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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Have yourself a merry little Christmas...

In case you missed my post last year about my favorite Christmas movie, Meet Me In St. Louis, here's a little reminder.

I'm actually bummed, because it hasn't been on TV anywhere I can find this year. Ugh! I thought I'd taped it, but I can't find it. I guess I need to break down and buy the DVD. Which means ordering it because I can't find it in stores.

Although... is anyone else in dire need of some Christmas spirit? I'm ready to boycott going to stores altogether. I did more online shopping this year than ever, and I think next year will go almost exclusively that route. I'm really tired of the grumpy salespeople (and yes, I've worked retail at Christmas, so I GET the stress they're under- just don't take it out on customers!). And I'm tired of mean shoppers. And I'm tired of the mayhem.

Today I went to the grocery store and I was so mad at this lady in the parking lot, I almost pulled over, got out of my car and gave this woman a stern talking to. She was in such a hurry to "beat me to" a good parking that she nearly ran over three different people, not to mention blocked traffic from every direction so no one could move for five minutes, and then she nearly hit two cars. The sad thing was, I wasn't even after that parking spot. I was just trying to get my kids home. Is a good parking spot really worth endangering so many? I made a vow at the beginning of the holiday season that I was going to leave the good spots for someone else. I deliberately park farther out because I don't like messing with people like the lady I encountered today. I just hope that people figure out a way to exercise more caution without someone getting hurt.

On top of that, it's been a hard Christmas season for us- I've had sick kids, a kid with head lice, and a hubby who's been working like a maniac. So we've been housebound for a while now. I don't want to ruin anyone else's Christmas by getting them sick or my kid giving them lice, so we've stayed home. I also have to be thankful that with so many out of work, at least hubby has work. And I am truly thankful. Just going a little crazy. But then, because things can't get any crazier, I've had all kinds of weird computer things going on. Every day since Friday, something weird has happened computer-wise. Stuff that's keeping me from getting any work done. Even though it's making me really grumpy, I can't help but be thankful that I have enough flexibility with my job that I can still make it work.

So even though this holiday season is not going as planned, I am choosing to have myself a Merry Little Christmas anyway. As inconvenient as things have been for us over the past few days, and as much as I do not feel ready for it to be Christmas, I think of my favorite Christmas movie, and the song, and that what really matters is that we all will be together. And even without all the stuff and trappings of the holiday, we still have the most incredible gift of Jesus' birth.

I hope you all have yourselves a merry little Christmas too! If you happen to be out and get one of the good parking spots, consider that my gift to you. Oh, and the fact that my kids didn't get yours sick or give them lice. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The 60-Minute Money Workout: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Finances into Shape by Ellie Kay

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 60-Minute Money Workout: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Finances into Shape

WaterBrook Press (December 14, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cindy Brovsky and Staci Carmichael of Doubleday Religion/ Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc., for sending me a review copy.***


ELLIE KAY is a financial expert on Good Money (ABC NEWS) and best-selling author of more than a dozen books and hundreds of magazine articles. She’s a regular media guest on CNBC, CNN, and Fox News, and has been featured on ABC Nightline, Your World with Neil Cavuto, and Fox and Friends. Her radio commentary for Focus on the Family airs on more than two thousand radio outlets around the world. She and her husband are the parents of seven children and live in Southern California.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (December 14, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307446034
ISBN-13: 978-0307446039

My Review:
This is a great and helpful resource for families and their finances. I haven't done the exercises yet, but I'm really looking forward to them in the new year!


60 Minutes to

Financial Freedom

Thirty years.

That’s how long it took to achieve the dream.

When I was at the ripe old age of ten, my parents won a trip to Germany because my dad bought a certain number of air conditioners for his part-time building business. They promised to bring me back “something special.” I imagined a Bavarian costume, a crown that belonged to a real princess, or maybe even a china teacup. Instead, they brought me a book and a rock. The rock came from the lake where King Ludwig allegedly killed himself, and the book was a compilation of his castles and treasures. They were a little odd, but those gifts ended up serving me well.

At school, I used the book to write a report on King Ludwig that earned an A+. And the rock inspired a dream to one day see Neuschwanstein, also known as “the Disneyland Castle.”

Three decades later I was able to fulfill those travel dreams, thanks to my international work with military families. As I walked through the castle’s gilded hall, my imagination wandered to what life must have been like for people such as King Ludwig, who had only known a life of wealth and privilege, then to have that life cut short through suicide or murder. I decided that my life as a mother of seven wasn’t that bad after all. I may not have been at the pinnacle of wealth and privilege, but I was fulfilling my dream, which also happened to be squarely in the path of another of my dreams: helping military families achieve their financial dreams.

Along the road to a dream fulfilled, there was hope deferred, justice denied, and paradise lost. But one thing remained true: there was a plan and purpose for the ten-year-old version of me, and my dreams—some material, some personal, and some spiritual—were worth keeping.

What were some of your childhood dreams?

Do you still dream, or did you stop dreaming a long time ago?

Would I trade my dream trip to see Neuschwanstein for anything else? Of course I would! There are boatloads of things in life that carry far greater value than a trip: my husband, kids, friends, health, and an entire host of far more meaningful things than the material ones. But the point is that if we are purposeful, principled, and proactive about money matters, then we can still hang on to those longtime dreams and watch them come to pass.

Maybe your dream is to stop fighting about money with your mate.

Maybe you want to buy a home or go to Paris.

You might dream of putting your babies through college without a mountain of student-loan debt.

Or you might want to be able to sponsor a third-world child and give her a life she couldn’t have without your help.

While many people know they need to be proactive about money matters, few know the secret to putting feet to fiscal concepts. Knowledge alone is not enough to make a difference in a person’s financial picture. This knowledge has to be put into action regularly in order to reach your goals.

So move over money “makeovers,” it’s time for the money workout.

Makeovers fall short of truly revitalizing your financial picture. While they address the problem and suggest solutions, implementing those concepts on a day-to-day basis can feel like driving a Honda when you were dreaming of a roadster. Another challenge of a makeover is that you don’t know how to do it on your own after the experts leave.

But my money workout method will teach you how to have self sufficiency once this book is closed.

Maybe you’ve tried to work on money issues but instead ended up fighting with your spouse. It might be that the thought of sitting down with all your bills is so overwhelming that it falls into the realm of impossible. Maybe you’re convinced that you will never get out of debt, live in financial harmony, or own a home. It’s not about how much time you spend working on money issues; it’s about the quality of that time. So let’s get started with your own money workout.

It’s time to do our first pre workout quiz. It will only take ten minutes. The quizzes throughout this book serve to prepare you for the main workout, and you’ll get a lot more out of your sixty-minute money workout if you take the time to prepare. While our dream quiz seems to be a lifestyle quiz rather than a money quiz, it’s important to understand that almost every area of our lives is impacted by some financially related area. For example, an educational goal or dream coming true is often related to a work ethic, which is a financial skill. Personal goals that deal with family, marriage, and kids are definitely related to finances because of the impact that money matters have on families. Spiritual goals highly influence us in the way we use or view money. So try to fill out these dreams with that financial element in mind, and you’ll get more out of the quiz. Once you’ve finished this exercise, it will help you focus on past dreams or expectations, current realities, and future possibilities.

Pre-workout Quiz

1. What are some dreams you had as a much younger version of yourself? List a dream for each category:






2. If you were to rank these “dreams come true” from 1 to 10, with 1 meaning that it did not get fulfilled in any way and 10 meaning it came to pass as you dreamed it or better, then how would you rank the dreams in question 1?

For example, maybe you always wanted a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California; instead you earned a master’s from the University of Texas. If you are satisfied with the fact that you received a better degree from a different college, you could indicate a 10 for that dream. Or maybe you always wanted to be a pilot in the air force but didn’t have the requisite eyesight. So you got rated in a Cessna and went on to have a fulfilling career in real estate. You might give that dream a 5. This is your test. Although it’s subjective, it represents your life and your level of contentment with your dreams.

3. Go back and add up your dream scores from questions 1 and 2.

4. Repeat the exercise, but instead of listing childhood dreams, list your current financial dreams for your future and/or your family’s. For example, buying a house, helping third-world children, putting your kids through college with minimal debt, building an adequate retirement fund, going to Paris, having a zero balance on all your credit cards, being in a position to help others in need. You get the idea.

5. If you can, put a “dreams come true” ranking next to your current dreams using the same scale as in question 2, but base it on how likely you think it is that your current dreams will come true.

Quiz Results

In step 3, you added your scores for the dreams of your youth. See below to determine where you are with those.

25 points or less: You’ve had a severely average life as opposed to the life you dreamed of having as a child. Or maybe you just had a very creative imagination and dreamed of becoming a dinosaur—talk about an impossible dream(unless you’re an archaeologist and you dig up dinosaurs, thus finding fulfillment by working in the same category of that childhood dream).

Another interpretation of this score can indicate an absence of exposure to key elements in your life. For example, maybe your family didn’t value education, so you didn’t have educational dreams. Consequently, you’ve either had to made adjustments and become a better person in the process of some dream-shattering realities, or you may have given up on the whole idea of dreaming and emptied your pockets of hope.

26–35 points: Either you weren’t very imaginative as a child and didn’t day dream about life in the future, or you had an above average culmination of your dreams coming true. This score could also indicate that you were purposeful and realistic in ways to make your dreams come true, even though you fell short of the youthful version of yourself. It might be that you’ve had some challenging life-changing events, but you’ve recovered from them enough to be able to take the second chance this world has given you.

36–45 points: You might be a lot like my husband, Bob, whose dad took him to a Blue Angels air show when he was a child. After the show Bob told his dad, “When I grow up I want to fly those jets with the funny noses.” He grew up to fly the F-4 Phantom, the same jet he saw at the air show. You have had most of your dreams come true and/or you’ve been very satisfied with a different interpretation of your childhood dream. Even if your real dream came true almost exactly the way you imagined it, you still may not be content, because contentment is often a choice. But it appears you have had every opportunity to be satisfied with the results of your childhood dreams.

45–50 points: You might be one of those people we know as someone who is “living the dream.” You were prescient or intuitive as a child, and it seems you followed your passions to see these dreams to fulfillment. Very few people can say that they’ve had most of their dreams come true, but you are one of that minority. With great privilege comes great responsibility, so you are now in a position to help others set goals and make their dreams come true. You can’t do everything for others, but you can help and give them hope. Congratulations on living the dream.

In step 5, you were to rank how likely you believe your new dreams will come true. This exercise measures the realistic nature of your goals and expectations as well as your optimism about your future. So add up those results and then go back and read the result descriptions above to see what areas may need to be adjusted in order to set yourself up for success in your financial life.

Boundaries for the 60-Minute Money Workout

As we prepare for the workout, it’s important to establish boundaries and do a little mental preparation as well. Some of the workouts in this book will be done alone, but other chapters will involve your mate, an accountability partner, or your family. The guidelines, however, are the same whether there’s one or ten people involved. Here are some boundaries to keep in mind:

No condescension or negativity. Don’t talk down to anyone who’s involved in the process, and if you’re alone, do not allow your mind to entertain any negative self-talk. It doesn’t matter if you’ve failed in the past, lack knowledge about certain aspects of finances, or have a bad self-image. For one hour, you are going to be focused on learning, keeping a positive mind-set, and making progress in the workout. In fact, that’s why it’s called a “workout,” because you are working out some of these things in your life to have a positive result.

No interrupting others when they are talking. If you have trouble with interrupting others, then sit on your hands. It will serve as a reminder that you are to listen in an active manner and not spend the time thinking about what you’re going to say next. If sitting on your hands fails to keep you from interrupting, then get a tennis ball and pass it back and forth. If the ball isn’t in your hands, then your lips should be still. And if you are talking and the other person starts to interrupt, just wave the ball and smile.

No name-calling. For one hour you are going to be part of the southern genteel class, an aristocrat born and bred with good manners. For a measly hour, you’re going to say nice things and not throw around labels.

No throwing food. Okay, this may seem like a funny and random boundary—it is. During my husband’s military service, a formal dinner could turn into a food fight if one wayward roll got out of control. So if you are prone to this kind of behavior, then maybe you shouldn’t do your money workouts over a meal.

If you truly have a problem with throwing golf clubs or Scrabble boards when you are frustrated, then you will need to do your money workouts with another mature person (or couple) or even a professional counselor.

Begin each workout by saying one positive thing. Most of us have negative self-talk tapes that run through our heads, and sometimes we just need to destroy those. I haven’t ever been able to stick to a budget. You’re such an idiot, how can you possibly get it together at your age? These are trash talk negative statements that should be thrown out. Instead, tell yourself something positive about yourself. Or tell your partner one positive thing that you like about him or her. It will be more beneficial if these positive things are financially related, such as, “You have a good work ethic” or “You really saved a lot when you bought that new notebook after shopping around.”

End each workout by saying one positive thing. You started on a positive note, and now you’re going to end on a positive note. If your positive statement can relate to the workout, that would be ideal. For example, “I didn’t quit. I stayed and finished the entire thing.” Or if you’re talking to another family member, “You really did a great job of listening, and I appreciate that you didn’t interrupt.”

Create an environment that encourages comfort and success. If you hate Mondays, then maybe you shouldn’t make Monday your money workout day. You want your workout to be set up for success, which means you should do it at a time when you feel rested, the kids are not underfoot, and you are in a place that is conducive to conversation. Part of this boundary point is to put this money workout on your calendar at a time and in a place that promotes a relaxed yet purposeful atmosphere.

Gather workout folders. One major positive about these money workouts is that you don’t have to purchase any journals, financial kits, or other expensive materials to make this work for you. The basic supplies you need are minimal and inexpensive. You will need to invest in a dozen pocket folders from a local office supply store (less than $10) and label them for the different workouts. For example, if you are working on a spending plan, then when you are finished for the hour, you can place the notes you made into the folder and later easily pick up where you left off.

Keeping your working materials separate also allows you to put other related materials into the folders and keep them organized, which makes your workouts easier. For example, if there’s a new Web site you want to check out for “The 60-Minute Travel and Fun Guide Workout,” then throw it into the appropriate pocket folder, and you’ll have it at the ready when you need it. If you have a college scholarship application you want to help your student complete, then place it in “The 60-Minute College Plan Workout” folder. This is all very low tech and simple.

Have a timer on hand. You need to stick to the times listed, even if you’re “on a roll” and want to keep going beyond the hour. Do not go overtime. It’s the same as a too-long workout at the beginning of a physical fitness routine. An extended workout will do you in and make you sore the next day, and a workout marathon defeats the purpose of the exercise. If your “money talks” have an established start time and a set finish time, they are going to be a lot less painful. Realize that you won’t get all the problems solved in just one hour. That’s okay. You still will make progress in that hour. Then you can come back to it and either make a little more progress or finish it. Part of the benefit of The 60-Minute Money Workout is that you’ll make the best, most productive use of those sixty minutes. A set hour is a wonderful motivation to stay on topic and move through each section quickly, without getting bogged down by any of the negatives listed above in the boundaries section. The regular part of the workout will keep you busy enough, because there’s no time for squabbling, condescension, or negativity.

The 60-Minute Money Workout

This is how the sixty-minute money workout works: every chapter has a different goal for the workout, such as retirement planning, vacation trips, or paying down consumer debt. You will have a timer and specific materials for each workout (such as calculators, Internet access, bills, etc.).The prep work for each exercise will list the materials you need. At the end of each chapter, you will find a tip sheet that will serve as an outline when you have the weekly topical workouts.

As with a physical workout, the keys to your success are consistency and intensity. For this workout to facilitate the miraculous in your life and revolutionize your finances, you have to practice it regularly (at least once a week) and you have to abide by the boundaries. So let’s get started.

Pick the goal you want to work on. Then grab a timer. You can set it for one hour and watch the time for each section. Or you can set the timer for the minutes available in each section, and when it goes off, it’s time to move on to the next section.

Here is how the times are broken down and what you do within each section.

1. Make-Up-Your-Mind Warm up (5 minutes)

This part of the exercise is listed in the boundary section as “Begin each workout by saying one positive thing.” There’s a proverb that says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” This is where you are going to begin to get focused on good things. If you are alone, then you will begin by closing your eyes and breathing deeply to relax your body and to get rid of any distracting thoughts from a busy day. If you are in the habit of praying, this would be a good time to meditate in order to think about what you want to accomplish during the next hour.

If you are with a family member or your mate, begin by saying something positive to him. For example, you could take your spouse’s hands, look into his eyes, and say something affirming. Then you will make a commitment to work on the issue in the session in order to get back into good financial shape. For example, “During this hour I want to work on a plan to have a debt-free vacation for our family.”

2. Strength Training (10 minutes)

It usually takes more than one mistake or circumstance to get into financial trouble. Whether you are working out alone or with someone else, you need to realize that this is the part of the workout where you move from being a victim of your choices or circumstances to taking the necessary steps toward having victory over them.

While step 1 was to start with affirming words and a commitment to work on your money topic, this section is a time to write down your goals so that you will have a tangible and objective standard to work toward. This gives both of you a temporary focus for today and a long-term focus for the next few months, as well as a big-picture view for the future.

Your goals will depend on your topic of the day. For example, if you are discussing a budget, your goals might include (a) setting up a budget that is real and workable, (b) staying on that budget for the next six months in order to learn how to spend less than what you make, and (c) establishing a budget habit that is a financial vehicle that will get your family out of consumer debt, help you pay for your kids’ college, and fund your retirement. Each chapter will guide you specifically through each section of the workout.

This is also the time for you to jot down any obstacles that have come up in the past and to plan how you can overcome them. For example, you may want to budget, but you keep going off budget, which is an obstacle. You could add, “Have accountability about budget” as a means of overcoming that obstacle. Or you could write, “Review budget monthly to stay on task.”

3. Cardio Burn (20 minutes)

In this step, you give feet to your goals. Basically, underneath where you wrote out your goals in step 2, you will write down the steps involved in how you plan to get there from where you are now as well as delegate who is going to be responsible for what, specifically. For example, if you’re setting up a budget, write down the specifics of what your budget needs to include, how you plan to implement your budget, and how often you’ll check in on your progress toward this goal. This may not seem like a lot of time to do all this during this section, but realize that you may not accomplish your goal during your first workout.

You can also carry the work from this section over to the next section— if you don’t have extra work to do in the next session. The key is to keep your discussion moving and to work on what you can. Whatever you don’t finish, you can get to the next time around. There are tools for every chapter in the “Tool Center” link on my Web site, www.elliekay.com.

Discuss and work on a plan for your topic of the day. Yes, this section and the next are the two hardest sections, but they are also the “fat burning” phases where you get the most benefit. When you write down the step-by-step plan for your topic, make sure your approach is realistic, and be sure to give and take when it comes to discussing this topic with your mate.

If you find the discussion stalls or otherwise gets bogged down, then you may want to table a particular point and get back to it later, or you may even need to agree to disagree.

4. Take Your Heart Rate (20 minutes)

This is the point where you do any of the specific work after you’ve written out the step-by-step plan from the previous section. It’s also a time to crunch the numbers and fill in the details (facts and figures) on any tools or work sheets you are using. For example, if you need to get the facts on your credit and debt information, this would be the time to do it. That means you may need to have a computer and Internet access. Don’t worry about the specifics now; this chapter is just an overview of how the program works. Each chapter will list the specifics of what you will need to do for this section. The examples I use here are just to familiarize you with the concept.

If your topic concerns credit and debt, then this would be the time to order a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. Or if the workout is about saving money, you could use this time to set up an automatic allotment from your paycheck or from your checking to savings accounts. If your plan for the day is debt reduction, you may decide to cut up all but two or three credit cards and cancel some of your open credit accounts (be sure to cancel the most recent cards first and keep the cards you’ve had for five years or longer in order to maintain the longevity part of your FICO—Fair Isaac credit score).

Don’t procrastinate. Do this during this “work” part of the workout. This will help minimize the temptation to procrastinate on the practical aspects of your workout and also keep you on track with your goal for the day. If you don’t have any outside work to do during this time, then feel free to expand your discussion from step 3 in order to reach closure on your topic of the day.

5. Congratulations Cool Down (5 minutes)

Sit back and grab a glass of something cool to drink and reflect on all you’ve accomplished in just one hour! You started on a positive note, and you’re going to end on a positive one as well. If this is an individual workout, tell yourself something that is truthful and encouraging. For example, “I finished the first hour, and if I continue to do this workout, I will master this topic.”

If you are working out with someone else, then take this time to tell your partner one thing that you appreciate about today’s workout to end the discussion on a positive note. For example, you can say, “I noticed you gave my ideas a lot of respect. I appreciate that.” Or, “When I got upset and started to cry, I appreciate the way you weren’t condescending. Thank you.”

Keep in mind that just as you don’t get physically buff after one workout, your finances aren’t going to be in perfect shape after this first effort either. So during this step you will set the topic and the time for your next workout. Maybe you’ll have a continuation of today’s workout, or maybe you’ll look at a new area. Whatever the case, decide what you’re going to cover next time and put it in writing. After you and your mate have exercised with this money workout a half dozen times, you’ll find yourself stronger, smarter, and sweeter.

Tip Sheet

At the end of every chapter is a “Workout Tip Sheet” that you have on hand to help facilitate the workout and keep it flowing, without wasting time to look back and forth in the chapter. Here’s a sample Workout Tip Sheet.

1. Make-Up-Your-Mind Warm up (5 minutes)

• Say something positive.

• Commit to work on the topic.

2. Strength Training (10 minutes)

• Write down realistic short-term and long-term goals.

• List means of overcoming obstacles.

3. Cardio Burn (20 minutes)

• List specific steps to accomplish each goal and delegate


• Research topical tools at www.elliekay.com.

4. Take Your Heart Rate (20 minutes)

• Implement work on each specific step.

• Fill in facts and figures.

5. Congratulations Cool Down (5 minutes)

• Say something positive.

• Set topic for next workout.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mental Health, Happy Places and Expectations

Today I did something I haven't done in a while.

Despite all the work I have piling up, I took a mental health day. Partially due to health reasons, but partially because I just wanted to veg and do nothing.

I spent the entire day reading in bed. Seven blissful books. Well, sorta. Two completely sucked, three were okay, one was good, and the last was AMAZING.

Seriously, if you have not read Deanna Raybourn, you are missing out. Now, for my CBA friends out there, I will say that she writes for the ABA. However, I don't find anything in her books objectionable. Her writing is so beautiful and so engaging that I hate for her books to end. They have a very Gothic feel, which I love, but unlike the Gothics I ate up in my youth (and frankly still adore), her heroines are strong, brave women who are willing to fight for themselves, and for justice.

That said, I probably won't be able to read or write anything for a while because her books are so amazing that nothing can come close to being as satisfying.

I'm so glad I saved her book for last.

I've been raving to a couple of my friends, who wanted to know which of her books to read. I say, read all of them. You need to read the Lady Julia Grey books in order, IMO, so start with Silent in The Grave. Her book, The Dead Travel Fast, is what I read tonight, and that one is unrelated to the Lady Julia Grey books.

Which leads to my thoughts on expectations. Yikes! I hope, now that I've raved about these books, you don't read them and hate them. But you know, it's funny, I've had The Dead Travel Fast since it came out, and I've been afraid to read it. I've LOVED the LJG series for so long that I didn't want to read this other book. Let's cut to the chase here. I am so sick of vampires. I hate vampire books because I am so sick of them. I refuse to read the Twilight books. You seriously cannot pay me enough to read one more vampire book. So when Deanna said something about this being a vampire book (and I honestly don't remember her exact words, just that they included the dreaded V word), I hesitated. And I've held off on reading this book because I couldn't bear the thought of hating something Deanna wrote because I didn't want to pollute my precious LJG books.

However, book #6 in my reading binge sucked so heinously that a.) I couldn't get any lower in hating a book, b.) I knew that even though I hate vampires, I adore Deanna's way with words, so there had to be something redeeming about this book, and c.) none of the 33 books in the TBR stack by my bed looked any better. (Just to be clear here- the 33 in this TBR stack is only one of many TBR stacks. I was too lazy to get up and paw through the others) So I took a chance. And I'm very glad I did. LOVED the book. And, to be clear, it is not your average vampire book. I won't give it away, but it was perfectly brilliant in how she handled the vampire element. Sometimes, even though you think you know what you're expecting, they are blown away beyond your wildest dreams.

So now I am in my happy place. I've spent an entire day doing nothing but relaxing in bed with my heating pad and TBR pile. Dr. Pepper and chocolate may have also been involved.

Technically, I got nothing productive done today. But I am feeling much more "me" and much less the frazzled mommy with a million things on her plate and not enough hours to handle it all. I have a feeling that my mental health day will pay off in the coming days because for the first time in a long time, I actually feel happy, relaxed, and ready to handle all the junk that's been coming my way.

How about you? How do you cope with things getting a little crazy?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Thank God He's not bipolar

It's been one heck of a day... I am seriously on the brink of a weird meltdown, and the day's not even done yet! I keep looking at the clock, thinking more time has to have gone by, but no... sadly, just a day that's not quite finished.

It seems like for every really good thing that happens, something worse comes up to counter it. And then, something really good will happen. So I get happy again, and then WHAM!

For a while, I was like, um God, what is UP with you today?

And then I realized something very cool. Nothing is up with Him today. He is constant. His happiness and mood doesn't changed based on the good and bad events of the day. His love for us doesn't change based on whether or not we did everything right, or like I did a couple of times today, we made some mistakes.

As much as I am up and down, He is not.

I also realized another really cool thing. As bad as my day has been, and as many challenges have been thrown my way, I've had the occasional breaks in the clouds with some things that have made me smile and brightened my day. Yes, I am down about the icky things, but I am so grateful that I have more than just icky things in my life.

So, despite what has been a very bad day in some ways, and a pretty good day in others, I am able to rest in the knowledge, that either way, God is still God. And that's the ultimate in goodness.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be...

So we all know how much I hate cowboys, right? If you didn't, well, now you do. I grew up around cowboys. No offense to the cowboys out there, but cowboys stink. They work with smelly animals and step in their smelly poop all day. I moved away from cowboy land on purpose.

Well... here is the horrible traumatic irony of my life.

My 10yo loves horses and is in a riding program. She's been having a blast, and I get to be cowgirl momma every other week. I'd tell you how much I hated it except that the joy on my daughter's face that begins the second she wakes up on riding days and doesn't leave until the next morning has me unable to think of all the things I hate about being around cowboys. Well, okay. I still remember that horse poop stinks. :)

Anyway, they offered riding lessons to the parents. To which I said, "no thanks." I know how to ride a horse. I might still even be able to saddle one. I barrel raced for a while as a kid. I was just not fond of the stinky parts of riding, of which there are many. Don't even get me started on cleaning out stalls. I have children to clean up after, thank you very much. I'd rather be reading.

Next thing I know, hubby signs up for riding lessons. My sweet, mild mannered city boy for whom I left the country, never to return again, decides to learn how to ride. He bought his first pair of cowboy boots at age 43. No, I'm not having them bronzed. I might burn them, except they were sooooooo expensive.

Anyway, he was acting funny, so I sat him down and asked him why he was so gung-ho over all this.

The man looks me in the eye and says, "I've always wanted to be a cowboy."


Ladies, let this be a lesson to you. Even if you purposely don't marry a cowboy because you HATE cowboys, you just may well end up married to one anyway. *sigh*

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's okay to not finish

For the past two, maybe three, months, my life has been insane. All sorts of unexpected keeps popping up and messing up my flow. To say things are backlogged would be such a gross understatement that well... I think you get the picture.

My personality is a do-er. I get it done, and I get it done right. Usually the first time. My tendency is to start a project and not stop until I finish. This works great for me, except the times when the project is so big that I get behind on my other projects and then have to race to catch up there. At times, I do without sleep and turn into a big cranky monster to get it all done.

And in these past few months, it just hasn't worked for me. Mostly because of an injury to my hand, and now my back, that has pretty well slowed me down and partially incapacitated me. I haven't been able to complete my projects. Some days, I've actually had to *gasp* rest. I started a new plan of attack on life that has consisted of setting limits. For X amount of time, I will work on X project. When the time's up, whether I'm done or not, I stop and move on to the next task.

Today, as I closed up one project, happy that I'd made progress, but disappointed that I didn't finish, I realized something. It's okay. Yes, I wanted to plow through (at the expense of other things I need to do), and if I kept going, I'd probably finish late tonight. But then, I'd be mad at myself for not doing a lot of other things I should have.

I am learning what balance looks like. And I'm adjusting to the fact that even though it isn't done, it really is okay. (And when I've told myself that a thousand times, I'll believe it. ;) )

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election thoughts from my 10yo

So today is election day...

Sad to say, I'm most happy that the phone calls are finally ending. Honestly, I've been miserable this whole election. The ads have made me sick. The phone calls didn't just border on being obnoxious, they were obnoxious. I wanted to be able to vote no on everything and everyone.

But I didn't. Well, okay, I did. I voted no on everything I could possibly vote no on. And the rest of the choices... ended up being the lesser of two evils. I hate that our country comes down to these kinds of choices. I have to remind myself that we should be grateful for the fact that we have a choice. So many people in this world don't get one.

On the way home from church, the kids asked who we voted for. We told them that we voted for Pedro. I want the kids to grow up learning how to determine the best candidates, not just taking someone's word for it. Our 10yo made the comment that she didn't like any of them because of how mean they were on TV. She started picking apart one ad in particular and how they took a person's quote out of context.

I asked her who she would have voted for, and she said that she didn't know. Since she hadn't taken the time to research the candidates or issues, so she couldn't make a decision. All she knew was that the ads were lies and that people needed to do better research to decide.

Can I reiterate that my daughter just turned ten?

I can't tell you how proud I am of her- she understands something that most voters in America fail to grasp. She understands what an important task we have in choosing who and what to vote for. She knows that the ads only tell a fraction of the truth. And, she knows that she has an obligation as a citizen of this country to do that work.

I'm so glad our country's future is in her hands.

And I hope that when you talk with your children about elections, it's not just about Democrats, Republicans, issues, and what they should vote. But talk to them about WHY they vote, and that you have to dig deeper to find the truth.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Storycrafter's Seminar with Susan May Warren

Registration ends Monday November 1st for the Storycrafter’s Seminar. Taught by award-winning novelist and national speaker Susan May Warren, this seminar will help you take your story idea and turn it into a novel. For more information visit www.acfwcolorado.com/events. Susie was the 2010 ACFW Mentor of the Year. You don't want to miss her teaching and support! Event sponsored by HIS Writers, a local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Here is more complete information on the Seminar:

The Storycrafter’s Seminar

Featuring Susan May Warren
RITA Award Winning Novelist and Writing Coach

Saturday, November 13th, 2010—8:30 am - 4 pm

Graystone Castle Event Center
(formerly Radisson Graystone Castle)
I-25 & 120th Avenue
Thornton, Colorado

Have you always wanted to write a story but didn’t know where to start? If so, the Storycrafter's Seminar is for you! RITA Award-winning author and writing coach Susan May Warren will teach you story structure, go step-by-step in the character creation and plotting process, then show you how to apply it to your story. She’ll brainstorm your idea, share essential secrets of storytelling, and finally, you'll take home a plan that will act as a map for your novel. With time for writing, as well as learning, it’s a day for writers of all levels that will jumpstart your novel onto the road to publication.


Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-five novels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A RITA winner, as well as a four-time Christy award finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at www.susanmaywarren.com.


Registration ends November 1, 2010. Cost is $109 and includes:

* Storycrafter's workbook
* Continental breakfast
* Deli lunch buffet

The event will be held in Thornton, Colorado, 12 miles north of downtown Denver and 30 minutes from the airport, in the Graystone Castle Event Center (formerly Radisson Graystone Castle).

Register at www.acfwcolorado.com/events

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Two Tickets to a Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul

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:

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball

WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)

***Special thanks to Ashley Boyer and Staci Carmichael of Waterbrook Multnomah for sending me a review copy.***


Expertly weaving together fantasy, romance and Biblical truths, Donita K. Paul penned the best-selling, fan-favorite DragonKeeper Chronicles series. After retiring early from teaching, she began a second career as an award-winning author and loves serving as a mentor for new writers of all ages. And when she’s not putting pen to paper, Donita makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys spending time with her grandsons, cooking, beading, stamping, and knitting.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307458997
ISBN-13: 978-0307458995

Our family loves Donita K. Paul's books. I've been excited about this book ever since Donita talked about writing it a few months back. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. My 10yo is reading (or should I say inhaling) her DragonKeeper Chronicle books. We loved her book with Evangeline Denmark, The Dragon and the Turtle, so when Two Tickets to a Christmas Ball showed up on our doorstep, the 10yo lunged for it. And then I informed her it was mine, and it was a grown-up book. She wasn't too pleased with me.

Unfortunately, I've had severe tendonitis in my thumb for going on a month now. My time on the computer has been limited (hence, no blogs). And, the worst- it is PAINFUL to hold a book. So it's sat on my table, taunting me. Well, I finally gave in. It was excruciating to read the book because I couldn't find a good way to hold it, but let me tell you, it was worth it. I'd want to put the book down because my hand hurt so bad, but I couldn't because the book was too good!

I thought the story was absolutely charming, and it transported me to a world where magic still exists. I really hope that she continues this as a series and lets us explore more of that world. I very much enjoyed it. Like all of her characters, the characters in this book did not disappoint. They were so real, and they're the kind of people you want to spend a long time with.

And, because my 10yo is dying to read it, I should also say that while it has nothing that I wouldn't be ashamed for her to read in the book and there's nothing inappropriate in the story, I do think that she's still a little too young to read a romance. So she'll have to wait. But when she does get a chance, I know she'll love it too. I'm so glad that I can start building up a collection of books like these to share with her when she's old enough.

I highly recommend this book, and if you're looking for a good Christmas story, or really, just a good book in general, you'll definitely want to pick this one up.


Christmas. Cora had been trying to catch it for four years. She scurried down the sidewalk, thankful that streetlights and brightly lit storefronts counteracted the gloom of early nightfall. Somewhere, sometime, she’d get a hold of how to celebrate Christmas. Maybe even tonight.

With snowflakes sticking to her black coat, Christmas lights blinking around shop windows, and incessant bells jingling, Cora should have felt some holiday cheer.

And she did.


Just not much.

At least she was on a Christmas errand this very minute. One present for a member of the family. Shouldn’t that count for a bit of credit in the Christmas-spirit department?

Cora planned out her Christmas gift giving in a reasonable manner. The execution of her purchasing schedule gave her a great deal of satisfaction. Tonight’s quest was a book for Uncle Eric—something about knights and castles, sword fights, shining armor, and all that.

One or two gifts purchased each week from Labor Day until December 15, and her obligations were discharged efficiently, economically, and without the excruciating last-minute frenzy that descended upon other people…like her three sisters, her mother, her grandmother, her aunts.

Cora refused to behave like her female relatives and had decided not to emulate the male side of the family either. The men didn’t buy gifts. They sometimes exchanged bottles from the liquor store, but more often they drank the spirits themselves.

Her adult ambition had been to develop her own traditions for the season, ones that sprouted from the Christianity she’d discovered in college. The right way to celebrate the birth of Christ. She avoided the chaos that could choke Christmas. Oh dear. Judgmental again. At least now she recognized when she slipped.

She glanced around Sage Street. Not too many shoppers. The quaint old shops were decked out for the holidays, but not with LED bulbs and inflated cartoon figures.

Since discovering Christianity, she’d been confused about the trappings of Christmas—the gift giving, the nativity scenes, the carols, even the Christmas tree. Every year she tried to acquire some historical background on the festivities. She was learning. She had hope. But she hadn’t wrapped her head around all the traditions yet.

The worst part was shopping.

Frenzy undid her. Order sustained her. And that was a good reason to steer clear of any commercialized holiday rush. She’d rather screw red light bulbs into plastic reindeer faces than push through a crowd of shoppers.

Cora examined the paper in her hand and compared it to the address above the nearest shop. Number 483 on the paper and 527 on the building. Close.

When she’d found the bookstore online, she had been amazed that a row of old-fashioned retailers still existed a few blocks from the high-rise office building where she worked. Truthfully, it was more like the bookstore found her. Every time she opened her browser, and on every site she visited, the ad for the old-fashioned new- and used-book store showed up in a banner or sidebar. She’d asked around, but none of her co-workers patronized the Sage Street Shopping District.

“Sounds like a derelict area to me,” said Meg, the receptionist. “Sage Street is near the old railroad station, isn’t it? The one they decided was historic so they wouldn’t tear it down, even though it’s empty and an eyesore?”

An odd desire to explore something other than the mall near her apartment seized Cora. “I’m going to check it out.”

Jake, the security guard, frowned at her. “Take a cab. You don’t want to be out too late over there.”

Cora walked. The brisk air strengthened her lungs, right? The exercise pumped her blood, right? A cab would cost three, maybe four dollars, right?

An old man, sitting on the stoop of a door marked 503, nodded at her. She smiled, and he winked as he gave her a toothless grin. Startled, she quickened her pace and gladly joined the four other pedestrians waiting at the corner for the light to change.

Number 497 emblazoned the window of an ancient shoe store on the opposite corner. She marched on. In this block she’d find the book and check another item off her Christmas list.

Finally! “Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad, Books,” Cora read the sign aloud and then grasped the shiny knob. It didn’t turn. She frowned. Stuck? Locked? The lights were on. She pressed her face against the glass. A man sat at the counter. Reading. How appropriate.

Cora wrenched the knob. A gust of wind pushed with her against the door, and she blew into the room. She stumbled and straightened, and before she could grab the door and close it properly, it swung closed, without the loud bang she expected.

“I don’t like loud noises,” the man said without looking up from his book.

“Neither do I,” said Cora.

He nodded over his book. With one gnarled finger, he pushed his glasses back up his nose.

Must be an interesting book. Cora took a quick look around. The place could use stronger lights. She glanced back at the clerk. His bright lamp cast him and his book in a golden glow.

Should she peruse the stacks or ask?

She decided to browse. She started to enter the aisle between two towering bookcases.

“Not there,” said the old man.

“I beg your pardon?” said Cora.

“How-to books. How to fix a leaky faucet. How to build a bridge. How to mulch tomatoes. How to sing opera. How-to books. You don’t need to know any of that, do you?”


“Wrong aisle, then.” He placed the heavy volume on the counter and leaned over it, apparently absorbed once more.

Cora took a step toward him. “I think I saw a movie like this once.”

His head jerked up, his scowl heavier. He glared over the top of his glasses at the books on the shelves as if they had suddenly moved or spoken or turned bright orange.

“A movie? Here? I suppose you mean the backdrop of a bookstore. Not so unusual.” He arched an eyebrow. “You’ve Got Mail and 84 Charing Cross Road.”

“I meant the dialogue. You spoke as if you knew what I needed.”

He hunched his shoulders. The dark suspenders stretched across the faded blue of his shirt. “Reading customers. Been in the business a long time.”

“I’m looking for a book for my uncle. He likes castles, knights, tales of adventure. That sort of thing.”

He sighed, closed his book, and tapped its cover. “This is it.” He stood as Cora came to the desk. “Do you want me to wrap it and send it? We have the service. My grandson’s idea.”

Cora schooled her face and her voice. One of the things she excelled in was not showing her exasperation. She’d been trained by a dysfunctional family, and that had its benefits. She knew how to take guff and not give it back. Maintaining a calm attitude was a good job skill.

She tried a friendly smile and addressed the salesclerk.

“I want to look at it first and find out how much it costs.”

“It’s the book you want, and the price is eleven dollars and thirteen cents.”

Cora rubbed her hand over the cover. It looked and felt like leather, old leather, but in good repair. The book must be ancient.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Which?” the old man barked.

“Which what?”

“Which part of the statement am I sure about? It doesn’t matter because I’m sure about both.”

Cora felt her armor of detachment suffer a dent. The man was impossible. She could probably order a book online and get it wrapped and delivered right to her uncle with less aggravation. But dollar signs blinked in neon red in her mind as she thought how much that would cost. No need to be hasty.

Curtain rings rattled on a rod, and Cora looked up to see a younger version of the curmudgeon step into the area behind the counter.

The younger man smiled. He had the same small, wiry build as the older version, but his smile was warm and genuine. He looked to be about fifty, but his hair was still black, as black as the old man’s hair was white. He stretched out his hand, and Cora shook it.

“I’m Bill Wizbotterdad. This is my granddad, William Wizbotterdad.”

“Let me guess. Your father is named Will?”

Bill grinned, obviously pleased she’d caught on quickly. “Willie Wizbotterdad. He’s off in Europe collecting rare books.”

“He’s not!” said the elder shop owner.

“He is.” Bill cast his granddad a worried look.

“That’s just the reason he gave for not being here.” William shook his head and leaned across the counter. “He doesn’t like Christmas. We have a special job to do at Christmas, and he doesn’t like people and dancing and matrimony.”

Bill put his arm around his grandfather and pulled him back. He let go of his granddad and spun the book on the scarred wooden counter so that Cora could read the contents. “Take a look.” He opened the cover and flipped through the pages. “Colored illustrations.”

A rattling of the door knob was followed by the sound of a shoulder thudding against the wood. Cora turned to see the door fly open with a tall man attached to it. The stranger brushed snow from his sleeves, then looked up at the two shop owners. Cora caught them giving each other a smug smile, a wink, and a nod of the head.

Odd. Lots of oddness in this shop.

She liked the book, and she wanted to leave before more snow accumulated on the streets. Yet something peculiar about this shop and the two men made her curious. Part of her longed to linger. However, smart girls trusted their instincts and didn’t hang around places that oozed mystery. She didn’t feel threatened, just intrigued. But getting to know the peculiar booksellers better was the last thing she wanted, right? She needed to get home and be done with this Christmas shopping business. “I’ll take the book.”

The newcomer stomped his feet on the mat by the door, then took off his hat.

Cora did a double take. “Mr. Derrick!”

He cocked his head and scrunched his face. “Do I know you?” The man was handsome, even wearing that comical lost expression. “Excuse me. Have we met?”

“We work in the same office.”

He studied her a moment, and a look of recognition lifted the frown. “Third desk on the right.” He hesitated, then snapped his fingers. “Cora Crowden.”


He jammed his hand in his pocket, moving his jacket aside. His tie hung loosely around his neck. She’d never seen him looking relaxed. The office clerks called him Serious Simon Derrick.

“I drew your name,” she said.

He looked puzzled.

“For the gift exchange. Tomorrow night. Office party.”

“Oh. Of course.” He nodded. “I drew Mrs. Hudson. She’s going to retire, and I heard her say she wanted to redecorate on a shoestring.”

“That’s Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Hudson is taking leave to be with her daughter, who is giving birth to triplets.”

He frowned and began looking at the books.

“You won’t be there, will you?” Cora asked.

“At the party? No, I never come.”

“I know. I mean, I’ve worked at Sorenby’s for five years, and you’ve never been there.”

The puzzled expression returned to Serious Simon’s face. He glanced to the side. “I’m looking for the how-to section.”

Cora grinned. “On your left. Second aisle.”

He turned to stare at her, and she pointed to the shelves Mr. Wizbotterdad had not let her examine. Mr. Derrick took a step in that direction.

Cora looked back at the shop owners and caught them leaning back in identical postures, grins on their faces, and arms crossed over their chests.

Bill jerked away from the wall, grabbed her book, rummaged below the counter, and brought out a bag. He slid the book inside, then looked at her. “You didn’t want the book wrapped and delivered?”

“No, I’ll just pay for it now.”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like to look around some more?” asked Bill.

“Right,” said William. “No hurry. Look around. Browse. You might find something you like.”

Bill elbowed William.

Simon Derrick had disappeared between the stacks.

William nodded toward the how-to books. “Get a book. We have a copy of How to Choose Gifts for Ungrateful Relatives. Third from the bottom shelf, second case from the wall.”

The statement earned him a “shh” from his grandson.

Cora shifted her attention to the man from her office and walked a few paces to peek around the shelves. “Mr. Derrick, I’m getting ready to leave. If you’re not coming to the party, may I just leave the gift on your desk tomorrow?”

He glanced at her before concentrating again on the many books. “That’s fine. Nice to see you, Miss Crowden.”

“Crowder,” she corrected, but he didn’t answer.

She went to the counter and paid. Mr. Derrick grunted when she said good-bye at the door.

“Come back again,” said Bill.

“Yes,” said William. “We have all your heart’s desires.”

Bill elbowed him, and Cora escaped into the blustering weather.

She hiked back to the office building. Snow sprayed her with tiny crystals, and the sharp wind nipped her nose. Inside the parking garage, warm air helped her thaw a bit as she walked to the spot she leased by the month. It would be a long ride home on slippery roads. But once she arrived, there would be no one there to interrupt her plans. She got in the car, turned the key, pushed the gearshift into reverse, looked over her shoulder, and backed out of her space.

She would get the gift ready to mail off and address a few cards in the quiet of her living room. There would be no yelling. That’s what she liked about living states away from her family. No one would ambush her with complaints and arguments when she walked through the door.

Except Skippy. Skippy waited. One fat, getting fatter, cat to talk to. She did complain at times about her mistress being gone too long, about her dinner being late, about things Cora could not fathom. But Cora never felt condemned by Skippy, just prodded a little.


Once inside her second-floor apartment, she pulled off her gloves, blew her nose, and went looking for Skippy.

The cat was not behind the curtain, sitting on the window seat, staring at falling snow. Not in her closet, curled up in a boot she’d knocked over. Not in the linen closet, sleeping on clean towels. She wasn’t in any of her favorite spots. Cora looked around and saw the paper bag that, this morning, had been filled with wadded scraps of Christmas paper. Balls of pretty paper and bits of ribbon littered the floor. There. Cora bent over and spied her calico cat in the bag.

“Did you have fun, Skippy?”

The cat rolled on her back and batted the top of the paper bag. Skippy then jumped from her cave and padded after Cora, as her owner headed for the bedroom.

Thirty minutes later, Cora sat at the dining room table in her cozy pink robe that enveloped her from neck to ankles. She stirred a bowl of soup and eyed the fifteen packages she’d wrapped earlier in the week. Two more sat waiting for their ribbons.

These would cost a lot less to send if some of these people were on speaking terms. She could box them together and ship them off in large boxes.

She spooned chicken and rice into her mouth and swallowed.

The soup was a tad too hot. She kept stirring.

She could send one package with seven gifts inside to Grandma Peterson, who could dispense them to her side of the family. She could send three to Aunt Carol.

She took another sip. Cooler.

Aunt Carol could keep her gift and give two to her kids. She could send five to her mom…

Cora grimaced. She had three much older sisters and one younger. “If Mom were on speaking terms with my sisters, that would help.”

She eyed Skippy, who had lifted a rear leg to clean between her back toes. “You don’t care, do you? Well, I’m trying to. And I think I’m doing a pretty good job with this Christmas thing.”

She reached over and flipped the switch on her radio. A Christmas carol poured out and jarred her nerves. She really should think about Christmas and not who received the presents. Better to think “my uncle” than “Joe, that bar bum and pool shark.”

She finished her dinner, watching her cat wash her front paws.

“You and I need to play. You’re”—she paused as Skippy turned

a meaningful glare at her—“getting a bit rotund, dear kitty.”

Skippy sneezed and commenced licking her chest.

After dinner, Cora curled up on the couch with her Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad bag. Skippy came to investigate the rattling paper.

Uncle Eric. Uncle Eric used to recite “You Are Old, Father William.” He said it was about a knight. But Cora wasn’t so sure. She dredged up memories from college English. The poem was by Lewis Carroll, who was really named Dodson, Dogson, Dodgson, or something.

“He wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” she said. “There’s a cat in the story, but not as fine a cat as you. He smiles too much.”

Skippy gave her a squint-eyed look.

Cora eased the leather-bound book out of the bag. “The William I met at the bookstore qualifies for at least ancient.”

She put the book in her lap and ran her fingers over the embossed title: How the Knights Found Their Ladies.

She might have been hasty. She didn’t know if Uncle Eric would like this. She hefted the book, guessing its weight to be around four pounds. She should have found a lighter gift. This would cost a fortune to mail.

Skippy sniffed at the binding, feline curiosity piqued. Cora stroked her fur and pushed her back. She opened the book to have a peek inside. A piece of thick paper fell out. Skippy pounced on it as it twirled to the floor.

“What is it, kitty? A bookmark?” She slipped it out from between Skippy’s paws, then turned the rectangle over in her hands. Not a bookmark. A ticket.

Admit one to the Wizards’ Christmas Ball

Costumes required

Dinner and Dancing

and your Destiny

Never heard of it. She tucked the ticket in between the pages and continued to flip through the book, stopping to read an occasional paragraph.

This book wasn’t for Uncle Eric at all. It was not a history, it was a story. Kind of romantic too. Definitely not Uncle Eric’s preferred reading.

Skippy curled against her thigh and purred.

“You know what, cat? I’m going to keep it.”

Skippy made her approval known by stretching her neck up and rubbing her chin on the edge of the leather cover. Cora put the book on the sofa and picked up Skippy for a cuddle. The cat squirmed out of her arms, batted at the ticket sticking out of the pages, and scampered off.

“I love you too,” called Cora.

She pulled the ticket out and read it again: Wizards’ Christmas Ball. She turned out the light and headed for bed. But as she got ready, her eye caught the computer on her desk. Maybe she could find a bit more information.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This not making excuses thing...

They say that sometimes you have to get sick and tired of being sick and tired to finally do something. So in my great wisdom of realizing that I will never get in shape unless I just do it, I joined a gym.

Stop laughing.

Because not only did I join a gym, I've even used my membership.

I mean it. Stop laughing.

Because not only have I used it, but I purchased personal training sessions, and have been doing exactly what I've been told.

Now you may pick yourself off the floor.

It's been a hard week since I got back from conference. I can't believe I've already been home a week. I arrived at the conference with some weird allergy thing happening. Three days into the conference, I realized our beds and pillows were all feather. No wonder. I'm severely allergic to those things. So we switched it out. I started feeling good again. Then I hit the plane coming home. I was sooo tired. But, I figured it was due to lack of sleep at the conference. By the time I arrived home, I just didn't feel good. Figured it was fatigue.

I ended up sleeping almost all day last Tuesday. However, I had to get up for my first personal training appointment, and I wasn't going to miss it since I'd lose the money I spent because I didn't meet the 24 hour cancellation policy. My first massive workout in years and I feel like total crap. By the end of the evening, I realized huh, I bet I'm actually sick.

Wednesday, every muscle in my body hurt. I let myself rest, slept most of the day again, took good care of myself. I figured I probably had a virus, and did everything I could think of to get better.

Thursday, I woke up feeling great. I decided I'd probably had a small bug, but my soreness was from the workout. However, by noon, I was so worn out, I wanted to die. My apologies to the friends who were with me. Because, as I found out Friday at the doctor's, I was really sick.

Friday, I did my workout again. Not so much I wanted to, but because my friend who's been prodding me to workout and going with me as incentive to make me do it, said so. And I wanted to die. Which is when the doctor verified, that yup, I have a virus that's been going around and that my fatigue, dizziness, and headaches are all a part of it. Nothing I can do but rest.

Saturday, I still limited my activities. I started to realize that I feel good when I first get up, but by noon, I'm out of steam and need a three hour nap to get me through to bedtime.

Sunday, I worked out again. The nap thing was definitely helping.

Yesterday, I felt pretty good, so I increased my activity, started catching up on life, cleaned part of my house, and only needed an hour nap. Wahoo! I'm getting better!

Then I woke up today. I physically couldn't get out of bed, I was so tired, so sore, and so dizzy. Oops. So I slept in, got some rest, and yes, I made it to my appointment with my personal trainer. The man worked me so hard, I wanted to die. Still do, actually.

Why this whole listing of my very boring life of the past week? Well, because as I sat on my couch, berating myself for being so stupid as to work out while so sick, I realized something. Yes, being as sick as I am, I have a valid excuse to not work out. But because I have someone pushing me, and because I truly am tired of being out of shape, I'm doing it anyway. Plus, it occurred to me that there will always be an excuse. Not having enough time, enough money, etc.

Which has led to me to analyzing my other excuses in other realms. Are my reasons for doing or not doing things right now legitimate? Or can I push past my excuse and do it anyway? In some instances, I think I can rely a lot less on what I think I can do, and push on.

Except, of course, right now, I really need a nap.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Love Me Tender by Janice Hanna

I have been excited about this book ever since I heard about it. In case you didn't know, Summerside Press has just started a new line of books based on song titles from the '30s to the '70s. I've been a big fan of Summerside's books from day one, so combine that with Janice's fantastic writing, and I knew this book was not to be missed!

My review: This was such a delightful story. It reminded me a lot of some of the books I read as a teen. I had a lot of my stepmom's old books from her childhood, and many of them took place in the '50s, which is when Janice's book is set. It made me wish I had those books again. There's something very sweet and charming about the world back then. I love the innocence. For me, this book brought back so many good memories and was a complete joy to read. This is not the book for a person wanting to wrestle with life's complexities. I loved the escape to simplicity and being able to simply enjoy a lighthearted read.


Note from Janice Hanna Thompson, author of LOVE ME TENDER:

Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping by to share in the excitement of LOVE ME TENDER, my latest inspirational romance. When I heard about the new “When I Fall in Love” line at Summerside, I flipped! Why? Because I love the ‘50s, and I love music! (The line is based on song titles from the 1930s to the 1970s.) I happen to be a playwright with a really fun musical comedy titled JOHNNY BE GOOD, a story that’s near and dear to my heart. I decided to put a twist on that stage play and turn it into a rockin’ romantic novel! With that in mind, I hope you enjoy this “Hollywood Heartthrob” interview with four of the main characters from the novel.

Hollywood Heartthrob, “Man About Town” Column

Welcome, readers! This is Sunset Sam, columnist for Hollywood Heartthrob magazine, here to interview several characters from LOVE ME TENDER, a new book by author Janice Hanna Thompson. I read the book in preparation for this interview and had a hip-hip hoppin’, be-be-boppin’ time reading about the characters down at Sweet Sal’s Soda Shoppe in Laguna Beach. I’ve been to Sweet Sal’s many times, of course. Everyone in Hollywood knows it’s all the rage. Where else can you get a big, thick cheeseburger, hot, salty fries and the thickest chocolate malts in the country? Now that I’ve enticed you with the food, let’s have a little chat with some of the key players in our story. We’ll start with Debbie Carmichael, daughter of the owners of Sweet Sal’s.

Debbie, could you tell us a little about what your day-to-day life is like?

Most of the girls my age are in college, but I decided to stay in Laguna Beach and help my parents out at our family run soda shop. I have the best life ever! I live across the street from the Pacific Ocean, and love spending time at the cliffs, watching the waves lap the shore. When I’m at the soda shop, the jukebox is always playing. I’m gaga over Elvis’s new song, “Love Me Tender.” It’s all the rage with teen girls right now. Of course, I’m also head over heels for Bobby Conrad, but don’t tell my friends, okay? They think I’m more mature than most of the other teen girls who hang out Sweet Sal’s. Of course, I’m a little distracted by that new guy, Johnny Hartman. He’s so sweet and handsome, and I hear he’s a great singer, too!

Johnny, I read in another article that you came all the way from Topeka Kansas to Hollywood to make it big. How does Hollywood compare to Topeka?

There’s really no way to compare Topeka to Los Angeles. People out here (in California) are more up on current styles, the hottest tunes and the hippest actors and actresses. Back home, folks are so grounded. That isn’t always the case here in L.A. I hope I don’t sound too stuck up when I say that back in Topeka, I was a big fish in a small pond. And because my dad’s a pastor, I had plenty of opportunities to sing in church. But out here in L.A. no one even knows who I am. My agent, Jim Jangles, is working hard to get me a gig on television. I’m auditioning for Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts soon. Say a little prayer for me!

Bobby, I understand you were slotted to sing at the fundraiser at Sweet Sal’s Soda Shoppe, but had to cancel. Could you explain your sudden departure?

Yes, I was scheduled to sing at the fundraiser, but just got word that I’ll be filming my new movie that same weekend. I was really disappointed to have to tell the Carmichaels the news, but hopefully they understand. I think it’s going to be okay, because my agent, Jim Jangles, is sending his latest prodigy—a kid from Topeka named Johnny Hartman—in my place. I hear he’s quite a singer.

Sal, could you tell our readers about some of the Hollywood stars you’ve met over the years?

First of all, thanks for including me in this interview! It’s been decades since I was a teen, but I still secretly read Hollywood Heartthrob magazine. (Shh! Don’t tell my husband, Frankie, or my daughter, Debbie!) I’m blessed to be the co-owner of Sweet Sal’s Soda Shoppe in Laguna Beach, and I’ve met a lot of stars who’ve come through on their way to places like Dana Point and San Diego. Here’s a list of some of my favorites: Doris Day, Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Ozzie and Harriet. There are dozens more, of course. I want to personally invite all of your readers to stop by Sweet Sal’s Soda Shoppe so that they can see the photos on our walls! And while you’re here, why not enjoy a creamy chocolate malt?

Debbie, a little birdie told me that you and the other girls in Laguna Beach are gaga over Elvis, Pat Boone and Bobby Conrad. Now that you’ve gotten to know (and love) Johnny Hartman, what would you say sets him apart from the other great singers you’ve known?

Oh, no doubt about it. . .Johnny isn’t just a great singer, he’s got a heart of gold. I especially love his strong faith. Unlike so many of the other singers in town, he doesn’t put himself first. With Johnny, it’s God first. . .all the way! And when he sings. . .man! That voice! It’s a smooth as velvet. (And it doesn’t hurt that he’s so dreamy! Talk about handsome!)

Johnny, you’ve been asked to fill in for Bobby Conrad at the Laguna Beach fundraiser. Can you tell us how you’re feeling as you look forward to the big day?

I don’t mind admitting I’m a little nervous. Who wouldn’t be? Thousands of girls from Orange County and beyond are looking forward to seeing Bobby Conrad in person. Now I’ve been asked to fill in for him. I’ll be lucky if they don’t boo me off the stage or toss rotten tomatoes at me! Hopefully my new love song—the one I wrote for the gorgeous Debbie Carmichael—will win them over. I hope so, anyway!

Bobby, many Christians have a hard time hanging onto their faith once they achieve stardom. You seem so grounded. What’s your secret?

I always try to honor God in everything I do—whether it’s movies or songs for the radio. There’s a verse that I love, and it’s one I try to live by: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” The way I look at it, if I make a choice to put God first, He’s going to bless me above and beyond anything I could ever ask for, anyway. Even if He didn’t bless me, though, I would still serve Him. It’s really the only way to live a fulfilling life. (And trust me when I say that people out here in L.A. are looking for ways to live a fulfilling life!)

Sal, we were sorry to hear about your husband’s health problems. How is he doing now?

Praise the Lord, Frankie seems to be doing a little better. His heart attack several months ago really shook us up. And we got behind on the mortgage, which has made me a little nervous. Still, I choose to trust God. And now that everyone in town is banding together to put on the fundraiser to save the soda shop, I’m feeling more hopeful than ever!

Debbie, is there anything you’d like Hollywood Heartthrob readers to know as we end this interview?

Yes, I would like people to know that it is possible to live in Hollywood—to be a big star, even—and still be a person of faith. I’ve witnessed it in Bobby Conrad’s life, and in Johnny’s, too. I’d also like to share that putting your trust in God is really the only way to go. Some problems are just too big for us to handle on our own. When my dad got really sick, I made up my mind to try to “fix” the situation. What I’ve learned is this—only God can truly “fix” anything. And trust me when I say that His “fix” is far greater than anything we could ever dream up!

Thanks so much, folks! It’s been a great interview.

Well, there you have it, Hollywood Heartthrob fans. This is Sunset Sam, signing off for this week. See you next time!

Book can be purchased on my site at www.janicehannathompson.com or at www.amazon.com.

GIVEAWAY INFO: Janice Hanna Thompson is hosting a giveaway on her facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/jhannathompson). To enter, leave a comment on her page with the name of your favorite ‘50s star (movies or music) and explain why you liked him/her. The drawing to win the Be-Boppin’ ‘50s Basket (filled with great ‘50s memorabilia) will take place on the weekend of October 29th – 31st. Why? Because that’s the same weekend Janice is directing a local (Houston) production of JOHNNY BE GOOD the musical comedy that served as inspiration for LOVE ME TENDER.

To visit Janice’s webpage, go here: www.janicehannathompson.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Letting others in

I am back from ACFW. What a great conference!

It definitely was a different experience, being there as a board member. Mostly because I had that little sticker on my name badge saying "Board Member." For those of you who don't know me well, I am an introvert, and saying hi to someone I don't know well is an exercise in sheer terror. But this year, that little sticker made me step out and say hello to everyone I encountered. I think I even smiled at them without baring teeth and looking like a rabid dog. Since I represented an organization and not just me, I moved beyond myself and reached out to others. I know this will come as a great shock to other introverts, but it didn't kill me.

Some readers, especially those observing me with my peeps, may argue that I'm an extrovert, given my happiness and joy at being with said peeps. Sorry, but no. I was giddily happy to be with them, but mostly because they are my peeps, the ones who know me, the real me, and love me anyway. It's hard being a weird writer type. So even though being around people isn't very fun for me, being around the ones who know and love me is a wonderful feeling.

But now I am ready to crawl back into my hole and not have to smile at or be nice to another living being for a while now. Partially because in all that love and sharing and other usually yucky stuff, I managed to come home with a cold. I literally boarded the plane, and POOF! There it was. Thank you, strangers of whom I am usually afraid, for your gift. Now you know why I fear you. ;)

What did I learn at conference? Ummmmmmm....

I still can't tell you. Well, I could, but it would take about a year. Maybe longer. My friend on Twitter asked for a headline, and I'm not sure it really fit where I'm at. My precious friend Rachel Hauck sang the "W" song. I won't list it here, because it's one of the worst swear words a person can say, and I don't want to great struck by lightning. The "W" word has long been a thorn in my side. Partially it's about the writing, but it's also about a lot of other things in my life too. And the truth is, I'm tired. Which is why God is so gracious to me in bringing friends alongside me to hold me up, cheer me on, and be my peeps. All I know is that groundwork is being laid for God's work in me. What, I don't know. When, I don't know. Yet I am comforted knowing that I don't have to go through this alone.

As much as this introvert who would just as soon spend the rest of her life all by herself in a mountain cabin somewhere ala Unabomber, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I am learning not to be so afraid of people. And okay, while I have a captive audience, I may as well admit that I'd never be able to go without electricity and running water. I'm even willing to admit that I need people in my life. And I am so grateful for the ones who are there. Even during the rough times, they're willing to stay by my side. And a few of them are even willing to help me hide the bodies. ;)

So yeah, it was a good conference. Mostly because I was able to see beyond my fears and realize the amazing people God has put in my life. I'm still playing the "W" game, but it's a lot more bearable with the team I'm on.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fighting my way up

My original intent on posting today was going to be a blog about how proud I was of myself- I wanted to share my good news about some minor, but important accomplishments, and then see what everyone else had done that was good so we could encourage each other.

And then, those irritating birds swooped in. If you've read my "Shoo!" post, you know exactly what I'm talking about here.

Today, I finished the edits on a book I've been wanting to submit forever. It's been ready to send, but I keep finding minor things I want to change/verify/etc. I made a commitment to submit it by the ACFW conference, so I've been pushing to get it done. I got to the point of putting the proposal together to send to my agent tonight.

As I looked up the entry for word count, I found a huge problem: I'm 12k over the allowed word count.

I know it sounds dumb, but I wanted to cry. Still do. I've worked so hard on this silly book, and you know what? I'm proud of it. I read it and think, wow, this is a good book, and I hardly ever do that. So here I am, 12K to cut and days away from reaching my goal. Talk about discouraging.

Today, I also did a very brave thing. My Nia class was getting too expensive, and I was tired of having to pay for it even when I missed. With my schedule, I'd been having a hard time making them all. So I bit the bullet and joined a gym that allows me flexibility to go to whatever classes I want, whenever I want. They don't have Nia, but I think it'll work fine.

Here's the brave part: I went to the gym for the first time today. Maybe it's stupid, since I thought I'd conquered that whole exercise class fear thing. But I was really terrified of going. It's like that fear chicken decided to pop right up and say, "BWAK!"

I did a yoga class. It wasn't too bad. I didn't look like an idiot. A lady was nice to me (but I was too chicken to ask her name or offer mine). And, the teacher even pointed me out as being a good example of having proper form on one of the poses.

AND I made an appointment with a personal trainer. Yup. I admitted to this barely out of high school buff guy all of my fears, anxieties, and desires for my physical fitness. Is it pathetic that my example is a guy in his 70's? My FIL was out climbing Macchu Picchu this summer. With the shape I'm in, it'd probably kill me.

I'm still not convinced that my sessions with Mr. Buff Young Enough To Be My Kid won't kill me, either, but I've always wanted to climb a mountain. And if I don't try, I never will.

Throughout the evening, though, all kinds of little stuff kept plopping down to steal my joy. I hate that I am working so hard to do all the right things, good things, and all these little headaches keep popping up. Some days, I really wish I could have an easy button. Or at least see the payoff for all of my hard work. Because I think that's where I'm struggling the most right now. I'm working so hard. And instead of encouragement, I get these silly little birds swooping in.

If there is a point to my whining and seemingly bi-polar day, it is this. I REFUSE TO QUIT. Yes, it is true that every time I feel like I'm walking in the right direction, I also feel like a million things are trying to drag me back down and keep me behind. But I'm going to choose to believe that it's only going to make me tougher, stronger, and more capable.

Someday, people will read the book I'm struggling with and have it do something really good in their lives. Someday, I'm going to stand on top of Long's Peak and revel in God's creation.

I want you to know about these struggles, because someday, when I do reach those goals, some people are going to look at those accomplishments and think, "wow, it was so easy for her. I can't do it because I'm not as (fill in the blank) as Danica is." And that's so far from the truth. I don't have it all together, and some days, it takes all the strength I have to even attempt to do the things I need to do. But if I stop, it'll all be for nothing. Which, to me, is far more depressing than continuing the fight.

Whatever your goals are, keep fighting. Keep shooing away those nasty little birds. And someday, we'll stand on the mountain together.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Guest Posting Today!

Join me over at my friend Sharon Lavy's blog to learn about the one thing, my way of getting the most out of conferences! http://sharonalavy.blogspot.com/2010/09/preparing-for-writers-conference.html

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Good Returns by George P. Schwartz

In his new book, Good Returns: Making Money by Morally Responsible Investing, author and Chartered Investment Counselor George P. Schwartz, CFA, calls Christians and conservatives to pursue a portfolio that reflects their values. “When you buy stock in a company, you are not just holding a piece of paper. You become part owner of that company, and that role includes some rights and responsibilities,” says Schwartz. “Your financial investment is supporting something, and you need to do the research to ensure that you are not supporting or tacitly agreeing to activities that are morally abhorrent to you.”

My Review:
When the opportunity to review this book came across my inbox, I was immediately intrigued. Until I heard about this book, I hadn't even considered the idea of choosing investments based on my moral beliefs. I thought it was a fascinating idea, and so I took a look at the book.

For those who are not well-versed in investment terms and ideas, aka me, this is a very hard book to read. It took me a lot longer than usual because I had to stop and research terms and investing principles. This is such a foreign world to me that I honestly didn't know how to contextualize his information. It made me realize how ignorant I am in terms of investing and finance.

That said, I feel like after really taking this apart and studying it, I do have a better grasp of investment terms. I also think, having read this book, that when I decide to invest my money, I won't just be looking at the ROI- Return on Investment. I had never thought of myself as a part owner of a company I'm investing in, but he's right. And I think we do need to pay attention. When we put our money in a mutual fund, what exactly are we funding? Do most of us even know?

I don't necessarily agree with all of the moral standards he puts forth as being a criteria for the companies to invest in. However, I think the larger point is that as investors, we need to look at where our investments are going. For me personally, the next time I sign on the dotted line, it will be knowing fully whether or not I'm investing in a company that shares my values and is going to be supporting my beliefs. I think it's something we all need to do- yes, we should research whether or not our investment will bring us good financial returns, but it's also time we looked at the moral returns of where our money is going.

A Q&A with George P. Schwartz, CFA

Q: What does it really mean to be
an investor?

A: When you buy stock in a company or equity in a mutual fund, you become part owner of that company. You are not just holding a piece of paper. Your role as part-owner includes some rights and responsibilities. The company you own acts in your name, not only in delivering value as an investment by maintaining and improving its profitability but in what it does on a daily basis. Knowing how the company or fund is spending money is both your right and your responsibility. Your financial contribution is supporting something, and you need to do the research to ensure that you are not supporting or tacitly agreeing to activities that are morally abhorrent to you.

A 25 minute pre-recorded interview with George Schwartz featuring Good Returns is now available at www.uReadBooks.com/Schwartz. You can preview the interview in the audio player, then download the program at right to play on your station at your convenience.
Check out the other great uReadBooks interview programs available while you’re there.

Q: Why do Christians, particularly those who actively practice their faith, have the potential to be successful investors?
A: It would be downright silly to claim that only good, moral and religious people can succeed at investing. There are numerous examples of dirty, rotten scoundrels who have made killings in the stock market, so many, in fact, that the idea of ruthlessness as a prerequisite to investment success is a common cliché—the “Gordon Geckko” model, as it were. Yet, I am convinced that there is a certain relationship between conviction in spiritual matters and acumen in analyzing the market. I think that relationship lies primarily in two areas: (1) an ability to see beyond surface features into inner realities; and (2) a willingness to dedicate oneself to disciplined practices over time.

The Bible is filled with commercial imagery and financial references that have provided the basis for centuries of reflection on economic and business matters. Some of them comment quite explicitly on the virtue of investing for the sake of future security. Devout Christians have learned the concept of delayed gratification, for example. They are better able to withstand the ups and downs of the market, and they would be less likely to panic and make emotionally-driven decisions in the midst of financial crises like the market meltdown of October 2008.

Q: For moral people, there is a certain peace of mind in screening out companies whose practices conflict with their values. But do they suffer financially for that decision?

A: In a word, no. You might be surprised to discover that in following the strict guidelines for screening companies, the Catholic Advisory Board of Ave Maria Mutual Funds has only excluded about 150 companies—out of the 3,000 companies in the Russell 3000 Index. And there is nothing that says all of these rejects would have been good investments in the first place. Take the pornography industry, for example. A cursory observation of our sex-saturated culture would lead some investors to believe that the pornography industry is a sure money-maker. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the industry is crumbling. Who wants to pay for a skin flick or magazine when you can get it for free on the internet? Immoral or not, it’s likely to be a bad investment.

There are many reasons why morally responsible investments are also financially profitable investments. Companies that appreciate in value—and whose shares rise correspondingly in price—are generally companies that are well managed, whose decision makers follow sensible business practices, offer good products, and deal ethically and reliably with their suppliers, employees, and customers. In other words, they are morally responsible.

Good Returns: Making Money by Morally Responsible Investing by George P. Schwartz, CFA
Geodi Publishing May 2010
ISBN: 978-0-9844042-0-9/191 pages/hardcover/$25.00


Special thanks to Audra Jennings of the B&B Media Group for providing me with a review copy.