Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dontcha Love A GIVEAWAY?

So, lately I've been checking out new websites and have come across some amazing giveaways. Most of them I'm entering to try and win Christmas gifts. This year will be another frugal Christmas. I figured, what better way to be frugal than to try and win some of those gifts? Who knows, maybe I'll win the lottery of website giveaways and furnish everyone with gifts I've won!

To kick things off, I wanted to tell you about a website that I found through another website ( It's called Penelope's Oasis. She has some fabulous giveaways, one's you wouldn't typically find. Don't tell my daughter but I entered to win her an apron. Now, it's not just any apron, it's an Original Party Pink apron. I tell you, that girl is girly and into pink!

The creators giving away these aprons is called Flirty Aprons. It looks like you're wearing a scrapbook page. To me, that's a good thing. Head over and check out their awesome and fun selection!

Now, you may wonder why my 18 yr old daughter would want an apron. I haven't seen a teenager wear an apron...well since I don't know when. Well, I can honestly say that my daughter has already been wearing an apron that her dorm neighbor shared with her.

She is in a dorm room with 2 other girls. The dorm is 20 yrs old, but has a small stove/oven, mini fridge, and their own bathroom. She loves to bake cookies! So, to win this apron would be so exciting for her...honestly! The one she's wearing in the picture is one her neighbor's (pic from a couple weeks ago).

If you'd like the chance to win an apron either for yourself or as a gift, head to Penelope's Oasis and check it out. She also has some other fantastic giveaways you might be interested in!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Born Again by Third Day

Born Again is a song that penetrates deep into my soul. I hear it and the music compels me to listen every time!

Today I found myself
After searching all these years
And the man that I saw,
he wasn't at all who I thought he'd be
I was lost when You found me here
And I was broken beyond repair
Then You came along and
You sang Your song over me

I think so often that I'm still not who God wants me to be. Will there be a day when I "get it" and I find myself, the one He wants me to be. Will there be that moment when I think, "Oh my goodness, how was I missing this all this time?"

I also love the thought of God singing a song over me. The love that I imagine is overwhelming. Like wanting to sing a song of blessing over my children.

I pray this song speaks to your searching heart. If you find yourself searching for One who knows your heart my hope is that you hear Him through the words of this song.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fall Into Reading Challenge 2010

Starting tomorrow, September 22, 2009, Katrina at Callapidder Days will be hosting her biannual reading challenge: Fall Into Reading 2009. If you'd like to take the challenge, head to her website to find out all the details.

Women's Fiction

A Measure of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling
Fools Rush In by Janice Thompson
The Carousel Painter by Judith Miller
That Certain Spark by Cathy Marie Hake
Guardian of the Flame by T.L. Higley
Piece de Resistance by Sandra Byrd
Stretch Marks by Kimberly Stuart
The Bride Backfire by Kelly Eileen Hake
The Sheriff's Surrender by Susan Page Davis
Leaving Carolina by Tamera Leigh
White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner
A Promise Kept by Cara C. Putman
Captive Dreams by Cara C. Putman
Return Policy by Michael Snyder
My Name Is Russel Fink by Michael Snyder
The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall
On A Someday by Roxanne Henke

Young Adult

Always Watching by Brandilyn & Amberly Collins
Last Breath by Brandilyn & Amberly Collins
MangaBible #3-6 by Zondervan Graphic Novels

Books I Hope to Get My Hands On

Maire by Linda Windsor
Thirsty by Tracie Bateman
The Great Christmas Bowl by Susan May Warren
The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fearless by Max Lucado AND GIVEAWAY

by Max Lucado
Random House, Inc / 2009 / Hardcover
Number of Pages: 240
ISBN-13: 9781601421821

Ok, as many of you know, I'm not so thrilled with non-fiction. I typically struggle to get through a chapter, let alone an entire book!

I became part of the team getting the word out about Max Lucado's newest release Fearless. I was happy to join, but a bit apprehensive in the duty to read the book. I didn't want to promote a book I hadn't read, even though I trusted the author.

I decided last week it was time to dive in. There's so much to say, I'm not sure where to start and where to stop. I love my books staying in pristine condition. I know because of the elements they tend to weather over time. Other than that, you won't find any dog-eared pages or writing in my books. As for Fearless, there's a lot of underlining! I couldn't help it.

I felt as I was going through each chapter if I didn't underline what struck me as profound or applicable, I might not remember where to go back to. Our book club is already doing this book next month, and the book only released in September! How awesome is that?

Let's talk about the chapters and parts I found impactful. Here are some of the chapters that are covered in Fearless:

Fear of Not Mattering (which of us isn't concerned about whether or not we matter?)
Fear of Disappointing God (daily for me!)
Fear of Running Out (or as I renamed it for myself "Fear of Not Enough")
Fear of Not Protecting My Kids (this is a bigee)
Fear of Overwhelming Challenges
Fear of Worst-Case Scenarios
Fear of Violence
Fear of the Coming Winter
Fear of Life's Final Moments (probably the fear I deal with the most)
Fear of What's Next (occasionally when doubts seep in)
Fear That God Is Not Real (even Christians deal with this)
Fear of Global Calamity
Fear of God Getting Out of My Box

Now, let me share a few of the profound excerpts I underlined in my book:

Chapter 1
* "Fear is the bully in the high school hallway: brash, loud, and unproductive. For all the noise fear makes and room it takes, fear does little good."
* "...getting on board with Christ can mean getting soaked with Christ."

Chapter 3
* "Might bravery begin when the problem of sin is solved?"
* "Sin leads to hiding...We avoid contact with God."

Chapter 4
* "Anxiety makes tyrants out of us."

Chapter 5
* "Wise are the parents who regularly give their children back to God."

Those are just a few of the tidbits I gleanded from the book. You may notice that I missed chapter 2. Well, as with many other chapters, it wasn't just a line or two underlined. It was more like paragraphs.

If you check out the top of my blog, you will notice that I'm going to be putting quotes up of Max's book from time to time. I wish I could keep a copy of the book in several different places: my van, by my computer, and in my bedroom. I'd also like to keep copies to give to random people.
Speaking of randomly handing these books out. If you check out Max Lucado on Facebook or Twitter, you will notice that he leaves status updates of places he's recently left his book for some blessed person to find. He leaves them in airport phone booths or at hotels, and just about anywhere else you could think of.

You can also go to to learn more about getting the word spread on this book. There you can listen to audio chapters and learn how you can earn points for some prizes he's giving away. I'm not sure on the status of joining the team, but you can find out when you join.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, you can type Fearless into the box in the right sidebar search box. They will take you to the most recently priced book at CBD. As of today, September 20, 2009 at 3:30 pm the book was $13.49!! That's for a hardcover book! How awesome is that? The price in this post is NOT guaranteed.

Check out Max below reading from his book Fearless. To hear more, you can find him on YouTube. Max Lucado and the team are looking for pictures of you being Fearless! Head to to learn more about ways to enter your pictures or to ask Max a question about Fear.

THIS JUST IN!!! I was given the ok to giveaway Max's book!! I'm so excited. Anyone who reads this book will come away viewing fear differently!! So, how do you enter? Here are a few ways to earn entries:
  1. What are you afraid of? Tell me one of your fears (1 entry)
  2. Become a fan on Facebook of Living Fearlessly and come back to let me know (5 entries)
  3. Become a follower of Max on Twitter and come back to let me know(5 entries)
  4. Have others do ALL 3 above and they let me know you recommended them (10 entries)
Remember the all important EMAIL that needs to be left here so that I can let you know if you win. As always email left=entering the contest. US residents only. Must be 18 to enter. There is no cost incurred by participants. Void where prohibited, etc etc etc. Chances of winning is determined by the number of entries and questions answered. Drawing is completely random using the "Top Hat" software. Any questions, please feel free to let me know. Giveaway ends Oct 3, 2009 10pm (CST).

2009 ACFW Conference Winners

I'd like to thank Lena Nelson Dooley for posting these winners on her Facebook page. Books with * means I've read the book and * means I have the book, but haven't read it. To learn more, visit the ACFW site at . Congratulations to all the winners. And to those who didn't win, I am so happy you were nominated. You are definitely being recognized and that's HUGE!!

*A Passion Most Pure (Julie Lessman)

*Sweet Caroline (Rachel Hauck)

Symphony of Secrets (Sharon Hinck)

Controlling Interest (Elizabeth White)

I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires (Cathy Gohlke)
*My Heart Remembers (Kim Vogel Sawyer)

For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls (Nancy Mehl)

Stuck On You (Rhonda Gibson in A Connecticut Christmas anthology)

Family Treasures (Kathryn Springer)

Broken Lullaby (Pamela Tracy)

Family of the Heart (Dorothy Clark)

*The Restorer’s Journey (Sharon Hinck)

Fossil Hunter (John B. Olson)

*The Shape of Mercy (Susan Meissner)

*The Big Picture (Jenny B. Jones)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Down Home Country Time

Jake and I went to the Chuckwagon dinner at church tonight. A gal at church decided a few years ago to introduce the people in our church to other nationalities through cooking and speakers.

I've eaten Vietnamese, Native American, and Historically Western cuisine. So far, each meal has been enlightening. Liz typically has a speaker or teaches us about the culture as we're learning about each portion of the meal. Tonight the Associate Pastor told cowboy jokes.

Tonight's Chuckwagon dinner had everything you can imagine from the wagon train time. Instead of a campfire, we had grills. :) While we ate, the band "Seldom Herd" played old country hymns and songs.

Our first course was the Best Ever Texas Caviar. To me it tasted like salsa, and it was fantastic! Then came the authentic Corny Corn Bread. It was cooked in a dutch oven and got a bit crispy on the outside. I've never actually had corn bread with corn in it. Next came the main course of pork chops or New York Steaks with Grilled Veggies and Baked Beans. Ugh, it was all so divine. To end our scrumptious meal, we had Apple Crisp. That turned out very well!!
I wish families would've brought their children. I had Jake and I was so glad to spend some time with him, but I think he would've had more fun if he could've bummed around with some friends for a bit.

I invited my friend, Jackie, and I think she had a good time. She knew some of the people there, but isn't quite the social butterfly I am. Another friend showed up on her horse along with another gal on her horse. I have NO idea how she knew about the cookout at the church! Anyhow, Angie let me ride her new horse and I was in Heaven (until my allergies kicked in after I rubbed my eyes)!! I'm tellin' ya, I'm made to live on a ranch!

I have to make a point of spending more time doing activities like this individually with my boys. Tonight was a great way to just about end the summer!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Charge to Young Women by Bryan Davis

A Charge to Young Women
By Bryan Davis (

She is born with a passion to uplift, empower, and support. She is the mainstay and sail for the captain’s ship. She is the heat in the warrior’s resolve and the salve that heals his wounds. She is the heart that pumps vitality to every joint and sinew. Yes, she is a woman.

Every girl in existence has been lovingly fashioned—from her caring and sensitive brain, to her tender and compassionate hands, to her tireless feet—to be a pillar of strength and resolve. While she might not be a warrior who draws a sword, she is the healer who strengthens the warrior’s hands and heart. Without her, every weapon would drop in futility, every muscular arm would wilt, and every pair of tired legs would shuffle home in defeat, for the heart that drives the warrior forward has stopped beating.

Some young women choose to take up the sword themselves, to step out alone in the midst of darkness to carry a lantern to the lost, to battle oppression and bring relief to the abused and neglected, or to transport life-giving supplies to the destitute wherever they may be. Their partner is the Spirit of Christ, and their sword is His word. They must know Him well if they hope to shine His light and pierce the darkness without the help of an intimate human partner.

Speak the truth. Live the truth. Be the truth. Never let the faithless ones persuade you to abandon any of those three principles. Remember that you are an oracle of fire, as is every faithful follower of our Lord. For all true disciples possess the pure silver, purged of all dross, and the fire of God’s love burns within, an everlasting flame that others, even those who merely give lip-service to the truth, will never comprehend until you are able to pass along that fire from heart to heart.

Many girls will choose to partner with another in this pursuit, hoping to be the light, the energy, and the drive that pulses within the breast of another. Yet, some never discover what it means to be such a heart. They never learn the secret of the captain’s sail or the recipe of the healing salve. Why? Because they listen to a counterfeit call, a trumpet blaring a falsehood—that their beauty is a lure to capture rather than an inspiration to set free. The inner desire to help and support becomes a lust to take and own. The hope to hear words of affirmation that she has been a good and faithful helpmate transforms into a hopeless search for eyes that admire and lips that speak words of appreciation for her outward appearance rather than for the beauty of her soul. And such a search never ends in true satisfaction.

You, however, are listening to your creator’s call, a gentle voice within that whispers reminders of how you were really fashioned, to be a woman of virtue, of inner beauty, of priceless value. The trumpet announces your need to strut, expose, and seduce, while the inner voice sings of ways to dress your soul in virtue—to feed the hungry, cover those laid bare, infuse encouragement into the hearts of the downtrodden, and nurture the victims of poverty, disease, and abandonment.

As a young woman of virtue, you understand what will happen if you heed the trumpet’s call to lure with flesh and flair. You will draw attention, but from whom? Someone who values face and form but not the heart. He will take, use, and abuse. His desire is for his own benefit, because what his eyes perceive is a girl who offers to fulfill the cravings of his body, and he responds, not with love, but with lust for his own satisfaction. And when your flower of youth fades, he will not perceive value in your soul, and you will never achieve the holy union of hearts for which you were created.

If you listen to the creator’s call, you will suffer temporary loss. When you pour out compassion and pity instead of skin and superficiality, you will be considered old-fashioned, out-of-touch, a prude. Yet, within the fair bosom you are saving for a true warrior, you will be nurturing a heart of unspoiled beauty, for it has not been taken at a cheap price. It has not been hardened by a wolf who captures, abuses, and leaves. And with such a heart, you will be able to reach out and be the captain’s sail, the warrior’s reason for drawing his sword, and the soothing salve for hearts less whole than your own.

The heart of a woman is more precious than pearls, and a man of worth sees it as a priceless treasure. He knows that she is the energy that drives his purpose, and without her, the pursuit of his vision for God’s purpose will be sluggish indeed. For the honor of taking that heart to join with him in fulfilling that vision, he will give his life, his heart, and his soul. The woman who has prepared her heart for that adventure will never regret the small price she paid. Scorn fades, and satisfaction blossoms. Contempt crumbles to dust, and contentment rises in its place. Ridicule is forgotten, while refreshment of the soul lives for as long as the heart pumps its life-giving energy.

Whether you take up the sword yourself or choose to unite with a warrior, now is the time to live according to this standard. It might seem that you are walking the path alone, yet, you are never alone. The One who planted the heart within you will never leave your side, and He will continue to sing the song that fashioned you as a woman of virtue. Listen. It is there. You will have to tune out the surrounding noise, but the sounds of love and virtue will never be silenced, if only you know the Singer and His song.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Deborah at Books, Movies, and Chinese Food is a participant in Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I enjoy reading her reviews and book suggestions. I grabbed the Meme so that I could share my reading habits with you guys. See if we share any and let me know what your are!
Here are my answers...

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?

I only snack if I'm hungry. Since I read before bedtime, I typically have some sort of junk food, but am extremely cautious so that my books don't get stained.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

Absolutely NOT!!! Absolutely horrifies me. Now, I do have to eat my words because as soon as I started reading Fearless by Max Lucado I began to wonder how I was going to remember all the profound statements by the time book club came up in the middle of October. Realizing I had no other option, I pulled out a pencil and have been lightly underlining phrases.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?

I like using bookmarks from different authors. I keep a stack behind my bed and on my bookshelf. In fact, my kids all have a stack on their bookshelves also. Now, if for some odd reason I don't have a bookmark nearby, I'll grab whatever is near me like a scrap of paper. NEVER EVER dog-ear my books. I have been known to lay a book open. I know it's not good for the spine, but sometimes that's just how the book falls.

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?

Fiction preferably. I'm terrible when it comes to non-fiction. I have to think too much when I'm reading non-fiction. I can get lost in fiction, and that's what I love about it!

Hard copy or audiobooks?

I know as our world changes hard copies won't be the most prefered choice. For now, I love holding a book in my hands. I love the covers, too. As for audiobooks, I enjoy them on our trips cross country. They definitely help keep me awake on the long drives!

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?

I prefer to read to the end of a chapter, but it doesn't really matter to me. I like to end at a spot that seems natural. If I'm not at the end of a chapter, I always think I'll put the bookmark in facing the direction of the page I'm stopping on. Of course, I always go back and still have to glance around for a moment to find my place again.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

If I'm reading a book that needs defining of words, I'm reading the wrong book! I don't know that I've ever read, willingly, a book with words I couldn't define on my own.

What are you currently reading?

Fearless by Max Lucado and Home Another Way by Christa Parrish

What is the last book you bought?

Blue Heart Blessed by Susan Meissner. Still have yet to read it.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?

I'm a multi-tasker so for sure a minimum of 2 books being read at once. If you ever check me out on Shelfari, you'll see that I'm reading more than 1 book.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?

I can read anytime, anywhwere. I love reading during the day, outside in the sun sitting on our adirondack chairs on the porch. That's only during the summer. At night I love to cuddle up in bed and dive into my books. I have a plan to build a reading corner upstairs next year. I've always wanted to have a window seat. They're so romantic!

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?

No preferance. I can read either.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?

For sure Francine River's book Redeeming Love is the book I always recommend to others. Of course, if there's a genre people are looking for then I pull something out of that genre. For fantasy I recommend Sharon Hinck. Do you enjoy girls YA? Then I'd send you to Shelley Adina or Melody Carlson. For sci-fi YA I'd suggest Robert Liparulo. A great series, if you like them would be anything by Karen Kingsbury. Don't ask me about historical fiction. I'd never be able to pick just one author!!

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)

On my bookshelf, books are together by author (but not alphabetized) and then separated by Read and To Be Read (TBR). I also have a giveaway shelf surrounded by bookmarks that I also send with those books.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mom Central's Back-to-School Giveaways

I recently found a great resource for parents called Mom Central. At this time of year they have fantastic suggestions for back-to-school transitions, meals for families who are on the go, and great ideas for family activities.

Right now they're giving away a TON of products on their website. One set of Giveaways ends Wed, the 20th. Some, but not all, items they have are:

Win a Twill with Scotchguard Sofa Slip Cover

Win an AT&T Dual Handset Answering System

Win V8 V-Fusion Juice and an L.L. Bean Tote Bag

Win Kid Kupz

A new set of giveaways started yesterday!! They've got some fantastic items such as:

Win a Sienna Lights Hurricane from Partylite

Win a Clorox Gift Set

Win a $50 Gymboree Gift Card

Win a Nintendo DSi

Aren't those awesome? I'm definitely entering to win most of these, plus the other ones they have. There's always something going on at Mom Central. Click: Mom Central's Back-t0-School Giveaway to check out all the fabulous giveaways!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Never The Bride by Rene Gutteridge and Cheryl McKay GIVEAWAY

Never the Bride
by Rene Gutteridge and Cheryl McKay
Random House, Inc / 2009 / Paperback

I was up until 1am finishing this book. I absolutely could not put it down!

Unlike Jessie Stone, I've been married 2x. By then end of this novel, I was thinking to myself that I was like Jessie in so many ways, except the one where it mattered most...waiting. I dove right in, both times. I never waited like Jessie did, even though she was actively searching. Oh, I thought I'd heard God's voice the 2nd time. Jessie thought God had answered her a couple times and chose to go right on ahead with what she believed.

Who here doesn't love the thought of being proposed to in a really unique way? One that will be the talk of the town? Well, Jessie Stone and her sister, Brooklyn, go into business helping men propose to the women they are dating! What a great idea!! Or so it seems.

I could relate to Jessie in that she's always wondering if the man she's talking to at that moment is the "One". I always wondered that, too. I knew any of the guys I was with at the moment could easily become MY one. I never really checked to see if he was GOD's one for me. That's where this story finally detours from mine. After struggling against God, Jessie finally hands over her pen that she's used to write out her expectations to God.

I love how the authors portray God in this story. He's quirky. Doesn't show up when Jessie believes she needs him. He doesn't do what she demands, but does what He knows is right for her life. He shows up when it's least expected and stays silent when she is asking for direction. God doesn't come as she expects and He writes Jessie's love story the way He desires. We also see when she breaks his heart, just like we all do. I liked that I had a physical idea of how God responds when we are out of His will.

The end of this story was emotional for me. I saw a lot of myself and my inner struggles through Jessie's words, actions and thoughts. I became very introspective and think of all the time I lost being out of God's will for my life when it came to the men I dated/married.

If you are a woman or young lady who is single, don't rush into anything. Wait on God. Even if it's been 10, 15, 20 yrs since you thought you should already be married. God's timing is perfect, as demonstrated in this novel. No, marriage isn't easy and just because your spouse is the one God chose for you, it doesn't mean they are perfect. Only God is perfect. Remember that!

I think all of us ladies would thoroughly enjoy this novel and I'm giving a copy away. If you'd like to read the 1st chapter, here's a link to my FIRST post from a few days ago. Check it out then come back here to answer 1 of 2 questions.

Answer to one of these 2 questions: 1) If you're married, how did your spouse propose? 2) If you're not married, how would you imagine being proposed to?

My husband gave me a jewelry box for Mother's Day. I thought it was beautiful. What I didn't realize was, he had put my engagement ring inside the box. He thought I'd see it right away since the front of the jewelry box was glass. Nope, I was too thrilled at the jewelry box. Of course when he told me to open the front door, there it was in all it's shiny beauty.

To enter, answer one of the questions above and leave your separated email address so I can contact you if you win. No email address = No entry. Open to US residents only. Please read the new guidelines I have set in place on the front page of my blog at the top under the names of the winners. By entering this and any contest it will be assumed that you have read and agree to the terms of this giveaway. I will draw a name Saturday, September 19th.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stray Affections by Charlene Ann Baumbich

Stray Affections
by Charlene Ann Baumbich
Book Summary:
The last thing that Cassandra Higgins expects out of her Sunday is to be mesmerized at a collectors’ convention by a snowglobe. She’s enjoying some shopping time, with husband Ken at home tending their brood of four young boys, when she’s utterly charmed by the one-of-a kind globe containing figures of three dogs and a little girl with hair the color of her own. She can’t resist taking the unique globe home– even if means wrestling another shopper for it!
The beautiful snowglobe sparks long-dormant memories for Cassie, of her beloved Grandpa Wonky, the stray she rescued as a child, and the painful roots of her combative relationship with her mother, “Bad Betty” Kamrowski. Life in Wanonishaw, Minnesota is never dull, though, and Cassie keeps the recollections at bay, busy balancing her boys, her home daycare operation, and being a good friend to best pal Margret. But after a strange–flurrious, as Cassie deems it–moment happens with the remarkable snowglobe, Cassie and the people she loves are swirled into a tumultuous, yet grace-filled, and life-changing journey.
“As a believer, I know the power of forgiveness and new beginnings, and of a God, and family and friends, who love me the way I am,” Charlene Ann Baumbich says. “The heartbeat of change flows through those wonderful gifts.”
With the quirky, close-knit Midwestern small-town feel that made Charlene Ann Baumbich’s acclaimed Dearest Dorothy novels so popular, Stray Affections invites you to experience the laughter and the healing of second chances.
My Review
I'd like to start by thanking Ashley from Multnomah Books, a division of Random House for providing me with my copy.
I honestly had no idea what to expect from Stray Affections. My 18 yr old tried to read it and wasn't that drawn it. Hence, my somewhat ambivalent approach to the book. Well, I found that my daughter and I won't agree on all our books. I have to admit I was more than pleasantly surprised! I would say this book is really geared towards women.
I related so well to Cassandra Higgins. She's a mom of 4 kids; I'm a mom of 4 kids. She has old tapes that run through her head; I have a lot of the same tapes. She wanted to be a veterinarian when she was going up; that's what I wanted to be. She didn't pursue her dream because she didn't believe she was smart enough; ditto for me.
I enjoyed the banter between Cassie and her husband, Ken. He was an amazing support to Cassie and knew her well enough to help her out when needed. Ken loves his wife and his children. I also enjoy that Ken's not from Minnesota. Having lived in Minnesota the last 11 yrs has been interesting, to say the least! I can relate with how hard it is for him to live here in the winter!
Cassie never seems to be able to do anything right when it comes to her mom, Bad Betty. I love that Cassie finally gets fed up and puts her mom in place. It seems to be a catalyst for Betty. She tries to recover her lack luster relationship with her grandsons. It's a stretch for her since all she's been over the years since her husband's suicide is negative. How can she change after living in this world she's created for so long?
I also loved Margret and Leo. Margret knew Cassie growing up and the struggles she endured. Now she and her husband are dealing with infertility, a sometimes taboo topic. Author Charlene Ann Baumbich handled this topic very well.

Author Bio
Charlene Ann Baumbich is a popular author and speaker and an award-winning journalist. In addition to her Dearest Dorothy series of novels, she has written seven nonfiction books of humor and inspiration. A bungee-jumping, once motorcycle-owning grandma and unabashed dog lover, Charlene lives with her husband and rescued dog Kornflake in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. She loves telling stories, laughing whenever possible, and considers herself a Wild Child of God.
Since I don't have a copy to giveaway, learn more about or purchase this book at

Call to Prayer & The Call of Zulina by Kay Marshall Strom

September 25-27th concerned individuals across the world will join in prayer and fasting for the victims of sex trafficking and modern day slavery. In an effort to raise funds and awareness for this project, the Salvation Army is raising hands and hearts together in a special weekend dedicated to praying and fasting for the social injustices forced upon many individuals in our world today. For more information about this important project and other organizations partnering with The Salvation Army, go to the Salvation Army homepage.

For years, author Kay Marshall Strom has visited countries where human trafficking and modern day slavery run rampant. Her recent fiction release, The Call of Zulina, draws attention to the historical issues of slavery, that unfortunately continue today across the world and even in the United States of America. Through her diligence and commitment to help resolve inhumane issues revolving around slavery and trafficking Strom has become an expert in the field.

Kathy Carlton Willis Communications offers this timely free content article by Kay Strom to bloggers who would also like to draw attention to these relevant and current events in society. If you would be interested in posting the content below between Sept. 10-25th, please email GINA with your date and blog address. We will list your blog on the KCWC Blogsite during the week of placement to help drive traffic to your blog.

Stolen Identity

by Kay Marshall Strom

Enormous eyes in a bony-thin face, and a baggy green dress that dragged the ground. Because of all the cast-off children at the village school in India, the raggedy girl stood closest to our translator, he gently asked her, "What is your name?"

The girl stared.

The girl whispered her answer: "I have no name."

A child with no name. A little girl abandoned so young she could not even remember what her parents had called her. She grew up begging at the train platform, snatching up the scraps harried passengers dropped, watching other children picked off by traffickers. Now that she was seven or eight--perhaps even a scrawny nine--the traffickers had come for her. But the girl screamed and kicked and clawed so ferociously that someone called the police. Someone with clout, evidently, because the police came and pulled her away from the traffickers. Somebody in the crowd suggested that instead of putting the child in jail, the police might take her to the village school, which they did. They dropped her at the door and left.

Human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, is rampant around the world. We think of it as an eastern European problem, or Indian or Nepalese or Thai. It is. But it's also a Western problem. The U.S. State Department estimates between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the Untied States each year, but concede that the real number is far higher. According to the U.S. Justice Department's head of the new human trafficking unit, there is now at least one case of trafficking in every state.

The little girl with no name was fortunate that someone responded to her screaming pleas. What would you do if you heard a child shriek for help? Of course, if she were a trafficking victim in this country, she wouldn't likely scream or kick. She would probably shrink away in terror, or act submissively. You might see wounds--cuts, bruises, burns. Perhaps what would catch your attention would be the constant work: babysitting, cooking, washing dishes, scrubbing floors--never just being a child. Or maybe you couldn't say exactly what was wrong--only that something about the child's situation made you profoundly uneasy.

Please, please, if you suspect a person is being trafficked, call 911 and report it. Yes, it is okay. Yes, even it you are mistaken. In fact, eighteen states require citizens to report possible child abuse or neglect of any kind.

In the 1700s, Quakers led the fight against the African slave trade. In 1885, the Salvation Army took up the abolition banner, and since then it has led the fight against a different kind of slavery. More and more, 21st century abolitionists are followers of Christ determined to see slavery of all kinds ended in our day.

Oh yes... Before I left the school in India, I asked if we might give the little girl a name. She is now Grace.

About the Author:

Author Kay Marshall Strom has two great loves: writing and helping others achieve their own writing potential. Kay has written thirty-six published books including Daughters of Hope: Stories of Witness and Courage in the Face of Persecution and In the Presence of the Poor. She's also authored numerous magazine articles, and two screenplays. While mostly a nonfiction writer, the first book of her historical novel trilogy Grace in Africa has met with acclaim. Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writers' conferences, and special events throughout the country and around the world. She is in wide demand as an instructor and keynote speaker at major writing conferences. She also enjoys speaking aboard cruise ships in exchange for exotic cruise destinations.

Schedule Kay for an interview or request her book for review by contacting Kathy Carlton Willis Communications at or call 956-642-6319.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Abide With Me by John H. Parker & Paul Seawright ~ FIRST

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Abide With Me (Includes a CD of 20 wonderful, favorite British hymns.)

New Leaf Publishing Group/New Leaf Press; Har/Com edition (May 1, 2009)


John Parker, Professor of English at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, has taught Shakespeare and other literary classes there for twenty-eight years. He holds the M.A. and Ph.D. in English from the University of Tennessee, and also the Master of Arts in Religion from Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis. At Lipscomb and previously at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee, he has also taught classes in the Bible.

Paul Seawright is currently Chair of Photography at the University of Ulster. Previously he was Dean of Art Media and Design at the University of Wales, Newport, and the Director of the Centre for Photographic Research. His photographs have been exhibited worldwide and are held in many museum collections including The Tate London, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, International Centre of Photography New York, Portland Art Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Paul has a Ph.D. in Photography from the University of Wales and was awarded a personal chair in 2002. He is an honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, currently chairing their Fellowship panel. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts. He has published six books.

Visit the authors' website.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 112 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group/New Leaf Press; Har/Com edition (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0892216905
ISBN-13: 978-0892216901


Abide With Me
A Photographic Journey Through Great British Hymns

Text by John H. Parker

Photography by Paul Seawright


The focus of Abide with Me is place—the places in England and Wales where the great Britishhymns were written and where the stories of the men and women who wrote them unfolded: Olney (“Amazing Grace”), Brighton (“Just As I Am”), Stoke Newington (“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”), Broadhembury (“Rock of Ages”), and many others. This book shows and tells about those places and what you would see if you visited them.

On the north coast of England, silhouetted against the gray sky and the dark sea, stand the ruins of Whitby Abbey. There in the sixth century a common sheep herder named Caedmon wrote the earliest surviving hymn written in English. In the centuries following—Middle Ages, Renaissance, Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century—men

and women devoted to Christ and blessed with the gift of poetry composed the words of the English hymns sung in Britain, in America, and across the globe, generation after generation—sung in times of happiness, grief, joy, fear, and wonder. Here are the places those writers lived and their life stories.

Join us now for a stroll through the quaint Cotswolds, the beautiful Lake District, bustling

London, and the glorious poppy-bedecked English countryside as you meet the great minds whose works have inspired, uplifted, and carried us through the tragedies and triumphs of our lives. It’s a journey of the heart and soul—a meandering through your own spirituality.

Speaking to one another in psalms

and hymns and spiritual songs.

Ephesians 5:19

Lost & Found

Olney, on the Ouse River in Northampton, England, not far from Cambridge, was a small farming and crafts village in the late eighteenth century. As we drive into the market square this Sunday afternoon, we find a bustling and cheerful town with two popular claims. One is the annual pancake race on Shrove Tuesday when housewives run 415 yards from the marketplace to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, each carrying a pan holding a pancake, which she flips on crossing the finish line. The other is the curate and preacher for that church from 1764–1780, John Newton (1725–1807), and the vicarage, where he wrote perhaps the most popular hymn of all time, “Amazing Grace.”

The church was expanded during those years to accommodate the crowds who came to hear John, and its square tower still rises over the Ouse River. The sanctuary is large and impressive, and a stained-glass window commemorates the preacher and his hymn. Still, time has encroached a bit. His pulpit is now somewhat pushed back into a corner, though John Newton’s Pulpit is proudly displayed along one edge. John’s rather smallish portrait hangs on the stone buttress of one wall, sharing space between a fire extinguisher and a bulletin board where his name promotes a ministry in Sierra Leone. But after 230 years, it’s still John Newton whose story and hymn live on here.

John was born to a master mariner, who was often away at sea, and a mother who taught him Bible lessons and the hymns of Isaac Watts (see pages 38-41). But she died

when he was only six years old. At age eleven, after a few years of living with relatives or attending boarding school, he began sailing with his father.

In time John fell in love with Mary Catlett, daughter of friends of his mother, but in 1744 he was forced to serve on a naval ship. He records that while watching England’s coast fade as the ship sailed away, he would have killed either himself or the captain except for his love of Mary.

Later John managed to join the crew of a slave trade ship, the brutal traffic he so much regretted in later years. This life blotted out his early religious training and led him into bad behavior. Finally, though, when a fierce March storm one night in 1748 threatened to sink his ship, he prayed for the first time in years. And for the rest of his life he regarded every March 21 as the anniversary of his conversion. Relapses occurred, but after a serious illness he committed himself to God, returned to England, and married

Mary in 1750.

John worked for a while in civil service in the region of Yorkshire. But soon he became popular as a lay preacher, developing friendships with George Whitefield and John

Wesley, and began to consider the ministry. Although he studied biblical languages and theology privately, he received ordination in the Church of England only after completing

his autobiography, Authentic Narrative, in 1764, an account that caused influential religious leaders to recognize his spiritual commitment. The book was soon translated into several languages.

John’s principal sponsor for priesthood, Lord William Dartmouth, helped arrange the station for John in Olney, and for the next sixteen years he lived in the vicarage and

preached at St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s and in surrounding parishes. His religious devotion, remarkable personal history, and natural poetic skills gave John the gifts and preparation for writing hymns—especially one great hymn—but he needed a circumstance to prompt him. That came in 1767 when William Cowper moved to Olney.

William was one of England’s fine eighteenth-century poets, producing The Task (1784) and translations of Homer. He received an excellent literary education at Westminster

School in London and, at his father’s wish, studied for the bar. But he lived an often-miserable life. Depression, his distaste for the law, poverty, and an ill-fated romance with his cousin Theadora Cowper ruined any chances of happiness. More than once he attempted suicide.

During this trauma William found relief in the home of friends first made in Huntingdon—Morley and Mary Unwin, a religious and wealthy couple. When Morley died from a fall from his horse in April of 1767, Mary moved to Olney with her daughter Susanna to be near the renowned preacher John Newton. In fact, only an orchard stood between the rear yard of their house, Orchard Side, and John’s vicarage. Soon, William also came to Olney and moved in with them. The two poets became close friends, and by 1771 they were collaborating on what became one of England’s most successful hymnals, The Olney Hymns.

On a bright June afternoon we stroll with Elizabeth Knight in the garden of Orchard Side, now the Cowper & Newton museum, where she has been curator for more than thirty years. Nestled in the rows of flowers is an odd little summerhouse in which William gazed through its side and rear windows. Here he wrote most of the hymns in his part of the collection. After another lapse into depression, he wrote few others, but by that time he had composed his great hymns, “There is a Fountain” and “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.”

Leaving the Orchard Side garden, we walk through the site of the original orchard, to the back of the two-story brick vicarage, and look up to the last dormer window on the top right. Here, in this room, during the last two weeks of December 1772, John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace.”

In his book Amazing Grace: The Story of America’s Most Beloved Hymn (Harper Collins, 2002), music historian Steve Turner records that John routinely wrote hymns to accompany his sermons and composed “Amazing Grace” in preparation for a New Year’s Day sermon on January 1, 1773. He also observes that the words of the hymn evidently paraphrase entries from John’s notebook. For example, the entry “Millions of unseen dangers” is rendered “through many dangers, toils, and snares” in the song. Turner gives these illustrations of Newton’s use of the Scriptures in the hymn:

Newton embroidered biblical phrases

and allusions into all his writing.

The image of being lost and found alludes to the parable

of the prodigal son, where the father

is quoted as saying in Luke 15:24,

“For this my son was dead, and is alive again;

he was lost, and is found.”

His confession of wretchedness may have been drawn

from Paul’s exclamation in Rom. 7:24,

“O wretched man that I am!

Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

The contrast of blindness and sight refers directly

to John 9:25, when a man healed by Jesus says,

“One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind,

now I see.”

Newton had used this phrase in his diary

during his seafaring days when he wrote on

August 9, 1752,

“The reason [for God’s mercy] is unknown to

me, but one thing I know, that whereas

I was blind, now I see.”

Turner observes that this day of the introduction of “Amazing Grace,” in Lord Dartmouth’s Great House in Olney, was also the last that the despondent William Cowper came to church.

John and William published The Olney Hymns in 1779. The following year, 1880, William Cowper died, and John accepted a pulpit position at St. Mary Woolnoth Church in London. Audiences continued large here as well. Visitors today can pass through a wrought-iron gate and coffee shop at the entrance, walk through the church doors into the sanctuary, and view the ornate pulpit where the slave-trader turned preacher delivered sermons for the next twenty-seven years, becoming a major figure in the

evangelical portion of the Anglican Church. He died on December 21, 1807, and was buried with Mary at St. Mary Woolchurch in London. They were re-interred at the Church

of St. Peter and St. Paul in Olney in 1893. And he is primarily remembered for these touching words:

Amazing Grace (1772)

Ephesians 2:8-9

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found;

Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

The Lord has promised good to me,

His Word my hope secures;

He will my Shield and Portion be,

As long as life endures.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,

The sun forbear to shine;

But God, who called me here below,

Will be forever mine.

Absolutely loved this book! The photos and stories behind each hymn are enchanting. I have a passion for all things old and understanding the past. The beautiful places where each hymn was birthed seem to call to my heart.

The photos have a way of bringing the reader closer to the history of the beloved songs we sing. Very few songs in this day and age tell stories in the same way as such songs as "When I Survey the Wonderous Cross" and so many others. I adore listening to the CD and picturing where they came from.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Never the Bride by Rene Gutteridge ~ FIRST

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Never the Bride

WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)


Cheryl McKay is the co-author (with Frank Peretti) of the Wild and Wacky, Totally True Bible Stories series, which has sold nearly 200,000 copies, and the screenwriter of the award-winning film The Ultimate Gift.

Visit the author's website.

Rene Gutteridge has published thirteen novels including Ghost Writer, My Life as a Doormat, the Boo Series, the Occupational Hazards Series, and the Storm Series. Together, McKay and Gutteridge are the authors of The Ultimate Gift, a novelization based on the feature film and popular book by the same title.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307444988
ISBN-13: 978-0307444981


You don’t know me yet, so there is no reason you should care that I’m stuck on a highway with a blowout. But maybe we can relate to each other. Maybe you can understand that when I say, “Everything goes my way,” I’m being sarcastic. Not that I’m usually dependent on such a primitive form of communication. I’m actually not very cynical at all. I’m more of a glass-half-full-of-vitamin-infused-water person. Sometimes I even believe that if I dream something, or at least journal it, it will happen. But today, at eight forty-five in the morning, as the sun bakes me like a cod against the blacktop of the Pacific Coast Highway, I’m feeling a bit sarcastic.

It’s February but hotter than normal, which means a long, hot California summer is ahead—the kind that seems to bring out the beauty in blondes and the sweat glands in brunettes. I am a brunette. Not at all troubled by it. I don’t even have my hair highlighted. I own my brunetteness and always have, even when Sun-In was all the rage. And it can’t be overstated that chlorine doesn’t turn my medium chestnut hair green. Actually, it’s the copper, not the chlorine, that turns hair green—but that’s a useless trivia fact I try to save for speed dating.

I’m squatting next to my flat tire, examining the small rip. Holding my hair back and off my neck with one hand, I stand and look up and down the road, hoping to appear mildly distressed. Inside, I’ll admit it, I’m feeling moderately hysterical. My boss flips out when I’m late. It wouldn’t matter if my appendix burst, he doesn’t want to hear excuses. I wish he were the kind of guy who would just turn red in the face and yell, like Clark Kent’s newspaper boss. But no. He likes to lecture as if he’s an intellectual, except he’s weird and redundant and cliché, so it’s painful and boring.

A few cars zoom by, and I suddenly realize this could be my moment. Part of me says not to be ridiculous, because this kind of thing happens only on shows with a ZIP code or county name in the title. But still, you can’t help wondering, hoping, that maybe this is the moment when your life will change. When you meet your soul mate.

Like I said, I enjoy my glass/life half full.

Even as an optimist, I see no harm in being a little aggressive to achieve my goals. So with my free hand, I do a little wave, throw a little smile, and attempt to lock eyes with people going fifty miles an hour.

And then I see him. He’s in a red convertible, the top down, the black sunglasses shiny and tight against his tan skin. He’s wearing pink silk the way only a man with a good, measured amount of confidence can. At least that’s the way I see it from where I’m standing.

As he gets closer, his head turns and he notices me. I do a little wave, flirtatious with a slight hint of unintentional taxi hailing. I decide to smile widely, because he is going fast and I might look blurry. He smiles back. My hand falls to my side. I step back, lean against my car, and try to make my conservative business suit seem flattering. There’s nothing I can do about my upper lip sweating except hope my sweat proof department-store makeup is holding up its end of the bargain better than my blowout-proof tire did.

He seems to be slowing down.

Live in the moment, I instruct myself. Don’t think about what I should say or what I could say. Just let it roll, Jessie, let it roll. Don’t over think it.

This thought repeats itself when the convertible zooms by. I think he actually accelerated.


My makeup is failing, along with whatever charm I thought I had. I just can’t imagine what kind of guy wouldn’t stop and help a woman.

Maybe I’d have more hits if I were elderly.

I do what I have to do. What I know how to do. I change my own stupid tire. Yes, I can, and have been able to since I was eighteen. I can also change my own oil but don’t because then I appear capable of taking care of myself. And I’m really not. Practically, yes, I can take care of myself. I make decent money. I drive myself home from root canals. I open cans without a can opener. I’m able to survive for three days in the forest without food or water, and I never lost sleep over Y2K.

But I’m talking about something different. I’m talking about being taken care of in an emotional way. Maybe it’s a genetic problem. I don’t know. Somehow I became a hopeless romantic. A friend tried the exorcism equivalent of purging me of this demon when she made me watch The War of the Roses two times in a row, all under the guise of a girls’ night, complete with popcorn and fuzzy slippers.

That didn’t cure me.

I want to be married. I hate being alone.

I lift the blown-out tire and throw it in my trunk, slamming it closed. My skin looks like condensation off a plastic cup. I can’t believe nobody has stopped. Not even a creepy guy. I stand there trying to breathe, trying to get a hold of my anger. I’m going to be late, I’m going to be sweaty, and I’m on the side of a highway alone.

“You need some help?”

I whirl around because I realize that I’ve just been hoping that even a creepy guy would stop, and since my world works in a way that Only my negative thoughts seem to come to pass, you can see why the glass-half-full is so important.

The morning sun blinds me, and all I see is a silhouette. The voice is deep, kind of mature.

“Well, I did need some help,” I say, fully aware that acting cute is not going to undo the sweat rings that have actually burst through three layers of fabric, so I don’t bother. I dramatically gesture to my car and try a smile. “But as you can see, I don’t now.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes. But thank you very much,” I say, for stopping after I’m completely finished. I trudge back to my car and start the air conditioner. Glancing back in my rearview mirror, I study the silhouette. He sort of has the same shape as the guy in my dream last night. My night-mare. It was actually a dream after my nightmare, where you feel awake but you’re not. It wasn’t the nocturnal version of Chainsaw Massacre, but it did involve taffeta.

He doesn’t wave. He doesn’t move. He just stands there, exactly like the guy in my dream. It’s very déjà vu–like and I lock my doors. I put my blinker on, pull onto the highway, and leave him behind, driving below the speed limit on my flimsy spare tire all the way to work.

I work at Coston Real Estate. We’re squeezed between a wireless store and a Pizza Hut. We stand out a little because of our two huge dark wood doors, ten feet tall and adorned with silver handles.

I push open one of the doors and walk in. Mine is the front desk. It’s tall, almost Berlin Wall–like. People have to peer over it to see me, and I look very small on the other side. When I’m sitting, I can barely see over the top of it.

I walk toward the break room, past nine square cubicles, all tan and otherwise colorless. Even the carpet is tan. On my left are the real offices with walls.

Nicole, inside her cubicle, sees me. “What happened to you?”

We’ve been good friends ever since I started working here, ten years ago. She’s African American, two years younger than I am. She has that kind of expression I wish I could wear. Her eyebrows slant upward toward each other, like a bridge that’s opening to let a boat through. It’s part You’re weird and part I’m worried. She has sass and I love it. She’s working her way up to senior agent and is one of Mr. Coston’s favorites, but I don’t hold that against her.

I don’t answer because I’m busy staring at her new eight-by-ten framed family picture. It’s very Picture People: white background, casual body language, all four wearing identical polo’s and jeans. I love that kind of husband, who will wear matching clothes with his family. They’re so adorable.

“Jessie, seriously girl, you okay? You’ve got black smeared across

your forehead.”

I tear my eyes away from the photo. “Blowout on the highway.”

The eyebrow bridge is lowered, and she chuckles. “Honey, you look like you changed your own tire.”

I put my forehead against the edge of her cube wall. “I did.”

“Oh. Wow. I wish I knew how to change a tire.”

“No, you don’t. Trust me.”

She reaches under her desk and pulls out a neatly wrapped gift. “For you.”

I smile. I love gifts. I drop my things and tear it open even though I already know what it is. “Nicole, it’s beautiful!” It’s a leather-bound journal with gold embossed lettering and heavy lined paper inside. “What’s the occasion?”

“It’s February. I know how much this month…Well, it tends to be a long month for you, that’s all.” She points to the spine of it. “It sort of reminds me of the one I brought you back from Italy four years ago. Remember?”

“Yes, it does.”

“So, my friend, happy February. May this month bring you—”

“Love.” From my bag, I pull out a folder and slap it on her desk.

“What is this?” She says it like a mom who has just been handed a disappointing report card.

“Just look.”

Carefully, like something might jump out and insult her, she opens the folder. She picks up three glossy photos of several potential loves of my life.

“They’re hot, aren’t they?” I ask.

“Too hot,” she says.

“There’s no such thing as too hot.”

“Suspiciously too hot, like an airbrush might be involved.”

I grab the photos from her and turn them around for her to see. With my finger, I underline each of their names: Cute Bootsie Boo, Suave One You Want, One Of A Kind Man.

“Jessie Cute Bootsie Boo. Mmm. Doesn’t have a good ring to it.”

“It’s their instant message names, Nicole.”

“Yes. And that makes it better?”

I sigh. “You have got to get into the twenty-first century, you know. This is the best way to meet a guy.”

“You can tell a lot about a man by what he names himself.” She looks up at me and shakes her head. “Seriously. You set up a date with one of these and they’ll show up with a beer gut, a walker, or a rap sheet.”

“None of them rap.”

Nicole stands, grabs my arm with one hand and my stuff with the other, and whisks me to my desk. She nearly pushes me into my chair and drops everything in front of me.

“Chill out,” I say as she walks away. “This service guarantees background checks. But if you happen to end up needing a restraining order, they’ll pay for it.”

Nicole gasps and whirls around.

“I’m kidding.” But I have her attention now. I lean back in my chair, looking at the ceiling as my hands feel the leather on my new journal. “This’ll be the year, Nicole.”

“You say that every year. Especially in February, which is why I got you the--”

I snap forward. “But I’ve never taken control like this before. Three online match sites, one dating service. They find what you want or your money back.”

Nicole walks back toward me and leans over the counter. “I didn’t realize QVC sold dates. If you order in the next ten minutes, do you get two for the price of one, plus an eight-piece Tupperware set?” She reaches for my chocolate bowl.

I scowl at her but lift the bowl up so she can reach it. “What do you know about it? You got married right out of college.”

“Don’t remind me.” She carefully unwraps her candy and takes a mini-bite.

“You never even had to try.” I grab a piece of dark chocolate out of my candy bowl and get the whole thing in my mouth before she takes another bite of hers.

Nicole shrugs and leans against the counter. “Sometimes you just gotta leave these things up to fate.” She goes back to nibbling on her chocolate.

I swirl my hands in the air. “Fate, God, the universe. They’ve all been asleep on the job of setting up a love story for me.” I stand up. “No. I am going to make this happen myself.”

Nicole doesn’t look up from her candy. “Do you even know what it means to be married? To be chained to another person for the rest of your life? To pick up socks and wash underwear and care for a grown man like he’s just popped out of infancy? Huh?”

I glare at her even though she’s got eyes only for her candy. “It’s got to be better than being alone. Or being a bridesmaid eleven times.”

She bites her lip and finally glances at me. “But you know how…you kind of need everything to be a certain way.”

I nudge my stapler so it isn’t perfectly perpendicular to my sticky notes, just to show her I’m able to handle disorder. I try not to stare at it because now it’s really bugging me. “Are you saying I’m a control freak?”

“With OCD tendencies. You can’t expect everything to be exactly how you want it if you want to live through a marriage.”

I stand and start walking slowly toward the bathroom. “I know what ‘compromise’ means.”

Nicole follows. “Then why do you get mad when I have to check with my husband before we go out? That’s what marriage is. You can’t even poop without someone else knowing.”

I glance at her to see if she’s serious. She is. Part of me wants to tell her about my dream last night. I always tell her about my dreams. But she’s really pooping on my parade today. We get to her desk and she sits down. I walk on.

I have these dreams. I’m talking nocturnal, not journal. Yeah, I dream in my journal. I admit it. I’ve written in one since I was fourteen, when I found a strange delight every time I drew a heart with a boy’s name attached in squiggly letters.

But back to my nightmare. It started with me in a wedding dress. That’s not the nightmare. That part was actually cool because I was in a dress I designed in my journal when I was twenty-two.

The march was playing. I love the “Bridal March.” Nothing can replace it. I cringe every time I hear a country song or bagpipes or something. My wedding, it’s got to be traditional.

I was making my way down the aisle, rhythmically elegant, one foot in front of the other. My shoulders were thrown back, my chin lifted, and my bouquet held right at my waist. I once saw a bride carry her bouquet all the way down the aisle holding it at her chest. I shudder just talking about it.

The train fluttered behind me, like it’s weightless or maybe there’s an ocean breeze not too far away. It was long, bright white, and caused people to nod their approval.

I smiled.

Then the “Bridal March” stopped, halting like a scratched record. I looked up to find another bride in my place, wearing my dress, standing next to my guy. I couldn’t see what he looked like; he was facing the pastor. But the bride, she looked back at me with menacing eyes, overdone with teal eye shadow and fake lashes.

I screamed. I couldn’t help it. I closed my eyes and screamed again. When I opened them, I could hardly believe what I was looking at. A church full of people, looking at her. And what was I doing? Standing next to her in a bridesmaid dress.

Gasping, I looked down. Hot pink! With dyed-to-match shoes! I glanced next to me and covered my mouth. It was me again, standing next to me, in green. Dyed footwear.

And there I was again, standing next to my lime self, this time in canary yellow. On and on it goes. I counted ten of me before I woke up, gasping for air, clutching myself to make sure I was wearing cotton pajamas.

“Thank God,” I said, but as I looked up, I saw a man in my room. He was backlit against my window, like the moon was shining in on him, but I don’t think the moon was out. A scream started forming in my throat, but I recognized that he was not in a stance that indicated he was going to stab me to death. There was no knife. Nothing but an easy, casual lean against my windowsill. Truly, no less scary.

The scream arrived as I clamored for my lamp. I yanked the string three or four times before it turned on, but when it did, the man was gone.

I realize I am standing in the middle of the hallway near Nicole’s desk. She is gabbing on the phone but looking at me funny. I go to the coat closet next to the bathroom. I always, always keep a spare change of clothes at work, just in case I have to do something like change my tire. Or someone else’s. It’s happened. I take out my least favorite suit, which is why I keep it here. It’s lilac with a boxy neckline that makes me feel like I should be a nanny. I head toward the bathroom.

“Stone, get me the ad copy for the new Hope Ranch listings.”

This is my boss, Mr. Coston, dragging me back to reality. He pops his head out the door as I pass by but yells at me like I’m down the hall. I don’t think he even remembers my first name.

“Already on your desk, sir,” I say.

He’s in his sixties, with a loud but raspy voice and shiny silver hair that tops a permanent look of disappointment. “What happened to you?”

“Blown tire.” I hold up my suit. “I was just going to change.”

“Fine. Then get me a latte. Lighten up on the sugar, will you?”

“Right,” I mumble as he disappears. “Lighten up on life, will you?”

I’m the office equivalent of a bat boy. I’m the coffee girl. It’s this one thing that sort of drives me crazy about my job. I do a lot of important things, but when I have to run get coffee, I feel like I’m falling down the rungs of the occupational ladder. It makes me wonder. If I had a job I could get passionate about, would I be so desperate for a husband? I could drown myself in work rather than my dreams.

Well, either way, I’m drowning, and that’s never good.

After I change and decide I really, really dislike the color lilac, I grab my purse and head for the neighborhood Starbucks. It’s five blocks away and I like that. It gives me time to walk and think on such things as to why Mr. Coston has been married for thirty-four years, the exact number of years I haven’t been married. He doesn’t mention his wife much and doesn’t even have a picture of her in his office. He doesn’t wear a wedding band, and when he does take a vacation, it’s with his buddies to golf resorts.

It just seems like the world could better balance itself out, that’s all.

I’m nearly to Starbucks. People are leaving with their white and green cups of bliss. The putrid smell of coffee will soon replace the putrid smell of old rainwater evaporating underneath the sun. I’m not a coffee fan. I’m high strung. The feeling everyone wants by drinking coffee I have naturally, just like my chestnut hair.

I’m about to open the door, and then I see him, in all his glory.

Unfortuntely, I forgot this book was coming up in our FIRST line-up. I am starting to read it now and will post a review AND giveaway as soon as I'm done. So, check out the first chapter while you wait for my review.

Creative Commons License
Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.