Monday, January 31, 2011

I'S SMART

A few weeks ago I took my first foray into the world of eBay by bidding on a curriculum I'd been researching--read, drooling over--since my kids were barely out of diapers. It's called Tapestry of Grace, and it's really geared toward kids at the Dialectic or Rhetoric stage (much older than my tots, LOL!) but I simply had to have it. Besides History, it encompasses all the Humanities and has fantastic teacher notes and projects for the kids. There's a buffet of activities and learning opportunities, even for kids in the Grammar stage. But here's the best part:

I get to self-educate on all the cool stuff I missed during my own school years!

OK, I know I sound like a nerd, and maybe I am at heart. After all, what kind of person gets so giddy about pouring over history books and the great works of literature she missed before? And the thing of it is, I won't really get to "use" said knowledge with my kidlets until they go through the curriculum the 2nd and 3rd time. (Right now they get to color maps and do word searches and do crafts, LOL!)

Can I please get a show of hands from fellow nerds--er, self-educating types? Do you ever learn stuff outside of your primary area of interest (meaning, besides craft books) just for the sake of learning? Do you feel it's important to continue learning even though you never plan to go back to school, or learn without a goal?

Friday, January 28, 2011

THE RHYTHM OF SECRETS

After reading Rhythm of Secrets by Patti Lacy, I feel like I've been on a lifelong journey through time and even to the farthest corners of the world with the heroine. The depth and layers in this book amazed me, and the frank portrayal of race relations and the treatment of unwed mothers made my heart ache. Music--oh, the music!--was like a soundtrack, and evoked memories of my musical days. There was so much life in this book! Set aside plenty of reading time, as Rhythm of Secrets is not to be rushed, but to be savored and enjoyed.

As if that's not enough, I just have to say that Patti is a sweet, sweet lady. Best wishes for success with this book, friend :D





This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Rhythm of Secrets
Kregel Publications (December 22, 2010)
by
Patti Lacy






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:







Patti Lacy, Baylor graduate, taught community college humanities until God called her to span seas and secrets in her novels, An Irishwoman's Tale and What the Bayou Saw. She has two grown children and a dog named Laura. She and her husband can be seen jog-walking the streets of Normal, Illinois, an amazing place to live for a woman born in a car. For more information, visit Patti's website at www.pattilacy.com, her blog at www.pattilacy.com/blog, and her Facebook daily Artbites.







ABOUT THE BOOK



Sheila Franklin has masqueraded as the precocious daughter of avant-garde parents in colorful 1940s New Orleans, a teen desperate for love and acceptance, and an unwed mother sent North with her shame.



After marrying Edward, Sheila artfully masks her secrets, allowing Edward to gain prominence as a conservative pastor. When one phone call from a disillusioned Vietnam veteran destroys her cover, Sheila faces an impossible choice: save her son and his beloved…or imperil Edward’s ambitions.



Inspired by a true story, The Rhythm of Secrets intermingles jazz, classical, and sacred music in a symphony trumpeting God’s grace.



Endorsements:

“A vibrant journey across time in search of the greatest truth of all: grace.”—Tosca Lee, author of Havah: The Story of Eve and Demon: A Memoir


“No longer a ‘well-kept secret,’ Patti Lacy is a master storyteller who speaks to the soul with a powerful and unique rhythm, weaving a tale so emotionally rich that story and reader become one.”—Julie Lessman, author of The Daughters of Boston series and A Hope Undaunted
“Patti Lacy pens another beautifully written story in The Rhythm of Secrets. I couldn’t put it down!”—Melanie Dobson, award-winning author of The Black Cloister
“The Rhythm of Secrets is a stirring story of faith and endurance that will keep readers turning the page until every last secret is revealed.”—Tina Ann Forkner, author of Ruby Among Us and Rose House



If you would like to read an excerpt of Rhythm of Secrets, go HERE.

Monday, January 24, 2011

PINPOINT ACCURACY

Last week in an email to a friend I wrote, "God knew how much I could take, and how much I couldn't," in regard to an area of life where I feel stretched beyond the point of breaking. After that, I went merrily about my week, thinking I had clearly deciphered God's will--after all, if He had other intentions He surely would have made them clear by now.

A last minute decision to go to a different church yesterday for the first time changed that. At the start of the message, the pastor said, "God knows how much you can take and how much you can't--and how much you can even when you think you can't. God is for you, not against you."

You always know that God is in the room. Then there are the times when GOD IS IN THE ROOM. You know that you know that you know, He has you pegged. The word is for you. (Yes, it's for everybody, but man, it's for YOU.)

It never fails to awe me how God gives us exactly what we need to propel us toward His will. Today is another day of giving thanks. Another day to believe. Lord, help my unbelief.

Have you ever been stretched beyond what you think you can handle? How'd it turn out?

Friday, January 21, 2011

I AM MY OWN WORST NIGHTMARE!

In keeping with this week's parenting theme, I decided to take the parental coolness quiz. Is anyone surprised that I failed? While I might not show up to their events wearing sweats with busted elastic (I do wear them proudly at home!) I am not cool. I'm strict. I can live with it.

And yes, I do drive a mini-van and have bangs.

Where are you on the coolness scale?





You Will Not Be a Cool Parent



And that's pretty okay. While your kids may not think of you as a friend, they will respect you.

You know that kids need discipline and structure, and you're not afraid to give it to them.

Just be careful that your strictness doesn't lead to rebellion.

It's good to have standards and rules, but you don't need to have an iron fist when enforcing them.





Wednesday, January 19, 2011

FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!

A great debate has arisen online, and since I'm a mom I had to jump in.

Many of you may have seen the Wall Street Journal article "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." It's an article which cobbles together excerpts from the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua. The article highlights how Chinese parents raise stereotypically successful children, with strictness, discipline, and multiple years of hard work. Chua details all the things her children were not allowed to do (sleepovers, plays, get anything less than A's) and she also details the battles between her and the children if the rules were even slightly bent.

The backlash to the story has been huge. The author has received threats and people have called her a multiplicity of names, most of them not nice. After all, how can a mother claim to love her children, but deprive them of basic childhood enjoyment? How can a mother say she loves her kids but drive them relentlessly using ugly tactics?

Needless to say, I HAD to buy the book.

I came away with a few different conclusions, the first one being that the WSJ article only put together the most controversial parts to produce huge publicity. (That, in itself, could be a blog post.) Also, the book, taken as a whole, is about Chua's journey as a parent and the way she starts out isn't necessarily the way she finishes. I found myself laughing and groaning, and experiencing a range of emotions and self-examination. The bottom line: I agree with the "why" of "Chinese" parenting, but not the "how."

A few points that Chua made that will stick with me:

*Skills/activities/etc are not fun until you get good at them, and you can't get good at them unless you devote yourself to developing them. It takes countless hours (read, years) to truly develop a skill. Most people refuse to develop past the not-fun part in order to get to the fun-part. They give up too soon.

*Loving something doesn't mean you'll ever be great at it. "Not if you don't work. Most people stink at the things they love." LOL, it sounds harsh, but there is a nugget of truth. How many people are willing to dedicate themselves to learning what they love backwards, forwards, inside and out? It's a lesson I could stand to learn for myself.

On the whole, I am a "Western" parent (Chua's phrasing) because I don't drive my children. I would never, for example, make them practice while on vacation or belittle my children if they make mistakes. Name calling would never be acceptable. But I can take a position of assuming my children (and myself) can grow from constructive criticism in order to improve, rather than tip-toeing around because we are too fragile to handle the truth.

What kind of parent are you? In general (not just parenting-wise) are you laid back, or do you commit yourself through hours and years of repetition and hard work to achieving your goals?

Monday, January 17, 2011

COMPETITION

My middle daughter has been in gymnastics since she was in diapers, and this past weekend after years of dedication and 9 hours per week of workouts, she finally earned the opportunity to go to her first major competition.

Like any good mom (wink, wink) I told her we wanted her to go there and have fun. This wasn't about her scores, but instead we wanted her to enjoy the experience and see what it's all about. She did a good job, got most of her skills, showed a lot of composure in front of a roaring crowd, and man did she look fantastic! (Who knew hair was such a big deal. I spent 45 minutes getting it right! I'm certain she deserved a medal for cute.) As for scores--they were okay.

When the meet was over, I ran to her, ready to lavish her with praise. She greets me with wide, concerned eyes and says, "You were wrong, mom. We were supposed to care about our scores."

Gulp.

At six years old, she knows. She gets it. After dedicating herself to her sport, it wasn't all about having fun. We don't spend nearly as much time on something if it's simply for fun. No, it really was (to her thinking) about scores and placing and seeing a reward for her years of commitment. (In reality, I really had wanted her to spend this meet getting used to the atmosphere. I'm not a high-pressure mom. But what do I know?)

What do you say about competition in life? Is it really about enjoying the journey? Or, like me, do you think the journey becomes a lot less fun if results aren't achieved?

Friday, January 14, 2011

I'M SO NOT A CROISSANT!

Okay, maybe a little. While I'd like to believe I'm sophisticated and cultured, I definitely don't abhor fast food. I wish I did, because then my pants wouldn't hate me. After the meal I ate last night, you'd think Jack (yes, as in In-The-Box) was my best friend.

There you have it on this fine Friday morning. A happy weekend to you, and do tell which breakfast pastry you are:





You Are a Croissant



You are decadent and sophisticated. You know how to find the best things in life, and you make sure to enjoy them.

You don't need a lot to be happy, and you rather save your pennies for the few things that matter.



You enjoy all that the world has to offer, as far as culture, art, and ideas go. You are very open minded.

It pains you to eat a bad meal. You think each bite should be savored, and you abhor fast food.





Wednesday, January 12, 2011

THE VALUE OF SILENCE

We all know I'm the Queen of Oddball Shows. I enjoy peeking into the lives of strangers on reality TV--probably so I can be glad I'm not them!

This time I've come across a show on YouTube called The Abbey. It's an Australian program from 2007 about 5 women who enter an abbey and try to live like the nuns for 33 days. Absolutely fascinating! It took me a few weeks to get through all 12 segments, but it really started the cogs turning.

Though the nuns do speak sometimes, they emphasize silence and listening with the heart. Without cell phones, computers, music, and random noise, the ladies had a chance to hear what was going on inside themselves. Plus, the nuns went to prayer 7 times a day--of course that would help!

With so many distractions, is it possible that I try to drown out my own deeper thoughts and issues? I adore my technology and find I can't go without the TV, texting, email, message boards, blah blah blah. It's almost like being a shopaholic, or any number of other -aholics, where the addiction becomes a substitution for dealing with life.

Since watching the show, I've been conscious of how much time the television is on. After all, how many times do I need to hear the same news reel? Do I really need to keep my mind racing with outside stuff? I'm looking for treasure in the silence as I take more time to pray and think, without someone else directing my thoughts.

FWIW, the women who went to the abbey came out changed. Some found a belief in God, and others at least started to deal with their lives by acknowledging the problems.

Question for you: have you ever given up your technology for any length of time? Do you have any extended period of silence during the day? What do you glean from it?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011



This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Courting Miss Amsel
Bethany House (January 1, 2011)
by
Kim Vogel Sawyer






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of fifteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and six grandchildren.





ABOUT THE BOOK



Edythe Amsel is delighted with her first teaching assignment: a one-room schoolhouse in Walnut Hill, Nebraska. Independent, headstrong, and a strong believer in a well-rounded education, Edythe is ready to open the world to the students in this tiny community. But is Walnut Hill ready for her?



Joel Townsend is thrilled to learn the town council hired a female teacher to replace the ruthless man who terrorized his nephews for the past two years. Having raised the boys on his own since their parents' untimely deaths, Joel believes they will benefit from a woman's influence. But he sure didn't bargain on a woman like Miss Amsel.



Within the first week, she has the entire town up in arms over her outlandish teaching methods, which include collecting leaves, catching bugs, making snow angels, and stringing ropes in strange patterns all over the schoolyard. Joel can't help but notice that she's also mighty pretty with her rosy lips, fashionable clothes, and fancy way of speaking.



When Edythe decides to take her pupils to hear Miss Susan Anthony speak on the women's suffrage amendment, the town's outcry reaches new heights. Even Joel isn't sure he can support her newfangled ideas any longer. And if he can't trust her to know how to teach the boys, how can he trust her with his heart?



If you would like to read the first chapter of Courting Miss Amsel, go HERE.

Monday, January 10, 2011

WHY READ?

In years past I've done my best to learn speed-reading techniques. After all, there are so many great books, and I want to get through them all. But my thinking has changed. You see, I now understand I'll never read all the goodies and that's okay.

What I want is to glean more from each book, savor delicious passages like fine chocolate, and give the larger themes a chance to sink in. I think there's a lot of opportunity to experience life a different way, and make the time I spend between the pages about more than entertainment. Of course, a fun read for entertainment only still has its place!

When I do book reviews, I'm going to include how the book make me think, how it changed me, or what kind of impact it had. Now, that doesn't mean I won't post the canned book review from time to time, if I run out of time before a review comes around. But I'd love to discuss books with others who might be reading the same book or are interested in the main theme.

My question to you: what is your purpose when you pick up a book?

A. Entertainment Only--reading is my fun time and a great way to escape. Better than Calgon!

B. Deeper Meaning--I believe books can add a deeper meaning to my life and give me a new perspective.

C. Information Only--I like non-fiction and my reading time has a definite purpose.

D. I don't read, unless you count traffic signs.

E. Obligatory "Other" Category

Where do you fall? If you answer "other" I'd love to know why!

Friday, January 07, 2011

THE GIRL IN THE GATEHOUSE

An engaging story where the heroine is constrained by the conventions of her time, and a one-time breach in propriety can cost your future. Redemption shines through, and the different characters and layers come together in an unexpected finish.

Here's the thought running through my mind after finishing the story: what would I do if society prohibited me from pursuing my dreams? Would I have the courage and conviction to forge ahead? While I'd like to say yes, I must admit it's sometimes hard to do even now, where every opportunity is open.

What about you?


This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Girl in the Gatehouse
Bethany House (January 1, 2011)
by
Julie Klassen




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Julie says: My background is in advertising and marketing, but I am blessed with a dream job—working as an editor of Christian fiction. I have been writing since childhood, but Lady of Milkweed Manor was my first novel. It was a finalist for a Christy Award and won second place in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards. My second novel, The Apothecary's Daughter, was a finalist in the ACFW Book of the Year awards. I am currently writing one novel a year.



I graduated from the University of Illinois and enjoy travel, research, BBC period dramas, long hikes, short naps, and coffee with friends.



My husband and I have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minnesota.







ABOUT THE BOOK
THE GIRL IN THE GATEHOUSE








Miss Mariah Aubrey, banished after a scandal, hides herself away in a long-abandoned gatehouse on the far edge of a distant relative's estate. There, she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how--by writing novels in secret.



Captain Matthew Bryant, returning to England successful and wealthy after the Napoleonic wars, leases an impressive estate from a cash-poor nobleman, determined to show the society beauty who once rejected him what a colossal mistake she made.



When he discovers an old gatehouse on the property, he is immediately intrigued by its striking young inhabitant and sets out to uncover her identity, and her past. But the more he learns about her, the more he realizes he must distance himself. Falling in love with an outcast would ruin his well-laid plans. The old gatehouse holds secrets of its own. Can Mariah and Captain Bryant uncover them before the cunning heir to the estate buries them forever?



If you would like to read the first chapter of The Girl in the Gatehouse, go HERE

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

MYSTERY DIAGNOSIS--SOLVED!

Hi, my name is Georgiana, and I'm a Literature Abuser. ((If you welcome me and offer a golf clap, it'll be like we're really in group together!))

I found this online (no author cited) and maybe you've seen it already, but man, what a hoot! I have 13 of the symptoms. After reading a record low number of books last year, I'm ready to dive headlong into the pages again. Even contemplating an engrossing read makes me enormously giddy.

How many of the following symptoms do you have? Are you a book lover?

1. I have read fiction when I was depressed, or to cheer myself up.
2. I have gone on reading binges of an entire book or more in a day.
3. I read rapidly, often ‘gulping’ chapters.
4. I have sometimes read early in the morning or before work.
5. I have hidden books in different places to sneak a chapter without being seen.
6. Sometimes I avoid friends or family obligations in order to read novels.
7. Sometimes I re-write film or television dialog as the characters speak.
8. I am unable to enjoy myself with others unless there is a book nearby.
9. At a party, I will often slip off unnoticed to read.
10. Reading has made me seek haunts and companions which I would otherwise avoid.
11. I have neglected personal hygiene or household chores until I have finished a novel.
12. I have spent money meant for necessities on books instead.
13. I have attempted to check out more library books than permitted.
14. Most of my friends are heavy fiction readers.
15. I have sometimes passed out from a night of heavy reading
16. I have suffered ‘blackouts’ or memory loss from a bout of reading.
17. I have wept, become angry or irrational because of something I read.
18. I have sometimes wished I did not read so much.
19. Sometimes I think my reading is out of control.

If you answered ‘yes’ to three or more of these questions, you may be a literature abuser. Affirmative responses to five or more indicates a serious problem.

Remember, you are not alone. To seek help for yourself or someone you love, contact the nearest chapter of the National Literature Abuse Society, or look under NLAS in your telephone directory.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

THE DREADED 2011 GOAL POST


Why dreaded, you ask? Because I made the mistake at looking back at my 2010 goals and realized I only made 2 out of 7. Ouch! One of them was reading less. How lame is that? The other one was starting the agent hunt. I'm happy to report that not only did I start the hunt, but now have an agent--Tamela Hancock Murray. Yay!


Onto the new goals. This year my main goal is not making goals I won't reach. Countless times last year I set myself up for failure. Some items on my list I worked REALLY hard for, and still didn't make it (like losing 10 pounds.) Yes, had I not aimed high I probably wouldn't have attained even as much as I did, blah blah, but the point is that I was to be fully realistic.


Personal:


*this is an odd one, but I purpose to use all the food I buy this year. I'm not of the cleaning-your-plate camp, but last year we wasted so much fresh produce it's embarrassing. This year, I think it's more important to be thoughtful in what we purchase and eat. And with food inflation supposedly skyrocketing this year, this goal makes sense.


*stay mobile. Last year I ran and ran...and ran some more. Never dropping weight, but feeling oh-so-entitled to eat anything I pleased. This year, I'm not on an exercise regimen per se, but I plan to stay mobile through my new part time job, and simply refusing the sedentary lifestyle.


*more Bible time. While I didn't get up and read every single day last year, I did make progress and grew in understanding. Of course this shall be continued. I'd love to master the mornings, but I'm a work in progress.


Writing and Writing-ish stuff:


These were the hardest goals to pinpoint. You see, it makes my heart sick to spend time doing things that (to my thinking) are of no value, or at least value I can see. Writing, while it's pleasureable on myriad levels, often seems more like self indulgence than being productive.

That said, God confirmed in big ways that I'm called to write. Therefore, the time is not wasted, even if nothing I write ever reaches beyond my own computer (and Betsy and Erica's by default. Love you ladies!) The sticking point is where do I draw the line between following what God has put in my heart and putting my time to practical use. I'm an all or nothing person, so "cutting back" has never sat well in my spirit.


Here goes:


*750 words per weekday. HUGE cutback from last year's goal, but totally reachable. Plus, I can write this in an hour and not feel like I cheated the family. Kinda feels wimpy, but there you have it!


*Read 1 craft book per month.


*Jump back into the blogging community! This is so important to me. The last quarter of the year I completely blew it. This year I'd love to grow my relationships with you, friends, and keep putting my random thoughts out there.

What are your goals for 2011? Any changes from last year?
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