Follow Me #3

Follow me Friday is a book blog meme hosted by parajunkee. This week's question:

What are your Book Blog Resolutions for 2011?

In the process of brainstorming ways to give this blog some rhyme and reason, these are things I will be employing in 2011:

1. Dedicate one day to books, albeit a writer's perspective.
2. Write more reviews of the books that I read.
3. Network more with other writers/readers.
4. Explore more book genres--especially ones out of my preference.
5. And finally...visit more blogs. ;) Cause everyone loves to know that people are reading them.


The Things Authors Ignore...On Purpose

Once again, I was in the bathroom doing my most productive thinking. Mothers of toddlers understand this. If you actually remember to lock the door, you have a few moments of privacy. When the children are asleep, you have endless hours of privacy soaking in gloriously hot water...

Well, maybe not endless hours. Because the warmth gets heady and sleep practically screams for you from the bedroom.

But, getting back to my point. I was sunk low in the hot water, the Lush bath bomb dissolving all around me, smelling a little like fruit loops (I don't mind 'cause I like Fruit Loops). I reached for the razor, pleased as punch to have the pleasure of shaving every inch of not just one of my legs, but if there were no tomorrow. But then I frown--razor halted mid-stride. How many books have I written and read where the characters would not have shaved?


That's not romantic, is it? Who wants to imagine their character being swooped into the arms of a handsome, leading man...only to find that under her petticoats is Mrs. Harry Henderson? Lets not get started on under her arms!

But body hair is just the beginning...

My eyes shift to the white, clean, sparkling toilet (hey, you don't know if I'm stretching the truth here!). The roll of toilet paper is disheveled--a toddler having unrolled it and hurriedly tried to put it back to right before mommy discovered. I think of the piles of snow in the back yard and freezing wind and air that sucks the breathe right out of your lungs when you step outside. I imagine the countless potty breaks my daughter takes during the day...and frown at the thought of traipsing back and forth to an outhouse. And what about the flu?! How many of my characters had to sit in a sweltering hot outhouse in the heat of July...flies buzzing around their ears...and the smell wrapping suffocating hands around their quivering throats?

Did you know that I really, truly had a Great Grandfather that had a stroke walking back to the house from the outhouse? It was in the middle of winter. He froze to death. When family found him the next morning, they had to pry him from the ground where his beard had frozen.


I rub a hand over my smooth leg before sinking back into the hot water, letting it wash over my tired shoulders that spend hours hunkered in front of a computer screen researching, refining minute details in novels. I keep true to time periods and historic settings. But never...and I repeat, never will I allow leg or underarm hair to be spoken about on my female characters. It might be there, yes (historically)...but I don't need to imagine it, think of it, or write about it. I don't want to kill the joyous escape of reading, after all. ;)

What kinds of things do you conveniently ignore when writing period pieces? Do you ever have a character kiss another first thing in the morning? What about mourning breath? Or burping? ;)

Want to check out just when females started shaving in America? Check out this post.

Fun Video:

Have 25 minutes to spare in which you don't want to bathe? Take a look at one of the funniest TV episodes involving a shower. ;) I couldn't find the single clip.


PS: I need to stop writing blog posts about hygiene. ;)

Things I Did Not Do In 2010...

But might in 2011 (maybe)

1. Publish my novel. But I did sign with a lit agent, so we're one step closer! :)

2. Learn to dance.

3. Eat sushi.

4. Do a hand-spring...which leads to:

5. Break any bones. ;)

6. Have any babies. LOL

7. Leave the state. How SAD is that?! (Actually, I went to Chicago but I don't think that counts)

8. Kayak.

9. Sadly, I did not dance in the rain.

10. Get all dolled up for a date. sad is that?? I went on a date. But not all girlie-like.

Things I did do in 2010:

1. Write and complete a novel.

2. Had surgery for a kidney stone. :(

3. Dove off a high dive.

4. Lost my nose piercing. Very sad day.

5. Became a better photographer.

6. Went camping with two toddlers...for the FIRST time ever!

7. Stumbled out of my comfort zone. Thrown out, actually.

8. Behaved times.

9. Decided that I'm a pretty awesome person.

10. Forged and lost friendships.

Good thing the years come and go leaving us strong, wiser, and more determined to get it right the next time. ;)

What are some things you did and did not do? What do you hope to do in 2011?

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man. ~Benjamin Franklin


Meet George W. McLintock

Last week on Did You Know Tuesday, I featured John Wayne. This week, he appears again, but in a different way.

I don't know what it is about John Wayne that I love so much. I realize he wasn't the most amazing actor to walk and breathe on this earth. But for goodness sake! Just listening to him, you know you'll be okay. He's the type of man (when you are growing up watching him) that you want for a daddy. He just embodies goodness…

At least most of his characters do.

My favorite John Wayne is McLintock! Shouldn't the fact that the movie's title has an exclamation point in it tell you something? But there were a lot of things about this movie, and the star behind it, that I didn't know.

Did you know that while making this movie, production shut down for a week due to the assignation of President Kennedy? Or that the famous "mudhole" scene that took place in the movie was not actually made of mud? In fact, it was made of a material called bentonite--used in the drilling of wells--and has the consistency of chocolate syrup. Sounds fun to wallow in, huh? ;) That scene alone took a solid week to shoot. No wonder.

Did you know that John Wayne insisted that the role of the puny Governor be called "Cuthbert H. Humphery", with the intention that he be seen as a parody of liberal Senator Hubert H. Humphrey--whom John Wayne strongly disliked?

The inspiration for the movie McLintock! was none other than William Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew". Did you know that? I didn't!

Do you know what my favorite scene is? ;)

Some 101 on the Duke

Did you know that John Wayne's grandfather was a Civil War Vet? Or that it was a local fireman on his route to school that started calling Wayne "Little Duke" because he never went anywhere without his Airedale Terrier dog named Duke? That suited Marion Robert Morrison (his given name) just fine. Duke sounded better than Marion, so he kept it. But he dropped the "little" part, of course. Who wouldn't at a towering 6'2?

Did you know that Wayne played football in high school--Glendale High, to be exact? Or that he played on the USC football team under the legendary Howard Jones? He even applied to the U.S. Naval Academy but was not accepted. When he was injured (from wake boarding of all things) and lost his athletic scholarship, he started working in the prop department of a movie set.

Did you know that it was rumored Wayne met the legendary gunfighter and lawman Wyatt Earp? Or that John Wayne was very patriotic--going so far as to turn down roles that he deemed un-American?

Did you know that while making "The Green Berets" (a movie made to support the Vietnam War), the Montagnard people of Vietnam's Central Highlands--passionate fighters against communism--gifted Wayne with a brass bracelet that he wore in the film?

Did you know that in his last movie, The Shootist, his character died of cancer--the same disease that would kill him?

Personal Accomplishments

In 1968, Wayne was urged to run for national office. He was a huge star at the time and Hollywood's most famous Republican. But he turned his friends down. He claimed that the nation could not take seriously a Hollywood actor in political office. If only he could see us now…

Did you know that Joseph Stalin ordered for John Wayne to be assassinated even though he was a fan of his movies? Apparently Stalin was none too pleased with the Duke's strong anti-communism movies and political statements. Stalin died before the assassination could be completed.

Did you know that Wayne was a Freemason? Or that he was issued the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom? That he had long and tumultuous affairs and loved alcohol? Did you know that one director reportedly said he had to shoot Wayne's scenes before noon…because after that, Wayne "was a mean drunk?" You should hear some of those stories! ;)

But no matter what, I think John Wayne made this country and this world a little better just by being the Duke. I know it sounds silly. But it is true. There are just some people in our history that are irreplaceable. Even if they are movie stars. They inspire, shape and mold, captivate and encourage generations that outlive them. The Duke's footprints will never be washed away. Not at Grauman's Chinese Theater...and not in the hearts of those yet to fall in love with his films.

Don't believe me? Listen to this speech John Wayne made when he won an Oscar for True Grit. You won't regret it.



2011 Writing Aspirations

I hope this year will be an exciting year for me as a writer. I pray this is the year that I find my words in print. Seems impossible, but this year is providing me with opportunities. So long. So many years. So many hours typing away...researching...biting my nails.

In 2010, I signed my contract with my literary agent. She was able to spark the interest of a few Christian publishers. This year, one of those will prepare to present my novel to their publishing committee. It is a long shot, because this publisher only publishes one unpublished writer a year. Yikes! But here's hoping!

In the spring, ACFW's headline for their Genesis Contest nears. My agent will be submitting the novel she has. Even if it does not win, it will have gained monumental exposure and feedback. That's something, right?

And then there is the goal of wrapping up writing projects. I will leave you with two fun videos that embody the work I am playing with. It makes me snicker because one would have to wonder, "Just what in the world do these two things have to do with one another?"


PS: Currently Reading A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman for pleasure and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to my children, but enjoying it...immensely. :)


Christmas Grows Better With Age

Thank you, Lord, for the last five years. There have been many ups and downs, but in our family and Your grace, we find ourselves blessed.







And the blessings just keep coming...



Follow Me #2

Follow me Friday is a fun place for bloggers and fellow readers to meet each other and find new books. For more on this, check out the host site, parajunkee, here.

This week's question: What are you plans for this fabulous day?

I am hoping that I can make it through this entire day on a lifeline of Earl Grey tea. I stayed up too late wrapping presents for the children while they were sleeping. As soon as dawn cracked through the curtains, my oldest came running in, shouting, "I can't wait to sleep on the couch tonight to see if Santa comes!" Yay...but we could sleep now...right? Wrong.

Every Christmas Eve, my entire family crowds into my Grandmother's house. We play games, watch movies, tease each other...(really, there isn't words to describe the mayhem), we eat LOTS of food...

By evening, we crowd around Grandpa while he reads us the Christmas story from Luke. We all sniff back tears, loving the sound of his voice. At least the grown-ups do. The little ones are eying present, itching to lunge forward and rip the first one open. As soon as Grandpa snaps the Bible's present time.

At some point, I'll make it back to my own house. I'll help the kids put out their cookies and milk for Santa...and food for the reindeer. When they are tucked in and sound asleep (on the couch), husband and I will dump the cookies and reindeer food, replace it with a letter from Santa and a bell from the reindeer, slip presents under the tree and stuff stockings.

Then...we wait for the dawn. Again. ;)


First Moments

The night sky sparkled with countless stars. The hills were alive with whispered excitement and pounding hearts as the word spread. The Magi were on their way with gold, frankincense, and myrrh…the very symbol of death as the shadow of the cross loomed in the light of the bright star hanging over Bethlehem. Yet, in the stable, for now, all was still and quiet.

Mary watched as her husband kneeled down and wrapped their baby in the tattered cloth that had moments before covered his head. A calf craned its neck and caught the hem of it in his mouth. Joseph chuckled and pulled it away. The stable was warm with the animals sleeping around her, their smell floating on the stale air. A mama sheep had been restless during the entire ordeal, canvasing the room until Mary had finally given that last push and fell back with a sigh. Now, a tiny smile played at the corners of Mary's lips as she watched that mama sheep watching her sleeping son over Joseph's shoulder.

Her son…

The thought caused tears to gather in her eyes. In her heart, she knew that this tiny baby boy would never truly be her own. Yeshua would be the worlds.

Mary let her head fall back against the hay as her weary eyes drifted shut. Her entire body was worn through. Never had she endured all that she had within the last few weeks. The long trip was long and cold, the weight of the baby pressing deeper and harder as the pangs grew. She'd been so afraid that she would give birth to the Son of God out in the open with the whole world as witness. But it had not been so. It had been animals that had bore witness…filthy, unknowing, innocent creatures cast their eyes on the first glimpse of the tiny boy...

She’d held him as soon as Joseph handed him to her. His face was red as he drew his first breath and let a cry fill the stable. “Hush, now,” she cooed softly, pressing her lips to the top of his downy head. “Momma has you.”

Five tiny fingers on each hand balled up in fists.; tiny little toes on unthinkably small feet. He was perfect…

Just then, Joseph came to lie beside Mary. She opened her eyes to find her husband smiling down at her. He took her hand in his and pressed it to his lips. “He’s sleeping," he whispered. “You need to sleep as well.”

How could anyone sleep…?

Mary was quiet for a long while, her eyes on the wooden manger . She could her son with a chubby fist in his mouth. Resting against her husband, she whispered, “I remember the tales of Daniel about the Messiah that would come to give us everlasting atonement.” Her voice grew heavy with emotion. “Never, Joseph, would I have ever dreamed that God Almighty would choose me to bring the Messiah into the world.

Joseph pulled her closer, soothing her the best that he could, but in truth, he had no answer. For months, the question had haunted them. How could they love him, raise him up, show him the way…when they too would receive this baby boy as their savior? “I imagine,” he finally said, searching his heart, “that our Father in Heaven prepared us while creating us in His hands, to have the ability, the hearts, the minds…to raise His son in this dark world.” He paused to kiss Mary’s troubled forehead before smiling with tears of uncertainty shining in his eyes. “And we shall do so, Mary. We will love Yeshua with every breath within us until his day has come.”

A single tear slid down her cheek. The baby whimpered. She watched her husband wrap the tiny baby boy in his arms, smiling down at him and whispering something she could not hear. then he turned to her, love wreathing in face. Joseph bent and carefully placed their son in her arms. "He's hungry, I think," Joseph said, pulling his index finger out of the boy's greedy mouth. She giggled.

Mary stared down in wonder as she nursed him. He looked so innocent, and yet, she knew what he would do to this world.

Joseph reached out and brushed away a stray strand of hair that fell across his wife’s cheek. “You will love him as no other mother can, Mary. And he will love you all the more in return.”

The couple settled together against the hay with the baby Messiah cradled in their arms. They knew the long journey that would come down the road, the trials and tribulations that would surface in their lives and in the life of Jesus. But at that moment, with shepherd boys peering through the stable windows and the star shining its light down upon them, all that mattered was that they were holding God’s gift to the entire world.

“I’ll love him as I pray the world will one day love him,” Mary whispered as Yeshua drifted off into slumber. “I will love him with all my heart, mind, and soul."



Ken and Barbie Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

In the process of trying to give this blog a bit of rhyme and reason, I've been playing with the idea of making Wednesday's posts: Witty Wednesdays. I am not a very funny person. Forcing myself to try an write with a flare of wit and humor might do me some good. Right?


Today is Wednesday and I am a sleep deprived, worn out, weary mother of a sick two-year old. I've spilled Children's Tylenol all over myself in the middle of the night, have rocked and walked the halls, have ears ringing from ear-splitting cries, and am picking my brain trying to remember if I brushed my teeth yet this morning. I know. Gross.

That's when I went so far as to type into the google search bar: Witty things to write about.

Yeah, that's right. I turned to google. How sad is that? The first site that popped up gave a few short writing topics. None of them piqued my interest but one: What if toys could talk?


Images of my daughter's three-story high barbie house come to mind with the barbies strewn across the floors and furniture overturned over their plastic bodies--their painted smiles and bright eyes lifeless but hinting at blissful fun. There's a few rubber dinosaurs plopped around, one sitting atop Beach Barbie with her brilliant brunette hair snarled and teased. But still she smiles. Cinderella is caught by her neck, handing in the elevator shaft--red smile and blue eyes undaunted. It looks like an apocalypse of some sort. Zombies, maybe...

Rule Number one: Be sure you can outrun the zombies! If you get caught, you become a zombie too!

Obviously they never learned the rules to survival...

Then I see Ken, saddled up to a table, leaned over in a stupor. I can imagine him saying, in a slow, Bogart drawl (speaking of the mischievous toddler, more dangerous than a zombie, of course), "Of all the dollhouses, in all the nurseries, you had to terrorize mine."

And I can picture them regrouping when the children are asleep. Ken stands over the injured Barbies who straighten their pink, frilly dresses, trying to pull those chubby brushes through their tangled tresses. He shoves stiff drinks in their hands (literally, stiff, as we're in plastic land). "You did great today, ladies," he says, winking at Beach Barbie. "Everyone has all their arms and legs--even our heads. We made it another day, ladies." He pulls Cinderella to his side. She bats her eyes and nestles up against his strong, hard chest. "We made it another day."


And that's the best the I can do. Maybe there should be a writer's prompt about What if a mother's bathrobe could talk? Think of the inhumanity it could speak of. ;)


John Wayne: Did You Know?

The Power of Goodness

Most people know John Wayne, the handsome cowboy with the tall, white hat. But what you might not know is how a young girl impacted his life before his death.

Robert Schuller's teenage daughter, Cindy, was in a motorcycle accident and had to have her leg amputated. Mr. Wayne was a big fan of Robert Schuller, and having heard about his daughter, John Wayne wrote this letter to Cindy:

Dear Cindy,

Sorry to hear about your accident. Hope you will be all right.

~John Wayne

The note was delivered to her and she decided she wanted to write John Wayne in reply...

Dear Mr. Wayne,

I got your note. Thanks for writing to me. I like you very much. I am going to be all right because Jesus is going to help me. Mr. Wayne, do you know Jesus? I sure hope you know Jesus, Mr. Wayne, because I cannot imagine Heaven being complete without John Wayne being there. I hope if you don't know Jesus, that you will give your heart to Jesus right now. See you in Heaven.


She put the letter in an envelope and sealed it, writing across the front: John Wayne. A friend of her father's came in to visit her and, seeing worry on her face, he asked her what she was doing. She looked up and said, "I just wrote a letter to John Wayne, but I don't know where to send it."

"That's funny," the friend said. "I'm having dinner with him tonight at the Newport Club. Give it to me and I will give it to him."

That evening, there were twelve of them sitting around the table for dinner. They were laughing and cutting up when the man happened to reach into his pocket and remembered the letter. He took it out and tossed it to John Wayne, sitting at the end of the table. "Hey, Duke, I was in to see Schuller's daughter today and she asked me to give you this letter."

Mr. Wayne opened the letter and read as the other men continued that conversation. Then, someone noticed Wayne's bent head and moisture on his cheeks. He paused, stunned, and asked, "Hey, Duke, what's that matter?"

He lifted his head. "I want to read you this letter." He read it aloud...and then began to weep.

Finally folding the letter up, he pointed to the man who delivered Cindy's words. "You go tell that little girl that right now, in this restaurant, right here, John Wayne gives his heart to Jesus Christ and I will see her in Heaven."

Three weeks later, John Wayne died.

I don't know if this story is true, but it blessed my heart. It reminds me of the people in my life, who I love dearly, and how Heaven will not be complete without them. It reminds me to bring good into their lives whenever I have the chance--so that they might see a glimpse of the love their Heavenly Father holds for them.

Bring goodness. That's all Christians are required to do. Not condemn. Not scold. Not lecture or ridicule. Just bring goodness.



Reason Enough

"Then you can tell the next generation detail by detail the story of God, our God forever, who guides us till the end of time." ~Psalm 48:13-14 (MSG)

Characters vie for my attention, running unbridled through my mind. They become real, human flesh with flaws, hurts, pains and anguish. Sometimes they are so real that I find myself praying for them--over them...

It isn't crazy, really. It is part of who I am, part of who I was created to be. My fingertips ache to write their stories. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't dream wide and far, weaving joys and sorrows into their lives, experiencing time and mystery because of them, and laughing or crying when the last word is written.

But it is because of my love of the Lord that I desire to write as I do. The same way that He breathes new life into me, He does my characters as well. He makes them a shining example of His abundant love and unfailing mercy in a world where so many of us are hungry for truth...for salvation of some sort. Perhaps simple words in a novel--someone's temporary escape from their own struggles and hurt--can be enough to give a bit of peace and hope. That's reason enough for me to devote my time and energies serving the Lord in this way.

"Writing makes a person very vulnerable. It opens you to public criticism, to ridicule, to rejection. But it also opens conversation and thought. It stirs minds and opens hearts. It brings us into contact with our souls. So how can it possibly be a waste of time, an idle act, a mistake, a betrayal of truth? Who can possible tell us not to do it?" ~Joan Chittister, Order of Saint Benedict

It is worth it. Every bit of it.

Lord, give me the ability and energy to never give up. Help me to remember that you have created me to 'be about my Father's business'. Let my heart and mind, my creativity and capability, rest in Your hands. After all, you are the wordsmith above all others. Who can teach me better than you?


A Writer's Meme

OK…here’s how this works.

1. Copy and paste the following to the comments and replace my answers with your own.

2. If you have a blog, copy and paste these questions and your answers to your blog.

3. Challenge your readers to do the same on their blog.

If you don’t have a blog, skip #’s 2 & 3!

All of this week’s questions have to do with writing (hence, the title of this post: A Writer’s Meme)

Here are your questions (and my answers).

What’s your favorite genre of writing?

I love to write historic fiction. Seriously, I cannot imagine writing anything else. Not that I've tried, though.

How often do you get writer’s block?

Right about the middle of my wip. I start out with a whole lot excitement in the start...know where I want to go and how it will end...but it is in the middle that I struggle to keep up the pace with.

How do you fix it?

By temporarily going a little nutty...and watching my favorite movies. After a good freak-out and a pep talk from my husband, I get back to work.

Do you type or write by hand?

I write character sketches by hand and brainstorm with pen and paper, but everything else is strictly written on my Mac laptop in Scrivener. Oh, how I love Scrivener.

Do you save everything you write?

No, I do not. That's why my husband so wonderfully forces me to hook the computer up to a time machine and back everything up. He knows how foolish I am.

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?

Of course!

Do you have a constructive critic?

My Grandma, actually. She cannot do anything without a book within reach, so I figure that if she likes what I write...then I'm golden. ;) But I do have critique partners that are not family. None of them compare to my Grandma.

Did you ever write a novel?

Five of them. One is with an agent with publishers mulling over it. Here's hoping is survives!

What genre would you love to write but haven’t?

Mystery, maybe?

What’s one genre you have never written, and probably never will?

*giggles* Erotica!

How many writing projects are you working on right now?


Do you write for a living? Do you want to?

Yes! And one day I will actually pay bills with it. ;)

Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper?

Not for a newspaper.

Have you ever won an award for your writing?

One day I will.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?

I'd be crazy to do that! My dreams play out as if they belong to a drug addict.

Do you favor happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?

I'm not sure. It really depends on the plot and characters. But I do know that I really don't like cliff-hangers. Only in TV shows. ;)

YOUR TURN! Don’t forget to copy and paste this meme to your blog. I found this meme at the Faith Writer's Blog. Don't forget to link me as your contact. :)



Jumping In and Follow Me Friday

I've decided maybe I should attempt some of these memes...even though poor husband had to look it up on wiki to understand just what I was talking about. Meme. It is a funny word. ;)

So, I'm going to jump in, starting with the Book Blogger Hop--a place for book bloggers and readers to connect and share their love of the written word. This also gives blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read. Click here for more information or to join the fun.

Each week a question if asked of participants to answer. Here is this week's question:

"What do you consider the most important in a story: the plot or the characters?"

My Answer:

I am not convinced that either/or is more important than the other. I can have amazing characters that could make readers fall in love with them, but without an equally amazing plot...what would be the point of reading?

I believe the only way to do a story justice is to keep the playing field even. If you have sub-par characters (well, you should probably trash the book you're reading or wip you're writing) then your plot needs to match up. Find a book with a plot that can hold your interest and characters that are real. Same goes if you're the writer. Don't toss killer characters into a role where they don't get some action, don't get to do anything cool, or they just might march off your page and find a different book to hang out in. LOL If such a thing were possible.

To me...a well-written character becomes living, breathing flesh. Do 'em justice. :)

Follow My Book Blog Friday is hosted by Parajunkee. Their question:

"What did you study in college, or are currently studying and did it lead to your current 9-5 or are you doing something different?"

Oh, my. I didn't go to college. Before my eighteenth birthday, I married my husband and followed him to the Marine Corps. It was an amazing life (click here to read more on that) that I wouldn't trade for anything. Two wars broke out soon after our marriage and I spent a lot of time volunteering for family readiness services with USMC. When my husband deployed for the war in 2003, I began writing. I'd always loved to write, but now I had endless amounts of time and needed a distraction from the constant influx of media coverage on the war. I guess it paid off. After nearly nine solid years of writing and sending out my work, I finally landed a contract with a literary agency. One small step, sure...but it leads to a much bigger step. ;)


Click here to read other participants answers of the Blog Hop and here for Follow My Book Blog Friday.

A Review: A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman


What happens when the boy she loved to hate ...

becomes the man she hates to love?

The 1920s are drawing to a close, and feisty Katie O'Connor is the epitome of the new woman--smart and sassy with goals for her future that include the perfect husband and a challenging career in law. Her boyfriend Jack fits all of her criteria for a husband--good-looking, well-connected, wealthy, and eating out of her hand. But when she is forced to spend the summer of 1929 with Cluny McGee, the bane of her childhood existence, Katie comes face to face with a choice. Will she follow her well-laid plans to marry Jack? Or will she fall for the man she swore to despise forever?

(Back Cover)

Buried deep beneath the softest blanket you can imagine, I was lost somewhere mid-way through the book...completely captivated by the lives of Katie O'Conner and Luke McGee. And when I heard someone clear their throat, I glanced up and found my husband smiling at me. "What?" I asked, only slightly annoyed to have been disturbed.

"You're smiling."

Heat rushed to my cheeks and I quickly rearranged my features. "Am I?" I knew countless pages before that Julie Lessman was now one of my favorite authors, but now even my husband knew I was lost in a good book. Had she really managed to make me smile? Oh, yes she did. Cry a little, as well.

There are a handful of books that actually sweep me up into their world. As a writer, a busy photographer, and mother of two children ages four and two, I have my hands full. I get to read between dinners of messy spaghetti and crazy, giggling bubble baths (the kid's, not mine, I should mention). If I am not hooked within the first few pages, I will never see the sight of the last page. Julie Lessman hooked me with the first scene--the first few sentences, actually. That's the mark of a phenomenal writer.

A Hope Undaunted is a Christian Historic Fiction--a genre in which I am partial to. But Julie didn't need a catastrophic event in our past to drive the story line along. Sure the collapse of the economy, the death knell for the Great Depression, was there. But it wasn't front and center. She kept me turning the pages with the chemistry mounting between Katie and Luke, subplots that were carefully intertwined among the characters, and enough scenes to make me giggle out loud (a moment I was happy I was alone with no husband to tease me).

To me, A Hope Undaunted stands apart from other Christian fiction because it was so real. Though Julie did a remarkable job at revealing the grace of God in these pages, both her characters were deeply flawed through-out most of the book. I don't like reading Christian fiction with characters I cannot relate to. In fact, one of my favorite scenes was when Katie O'Conner gets drunk--a bold move for a Christian writer, in my mind. Julie wasn't afraid to let her characters fall and shatter into a million pieces and let God put them back together again. She wasn't afraid to let them get angry, hit one another, let words slip that should never leave their mouths (though those words were not actually written in the book), or let their pain drive them to dark pits of pain. They sinned and God breathed new beauty into their lives in that wonderful way He does in our own lives.

Just when I thought that this book was a keeper, Julie threw in last second twist that nearly had me saying words that should never leave my mouth, as well! I was so angry and scared about the decisions the characters were about to make that I threw the book...startling my husband.

That's when I smiled again. Lord, I silently prayed, this is the type of writer I want You to shape me to be. Not just like her...but pretty darn close.

And that's when I picked the book up, finished it with a content sigh...and placed it on my keeper shelf. My husband shook his head, muttering something about not allowing me to read anymore.

Check out more about Julie Lessman here and buy the book here.

Check out this link to read an interesting interview with Ms. Lessman and read a clip of a scene the way it was originally written.



Cold Showers and Dull Razors

There is something about being in the shower that gets my brain working. Especially first thing in the morning. I don't know what it is, maybe the warm water washing away cobwebs of sleep, but I start thinking about the strangest things.

Yesterday I ran my kids through the shower as quickly as possible, knowing that if I didn't, I would be shivering in an ice-cold spray of water. So, as soon as I get by chance to get in, I set right to work. Mommies do not get the luxury of twenty-minute hot showers in which you raise your face to the ceiling and let the water wash over you...a slow moan rising up from the gloriousness of it all. *Roll of eyes* Nope. We get whatever the poor water heater has left. And we have to hurry to top it all off.

That's when I get really angry, reaching for the razor. How can a woman be expected to hurry through the shower in under five-minutes if they are always having to shave? Men shave faces. That's all. And here we have this long sparse of legs and thighs. Should I even mention under the arms? One quick swipe on the shin and I groan. The razor is dull. Did Roger use this on his face???

Why couldn't God just let us be bare skinned--all except for our heads...eyebrows...lashes? Why did he think it would be attractive to stick hair in places where we would one day try to remove it? He must have known that we would think it was ugly and want to get rid of it. I think God just like to laugh at us. But when, exactly, did women, r men, decide hairless was the way to go?

Well, according to a quick google search (which is always accurate, you know ;) it began to be a trend here in the States in 1915. During this time, sleeveless dresses were becoming the fashion and hems were inching higher. Fashion designers ran an ad, reading, "Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair.'"

So, I tip my hat to the 'Flapper' era for all their feminizing, women liberating ways. ;) In exchange for more rights for women, for cigarettes and speakeasies, for loosened morals on sex and purity...we get handed razors. Hmmmm...

But the new fashion of bare arms didn't really hit the mainstream until the Sears Roebuck catalog began offering women's razors and sheer-sleeved dresses in 1922. About that time, women--and men, I suppose--began to wonder what it would be like for the female to have bare legs, as well as underarms (which was a shocking new term, as such places were never spoken about). But you have to admit, how was underarm hair going to make a lady look ravishing in a slinky sleeveless number?

So, about the time I make a mental checklist to research on why I was currently shaving with a dull razor, I've run out of hot water. And I've only finished my right leg. That's when I revert to my regular routine of praying in the shower. "God, why...WHY...why did you give us so much hair?!"

And there wasn't a single sleeveless shirt or short hemline in my near future.



The Ghost of Christmas Past

Whenever I have to join in on an ice-breaker game that has me giving answers to questions like what superhero power do you wish you could have, or finish the sentence: I wish I could? My answer is always, I wish I could time-travel. There is something so sweet and endearing about generations of past. Even while decorating my home for the holidays, I try to incorporate things of "old" and of generations gone. I sometimes wish that I knew what it was like to string popcorn while sitting around an old console radio listening to Marlene Dietrich and Douglas Fairbanks on a Christmas special.

But it wasn't always perfect, was it? Every generation has had it's challenges, wars, and downfalls. When Japanese forces attacked Pearl harbor, they also simultaneously attacked the Philippines in the Pacific. The land had been a paradise until the bombs began to fall: men and women dancing to Glenn Miller beneath the stars with silk and taffeta whispering on the breeze. American movies were seen in Philippino theaters, cold beers were served in Officer Clubs, and pretty nurses with red lipstick and perfect pin curls tended minor wounds handed out from drunken fights in bars. But when Jap planes roared over the Pacific, everything changed. Those same pretty nurses donned GI issued fatigues, pulled on combat boots, and stepped out on a battlefield as far and wide as the eye could see.

With beauty and grace unmeasurable, the nurses of the Army Nurse Corps rallied as much Christmas spirit as they could muster on the December 24th that soon followed. In a bombed out hospital--the wounded men crowded in--they managed to decorate a simple tree decorated with hand-cut foil tinsel and shaped stars out of whatever material they could find. They raised their voices among the hoarse vocals of the wounded and sang carols. Tears hung on their lashes as they thought of the possibility of never seeing home again.

By spring, the island fell to the Japanese. The wounded men were forced on the Bataan Death March while the nurses were kept under lock and key. For the next several years, Christmas was an afterthought.

War brings out the beauty of mankind. When everything has been chiseled away (shelter, food, safety, home). Men and women still find a way to cling to the beautiful parts of the life that was snatched away from them. When the Philippines were under siege, service men and women even found a way to marry. Women fashioned their uniforms into wedding dresses, scraped together what makeup and hair pins the other nurses had hoarded away...and stood with the man they loved in the midst of gunfire, dying soldiers, and the enemy closing in--and said their vows. One group of Navy men even managed to salvage drinks and food, linen and china from a ship and throw impromptu parties to boost moral. To me...that is beautiful.

This year, I will celebrate Christmas in the warmth of my home and with no hunger pains in my belly. I have a beautiful decorated tree. My children have stockings hung and have pressed their little hands in salt dough. We've baked cookies, cut snowflakes, strung marshmallows...and watched a plethora of Christmas movies. It may fall short of what it should be--I may wish that I could give more or do more--but our Christmas is perfect. It really is.

We still have men and women overseas, risking their lives and will be missing their family and homes this holiday. Please don't forget them. Remember that we owe them and a generation past for our Christmas this year. I read that a WWII veteran said the worst part about Christmas spent on a battlefield was how very lonely it made him feel--that a man was never more homesick than he was in that moment. This year, don't take your holiday for granted.

To read more about soldier's stories of Christmas on a WWII battlefield, click here and here.

Time Travel via pictures: :)



Christmas: Did you Know?

England has only known seven white Christmases in the entire twentieth century. According to the records of the Meteorological Office in London, snow fell on Christmas Day only in 1938 and 1976.


-Father Christmas has two addresses, Edinburgh and the North Pole. Letters addressed to 'TOYLAND' or 'SNOWLAND' go to Edinburgh, but letters addressed to 'THE NORTH POLE' have to be sent there because there really is such a place!


Electric tree lights were first used just 3 years after Thomas Edison has his first mass public demonstration of electric lights back in 1879. Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees in 1882. His lights were a huge hit. It took quite a few years, however, before they would be made available to the general public.© copyright of

In 1895 Ralph Morris, an American telephonist, invented the string of electric Christmas lights similar to the ones we use today. The actual strings of lights had already been manufactured for use in telephone switchboards. Morris looked at the tiny bulbs and had the idea of using them on his tree.


In 1647, the English parliament passed a law that made Christmas illegal. Christmas festivities were banned by Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell, who considered feasting and revelry on what was supposed to be a holy day to be immoral. Anybody

caught celebrating Christmas was arrested. The ban was lifted only when the Puritans lost power in 1660.


The "Twelve Days of Christmas" gifts: A partridge in a pear tree, two turtledoves, three French hens, four calling birds, five gold rings, six geese laying, seven swans swimming, eight maids milking, nine ladies dancing, ten lords leaping, eleven pipers piping, and twelve drummers drumming. There are 364 gifts altogether, one for everyday of the year.


In 1843, "A Christmas Carol" was written by Charles Dickens in just six weeks.


The first state to recognize the Christmas holiday officially was Alabama.


Germany made the first artificial Christmas trees. They were made of goose feathers and dyed green.


The first president to decorate the white house Christmas tree in the United States was Franklin Pierce.


"Hot cockles" was a popular game at Christmas in medieval times. It was a game in which the other players took turns striking the blindfolded player, who had to guess the name of the person delivering each blow. "Hot cockles" was still a Christmas pastime until the Victorian era.


American billionaire Ross Perot tried to airlift 28 tons of medicine and Christmas gifts to American POW's in North Vietnam in 1969.


An artificial spider and web are often included in the decorations on Ukrainian Christmas trees. A spider web found on Christmas morning is believed to bring good luck.


Before settling on the name of Tiny Tim for his character in "A Christmas Carol," three other alliterative names were considered by Charles Dickens. They were Little Larry, Puny Pete, and Small Sam.


Candy canes began as straight white sticks of sugar candy used to decorated the Christmas trees. A choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral decided have the ends bent to depict a shepherd's crook and he would pass them out to the children to keep them quiet during the services. It wasn't until about the 20th century that candy canes acquired their red stripes.


Christmas trees are edible. Many parts of pines, spruces, and firs can be eaten. The needles are a good source of vitamin C. Pine nuts, or pine cones, are also a good source of nutrition.


During the Christmas buying season, Visa cards alone are used an average of 5,340 times every minute in the United States.


Frankincense is a sweet smelling gum resin derived from certain Boswellia trees which, at the time of Christ, grew in Arabia, India, and Ethiopia. Tradition says that it was presented to the Christ Child by Balthasar, the black king from Ethiopia or Saba. The frankincense trade was at its height during the days of the Roman Empire. At that time this resin was considered as valuable as gems or precious metals. The Romans burned frankincense on their altars and at cremations.


George Washington spent Christmas night 1776 crossing the Delaware River in dreadful conditions. Christmas 1777 fared little better - at Valley Forge, Washington and his men had a miserable Christmas dinner of Fowl cooked in a broth of Turnips, cabbage and potatoes.

In Britain, the Holy Days and Fasting Days Act of 1551, which has not yet been repealed, states that every citizen must attend a Christian church service on Christmas Day, and must not use any kind of vehicle to get to the service.


Jesus Christ, son of Mary, was born in a cave, not in a wooden stable. Caves were used to keep animals in because of the intense heat. A large church is now built over the cave, and people can go down inside the cave. The carpenters of Jesus' day were really stone cutters. Wood was not used as widely as it is today. So whenever you see a Christmas nativity scene with a wooden stable -- that's the "American" version, not the Biblical one.


The "Twelve Days of Christmas" was originally written to help Catholic children, in England, remember different articles of faith during the persecution by Protestant Monarchs. The "true love" represented God, and the gifts all different ideas:
The "Partridge in a pear tree" was Christ.
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity-- the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which relays the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of Creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed


The day after Christmas, December 26, is known as Boxing Day. It is also the holy day called The Feast of St. Stephen. Some believe the feast was named for St. Stephen, a 9th century Swedish missionary, the patron saint of horses. Neither Boxing Day or St. Stephen have anything to do with Sweden or with horses. The Stephen for whom the day is named is the one in the Bible (Acts 6-8) who was the first Christian to be martyred for his faith.


Theodore Roosevelt, a staunch conservationist, banned Christmas trees in his home, even when he lived in the White House. His children, however, smuggled them into their bedrooms.


Yuletide-named towns in the United States include Santa Claus, located in Arizona and Indiana, Noel in Missouri, and Christmas in both Arizona and Florida.


When Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, died on December 4, 1894, he willed his November 13 birthday to a friend who disliked her own Christmas birthday.

And Finally,

Did you know that the man who sings "You're Mean One, Mister Grinch" is the same man who gave a voice to Tony The Tiger, Thurl Ravenscroft?



Christmas Gets A Rocky Start

This time of year, Christians can find themselves in a war of "righteousness" with their fellow worshipers. People either embrace the Christmas spirit and enjoy the season--celebrating and honoring the birth of Christ--or injure other Christians by condemning them for joining in on a pagan holiday. I think the whole thing is silly. If it has pagan origins, does it still today? Can we not take something that was meant for evil and shape it into something Godly? Is that not possible? Can we accept the idea that it is over commercialized, that some people do enjoy receiving more than giving, and that not everyone celebrates is because of Jesus--but those of us that do, should not be ridiculed? I think it is possible.

But, it doesn't hurt to understand the season's roots so that you can celebrate with an educated mind. This way, you can smile at the person knocking you over the head for enjoying Christmas, and smile sweetly, saying, "I understand, and I sympathize, but here are the reasons I will celebrate..."

Jesus was not born on December 25th

Yes, it is true. Jesus was not born on December 25th. If you need a real date, well, you might just be out of luck. After all, God did not mention it in scripture. So does it really matter? But here are some dates that scholars believe might be his true birthday:

March 28
August 28
September 11
November 18

December 25th was a Roman Pagan Holiday First

True. And not only is it true, but the details of this pagan holiday are really quite troubling. In ancient Rome, the Roman pagans had a holiday known as Saturnalia from December 17-25. During this time, they selected a person to serve as their "Lord of Misrule" who indulged in food and...well, other carnal pleasures. On the 25th, the pagans killed the Lord of Misrule. Some scholars believe that the people went from door to door, singing naked, raping women and eating man-shaped biscuits that we still bake during the holiday season today. Hmmmm. Could this be our gingerbread man? I don't think I can look at that mischievous gingerbread man the same way again.

Christians were appalled by the behavior of the pagans. But not only were they appalled by the Saturnalia, they truly wanted to convert the pagans. So, they set out to do just that--promising the pagan community that they could convert while still celebrating their rituals in December (I guess they thought compromising was the only hope of "saving" them). Big mistake. You cannot turn to God while still holding onto handfuls of evil. It doesn't work out. Think of Lot's wife, turned to a pillar of salt. It just doesn't work, nor does it please God.

Over the next few generations, early Christians and the Catholic Church attempted to turn Christmas into something Jesus-centered, but it wasn't working the way they hoped. Even the Catholic Church fell into some evil business when they once again brought back the ugly pagan ritual of over-eating and caroling naked. Only this time, they did so by humiliating God's chosen people. In 1466, Pope Paul II forced Jews to be overfed, stripped of their clothes, and made to run through the streets for the cities amusement.

Christmas Gains Some Respectability

As you can imagine, it took a while for the pagan's to loosen their grip on Christmas, but slowly, it did happen. Deciding to overshadow the evil that was taking place on December 25th, it was decided that the day would instead be used to celebrate the birth of Christ. Early Christians understood that this was not the actual day of Christ's birth, but hoped that it would eradicate the extreme darkness that unfurled upon the date. Turning the pagan rituals into God-honoring rituals was the plan.

as Trees

It is said that the Christian origin of the Christmas tree can be tied to Martin Luther--the
revolutionary man who would transform the Catholic church. On a starry night, he was admiring the stars in the heavens and was so deeply moved by what he saw that he brought a fir tree into his home and decorated it with lit candles (Fir meaning fire and the burning candles representing spirit).

Note: There will be a future post about the symbolism of the ornaments we use to decorate our tree.

Giving Presents

The only "pagan" ties that can be related to gift giving would have to come from the myths and legends surrounded by Saint Nicoloas. Click here to learn that there is really nothing evil about Saint Nick who became Sinterklaas who is now our Santa Claus. It wasn't until the 20th century that we tacked on the North Pole, elves, toy workshops, Rudolf, and all that jazz. So let's not blame the pagans for this one.

In truth, gift giving represents the Three Wise men who came to visit the baby Jesus. They bore gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. All three gifts were symbolic of Jesus' life, death on the cross, and resurrection. Today, we give gifts to one another honoring the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ to this world as our savior. Simple as that. It is your choice if you go over board and make Christmas more about
receiving gifts rather that giving them and honoring Jesus.


Now this one is a bit goofy. The next time you are caught in an awkward position of being under the mistletoe with your in-law, rude co-worker, or even creepy uncle, you can blame the pagans who went on a sexual rampage through the streets during Saturnalia. Yuck! Or you can blame the mythological god Balder who was killed by a mistletoe arrow by the rival god Horder while fighting...(big shocker here)...for a woman! The two gods were said to be fighting to the death for the female Nanna.

Should I mention that Mistletoe is poisonous if ingested?

Christmas Really Comes From The Heart

If you really study the roots of Christmas, it does seem rather dark and cloaked in evil. This holiday used to be a date when men and women lived atrociously: raping, killing, murdering Jews and ostracizing God's people. It is rather shameful, really. But when has mankind ever lived up to what they were created to be? What I find honorable, is the desire of good people to remove such corruption from our culture and replace it with the shining star of Jesus. They took what pagans meant for iniquitous jollies and transformed it into a reminder of God's ultimate sacrifice and love story between a Heavenly Father and mankind. That's worth honoring, even if they did have a bumpy go of it; even if it is still not perfect.

For me and my family, Christmas really does honor the birth of Jesus Christ. We place ornaments on our tree that represent his birth. We create a wreath we can pin our blessings to. We talk about the true story of Saint Nick (honoring the Godly heart that man possessed) and teach our children the real reason we give gifts to one another.

To me, that Saturnalia of the past is nothing like today's Christmas. I congratulate the generations between that managed to salvage some goodness and joy out of it--to wash away nearly all traces of evil and wrong-doing. Because of them, my children will only know the spirit of Christmas joy and goodwill. Our house is warm and perfect with a gorgeous tree, stockings hung on the mantel, and the taste of candy canes on our lips. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the birth of your son--whenever that might have been. Thank you for this holiday...that now, after all of this time, honors you. At least in my home.

Besides, it is frigid outside. I don't want to go caroling naked. ;)


PS: I learned a lot about the origins of Christmas from this website. The author sited his sources which was accurate to most everything else I read. He is not a fan of the holiday.