the valleys of life.  No matter how frightened, confused, hurt, angry, or sad I may be, He fills me with His peace and joy.  Peace because I know that no matter what happens, He is there and has my very best in mind.  Joy because I know that no matter what I may face on this earth, He has already paid the price for my sin and because I chose Him a long time ago, there is nothing that can sweep me out of the palm of His hand (except by my own doing, of course. He may not let me go, but I may choose to leave Him).  Despair implies a lack of hope.  As a Christian, my hope is in Jesus Christ--who is bigger than any trial I may face--and so there is no need for despair.  There is no place for it in my life.

But how do those who do not know Jesus cope when facing these same struggles?  For these who have no hope, despair weighs heavy on their hearts and souls.  Without the hope of Jesus Christ, what is there to live for?  What helps people face their pain-filled lives?  Some may turn to things or people in their desperate attempts for peace and happiness amidst the storms of life.  But things or people will never provide lasting comfort.  Eventually, it will require more and more of that alcohol, those drugs, the material goods, or relationships to reach the same level of pleasure they had before.  We will never be completely satisfied with earthly things or relationships.  Each of us were made in God's image and with the desire for fellowship with Him.  Nothing under heaven will fill this longing other than a relationship with Him.  Nothing.  We may fool ourselves for a time into thinking that we are happy, satisfied.  But deep down, we know that there is something missing that our things, our friends, our spouses, and even our children, cannot give us.

Today is Valentine's Day.  Let us remember, then, the first Valentine that was ever given to us.  God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on a cross for our sins that we may have abundant life to the fullest.  There will always be hardships.  Accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior and becoming a Christian certainly will not spare you from these.  But no longer will despair threaten to consume you.  Today I urge you to pray and ask Jesus to forgive you and accept the greatest gift of love that has ever been given to you.  "For God so loved [insert your name here] that He gave His one and only begotten Son, that whosoever [again, insert your name here] believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)


The Power of Music

There is much power in music. I cannot think of a single movie that does not have an accompanying soundtrack. Music has a powerful influence over us. With the opening strands of an old favorite, we are instantly whisked away to a past thought, situation, emotion, or person. Sometimes the memories are happy, sometimes not.

The song "Bad Goodbye" stirs up the melancholy and despair I felt when Troy and I broke up after a year of dating. Hearing any of the songs that were played during our wedding conjure the joy and bliss of the day. When I am stressed or need to rest, I am always soothed by the beautiful piano instrumentals of my Pride and Prejudice soundtrack. On those rare days I feel a cleaning jag looming and need some added inspiration, the quick tempo of jazz, particularly my Swing Kids soundtrack, gets my feet moving.

Music also helps to set the mood and tone when it is time to write. Each of my stories have their own accompanying soundtracks--songs I have blended together based on experiences of my characters, rather like those old mixed tapes we used to make when we were younger. For example, the soundtrack for The Roommate would include Toni Braxton's "Breathe Again" and Jon Secada's "If You Go", because they remind me of all the struggles Devon and Adrienna face as they fall in love. (This particular story is one I've been working on off-and-on since my sophomore year in high school, which explains why the songs are not "new".)

One of my favorite movie lines pertains to the power of music and is from the movie Music and Lyrics, with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. Hugh's character states that nothing can make you feel as good, as fast as a song.

And that is the power of music.


Writer's Block

I have writer's block, that bane of every literary creator's existence. There was something interesting about to happen to my character, but now I can't quite remember what it was. The idea is just on the edge of my memory, hiding around the corner sticking it's tongue out at me like a child playing an annoying game of peek-a-boo. Oh well. Perhaps if I think about something else for a few minutes, it will grow tired of this little game and come back to me. I let out a long sigh and lean my short body into as long a stretch as I can muster. Still nothing. Thirty minutes ago, before my children went to bed, it was so loud in here I couldn't hear myself think, as the expression goes. Now, on the other hand, it is quiet. Blissfuly quiet. Quiet. Peaceful. Without noise. Noiseless. Okay, so it's almost too quiet. Because now I can hear the drippy sink faucet. Drip. Drop. Drop. Drip. (Our sink is quirky that way.) And now that I can hear the drippy, droppy sink, I suddenly realize simultaneously that I'm thirsty.....and I need to pee. Odd how that happens.

Business has been taken care of and my tall, blue sippy-cup-for-adults at my elbow is filled with Grape Crystal Light. I stare at my computer screen, still waiting for the peek-a-boo game in my head to end. Tossing a glance around the room, I heave another long sigh--especially when my eyes fall on the extremely dusty shelf next to the table. As dust is not good for the sinuses, I get up in search of a rag and the generic lemon Pledge underneath the kitchen sink. But once the shelf is dusted, I can't help but notice how jumbled the books on it are. How in the world will anyone be able to locate favorite books in a second with them in this state? No, something must be done. Now. If dust kills the sinuses, clutter certainly kills creativity. I spend the next thirty minutes alphabetizing every single book on all three of my shelves.....by genre. Since purchasing my Kindle and weeding out some of the extra copies of books I've purchased in ebook form, this does not take as long as it otherwise would have.

Back in my chair, I realize that I can't concentrate with all the deafening quiet. Music! That's the ticket. Music always stirs the imagination. I slip on the giant headphones---because one of my ears is significantly smaller than the other one (and pointed, kind of like an Elf's ear. With one pointy ear, my curly brown hair, and my short stature, it's a shame we don't live in New Zealand. I would've made an excellent Hobbit in profile), those ear buds have a tendancy to just pop right back out again--and go right to the playlist of all my favorite 80's and 90's songs. Here is something to inspire the memory to cease and desist that obnoxious game and get ready for some serious work. And then I realize that it's a blessing I don't have many CDs anymore. Seeing them in a jumble would've certainly required another thirty or so minutes of organizing before I could get to work. Small favors and all that.

Aha! The music has tamed savage beast once again and the great idea has returned! Frantically, feverishly, and fervently, my fingers pound the keys as this great plot twist comes to life on the screen in front of me. It's magnificent! It's stupendous! I'm a genious! And then without warning, it strikes....

I have writer's block, that bane of every literary creator's existence. Again.



The purpose of having this blog (my third) is to have a place just to ramble a bit about my love of writing.  Ultimately, I would love to be a published author.  For now, however, I am simply a writer working to hone her craft.  Some of the ramblings will be logical and purposeful.  I will also include a bit of the nonsensical as well.  For now, I want to take note of this date.  The next post will be the prologue to a novel I'm writing.  I want to put it out there for anyone's purusal (perfectly aware that there is a chance no one will actually read it).  Once I'm finished with my novel, however long or short a time it takes me to finish, I will post the prologue again.  By then, I'm sure it will have gone through numerous changes--hopefully all for the better.

As you are reading this, you somehow managed to find me.  I hope you enjoy the sample of my writing.  As always, feel free to leave any comments.  Thanks!