Thursday, February 28, 2013

Not Today

Do you know what time of year it is?  Yes, it is winter...20 days until spring....but it is also


These shakes are really one of my favorite things to have and each year I wait for them to appear on commercials or signs so that I can order my first one.  Well, today, it was in my mind that I was going to treat myself to a SHAMROCK SHAKE.  I even planned my errands so I would end up right next to McDonald's on my way home.  But, as the day wore on, I thought more and more about that shake, and thought more and more about how I have been trying to lose weight and eat healthy.  I thought about how I have been running on the treadmill and working out and been so frustrated with the scale not moving.  Knowing this shake wouldn't move me toward my weight goal any quicker, I realized, I really didn't want that shake that bad.  When I got home I looked up the calories on the McDonald's website.  The Shamrock shake has a delicious 530 calories and 15 grams of fat.  Pretty much what I would expect a shake to have.  

So, I am patting myself on the back for driving by and saying "not today".  That doesn't mean I won't have one before they disappear again for another year, but it does mean that I didn't add an extra 530 calories to my diet today.  

Now, I just need to get on that treadmill! 

What food has been difficult for you to give up?  Do you have a hard time resisting treats when they are right in front of you?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Review: The Good Daughter By Jane Porter

A Brennan Sisters Novel #2

By: Jane Porter

Published: February 5, 2013


Love was given to all, except herself . . . Kit Brennan has always been the most grounded of her sisters. A Catholic school English teacher for seventeen years and a constant giver, her decisions have been sound—just not very satisfying. Her fortieth birthday is right around the corner, causing Kit to consider some wilder notions, like skipping right past the love and marriage to raising a child all by herself . . . A girls’ weekend away is just the reprieve Kit needs from school, Mr. Wrongs, and life-changing decisions. It’s there that she meets a man who’s dangerous; a man who challenges who she thought she was, or rather should be. Kit wants to indulge herself this once, but with one of her students in crisis and the weight of her family’s burdens weighing heavy on her heart, Kit isn’t sure if now is the time to let her own desires take flight .

I read this book immediately following the first in the Brennan Sisters series, THE GOOD WOMAN.  You can see my review HERE.  After reading, THE GOOD WOMAN, I was eager to continue on with the lives of the Brennan sisters and see if some of my questions from the end of the previous novel were going to be answered.  Happily they were, but now I have even more questions after finishing this novel.  Unfortunately, I will have to wait until September to read the next book about Brennan sister, Sarah, in THE GOOD WIFE.  

I truly enjoyed getting to know Kit better in this story.   She is incredibly likable and you instantly are rooting for her and continue to want to see only good things happen to her all the way through.  Kit doesn't always have it easy and is constantly wrestling with her emotional ties to her faith and her family and her desires for a husband and family.  I found her to be quite lovely and sincerely wanted her to come out a winner. 

I liked the addition of a new character, Kit's student, Delilah.  Delilah has major problems going on and I wonder if one day there will be a story featuring her.  She definitely has a story to tell.

I think I actually liked this story a little better than THE GOOD WOMAN, but that could just be because I am more invested in their stories after reading the first one.  Readers are also treated to the first chapter of THE GOOD WIFE, which fills you in right from the ending of THE GOOD DAUGHTER and answers some of the initial looming questions.  

As a former Domestic Violence counselor, I would like to praise the author for her portrayals of both the victim and the abuser in this story.  She was really able to get at the heart of how a victim thinks, especially after years of abuse, and how her children no longer are the priority.  The focus, unfortunately, shifts to keeping the husband happy rather than what the child needs.  I saw this happen so many times in my work and it really can open your eyes to the ripple effects of domestic violence.  In this case, the story really showed us how it affected the child, her school, and her neighbors.  Abusers are sneaky and maybe even someone who reads this book will say, "Hey, this sounds like my life" and get help.  

This would be another excellent book club choice as there are many topics to discuss: physical and sexual abuse, cancer, family, faith, and adoption.  Even though this could be a stand alone book, read THE GOOD WOMAN first so you can be sure to know all the sisters in this wonderful Brennan family.

photo courtesy of

I think Kit Brennan (in my mind) looks just like Jane Porter.  I wonder if  Porter created the character to look like her? 

Jane Porter is an award-winning novelist with over 5 million books in print.  She grew up in central California, graduated from UCLA and holds an MA in writing from the University of San Francisco.  Porter writes full time and lives in southern California with her family.  Visit her website at

Thanks to Penguin Group to sending me a copy of this book to review.  I was not compensated in any other way for this review.  This review is my honest opinion.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: The Mapmaker's War By Ronlyn Domingue

*This giveaway is no longer open. Thanks to all who entered*

A Legend

By: Ronlyn Domingue

Published: March 5, 2013

This will be the map of your heart, old woman. 

In an ancient time, in a faraway land, a young woman named Aoife is allowed a rare apprenticeship to become her kingdom’s mapmaker, tasked with charting the entire domain. Traveling beyond its borders, she finds a secretive people who live in peace, among great wealth. They claim to protect a mythic treasure, one connected to the creation of the world. When Aoife reports their existence to her kingdom, the community is targeted as a threat. Attempting to warn them of imminent danger, Aoife is exiled for treason and finds refuge among the very people who had been declared her enemy. With them, she begins a new life surrounded by kindness, equality, and cooperation. But within herself, Aoife has no peace. She cannot share the grief she feels for the home and children she left behind. She cannot bear the warrior scars of the man she comes to love. And when she gives birth to their gifted daughter, Aoife cannot avoid what the child forces her to confront about her past and its truth. On this most important of journeys, there is no map to guide her. In this tale—her autobiography— Aoife reveals her pain and joy, and ultimately her transformation. 

I am so excited to tell you about this book.  I wish I could say that I have read it, but sadly it hasn't made it to the top of my to-read list yet.  But, it is hovering close to the top for sure.  This book sounds new and different and intriguing.  I expect it to pull me into a world I don't know about and thrill me with an extraordinary tale of an amazing woman.  I imagine that since it is a legend, it will be magical and leave me wanting more.

The book has already earned some wonderful reviews and sounds like it will be like nothing you have read before.  The book is available beginning March 5, 2013.  Lucky for you, I have an excerpt as well as one copy of the book to giveaway to one of you.  Follow the instructions (below the excerpt) and enter to win!


By Ronlyn Domingue,
Author of The Mapmaker's War: A Legend

This will be the map of your heart, old woman. You are forgetful of the everyday. | misplaced cup, missing clasp | Yet, you recall the long-ago with morning-after clarity. These stories you have told yourself before. Write them now. At last, tell the truth. Be sparse with nostalgia. Be wary of its tangents. Mark the moments of joy but understand that is not now your purpose. Return to the places where your heart was broken. Scars evidence harm done. Some wounds sealed with weak knits. They are open again. The time has come to close them.

Here, choose the point of entry. 

Any place, any time, right now and you have --

Your small finger in the hearth's ashes. A line appears. You divide space.

Then there were twigs and broom bristles. Scratches and marks and lines until you had the control to create shape. Circle, triangle, square, said your older brother. Ciaran put the first nib under your thumb and first scrap of parchment beneath that. What you drew is missing in substance and memory. In its place, years apart, you transformed the circle into a tub. The triangle was a churn. The square became a table. You marked your spot with an X.

Aoife, said your brother, who taught you to draw a map?

The kitchen as it was when you were five. You could render space and suspend time.

You lived in a large cold house at the edge of a forest. The shady quiet lured, then hid, you. Wild child, said the nursemaid. Uncivilized, your mother declared when you returned home dirty with treasures. She tried and failed to tame you. Wait until I tell your father, said she. Next to his chair, you held your breath and your guard. He saw no harm in the fresh air and exercise. Good habit to start now because what man wants a fat wife? said your father. Indulgent, she called him. She stormed off on stout legs.

You had few ordinary interests as a girl. You didn't dress your bronze hair, tend to dolls, or join petty quarrels. This perplexed your mother, who tried her best to create a being in her own image. You soon realized you had to give to take. When you were attentive to your morning girlhood duties, she fought less when you asked for afternoon freedom. You acquiesced to learn how to behave regardless of whether you intended to follow suit. The re­ward was worth the concession.

With meticulous care, you planned your provisions, though not your expeditions. Adventure wasn't in the hunger to come but in the quest of what to follow. You packed your pouch | nuts and fruit, soft bread and hard cheese | along with parchment and ink, cloth scraps and straight edges.

You mapped the hidden worlds when you were still young enough to see them.

Spiderwebs and honeycombs taught the wisdom of symmetry. To you, everything before your eyes was built upon invisible lines and angles. The very spot where you stood only a point among many. A girl is not always in her place, you thought. A girl can be many places at once. And so you were. When you settled upon a space in the forest or meadow, you made a grid on the earth with small steps and tiny flags until there were row upon row of even little squares. You took your seat within the grid. You moved from square to square, noting what stood still and what passed by. All day long you observed and measured, sketched and colored. That which was off the edges appeared on the parchment as well. There were mysterious realms of bees and ants and creatures never seen before, with tiny castles and bright gardens.

One day, as you traced the uncovered trails of termites, you heard a rustle in the brush. You remained still with hope that the ancient stag or a sturdy bear would meet your eye. What a lovely beast to draw in that place! Instead, you faced a boy with green eyes and chestnut curls. A boy you knew well. Prince Wyl called your name and held up a dead rabbit by its hind legs. You lifted your hand in a polite wave and turned back to your work.

Did you see what I caught? I shall skin it and give the fur to the tailor to make you a fine collar, said Wyl.

It will be cold if you do that, you said.

It's dead. It has no need for fur now.

So literal,Wyl. You mistake my japes.

You meant no hardness toward him. As you looked to the ground again, you smiled. You knew his gesture was an act of affection. Such regard you had neither sought nor earned. His attentions you tried not to encourage or reject. That you two knew each other at all was a matter of circumstance. Your father served as the King's most trusted adviser.

On that day, when you wished Wyl had been the stag or a bear, you realized he didn't ask to see your map. He had on other occasions.You had no way to know that in years to come he would be privy to every chart you made, to the very last one.

See, you became a mapmaker.

Those hours you spent looking at the distance from one point to the next | star to star, rock to rock, blade to blade | were your study of geometry before you ever received formal instruction. You could be both abstract and precise, and sit for long periods. Ciaran gave you lessons in nuthematics and astronomy. He had also taught you to read. You enjoyed the challenge of learning. You also liked the attention from your brother, amiable and patient with you. Your mother encouraged the companionship between her children. However, she saw no purpose for the lessons.

You need to know what is practical for a woman, said she. All this effort leads to nothing.

Nothing indeed would have come of it had you not heard your father and brother in conversation.

The kingdom was in a quiet time. For generations before, there had been years of strife, battles to claim land and battles to control it. At last, there was much to manage and little known about the holdings. They discussed the King's consideration to map the entirety of his realm. Mapmakers would need to be hired and some trained.

You almost cried out on impulse. This you wanted to do, although you didn't know why. You banished the thought that you would be denied the training. You wanted to be good at something other than what was expected of you, for life. You threw yourself at chance.

We'll see, said your father when you asked for a place at the apprentice's table. Don't raise your hopes, said Ciaran, when you told him of your wish. Your brother, seven years your senior, had begun to serve the King in earnest, the heir to your father's role as a trusted adviser. You had no such secure inheritance.You suspected your name would not receive mention.

Now. Tell the truth.

You turned Wyl's affection to your advantage. The pull between you both served in your favor. You didn't call it manipulation. Perhaps it was. An offhand comment was all it took. I would like to learn to draw real maps. With magical speed, there you were in the mapmaker's chamber.

Heydar came from another kingdom with an accent, his instruments, and several bound volumes. His ears sprouted whiskers that reached up to his frantic hair and down to his bushy beard. He looked, and ate, like a lion. You passed the tests he gave you, then he tested your courage because he saw your wits. He didn't care that you were a girl, but twelve. All he cared was whether you could learn the craft, whether you practiced enough. He demanded excellence.You would deliver.

You thought to thank the King for his favor. Wyl arranged a brief meeting. The King said he had been assured of your talents. He said he made exceptions for what pleased him, and it pleased him greatly to have such intelligence, enthusiasm, and tenacity at his service. He gave no mention as to who might have swayed him. Or why he allowed it.

When you sat with your studies at home, your mother bustled to and fro. She stitched and stitched and stitched. She hurried and harassed the servants. She sighed and moaned. You ignored her. She told your father he would have difficulty finding a mate for such a daughter as yourself.

She isn't crippled or ugly, which is good enough, but no man wants a stupid wife, said he.

That was how you became apprenticed to the old man. Why you, with that silent desperation you hoped he could not detect? You sensed if you could do well there, if you were a good mapmaker, you would avoid the inevitable. You knew what happened to girls like you.

You confess that you weren't as smart as others assumed. You were no prodigy at figures and measures. What you grasped you did so with diligence and repetition until it became second nature. There had to be precision in your practice. You took pleasure in it. There was room for error in the Land of the Bees and Outlying Environs but not in the case of territory and ownership.

For four years, you apprenticed with the old mapmaker. Heydar tutored you in the pertinent subjects related to the craft. He showed you how to use all of the instruments. He sent you afield with them | heliotrope high in the hot sun |, then allowed you to practice at his side at the table. He gave to you his insight into triangles that he brought from his distant land of sand. He mapped with three sides as his center and trained you to do the same. This he claimed proudly as his innovation. You claimed his legacy.

Heydar supervised your work as you charted the castle and its immediate lands. He had done so himself, but this was your final test. He praised your effort. He declared you ready to go on your own. Before he left to return to his homeland, he gave you the waywiser given to him by his adept.

Many distances this wheel has measured with its walks. Remember me in a step once in a while. My time is done, and yours has begun, said he.

The old mapmaker gave his leave and the King his permission. You crossed paths with your brother on his travels from holding to holding. With his group of envoys, Ciaran created lists and tallies. He was to collect numbers of people, animals, and goods. He was also to discern what grievances needed attention, what loyalties called for boons, and what troubles might be in brew beyond the borders.

You were instructed to chart all that could be seen, and that was much. The kingdom was wide and broad. There were mountains and rivers, hills and streams, forests and valleys. Within this were the hamlets and towns, mills and smithies, pastures and arables, roads and paths. Ciaran and you were to note the fortifications. Ciaran, the condition. You, the location.

Many times, Ciaran's work would be done before you finished with yours. He would return to your childhood home, and you would stay behind to tend to the maps, but not only the maps. You explored the nearby regions by yourself. There were birds and plants and on occasion creatures you had never seen. You liked to speak with the people and learn about their customs. They fed you unusual foods and told familiar stories with subtle twists. Sometimes you sketched simple treasure maps for the children and hid coins for them to find.

To you, knowledge of the people was meant to be mapped as well. For whimsy, you would include reminders on your work for the King. They meant something to you and only you. This was how you entered your childhood again. A hut's roof edged with ribbons for no apparent reason. A place where you ate too much of a succulent pie. A fallow field speckled with blue gentian.

It seemed, though, that just when you had found a comfortable rhythm in your temporary quarters, Prince Wyl appeared with matters to tend on behalf of his father. His presence caused a stir, with people running about to catch a peek at him and share words. He was, in fact, good with the subjects, when he saw them. He exchanged pleasantries. Sometimes he asked questions and listened until the people had had their say. When requested, he touched the crowns of children's heads with gentleness. But, more often than not, Wyl was within your sight. He rode his horse around the place where you were at work. He sat at the hand of the host who gave shelter and food to the King's representatives. He seemed to talk longer with others when you were nearby, in conversation with the son of a prominent nobleman. Or a lowly shepherd. Or a man on your crew.

He has the stealth of a squirrel and the modesty of a peacock, you thought.

One summer morning, you leaned over the plane table, your eye in a squint, and stood quickly when the object in your sight went black. There was Wyl with a raspberry between his fingertips and a small metal bowl filled with more.

Thank you, but I'll wait to eat them. Stained fingers, stained map, you said.

You're tame enough to feed by hand, said he.

You stood bold before his charming smile and the pride he'd mustered. Such a thing he'd never said to you. Wyl looked at the map in progress and noticed the triangles that branched across the parchment.

Where are we? asked he.

You pointed to an open space yet to be drawn.

This land is flat with little to see. Your work must be difficult.

I have my ways.

What would help you?

Elevation, perhaps. I've had dreams of a tower.

Then you'll have this tower, said Wyl.

So it was. You gave him drawings of the tower in your dreams. Wyl found the woodcutters and smiths to make its pieces. He found stouthearted men to test its design, which did not fail, and hired them to tend to its care.

Innocent Wyl. He could not hide his adoration. You resisted your tender feelings. Was it love? Perhaps. When you were children, you attempted to keep the boundary fixed. Much your mother's doing. Bow to him, Aoife, he is the prince. Be friendly, not familiar. Be gracious. Be obedient. Be careful. | yes, be that with his dark brother Raef as well |

You liked Wyl. His disposition was sanguine. He seemed more interested in pleasure than power. Grudges didn't suit him. When you were young, when a girl wasn't permitted to say aloud she found a boy comely, you thought he was just that. As you grew older, you found him handsome. An exceptional example. He, for whatever reason, found you pretty. No boy orbits a girl as he did unless an attraction, a physical attraction, exists.

When you first saw the tower, you toed the great beams at its base. You tugged the ropes that tethered the tower to the ground for safety. You tapped the metal bolts that locked the heartwood beams into place. Then, the best part of all, you didn't have to climb the sides like a ladder but could walk the staircase you had envisioned. It spiraled up to the top.

You took your maiden ascent alone, with a crowd below, Ciaran and your crew, Wyl and his brother Raef. It was summer again. All was green and gold. All was alive. You had stood higher before, in the hill country, but this was different. When you leaned over the side, that caused much shouting on the ground. You saw straight down, your shadow a small dark splotch in the grass. So this is what the swallow sees on the wing, you thought. And as if by invitation, a blue swallow appeared above your head. It hovered before your eyes, plunged toward the earth, and darted away with a green head and long legs crushed between its beak. You called Wyl to join you.

The tower is wondrous. I could kiss you, you said.

Yes, you could, said he.

So literal, Wyl.

Then I'll wait until you mean what you say.

You felt a sting. For the first time, a joke on him barbed you back. You watched him stare afar and wondered why he went to such lengths to please you. Perhaps there is more to this boy I once knew, you thought.You linked your arm with his and leaned into him, both swaying groundless.

The above is an excerpt from the book The Mapmaker's War: A Legend by Ronlyn Domingue. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2013 Ronlyn Domingue, author of The Mapmaker's War: A Legend

WOW!  Now don't you want to read it! I know I do!  

photo by Susan Shacter and courtesy of
Ronlyn Domingue is the author of The Mapmaker's War: A Legend (Atria Books; March 5, 2013). Its epic sequel is scheduled for 2014. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Mercy of Thin Air, was published in ten languages. Her writing has appeared in The Beautiful Anthology (TNB Books), New England Review, Clackamas Literary Review, New Delta Review, The Independent (UK), and Shambhala Sun, as well as on and The Nervous Breakdown. Born and raised in the Deep South, she lives there still with her partner, Todd Bourque, and their cats.

For more on Domingue, visit her website at  
You can also find her on FACEBOOK or TWITTER.

Now, for the best part.....the GIVEAWAY!

This giveaway is possible thanks to FSB Associates who provided me a copy of the book for review purposes as well as a book to giveaway.  I was not compensated in any other way for this post.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Little Monday Inspiration

Find a way to enjoy parts of every run. Most of your runs should be mostly enjoyable.

Jeff Galloway, an American Olympian and lifetime runner

I really don't like running.  I'm not good at it.  I don't run fast.  But, I get it done a few times a week.  Although, in order to get it done, I had to find ways to make it enjoyable.  I save some of my favorite TV shows or movies that I want to watch and only watch them when I am on the treadmill.  That forces me to get on the treadmill.  I often times will watch the same show with my cousin while both of us are on the treadmill and we instant chat at the same time.  Yes, it takes some skill to type on the iPad while running, but I'm getting pretty good at it now.  It makes those 45-60 minutes fly by!

I know other people who read while on the treadmill.  I can't do that one as well, it makes me a little nauseous. Other people listen to music and time the beat of the music to their runs. Others run with a friend outside.  

The point is make it your own time, something you can look forward to and enjoy!  How do you make your running time enjoyable?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

One Thousand of My Gifts

photo courtesy Ann Voskamp

Continuing my count of one thousand gifts, numbering each one.

48. A true day of rest
49. Healthy children
50. Gently falling snow
51. Electric Mattress Pad for a warm bed
52. Singing "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling" in church, a favorite

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Review: Coconut Oil: The Quick and Easy Guide By Chris Reichert and Joey Cardillo

The Quick and Easy Guide

By: Chris Reichert and Joey Cardillo

eBook Published: February 5, 2013


By reading this book you’ll discover exactly why you should be eating more coconut oil - plain and simple!

This book also covers which coconut oil to buy, the many coconut oil benefits, and why coconut oil is simply just an amazing food all around. It 
provides great resources as well as loads of clickable links to help you understand why eating more coconut oil is a great move to make.

Coconut Oil seems to be the new buzz word lately, popping up on food and health shows and blogs on a regular basis.  I purchased my first coconut oil several months ago, but was still a little unsure on how to use it.  I have been using it in my smoothies and as oil in cooking, but didn't really know other things I could use it for....until now.

This is a Kindle book and I purchased it for free during a promotional period.  It is currently listed at $2.99 which is still a decent price.  It is a short book at just 41 pages, so you can read it quite quickly.  I thought it would be worth learning more about the benefits of coconut oil and it certainly was.

The scientific piece related to coconut oil and its health benefits was very easy to understand and also surprising.  I had no idea how switching from vegetable oil to coconut oil in your cooking could reduce your risk of health complications later in life such as cancer and heart disease. Frankly, I had no idea the vast range of health benefits coconut oil can provide.

Eating coconut oil isn't the only way to absorb its benefits, you can also use it on your skin.  Rub it in as a moisturizer, after a sunburn, or even use it for athlete's foot.  Coconut oil can also assist you in your weight loss goals by helping to slow down the digestion process and help you feel more full.

The last section of the book lists out all the numerous ways coconut oil can be used in your cooking and in your way of life.  I am sure you can find several ways to work this health benefit into your regular routine.

Coconut oil is a little pricey, but again, the benefits will be worth it.  I found some on Amazon with different size ranges so you can start out in small doses.  Most of your supermarkets and discount stores should have coconut oil on their shelves as well.

If you are looking to incorporate coconut oil into your life, but not sure where to begin, this book is for you!

Reichert and Cardillo have a website where you can be inspired to make healthier choices and also learn about their other eBooks.  I found their blog article on the dangers of aspartame quite interesting.  I'm glad I cut diet soda (mostly) from my diet and need to work on cutting it out entirely!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Check Out k.noel baby

A few weeks ago thanks to author Kimberly Stuart, I won a sweet package from k.noel baby.

Baby Booties courtesy of k.noel baby
Don't get any ideas, no I am NOT having a baby.  But, I love cute baby things and like to have things on hand for when someone else has a baby.  I am dying for someone to have a baby girl so I can see these cute booties over some tiny feet.

Facial cloths courtesy of k.noel baby

I also won these facial cloths.  They are so soft and perfect for cleansing your face or getting makeup removed from the delicate eye area.  

Kristin Smith has her very own etsy shop with oodles of adorable items all hand made by her.  Toys, baskets, and booties abound in her sweet shop.  You can check out her etsy shop HERE.  She also has a Facebook page HERE

Thanks to Kristin for sharing her handwork with me.  I am waiting for the perfect baby girl to place these sweet booties on!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Review: Unglued Devotional by Lysa TerKeurst

60 Days of Imperfect Progress

By: Lysa TerKeurst

Published: December 18, 2012


From Goodreads: This companion devotional to the bestselling book Unglued provides encouragement to help readers handle emotional struggles. Including a daily opening Scripture, Thought for the Day, devotion, and closing prayer, this book helps readers begin a 60-day journey in learning to positively process raw emotions, such as fear, anger, and regret.

Have you ever come unglued?  On your children? On your spouse?  Um, yeah, I have.  I'm certainly not perfect and sometimes life, chaos, hectic schedules, and stress can all exaggerate your feelings of helplessness.  Eventually become so irritated that you become someone you don't want to be.  

In this devotional, you take 60 days to read and force yourself to get at the source of your emotions.  This isn't easy work or light-hearted.  It is personal, convicting, merciful, and full of grace.  Through stories and scripture, you will look at how you react to situations and learn your weaknesses.  Then you can begin to focus on your new way of coping.  Daily prayer is also a must in this new way of life.

The thought for Day 60 summed it up well for me, "I want to be an uncommon calm in the midst of chaos and an example of peace for my kids in a world of pressure."  Yes, I want this and making the effort to have a calm home and smooth mornings are a priority.

I also appreciated the quiz that tests your reaction type.  It didn't surprise me that I am an Internal Processor/Internal Suppressor. It means I am a Stuffer that Builds Barriers and yet a Peacemaker.  Gosh, does that describe me to a T!  What I need to find is a balance of stuffing and exploding that helps manage my stress and emotions better.  I tend to stuff my frustrations until they end up overflowing like a volcano! Not a good way to live and not the kind of person anyone wants to be around.  This book offers tools, advice, and hope for handling your emotions.

If you feel like your emotions are on the edge, you are easily irritated, or quick to criticize, this book and it's companion UNGLUED may be just what you need.   Both the book UNGLUED and this devotional would make an excellent choice for a Bible Study or Women's group.  There is also a DVD available for study purposes.  Additional resources can be found at

Lysa TerKeurst is an author and national speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith.  She is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries.  She is also the author of more than a dozen books including MADE TO CRAVE, a book to help deal with our food cravings. 

Check out for more on her story as well as numerous freebies like a Teen Driver Contract and daily inspiration.  

If you would like to purchase a copy of this book, click the photo below:

Thanks to Booksneeze for sending a copy of this book.  This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any other way for this review. If you choose to purchase a copy of this book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: The Good Woman By Jane Porter


By:  Jane Porter

Published:  September 4, 2012


Meg Brennan Roberts is a successful publicist, faithful wife, and doting mother who prides herself on always making the right decisions. But years of being "the good woman" have taken a toll and Meg feels burned out and empty, more disconnected than ever from her increasingly distant husband. Lonely and disheartened, she attends the London Wine Fair with her boss, ruggedly handsome vintner, Chad Hallahan. It's here, alone together in an exotic city, far from "real" life, that Chad confesses his long-standing desire for Meg. Overwhelmed, flattered, and desperately confused, Meg returns home, only to suddenly question every choice she's ever made. Fleeing her responsibilities—with consequences as reckless and irreversible as they are liberating—Meg must decide whether being the person everyone needs is worth losing the woman she was meant to be.

This story attracted me most because it is about a woman in her early 40's who acts like her life is in control when, in reality, most of the time it isn't.  She is also one of 4 sisters, and as one of 3 sisters, I am usually drawn to sister stories.  This story is set in Napa Valley and so I found myself craving wine while reading this book as the descriptions of the settings and wines in this novel were reminding me of my trip to California with my girlfriends and the delicious wines we found there.

I related to Meg right away as she was the one daughter who took care of everyone and was the rule follower.  She worked hard, achieved success and made everyone proud.  She handled all the day-to-day managing in her family and made her children her priority.  Meg feels like her husband doesn't understand the pressure she is under and is too focused on his career rather than his family and his marriage.  Suddenly, life overwhelms her and she makes a choice that will alter her and her family's life forever.  I think any woman reading this story will be able to identify with Meg or her sisters at some point in their life and Porter's portrayal of them and their emotions were spot-on. Porter has a witty and fresh way of delivering her characters and making you relate and care about each one of them

This story reads quickly and flows easily with its first person storytelling.  You are able to get into Meg's head and understand her reasoning and her emotions and feel them along with her.  You join her in her struggles and pain and wish that she hadn't taken the wrong path.  The ripple effects of Meg's mistakes were huge and I liked how the author took liberty in not having everyone be happy or okay with Meg's choices.

One part of the novel that I had a hard time with was Meg's relationship with her mother.  After finding out that her mother's cancer is back and it is terminal, I expected Meg, as the devoted daughter, to be more present with her mom.  Her mom wasn't mentioned much more in the novel and Meg seemed to focus instead on her life rather than wanting to be with her mom.  I don't think that matched well with Meg's character and was disappointed when this part of the story wasn't really finished when the novel ended.  I was also curious about Meg's relationship with her sister, Sarah at the end of the novel.  Did Sarah ever forgive Meg?

I do realize this is the first book in the Brennan Sisters series, with THE GOOD DAUGHTER, about Kit, and THE GOOD WIFE, about Sarah, coming up next.  But, I feel like these were important characters in this story to have some closure with.  I do hope it will be addressed in the coming novels.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, the characters, and the setting.  I look forward to learning more about Kit in the next novel, THE GOOD DAUGHTER and following along in her and her sisters' lives.  

THE GOOD WOMAN would make an excellent book club choice, even one with both male and female members.  With topics such as marriage, infidelity, parenting, family dynamics, forgiveness, and trust, you are sure to have an excellent discussion.  

I'm sad to admit, this is my first Jane Porter novel.  As the author of numerous Classic Romance and Modern Lit books, I guess I am a little late to the party.  I look forward to reading the rest of the Brennan Sisters stories and looking into Porter's other novels.  If you are interested in learning about her and her novels, visit

Thanks to Penguin for sending a copy of this book for review.  This review is my honest opinion and I was not compensated in any way for this review.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

One Thousand of My Gifts

photo courtesy of Ann Voskamp at

Continuing my count of one thousand gifts, numbering each one.

39. Supper with my parents and sister, catching up.
40. Reminder of Ash Wednesday and HIS ultimate sacrifice
41. Excitement bubbling over for our annual Valentine's Scavenger Hunt
42. Unexpected romance
43. Love note
44. Date night
45. Taking a great sunset photo and just the right moment
46. Screams and yelling while enjoying a hotel pool
47. A quiet hotel room to sleep off a cold

Friday, February 15, 2013


I have always been a romantic.  I love flowers and kisses and surprises and the whole gooshy works.  I believe in the fairy tale and being swept off my feet.  But, I also know the real life.  Cooking, cleaning, parenting, running to kids activities, jobs, bills, etc.  So, when a little romance can squeak into the reality of life I get completely giddy.  

I have always told Pat that I do not want flowers for Valentine's Day.  It is the most expensive time of year to buy flowers and for that amount of money you could buy something that lasts longer and I will appreciate more.  I'd rather have flowers other times of year and when I least expect them, like in the spring when you can buy a bouquet of tulips for $10 or a mixed bouquet for $4.99.  

This year, I have to brag a bit and say that Pat hit the romance nail on the head!  Thursday, while getting ready to sub, he brought me a latte that he made from the new milk frother he bought me.  While I was subbing at school, he made milk chocolate, white chocolate and dark chocolate covered strawberries, which we enjoyed with glasses of Moscato d'asti last night.  He got me flower......seeds, and wrote a sweet love note.  The love note itself would have been enough, but all these things together were amazing.  I was overwhelmed with emotion and absolutely blessed by the care and thought he put into my Valentine's Day.  

I try to make it special for our kids and him every year.  So, for Pat to take the time to make me feel special was truly such a blessing to me.  We had our annual Scavenger Hunt for the kids last night and I gave him some gifts as well.  The kids were excited to read the silly clues and hunt for their surprises ending with a surprise weekend getaway at a hotel.  It truly was a evening I will remember for a long time.

Every now and then, every girl needs a bit of romance!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It Was My 17th Anniversary

Last week I received an email recognizing my 17th Anniversary.  I hadn't even realized it had been 17 years since I made a possibly life-changing decision...................................

to be a marrow donor.

I remember in February 1996, while working at a health fair as part of my job as a Sexual Assault Counselor I was across from another booth at this health fair.  This booth was The National Marrow Donor Program through the University of Iowa and they were asking people to sign up to be marrow donors.  I listened to them give their presentation enough times that I decided that was something I could do.  So, I filled out the paperwork and a couple weeks later had my blood work done and officially joined the registry.  

For 17 years, I have been willing to step forward and donate my bone marrow to help save someone's life.  For most of those 17 years, I haven't given the fact that I am on that list a second thought.  Every now and then I may hear of someone getting a transplant and I will think, oh yeah, I'm on that list to be a donor, but most of the time I don't even think about it.  

If you have ever thought about being a donor or maybe this post is making you think about it, I encourage you to check out THE NATIONAL MARROW DONOR PROGRAM.  Rather than give you a bunch of facts or details, just check out the website and truly consider joining the program.  If you are between the ages of 18-44, I highly encourage you to sign up as that is the age group that 90% of the donations are from. You never know when you could be the person with the perfect match and can save someone's life.  I haven't been called for 17 years and I don't expect to be called during the next 17 years, but if I am called, I am ready and willing.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pedometer Winners

True Random Number Generator  16Powered by RANDOM.ORG

True Random Number Generator  2Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Congrats to the winners #16 Becky and #2 Kris.
Both of you will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond.  

A Little Monday Inspiration

It is far better to be exhausted from success than to be rested from failure.
Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc.

Mary Kay Ash didn't become the successful and powerful woman she was by sitting around waiting for opportunities to come to her.  She did it by working hard, praising God, and loving others by living the Golden Rule.  She built an empire that has over 2.8 billion in her sales force (as of 2011).  That is a lot of women selling and wearing Mary Kay Cosmetics and I am happy to be one of them!

Success isn't just going to fall in your lap.  You have to work hard for it.  You can't wait around for your dreams to come true, but instead, make them happen!

If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you're right! 
Mary Kay Ash

Sunday, February 10, 2013

One Thousand of My Gifts

photo courtesy of Ann Voskamp

Continuing my count of one thousand gifts, numbering each one.

33. Laughing with girlfriends til you cry
34. Surprised by Patrick's solo in show choir and his vocal talent
35. Reagan coming out of her shell and playing great basketball
36. Reagan's beaming smile after scoring basket
37. One-on-one girl time with Reagan
38. Sunshine after a rainy day

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Day I Was Dreading Has Arrived

Last week, I was getting ready in my bathroom and while styling my hair I noticed something.  I notice my hair looked different, like lighter or something, so I leaned into my mirror and looked closer and backed up and leaned in again.  I moved my hair around and looked again, and sure enough.........................

I had found a patch of grey hairs.  AARGH!!!!

I was not prepared for this.  Even though my mom was nearly all grey in her 30's and my sisters have been covering up their grey for awhile, I just always thought that since I was the blonde in the family, I was going to be exempt from the grey hairs.

I took this rather hard.  I cried.  A lot.  Everytime I walked by a mirror.  Even though, I am 40 now and should have expected it, I didn't expect it to happen to me.

So, after a few days of pouting about it, and getting advice from several friends, I realized it really wasn't that bad.  I just needed the kick in the butt to snap me out of my self-induced "poor me" saga.  One of my friends reminded me it could be worse, I could be losing my hair! She was so right!

So, I finally called my hair stylist and told her we needed to have an appointment.  I wanted her to look around my whole head to see if I had grey hairs all over or just this one spot.  Thankfully, it is just in the one spot, at the front of my head, right where I part my hair and down into my bangs. See, so next time you see me you can find it!

After much discussion, I have decided not to color it.  It really isn't that noticeable.  It is just in a small area.  I have never colored my hair (except for one bad attempt in college) and don't want to start that process until I have to.  I love my hair and messing with color might change it forever.  So, I am putting a smile on my face and wearing my grey....and secretly hoping it doesn't spread to more areas.

Gotta love turning 40!  Any of you choose to not color your grey?

Grey hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.
Proverbs 16:31 NIV

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