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Thursday, January 29, 2009

A moment to enjoy...

Over the past few months, we've been dealing with my four year old having really bad eczema. She was referred to a specialist, but they couldn't get her in until today. The specialist walked in, took one look at her, said he knew exactly what was wrong, and promised me a new child within a week. And after his thorough exam and explanation, I believe him.

But that's not the point of my story.

As he examined her, he asked me questions like, "Does she have more behavioral issues than usual?" YES! "Is she grouchy?" YES!

He looked at me and said, "Your daughter is exhausted. She's not getting any sleep because she tosses and turns all night scratching."

Makes sense.

And then he says to me the beautiful words...

"You need to sedate your daughter."

Yes, my friends. FINALLY. Someone who understands my problem. She. Does. Not. Stop. Ever. And this sweet, lovely doctor, looks me in the eye and tells me that the crazy child who drives me nuts really does need to be sedated.


Okay, I know, I should probably not be so excited. But seriously, I never imagined that as the doctor questioned me about my daughter's behavior, and told him about how she drove me nuts, that his answer would be to sedate her. How many times do you wish that were the answer to your problems? And before I get concerned messages or folks sending me to social services, you should know that she's on a very strict medical regimen. And the "sedative" is actually a medication she needs for multiple purposes, and one of the side effects of said medication is that it's a sedative.

However it is such a relief to know that I don't have a horrible child. A lot of the things she's been doing and driving me nuts are, as the doctor put it, because she feels terrible and doesn't have a clue what's going on in her little body. And yes, it is pretty darn funny that part of the solution is to sedate her.

Just let me enjoy my moment.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Speaking of updates...

I realized my link list on the sidebar is woefully out of date and missing some important blogs. I used to use it to read blogs, and then I discovered the beauty of RSS, so I never check my sidebar anymore.

If you need to be updated/added, you can either leave a comment with your info or email me at dreamen1@hotmail.com.


I won! I won!

My friend Camy, who is the supreme blogger of blogdom, gave me the Premio-Dardas award. Now, I don't really know what Premio-Dardas means, other than it sounds like some kind of disease, but I trust Camy, and I trust that she gave me an award, and not a disease. So when I follow the rules and give you the Premio-Dardas award, I hope you'll trust that it's really a good thing.

Here's what Camy says about the award: "This award 'acknowledges the values that every Blogger displays in their effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values with each message they write.'

Camy here: “Cultural, ethical, literary and personal values”? Um ... well, I get the cultural part, but ethical, literary and personal values? I don’t know if my blog even aspires to such greatness. :P

Awards like this have been created with the intention of promoting community among Bloggers. It's a way to show appreciation and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.

Danica here: First of all, I would like to thank the Academy, namely Camy Tang, for acknowledging that I add value to the web. It's time someone took notice. ;)

Second, there's a lot of great bloggers out there who add a lot of value to the web, and more importantly, to my life, so this is a fun way to give back.

Which brings me to the rules:

1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who granted it to you, along with his/her blog link.

2. Pass the award to (15) other blogs that you feel are worthy of this recognition. Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen as recipients.

*Please note: when copying the award picture, please download it to your own computer first and upload from there to your own blog site.

Soo... since I have a lot of catching up on my own life to do, go visit some of these other fantastic blogs and see all the cool things they bring to the web.

1. Dianne Daniels: She's a cool mom who always inspires me to be a better mom. But not in a "I hate you, I want to kill you," way.

2. Michele Cushatt: Michele is a great inspiration, great butt-kicker, and has a wonderful chronological Bible study on her blog that I mostly attempt to do, but have fallen off the wagon while on vacay.

3. Heather Goodman: I need to point out that she's uber smart. Really makes me think and examine things on a deeper level. She also has a great service called Solomon Summaries that summarizes books for you.

4. Kay Day: With a name like Kay Day, how can you not read her blog? I say her name all the time because it's so cool.

5. Tonya Vander: Not only does she have a lot of great things to say, but her blog is full of her gorgeous pictures.

6. Robbie Iobst: She definitely inspires me.

7. Melanie: She's also a great one... ranges from fun to spiritual, and gives me stuff to think about.

8. Jan Parrish: She redefines being a gramma. Love her!

9. Loretta Oakes: Another uber smart person- she brings the scientific perspective to spirituality. Most of the time, I have no idea what she's talking about, but it ends up making sense and making me think.

10. Margaret Daley: I just love Margaret. It's really impossible not to. She's got such a great and loving heart.

11. Delia: She's another one who has a little bit of everything on her blog, and always ends up blessing others in the process.

12. Gina Conroy: Another one who's got a little bit of everything and manages to inspire in the process. Plus, she is about the funniest gal I know.

13. Jenny B. Jones: She's awesome. Actually, I think she's funnier than Gina, plus she introduced me to Chuck, so she's definitely on the list of folks I'll love forever. You can't read her blog and not laugh.

14. Kelly: She's really encouraging and has a lot of great book posts out there.

15. YOU!! I know, I always do this. But you know, there's a lot of fabulous blogs out there, and just because you don't "make the list" doesn't make yours any less fabulous and any less contributing to the web. So give yourself an award, leave me a comment, and I'll stop by to let you know that you're fabulous too!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A real update soon I promise!

This vacation thing is killing me... I'm still doing my online jobs, so it seems like when I have time to be online, that's about all I have time for.

Today, we got back from a two day cruise. I have LOTS to say about that, so stay tuned.

Seriously, though, I find that as much as I look forward to going on vacation and having some time off, it always seems to be a thousand times more exhausting than being at home. Although I'll also admit to the fact that I'm not excited about getting home and getting back to work. I have a feeling things have stacked up for me there.

So what's been going on in your world?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Baby Fat Diet by Monica Beardon and Shara Aaron

A lot of you probably know of my quest to lose these fifteen pounds... mostly because the doctor's been nagging me. And I will say, after being on vacation visiting my family, a number of whom have health-related weight issues, I'm more motivated than ever to drop those few pounds. Even though fifteen pounds doesn't seem like a huge deal to most people, I know it's what I need to get healthy.

So, when I had the opportunity to read and review this book, I jumped at the chance. Most of my weight is that pesky post pregnancy weight. I want to read and learn whatever I can to get the weight off. Both my doctor and nutritionist friend think that my diet is fine... I just need to exercise more. Still, I think the diet information in here is good and matches a lot of what I have read and been told about good nutrition. For example, the whole eating breakfast thing. Since I'm not a morning person, the thought of waking up earlier to eat breakfast is a foreign concept to me. I barely get up in time to get the kids off to school. But I think they (along with others) make a great argument for eating breakfast, and even though I still don't do it perfectly, I feel like I'm really making progress.

The other thing I really like about this book is that it's some extreme, change your whole life book. It recognizes the fact that I am a busy mom with a busy life. It also reminds me of the right motivation to lose the weight. It's not about wanting to look like a supermodel, but wanting to be healthier for my family. Years ago, we went hiking with my stepkids and my MIL (who passed away a few years ago due to cancer) had a hard time getting up the mountain. She was really overweight and what should have been an easy hike was a huge struggle. My stepson said to me in a not unkind way, "I wish Gramma Pat wasn't so fat. She can't climb the mountain with us."

I don't want to be Gramma Pat. I don't want to miss out on the fun things we like to do as a family because I'm too out of shape to do them. I'm not as overweight as she was, but how much longer will I let myself slide and become that way?

Now for the magic exercise pill... *insert hysterical laughter* Yes, I know... no magic pill... just getting up and doing it. *sigh* Have to stay focused on why I'm doing it...


Motherhood doesn’t have to mean permanent weight gain!

Get rid of those post-pregnancy pounds— even if your youngest is already in school.

Losing the “baby fat” is one of the hardest things for mothers—even years after they give birth. “Eating for two” often results in gaining too much weight, and the more a woman gains, the harder it is to lose. And after having kids, moms are so busy and distracted it’s necessary for them to learn how to eat in a healthy, self-nurturing way again.

In The Baby Fat Diet, moms will be relieved to learn that small changes can make a big difference. Restrictive dieting and cutting out favorite foods to the extreme isn’t necessary. The book offers simple, easy-to-live-by health and nutrition tips that help women change the behaviors that make losing weight so difficult. The 30 timeless tips throughout are eminently practical and the recipes are delicious. Not only will moms lose weight on The Baby Fat Diet, they’ll feel good about themselves, too. Moms will discover:

•Eating for one again—the importance of portion Sizes
•Why breakfast is a weight-loss ally
•The fast-food solution
•Pairing pleasure with healthy foods
•Exercising to the Wiggles®

About the Authors
Monica Bearden, R.D., has written for the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the American Journal of Medicine and Sports, Today’s Dietitian, and more. She graduated from the Coordinated Program in Dietetics at the University of Texas at Austin.

Shara Aaron, M.S., R.D., has been a nutrition and health editor for Family Circle, manager of nutrition communications at Masterfoods, USA, owner of a nutrition communications consulting company, and a certified aerobics instructor.

INTERVIEW with the Authors:

Where did you get the idea for the book? What compelled you to write it?
Monica: I have always maintained a private practice and teach a prenatal nutrition class at the Y – throughout my career, most of the women that I help to lose weight, started having weight problems post-pregnancy. It was the same for my friends and family. Throughout the years, we have learned what works and what does not work in terms of moms losing weight. So, we wanted to make the information that we had learned more available. And, since most post-pregnancy weight loss books are exercise-based, Shara and I felt that a nutrition and lifestyle book to help mom’s lose weight was missing from the shelves.

Shara: Monica and I both are moms of young children and recognize the challenges moms face in finding time to focus on themselves, including eating well and exercising. We wanted to write a book that took our experiences and those of women we know and have worked with as dietitians over the years to make a simple, realistic book to help them take off the baby weight. Most importantly it had to be fun to read in short chapters so moms could pick it up, read a few pages and put it down - not to be another chore on her to do list.

What are the major themes of the book?
Monica: Each short chapter is based on an issue faced by moms with a solution – we cover, when you should eat, what you should eat, how you should eat with concrete examples and interesting facts throughout the book. Additionally, we provide menus and shopping lists.

Shara: Simple changes make big differences in taking off the weight and living a healthier life.

Why do you think “baby fat” is so difficult for moms to lose?
Monica: With each child comes a new set of demands and less time, plus the body itself is different and needs attention. By focusing on easy to incorporate healthful strategies that really do make a difference versus trying different diets or following bad advice, moms can actually lose the weight without trying too hard or having to take too much time away from other activities and responsibilities.

Shara: They have little time and energy to focus on themselves. Eating well and exercising go by the wayside.

What kind of research did you have to do for the book?
Monica: The book is based on over 12 years of experience and research with a countless number of women (not to mention our own baby weight loss experiences) – every successful weight loss client as well as our own experiences went into this book. Additionally, all recommendations have a scientific foundation and are validated by scientific research.

Shara: In addition to talking to many women about the challenges they face and the solutions they find realistic, we did much research on the latest studies on each topic to provide scientifically based information that works.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
Monica: That to lose weight, one must eat and make good decisions. This book will help them learn how to do both.

Shara: That it’s worth focusing on yourself and your health – to be the best mom you can be you need to take care of yourself by eating well and being active. Small changes make a world of difference so it’s not a huge overhaul but tweaks that can really lead to taking off the baby fat.


You can buy the book on Amazon.

For more information about the book and its authors, you can visit their website, which also has a link to their very informative and interesting blog.

Finally, be sure to visit other blogs on the tour:
5 Minutes for Books
A Little Whine and Cheese
A Peek at My Bookshelf
Be Your Best Mom
Behind the Mountain
Blog Tour Spot
Bookish Mom Reviews
Camy’s Loft
Fit Family
i don’t believe in grammar
In God’s Image
In the Dailies
Kells Creative Musings
Lighthouse Academy
Mommy Snacks.Net
Mommy’s Must Haves
Real Women Scrap
Refresh My Soul
Roni’s Weigh
The Journey of Writer Danica Favorite
The Law, Books and Life
The Pitter Patter of Losing Pounds
The Sassy Pear
The Unadorned Book Review
wandering, wonderings of a whacked-out woman

Or the main tour site.

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Red Siren by M.L. Tyndall

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:

The Red Siren

Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)


Best-selling author of The Legacy of the King’s Pirates series, MaryLu Tyndall writes full time and makes her home with her husband, six children, and four cats on California’s coast. Her passion is to write page-turning, romantic adventures that not only entertain but expose Christians to their full potential in Christ.

For more information on MaryLu and her upcoming releases, please visit her website.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 318 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601569
ISBN-13: 978-1602601567

I had the honor of meeting M.L. Tyndall a couple of years ago with the release of her first book at ICRS. She is a lovely lady, and I had so much fun getting to know her. I love her writing, as she takes a captivating time period and brings it to life. I'm not quite finished reading this book, and I'm very frustrated that I'm on vacation right now and left it sitting on my nightstand! So far, I'm loving the book, and I can't wait to get home to finish it. Well, okay, we can leave out the getting home part, but I definitely want to finish the book.


But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

Matthew 13: 20-21

Chapter 1

August 1713, English Channel off Portsmouth, England

This was Dajon Waite’s last chance. If he didn’t sail his father’s merchant ship and the cargo she held safely into harbor, his future would be tossed to the wind. With his head held high, he marched across the deck of the Lady Em and gazed over the choppy seas of the channel, expecting at any minute to see the lights of Portsmouth pierce the gray shroud of dusk. Another hour and his mission would be completed with success. It had taken two years before his father had trusted him to captain the most prized vessel in his merchant fleet, the Lady Em—named after Dajon’s mother, Emily—especially on a journey that had taken him past hostile France and Spain and then far into the pirate-infested waters off the African coast.

Fisting his hands on his hips, Dajon puffed out his chest and drew a deep breath of salty air and musky earth—the smell of home. Returning with a shipload of ivory, gold, and pepper from the Gold Coast, Dajon could almost see the beaming approval on his father’s sea-weathered face. Finally Dajon would prove himself an equal to his older brother, Theodore—obedient, perfect Theodore—who never let his father down. Dajon, however, had been labeled naught but capricious and unruly, the son who possessed neither the courage for command nor the brains for business.

Fog rolled in from the sea, obscuring the sunset into a dull blend of muted colors as it stole the remaining light of what had been a glorious day. Bowing his head, Dajon thanked God for His blessing and protection on the voyage.

“A sail, a sail!” a coarse voice blared from above.

Plucking the spyglass from his belt, Dajon held it to his eye. “Where away, Mules?”

“Directly off our lee, Captain.”

Dajon swerved the glass to the port and adjusted it as Cudney, his first mate, halted beside him.

“She seems to be foundering, Captain,” Mules shouted.

Through the glass, the dark outline of a ship came into focus, the whites of her sails stark against the encroaching night. Gray smoke spiraled up from her quarterdeck as sailors scrambled across her in a frenzy. The British flag flapped a harried plea from her mainmast.

“Hard to larboard,” he yelled aft, lowering the glass. “Head straight for her, Mr. Nelson.”

“Straight for her, sir.”

“Beggin’ your pardon, Captain.” Cudney gave him a sideways glance. “But didn’t your father give explicit orders never to approach an unknown vessel?”

“My father is not the captain of this ship, and I’ll thank you to obey my orders without question.” Dajon stiffened his lips, tired of having his decisions challenged. True, he had failed on two of his father’s prior ventures—one to the West Indies where a hurricane sunk his ship, and the other where he ran aground on the shoals off Portugal. Neither had been his fault. But this time, things would be different. Perhaps his father would even promote Dajon to head overseer of his affairs.

With a nod, Cudney turned. “Mr. Blake, Mr. Gibes, prepare to luff, if you please.” His bellowing voice echoed over the decks, sending the men up the shrouds.

“Who is she?” Cudney held out his hand for the glass.

“A merchant ship, perhaps.” Dajon handed him the telescope then gripped the railing as the Lady Em veered to larboard, sending a spray of seawater over her decks. “But she’s British, and she’s in trouble.”

The ship lumbered over the agitated waves. Dajon watched Cudney as he steadied the glass on his eye and his boots on the sodden deck. He’d been a good first mate and a trusted friend. A low whistle spilled from his mouth as he twisted the glass for a better look.

“Pray tell, Mr. Cudney, what has caught your eye, one of those new ship’s wheels you’ve been coveting?”

“Nay, Captain. But something nearly as beautiful—a lady.”

Dajon snatched the glass back as the Lady Em climbed a rising swell and then tromped down the other side. Sails snapped in the rising wind above him. Bracing his boots on the deck, he focused the glass on the merchant ship. A woman clung to the foremast, terror distorting her lovely features. She raised a delicate hand to her forehead as if she were going to faint. Red curls fluttered in the wind behind her. Heat flooded Dajon despite the chill of the channel. Lowering the glass, he tapped it into the palm of his hand, loathing himself for his shameless reaction. Hadn’t his weakness for the female gender already caused enough pain?

Yet clearly the vessel was in trouble.

“We shall come along side her,” Dajon ordered.

Cudney glared at the ship. “Something is not right. I can feel it in my gut.”

“Nonsense. Where is your chivalry?” Dajon smiled grimly at his friend, ignoring the hair bristling on the back of his own neck.

Cudney’s dark eyes shot to Dajon. “But your father—”

“Enough!” Dajon snapped. “My father did not intend for me to allow a lady to drown. Besides, pirates would not dare sail so close to England—especially to Portsmouth, where so many of His Majesty’s warships are anchored.” Dajon glanced back at the foundering ship, now only half a knot off their bow. Smoke poured from her waist, curling like a snake into the dark sky. Left to burn, the fire would sink her within an hour. “Surely you do not suspect a woman of piracy?”

Cudney cocked one brow. “Begging your pardon, Captain, but I have seen stranger things on these seas.”


Faith Louise Westcott flung her red curls behind her and held a quivering hand to her breast, nausea rising in her throat at her idiotic display. How did women feign such weakness without losing the contents of their stomachs?

“They ’ave taken the bait, mistress.” A sinister chuckle filled the breeze.

“Oh, thank heavens.” Faith released the mast. Planting a hand on her hip, she gave Lucas a mischievous grin. “Well, what are you waiting for? Ready the men.”

“Aye, aye.” The bulky first mate winked, and then scuttled across the deck, his bald head gleaming in the light from the lantern hanging on the mainmast.

After checking the pistol stuffed in the sash of her gown and the one strapped to her calf, Faith sauntered to the railing to get a better look at her latest victim, a sleek, two-masted brigantine. The orange, white, and blue of the Dutch flag fluttered from her mizzen. A very nice prize indeed. One that would bring her even closer to winning the private war she waged—a war for the survival of her and her sisters.

The oncoming ship sat low in the water, its hold no doubt packed with valuable cargo. Faith grinned. With this ship and the one she had plundered earlier, loaded with precious spices and silks, she was well on her way to amassing the fortune that would provide for her independence and that of her sisters—at least the two of them that were left unfettered by matrimony.

She allowed her thoughts to drift for a moment to Charity, the oldest. Last year their father had forced her into a union with Lord Villement, a vile, perverse man who had oppressed and mistreated her beyond what a woman should endure. Faith feared for her sister’s safety and prayed for God to deliver Charity, but to no avail.

Then, of course, there was the incident with Hope, their younger sister.

That was when Faith had stopped praying.

She would rather die than see her two younger sisters fettered to abusive men, and the only way to avoid that fate was to shield them with their own fortune. Cringing, she stifled the fury bubbling in her stomach. She mustn’t think of it now. She had a ship to plunder, and this was as much for Charity as it was for any of them.

The bowsprit of the brigantine bowed in obedience to her as it plunged over the white-capped swells. Gazing into the hazy mist, Faith longed to get a peek at the ninnies who had been so easily duped by her ruse but dared not raise the spyglass to her eye. Women didn’t know how to use such contraptions, after all.

Putting on her most flirtatious smile, she waved at her prey, beckoning the fools onward, then she scanned the deck as her crew rushed to their stations. Aboard her ship, she was in control; she was master of her life, her future—here and nowhere else. And oh how she loved it!

Lucas’s large frame appeared beside her. “The rest of the men be waitin’ yer command below hatches, mistress.” He smacked his oversized lips together in a sound Faith had become accustomed to before a battle. Nodding, she scanned her ship. Wilson manned the helm, Grayson and Lambert hovered over the fire, pretending to put it out, and Kane and Mac clambered up the ratlines in a pretense of terror. She spotted Morgan pacing the special perch Faith had nailed into the mainmast just for him. She whistled and the red macaw halted, bobbed his head up and down, and squawked, “Man the guns, man the guns!”

Faith chuckled. She had purchased the bird from a trader off Morocco and named him after Captain Henry Morgan, the greatest pirate of all time. The feisty parrot had been a fine addition to her crew.

Bates, her master gunner, hobbled to her side, wringing his thick hands together in anticipation. “Can I just fire one shot at ’em, Cap’n? The guns grow cold from lack of use.” His expression twisted into a pout that reminded her of Hope, her younger sister. “I won’t hurt ’em none, ye have me word.”

“I cannot take that chance, Bates. You know the rules,” Faith said as the gunner’s soot-blackened face fell in disappointment. “No one gets hurt, or we abandon the prize. But I promise we shall test the guns soon enough.”

With a grunt, Bates wobbled away and disappeared below.

Returning her gaze to her unsuspecting prey, Faith inhaled a breath of the crisp air. Smoke bit her throat and nose, but she stifled a cough as the thrill of her impending victory charged through her, setting every nerve aflame. The merchant ship was nigh upon them. She could already make out the worried expressions upon the crew’s faces as they charged to her rescue.

This is for you, Charity, and for you, Mother.

Heavy fog blanketed the two ships in gray that darkened with each passing minute. Faith tugged her shawl tighter against her body, both to ward off the chill and to hide the pistol in her sash. A vision of her mother’s pale face formed in the fog before her, blood marring the sheets on the birthing bed where she lay.

Take care of your sisters, Faith.

A burst of wind chilled Faith’s moist cheeks. A tear splattered onto the deck by her shoes before she brushed the rest from her face. “I will, Mother. I promise.”

“Ahoy there!” A booming voice shattered her memories.

She raised her hand in greeting toward the brigantine as it heaved ten yards off their starboard beam. “Ahoy, kind sir. Thank God you have arrived in time,” she yelled back, sending the sailors scurrying across the deck. Soon, they lowered a cockboat, filled it with men, and shoved off.

A twinge of guilt poked at Faith’s resolve. These men had come to her aid with kind intentions. She swallowed hard, trying to drown her nagging conscience. They were naught but rich merchants, she told herself, and she, merely a Robin Hood of the seas, taking from the rich to feed the poor. She had exhausted all legal means of acquiring the money she needed, and present society offered her no other choice.

The boat thumped against her hull, and she nodded at Kane and Mac, who had jumped down from the shrouds and tossed the rope ladder over the side.

“Permission to come aboard?” The man who appeared to be the captain shouted toward Lucas as he swung his legs over the bulwarks, but his eyes were upon Faith.

By all means. Faith shoved a floppy fisherman’s hat atop her head, obscuring her features from his view, and smiled sweetly.


“Aye, I beg ye, be quick about it afore our ship burns to a cinder,” the massive bald man beckoned to Dajon.

Dajon hesitated. He knew he should obey his father’s instructions, he knew he shouldn’t risk the hoard of goods in his hold, he knew he should pay heed to the foreboding of dread that now sank like a anchor in his stomach, but all he could see was the admiring smile of the red-haired beauty, and he led his men over the bulwarks.

After directing them to assist in putting out the fire, he marched toward the dark, bald man and bowed.

“Captain Dajon Waite at your service.”

When his gaze drifted to the lady, she slunk into the shadows by the foremast, her features lost beneath the cover of her hat. Odd. Somehow he had envisioned a much warmer reception. At the very least, some display of feminine appreciation.

“Give ’em no quarter! Give ’em no quarter!” a shrill voice shrieked, drawing Dajon’s attention behind him to a large red parrot perched on a peg jutting from the mainmast.

A pinprick of fear stabbed him.

“Captain,” one of his crew called from the quarterdeck. “The ship ain’t on fire. It’s just a barrel with flaming rubbish inside it!”

The anchor that had sunk in Dajon’s stomach dropped into his boots with an ominous clank.

He spun back around, hoping for an explanation, but all he received was a sinister grin on the bald man’s mouth.

Tentacles of alarm seized Dajon, sucking away his confidence, his reason, his pride. Surely he could not have been this daft. He glanced back at the Lady Em, bobbing in the sea beside them—the pride of his father’s fleet.

“To battle, men!” The woman roared in a voice belying her gender—a voice that pummeled Dajon’s heart to dust.

Dozens of armed pirates spat from the hatches onto the deck. Brandishing weapons, they hurtled toward his startled crew. One by one, his men dropped their buckets to the wooden planks with hollow thuds and slowly raised their hands. Their anxious gazes shot to Dajon, seeking his command. The pirates chortled. Dajon’s fear exploded into a searing rage. They were surrounded.

The woman drew a pistol from her sash. Dajon could barely make out the tilted lift of her lips. He wiped the sweat from his brow and prayed to God that he would wake up from this nightmare.

“I thank you, Captain, for your chivalrous rescue.” The woman pointed her pistol at him and cocked it with a snap. “But I believe I’ll be taking over your ship.”

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Vacation, Schmacation!

Yes, my friendly readerly friends, I am on vacation. Sitting by the pool at my dad's house in sunny but cold Florida. I cannot believe I planned my vacation for the longest cold spell they've had in a really long time. Oh the horror!!

I've spent months dreaming of the day when I'd sit by the pool, writing and enjoying the fresh air. Not so much. I'm bundled up in my warmest sweatshirt and still cold!

Okay, I just gave up the fight and went inside. My fingers were freezing!

So far, we've done a whole lot of nothing. I guess that's the point of a vacation. Still on the to do list: trip to IKEA, Disney, a visit with my aunt and uncle, and oh yeah, the cruise!! I think we're going to Universal tonight for dinner to celebrate my stepmom's birthday. Hubby and the kids are at... wait for it... really... you're going to die of not surprise... Home Depot.

I know, it's an exciting life I lead... but someone's got to do it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The God Question by J.P. Moreland

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:

The God Question

Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2009)


J.P. Moreland is distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology. His many writings include Kingdom Triangle. Dr. Moreland served ten years with Campus Crusade for Christ, planted two churches, and has spoken on more than 200 college campuses and in hundreds of churches.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736924884
ISBN-13: 978-0736924887

Why Can’t I Be Happy?

In the mid 1980s, hard evidence revealed that something was seriously wrong with the American way of life. Rumors about the problem were prominent since the 1960s, but when the evidence was published, the rumors became public knowledge, though few today know what is going on. And more evidence has piled up in the past 20 years.

Some of the causes and symptoms of the problem shape the way we approach our lives and make it difficult to face this evidence. Not long ago, I was watching reruns of television commercials of the 1950s. In one quite typical ad, a medical doctor encouraged viewers to smoke cigarettes for their health. Smoking, he assured the viewers, calmed nerves, aided one’s appetite, and helped people sleep better. This widely accepted belief hindered Americans from realizing that cigarettes actually harm one’s health. Similarly, the conditions of contemporary life make the evidence mentioned above hard to accept.

And even if someone accepts this evidence, it is very, very difficult to know what to do about the situation. And I say to you with all my heart that you have been hurt by what the evidence shows. No, it’s worse than that. You and your loved ones have been harmed, not merely hurt. In the following pages I have some good and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news. What are the problems and the evidence to which I have been referring? What are the causes and symptoms that have hindered us from facing the evidence and overcoming our dilemma? Let’s look at these in order.

Americans Don’t Know How to Be Happy

The cover story of the December 2006 issue of The Economist was about happiness. The Economist is about as far from a pop psychology magazine as you can imagine, so the topic must have been something of great concern to the editors. Based on research data from 1972 to 2006, the article concluded that people in affluent countries have not become happier as they have grown richer, had more leisure time, and enjoyed more pleasurable activities and a higher standard of living.

In 2005, the results of extensive study on American happiness were released with similar findings: Americans are on average twice as rich, far healthier, more youthful, and safer than they were 50 years ago, but they are not as happy. Since the 1960s the percentage of Americans who say they are “very unhappy” has risen by 20 percent, and depression rates are ten times higher than they were during and before the 1950s. Each year, 15 percent of Americans (approximately 40 million people) suffer from an anxiety disorder.

For decades, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman has been the nation’s leading researcher on happiness. His study released in 1988 sent shock waves around the country. Seligman studied the happiness quotient and depression rate among Americans at that time compared to those of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Are you ready for this? He discovered that the loss of happiness and the rise of depression were tenfold in the span of one generation—the baby boomers. Something has gone terribly wrong with American culture, said Seligman, and the tenfold, short-term explosive loss of happiness and growth of depression—a factor that has continued to increase since the 1980s—is clearly epidemic. What is going on?

Digging Deeper

Without being harsh, I must say that we would be naive if we didn’t believe this epidemic has affected all of us. There is a way out of this mess, and the chapters that follow are my best offerings for embarking on a journey to a rich, deep, flourishing life. In fact, I would like you to read this book as my invitation to you for such a life—one that is brimming with drama and adventure, flowering with meaning and purpose. However, I am not interested in merely offering you an invitation. I also want to give you wise counsel that has been repeatedly tested and found trustworthy and helpful for the journey.

A journey has to start somewhere, and the best place to start this one is by digging more deeply into the causes and symptoms of our cultural crisis. We are looking for broad cultural factors that have generated a shift in the way we do life, a shift that has caused the epidemic. These factors are not likely to be things we regularly think about. If they were, most people would have made a priority of avoiding them, and that is not the case. I am not suggesting that people will reject the alleged factors once they are made explicit. Quite the opposite. I believe that once they are laid bare, most folks will experience an ah-ha moment and readily identify with them. No, in order to do their destructive work, these factors have to fly under the radar. They must be so pervasive that they are hardly noticed.

In their excellent book on anxiety and depression, psychologist Edmund Bourne and coauthor Lorna Garano identify three causes for the epidemic: (1) the pace of modern life, (2) the loss of a sense of community and deep connectedness with others beyond the superficial, and (3) the emergence of moral relativism. The increased pace of life does not merely refer to more work and less free time, though those are certainly factors. Well into the late Middle Ages, Europeans had 115 holidays a year! Besides free time, the sheer pace and speed at which we live—our language is filled with terms like “rush hour,” “hurry up,” and “fast food”—and the technology we use (including iPods, e-mail, television, and cell phones) make it difficult to be quiet and hear from ourselves. As a result, we feed off of adrenaline, our brain chemistry is not normal, and we are not capable of handling the stress of ordinary contemporary life. Maybe we were never intended to, but I get ahead of myself.

On the surface, the loss of community reflects two things: Western individualism (which is a good thing in moderation) gone mad, and the supposed lack of time required to cultivate deep friendships, especially among contemporary men, who have often been described as “the friendless American males.” On a deeper level, it reflects misplaced priorities due to a shift on our view of the good life. I will say more about this in the next chapter, but for now I simply note that we define success in terms of the accumulation of consumer goods and the social status that they and a culturally respected line of work provide. We seldom measure a successful life by the quality of family and friendship relationships we cultivate.

Regarding the factor of moral relativism, Bourne and Garano make this note:

Norms in modern life are highly pluralistic. There is no shared, consistent, socially-agreed-upon set of values and standards for people to live by…In the vacuum left, most of us attempt to fend for ourselves, and the resultant uncertainty about how to conduct our lives leaves ample room for anxiety. Faced with a barrage of inconsistent worldviews and standards presented by the media, we are left with the responsibility of having to create our own meaning and moral order. When we are unable to find that meaning, many of us are prone to fill the gap that’s left with various forms of escapism and addiction. We tend [to] live out of tune with ourselves and thus find ourselves anxious.

I cannot resist making an observation about their insightful point concerning moral relativism. The damage it does is one reason why the contemporary idea of tolerance is really an immoral, cold, heartless form of indifference to the suffering of others. The classic principle of tolerance is both true and important: We take another group’s views to be wrong and harmful, but we will treat the (alleged) errant people with respect, will defend their right to promote their views, and will engage in respective, civil debate in attempting to persuade them and others to reject their viewpoint. The contemporary idea is grotesque: We are not to say others’ views or behavior is wrong. This is immoral because it allows for genuine evil, such as racism and child molestation. We must judge the behavior to be evil before we can stop it! Bourne and Garano show us that it is also cold and heartless: If you think another is engaged in a lifestyle that is deeply immoral and flawed, the most loving thing to do is to help that person face and get out of that lifestyle. Even if you are wrong in your assessment, at least you cared enough to try to help. By contrast, contemporary tolerance creates indifferent people who don’t have the moral vision or courage to intervene in the lives of others and try to help.

We might summarize Bourne and Garano’s insights this way: First, our resistance to depression and anxiety is weakened by the pace of our lives. Second, we don’t have the relational connection we need for support and strength in finding a way out of unhappiness. And third, we lack the intellectual framework required to admit that there is a right and wrong way to approach life and to fuel the energy we need to seek, find, and live in light of the right approach. In fact, believing that there actually is a right approach seems intolerant to many.

I have spent hours thinking about these three points and how they inform my own journey. If I may say so, it wouldn’t hurt if you set the book down, took out a sheet of paper, jotted down these three factors, and brainstormed about how they have had a negative impact on you or your loved ones. Nevertheless, I do not believe that Bourne and Garano have identified the heart of the matter. We must probe more deeply.

Digging Deeper Still

Psychologist Carl Jung once observed that “neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” Jung is referring to our tendency to avoid feeling genuine emotional pain and facing real personal suffering and dysfunction by creating, usually subconsciously, a neurotic pattern of thinking or behaving that allows us to be distracted from our real issues.

When I was attending seminary, my roommate was in constant fear that he had committed the unpardonable sin, an act for which there is no forgiveness. Try as I might, I could not reassure him that he had done no such thing. One day while probing him more deeply, I realized that his real issue was fear of abandonment, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy due to harsh treatment in his early years by his father. However, it was too painful for him to feel and face these—something he needed to do to get well. Such self-awareness would have been legitimate suffering in Jung’s terms. Instead, he projected his anxiety on something more manageable, on something that distracted his anxiety from the real issues—the unpardonable sin—and neurotically worried about this repeatedly throughout his daily life.

I am convinced that this inability to face our deepest anxieties is at the heart of why we have trouble being happy. In chapter 2, I will expose why this inability is a distinctively contemporary problem for Western culture since the 1960s. For now, I want to mention two forms of “neurosis” characteristic of many of us. Just as my roommate obsessed about the unpardonable sin, we use these two items to manage our anxiety and cope with life while avoiding the deeper issues we have trouble facing. The two items to which I am referring are hurry and worry. When I speak of hurry, I am not simply referring to the (sick) pace at which we live our lives. That’s a problem in its own right. No, I am referring to the role that busyness and being in a hurry plays in coping with our fears in an unhealthy way. People are afraid to slow down and be quiet. As one thinker put it, the hardest thing to get Americans to do today is nothing. We fear solitude, silence, and having nothing to do because we fear what will happen if we aren’t busy. What do we fear? We fear that our anxiety will bubble up. We dread feeling insignificant. We fear hearing from ourselves because we might experience pain if we do. We all have responsibilities in which we invest time and effort. But if you compare our lifestyles with folks in earlier generations, it becomes apparent that our busyness and hurried lives are avoidance strategies.

We all have worries and things that could hurt us. But the degree to which we worry is, again, symptomatic of something much deeper. When I refer to worry as a coping strategy, I am not referring to worry about a threatening situation—losing one’s job, being sick, not getting married, and so on. I am talking about worry as an approach to life. In this sense, worrying is actually a learned behavior. As dear as she was, my mother was a very anxious person who worried about everything. I lived around her and absorbed her approach to life, so by the time I was a young adult, I had learned how to worry from an expert. And now I was the expert!

What roles do hurry and worry play in your life? I encourage you to spend some time pondering this question. As a help to you, I suggest you find some safe friends or family members and ask them to give you honest feedback about this. This issue is so deep and so much a part of the warp and woof of American life that it is hard to get in touch with the way we neurotically use hurry and worry to avoid problems.

One of our main fears is boredom and loneliness, and hurry and worry keep us from facing these fears. In fact, some patterns of ideas and beliefs that permeate the arts, media, and educational institutions of our culture make it all but impossible to face boredom and loneliness. More on that in chapter 2. Here I want you to ponder an additional fact: It takes a lot of emotional energy to “stuff” our real problems and manage appropriate anxiety by the hurry and worry strategy. And given the three pervasive cultural patterns we mentioned earlier—our pace of life, the loss of community, and the emergence of moral relativism—we have a very dangerous situation in our culture.

To live the way many of us do takes a lot of energy, so we are vulnerable to addiction. Various addictions provide some form of relief from a neurotic life and offer some reward on a regular basis in the form of the satisfaction of desire, usually bodily desire. However, all such addictions obey the law of diminishing returns. The more one turns to addictive behavior, the less it pays off and the more one must turn to the addiction. It may be social recognition, sexual stimulation, drugs or alcohol abuse, eating, acquiring consumer goods, and so on. Over time, we shrivel as authentic persons, and we become less and less in touch with our real selves. Instead, we must project a false self to others—a self we wish others to believe about us, a self that is a collage of parental messages, strategies for remaining safe and hidden, and behaviors that avoid shame and guilt. The range of our free will diminishes, and we become enslaved to safety, social rules, and bodily pleasures and their satisfaction.

It’s time to summarize. For at least 40 years, Americans have become increasingly unable to find happiness and, instead, are ten times more likely to be depressed and anxiety filled than Americans of other generations. Clearly, something about our culture is deeply flawed. As a first step toward identifying the flaws, I noted the adrenalized pace of life, the loss of a sense of community, and the emergence of moral relativism in American culture. Digging more deeply, I noted that for these and other reasons, we find it hard to face our real, authentic emotional pain and, instead, opt for lifestyles of hurry and worry that allow us to cope with our boredom, emptiness, and loneliness without having to face our true situation. Such an approach takes a lot of emotional energy and, partly to comfort ourselves, we turn to addictive behaviors that increasingly turn us into false selves who no longer know who we are.

An Invitation and a Word of Concern

I have received much help from others in my own journey, and I believe I have some genuinely good news for you in the pages to follow. I invite you to read on with an open mind and heart. However, I’m concerned about something. I am troubled that you may not be willing to think afresh with me about what follows and won’t benefit from whatever wisdom is offered. Why am I so concerned? It’s because of my topic and the two primary types of people with whom I want to travel.

Beginning with chapter 2, I am going to mention the G word—“God”—more specifically, the Christian God and Jesus of Nazareth. As we will see, whenever we focus on living a rich life and face our inability to be happy, broad questions about the meaning of life inevitably surface. This is as it should be. And lurking in the neighborhood will be questions about God. It has been said that the single most important thing about a person is what comes to mind when he or she hears the word “God.” This is a trustworthy saying.

So why am I concerned? Because it is so very hard to invite someone in this culture to give this topic a fresh hearing, especially from my two audiences. The first person to whom I am writing is not a follower of Jesus. You may be an aggressive atheist, mildly agnostic, or inclined to think that religion should be a private matter and that “Live and let live” should be one’s motto. If you fit this category, you may have picked up this book at a bookstore or found it online, or a friend or relative may have given it to you. If the latter is the case, you may feel defensive about reading the book. You may feel that your friend or relative wants to fix you or to “win” in your longstanding dialogues about Christianity. If you read this book with an open mind and fresh start, and if you come to agree with some of my offerings, you could lose face, as it were. Others could say you were wrong all along and this proves it.

I completely understand such defensiveness, having practiced it myself in various contexts. But to be honest, if you are concerned about such matters, you are actually not being true to yourself. Instead, you are letting others control you. You are giving them free rent in your mind. It’s as though they are looking over your shoulder as you read, just waiting to jump on you if you come to see things as they do. My advice is that you not let others have such power over you. Be yourself. Think for yourself. Give me a hearing, and when you have read the entire book, step back and decide for yourself what you think about these matters.

Besides friends or relatives, if you fit into this first group, I actually have a deeper concern—really, two concerns—about you being defensive in reading what follows. Having talked to atheists and agnostics for 40 years, I’ve seen that many of them don’t want God to exist. In a rare moment of frankness, atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel makes this admission:

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, I hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

Such an approach to life is hard to sustain. Influential young atheist Douglas Coupland frankly acknowledges how difficult it is:

Now—here is my secret: I tell it to you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God—that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.

Fathers and Freedom

If you are an atheist or something close to it, I believe there may be two reasons why you think this way. I am sharing these with you to be helpful, not to throw this in your face. No one is here but you and me, so please see if these describe you. The first reason you may approach the question of God with anger or rejection is unresolved conflict with your own father figure. I have spoken on more than 200 college campuses and in more than 40 states in the last 40 years, and it has become apparent to me that atheists regularly have deep-seated, unresolved emotional conflicts with their father figures. To think that this plays no role in their atheism would be foolish. Paul Vitz, a leading psychologist in this area claims that, in fact, such conflict is at the very heart of what motivates a person to reject God or be indifferent to religion.

Let’s be honest. You owe it to yourself to see if this is causing you to be defensive about the topic of God. If it is, I urge you in the safety of our conversation to follow, to try to set this aside.

The second reason you may not want the Christian God to be real has been identified by Dinesh D’Souza: People want to be liberated from traditional morality so they can engage in any sexual behavior that satisfies them without guilt, shame, or condemnation. The famous atheist Aldous Huxley made this admission:

I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption… For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was…liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.

If you have a vested interest in wanting to look at pornography or to engage in sexual activity outside of a traditional marriage, your hostility to God may well be a way of enabling yourself to sustain your lifestyle while flying in a no-guilt zone. I take no pleasure in saying this, and I am not trying to be harsh or judgmental toward you. The opposite is the case. I have help for you and will offer it in the chapters to follow. All I ask of you is that you give me a hearing and not allow these factors to fuel your defensiveness in such a way that you are not teachable and open to exploring these issues together.

Caricatures of Christians

My first concern about defensiveness, then, is due to the role that unresolved father issues and sexual practices may play in preventing you from facing this topic honestly and with a good and open heart. My second concern is the associations that come to mind when people in our culture think of conservative Christians, most of whom would be called Evangelicals. You may see red at the very thought of Christians. They are hypocrites, intolerant bigots, nosy members of the Religious Right who try to tell others what to do and how to think. Christians are irrational, unscientific, nonthinking sorts who will gullibly believe anything. Comparing Christians (and other religious zealots) and secularists, University of California at Berkeley professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich gave this warning:

The great conflict of the 21st century will not be between the West and terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, not a belief. The true battle will be between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is mere preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe in science, reason and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism itself is not the greatest danger we face.

With friends like that, who needs enemies! Reich needs to lighten up a bit. Still, you may share his opinion of what it means to be a Christian. May I suggest two counterarguments that may help you get something out of this book. First, Reich’s statement and the description of Christians in the preceding paragraph are gross caricatures that are far from the truth. It’s a cultural lie that the more educated you become the more you reject Christianity. A few years ago, University of North Carolina sociologist Christian Smith published what may be the most extensive study to date of the impact of contemporary culture on American Evangelicalism. Smith’s extensive research led him to this conclusion:

Self-identified evangelicals have more years of education than fundamentalists, liberals, Roman Catholics, and those who are nonreligious…Of all groups, evangelicals are the least likely to have only a high-school education or less; the nonreligious are the most likely. Furthermore, higher proportions of evangelicals have studied at the graduate-school level than have fundamentalists, liberals, or the nonreligious.

Sure, there are a few bad (ignorant and bigoted) eggs in our basket, but the whole basket should not be judged on this account.

Even if this demeaning picture of Christians contains more than a small grain of truth, becoming a follower of Jesus doesn’t have to make you like this. And there’s still the issue of you and your own life and welfare. You have a life to live, and if you are anything like me, you need all the help you can get to live it well. The real issue is whether the Christian God is real and can be known, whether Jesus of Nazareth was really the very Son of God, and whether the movement He started is what you need and have been looking for (consciously or not). At the end of the day, the issue is not whether Christians are hypocrites, Republicans, or whatever. The issue is Jesus of Nazareth and your life.


The second person to whom I am writing is a Christian who has become too familiar with the form of Christianity often present in our culture. If this is you, you may have become inoculated from the real thing. You are bored with church, you don’t like religious games, and you believe you have given the Christian thing a try and it isn’t what it was cracked up to be. In a way, you’ve lost hope. The fire in your belly has dimmed, and you despair of finding more as a Christian. You think you have already heard and heeded the invitation I am about to unpack, and you are not interested in hearing the same old stuff again. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.

Dallas Willard puts his finger on this problem:

The major problem with the invitation now is precisely over-familiarity. Familiarity breeds unfamiliarity—unsuspected unfamiliarity, and then contempt. People think they have heard the invitation. They think they have accepted it—or rejected it. But they have not. The difficulty today is to hear it at all.

I’m asking you to listen again to the invitation as though for the first time. In some cases, that won’t actually be true. You will likely read things in subsequent chapters that you have heard before. If so, I promise to try to give these things new life, to cast them in a new light. In other cases, that may actually be true. Some brand-new insights may follow. If you are a Christian who fits my description, all I can do is to ask you to read on with an open heart.

So let’s move on. You and I have lives to live. How can we get better at it? In chapter 2, we jump out of the pan and into the fire. We move to what I believe is at or near the bottom of why you and many of our fellow Americans can’t find much happiness in life. The central issue revolves around broad cultural ideas about life, reality, and confidence. The fundamental issue involves the mind and how we think about and see things. But before I can tell you that story, I’ll need to let you in on something about your brain.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Never say Diet by Chantel Hobbs

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 books:

Never Say Diet

WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (December 16, 2008)


The Never Say Diet Personal Fitness Trainer

WaterBrook Press (December 16, 2008)


Chantel Hobbs is a personal trainer, certified spinning instructor, and motivational speaker whose no-excuses approach to fitness has won her a grateful following across the country. The author of Never Say Diet, Chantel hosts a weekly fitness program on Reach FM radio and is a regular guest on Way FM. Her “Ditch the Diet, Do the Weekend” bootcamp takes place several times a year in a variety of locations. She has presented her unique approach to lasting fitness in People magazine and on Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox News, The 700 Club, Living the Life, and Paula White Today. Chantel enjoys life with her husband and their four children in South Florida.

Visit the author's website.


Never Say Diet Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (December 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307444937
ISBN-13: 978-0307444936

The Night That

Changed My Life

How to Choose

to Do the Best

Job of Living

It should have been a scene of American family bliss. A Sunday afternoon in our home on a beautiful fall day in South Florida. My husband, Keith, was watching the Dolphins game in the living room with some friends. He’d waited all week for this. Our girls, six-year-old Ashley and four-year-old Kayla, were helping me in the kitchen. Well, kind of. Our six month-old, Jake, was jumping and laughing in his Jolly Jumper. I was baking Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, our favorite, and everybody could smell the cinnamon and butter and couldn’t wait for the cookies to come out of the oven. Especially me. As I worked in the kitchen, I could hear the football game coming from the living room. The announcers were talking about a player who had arrived at training camp completely out of shape. He was six foot four and weighed 320 pounds. “That is a big boy,” they said. “Wow! He is huge.” “Would you look at that guy,” I heard my husband say with disgust. “I can’t believe he got so fat! What a lazy bum.” Those words cut me to the heart. I had created a happy home, with a

happy husband and happy kids. But at that moment I wanted to die, because I outweighed that player by at least 10 pounds. I was bigger than anyone playing for the Miami Dolphins. And I knew I was anything but lazy. I pulled the cookies out of the oven and felt nauseous. I was pathetic. I’d been overweight my entire adult life, but I was bigger than I had ever been. I was miserable but doing an excellent job of faking out everyone who knew me. I was five foot nine and weighed 330 pounds, maybe more. I didn’t know for sure because it had been months since I’d dared to step on a scale. Besides, the only one in the house was a conveniently inaccurate discount-store model with a wheel underneath that calibrated the scale. I had adjusted it to register the lowest weight possible. I was in denial, but I was also without hope. It was the autumn of 2000. I was twenty-eight years old and was starting to believe I would never live a long and fulfilled life. Not this way. If an angel had landed on my shoulder and whispered in my ear that, in less than two years, Oprah Winfrey would have me on her show to tell a feel good weight-loss story, I’d have sent that angel packing and gone back to my cookies. I wasn’t Oprah material. And there was absolutely nothing feel-good about my life. Call me when you want a feel-bad story. That was me. If that angel had whispered that I would one day run a marathon, I’d have checked him in to an insane asylum. I couldn’t run around the block. Even in high school I hadn’t been able to run the required twenty-minute mile. My knees hurt all the time. I was morbidly obese—a term that I knew meant an early death. If one thing was clear about my life in the fall of 2000, it was that

I could never, ever run a marathon. But I did. I finished my first one in 2005 and after that ran four more— in less than a year. I went from weighing nearly 350 pounds to less than 150 pounds. And I have appeared on Oprah and Good Morning America and the cover of People magazine as one of America’s great weight-loss successes. Getting fit wasn’t easy—there was plenty of pain, deprivation, tears, and hungeralong the way. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I won’t try to sugarcoat any of that. But, honestly, I didn’t give myself a choice. Once I made the unconditional decision that I was going to lose weight and get healthy, nothing could stop me. And nothing will stop you if you make the Five Decisions to break the fat habit for good. That’s a guarantee. Here is the secret I learned—the same secret I want to share with you. I realized I had to change my mind before I could change my body, my health, and my life. I discovered the Five Decisions, which brought about an unconditional commitment to getting healthy and fit. Once I started, I treated it like a job so that no matter what else was going on in my life, I did what I had to do to achieve daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, and eventually the target weight and fitness that I desired. After making the Five Decisions, getting fit was a matter of showing up for work each day. The process developed from the inside out, which was a new concept for me.


People constantly ask me how I lost 200 pounds and started running marathons. When I explain that it took several years to achieve those goals, they wonder how I was able to stick to the plan when so many others can’t. I ask myself the same question. I had failed plenty of times before. I’d tried a few diets and failed, including a bit of foolishness called the chocolate-wafer diet, which I’ll tell you about later. I’d resolved so many times not to eat the entire package of Oreos, without success. So how did I lose all that weight and keep it off reclaiming my health and gaining a new life in the process? Here’s the simple answer: my brain changed. I decided to first become a different person in my mind and then learned patience as my body followed. My success wasn’t measured only by a declining number on a scale; it was much deeper. I had to change on the inside. I needed to change my mind before I could change my body. It will work the same way for you. First you must get to the right place in your head, and then you can create the lifestyle to go along with that. Your body reflects your daily choices, so stop confusing it by the way you think. The mistake so many people make is to focus on weight loss and how long it will take. In fact, the multibillion-dollar diet industry banks on people thinking this way. Don’t get stuck in the weight loss weight gain cycle. What you should focus on is the person you want to be. Set your sights very high, and keep your commitment level even higher. In this book I’ll explain how I did that. I went from being someone who weighed more than a Miami Dolphins lineman to someone who is strong and trim and can run twenty-six miles. I went from a state of hopelessness to a life of incredible confidence. And I want to help you achieve something great in your life. If you change your mind before attempting to change your body, you can do this.


While I was learning how to lose weight and regain my health, I faced setback after setback. My husband lost his job, and my mother was diagnosed with cancer—and those were only two of the crises that came along. Changing your life will never be easy, and that’s why in order to succeed, you first need to be ready to succeed. It’s a choice you make. In the fall of 2000, when I was baking cookies and overhearing my husband’s criticism of an overweight NFL lineman, I fell into despair. I realized my life was out of control and I was headed for an early grave if I didn’t change. But even then, I wasn’t yet ready to make the commitment that was necessary to change my life. The truth is, on that dark day I still wasn’t miserable enough to change. I hit rock bottom about six months later. I was at my heaviest ever—349 pounds, I think. Though I was still mostly in denial, I was starting to see myself clearly, and I hated what I saw. I’d look in the mirror and say, “You are pitiful! How could you have let this happen?” My appearance started to affect my family life. We live in South Florida, where every weekend is a pool party. My daughters were young, but they were being invited to a few parties, and I was horribly uncomfortable in a bathing suit. I knew it wouldn’t be long before my girls would be embarrassed by their mother, and that made me want to cry. It did make me cry. But that was the least of it. I was more worried that their mom would die young. I’d seen fat people, and I’d seen old people, but rarely had I seen fat, old people. If I couldn’t change for myself, maybe I could do it for my kids. One night I was driving home alone from an event at church. I felt trapped in despair. At age twenty-nine, my body felt old. I had recently had an emergency gallbladder operation, and the doctor had told me he was afraid to cut through all my layers of fat because of the risk of infection. Imagine being worried about your diseased gallbladder and experiencing anxiety about surgery. And then you learn that your weight problem makes you more prone to infection. That night in the car I felt like the most pathetic person who had ever lived. I believed that God had made me and put me on earth for a purpose, and I was not living the life He intended for me. I knew I had to change. As I drove, drowning in self-pity, I began to envision what my life would be if I weren’t fat. I thought of all the things I could do—even simple things, such as walking down an airplane aisle without having to turn sideways. I’d be able to board a flight without getting fearful stares from people hoping I wouldn’t sit next to them. And there were deeper things, such as being able to go down a slide at a playground with my kids. And I wanted never again to feel as if I was embarrassing my husband when he introduced me to business associates. I was tired of feeling prejudged by every server in every restaurant for what I ordered. I wanted to be able to shop in the same clothing stores as all my friends. I wanted a normal life. As I drove home from church, I came to the realization that I absolutely could not go on with my life as it was. I pulled over, sobbing. In total despair I cried out to God. I remember every word. “This is it!” I said. “I can’t live like this anymore. I’m done. I give all this pain to You. I surrender this battle. I need You to take over and give me a plan. Otherwise, I don’t want to live anymore.” Almost immediately a sense of inner peace filled me, and I calmed down. I had gone to church all my life and had a relationship with God, but I had certainly never felt anything like that before. The peace was real, and in my mind I heard from God. I clearly heard these words: You are not being the best you can be. It wasn’t a booming voice like in a movie, but it also wasn’t a voice coming from me. The words were a jolt to my soul. And that moment would change my life forever. Again, with crystal clarity, I “heard” a whisper: You are not being the best you can be. And for the first time in my life, I understood that this was a choice. I could choose to be the best I could be or not. We all have the same choice. We can’t choose our natural talents or what opportunities life is going to throw our way, but we can choose to do this one thing: we can do the best job of living that we are capable of. After praying alone in my car, I knew I could do better.


No matter how overweight and out of shape we are, our bodies and minds are capable of much more than we think. No matter what battles we face in life, we can have victory. The amazing thing is that so many of us choose not to. I know this is true because I was as guilty as anyone. For years I’d made poor choices and come up with excuses for why I really didn’t have a choice at all. I was big boned. I let myself overeat because I was pregnant. I skipped exercise because I didn’t have the time. I was too far gone to ever recover. I told myself whatever it took to hide the truth that I was not doing the best job of living. I was also being scammed by the diet industry. We all have been taken in by the hype. “We’ll give you your eating points,” the industry tells us, “and let you spend them on any food you want. And we’ll love you when you get on that scale, whether you’ve lost weight or not. We’ll keep hugging you for the next twenty-three years if need be.” Counting my points was not going to save me. Choosing the right frozen entrĂ©e and having it delivered to my home for the next two years was not going to save me. I didn’t need the unconditional love of strangers; I needed unconditional commitment from myself. I was also scammed by the “fat gene” scientists who insisted that my weight problem was out of my hands. They were wrong; it was in my hands. Chantel, I told myself, this is not cancer. I knew, because my mother had leukemia, and I had spent more tearful nights than I could count praying for her recovery something I couldn’t do anything about. I prayed that chemotherapy would work and that God would heal her. But I realized that I’d been thinking of my obesity in the same way, as an illness. I’d even been told by experts that drastic surgery might be my only option. But that was another lie. The way I lived my life and how I contributed to my health were completely in my hands. Every one of us knows what we should do, but we don’t always do it. Instead, we pretend it’s out of our control. We take the easy way out and let ourselves down. Gaining weight doesn’t come about by accident, and it’s not forced on us. We gain weight through a series of poor choices made on a regular basis over a long period of time.

We gain weight

through a series of poor choices

made on a regular basis

over a long period of time.

The same process holds true for achieving a goal related to your health and fitness. Whether it’s weight loss, athletic accomplishment, or any other personal or business goal, you achieve what you seek by learning to make the right choices and not being scared of self-sacrifice. I began wondering what my life would be like and what I would be capable of if I simply started being the best me I could. It was time to find out. After hearing God tell me, You are not being the best you can be, I made my decision, and I said it out loud: “I can do this. I will do this.” I repeated it, and I meant it. At that moment by the side of Cypress Creek Road, my life turned around.


Having made the commitment, I knew I was going to change my life, but I didn’t have a specific plan. I knew I’d have to start exercising, no matter how much I dreaded it. I knew I would have to change the way I ate, and I would need to learn more about nutrition. And to become a different person, I knew I would have to start thinking like the person I wanted to be and not the person I had allowed myself to become. I didn’t know how I was going to do all this, but I knew I would have God by my side. He might not make it easy, but He’d give me the strength to do everything that was needed. When I got home that night, Keith was already in bed. He had never criticized my weight, for which I was incredibly grateful, but I knew how he must have felt. I looked into my husband’s eyes, told him that God had spoken to me in the car, and announced that the next morning I would begin losing weight and getting healthy. (I even mentioned that one day I would write a book to reach others in my situation.) I made it clear that I was totally committed to being the best I could be. Keith smiled at me and quoted one of his favorite sources of inspiration, the self-made billionaire Art Williams: “Do it, then talk.” He was right. I shut up. Keith fell asleep, but I had a burning passion that kept me awake that night and has kept me up many nights since. Making the unconditional decision to change—the complete commitment with no turning back—had to be followed by action. First you change your mind. But to change your body and your life, you have to get moving. You have to do things and do them differently from the past. Do it. How incredibly simple—yet how long it had taken me to get to a place where I could see that clearly. Getting fit and accomplishing my dreams was simply a matter of choosing to do it, following through every single day, and understanding that failure was not an option. I could do it. I would do it. And I did.


Keep reading, and you’ll find out how to change your life through five crucial decisions. The Five Decisions change your brain, giving you a new way of thinking about yourself, your life, your health, and your future. As long as you keep thinking the same way you always have, you will keep doing the things you have always done—including the unhealthy habits you have developed. Join me in the next chapter as we explore the past—including all the influences that worked together to bring us to where we are today. Understanding the messages that influence our self-perception and the way we respond to obstacles enables us to make the new decisions that are necessary for permanent change.

What Do You Want to Change, and Why?

As you prepare to make the mental changes that will lead to permanent life change, think through the reasons you want to change. What is motivating your desire to lose weight and reclaim your health? Use the questions that follow to think in detail about your life, your goals for the future, and what you’re willing to do to make this happen finally and forever.

1. Beyond losing weight, what do you most want to change about your life?

2. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to see certain areas of your life undergo radical change? If you’re not yet willing, what is holding you back?

3. When in your life have you felt the most hopeless? Are you now ready to move past those scars and never look back?

4. When you gained weight in the past, what factors caused you to lose your focus on health?

5. Identify three reasons or influences from the past that convinced you that you couldn’t achieve permanent life change. After considering these reasons, can you now admit they were merely excuses?

6. Think about the necessity of changing your mind before you attempt to change your body. Do you agree that lasting change begins on the inside? As you consider being the best you can be, are you ready to work from the inside out?

7. A total life change involves your mind, body, and spirit. Think about the spiritual aspect for a moment. Do you accept the role that faith plays in the process of changing your life for good?

8. When have you been held back by a fear of failure? Write down your biggest fears in this regard. As you face your fears, can you decide to let them go and give your all to permanent life change?

Never Say Diet Personal Trainer Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (December 16, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307446425
ISBN-13: 978-0307446428

Week 1 Training Plan

The Perfect Body Type: Yours!

You Are Lovely Today

Scripture for the week: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.… When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”

—PSALM 139:14–16

Quote for the week: “Faith, as Paul saw it, was a living, flaming thing leading to surrender and obedience to the commandments of Christ.”


As you begin the journey to never say diet, remember that your value is based on who you are in Christ, not what the number on the scale says. God created everything about you, and He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows which foods are your weaknesses, and He is there whenever the temptation to overeat or consume unhealthy food seems overwhelming. The Lord knows the tears you have shed out of desperation. He was there to comfort you when it seemed like no one understood your pain. Trust me, on days when I feel the most flawed, I need the verses from Psalm 139 to remind me of what is true. The living God formed every part of my body, even the parts I would like to change. Although I used to struggle and fail in caring for my body, God always knew it best. When I finally cried out to my Creator and invited Him to help with the repair, I knew I could succeed. He wants you to succeed too. Start this week by thanking the Lord for the gifts of your life and your body. By focusing on making some improvements, you will ultimately be honoring Him more and more each day. Find a recent photo of yourself, or take one, and tape it in the space that follows. This picture will be a powerful reference for you in the coming weeks as you begin your transformation.


In Never Say Diet, I make a big deal about the Five Decisions—and for good reason. You will fail in this new attempt to change your life unless you first change your brain. To succeed, you need to be willing to do whatever it takes—unconditionally. I want to be your cheerleader and your friend. And for us to get going, you need to commit to the five Brain Change decisions found on pages 76–82 of Never Say Diet. Think about how each of the Five Decisions applies to your life. Also, try to memorize them. They will form the backbone you need to stand up to and overcome every area of weakness in your life. Create your personal surrender statement.


This week your first assignment is to start building a foundation of discipline. You will be successful over the next month if you show up for exercise thirty minutes a day, five days in a row, every week—no matter what. There are many choices for your cardiovascular exercise. Below is a list of suggestions. Even if your week gets hectic, finding the time to make this happen is imperative.

Cardio Exercise Suggestions


Bike riding

Cross-country skiing machine


Elliptical machine


Kick boxing


Spinning class

Stair climber

Stair stepper

Stationary bike/recumbent bike

Step aerobics




How to Take Your Measurements

Taking your measurements at the beginning of each month is an important part of the process of losing weight. You will begin to see precisely where you are losing fat. As you start building more muscle, there will be months where your progress is more evident in your measurements than on the scale, because muscle is denser than fat. You will begin by taking six measurements. You should be able to do them by yourself, with the exception of your upper arm. (Ask a friend or your spouse to help you.) For instructions on taking accurate measurements, see pages 97–98 of Never Say Diet. Record your measurements below.

Bust: ______________

Chest: ______________

Waist: ______________

Hips: ______________

Thighs: ______________

Arms: ______________

Be sure that you consistently measure in the same spots each month. I also recommend taking your measurements before your workouts.

Weigh Yourself

Weigh yourself, and record your weight at the beginning of each week.

Week 1 starting weight: ________


Complete your cardio exercise five days in a row, for at least thirty minutes per day. In the space provided, write down the day, the date, the exercise you completed, and the duration of each exercise period. This serves as a reminder that you always found a way to get the exercise done, whether you felt like it or not.

Day 1 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?


Day 2 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?


Day 3 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?


Day 4 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?


Day 5 date/exercise/duration:


How did it go?




This week you must place your nutritional focus on the most important meal of the day: breakfast. Plan to eat every day within two hours of waking up. Listed below are some fresh food ideas. Each one is about three hundred calories, which is perfect!

• Quaker Weight Control oatmeal, 1 tablespoon of raisins, cinnamon to taste, 2 slices of turkey bacon.

• One slice of whole-wheat toast, light spread of peanut butter (natural is best), and ½ grapefruit.

• Chocolate strawberry shake. Blend the following: 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, 10 small frozen strawberries, 1 packet sugar substitute, ½ cup low-fat milk, a few ice cubes.

• Egg white omelet. In a skillet with nonstick spray, cook veggies you like, 3 lightly beaten egg whites, and 1 tablespoon fat-free cheese. Accompany with half an English muffin with a dab of peanut butter.

Each of these breakfast meals provides a good balance of protein, carbs, and fat. This ensures your day gets off to a good start; it is igniting your source of energy. Find a few meals that you enjoy, and keep repeating them. This way you won’t stress out over deciding what to have.

Week 1 Breakfast Log

Using the space provided, record each day’s breakfast menu and the portions.

Day 1 date/time: ___________________________________ ________________________________________________

Day 2 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 3 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 4 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 5 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 6 date/time: ___________________________________


Day 7 date/time: ___________________________________