Monday, February 25, 2013

Enjoy Erma Bombeck - 2/25/2013

Every woman fights the doldrums in her own way . . .

Learning how to knit was a snap.  It was learning how to stop that nearly destroyed me.  Everyone in the house agreed I was tense and needed to unwind.  So, I enrolled in an informal class in knitting. The first week I turned out thirty-six pot holders.

I couldn't stop myself.  By the end of the first month of knitting, I was sick from relaxation.  There were deep, dark circles under my eyes.  There were calluses on both my thumbs and forefingers.  I cried a lot from exhaustion.  But I was driven by some mad, inner desire to knit fifteen toilet tissue covers shaped like little men's hats by the end of the week.

In the mornings I could hardly wait until the children were out of the house so I could haul out my knitting bag full of yarn and begin clicking away.  "All right, group, let's snap it up," I'd yell.  "Last one out of the house gets underwear for Christmas."
"It's only six-thirty," they'd yawn sleepily.
"So you're a little early," I snapped impatiently.
"BUT IT'S SATURDAY!" they chorused.

My husband was the first one to suggest I needed professional help.  "You've gone beyond the social aspect of knitting," he said.  "Let's face it.  You have a problem and you're going to have to taper off.  From here on in no more yarn."  I promised, but I knew I wouldn't keep my word.

My addiction eventually led to dishonesty, lying, cheating, and selling various and sundry items to support my habit.  I was always being discovered.  The family unearthed a skein of mohair in a cereal box and an argyle kit hidden in the chandelier, and one afternoon I was found feverishly unraveling an old ski cap just to knit it over again.  One night when the clicking of the needles in the darkness awakened my husband, he bolted up in bed, snapped on the light, and said quietly, "Tomorrow, I'm enrolling you in 'Knitters Anonymous.'  Can't you see what's happening to you?  To us?  To the children?  You can't do this by yourself."

He was right, of course.  "Knitters Anonymous" pointed out the foolishness of my compulsion to knit all the time.  They eventually weaned me off yarn and interested me in another hobby - painting.

Would you believe it?  I did eight watercolors the first week, fifteen charcoal sketches the second, and by the end of the month, I will have racked up twenty-three oils . . . all on stretched canvasses!
- Erma Bombeck, At Wit's End, Nelson Doubleday, Inc., 1965

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Review: Goodbye to Yesterday

By Wanda E. Brunstetter
The Discovery, A Lancaster County Saga - Book 1

Goodbye to Yesterday, by Wanda E. Brunstetter, is somewhat different from a lot of Amish fiction and I enjoyed it very much.  This is the first section of a six-part serialization entitled "The Discovery, A Lancaster County Saga."  Each part is approximately 120 pages in length and will be released monthly, from February to July, 2013.

Amish couple, Meredith and Luke Stoltzfus, are faced with the greatest challenge of their young lives. Financial struggles. Arguments. A suspected pregnancy. A last-minute trip to Middlebury, Indiana. A deadly encounter at a Philadelphia bus station. Will their love and faith be enough to bring them back together again, against all odds?

My thoughts:
Wanda writes in a comfortable, easy-flowing style which I find easy to read.  There's more narrative than dialogue or action in this part, but I think that's in order to set the stage - to provide necessary and relevant information to help us better understand the characters and their actions.  I thought the narrative was done well.

Goodbye to Yesterday has some serious overtones, as Luke and Meredith deal with Luke's job loss and the impact that has on their openness with each other, financial decisions, and Luke's desire to provide for his family without Meredith's help.  Although fairly short, part one caught my attention and I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.

The other issue is the serial format.  I think I like this style, but I'm not sure yet.  One advantage is that I get to spend a longer amount of time with these characters, letting the story really sink in.  Part one ends with a cliffhanger, and I don't believe there's any chance of forgetting what happened from one episode to the next.

Publishers seem to be experimenting with the serial format.  Will it be successful?  I think it will come down to pricing.  Rather than looking at the price for one episode, readers are smart; they will calculate the total cost and decide if they're willing to pay that much for a book.  So pricing is key.

I definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy inspirational Amish fiction.  Just realize that Goodbye to Yesterday is the first of six parts and therefore short.
Wanda E. Brunstetter

More information can be found at:
Wanda's website:
Facebook page:

This book was provided by Barbour Publishing through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Review: Denali Dreams

By Ronie Kendig and Kimberly Woodhouse

Denali Dreams, part of Barbour Publishing's Romancing America series, contains four novellas by suspense authors Kimberly Woodhouse and Ronie Kendig.  This collection combines several elements:  the beauty and risk of attempting to climb the Denali, people in the village of Talkeetna at the base of the mountain, park rangers, search and rescue operations.


"Mountain Dreams" by Kimberly Woodhouse - With her cancer in remission, Karon wants to live her life to the fullest and climb Denali, the highest mountain in North America.  Karon meets Zach, a ranger who was driven to experience extreme mountaineering, living for the next adrenalin rush.

"Daring Heights" by Ronie Kendig - The Denali took the life of Jolie's brother and his girlfriend, Mariah.  Ranger David Whiteeagle, Mariah's brother, blames Jolie's family for his sister's death. David is determined to avoid Jolie, but when she gets sick and disappears on Denali, David immediately searches for her.

"Taking Flight" by Ronie Kendig - Deline, who grew up in Talkeetna, helps out in her father's restaurant when she's not flying tourists around the Denali in her Otter.  When Deline's life is in danger, rangers Logan and David try to help her and a special friendship grows between Deline and Logan.

"Denali Guardians" by Kimberley Woodhouse - Deanna, who has lived in Talkeetna for some years, has a secret she can't share with her fellow rangers.  When an assassin threatens her life, Josh and the other rangers work with the FBI to protect her.


My thoughts:

Authors Kimberley Woodhouse and Ronie Kendig are popular writers of suspense fiction who know how to tell a good story, and I enjoyed this collection.   Stories set in Alaska always appeal to me, and they did a good job at creating a vivid sense of place.

Denali Dreams features characters who work at the Talkeetna ranger station at the base of the Denali, the "High One."  Characters overlap in each story, a feature which I liked.  The authors also provide interesting information about Denali, the rangers, safety measures, and base camps on the climb - which gives this collection added depth.

Each story builds on the previous one - and while I enjoyed all four, the first one was my favorite.  Rather than being suspenseful like the others, it was more about choosing how to live after successfully fighting cancer.  Good story, Kimberly!

Novella collections are entertaining reads when you just want to relax with a sweet story that has that "happily-ever-after" ending.  A bonus was the Alaskan setting that provided insight into the world of mountain climbing.  I recommend this book to those who enjoy light inspirational romances.

This book was provided by Barbour Publishing through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Mayflower Was No Carnival

Bob Russell Ministries
February 17, 2013

Bob Russell, retired senior minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, is a great communicator whose thoughts I would like to occasionally share. Bob posted this article on his blog shortly after the Carnival cruise ship lost power in the Gulf of Mexico last week.
Four thousand passengers aboard the cruise ship Carnival had an undesirable experience last week. The luxury liner lost power in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and had to be towed back to shore. Meanwhile, the disappointed vacationers had to endure five vexing days without bathing, flushing or eating any hot or frozen food. Some said the ship was a floating latrine and the stench and discomfort were nearly unbearable.

The news media was eager to interview the disgruntled passengers as soon as they disembarked. While a few were calm and upbeat a number vowed never to take another cruise, others threatened to sue. Most were all-too-eager to complain.

That’s a sharp contrast with the attitude of the pilgrims who endured a brutal journey across the Atlantic in 1620. The Mayflower was no luxury, cruise liner. For over two months nearly 100 passengers were crammed into the hold of their tiny vessel. A violent storm and rough seas prevented them from going up on deck and getting fresh air for weeks. Their food was infested with bugs and already gnawed on by rats. Many got deathly sick and vomited in pails. The stench in the "lower deck" was horrific.

Yet when the Mayflower finally landed after sixty five days at sea, the first thing the passengers did was to participate in a worship service expressing thanks to God for their safe passage. God answered their prayer for a completed voyage and they were grateful.

What was the difference? Two important qualities: expectations and purpose. The hearty pilgrims anticipated the trip was going to be tough. They didn’t expect indulgence and fun. And they endured for the purpose of establishing a new country where their descendants would have the opportunity to worship God in total freedom. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "If a man has a why for living, he can endure any how."

The contrast in attitude between the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower and the vacationers aboard the Carnival should serve as a reminder to us of the importance of a spiritual perspective on life. Unrealistic expectations and earthly goals contribute to complaining and unhappiness. Realistic expectations and eternal goals create contentment and joy. That’s why Jesus taught us, "In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

This world is full of unpredictable power losses and unfulfilled dreams. But take heart – we’ll be docking soon in an eternal land where all things will be made new. The Apostle Paul said he learned to be content whether he had plenty or little because he could do all things through Him who gave him strength.

We are challenged in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

Monday, February 18, 2013

Enjoy Erma Bombeck - 2/18/2013

Snow days are rare in the Atlanta area, but Erma's humor never fails to make me smile.

Act of God

Before moving to the suburbs, I always thought an "Act of God" was a flash of lightning at Mt. Sinai or forty days and forty nights of rain.  Out here, they call a snowfall an "Act of God" and they close the schools.

The first time it happened I experienced a warm, maternal glow, a feeling of confidence that I lived in a community which would put its children above inclement weather.  The second time, that same week, I experienced a not-so-warm glow, but began to wonder if perhaps the kids could wear tennis rackets on their feet and a tow rope around their waists to guide them.  On the third day school was canceled within a two-week period, I was organizing a dog-sled pool.  We racked up fifteen Acts of God that year . . .

It got to be a winter morning ritual.  We'd all sit around the radio like an underground movement in touch with the free world.  When the announcer read the names of the schools closed, a rousing cheer would go up and the kids would scatter.  I'd cry a little in the dishtowel . . .

Little things began to bother me about these unscheduled closings.  For example, we'd drive by the school and our second-grader would point and ask, "What's that building, Daddy?"  Also, it was March and they hadn't had their Christmas exchange yet.  Our ten-year-old had to be prompted with his alphabet.

"We might as well be living in Fort Apache," said one mother.  "If this snow doesn't melt soon, my kid will outgrow his school desk."  We all agreed something had to be done.

This year, a curious thing happened.  In the newspaper it was stated that snow was no longer to be considered an Act of God by the state board of education.  Their concern was that the children spend a minimum number of hours in school each week and that the buses would roll come yells or high water.

Snow is a beautiful, graceful thing as it floats downward to the earth, and is enhanced greatly by the breathtaking indention of school bus snow tires.  Snow is now considered an Act of Nature in the suburbs.  And everyone knows she's a Mother and understands these things.
- At Wit's End, Nelson Doubleday, Inc., 1965

Review: Home Run

By Travis Thrasher
Home Run by Travis Thrasher is the novelization of a major motion picture by the same name, coming to theaters on April 19, 2013.  This movie, starring Vivica A. Fox and Scott Elrod, is an inspirational story of the hope and freedom God offers each of us.


Baseball star Cory Brand knows how to win. But off the field, he’s spiraling out of control. Haunted by old wounds and regrets, his future seems as hopeless as his past. Until one moment—one mistake—changes everything.

To save his career, Cory must go back to the town where it all began. His plan is simple: coach the local Little League team, complete a recovery program, and get out as fast as possible. Instead, he runs headfirst into memories he can’t escape ... and the love he left behind. Faced with a second chance he never expected, Cory embarks on a journey of faith, transformation and redemption. And along the way, he discovers a powerful truth: No one is beyond the healing of God.


My thoughts:

Travis Thrasher did an excellent job of writing this companion book to the soon-to-be-released movie, Home Run, and I enjoyed it very much.  This book is more of a relationship drama rather than a sports-themed novel.

The character of Cory Brand is realistically drawn with depth.  Flawed - and not even likeable for most of the book - he nonetheless becomes sympathetic as Travis reveals the background that drives his self-destructive actions.  Cory is naturally gifted with a baseball bat, but the opening pages reveal an ongoing abusive childhood scene that was partly responsible for his incredible skill.  "Even after leaving this place, Cory felt like he had the weight of his father on him, watching him, swearing at him, scolding him.  There was nothing he could have done to be acceptable in his father's eyes, even when the old man got older and more feeble and tried to get right with all of them."

Cory's younger brother, Clay, never gave up on Cory, even when hurt and rejected - and always in Cory's shadow when it came to athletic ability.  One particular scene stood out to me, where Clay was trying to stop Cory from driving too fast:  "Clay shouted something, but Cory didn't hear the words.  He was just thinking about when the levee might break and the past would come gushing out over him like a Gatorade bucket full of hurt and disappointment. "

In an effort to rebuild his professional image, Cory is required to attend eight weeks in Celebrate Recovery.  I wasn't familiar with this program and found it very interesting.  Celebrate Recovery is for any type of addiction.  It was started 20 years ago in the Saddleback Church where Rick Warren preaches, and has grown into a successful nation-wide program.  Cory's mentor, J. T., was a particularly likeable character and built a good relationship with Cory.  " Cory watched J. T. and knew the faith this man had was real.  He didn't wear it like a logo on a hat or a shirt.  He wore it like a belt buckle, hidden away but necessary 'cause it held him up."

Spiritual themes of confession, forgiveness, and relinquishing control to God play a big part in this story.  "Cory knew he no longer needed to bat off all the hurtful objects coming his way.  He wasn't batting to protect himself and his little brother.  He wasn't batting for his life.  I'm here to do the thing God gifted me to do."

The ending was upbeat, yet realistic.  I would recommend Home Run to all who enjoy Christian fiction that is character driven and relationship based.

For more information, visit Travis Thrasher's website at, and also Celebrate Recovery at

This book was provided by David C. Cook through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Enjoy Erma Bombeck . . .

Erma Bombeck (1927 –1996)

I can't remember exactly when I discovered the writings of Erma Bombeck - but since my mother was an avid reader and a fan of Erma's weekly newspaper column, I'm sure I have her to thank. Oh, how we loved to share a laugh!

Erma Bombeck was an American humorist who achieved great popularity for her newspaper column that described suburban home life from the mid-1960s until the late 1990s. Erma also published 15 books in her life, many of them best sellers.

From 1965 to 1996, Erma wrote over 4,000 newspaper columns chronicling the ordinary life of a Midwestern suburban housewife with broad, and sometimes eloquent humor. Erma had one of the longest running columns in newspaper history. At the same time, she battled breast cancer and a deadly kidney disorder.

At the age of 20, Bombeck was diagnosed with polycistic kidney disease, a hereditary disorder which causes cysts to form on the kidneys. Told that she would one day suffer kidney failure, Erma went on with her life, destined not to be controlled by her disease. Longing to be a journalist, Erma enrolled in the University of Dayton, where she was told by professors that she would never succeed in writing. Hoping to prove them wrong, in 1949, Erma took her first job in the field of journalism, as a reporter for the Ohio Journal Herald. That same year, she married Bill Bombeck, a school administrator she had met and courted in college.

Erma Bombeck passed away on April 22, 1996 from complications of a kidney transplant.

Since this blog is all about the impact of words, I'd like to share highlights of Erma's writing from time to time. Maybe some of you will also be encouraged to seek out her books. To whet your appetite, here are a few of her often-quoted lines:

"If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead."

"The only reason I would take up jogging is so I could hear heavy breathing again."

"In general, my children refused to eat anything that hadn't danced on TV."

"Never loan your car to anyone to whom you've given birth."

"A child needs your love more when he deserves it least."

I told you I was sick." (She requested this to be her epitaph.)

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.'"