2013 Word of the Year -- DELIBERATE

DELIBERATE:

Adjective 
1. carefully weighed or considered; studied; intentional.
2. characterized by deliberation; careful or slow in deciding.
3. leisurely and steady in movement or action; slow and even; unhurried.

Verb
1. to think carefully or attentively; reflect.

I love words with multiple meanings and nuance and this year's word qualifies as one of those words. 

I want to be a more deliberate person and I want to deliberate more about the things I do. I want my actions to be intentional and thoughtful and well-considered. While going with the flow is good and sometimes necessary, this year I want to make my actions count. I want to do things because I've given them careful consideration. I want my actions to be intentional, not governed by convenience or the path of least resistance.

So this year I will deliberate about what I do, how I spend my time, how I relate to my family and others and then my actions will be deliberate. I will do what I do because I meant to, not just because I happened to.

Les Miserables - My Review


Christmas evening, after a nice day with my family and a long visit with my son in Taiwan, we went to Les Miserables. Luckily, I'd bought tickets a week earlier so we had excellent seats in the sold-out theater.

I love a good stage production but I was really looking forward to the settings and cinematography that a movie would have. I knew Hugh Jackman had done live musicals and Amanda Seyfried had been in Mamma Mia, so I had hopes for the music. Musically, it turned out to be a mixed bag for me.

Emotionally, I found it fantastic and I cried more than once during the movie. Here's a breakdown of the main characters and my opinion about them. These are my opinions and I've read others who completely disagree with me, so the only opinion that really matters (sort of) is that I think it's powerful and you should go to it.

Fantine - Anne Hathaway has never been a favorite of mine. There's just something about her. I can't place my finger on it but her acting usually bugs me because she seems to take herself so seriously. Maybe that lent itself to this role, but I thought she was fantastic. Her singing was much better than I expected and she broke my heart in the role.

Jean Valjean - Hugh Jackman is a great actor. The "acting" he brought to one of the greatest roles ever was better than his singing. He was good, don't get me wrong. He hit all the right notes, but his singing never made me ache inside and that's what Colm Wilkinson and Alfie Boe have always done in this role. A nice little treat was that Colm Wilkinson played the Bishop. Sigh! I saw Alfie Boe sing "Bring Him Home" just 9 days earlier with the Tabernacle Choir, so honestly, Hugh Jackman was fighting an uphill battle to win me over musically.

Eponine - Samantha Barks played the role on Broadway and she was good. She's pretty in a unconventional way and her voice is beautiful.

Marius - Eddie Redmayne was my favorite surprise in the movie. I've always thought Marius was a little dull, even a little shallow, but Eddie Redmayne played him with an intensity and emotion that blew me away. And his singing was the best of the movie, for me. I could have listened to him all night. I loved the way they chose to do "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." Instead of having the ghosts of his friends filling the stage, he sat in the empty room they used to meet in all alone. Just him. And he sang with a rare combination of emotion and control that I'd pay to see the movie again and again just to watch him. He was a highlight and while the cast recording would be weaker than the Broadway cast recording with almost every character, not so with Eddie.

Young Cosette and Gavroche - Fantastic and not at all precious or precocious. Just likable and sympathetic and adorable.

Cosette - Amanda Seyfried was pretty and her voice was pleasant. Her duet with Marius was nice but more because of him than her. I've never loved the grown-up Cosette though. The emotions of Eponine (and the fact that Eponine sings "On My Own") have always made me dislike Cosette a little. That may not be fair, but that's how I feel.

The Thenardiers - Helena Bonham-Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen were good as far as those roles go, but I can't stand the Thenardiers so I don't really care.

Javert - Russell Crowe was the most disappointing to me. I had high hopes since he's a singer. I mean, Brandon Flowers is the front man for a rock band and he could have belted out "Stars" and made me forget all about the injustices he was trying to inflict on Jean Valjean. In fact, I'd have let him deputize me and I'd have joined him in his misguided quest. Because of that, I hoped that since Russell Crowe is the frontman for 30 Odd Feet of Grunts (an Australian band), he'd be better. I found his singing really weak and I felt like his acting suffered because of it. Maybe he was self-councious since he was so musically out-talented but I just didn't feel any fire or passion from him and fire and passion are what drive the Javert character. How can such a big guy have such a small voice?

There you have it. Will I see it again? Oh yeah! Will I cry with Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne again? Probably.

We took our children. Our youngest is 12. We had him cover his eyes during the entire Lovely Ladies segment and the Thenardiers.

BOOK REVIEW - V is for Virgin

My Review of V is for Virgin.

I wasn't sure what to think when I heard about this book and to be honest, there were a few times during the reading that I wasn't sure what to think. A couple of things made me a little uncomfortable, but I realized I was uncomfortable in the same way I'd be if I were a fly on the wall of the locker room or a mom listening at the door of a girls' slumber party. There is just some talk that moms aren't comfortable hearing from a bunch of teenagers. We like to think sex isn't spoken of so freely and openly.

That being said, as I read the book, I found myself pulled into Valerie's world--a world where she had the courage to stand up for herself and what she wanted in spite of most of the world being against her. And in the end, her courage and example meant a lot to those around her.

The book has a very positive message and I really enjoyed the story. Kelly created a good role model in Valerie. I'd recommend this book for older teens and young adults (and moms who should know what their kids are facing).

Christmas Coupons

This story was originally posted two years ago, but it's one of the most meaningful Christmases I experienced as I was growing up and I wanted to share it again.

It was 1979. My family had moved to Missouri because Dad could buy land there for a good price. He'd dreamed of someday owning a dairy farm and thought Missouri is where he could make that happen. He'd taught school for a dozen years or so and was ready for a career change. Before we moved there, he and a couple of my uncles and one of their friends, headed to Missouri for school--real estate school. They all got real estate licenses and Dad got his broker's license. They found a cute little house that sat on a little hill in the middle of a little town, bought it and created Pioneer Realty.

The problem was timing. It was 1979. Interest rates went insane. Shortly after they opened Pioneer Realty, they saw rates go as high as 22%. Yes, you read that right. Real Estate came to a standstill. More than half of real estate offices in the United States closed. Just as Pioneer Realty was opening.

Thank goodness Dad had secured a teaching position in the little town we lived in. So for a couple of years, Dad worked two jobs--jr. high school teacher and real estate broker. Teachers in Missouri weren't paid very well. Dad's twelve years of experience earned him $11,000 per year. And that small amount of money ended up supporting our family of 12 at that time, as well as paying the mortgage and utilites for the real estate office. I'm not sure I need to say it, but we were poor. Very poor.

I can remember scattered details of many Christmases as I was growing up, but I remember many more details from that Christmas than any other. The real estate partner that was my dad's friend was poorer than we were. I remember Mom and Dad deciding we needed to make sure they had a Christmas, so we did. Mom and I made dresses for their daughters and shirts for their sons. We took food for a good Christmas dinner and we left it on their porch in the middle of the night.

Christmas morning, we opened our presents. I still have mine. It was a coupon book. It was and is a treasure. Mom and Dad had no money, so the book was filled with things that would be redeemed throughout the year. Some were things we'd need anyway, a couple were activities we'd surely be asking to do and some were things that would cost nothing. They included:

A dinner out with Dad and Mom
A new blouse
Admission money and permission to go to a movie
A new pair of underpants (4 of these)
A new pair of socks (4 of these)
A cousin could sleepover at our house
A summer vacation with the family
A new pair of shoes (when the coupon holder and the parents agree they're needed)
A new bath towel
The privelege of preparing the Family Night lesson
An afternoon of shopping with Mom
A haircut
A morning of reading scriptures when it isn't your turn
A walk with Dad
A walk with Mom

And my three favorite:

A BYU basketball game if they came to play within a reasonable distance,

A stupid mistake erased from Dad and Mom's memory, never to be mentioned again,

and...

This coupon entitles the bearer to have a fit--act like a lunatic--without punishment and without harping. One Time Only.

I still have my coupon book and all coupons were redeemed. It was a wonderful Christmas and reminds me that the best Christmas memories aren't about the money spent or how showy they are. It's about giving and loving. And while I've always looked at that Christmas with fondness, only after I became a mother did I realize what a hard time that must have been for my parents. At the time they had ten children, and under the tree, they put ten 3 x 5 notebooks to greet us Christmas morning. They knew that they couldn't afford to buy clothes and toys to put under the tree, but what they couldn't have known was what a wonderful memory they were making and how special those Christmas coupon books would be to us.

It's the End of the World -- Pros and Cons

If the Mayans are correct and the earth will end today, what does that mean for me? It's really a mixed bag.

Pros:

  • I don't have to clean another toilet. Ever!
  • I never have to pay another bill.
  • No more addressing Christmas cards and worrying about who I missed.
  • No more __________________. (I'm withholding the name just in case the world doesn't end today and I have to continue to deal with associate with him/her.
  • I don't have to think about another diet or exercise program. For the rest of eternity!!!
  • I don't have to worry about who my children are going to marry and if their spouses will like me.
  • I'll never have to pass (or not pass) another kidney stone.
  • No more homework! (I live vicariously through my children and when they have to suffer through homework, I have to suffer through homework.)
Cons:

  • We won't get to meet Bruce at the airport and hug him for the first time in more than 387 days.
  • I won't get to see what my children would have done with their lives.
  • No more family vacations.
  • I won't ever get to be a grandma and hold my children's sweet babies.
  • Travis and I won't have those golden years together.
  • I won't get to see and spend time with my extended family.
  • I won't get to eat any more of my favorite foods.
  • I need more time to repent and become a better person.
As good as some of those pros are, the cons are too sad. I'm crossing my fingers the world lasts a little bit longer.

A Roller Coaster of Randomness

Friday was a roller coaster. During the morning, I received a few good pieces of news about my book. I was listening to music and making delicious cupcakes for Saturday's book signings when my sister called and said, "Turn on the news."

The horrible events in Newtown, Connecticut broke my heart and I spent most of the afternoon crying and heartsick. I tried to continue forward with the things I needed to do but it was hard. The long, lonely and sad days ahead for the people in the community are almost too much to comprehend. My heart and prayers are with them.

I received word that For What It's Worth has received enough reader nominations to move to the next step of the Whitney Awards. Thank you, readers, for your support and I'm thrilled you're enjoying Abby's adventures.

I'm happy for my daughter to be through with her first semester's college finals. Just three more days of school for the youngest two and then our Christmas break officially begins. I am so excited for that.

Today was a bittersweet day for another reason, as well. The missionaries who left with my son, came home today. If Bruce hadn't opted to stay an extra transfer, he'd be here with us tonight. Sigh. I'm happy he loves it and wanted to stay but the selfish part of me is thinking how nice it would be if he were here. Soon. Very soon.

And finally, during the afternoon as I thought about the families whose lives have been so terribly altered, my daughter went to Youtube and started playing this song. It was exactly what I needed and reminded me that in this contentious, violent, often evil world, a baby was born--a baby who would live for us, die for us and deliver us. I know most of us have heard this song before but CeeLo Green's version is gorgeous. Be sure to listen to the words. I hope the Spirit touches your heart like it did mine.


BOOK REVIEW - All I Want


Pretty Near Perfect by Jolene Perry

The last thing Norah needs is to be attracted to anyone – especially in her deceased fiancé's parents' home. Collin’s starting a new career, and has no business getting involved – especially while staying with his roommate’s family, who very kindly offered to take him in for the holidays. Unfortunately, you just don’t always pick the most convenient time and place to fall for someone.

Six Days of Christmas by Kaylee Baldwin

When Natalie goes home with her best friend for Christmas, she expects plenty of quiet time to work on a winning ad so she can turn her dream internship into her dream job. Instead, she gets time-consuming Christmas festivities, a house full of children, and Jimmy, her best friend’s brother - someone who makes her question everything she’s always thought she wanted.

Twist of Fate by Rachael Anderson

When a postcard meant for Kenzie winds up in Ty's mailbox, Ty's faced with a decision. Should he tell her that her fiancé is breaking up with her and let it ruin her favorite holiday, or should he do what he’s wanted to do since he met her - make a move and hope that he can win her over before she discovers there won’t be a wedding after all?

Wow! Where to start. I've read and enjoyed books by all three of these authors so I was excited when I heard about this compilation.

During the summer, my kids and I listened to an Amish romance compilation while we were on a road trip. The first one was excellent, the other two were terrible. That was my only experience with a compilation of romances...until now.

This was a much better experience. All three stories were excellent--sweet, romantic and fun. After I loved the first one (Pretty Near Perfect by Jolene Perry) I feared for the other two authors. How could they compete? Then I read the second one (Six Days of Christmas by Kaylee Baldwin) and loved it, too. I know Rachael Anderson (Twist of Fate) and so I hoped hers would measure up to the others. It didn't disappoint.

This was a fun, quick read and I was sorry for it to end.

If you want an enjoyable Christmas read, for you or as a gift (or both), I heartily recommend this compilation of Christmas romances. I promise you'll enjoy yourself.

BOOK REVIEW - Finding the Baby Jesus


After being forced to wear lederhosen for the annual holiday card picture, twelve-year-old Chris thinks that the least his parents can do is get him the Tony Hawk skateboard he wants for Christmas. But when he recovers the hand-carved Baby Jesus that everyone thought had been destroyed in a fire the year his Grandma died, Chris realizes that some gifts are even more important than skateboards. 

I love a good Christmas story, but often they're silly or way too cheesy or very secular. Kimball Fisher relates a story that avoids all those pitfalls.

I found Finding the Baby Jesus to be just the right mix. It's sweet, realistic, and touching. It has a message without being preachy and the feelings of family, loss, hardship and blessings were wonderfully captured in short story. I'm excited to share this with my family and completely recommend it as a wonderful addition to your family's Christmas reading.

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Happy Birthday, Lori

My blog in December has turned out like the rest of my December--crazy and waaaaay too busy. I'm trying include posts about my book, I'm committed to several book reviews and blog tours and December is full of birthdays and of course Christmas.

So Lori, please forgive me for celebrating your birthday two days early. 

Day after tomorrow is my first sister's birthday. She is seven years younger than me. There were four brothers born after me before I was lucky enough to get a sister. As a kid I sometimes said, "I waited seven years for a sister," and since then that line has become the subject of family lore.

Lori is one of those women who women either envy or mock--and if they're mocking, it's possibly because they're envious. She is the 21st century version of June Cleaver. Although she doesn't meet her husband at the door with his slippers (I think) she does her best to make his life happy and more comfortable. There'd be a lot less divorce if everyone cared for their family the way she cares for hers.

She's one of the most unselfish people I've ever seen. If a child needs her, she's there. If a sister needs her, she's there. If a parent needs her, she's there. If a friend or church member needs her, she's there--and always with a smile. 

I was lucky to have Lori work with me at my wedding cake business for a few years when our children were young and mischievous. Many times, we'd clean up after a cake and then laugh as we cleaned up after our kids who'd been busy with their own creations. Making cakes was so much more fun when we could do it together.

I'm so glad to have Lori as my sister, one of my best friends and a great example. 

I love you, Lori. Happy birthday


Christmas Ever After Book Blast



Christmas Ever After by Elyse Douglas

Can 26-year-old JENNIFER TAYLOR overcome her past—the death of her fiancé that has left her bitter and angry? Will she accept the gift of an adventure from a mysterious woman before it’s too late: a trip to New York City on Christmas Eve, where she’ll meet three men who will change her life forever?




Excerpt:

Suddenly, everything seemed to happen at once, and in slow motion. Mrs. Stanton stepped in front of the shop, stabbing away at the snow with her cane.

Jennifer’s back tires slid away into chaos. It was as if the world was spinning away from her. She frantically fought for control of the car, but the steering wheel became useless. She was slipping away toward the east wall of Cards N’ Stuff.  Jennifer held her breath.

Just then, Mrs. Stanton’s left foot found an unfortunate old patch of ice beneath the newly fallen snow. She felt it give way, and her cane, which should have been a support, slipped from her hand and sailed away into a snowdrift. Jennifer watched in horror as Mrs. Stanton’s body lifted from the earth and rose like a great bird above the spread of undulating snow. She seemed suspended in time. For a brief hopeful moment, Jennifer had the irrational belief that she could somehow scramble from her car and rescue Mrs. Stanton, as one would rescue a priceless fragile vase falling from a great height.

But there was no rescue. There was no one to catch Mrs. Stanton and there was no one to stop Jennifer’s car from its collision course with the garbage cans in the alleyway, and the inevitable impact into the side of the building.

Mrs. Stanton’s body finally hit the snow, like a massive meteorite striking the earth. The impact threw up a plume of whiteness. The crater was deep and impressive. Mrs. Stanton let out an almighty howl that scattered chirping sparrows into the trees. Her yell was eclipsed by Jennifer’s car slamming into the garbage cans, and colliding into the side wall of Cards N’ Stuff.

Then there was silence. But only a brief one.

From somewhere, close by, came a low rumble. It was a foreboding sound, like the low moan of fate in the apprehension of an imminent catastrophe.

Cards N’ Stuff began to shimmy and quake. Icicles snapped and fell. Fractures formed on the roof. Sliding snow whooshed down in avalanches, crashing to the ground.

Mrs. Stanton was frozen in fear, looking bug-eyed, hearing a roar, like the sea.

Jennifer managed to shove open the jammed car door and roll out, falling into a mound of snow. She heard the frightening sound, struggled to her feet and staggered away from the building, running, stumbling and gasping.

There was a terrible, miserable groan as the roof buckled and plunged down into the shop in a storm of wood, roof-tiles, dirt and snow. In violent hammer-like blows, it shattered snow globes, jewelry boxes and porcelain figurines. It smashed glass displays and chopped through shelves, burying Christmas angels, Santa Clauses, Christmas cards and delicate earrings. The window Christmas displays were blown into oblivion; the Victorian town demolished; the electric train flicked away and buried by a powerful cascading shaft of dirt and ice. The family around the piano was pummeled and destroyed.

In a final act of destruction, sprinkler pipes ruptured, shooting streams of water into the air like geysers, flooding the place. Books, CDs and DVDs floated by, little boats navigating a chaotic space.

When it was finally over, an uneasy silence settled in, like a warning.




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About the Authors


Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse's mother was a painter and her father a textile consultant. Elyse began writing poems and short stories at an early age, and graduated from Columbia University with a Master's Degree in English Literature. Douglas grew up in a family of musicians, astrologers and avid readers. His grandfather was a gifted humorist and storyteller from Kentucky.

Elyse Douglas' four novels include: The Astrologer's Daughter, Wanting Rita, The Christmas Diary and Christmas Ever After. They live in New York City.


Links




Book Blast Giveaway
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FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH BOOK LAUNCH


Wednesday, December 5, 2012 was the launch party for For What It's Worth. I'd been looking forward to this for months (okay, years) and as the hour approached, I honestly started freaking out a little. What if no one came. I was so excited to have the party at The King's English and what if they'd never want me back because of a sad and dismal showing? 
We arrived at The King's English about 45 minutes early, got everything set up with the help of the wonderful Megan and Helen and then had several minutes until time to start. My kids were in heaven as they looked at books around the store. If you haven't been there, you really must go. It's absolutely charming and I've based a bookstore in my next book on this store.

I brought a few of my beautiful vintage estate sale finds to use as tablecloths and they fit perfectly.
 Don't you just love the cover? It's so pretty and I absolutely adore it. Erica at Cedar Fort did a fantastic job.
I have to say here that I have the most helpful husband in the world. Anything that needs done, he does. Anything forgotten, he retrieves. He's cheerful and never complains. I scored big time with him.
 The kids willingly wore the promotional shirts. Even Joe, who wore it to school the next day. He didn't care if it had pink and a wedding cake, he gladly offered himself up to be my billboard.
 My three kids on the left and our adopted daughter, Natasha, (we still give her back to her family part of the time), who is Veronica's college roommate and our photographer for the evening.

 Our cake was inspired by the cover. Thanks to Lori, who helped me make the dummy cake.   
 The first to arrive were book bloggers, Heather Gardner and Cathy Jeppson. Teri Harman came later. It's so nice to have such a great book blogging community and these ladies are some of the best.

And then my worries were dispelled when people started coming like crazy.
 Drawings were held for prizes--t-shirts, mugs, mousepads and bags. My kids, Veronica, Savannah and Joe, managed the giveaways.
The cute kids enjoyed the prizes.
My sister-in-law, Kara.
My brother, Mark.
Lisa Price, a friend from elementary and jr. high school came. I haven't seen her for... oh never mind. A long time.



 Lynn Donaldson, a former co-worker, me, and the very helpful, Megan. 
Cindy Bennett, author of Geek Girl and many other books came, as well as friends from my neighborhood, Sara and Pam.
 My amazing sisters, Lori, Lisa and Leslie. Sorry they aren't your sisters, too, because they're the best. I have the greatest picture of all of us laughing, but if I shared it I might be disowned.
Lori and her daughters came.
 Becca and Bryce.

 Leslie, Aaron, Savannah
 Lori served cake--choclate with ganache filling and french vanilla with raspberry filling.
 Helen is standing in the background. She's from King's English and helped my sister, Lori serve cake.
 Me and Loma.

 My right hand man, Travis.


 Some sweet girls from church. Emma, on the left and Alexis, second from the right are in my Primary class. Lizzie and Afton are the other two.
Lizzy, Alexis, Emma and Afton with their moms, Allison, Amanda, and Anji.

 Amanda, Sara and Pam

 Me with my good friend Alison and her daughter, Kayla.

 Me with the woman who won the prize for traveling the greatest distance. This is Corinne and she came from Twin Falls, Idaho. I still can't believe it. What a dedicated friend. 
  My cousin, Julie.





 I even love the spine of the book. There's a cake on it.
 My Joe and my nephew, Charlie.
 My cousin, Robert is in the background. He's the talent behind my book trailer (with Savannah's adorable illustrations). He's talking to my cousin, Jared's girlfriend. The woman in the front was there for another event. Several of them came in and snagged some wedding cake. That's okay because a few of my group snagged some of their crackers and cheese.
 My beautiful girls, Veronica and Savannah and their handsome dad.


 Me and Michaela.

It was so much fun. Thank you to The King's English, my friends and family, and all the wonderful readers who supported me.