Friday, May 29, 2009

Amish Love!

Amish Love

What’s all the hubbub about Amish fiction? Major media outlets like Time and ABC Nightline are covering it, and authors like Cindy Woodsmall are making the New York Times bestseller list regularly. What makes these books so interesting?

Check out the recent ABC Nightline piece here about Cindy and her titles When the Heart Cries, When the Morning Comes, and When the Soul Mends. It’s an intriguing look at Amish culture and the time Cindy has spent with Amish friends.

And don’t forget that Cindy’s new book The Hope of Refuge hits store shelves August 11, and is available for preorder now.

Book Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Elaine of Orange Beach, Alabama, our winner of The Night Watchman by Mark Mynheir. Thanks to everyone who entered. Please check back on Monday for another book review and giveaway!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Empty Hands

I just wanted to share with you a quote from a book I'll be reviewing in a few weeks:

" . . . I know you are carrying this loss as if it is yours alone to bear. But you were not meant to carry such a heavy burden. Give it back to God and keep giving it back until you have no more grief in your heart to hand over to Him. Then wait and see what gift He places in your empty hands." Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes! by Robin Jones Gunn

When I lost my beloved Persian, Sonja, a few weeks ago, I had such a moment. I was lamenting the loss of my cat which carried into the loss of all kinds of species from the Earth such as the polar bear (Unfortunately, I had a sad image in my mind from a movie). I was asking God to take away my feelings of pain and loss and remove the polar bear image from my mind. I felt God say to me, "How do you think I feel? They're MY creations! I love the polar bears and I love Sonja more than you can even imagine."

God cares. So what are you carrying in your hands that prevents you from accepting His gifts?!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Night Watchman -- Book Review and Giveaway

The Night Watchman by Mark Mynheir is great if you like mysteries/cop dramas, which I do! Ray Quinn is a shattered man, both figuratively and literally. He was forced to retire as a police officer after a shooting incident kills his partner and leaves him physically disabled and emotionally wrecked. He takes a job as a night watchman at a condominium which is rather boring until a couple of dead bodies – a preacher and an exotic dancer – turn up in one of the condos. The case is quickly closed as a murder/suicide, but the minister’s sister doesn’t believe a word of it. She finagles Quinn into looking into the case which turns out to be anything but open and shut. Quinn finds himself fighting for his life as he tries to solve this murder which intertwines with his own shooting incident as well.

The Night Watchman is a great read! I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader. To enter the drawing, please e-mail me at The winner will be announced Friday, May 29, 2009.

You can purchase it from Random House here:

Below is the summary from the publisher:

Ray Quinn is a tough, quick-witted homicide detective in love with his partner, Trisha Willis. She gives Ray something to live for—something to hope in. Until a barrage of bullets leaves Trisha murdered and Ray crippled.

Struggling with his new physical disability and severe depression, Quinn turns to whiskey, scorn, and a job as a night watchman to numb the pain. But when a pastor and dancer are found dead in an apparent murder-suicide, the pastor’s sister approaches Quinn for help.

Reluctantly, Quinn takes the case and is plunged into the perilous Orlando. Soon he discovers that, not only was the pastor murdered, but the case may be linked to his and Trisha’s ambush. Torn between seeking revenge or responsibility, Quinn is thrust into the case of his life.

Author Mark Mynheir gives readers his most profound police thriller to date with The Night Watchman (first book in The Night Watchman Private Detective Agency Series). Readers of all ages will devour this gripping murder mystery that bristles with tension and intrigue. In a taut cop-style all his own, Mynheir delivers an inside look at the thoughts, feelings, fears, and challenges police officers experience while investigating violent crimes and the lost souls who commit them.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Book Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to Mary of Raleigh, North Carolina, who won a copy of Hero by Fred and Jasen Stoeker. Make sure you check back on Monday for another book review and giveaway.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Be K.I.N.D.

With kids spending more time indoors and with electronic entertainment (anything with a screen like a TV, computer, gaming system), how do we encourage a connection with nature, foster empathy for animals, and educate about the environment?

A good friend of mine told me about a program called KIND (Kids In Nature's Defense) News. Here's what she had to say:

KIND News is a publication for elementary school children published by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). For only $30 ($25 if purchased through a humane society) per classroom, students receive a monthly four page newspaper and the teacher receives a guide for an entire school year. It teaches children to be kind to animals, each other, and the environment. I think it's a fabulous way to make a difference in the world since the children can bring home ideas to their parents. Our shelter has been sponsoring classrooms for five years. It doesn't cost the schools or the animal shelter a single penny (except very minimal postage and paper costs). The teachers, students, and sponsors are all enthusiastic about it. Last year we sponsored sixteen classrooms and for the upcoming school year we're sponsoring twenty-five! Just think how many children can be affected in a positive way. It isn't much work for me and it's only once a year that I need to do anything.

You might want to print this and bring it to your local animal shelter, talk to your kids' teachers about the program, and contribute funds to a local KIND news program in your area. Here's the link if you'd like more information:

REMINDER: I have one copy of Hero by Fred and Jasen Stoeker to give away to my readers. To enter the random drawing, please e-mail your name and mailing address to The winner will be announced on May 22, 2009. Good luck!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Calling All Heroes!

Hero, Becoming the Man She Desires, by Fred Stoeker and his son, Jasen, is a fabulous book for a teen, young adult, or parent. Essentially, it is a book about how a single, young man can remain (or become) sexually pure. In doing so, you strengthen your relationship with God through your obedience to His word, you protect the women who come into your life, and eventually you find a similar young woman with whom to spend the rest of your life. The principles of this book are not easy – a fact the authors admit – but they are possible and Jasen Stoeker proves it. His first kiss (EVER) occurred on his wedding day to a beautiful, righteous young woman. While his wife had kissed in the past, she, too, had remained sexually pure.

I had the pleasure and honor of knowing a young couple such as this. A handsome young man and a beautiful young woman who saved themselves for each other on their wedding day. Although their decisions weren’t easy and didn’t always make them popular, they had/have plenty of friends and more fun than I ever thought possible.

In fact, this book made me sad because although I’m happily married now, I didn’t remain pure in my life and I was skeptical of anyone who would want to try. Now that I am older, wiser, and slightly more in tune with God’s heart, I know He was right and I was wrong (duh). This is what God intended for a relationship.

This book is down to earth and honest about the difficulty of the task. It also contains invaluable practical advice on how to win the battle. Although the intended audience of this book is young, single men, I think it would be great for parents (to talk to your kids), young women (to know what you should be looking for in a godly man and what their battle is like) and older, single men who may not be sexually pure, but can repent and change their ways to become pure from this point forward.

This is truly an essential book if you have a pre-teen, teen or college age son.

I have one copy of Hero to give away to my readers. To enter the random drawing, please e-mail your name and mailing address to The winner will be announced on May 22, 2009. Good luck!

If you don’t win the giveaway, you can purchase the book from Random House here:

Below is the summary from the publisher:

You already know it’s not easy being a single man in this culture today. But it is easy to be overwhelmed, to feel helpless and hopeless about living by God’s high standards for singles. It’s easy to cave in to the pressures of this sex-soaked world and accept defeat—blaming the media, the culture, even girlfriends who don’t know how tough it can be.

But many men have read books like Every Young Man’s Battle and Tactics and have committed themselves to stand strong and pure in the power of God, and to go on the offensive against the onslaught of negative stereotypes. Some have suffered. Some have fallen. But many have experienced victory—and you can be among them.

What makes those committed men so desirable to women? Be Her Hero is their motto. From best-selling author Fred Stoeker, along with his son Jasen, come the straightforward insight and real-life examples you’re looking for to help you take personal purity to its logical conclusion. Here’s straight truth with irrefutable evidence of what makes an ultimate hero to women who long for men of faith—men who stand by their convictions and make their world a safer and better place.

Are you ready to accept the challenge?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It Pays to Complain

Some weeks ago, I shared the problems I have with some of the "big box" stores' un-user-friendly policy toward reusable shopping bags. You can read about that here. Well, I sent numerous e-mails to corporate headquarters explaining my experiences and what I thought needed to be done about it.

I am happy to report that the store clerks are ALL VERY HAPPY to see me coming with my own bags and are HELPFUL and COURTEOUS in allowing me to bag my groceries. But this one takes the cake: yesterday I went through the self check out and the overseeing clerk proudly pointed out the "new button" on the registers, "I have my own bag." This button recalibrates the scales to recognize the weight of your bag so you don't have to weigh your items on the scale and then transfer them to your own bag.

Do I think I personally, single-handedly caused this change? No. Do I think I contributed to cause this change? No doubt about it!

It definitely pays to complain. My orange juice recently underwent a new name, new recipe, new ad campaign and new packaging. Why? Because enough people wrote to the company and asked that the natural no calorie sweetener (Stevia) replace the artificial no calorie sweetener (Splenda) they had been using. This change involved a lot of time and money on the orange juice company's part, but they did it because enough consumers told them they wanted it.

So when you see a company with a non-green policy or product, let them know. While you're at it, let your politicians know how important the environment is to you. This is the only way to effectuate systematic change on a global scale.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

This may be old news, but it's new to me.

Canadian and youth activitst, Severn Cullis-Suzuki spoke at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. When she was 9 years old, she and three of her friends founded ECO, the Environmental Children's Organization. They raised all the money required to travel to the Earth Summit, where 12 year-old Severn gave the most eloquent speech about the environment.

Below is the text of her speech or you can watch the video on YouTube here:

I Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself!

Hello, I'm Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O. - The Environmental Children's Organisation.

We are a group of twelve and thirteen-year-olds from Canada trying to make a difference:
Vanessa Suttie, Morgan Geisler, Michelle Quigg and me. We raised all the money ourselves to come six thousand miles to tell you adults you must change your ways. Coming here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future.

Losing my future is not like losing an election or a few points on the stock market. I am here to speak for all generations to come.

I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard.

I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet because they have nowhere left to go. We cannot afford to be not heard.

I am afraid to go out in the sun now because of the holes in the ozone. I am afraid to breathe the air because I don't know what chemicals are in it.

I used to go fishing in Vancouver with my dad until just a few years ago we found the fish full of cancers. And now we hear about animals and plants going exinct every day -- vanishing forever.

In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterfilies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.

Did you have to worry about these little things when you were my age?

All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions. I'm only a child and I don't have all the solutions, but I want you to realise, neither do you!

You don't know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.
You don't know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream.
You don't know how to bring back an animal now extinct.
And you can't bring back forests that once grew where there is now desert.
If you don't know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!

Here, you may be delegates of your governments, business people, organisers, reporters or poiticians - but really you are mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, aunts and uncles - and all of you are somebody's child.

I'm only a child yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong, in fact, 30 million species strong and we all share the same air, water and soil -- borders and governments will never change that.

I'm only a child yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.

In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid to tell the world how I feel.

In my country, we make so much waste, we buy and throw away, buy and throw away, and yet northern countries will not share with the needy. Even when we have more than enough, we are afraid to lose some of our wealth, afraid to share.

In Canada, we live the privileged life, with plenty of food, water and shelter -- we have watches, bicycles, computers and television sets.

Two days ago here in Brazil, we were shocked when we spent some time with some children living on the streets. And this is what one child told us: "I wish I was rich and if I were, I would give all the street children food, clothes, medicine, shelter and love and affection."

If a child on the street who has nothing, is willing to share, why are we who have everyting still so greedy?

I can't stop thinking that these children are my age, that it makes a tremendous difference where you are born, that I could be one of those children living in the Favellas of Rio; I could be a child starving in Somalia; a victim of war in the Middle East or a beggar in India.

I'm only a child yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on ending poverty and finding environmental answers, what a wonderful place this earth would be!

At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us to behave in the world. You teach us:

not to fight with others,
to work things out,
to respect others,
to clean up our mess,
not to hurt other creatures
to share - not be greedy.
Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?

Do not forget why you're attending these conferences, who you're doing this for -- we are your own children. You are deciding what kind of world we will grow up in. Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying "everyting's going to be alright" , "we're doing the best we can" and "it's not the end of the world".

But I don't think you can say that to us anymore. Are we even on your list of priorities? My father always says "You are what you do, not what you say."

Well, what you do makes me cry at night. You grown ups say you love us. I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words. Thank you for listening.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki has been active in environmental and social justice work ever since kindergarten. She was twelve years old when she gave this speech, and she received a standing ovation. Now 23, Cullis-Suzuki spearheads The SkyFish Project and continues to speak to schools and corporations, and at many conferences and international meetings. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Perspective Leads to Gratefulness

Recently I read a quote by pastor and author, Craig Groeschel, that really resonated with me.
Some moms choose what to feed their children. Some moms have to choose which children to feed.

It's impossible to be grateful and angry at the same time. And often times, gratefulness depends on our perspective. Do we whine because we HAVE to go to work or are we grateful we have a job? Do we complain about paying our bills, or are we grateful to have the money to pay them? Are we upset because we have to take care of the kids or we are grateful we have children to care for? Are we angry we are getting older and less able to do things or are we grateful for all we can do in our good health? Do we mourn our gray hair and wrinkles or are we grateful for the wisdom we've earned over the years? Are we irritated by traffic or are we grateful for a vehicle.

Do we see our lives in terms of what we HAVE to do or do we see our lives in terms of what we GET to do or CHOOSE to do?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Book Giveaway Winners

Congratulations to our book giveaway winners:

Terri of San Juan, Puerto Rico, our winner of Mama's Got a Fake I.D. by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira

Jen of Green Bay, Wisconsin, our winner of Dear Mom by Melody Carlson

Melanie of Tampa, Florida, our winner of Enduring Justice by Amy Wallace

Thanks to everyone who entered. Check back often for more book reviews and giveaways.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Help for the Environment

Instead of buying stuff which takes a lot of resources to make, store and eventually to dispose of, how about renting, bartering, sharing the cost and ownership of items you don't use very often? Here's an article that discusses this more, albeit not from an environmental standpoint:

Remember, I have one copy of the following books to give away to my readers:

Dear Mom by Melody Carlson
Enduring Justice by Amy Wallace
Mama's Got a Fake I.D. by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira

To enter the random drawing for one or all of these books, just e-mail me at Indicate which book you would like (you can enter the drawing for one, two or all three books). Winners will be announced on Friday, May 8th.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mother's Day

When I was little -- I mean starting around age two -- my dad would regularly tell me my mom was my best friend and that I'd never have a better friend than she. He often said, "You have a new 'best friend' every week, but if you were smart, you'd realize your mother's the best friend you'll ever have."

He was right.

My mom and I have lived together my entire life except for about 5 years -- first I lived with her and then she lived with me (and still does).

Recently my sister and her husband came for a visit. We went out to eat and my sister said, "Look at them!" Huh?! "You'd think you two never saw each other the way you're always yakking!" She's right.

I have the very best mom in the world and I'm so grateful for her. She's funny, oozes charisma that draws everyone to her (!), an amazingly hard worker, self-less, loving, sacrificing, and simply wonderful.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

You have just under a week . . . figure out how to tell YOUR mom how much you love her!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Today’s book review features three books in honor of Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, but you don’t have to be a mom to enjoy them. I have one copy of each of these books to give away to my readers. To enter the random drawing for one or all of these books, just e-mail me at Indicate which book you would like (you can enter the drawing for one, two or all three books). Winners will be announced on Friday, May 8th.

Mama’s Got a Fake I.D. by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira

My oldest sister, Linda, used to go “ballistic” whenever anyone introduced her as “Heather’s mother” or “Kent’s wife”. She would use humor, but inform you, “I have a name. I’m more than someone’s wife or mother. I’m Linda!” So, to annoy her, I would deliberately introduce her as “someone’s something”! Since my sister regularly reads my blog, I’m taking a chance by admitting this, although I’d like to think I’ve grown beyond such silly games and she hopefully would agree.

In Mama’s Got a Fake I.D., Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira addresses the loss of identity mother’s experience. She also focuses on the role of the church (including other women and mothers) in not only taking women’s identities, but making them feel guilty for being frustrated or irritated by their lack of identity except as “mother.” This is an excellent book for moms of all labels, “Stay at Home Mom” “Working Mom” “Soccer Mom”, etc.

This book is available from your favorite bookseller and Random House at this link:

Below is the summary from the publisher.


Formula for identity loss:

1. Take one multifaceted, intriguing human being.
2. Bless her with a child.
3. Mix with today’s cultural assumptions.
4. Add the demands of motherhood.
5. Presto! All identity except Mom disappears.

For every woman wondering what happened to the unique combination of gifts and abilities she was known for before kids came along, Caryn Dahlstrand Rivedeneira has good news: in Mama’s Got a Fake I.D., Rivedeneira helps moms reclaim their full identity as creative beings, gifted professionals and volunteers, loving friends, children of God—and mothers.

This inspiring and practical guide shows women how to break free from false guilt, learn a new language to express who they really are, and follow God’s lead in sharing their true self with others. After all, motherhood doesn’t have to mean losing one’s identity. Instead, being a mom makes it possible for a woman to discover a more complete identity as the person God made her to be.

Author Bio:

The former managing editor of Marriage Partnership and Christian Parenting Today, Caryn Dahlstrand Rivedeneira has been a trusted voice writing and speaking to women for more than a decade. Today she is the managing editor of, an online community for Christian women in leadership. Rivadeneira works from home in the Chicago suburbs, where she lives with her husband and their three children.

Dear Mom
by Melody Carlson

If you are the parent of a teenage girl – or will be at some point – or if you know someone who is frustrated with their teenage daughter, Dear Mom by Melody Carlson is for you. Melody writes from the perspective of a teenage girl and this “teen” will speak directly to you, telling you what she thinks and feels and how she wishes you would act. Carlson has an uncanny ability to give voice to that frustrating teen girl and will walk parents through the minefield of hormones and impossible to win scenarios like when to treat her like a child and when to treat her like an adult and how to know the difference, how to deal with their body issues, get them to talk to you, and get them to listen. This book is an excellent resource to any parent of a teenage girl.

This book is available from Random House here:

Below is the summary from the publisher:


Every mom knows how communicating with a teenage girl can be difficult, even impossible at times. One-word answers. Defensive conversations. Daily arguments. How typical for teens to put up such barriers. All the while, moms truly long to know what their daughters really think.

Best-selling author Melody Carlson, whose books for women, teens, and children have sold more than three million copies, bridges this chasm with trusted insight. She speaks frankly in the voice of the teen daughters she’s written for and she tells it like it is: struggles with identity, guys, friendship, and even parents—it’s all here. The straight-talk to moms covers such things as “I need you, but you can’t make me admit it,” “I’m not as confident as I appear,” and “I have friends. I need a mother.”

Instead of focusing on outward behaviors, Dear Mom looks at a young woman’s heart and reveals to moms:

· how to talk to teens so they hear,
· how to connect despite the differences of perspective or years and experiences,
· and how strengthen the bond every mom and daughter ultimately wants.

The lively chapters in Dear Mom can be dipped into topically or used as a read-through tool by moms and daughters alike to understand what motivates or deflates, troubles or inspires—and just in time for Mother’s Day and all the Mother’s Days ahead.

Author Bio:
Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of more than one hundred books for adults, children, and teens, with sales totaling more than three million copies. Beloved for her Diary of a Teenage Girl and Notes from a Spinning Planet series, she’s also the author of the women’s novels Finding Alice (in production now for a Lifetime-TV movie), Crystal Lies, On This Day, These Boots Weren’t Made for Walking, and A Mile in My Flip-Flops. A mother of two grown sons, Melody lives in central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. She’s a full-time writer and an avid gardener, biker, skier, and hiker.

Enduring Justice
by Amy Wallace

Enduring Justice is book three of the Defenders of Hope Series by Amy Wallace. However, you don’t have to read books one and two to easily understand and keep up with the action in Enduring Justice. This is a book about a grown woman’s battle to come to grips with the fact she was molested as a child by a family friend, a secret she has kept her entire life, until now. Aside from her personal struggles is the fact that her brother and boyfriend are involved in law enforcement and regularly have occasion to try to bring child abusers and predators to justice. When the protagonist “fesses up” to her loved ones, she also hopes to find justice in the legal system to prevent this predator from hurting others. The second, related story line involves the ugly world of white supremacists and their terrorist activities which strike too close to home.

This is a good, clean cut, Christian themed justice thriller.

You can purchase this book from Random House here:

Below is the summary from the publisher.


In Enduring Justice, Hanna Kessler’s childhood secret has remained buried for over two decades. But when the dark shadows of her past threaten to destroy those she loves, Hanna must face the summer that changed her life and the man who still haunts her thoughts,Crimes Against Children FBI Agent, Michael Parker knows what it means to get knocked down. And when the system fails and a white supremacist is set free, Michael’s drive for retribution eclipses all else.

A racist’s well-planned assault forces Hanna and Michael to decide between executing vengeance and pursuing justice. When the attack turns personal, is healing still possible?

This thought-provoking novel deals with healing from sexual abuse, the balance of justice and mercy, and maintaining mixed-race friendships in the midst of racial tension. Readers who enjoy investigative thrillers by Dee Henderson, Colleen Coble, and Catherine Coulter, and who watch crime dramas like Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, and Without a Trace will love this book—and the entire series.

Author Bio:
Amy Wallace is the author of Ransomed Dreams and Healing Promises, a homeschool mom, and self-confessed chocoholic. She is a graduate of the Gwinnett County Citizens Police Academy and a contributing author of several books including God Answers Moms’ Prayers and Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Diabetes. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia.