An Author in the Family

My cousin, Mike wrote a book. And I am just so proud of him! When my mom called to tell me that Mike was a newly published author, I wasn’t surprised.  For as long as I can remember, Mike has been a talented musician who plays more instruments than I can count. He’s a singer too. And a songwriter. And a sign painter. Suffice it to say that Mike is very artistic and creative. So it only made sense that he’d written a book.

Stranger in a Small TownStranger in a Small Town is about a high school boy, Chris, who has lived all of his young life in New York City. When Chris’ father accepts a job transfer, his family is forced to relocate to a small town in Iowa. Chris has to learn to face his insecurities and adapt to small town life in place that feels completely foreign to him in comparison to the big city life to which he’s so accustomed. The story provides an inspiring message for young and old alike. Be yourself and be proud of who you are. You never know what good things might come when you are true to yourself.

Stranger in a Small Town is a great read for young adults, but adults will enjoy it too. (Face it. We’ve all been through the high school experience. We can relate!) And it’s a nice, relaxing read. I bought and downloaded a copy to my Nook one evening and finished it the next morning. I could see a lot of Mike’s personality in the character of Chris, especially in regards to his passion for music. And anyone who reads this will see familiar faces in the friends Chris makes in his new neighborhood and at school.

To be honest, I was a little jealous that my cousin had published a book. love to write. For a while, I thought maybe I might someday write a book. Then I convinced myself that I am not the kind of writer who writes a book. And besides, you must have a story idea to write a book. I’ve never had one. I decided that I’m the kind of writer that simply journals about my life and my days. And that was that. Besides, there’s my job to think about. And the family. And a household to keep up. Who has time to write a book?

Apparently Mike has time, and he managed to write a book while juggling his music, job, family and household. I never even tried to write something more than a blog post. Maybe I could. Maybe I can’t. Really, it might not be a bad idea to try to find out for sure. And that’s what Mike’s book is all about. It’s about putting energy into the things you love to do (whether those things are “cool” to anyone else or not) and how it’s almost inevitable that more and bigger opportunities to improve and use those talents will come along.

So Mike has inspired me. Maybe I’ll think about what would make a good book and at least give it a try. Vampires? Wizards? Nah. Been done. 50 Shades of… nope. Scratch that.  How about zombies? Nah. Already in the works. Organ donation? Bowling….? Heyyy! Now there are a couple of ideas! So while I start thinking about that…. You go read Mike’s book. (You can pick up a copy here, here or here. And read about Mike and how he decided to write a book and what it felt like here.) And whether you do that or not, follow Mike’s lead. Go throw yourself into something you love. You’ll be happy you did.

“Facing Redemption” – a book review

During my early days of blogging, as I spent every spare moment discovering and reading new blogs, I began to make connections with other writers. I came across so many different personalities back then, learning from others about how they kept their writing momentum going. In the blog world, I found humor and bitterness, personal blogs and fiction. There were so many words out there, some filled with struggle, others always seeming to find something of value and hope in life’s realities. All of the writers I found taught me something about finding my own voice, but one in particular had a positive and lasting influence.

me-and-kim2I don’t remember now exactly how Kimberly McKay and I found each other, but we struck up a friendship that grew strong enough for us to eventually begin communicating outside of our blogs. We messaged one another, talked on the phone, and eventually we even got to meet in person. Kim taught me about seeing my glass as half-full rather than half-empty. She always “blogged her blessings” and encouraged her readers to do the same. Some of us took her up on the challenge. In previous years, Friday posts on my blog came to share a common theme when the Life is Good series was born. (Really should get back to doing those!)  My pal, Abby‘s Silver Liningness Sundays were also a result of Kim’s challenge and Kim might even claim some credit for Bud‘s Monday Smiles, which came about in part through a sort of domino effect from the Life is Good series.

Kim took her positive outlook to an even bigger audience a few years ago when she published Finding Kyliethe story of a young woman who has lived her entire life believing her father was dead. Only after losing her mother to cancer, does Chastity discover two life-changing secrets. Her father is very much alive and there is a very big reason that her mother kept him such a secret all these years.

Chastity’s story now continues in Kim’s newest book, Facing RedemptionKim’s habit of tackling life’s problems with her faith is a solid backdrop to her stories. As Chastity balances the success and joys that come her way along with the inevitable challenges and heartache, she turns to her faith in God to get through them. Facing Redemption lets the reader watch Chastity help a friend stay afloat through a very difficult time in her life while Chastity is in the midst of one of the happiest times in hers. Chastity has met the man of her dreams and her wedding day is fast approaching. While she plans the direction of one of the biggest days in her life so far, she finds herself struggling to do so without her beloved mother by her side. And as if that isn’t enough weight for one person to carry, at the same time, she is trying to decide what – and who – family is to her.

Kim sent me a copy of Facing Redemption a few months ago. I got a slow start in reading it, thanks in part to the holidays. But once the holidays were behind us and life had slowed down some, I could really immerse myself in the book. Pretty soon, I couldn’t put it down. I love anything that lifts the spirits, and Facing Redemption does that well. I found my heart aching at times, only to cheer for the characters as they pushed themselves to overcome the things that fought to hold them back. Also, I’m a sucker for a good love story!

“We” thoroughly enjoyed Kim’s latest accomplishment at our house!

Interested in reading Kimberly McKay’s books? You can pick up your own copies (or Kindle version) on Amazon. And if you’d like to show Kim your support, you can “like” her page on Facebook.

Off to a Decent Start

Two days into January and I’m happy to report that I’m making good on all of my resolutions so far this year! I only hit the snooze on the alarm clock one time this morning. Resisting the temptation to give in to the desire for an extra hour of sleep, I ventured out from under a pile of warm blankets and warm dogs and braced myself for the cold morning air. I got dressed in my workout clothes, pulled up my hair, grabbed the iPhone and some ear-buds and drove off to the gym.

There is typically only a handful of vehicles in the gym parking lot when I arrive at 5 am. Today there were many more cars than usual. Normally, I recognize the same familiar faces during my early morning gym visits. Today there were new and ambitious faces. Said my friend Scott, who chats with me for ten minutes or so while he warms up on an elliptical near my treadmill before he heads off to the weights area, “It will be interesting to see how many of these people come back tomorrow or even next week.”

I knew he was probably right in his expectations but I secretly hoped that the New Years Resolutioners would stick it out. I remember how hard it was for me to keep going back at first. Some sort of encouragement would have made it a lot easier. I think everyone should have a friend at the gym to help keep them motivated. Maybe there should be an online service to match people up with a gym buddy. You know, you never feel as awkward trying to figure out how to adjust a foreign piece of weight training equipment when you have someone there to feel dumb with you or to laugh with you as you give it a go and realize just how out-of-shape certain muscles are.

 

I'm here to PUMP you UP!

I’m here to PUMP you UP!

 

I didn’t run today since I’m still nursing a pinched nerve or muscle strain or whatever it is in my back that I am impatiently waiting to move on. So far the ache has only moved down the back of my leg. But it felt good to move while I was moving, even if it felt tight and painful again as soon as I stopped. I hope I’ll be running again soon. And since I’ve yet to try out my new racquetball racquet, and since my pal, Lori just got one for Christmas, we’re both anxious to get back to our new sport.

As for doing more reading, I read a good bunch of a new book before going to sleep last night. My blog pal, Kimberly McKay recently published her second book, Facing Redemption and kindly sent me a copy to read. So far, I’m loving it and plan to post a review here when I’ve finished reading it.

And I cooked! Well, technically I cooked. As we drove home from our joint chiropractor appointments this evening and spying the golden arches, Mark said, “Should we just swing through McDonald’s and grab something to eat?”

“Eh,” I said as he turned the corner.

“Do you want McDonald’s,” he asked?

“Not really,” I replied and so he drove on by.

At home, without a meal plan and it already being dinner time, I offered to make pancakes. He turned me down. I offered to make omelets. He turned me down. (All this turning me down and yet he offers up no suggestions as to what he would actually like to eat. Typical. And what is wrong with breakfast for supper? I love breakfast any time of the day!)

But since Mark was turning up his nose at all my ideas, I went to the downstairs freezer to browse the selection of foods within. I spied a container of White Chili that I’d made and frozen a while ago. I hollered to Mark, “Do you want chili?”

“I would eat chili,” he agreed.

“You’d better,” I warned him! And so I cooked heated up the chili, sprinkled on some shredded cheese and added some heat and eat dinner rolls smeared with butter on the side. And it was way better than McDonald’s, I’ll just say.

Two days down. Only 363 to go!

Escaping

I admit it. I read the Twilight books. Every last one of them. And I thoroughly enjoyed them too!  So much so that I could not put them down. Laugh if you want. I don’t care.

I was reminded of my enjoyment of these books when I saw thatTwilight, the movie was on television last night.  You won’t count me among the ranks of fans who can’t get enough of these movies, by the way. They are poorly acted and do not do the books justice. I know grown women who align themselves with Team Edward or Team Jacob and are anxiously awaiting the moment they can attend the premier of the latest Twilight movie. Not me. I rarely enjoy the movie if I loved the book anyway, so this comes as no surprise to me.

But as I said, I did enjoy the books enough to count them among some of my favorites.  And I’m sure there are many that would have to wonder why? 

The premise is downright ridiculous. A family of modern-day vampires, the Cullens live among the town folk in almost complete anonymity. All of the Cullens possess such physical beauty that anyone who encounters them nearly goes weak in the knees. They never eat food and never sleep. Their skin is cold to the touch and hard as smooth marble. Their complexions are white as snow and their lips are blood red. And yet no one living among these vampires has ever stopped to wonder that there is something extraordinarily different about them.

Sure. That could happen.

But the thing about these books, at least for me, is that even as I begin to read and am scoffing at the story line, I begin to buy into it.  Suddenly it seems plausible to me that there is a family of vampires, who has managed to deny their appetite for human blood in favor of animal blood in the interest of living in harmony with their human neighbors. I completely accept that they exist and that their skin sparkles like diamonds when exposed to sunlight. And that they can run and drive at mach speed without coming to any harm. And they never sleep and possess superhuman strength. And that one of them would fall passionately, hopelessly, desperately in love with a gangly, insecure human girl who possesses physical perfection that rivals that of the vampires yet somehow has not a single clue about her drastic beauty.

And lets not forget the families of werewolves who also somehow manage to go unnoticed among the humans. Hmmm. We humans are a rather oblivious group, aren’t we?

Like I said, it’s ridiculous! What logical person would buy into this stuff?

Me, and millions of others apparently. And do you know why? Because ridiculous as it is, it’s a fantastic, passionate, dramatic, exciting escape. Ever read the Harry Potter books? Remember how you felt when you first began to read about all of those things that seemed medieval yet were somehow meshed into the modern world? It was a wildly unbelievable story that we couldn’t wait to dive into. And who can’t use an escape every now and then?

I sure can. When it comes time to pick out a new book, I’ll take adventure and romance and passion and drama and a happy ending over reality any day. It’s a cheap vacation for me!

So what about you? Where do you like to escape?

Meeting Kim

I am so lucky. For the second time this month, I’ve had the privilege of meeting a blog friend in person!

I first “met” Kim in my early days of blogging and we became fast friends. I liked Kim immediately for her positive attitude and ability to see the silver lining in any situation. In fact, she is the one who inspired me to write those weekly “Life is Good” posts, which I no longer write, which is not a reflection whatsoever on the state of my life. It is merely a reflection on my inability to stick with any kind of writing routine.

Kim writes the blog Worn Out Woman. She writes there rather infrequently these days, but who could blame her since she’s actually become a published author? Yep, you heard me right. Kim wrote a whole book! An amazing book! I thoroughly enjoyed Finding Kylie which is now on its way to becoming a Hallmark movie! You should totally get yourself a copy and read it. (Shameless plug for my friend’s book, I know.)

I have communicated with Kim online for years now. We’ve texted one another, kept up on Facebook, and have talked on the phone. But this was the first we’ve had a chance to meet. It was all very spur-of-the-moment, but we made it work! Kim was in town on business and when we figured out her hotel was a mere 20 minutes from me, we decided to get together.

Obligatory fuzzy cell-phone picture taken by our very bubbly waitress

I picked up Kim at her hotel and we made a quick drive over to the Mall of America where we found a place to eat. I couldn’t tell you the name of the restaurant. All I can tell you is that Kim and I took turns talking non-stop for the entire time we were together. We realized how much we have in common and it was so comfortable spending time with her, it was if I’d known her forever!

After dinner, we walked around the mall a bit, picked up a gift of Legos for her little guy at home, and proceeded to get lost while trying to find our way back out of the mall. Don’t worry. We weren’t lost for too long before things began to look familiar and we found our way to the place we’d first entered. Too soon, I was dropping Kim back at her hotel and we were saying goodbye. I feel like there wasn’t nearly enough time. I have so much more to tell her and there’s so much more I want to know about her. So I guess we’re just going to have to make this happen again!

Snow Again

Two days ago, there was a steady, all-day rain. The snow in the front yard had begun to melt away and I could even see hints of green in the matted-down grass. Overnight Tuesday and most of the day yesterday, it snowed. Heavily. The predicted one to three inches turned out to be more like seven.

Rush hour traffic was a nightmare yesterday morning. My normal twenty-minute commute took an hour and fifteen minutes. This was thanks to a jack-knifed semi trailer right in the heart of Spaghetti Junction on I-94. The highway patrol closed down the right lane and traffic was backed up for miles. The jack-knifed semi was reported to be carrying a trailer full of fresh eggs. (Good thing it was so cold out! Can you imagine the smell if that wreck had happened on a hot day?) So as bad as I thought my day was starting, it was nothing compared to the one the driver of that truck was having. Besides, I left the house a good hour before I normally would have, so I just relaxed and listened to music knowing I would get to work on time.

The truck was in such a bad spot that it was decided there would be no attempt to haul it away before the morning rush had ended. Removing it must have been a bigger problem than anticipated. It was still there when I left work at 5:00.

Later next week it is supposed to warm up again, so hopefully that means that spring will be coming to stay this time. I’m so done with winter. I need to get back outside again, feel the sun, and see color.

I just finished reading The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, about a girl who watches her family from Heaven after she is murdered. (I know this book was all the rage a year ago. I’m always behind the times on these things.)

I loved the perspective of this book – the concept that Heaven looks different for each person, depending on who they are and where they were at in life when they left it. This book also led to the possibility that people still learn and grow even after they’ve left this world. The main character, Susie, spends years in “her Heaven” watching her family members. She watches them grieve and she observes the way each one copes with their loss. She spends time with them and lives vicariously through her younger sister, doing and feeling all the things she was robbed of when her life was taken. She spends time as well, learning more about her murderer and following his twisted life over the years, even finding a way to protect another girl from the same fate she suffered.

I enjoyed this book and am ready to download a new one to my Nook. (Have I mentioned how much I LOVE my Nook? I go nowhere without it!) I’ve been making note of books that others have mentioned on their blogs and am ready for a good can’t-put-it-down kind of book. So tell me. What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

With a Really Good Book

From the time when I first learned to read, I discovered something about books. They had the potential to be a doorway into another world. Not every book was such a doorway, of course, but many were.

I loved to read so much that some of my most vivid memories of my childhood are of the trips my sister and I took to the public library. We would walk or ride our bikes those couple of miles and spend our time browsing the book shelves and gathering up as many as we could carry back home. I loved to find books I’d never read before, but I was also just as likely to borrow one I’d read time and again. One of my biggest wishes was for a back pack so that I could easily ride my bike to and from the library without fear of dropping all my books.

The thing that made me such a book-worm back then is the reason I still love to read. With a good book, I can step out of my own world and live in another for a while. With a really good book, there comes a sense of reluctance to turn the last page and find that it’s time to go back home again. (One drawback to the Nook, by the way, is that unless I pay attention to the tiny page numbers in the top corner of the screen, it is very likely I’ll have no idea how near I am to the end of the story.) With a really good book, I can be sure that the story has played itself out, can see it winding down to its closing, can settle into that sense of contentment that the characters are ready to ease back into a peaceful, safe, uneventful existence. And then, BAM! Just one more twist appears and makes it impossible for me to tear myself from the pages once again. A really good book makes me hesitate to go find another because I’m not yet ready to leave behind the people I’ve come to know and love within the pages.

But of course, I can’t live long without stepping into another world. So I will choose another one.

*Just in case you were wondering, it was this book that most recently frustrated me by coming to an end.