Friday, August 5, 2016

Traces of Guilt: A Review

In the opening scene, old friends Ann Falcon and Josh Thane reunite, one single, the other married.  An overly nice, polite conversation lets us know that nothing is really happening in this story, at least nothing of interest between them. As we meander through a thinly veiled explanation of Ann’s backstory as a retired cop, and Josh’s backstory as a heartbroken bachelor, eventually we learn that Ann has come to ask a favor. She wants Josh to help a girl, a former crush of his. The plot centers on a tragedy that this girl suffered, involving several other people, but sadly, I could not bring myself to care. The story lacked a sense of immediacy, and fell into a series of drawn-out conversations between people who had no vested interest in how the story ended. If there was a protagonist and antagonist, I never found either; the people in the story seemed like carbon copies of each other.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the patience to finish the book all the way through.  The writing style kept getting in the way of what meager story line there was. Ms. Henderson left nothing to the imagination, explaining every character’s thoughts, and how they came to them in laborious detail.  I regret that I cannot give this book what its cover suggests it deserves. Billed as a bestselling author, Dee Henderson did not sell me. Fraught with wordiness, and conversations that are so unbelievably contrived, I’m surprised any editor let this one slip through.
(In Ms. Henderson's defense I had similar feelings halfway through Victor Hugo's War and Peace.)
I’ve never written a review like this one, and I hope I never have to again. Please keep books like this out of the public’s hands.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in return for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Piano Diaries: PART IV

She's here!

I've named her Baby Grace. She's a svelte 1000 lb black beauty. What a blessing God has graciously loaned to us.

The men that came to deliver her were an assortment of professionals and regular guys, as well as a couple staff members from church, including our head pastor! I was happy to get all their signatures in our guest closet, and then just as soon as they arrived, it seemed, I was left home alone with the piano. I played a few songs, and she seemed in good tune even for all the moving.

Hubby will be enjoying her tonight, no doubt about it.

A picture is worth a thousand words, er, a thousand pounds?!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Piano Diaries: PART III

At the moment I am awaiting the delivery of a nine foot Yamaha grand to my newly painted and carpeted living room. Hubby and I prepared the room with the anxious fervor of new parents preparing a nursery.
I hardly know how to describe my emotions, other than, "ecstatic!"
Or maybe "terrified!" At the thought of moving that large an instrument, even though we've hired professionals. 
This is in actuality not our piano, but we are storing it for our church. 
This is a trust we feel honored to have bestowed on us. And as much as we'd wanted to enjoy a piano like this in our home, it is a bigger responsibility than I could have anticipated. 
The large sounding board gives this piano a rich sound unlike many pianos I've played, and I'm humbled at the opportunity to try to play in a manner that's worthy of its capacity. 
I'm working on a name for her. 
Will keep you posted. 

The Twins

The news hatched another monster story today. This time children were among the victims. This has to stop, I thought as I filed it under tragedies that are far away, but may come close all too soon. While this tragedy was unfolding, I was waging a battle of my own with evil, and it all happened during church. 

Contemplating evil and trying to sort the levels of evil is not a job for the faint of heart, but it seems that if someone could just take out the maniacs who keep blowing themselves up along with whoever's close, the world would be a better place, and certainly a safer place.  This form of evil is so very crystal clear. And I myself do not engage in it. Subject closed.

Not really.

A small voice reminded me that to hate is to kill. The smallest act of hatred is evil that can blossom into all forms of murder. The subtle cold shoulder, the snide remark, the well-placed lift of the eyebrow, the suggestion of one's own superiority can be ever so camouflaged in a show of humility so convincing that only those who know you well can detect it. You can, of course, even fool yourself. 

And in my very morally superior castle, I reign as the queen. But there, you see, lies my problem. I cannot see to solve another's problems for the beam in my own eye. Though I harangue and rightly so, condemn evil and ego alike, it resides within me. The suburban American housewife who shops at Costco, attends church and is faithful to her husband of 30 years. In other words, crystal clear evil has an opague evil twin and it is self-rightousness. If Isis has a corner on evil acts, the American church has a corner on self-righteousness.

I venture to say, that until we all are able to swallow this bitter pill, we can have no hope of understanding the world. It is all very well to hope for a brighter future, and to give to charities, and world missions, to support the troops, and to buy girl scout cookies, but the real hope of the world is truly a heartbeat away from every one of us.

The Savior told us, 

"I am the light of the world"

"I am the bread of life"

"I have living water"

"I have overcome the world"

 and most reassuringly --

"I am with you always". 

So unless we are looking to him for the quintessential answer, indeed unless we realize that the question is, "Who shall save us?" we may as well all strap on the explosives and give it up now. Death and destruction is the only paradigm that makes sense. Without the hope of the world, it is no wonder people are destroying each other.

One result of recognizing your own weaknesses is compassion for others.  Make this small change in your heart daily. Every action has a consequence. We can't afford to go the other way much longer. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Nest, an Update

Some cliche's are unbearable. Others seem to hit the spot with razor sharp accuracy. Although my husband and I have recently become - insert cliche'- empty-nesters, the nest is far from empty. And this cliche' is ironic.

Oh yes, the children don't sleep here anymore. Blissfully, they don't keep their stuff here, either. Well, maybe a little bit of it.

It's been twenty eight years since we went to bed without being conscious of the babes in our charge, and it does take some getting used to.

Ok, I think we've got it.

So now when we go to the store, the things we buy are more befitting a couple trying to stay healthy, trim down and keep the food budget low. Not much different than before, except it's a whole lot more tempting to eat out, now that we're only paying for two. So much for the budget, and on the rare but wonderful occasion when we're all together, it's really nice to splurge and have a feast of a meal.

The once grand central station - the laundry room -  is nearly deserted, and I have it all to myself.

No one comes behind me and dirties up dishes after I have the kitchen clean. But then again, no one is there to unload it either. Now it's all my job.

No one is there to let the dog out if I'm out all day.

No one there to check the stove and make sure I've turned it off when dashing out of the house, or text my grocery list to me that I left on the fridge.

But in its place are memories of five girls (one big one) making play doh food, musical and artistic experiments, snail watching, pinatas on the tree out front, tents in the living room, human turkeys making an appearance at Thanksgiving, miraculous abundance at Christmas, Mom's Movie Matinee, Snowballs, bonfires that went way too late, the never ending clothing exchange, a guest closet full of signatures, and feeling so grateful that often, even in the middle of chaos, (and believe me we know the definition of chaos) I tried my best to appreciate the moment I was in.

The joy of raising children is now in its afterglow, and that fills a whole house.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Empowering Book on Fear

How To Live in Fear is a book for anyone who has ever had or heard of panic attacks.

Lance Hahn has panic attacks. Sometimes they happen when he’s giving a sermon at his church. That doesn’t stop him. This amazing little book is the story of how he handles living with anxiety and the amazing hope that he brings to that story. As the mother of children who have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks I have often wondered at the lack of support and understanding that I found first in myself and then in the church at large. This book bridges the gap between real people and common Christian ideology about emotional disorders.

He explores topics such as the pros and cons of medication, how lifestyle changes can help, and how he handles his personal nightmare. There is a fair amount of wisdom from the Bible too, although he manages to bring this to the table without any pat answers or oversimplification. I am amazed at his resiliency, humanity and his compassion for others who deal with panic and anxiety.

This is a book for those who suffer, and for those who have loved ones who suffer.

I have been given a free copy of this book from Bethany House in return for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Other Side

Some imagine that a life of prosperity,  wealth, and ease is a sign that one has 'made it'.  If this were so then the richest people in the world and the most famous would be the happiest.  We all know better,  but we imagine that if we could only take their place, we'd be the happy ones.

We are not defined by our successes, but rather by our ability to continually overcome adversity. Overcoming assumes there is something to be climbed over. Something that maybe you can't even see over. Sometimes it means getting up just one more time, one more day. Hardships are the black velvet against which our life is viewed.  And real gems show to advantage on black. 

It's like riding a motorcycle on a curve. You must lean towards the curve to stay in balance, although it's somewhat counterintuitive. "Lean into your fears. You bring light with you." I once heard a preacher say.

So next time you get blindsided by a random struggle of life, and it may be sooner rather than later, lean in. Trust the process. And fight for all you're worth to get to the other side. 

There is another side.