Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Traditions

I love Christmas time. I love the traditions, both those I remember from childhood and those we have begun in our family. Some have diminished over the years. Others have gained in importance. In the spirit of the season, I thought I'd list our "Top Ten" (though not in any particular order).

1o. Opening one gift on Christmas Eve. This helps the kids survive the night (we don't shoot them for continuing to beg, and they actually get to sleep before midnight).

9. The grown ups open their gifts after all children are asleep (Shh. Don't tell them. Patrick and I started this one several years ago, so we could focus on watching our children open all their gifts on Christmas least that's what we told ourselves.)

8. Putting up the Christmas tree on the day of the Alabama/Auburn game. This tradition began the year we married, and continued until Ala/Au changed the day they play...which is now after late for me to wait. So there is no longer a set day, just as long as its up before Thanksgiving. But I miss that tradition, and if the Iron Bowl dates ever change back, I imagine it will be re-instituted.

7. Tell the stories. I love that my daughter wants to know the history behind all our ornaments. So as we decorate the tree each year, it takes longer than it would have to because I share with her where and when we received the various ornaments and decorations.

6. Baking. My husband tells me I transform into a different woman during the holidays. (Don't know if that's actually a compliment, though.) The Martha Stewart in me awakens and our home becomes a bakery, a craft studio, a decorator's loft....and I love that my daughter wants to help. So we have cookies, cakes, pies, candy, and lots of crafts to give away.

4. The pickle. This tradition began by accident, is insisted on by my daughter and loathed by my son. Several years ago I received a glass pickle ornament in a game of "dirty Santa"—the subject of lots of laughter. It was explained to me that there is actually a tradition behind it, which my daughter immediately latched onto. On Christmas Eve an adult hides the pickle among the branches of the tree and whomever finds it first on Christmas morning gets to open the first gift. Can you guess why my son hates it?

3. Christmas movies. I love 'em! "Christmas Vacation" is usually the first one we watch (Patrick's favorite). We bought "Home Alone" this year, but my favorites are still the old classics like "Miracle on 34th Street" and "It's a Wonderful Life".

2. The gingerbread house. My son insists upon this one. We have decorated a gingerbread house together for four or five years now. We all agree that this year's was our best yet! I love it because it is a time where all four of us sit down and have fun together...laughter and creativity...what could be better?

1. The advent calendar. Three years ago, after years of hinting, my husband bought me a Christmas advent calendar house. I didn't want just a felt calendar, I wanted something like the one on "Christmas Vacation" actual house w/ doors you could open. Well, once I received it, I knew it would be the beginning of a new tradition. I found a wonderful book called "The ADVENTure of Christmas" written by Lisa Whelchel, with 25 different devotions (or stories) of the most common Christmas traditions, how they started, and how they can help share the love of Jesus. I found tiny ornaments to go along w/ most of the days and bought a little tree. So each night (at least that is the goal), beginning December 1st, we sit as a family, put that night's ornament on the tree, and read from the Adventure book the story of that tradition. It is a wonderful time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and to celebrate Christ.

Do you have any special family traditions? Which one(s) are your favorites? I hope you all have a blessed and very Merry Christmas with family and friends, and enjoy the joy of Christ this season and in the coming year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Flight of Shadows"

I just finished reading "Flight of Shadows" by Sigmund Brouwer (provided by Waterbrook Press for review). Very intriguing sci-fi, written with a Christian influence. It is a sequel to "Broken Angel" (which I didn't realized until after I had begun the book). So I would recommend reading that one first! However, I was able to follow the story line fairly well without having read the first one.

"Flight of Shadows" tells of a young girl whose whole existence is a genetic miracle...which makes her a target for both military and government agencies, as well as others who would like to unravel her secret. In a future torn apart by Wars, social and economic status are arranged, monitored, and maintained by the government. New to this "Outside" world, Caitlyn is alone and determined to trust no one. Yet an unlikely ally seems determined to help her...with or without her permission. Is Razor trustworthy, or motivated by the same desires as the forces who hunt her?

Brouwer does a beautiful job of painting a picture of this possible future, bleak as it is. This fast paced story line is full of well developed characters, whose thoughts and motives are not always clear...which added to the suspense. My one critique would be that the very short chapters, (a new one began whenever the point of view changed) which I assume were designed to the mount the tension in the story as events and characters race to the climax, were conversely distracting for me.

Because of the complexity of the plot and some violence, I would not recommend this book for children or young teens. But anyone else who enjoys reading science fiction would most likely enjoy "Flight of Shadows".

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sharing Shakespeare

Last night I finished the book Mistress Shakespeare, by Karen Harper. I cried.

This first person narrative told the life story of Anne Whately, who some believe to have been William Shakespeare's secret first wife. It was very well written, and an extensive look at Shakespeare's life through the eyes of a woman who loved him in secret and supported him and his writings in public.

The author did a wonderful job of bringing her characters and settings to life. She took me through poverty, the plague, Queen Elizabeth's palace, and the Globe theatre. I saw Shakespeare as a person, with flaws in the midst of his genius...and may even henceforth think of him as "Will" in my mind.

It renewed in me a desire to read (and reread) the works of this most famous playwright. I had recently purchased Hamlet, and simply had to begin reading it as soon as I finished Harper's book.

I would recommend this story to anyone who has a love for writing that includes historical figures.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What Educators Live For

As many of you know, I teach fourth grade Reading Intervention. Last week we worked on creating keynote presentations of famous people. Each student chose a biography of a famous person, read the book, took notes, created a storyboard, then transferred their information to keynote on the MacBooks.

At the end of the week, students shared what they had learned with each other. Students seemed to enjoy the process, most especially because they had the opportunity to use MacBooks. I ended the week wondering if they had actually learned anything...because of the lack of information (or wrong information) that had ended up in some of the presentations.

Maggie chose to research Louisa May Alcott. We talked throughout the week about her most famous book, "Little Women", and how it made an impact on so many young girls. This morning she proudly showed me a book she had checked out of the library. It was a picture book taken from "Little Women" (I think the title was "Marmie's Christmas Surprise".) She was so excited to let me know she had found "the book she wrote"....and I was thrilled to know at least one child was still thinking about our little project!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lesson Learned...Hopefully

God used my son to show me a lesson this morning.

For the past five days Jordan has had to take an antibiotic. I neglected to ask for it in liquid form when the doctor called it in. So we, his father and I, decided now was as good a time as any to learn to swallow a pill.

The first three times he swallowed them with very little difficulty. Hallelujah. But for some reason I still can’t explain, he suddenly began to have problems. He would sit and sit…and sit. No amount of cajoling, pleading, screaming or threatening could get him to swallow them easily or quickly.

I dreaded the morning and evenings with a passion. We began to pray before each time that the Lord would help Jordan to have the confidence to swallow easily and without any difficulty.

This week I had morning duty at school, meaning I was responsible for being there at 7:00am. We had also run out of breakfast food, so I had planned to make a quick stop at McDonald’s on the way to school. I woke Jordan up earlier than usual in hopes we would have plenty of time.

He started with the first pill at 7:10. At 7:30 all patience was gone. We finally pulled out of the driveway at 7:40, both of us at our wits’ end. I tried to tell Jordan that even though it made me so frustrated when he chose not to swallow, I still loved him. I went into another explanation of how important it was for him to take all of these pills because it was an antibiotic, and how I couldn’t take the pill for him—he had to do it himself. And the lecture went on all the way to the restaurant.

He finally looked at me and said, “Mom, would you just please forgive me.”

I took a breath, really wanting to say, “Yes, but….” and go into how if he was really sorry he would change his behavior and try harder. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

My son was asking my forgiveness.

I knew the likelihood that our pill-swallowing episodes were finished was slim to none. But in that instance, all he wanted—what he needed— was to know I would forgive him.

How many times have I gone to God with the same bad habit, the same mistake, and asked him to forgive me—again? Let me assure you they are too numerous to count.

And yet, He forgives—every time, even knowing He will most likely hear the same plea from me very soon.

So, I turned to my son and told him, “I forgive you.”

And I told him I loved him, and we wouldn’t talk about our bad morning any more. It was over and in the past—just like our heavenly father does for us, over and over and over again.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A New Experience of Historical Fiction

Last night I finished The Dante Club, by Matthew Pearl. This was a novel recommended by my father. The premise of the story was indeed intriguing.

Set in 1865 Boston, our main characters are actual historical figures: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, J. T. Fields, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. These literary masters are collaborating together to translate Dante's Commedia into English, amidst the opposition of the more conservative Board of Directors at Harvard College. Their "Dante Club" becomes involved in so much more, however, when gruesome murders occur among Boston's elite.

These murders bear a horrifying similarity to the punishments Dante invisions in his Inferno, his journey into Hell. The Club begins a race with the murderer, whom they name "Lucifer", in a frantic effort to find him before he kills again.

This novel had many twists and turns, and I was surprised in the end! Pearl is a very detailed writer. The content of his novel, having one foot in history and the other in fiction, requires a delicate balance of explanation and story-telling. It was not a quick read, and not a book where I could allow my mind to wander at all as I read. There were times when Pearl's descriptive powers were almost overwhelming, as he described the sickening murders.

So I would recommend this book with reservations. If you have an affinity for the great American poets, for ancient literature (namely Dante's Divine Comedy), for a wickedly complicated mystery, and a strong stomach, you will be drawn into The Dante Club, and find yourself caught up in the emotions of the group just as I was.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Fine First Novel

I recently finished reading "The Price of Trust", by Amanda Stephan.

This read was full of suspense. It tells of a young woman, Carly, who has evaded her abusive fiance, Ian, for two years. She finally lands in a small town where she hopes to keep her anonymity as she prays for the chance to stay awhile. She does not plan on falling in love with the town's most eligible bachelor, Joe. And he certainly has his own heartaches, and wasn't looking for another relationship.

There were times in the book where I questioned the characters' actions. I felt Carly responded with very quick familiarity to Joe. I found it difficult to believe that someone who had spent two years running from an abusive fiance would so very quickly be teasing and both giving and accepting playful slaps and pinches from someone she just met.

I loved the old couple who ran the hardware store. They provided a calming anchor against Carly's fearful anxieties, Ian's creepy threats, and the other characters' continuous playful banter.

You'll have to read the book yourself to see if Carly and Joe can let go of their mistrust and take a chance of finding true love...or does the ex-fiance finally catch up with our heroine and make good on his threat?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sharing Time and Space

I had the privilege of being invited to share a vendor booth at the Hamfest Festival last weekend with fellow author, Steve Newman. This was an annual event in Huntsville, sponsored by Ham radio operators. While this venue would not be in my list of "niche markets", I excitedly accepted the invitation, looking forward to the two day event.

Saturday morning dawned ominously. As I got into the truck, ready for the hour drive to Huntsville, I turned the key with absolutely no result. I couldn't believe the battery was dead! Waking my husband at 7 am on a Saturday when he didn't have to work was not on my "to do" list. But he graciously got up and jumped off my vehicle. This put me fifteen minutes behind schedule, and I really wanted to make a good impression on my author friend!

Without any further difficulties, however, I arrived at the venue with time to spare. We were set up inside the Von Braun Center, and I was amazed at the number of booths there! 9am arrived and hoards of people began to mill around. Steve and I were both excited by the turn out and eagerly awaited the chance to talk with people about our books.

Steve's book, "The Night Eagles Soared", drew many people's attention, and he had the opportunity to share with many fellow military men. One gentleman in particular will remain in my memory for a long time. He was an elderly man, in his eighties, I would think. As he and Steve talked, this man began to share his military experiences, siting that he had landed in Egypt during WWII. He said his squadron was known as the Falcons, and was intrigued by the title of Steve's book. This gentleman went on to say he was writing his own memoirs, but only had about seventy pages written. We both encouraged him to continue and to get that book finished! He eventually purchased Steve's book and bid us farewell.

The next day was Sunday, and as predicted by a Hamfest veteran, was not as busy as the previous day. However, a couple of hours into our day, Steve and I observed this same gentleman returning to our booth! He had in his hand a computer printed copy of his manuscript. He had come back to the Hamfest just to bring Steve a copy of his book, saying he only gave them out to his friends. It was full of pictures, poems he had written, and I even glimpsed a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt!

I was so overwhelmed by the generosity of this elderly gentleman, the immediate camaraderie between him and Steve, and the way he reminded me of my own grandfathers, both of whom had served in the armed forces, that I only managed to hold myself together until after he had walked away. Unfortunately, I think my unexpected tears may have scarred Steve for life (I'm going to have to use that encounter in a book somewhere, Steve!) and he quickly left to find some napkins. I think it was an excuse to escape the crazy crying woman!

As far as book sales go, the event would not make my top five. But the opportunity to work alongside another author, to be able to share ideas and experiences, and to have that single memory to cherish made the weekend a huge success! Many thanks again to Steve and his delightful wife, Brig, for allowing me to be a part of it!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Great Children's Book!

I had the pleasure of reading "Caroline and Rebecca: Rebecca Gets into Trouble" by Alyssa Pierce recently. As I was reading it, the teacher in me began to plan out ways to use this book in the classroom...and I thought of all my friends that teach in the younger grades who would enjoy having this book to use with teaching character education!

Caroline and Rebecca are best friends. Caroline is the more responsible of the two, while Rebecca is more adventurous. The story tells of an afternoon when the two play together in the park. When it begins to get late and time to go home, Rebecca is not ready yet. What happens (or could have happened) when Rebecca chooses to stay in the park past dark is a wonderful teaching tool. It is thankfully resolved in a way that reinforces parental concern and the importance of making good choices.

The author tells the story in a charming rhyme that children will enjoy. I would recommend this book for parents of young children and teachers of up to second grade. Ms. Pierce also has a website where she has developed lessons to go along with her book! Check them out at

Friday, July 30, 2010

Thoughts on Leaving the Church

It always saddens me when a public figure denounces Christianity. Apparently this week we received another blow from author, Anne Rice. Her comments were something like this: she would remain a follower of Christ, but could no longer tolerate the bickerings of Christians and the intolerance of Christianity.

I experienced a glimmer of understanding with her opinion. I have been involved in churches all my life. And often times Christians don't act like Christ. There is power struggle, arguments over doctrine, exclusivity, and lack of commitment within churches. There are valid reasons why we have terms like "pew warmers", "back-sliders", and "back-row baptists". These are reasons why we see church splits. It is a sad testimony that we show the world sometimes.

Ms. Rice also gave a list of several different "I will not be anti-______" statements. Some of those confused me, because I would not consider myself or the fellow Christians I know to be "anti-____." But unfortunately, I have also heard Christians make statements such as, "In order to be a good Christian, you have to be Republican." I agree with Ms. Rice on that point...I don't know anywhere in the Bible where Jesus proclaimed a preference for any political party.

However, that is where my understanding of and agreement with Ms. Rice's views end. In order to be a follower of Christ, we must follow his teachings. We get those teachings from scripture. The Bible is his word, and there are some teachings that are not politically correct or socially acceptable in today's world. I do not apologize for that. I would not presume to change those teachings to meet with the approval of the world. I am not God.

It is unfortunate to me that sometimes the very people who loudly and publicly proclaim the cause of Christ do so in a manner that send people running screaming in the opposite direction. Jesus gave us two great commandments, according to the scripture. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength and will all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matt. 22:37-39. He also gave us standards by which to live. Read the Matthew chapters 5-8 for starters. These standards are difficult and even impossible for us to live up to on our own. That is why he gives us the Holy Spirit--his strength and power. That is also why he is the God of forgiveness and grace. It is shameful when Christians do not balance the teaching of Christ's standards with his greatest commands, which are to "love".

One more point I would make in reference to Mr. Rice's opinion. As Christians we mess up...all the time. Those who proclaim not to are lying. But Paul teaches that we, the church, are the body of Christ. We cannot exist outside of that body. We are called to a community, a continue to share the gospel of Good News together. To be a true follower of Christ, one must follow all of his teachings, which includes coming together with other believers. Like it or not, we are a family.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Acknowledgments Matter

As a young reader, I rarely paid much attention to the Acknowledgments page. I usually read the Dedication, because it was short. But in the Acknowledgments the author always thanked a long list of people I had never heard of—and I was always ready to get to the story.

Once I became a writer, the importance of thanking people who played a role during the creation of a particular story was a task I took very seriously. After all, you can't dedicate the book to everyone. That diminishes the poignancy of a dedication. But there are so many people who are important. I think that must have been why the Acknowledgments page was created in the first place!

So when I knew "Second Chance" was going to be published, I kept a running list of people who should be thanked for one reason or another. I wanted people who had encouraged or contributed or questioned or supported me to know they were appreciated. But I honestly didn't believe it would mean that much to anyone besides myself and the people mentioned.

WELL, I was wrong....

A friend called me today.

"I just had a lady at my house who was singing your praises!"

"Really?" I said.

"Yes. She had a copy of your book in her hand. She said all the ladies where she worked had just been raving about it, and she was so excited to finally get to read it."

"That's great!" I said.

"She said the ladies were wanting to find out how to get in touch with you, being a local author—they wanted to try and book you for a speaking engagement."

"Cool!" (I'm getting more excited with each sentence.)

"What's so funny is, the lady said, 'I opened the book to the Acknowledgments page, and the first name on the list was yours [referring to my friend]! I couldn't believe it! I thought, "I know this woman!". So do you think you could give me the author's phone number so I could get in touch with her?'"

By this time I was laughing right along with my friend, who of course obliged the lady and gave her my phone number. Who would have thought a simple "Thank you to my dear friend..." printed at the beginning of my book would have led to a contact with a group of ladies who want to meet me?

Trust me when I say, "Acknowledgments matter." more ways than one!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tears for Fears

Do you remember that music group? Their most recognizable hit, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", belted over the loudspeaker as 121 seniors from the International School Bangkok threw their graduation caps in the air in 1989. Yes, I know I'm dating myself.

I woke up this morning with that phrase on my mind. Then I began to wonder, do I really want to rule the world? I immediately scoffed, of course not. This internal monologue continued, naturally with a cataloging of what I do want. As you can imagine, the list began rather trivially. Since it was 5:00 am, and I had no particular reason for being awake that early, number one was more sleep.

I want to sell more copies of my book. Lots more. Another self-serving notion.

Then I began to ponder the song again, and the meaning behind the words (at least for me). I think people want to leave their mark on this world. We long to know that we matter. Our greatest desire, truly, at the end of all things, is to be loved. And for some of us, that translates into, if I can accomplish something really spectacular then people will know me and love me and remember me when I die.

Then I was reminded (maybe that's why I was awake so was quiet enough to hear), that I am loved. It is truly amazing to me how often I need to be reminded of this fact. It is also somewhat a relief to know I'm not the only one. John Eldredge uses the analogy of a leaking bucket (rather that a cup to be filled). Our spirits can not stay satisfied from a single happy event, or even occasional encounters with God. I think he designed us that way.

So the next time you feel yourself longing for "something", may I suggest that you let yourself be reminded that you are loved?

Now it would be a lie if I told you I no longer have a desire to sell lots of copies of my book (although my wish for more sleep has abated for now). But I can say it is not a burden on my mind at this particular moment. And I am thankful for the reminder, once again, that it doesn't matter to God what great and wonderful things I do in this life. He loved me before I ever accomplished anything, and he will continue to do so forever! Isn't he truly wonderful?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

High Adventure

I just finished Nick Valentino's "Thomas Riley". A friend and I met the author at a Book Fair in April. My friend purchased the book because Valentino did such a wonderful job of creating interest! Neither of us are typical fans of science fiction--so that is saying something that we both wanted to read his novel.

The story tells the high adventure of Thomas Riley and Cynthia Basset; weapons designers for the country of West Canvia. When an alchemy experiment goes awry, both are caught up in a mission that threatens their lives and the lives of all with whom they come in contact.

While I remain more a fan of fantasy than sci-fi, I must say there were times when I was completely engrossed in the story. I think those who truly enjoy the more intricate parts of this genre (the extreme detail of weaponry, technological jargon, and futuristic battle sequences) would call this book a success. I would give it 3 stars...but apart from some grammatical mistakes that always lower a book's ranking for me, I realize this book would most likely garner higher praise from a more dedicated sci-fi fan.

If you enjoy action, detailed battle sequences, futuristic drama...with sky pirates and magical alchemy experiments thrown in...then this is the book for you!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Birthday Give-Away

Today is my birthday! We aren't going to discuss the advancing years, though! No, today I've decided to give you guys something in honor of my birthday:) So allow me to tell you about the "Second Chance" Give-Away.

Fans have from now until Wednesday, June 30 to write a review on about "Second Chance". It doesn't have to be long. It doesn't even have to be positive (although that would be nice:))...just give your honest opinion of the book.

If you have already posted a review there, your name is automatically in! Please check, because some of you have posted reviews on other sites, but not amazon. For this give-away I'm only focusing on

On Wednesday evening, at 9:00 I will draw a name from those who have posted reviews. The winner will have a choice of a signed copy of "Second Chance" or an "I <3 Ian Martin" t-shirt!

So put your thinking caps on and come up with a few words about "Second Chance"...then post away! Click here to link:

Thanks friends!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Being Still

"Be still and know that I am God." This verse is both an admonition and a promise for me.

Throughout my life, I have encountered several occasions where personality tests were given. These have told me I am a do-er. I need to be involved because my greatest desire is "to belong". I like things to be orderly. Check-lists are my friends.

As I woke up this morning on my first week of summer vacation, I immediately began to think of things that needed to be done. And the scripture above came to mind.

"Be still."

That is so very difficult for me. Part of my make-up feels that I am not good enough or pleasing unless I am accomplishing something. Guilt can be a familiar companion. But my Father tells me to be still. I cannot commune with him when my mind is filled with plans and obligations, with worries and fears. So I must make a concerted effort to put all those thoughts away for a time and simply abide.

"And know."

There is knowing and then there is knowing . Even the demons believe there is a God and they tremble. I want to be in the latter group. In order for me to truly know God, I have to be still and spend time with him. I have to meditate on his word and hide it in my heart. Knowing God is scary, because it means opening up those very deepest places where the pain and hurt of life are stored away. It means allowing him to see those places. But the truly amazing thing is he already knows us completely...and still loves us—deeply and intimately.

"that I am God."

Not only does our Father want us to know him, to experience his love, his mercy, and grace. But he wants us to know he is GOD. That should bring awe and comfort, peace and humility. The creator of the universe wants us to be still and know him!

So my hope this summer is to follow this verse. My prayer is to be still and know Him better.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Proud Moments

Being a parent has been filled with memorable moments; some of them embarrassing, some of them delightful, others frightening or sad. It never fails, however, when watching one of my children perform (in whatever capacity)—I am filled with joy!

Now the moments leading up to that performance are usually filled with nervousness, anxiety, and prayers for success. But once they step on that stage, whatever they do simply brings an overwhelming delight to my heart!

Tonight my son got to play Paul McCartney in his 4th grade program. He was a last minute fill-in, because the child who was originally cast was unable to perform. Not having practiced more than once or twice didn't seem to phase Jordan though! Admittedly he did mention being nervous, but once on stage the "ham" took over. He even held the guitar "backwards" like Paul, sang all the words, and cracked everyone up with his hand signs and "strumming". It was a wonderful night! And I am so very thankful he had that opportunity to shine!

This weekend my daughter has her dance revue. This will be her ninth year! For the past two years she has performed a solo, and every year I have been amazed at how much she has grown as a dancer. I am looking forward to this revue with bittersweet feelings, because it may well be her last year. But I know once she gets on that stage, nothing will matter but getting to watch her beauty and grace!

I am filled with thanks this evening for children who are healthy, who love life, and who make me smile daily!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Partnering for Support of ALS

I just received an email from an online organization called
They will donate $20 to the ALS division of the MDA for my help in spreading the word about their website! I jumped at the chance! So I have copied information straight from their site, because I figured they could explain what they do better than me:)

So if you are traveling and want to find the best deals on hotels, check out this site. It is not a reservation site, they simply show you all the hotels in that area...basically doing your searching for you!

The following is from

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

For My Mother

Happy Mother's Day! I hope today is not the only day my mother feels appreciated and loved. It seems somehow negligent to only set aside one day a year to purposely make her feel special.

My mother is now one of my best friends. We share joys and frustrations, fears and plans. That relationship has developed over 38 years in which she has been care-taker, coach, provider, disciplinarian, teacher, referee, nurse...and so much more!

When I was in the second grade and planned my first slumber party in which no one came, my mother invited three of her ninth (?) graders and took me with them to the mall. It didn't quite heal the wound of that rejection, but it was the very best effort she could have made!

Some of my favorite childhood memories with my mom are baking with her during the holidays. That is something that my daughter now looks forward to with me...and of course we make many of the same cookies!

When I was a teenager and needed to raise money for a choir trip to Singapore, she went out of her way to try and sell ads for me. She never meets a stranger, and I hated being a salesman even back she took up the job!

When I returned from a drama trip to London with white blond hair and an extra ear piercing (all my friends were dying to know what my mother would do), she just looked at me and said blithely, "Well, at least you didn't get married while you were over there."

One of the best pieces of advice my mother ever gave me was in regards to choosing a husband. She told me that when I found someone who made me as happy as my father made her, then I would know he was the one. Thanks, Mom for helping me set the bar!

My mother is special on more than just one day a year. I hope she knows that! I'm going to make sure I tell her more often. I wouldn't be the person I am today without her.

I love you MOM!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thankful for Opportunities

Today I had the opportunity to share a bit about "Second Chance" in a television interview on WAFF 48 News at Noon. I am so very thankful for the opportunity! I only wish I could have talked faster, because when the spot was over, I realized I had not had time to mention my support for ALS or my upcoming book signing event!

So I'm taking a moment to mention them both on here, in case you haven't heard through other channels!

As of April, 2010, I have dedicated a portion of all copies of "Second Chance" sold to the ALS division of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). This was a decision I made after my father was diagnosed with this disease in January of this year. He is doing very well right now, and I want to do all I can to help support this cause!

I will also be at The Coffee Tree Books and Brew with copies of "Second Chance" available for purchase, this Saturday, May 8th, from 9am-1pm. This venue is located on Bailey Cove Road in Huntsville. It is quite easy to find, and is across the street from Grissom High School. For driving directions, you can visit

I am really looking forward to this event, and hope lots of you can come out and support this great little coffee shop, as well as your "favorite" new author*wink*. I have been told the store sells biegnets on Saturday that alone should be worth the drive! Hope to see you there, even if you already have your copy!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

On "Chasing Vermeer"

I recently had the privilege of joining a first-ever teacher's book club at our school. We are called "The Lunch Bunch", and at our first meeting, each chose a children's book that had made the top 100 list of newly published books. We were to read the book and be ready to discuss it at the following meeting two weeks later.

I chose "Chasing Vermeer", by Blue Balliett. I was interested because it was a mystery about children trying to solve the case of a missing Vermeer painting. That is the simple, one sentence summary. Like all good mysteries, there are many twists, turns, and seemingly unrelated events.

After all, who would ever think to link the number twelve, frogs, pentominoes, a strange book entitled "Lo!", and an ancient, priceless work of art? I will confess I never would have dreamed it! You'll just have to read this book to discover how they all fit pieces of a puzzle!

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mysteries. As I said earlier, this is a children's book; the main characters being six-graders. But as an adult...I was certainly captivated!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Several years ago my brother gave me a book for Christmas entitled "The Sacred Romance" by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge. It revolutionized the way I understood Christ's love for me. After that, I wanted to inhale any other works by Eldredge.

One that I started awhile back and for some reason put down (then misplaced for over a year) was "Desire". I recently picked it back up and began reading it from where I had left off. Last night I began the chapter entitled "The Great Thwarter". I automatically assumed Eldredge would be referring to Satan. I could not have been more wrong.

He went on to explain that sometimes, because we replace our desire for God with other things (even good things like work, and church activities, and sports) and make plans regarding those things, and spend so much time thinking about those things that they become an addiction of sorts, or our idols—God chooses to remove those from our lives. He thwarts our plans. He takes away the "things" that we are using to appease our desires in hopes that we will begin to desire Him again.

Eldredge maintains that God created us for ecstasy, for pleasure, for love, for adventure. But we were supposed to experience all these things with HIM. We live in a fallen world now, and so we are filled instead with desire. God longs for us to desire him, so HE can fulfill that need for all of the above.

Its very thought provoking, and a little frightening, to be honest. I began to wonder what "things" I was replacing God with. And I began to pray that my plans and goals would truly not take the place of my love for Him.

I want to make two things clear, as I try to put my thoughts down on "paper".
1. Eldredge states clearly that not every bad circumstance in our life is God trying to get our attention. We live in a broken world and sometimes bad things happen.
2. I have not finished the book, in fact am only 1/2 way I feel certain there are more things for me to learn.

My prayer is that, just as "The Sacred Romance" showed me the true love of Christ for me, this book will teach me how understanding "Desire" can help me reach out and grasp the life God has planned for me.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A "Must Read"

"Just Waiting for the Bell" by elementary school principal, David Wehmeyer, is a "must read" for anyone who has ever worked in public education! This short, anecdotal book gives insight and wisdom into the common (and not so common) occurrences in the life of a school administrator.

I laughed out loud many times as Mr. Wehmeyer shared stories that could very well have happened in my own elementary school. His dry humor is irresistible, and I found myself eagerly wondering what he was going to say next.

Without giving away any specifics, my favorite chapters were "Kamakazi Hugs" and "Duck!" You'll just have to buy the book and read for yourself to find out why!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Does Critiquing Ever Stop?

I will admit that I have always been a judgmental reader. What I mean by that is, I have always been irked when I find errors in a story. I think this stems from two reasons: one, I am a teacher (enough said?), but I believe the greater reason is because it jerks me out of the story. When I am reading good fiction, I often totally lose myself in the characters' thoughts, the descriptive settings, the action. So when I'm reading along and then see a misspelled word, or grammatical error, it breaks that spell for me.

One of the perils of writing that has been brought to my attention since I began working on my own stories is frequent points of view shifts. This is when the story in being told from one character's point of view—we, the readers are in his head—when suddenly within the same scene the author begins telling what another character is thinking. If this happens frequently, I have had an editor liken it to making the reader feel like a ping pong ball being batted about between two (or more) characters' thoughts.

I said all that to say this...

This week I took a "break" from reading books primarily for review writing purposes, and read a book by a very prolific fiction writer whose books I have enjoyed in the past. I have read many of her books and always enjoyed the intrigue she creates in her plots, the interesting characters, the romance.

As I read this book, however, I kept feeling kicked out of the story because every time there was an unexpected POV change (and this occurred frequently), I was given pause. I found myself wondering if her other books did the same thing, but because I hadn't been aware of this faux pas before, it had never bothered me. I also checked the publishing date and realized this book was an earlier work...maybe she learned to eliminate that habit in later novels...(I'll definitely have to check into that to satisfy my curiosity now).

I still thought the story line was great, and on the whole enjoyed the book. But I can't help wondering if that old saying, "Ignorance is bliss" is certainly applicable in my case now. Will I ever be able to totally become lost in a good story again? Or will that "judgment bug" rear its ugly head at even more inopportune moments?

Friday, March 19, 2010

A New Cause

One of the reasons I was so excited about getting a book published was the potential opportunity for being able to financially support causes that are near and dear to my heart. My initial thought was supporting missions efforts through my church. I haven't given up on that possibility.

However, little did I know when I began the publishing process that a new cause would raise its hand and demand with urgency its worthiness for support.

In January of this year, after months of questions, my father was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. To date, there is no cure for this disease, although there are studies being done along with ongoing research.

Needless to say, my interest in finding a cure for ALS has increased a hundred fold. So in an effort to raise awareness as well as support, I am donating $1 of every copy of "Second Chance" sold to the ALS foundation through the MDA. You may purchase a copy from any online site, store, or from me personally.

I would greatly appreciate your help in supporting this cause! If you have already purchased a copy of "Second Chance", you can still help by spreading the word to friends and family. You may also make a donation straight to the ALS foundation, linked below:

"Second Chance" is available at most online sites where books are sold (amazon, b&n, B-A-M, etc), as well as through my website:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Working Vacation

Spring Break was this week. The kids and I drove to Bunkie (91/2 hours) on Saturday to visit my parents for a few days. It was not Spring Break for my mom, who works at an Elementary School in Lecompte, La. So she invited me to come to her school and share about writing and the publishing process with the students there, 3rd-6th grades.

I don't know about all of the students, but I thoroughly enjoyed the day...even though I was in school during my Spring Break! In every class there were at least three or four students who seemed truly interested in what I had to say, and wanted to know more about being a writer, getting published...what its like to be a "famous author". (I was seriously asked that question. My answer was, "I don't know. I'm not a famous author...yet.":))

A couple of fourth grade girls shared that they came in second place in a state-wide writing contest. They get to go to Alexandria to a reception. How absolutely thrilling!

There was a sixth grade girl who was particularly interested. She wanted to know what point of view I preferred writing in, and whether I did my writing on paper or computer. Then she wanted to know what software program I used. The teacher in me was on cloud nine!

I gave out bookmarks with my website and blog to each student, encouraging them to follow what is going on with me. I don't know how many students have computers at home, probably not very many. But we did discover that my website is not restricted at their school. So I hope to stay connected with some of the truly interested ones in that way.

Did I sell any books? One to a teacher. But that was not the goal of the day. I truly hope that for those who had an inkling of interest in writing, I was an inspiration. And for those who were thinking more about the PE they were missing, I hope I at least planted a seed of hope within them: if you really really have a dream, and you work really hard, and never give up—even if you don't succeed the first time, or the second...if you believe in your dream and in can make it come true.

It certainly happened with me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Five Stars for Shaman's Spark

This book had me intrigued from the very first time I heard about it, and was so very excited when I finally received my copy. "Shaman's Spark", by Marcus Lawson is a Christian fantasy written with young adults in mind (although I fully believe it will be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone who loves fantasy).
The main characters are teenage boys who find themselves whisked into another world one night while they sleep. They awake in separate places of a land known as the Continent. They immediately become key players in an age old struggle between good and evil.
Mr. Lawson has a gift for painting pictures with words, effortlessly showing the reader all the fantastic creatures, places, and events that take place in this novel. I was whisked away right along with the boys, and found myself caught up in the action as they desperately struggle for the side of right and Adonai, the name for God in this mystical land.
"Shaman's Spark" is the first of a trilogy, and I await the next installment with bated breath!

Friday, March 5, 2010

How Gracious!!

I truly don't know why, after being a Christian most of my life, I am still amazed by the depth of my Savior's love for me.

Last night I came home from an event where I had books available for purchase. I had been really excited about this one because it was at my school, in conjunction with a "family reading" focus. I was offering book sales as a fund raiser for the school. I had advertised it with my friends, colleagues, newsletter, FB, etc. I even had a t-shirt printed up and made out order forms if "fans" wanted one for themselves. I just knew this was going to be a fantastic event!

I didn't sell a single book.

So, I was rather disheartened to say the least, once I got home. As I sat moping, thinking things I shouldn't have been thinking...("I can't believe soandso didn't buy a book", "I must have been in a bad location", "Well that was a disaster" get the point)...I pulled out my iPod and began just flipping through wallpapers. I kid you not, as I was scanning, one wallpaper appeared with the verse that states, "and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Phil 4:7.

I stopped in my tracks! Right then, I prayed and asked for that peace, and was thankful for the reminder that whatever I was going through (even something as minor as my feelings being hurt), God had the ability to give me peace.

Then I continued with my scanning, saving pictures I liked. Again, in the midst of nature scenes and goofy cartoon characters, another wallpaper popped up. It was a rock with these words engraved on it: "You are loved". God wasn't through speaking to me! Not only did he offer me his peace, but he reminded me of his love.

OK. I went to bed that night asking forgiveness for my pity party, and asking for strength to seek out his will with these events in the future.

The next morning, I awoke with that same emptiness...not really wanting to come to school and face people with the fact that I had not sold one book at the event we were all working hard at! A sad admission after the amazing gift God had given me just the night before!

Now I don't know about your mornings, but in my house, we have morning rituals down to the second. There is usually no spare time from the minute I get out of bed until the time I am trying to get my teenage daughter out the door. Somehow this morning, I managed to sit down for a few minutes and had time to pray...asking God again to help me with his strength, his purpose, his love.

Guess what?

We were driving to school and one of my favorite songs started playing: "He Knows My Name"! The God of the universe, the master of all creation, the One who reached through sin and death to save me, KNOWS me! And He loves me so much; he cares about my feelings so deeply; he knows my weaknesses and my needs to such a degree; that he would take time and effort to show me over and OVER again how much he cares.

How gracious is our Lord.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tribute to a God-honoring Life

My Aunt Jackie passed away last night. She had cancer. Today I don't wish to dwell on the horror of that disease. Today I wish to honor her life.

My memories of Aunt Jackie are interwined unrepentantly with family. Whenever we spent time together, it was almost always within the context of family Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at Mama B's house; opening presents together at the Brown Christmas; spending time at their house when my family was home from overseas on furlough.

Because my parents were missionaries, our families didn't see each other as often as we might have had we lived in the same town. But that just made the times we did get together that much more memorable and special.

My Aunt Jackie loved to laugh. She loved her family. Her husband and her daughters were so very important to her. She had the most beautiful smile, and as I was growing up, beautiful long hair (which I always thought was so gorgeous). I also remember my Aunt Jackie never treating us as just "kids". What I mean by that is, I never felt unimportant or patronized by my aunt. She had a gift of speaking with young people (and anyone for that matter) on just the right level, where they felt their opinions were respected.

I have yet to learn that lesson with my own daughter.

In later years, once my cousins and I had grown up and had children of our own, the times we spent together were even fewer. But I remember one particular conversation in which I expressed how I wished we could get together more was just that we were all so busy.

She said, "I know, hon. And I promise not to think less of you if you promise to not think less of me. We all know we love each other even if we can't see each other more than even once a year!"

I knew she understood.

We were able to spend some time together this past Christmas. I am thankful for that. I also visited her twice before she passed away. Even in her state, she was still gracious, asking about my family.

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts and memories. My Aunt Jackie was a beautiful lady. She will be missed by those who knew her, and the lives she touched are better for having known her. I take comfort in knowing she was a believer in the God of Salvation, and that even now, she is in heaven rejoicing with the saints.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Love and War

When offered the chance to review John and Stasi Eldredge's new book, "Love and War", I eagerly accepted. I was not disappointed in any way.

This book offers so much wisdom, insight, encouragement, and even correction for married couples today. I love the fact that it was written by a husband and wife "team". Because of this style of addressing marriage, we see both partners' points of view.

I laughed, I cried, I prayed. The authors guide us into accepting two central truths: first, we each come into our marriage with past hurts, failures, and brokenness; and second, no one can heal that brokenness but God.

This treasure is a must read, but I would encourage readers to pick up a copy of "The Sacred Romance" by Eldrdge and Curtis as well. "Love and War" touches on many truths that are expounded upon in this previously written book. Having read "Romance" first gave me a clearer understanding of those truths, and I was able to see how they affected and applied to my marriage more readily than I might have otherwise.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Review for "Where's My Other Sock?"

"Where's My Other Sock?" is a children's chapter book filled with fantasy elements many children will love. It almost seems to be two separate stories within one. There is the "semi-normal" world where Tori lives with her brother and mother, doing chores, and dealing with sibling rivalry. Then there is the magical world that co-exists around and beneath them. The two worlds collide with the seemingly innocent problem of missing socks!

First time author, Esther LoPresto tells a story that I could imagine as a great read-aloud to a group of children.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

God and Suffering

I recently received an email from my father with the same title. It prompted me to journal my own thoughts regarding the subject, given the circumstances of suffering that currently surround my family and many friends as well.

First of all, I believe in an omnipotent God, one who is all powerful. After all, he created the universe! God is also omniscient, meaning he is "all-knowing". How could he be the "beginning and the end" otherwise? In other words, God has the power to do whatever he wants, and he know everything that ever was and ever will be.

I have often said the phrase, "God is in control." It was brought to my attention that this could be interpreted as meaning God controls everything, which would eliminate free will and reduce us to the role of puppets. That certainly is not what I mean. When I say, "God is in control", I mean God knows what is happening and he has the power to allow it or stop it.

One could also interpret the phrase "God is in control" to mean he causes bad things to happen. Where we certainly have biblical evidence of God's judgment (remember the flood?), we should also remember that we live in a broken world.

Not only is God all-powerful and all-knowing, he is also a relational God. We see evidence of his love song to us throughout the pages of the Bible, and if we are observant, in the pages of our own life stories. He gives us free will because he desires our love, our trust, our relationship with him. And because he desires a true relationship with us, he gives us the choice. So often we do not choose the things he desires for us, the things that are best for us. And sometimes, bad things happen as consequences of those bad choices.

I'm not saying that sickness and death, loss and pain are God's punishment for our sins. I'm not saying that he causes these things to happen to teach us a lesson. I'm not even saying that all bad things are explainable.

I am saying I believe God is good. This fallen world is not. And until we get to heaven, we will continue to experience evil, because He prowls the earth. Is my God able to stop him? Yes. Does he choose sometimes not to? Yes. Do I always understand his reasons? Most definitely no.

But I cling to the verses that read, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28. And afterwards, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?...No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8: 35-39.

It is because of these promises, that we can continue through our struggles and not give up to despair. Number 1: God loves me. Number 2: God is always with me. Number 3: No matter what bad thing I am experiencing now, that can not separate me from my God. Number 4: Even in the bad things, God is working actively for my good, because I love him.

Do I sometimes need help in remembering this? Yes! That is one reason why I took the time to write it out tonight. I have felt weak and overwhelmed and overly burdened. But saying what I BELIEVE, even when I don't always FEEL it, helps give me strength. Hopefully my struggles will give someone else strength as well.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

When You Gotta Have Faith

Author Ren Royal provides a transparent lens through which we may glimpse the many dark times in her life. She has lived through more tragedy and evil than many of us. However, out of her pain and suffering flows the faith and joy that only a true relationship with almighty God can provide.

Ms. Royal weaves prose, poetry, and prayer throughout her inspirational book, "Lost Faith to Living Faith". Though reading about her personal hardships was very difficult for me, the way she continually brought the message back to one of hope and love was very touching.

This book would be helpful for others who have experienced violence, loss, and/or rejection in their lives. The author has lived through each circumstance, and continues to stand on the unshakable rock of her faith.

Friday, January 15, 2010

About That Glass

I'm usually a "glass half full" kind of girl. If I weren't, the start of 2010 might have me hiding under a rock awaiting the end of the world. Exhibits as follows:

Precious aunt in final stages of cancer, father-in-law diagnosed with cancer, father diagnosed with ALS, tragic deaths of 3 family members of spouse's co-workers, young friend dealing with drug abuse, earthquake shakes Haiti (home of dear friends).

Some might shake their heads and whisper, "It can't get much worse, can it?"

I've had my moments this week. And I'm pretty sure I'll have them again. But even these sorrows and horrors, as devastating as they may be, can not outweigh my blessings. To name a very few:

Loving husband, healthy children, steady job, faithful friends, supportive church, house, car, budding new career. These "benefits" might not seem enough to some, but they all snuggle together under the giant umbrella of the knowledge of a loving God who is in control of all. Some would scoff (I can hear you snicker). "That's just a crutch. If God were so good, how could he pile all those things on you at once?"

"Ah, but he hasn't," I would say.

We live in a broken world. It's been spiraling downhill for ages. Although there are glimpses of beauty: in a sunrise unspoiled by smog, the first blooms of honeysuckles in the spring, the smell of babies, the touch of a life-long love; one has but to turn around to see the evil and decay. So sorrow happens. Death visits. Friends fall prey to lies. This is not the hand of God. That hand is the unexplainable peace, the assurance of a here-after, the calm in the midst of the storm.

I felt that very thing on Wednesday afternoon. Tuesday night my mother called me from Houston to tell me the tests conducted on my dad would most likely confirm our fears; ALS. I managed to listen to the details and almost got off the phone before the dam broke. I even managed to hold it back while my children drifted off to watch television or text on their phones. Then my husband came home from work. So I crumbled against his strong shoulder and quietly sobbed my grief behind the closed door of our bedroom.

When I could breath normally again and had washed my face, I posted the results on our prayer chains at work and church, even w/ friends on facebook. I asked specifically for strength to calmly tell my 13 year old daughter. I was waiting until a final call from my mother on Wednesday afternoon. Now, please remember that I was an incoherent mass of tears just the day before. But I managed to make it through the workday on Wednesday; teaching fourth graders, attending faculty meetings, working on lesson plans—all without crying. I talked with my mother Wednesday afternoon, and when the time came, I shared the information about her Papa having a deadly illness to my very inquisitive, insightful daughter calmly and rationally.

I can only say, "Prayer is powerful. It works. There is a God whose peace passes all understanding. And I am so very thankful that I get to call him 'Father'." 2010 has not begun auspiciously for my family. But I hold to the faith that we are still blessed. My glass is not just half-full, it runneth over.