Thursday, December 25, 2014

Book Review: Angels and Saints by Dr. Scott Hahn

FTC disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All Opinions are my own.  This post does contain affiliate links.

Angels and Saints: A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God's Holy Ones by Scott Hahn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I went through RCIA, the one topic that we didn’t get to cover well was saints.  I was excited to find out that Scott Hahn has a book called Angels and Saints, A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God’s Holy Ones.

I am a big fan of Scott Hahn, and I highly recommend his books and this one is no exception.  As someone who grew up Protestant, this was one of the more difficult teachings in Catholicism for me.   As is true of all of Dr. Hahn’s work, he explains so well the teachings of the Church that you either agree with him or at least understand where the Church is coming from and why they do the things they do.

One thing I really liked about this book is how Dr. Hahn talked about how we honor our loved ones who have passed away and then relates it to how we view saints.  Too many people I have cared about have passed away this year.  When I visited my mother’s freshly covered grave, I talked to her as if she was right there and could hear me.  Therapeutic?  Yes, but also who is to say she isn’t able to listen.  If we reverence the place where our parents are buried, shouldn’t we also reverence relics of the saints as they have faith we can only pray to have.

Dr. Hahn also discusses angels and their place in the world.  So many people in my life have passed away this year and with every person I have heard “Heaven gained another angel”, yet that isn’t scriptural although it may be a good thought.  People don’t become angels when they die.  In this book, angels are discussed and their role in the heavenly realm.

I feel like I lost so many people this year, but at the end of this book Dr. Hahn discusses when he met his (then) soon to be wife’s extended family and realized they would become his family as well.  He compares that to the saints.  We are part of the family of God, and St. Francis is part of our family of God just the same as our brother in law is part of our earthly family.  By realizing the richness of those who have gone before us, it can encourage us to live our lives in the way that we should.

I really enjoyed this book.  As I always say with Dr. Hahn’s books, it took me a while to get through because there was so much I wanted to consider and ponder.  I recommend this book for any Catholic, as well as anyone who wants to understand why Catholics believe as they do.

You can purchase this book here:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Observing Advent -- for the first time

In the non-denominational church I grew up in, Advent was never mentioned.  When I started going to a Nazarene Church, the Advent candles were lit by people who attended the church.

But I never realized it was a time of longing for hope.

Yet O Come, O Come Emmanuel is my favorite Christmas Carol.  Or is it?  It's an Advent song.

I haven't been able to put up a Christmas tree this year.  There is come remodeling being done on the house.  So it's been a forced waiting on Christmas.  Advent.  Waiting.

O come, Thou Day-Spring from on high
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice!  Emmanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel.

Death.   We often don't think of it in relation to Christmas.  Yet, that's what I associate with all of this year.  My mother passed away, my grandfather-in-law passed away, 3 church leaders of mine from the past, two neighbors, and yesterday I lost another friend, making it three people I went to school with who passed away this year.

Everyone who is born will die.  Including Jesus.  In this season we are waiting for our Redemption and our Hope to arrive, because as our Hope, we had to suffer for us.

Right now I'm waiting.  For Hope.  Maybe for the first time this year, Easter will be the time I recognize that hope.  My grandmother passed away on Easter 1995.  Easter has always been wrapped up in death for me.  Maybe I can turn that focus to Christmas.  It's more appropriate with the Slaughter of the Innocents.  

Waiting on hope.   And waiting.  And waiting.  Come, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Review: Chocolate Covered Cashews

Most of my posts contain affiliate links.  What this means is that I receive a small commission for you starting your shopping here at NO cost to you!  Thank you for your continued support.

Chocolate-Covered Cashews caught my eye because I thought it was going to be about the big surprise that Wiley Baxter had one day.  He received a phone call finding out he was the father of twins who were in their 30s.  With a story like that, I expected it to be focused mainly on this huge revelation and how it changed his life.  However,  this took up only the first few chapters and a mention of the end.

This book was more like sitting down with someone and them telling you their life story.  It could have used a lot more editing, because even with this being a mere 66 pages, there could have been several pages less if there were unnecessary words left out, examples being "The next day in the evening" instead of "the next evening" and "someplace called Kings Dominion" where "someplace called" is not needed -- it seems to diminish the experience instead of just using the proper noun.   He stated that he was very sad the day his brother died.  That is a common emotion when a family member dies, and I didn't feel it needed to be told.  Because I love English and grammar, the writing style bothered me.  While for a personal letter it would be fine, I expect a book to be a bit more polished.

There were a number of stories that I think could have been left out entirely.  His sister having a Beatles wig when they were kids was irrelevant.  Also, the mention at the end of his daughters, he says that one of his daughters quit having contact with him.  There was no explanation of why.   Since his daughter is living and has children, I feel like this should have not been included or this book should have only been available to people who know him.  As a stranger, I felt like I was being given information that should be reserved for family.

This book could have been interesting.  If the final book would have been a rough draft, I would have said it has potential (except for the most interesting part being at the beginning.  That might work for Frantz Kafka but not for Wiley Baxter.) I would have recommended this book either be a memoir in a bit more chronological order or been a book about learning he had twin daughters.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers < book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <; : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tightening the Belt Financially

Most of my posts contain affiliate links.  What this means is that I receive a small commission for you starting your shopping here at NO cost to you!  Thank you for your continued support.

I know it's unusual to see a post about frugality this close to Christmas.  Most people wait until after the holidays to start saving money and trying to cut back.  Possibly we would be the same, but right now it's a time of high spending for us and we're trying to save all we can.

Photo courtesy of

It is less than six months until the wedding.  (Talk about expenses.)   Plus I decided it was time to do some major renovations on the house.  When I won a bad kitchen sink contest, I don't think that's being wasteful.  The living room carpet is about 60 years old.  The entire house is paneled.  I would like to get the house looking a little more 2000s and a lot lets mid-century retro.  (Which would be cool if it was the neat designs of mid-century!)

My fiance and I have started reading The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.  In a way this feels odd to me because I've always been good at managing money.  But I also know it's time to cut back.

I'm going to have to be a "spending saver" for a while.  Flooring for the house.  Drywall.  Wedding expenses.  But I'm going to try and cut back in other areas.

One thing that I'm cutting out is my rather regular fill up of my soda mug.  I found a 100 ounce refillable mug a while back.  For under $1.50 I can get it filled with Diet Pepsi.  (Love that stuff.)  But if I did that every day for a month, it would cost over $40.  I need to get myself used to drinking water, but for now I'm making iced tea.  A five pack container of generic Crystal Light costs about $2.50.  Because it makes five mugs, that's about $15 a month.  I'm still spending money, but less than I would be otherwise.  And that $25 I save?  Two months of that and I have saved enough for a high end can of paint for the house.

Over the next few months, I will be spending more money than it cost me to get through college back in the 1980s/1990s.  But I want to make wise decisions about how I spend my money.  I feel like so many of these house repairs are needed. This was a fixer-upper when my parents bought it and while they put $10,000 into it in the mid-1980s, not too much has been done since.  It's also been difficult living in the same house after both my parents passed away.  (I helped Mom out the last few years of her life.)  By painting the rooms, making things more "mine" will help me realize it's now my house and I can let my personality show through.

I'm excited about fixing up the house -- and terrified of the cost of it.  But I know it will be worth it in the end.

Monday, December 8, 2014

How To Prepare Your Cell Phone For Winter

FTC disclaimer:  I am part of the U.S. Cellular Better Moments Blogger Brigade.  This is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own.

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them.

I live in an area where the majority of our severe weather happens in the winter months.  From the time I was little, I learned winter preparedness.  In the late summer or early fall until winter hit, my mother used to stick a couple extra non-perishable groceries in her cart every time we went to the store so there would be extra food in the house in the winter in case we couldn't make it to the store.  There were a number of rituals we had in getting ready for winter.  In fact, my future mother in law was visiting this weekend, and I had to explain the boxed meals to her.  During Hurricane Sandy, we were hit with a blizzard from that storm, and my mother and I were stuck in the house with no electric (which meant no heat) for three days.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Review and Giveaway: Jesus Daily Devotional Ends 12/12

It's the 12 Days of Christmas promotion with Hachette Book Group, and I'm excited to be a part of it today.  I get to tell you about the Jesus Daily devotional book and then host a giveaway!  This item would make a great gift to yourself or someone who is a Christian who really enjoys Facebook!

The Jesus Daily: 365 Interactive Devotions is a new twist on devotionals.  It is inspired by the 27 million fans on Facebook, and this book gives you a devotional in book form and an idea on how to take your faith on the Web and social media for each day of the year!  What a fantastic idea to help combine private devotions and reaching out to others via the web.

A few examples are:

Posting a favorite verse on a certain topic
Letting others know how much you enjoy their photos
Visiting a website of another faith and praying for those people
Exploring sites that minister to the poor (One of my favorites is  Nuru International )
Cleaning out your e-mail and responding to as many messages as possible
Writing a note to a hurting friend

I've heard things about how faith doesn't really extend to social media.  While overpowering others with the Gospel is not always the best way to go, gently reminding others of God's love can make a huge difference in their lives.  I'm excited to see a devotional that integrates our personal walk with God to reaching out to others.  We live in such a cyber connected world, I'm happy to see this great resource being utilized.  I have some Facebook friends that offer to pray for people every week.  They have a day they have designated as a prayer day and post something like "How can I pray for you today?" While you can message them anytime, sometimes I don't think to ask my Facebook friends for prayer.  Or sometimes it doesn't seem like "that big of a deal" to post a status update about it -- so this is a great way to know that someone is praying for you, and I admire their commitment to do this every week.  Other Christians I know call Facebook a waste of time.  I see it as a tool that can be used either way.

For giveaway I have one copy of the Jesus Daily devotional and a t-shirt for one lucky reader who is 18 or older and lives in the United States.  This giveaway will run until December 12th.  Winner has 48 hours to e-mail me or a new winner will be chosen.

FTC disclaimer:  In exchange for this post i received a copy of the Jesus Daily devotional and one to give to a friend.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Holidays, Grief, and The Boar's Head

For more Seven Quick Takes head over to This Aint The Lyceum for the link up.

1.  This is the first holiday season without both my parents.  My fiance moved to the area last year at this time to help me take care of Mom as he realized it was getting too much for me to do myself, and he knew he wanted to move to this area before long anyway.  My family pretty much shattered thanks to someone who spread a number of lies about me.  Because of my fiance's work, he can't get away to spend time with his family, so it's just the two of us.  By this time next year we'll be married and we're starting to discuss new traditions.

2.  We have decided the tree will go up the first Sunday of Advent.  In future years, I'm hoping we make our personal gift exchange on St. Nicholas Day and reserve Christmas for celebration with extended family.  Since he is required to work a half shift on Thanksgiving, he offered to take a shift for up to two other people -- would make a 12 hour day for him, but since we aren't going anywhere, there is no reason he can't free up someone else's day and allow them to spend time with family.

3.  Even more than missing my parents at the holidays, I keep thinking how much I'm going to miss them at my wedding.  Mom always told me that she hoped to live long enough to see me married, but she passed away in February.  Our wedding is in May.  Fifteen months.  At least at this point, the thought of not having them at the wedding is overshadowing them missing at the holidays.  I am sure it will hit me at some point, even if it's next year.

4. The house I inherited is sturdy but was also built in the late 1800s. It was renovated in the 1920s, and some things were updated in the 1960s but not much since then.  My fiance and I decided that aside from Tinkertoys for his five year old brother we aren't purchasing any gifts this year.  I've been entering blog giveaways like a mad woman because gift giving was a huge part of Christmas for my family.  So I'm trying to see what I can come up with from blog winnings.  I'm also really focusing a lot of time to my eBay store because, well, there is a wedding and home repairs that need paid for!

5.  Last year I purchased the book The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas so that my fiance and I could start a tradition of a Jesse Tree.  I bought ornaments for us to paint, the whole nine yards.  A year later and the ornaments aren't made.  We'll go ahead and use the devotional again this year, but I'm considering having a craft table at the wedding reception and writing the verse on one side of the ornaments and allowing the children (or adults who want to) to create our Jesse tree ornaments for us.

6.  Just 31 minutes ago, a friend of mine posted a photo of her holding her new daughter.  She and her husband have a heart for special needs orphans, and this is their 4th daughter.  In the next few days they will be united with their 3rd son.  What a wonderful holiday gift.  (This doesn't fit with the theme of my post today, but it makes me want to cry for them, so maybe ending this on a happier note is a good thing.)  These toddlers are close in age and my friend has joked they have been expecting twins.

7.  I doubt I'll be listening to much Christmas music this year.  I do love the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  The haunting longing tune is why I love it.  My least favorite carol?  The Boar's Head!  And generously leave you with that this week!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Saving Christmas Review and Giveaway (ends 11/20/14)

Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas premiers on November 14th in select theaters.

I had the rare opportunity to be able to preview it before it hit theaters.

About the movie:
This Christmas, have your family join with Kirk Cameron’s family and dive headfirst into all the joy, dancing, celebration, feasting, imagination, and traditions that glorify the true “reason for the season.” KIRK CAMERON’S SAVING CHRISTMAS is an engaging story that provides a biblical basis for our time-honored traditions and celebrations, and the inspiration to stand strongly against a culture that wants to trivialize and eliminate the faith elements of this holy season. So take in the splendor; take in the majesty; take in the story. Take it all in… and let’s put Christ back in ChristmasKIRK CAMERON’S SAVING CHRISTMAS is in theaters for a limited engagement beginning November 14 for two weeks only!

And second, I will be hosting a giveaway where one of the readers of The Radar Report will win a Saving Christmas swag bag.  This will include a SIGNED Kirk Cameron Saving Christmas poster, a car air freshener that is shaped like a Christmas ornament and smells like a pine tree, plus a CD of Christmas songs.


My opinion of the movie:

There was nothing that was new to me in this movie.  My fiance, though, said it presented a very different view on the symbols of Christmas than he has ever been taught.  I did enjoy this movie, and I honestly cheered as Santa Claus was described as to how he fits into Christmas traditions.  If you didn't know, the real Santa was St. Nicholas.  I only learned last year what a defender of the faith he was.  At the council of Nicaea in 325, there was a man named Arius who was spreading heresy.  And St. Nicholas was so upset he punched him right in the kisser! (And who says church history is boring -- yet this was something I didn't learn in my history of Christianity class in high school!)  Saint Nicholas is one of my heroes of the faith.  I know I don't have the courage to speak up when I hear false teachings.  (Although it's probably a good thing that I don't defend my faith with my fists, but I still admire him!)

Even though there was nothing new to me (but I am also much more versed in the Bible and Christian history than the average person.) I still very much appreciated and enjoyed this movie. Swaddling clothes.  I remember asking about them when I was in my first Christmas pageant at Church.   "Just something they used back then"  (Yes, but what else is it used for?)  What are frankincense and myrrh?  As a child, I thought they were pretty lame gifts for a Baby.  But as I have learned more, I understand why they were given.

In 2006, I had the privilege of visiting Israel.  One day of the trip, we began in Bethlehem at the Church of the Nativity.  I was able to kneel at the spot where it is traditionally thought Jesus was born.  That afternoon, in Jerusalem, I walked the streets of Jerusalem where some Christians walk each Friday to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher  to commemorate the death of Christ.  I visited Christ's traditional burial spot, and where some Christians believe He was buried in the same day.  Christmas points towards Easter.

The movie was an interesting concept.  It begins and ends at a Christmas party, while the bulk of the movie is two men sitting in a vehicle, and as Christmas traditions are explained, the movie goes to that tradition.

There was only one part of the movie I didn't enjoy -- the hip hop dance at the end.  I felt it went on too long, and that it didn't really add to the movie -- I think any number of endings would have been just as good if not better.   I am not having dancing at my wedding reception, and yes, I've caught some flak about that.  I grew up in a church that taught dancing was wrong.  I don't agree with that by this point, but also I'm not a big fan of dancing -- even hip hop.  I was glad when that segment was over.

Overall this was a great movie, one that I enjoyed.   I would recommend it to any Christian to help them know about the meanings behind some of the symbols and traditions of Christmas.  It will be in theaters on November 14 and will only run for two weeks, so if you want to see this movie, don't wait.

Also, be sure and visit the site for more information and to download images you can use on Facebook like this one:

Also, you can watch the movie trailer right here:

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

And now for the giveaway:

One winner will be chosen from my blog to receive a prize pack of a Kirk Cameron signed movie poster, a Christmas CD, and a car air freshener that smells like a tree.  U.S. and Canada only.   Winner will have 48 hours to respond before another winner will be chosen.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Shop like a Pro on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

FTC disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them. 

It's that time of year again to don your Santa hat or your elf suit and start buying gifts.  Can you believe next month it's Christmas?  I know I can't.  My gift closet is unusually sparse this year.  One year I started Christmas shopping BEFORE Christmas the year before.  That's how I have often been, but this year has had so many things going on that I haven't been able to stock the gift closet like I usually do.  So that means buying more like an "average" person.  I'll obviously be watching sales and shopping bargains, but this is certainly not like the year I had my Christmas shopping done before spring thaw!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Review: Experiencing the Loss of a Family Member

Experiencing the Loss of a Family Member: Discover the Path to Hope and HealingExperiencing the Loss of a Family Member: Discover the Path to Hope and Healing by H. Norman Wright
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I hate that this book applies to me this year.  My parents owned a gravestone business when I was growing up, so I was often around when there were others dealing with their grief, many of my childhood photos took place in cemeteries because we often made a trip Dad needed to make for work into a family trip, and I even met my best friend in elementary school when her family stopped in to buy a monument for her brother.  But as much as I had been around grief, it's another story when it hits home.  This year I lost my mother, my grand-father-in-law, and several family friends.

When my mother died, it felt like my world stopped.  She had been going downhill, but it was still a surprise.  There seemed nothing different about that day than any other, but that day will be engrained in my memory, down to the clothes I was wearing.

Life has to go on for the living, even if we don't want it to.  There are fears and losses.   I'm dealing right now about how I plan my wedding since both of my parents have passed away.  Milestones bring back memories.  Holidays are no different.  Things change even when we don't want them to.

This book, Experiencing the Loss of a Family Member helps work through that grief and emotion.  It reminds you that what you are feeling is okay.  There are questions to help you think about why you are feeling the way you are.  Examples are "I am afraid of ______.  What can I do about it? ______"

This book is difficult to read.  Yet, I'm so glad I did.  There are different chapters, and not all relate to me, but each one had something worthwhile in it.  The chapters are:

The World of Grief
The Loss of a Spouse
The Loss of a Child
Helping Children in Grief
The Death of a Parent
Parent Loss
The Loss of a Sibling
The Loss of a Friend
The Loss of a Pet
The Questions of Life
Helping Others

There are Bible verses in this book that help give hope.  Hope is something that is so difficult to see when the sun has set on someone's life, but this book helped me go on.  It helped me think about my own mortality, and that I want to be important enough in others' lives that they will need a book like this when it's my time to go.

This book encourages you to seek out others.  Be it in a group setting of a grief support group, or calling up a friend.  Life is a journey, and we need one another.  If we didn't then we wouldn't be grieving.

I remember seeing a quote somewhere on line recently that I should be thankful for grief, it means I loved someone so much I miss them.  That's true, but there's more heartbrokenness for me   There is pain, but I get up every morning.  I go on.  And this book helped me start looking to the future instead of the past.

FTC disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

You can purchase this book here:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Victory in Jesus

I posted this on my Facebook status yesterday:

Went to church at the  Church of the Nazarene this morning. Opening song was Number 434 in the old Nazarene hymnals -- and I didn't look at the hymnal once for that song. When I was a kid going to church there, we sang that song almost every week. Victory in Jesus. That church brought back so many memories. There was cake and ice cream for birthdays after church, and we were able to visit with some people for a while. Yet, I remembered some special people who have passed on from that church. Bob and Dean were so special. I would pick on Dean and she'd always say "I'm telling you!" Gayle is why I started going to church there back in the 1980s. I'm so thankful for her influence in my life. A good day day remembering as well as knowing the future holds good things in store.

I neglected to mention my friend Shelly who went to church there as well.  Shelly passed away this summer. 

It feels like so much has been ripped from me this year.  Nothing feels normal.  Nothing feels even remotely the same.

But going to church where I spent many an hour, hearing 434 being called -- the hymnal fell open to it yesterday, and the strains of "I heard an old, old story" -- a song so familiar I hadn't heard it in years and yet I remembered every word.

I remember the time the we were coming home from a church picnic about 25 years ago, and a kindergartner started singing Victory in Jesus.  Only he sang ONLY the words "Victory in Jesus", on repeat.  I saw his name in the church directory yesterday.

I remembered the time my friend Dean was decorating the Christmas tree and had a strand of Christmas lights that were plugged in at her feet.  She asked, "What hymn am I?"  (Answer "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning".)  Corny, but her laugh was so infectious that we laughed until we almost cried.

I remembered the time after revival we all gathered around the piano and Angie played a number of hymns and we sang until we were hoarse.   

I remembered the time I met the principal of the Christian high school from which I graduated.  My parents and I didn't even know it existed until I greeted her after the service and she told me she was there to give someone information on the school.

And my precious Gayle.  She invited me (no pestered me) to go to church with her, and I got connected in that church.  She passed away a couple years later.   I was an awkward teen, and she reached out, and in so doing honestly changed the course of my life.  Her brother told me on my Facebook page:

What terrific memories and testimony of our sweet Gayle. Thank you Jenn for remaining true to Jesus and honoring my sister by dong so. May the Lord richly bless your marriage!

I feel humbled that he would say such.  My life was made much more full for having known her.

There are others who have passed on from that church, but I've had a rare two days.  Instead of looking at the grief around me and feeling sad, I'm hopeful.  I heard about a mansion he built for me in glory. . . and some sweet day I'll sing up there the song of Victory.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rare Bird Book Review

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and LoveRare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know why I have been seeking out memoirs of loss.  I have lost my mother, grandfather-in-law, as well as three family friends this year.  Reading about loss should be the last thing I want to do, but when I was offered a chance of an advance reading copy of Rare Bird, I accepted it.

This book is beautifully written, tragic, and yet filled with hope.  The only thing I disliked about the book was the foul language used.  Yes, it would be (insert expletive of your choice here) to lose a son, but with this being a Christian book, I was surprised at the language and that would keep me from recommending this book to some people.   I do appreciate her honesty though, and I am not saying I didn't use language like that after some of the losses I experienced this year, I just didn't feel it was appropriate for a Christian book.

The author takes you into her journey of loss.   Being there for her daughter.  Dealing with the loss of a son.  Finding a new normal.  Grief popping up at unexpected times.  Others not knowing what to say or how to help.  Learning about herself.   Learning about others.  Living with loss, heartache, and sorrow.  I admired the support system she had.  When my mother died, I felt lost as I was her primary care giver for years.  I lost a bit of my identity as I did not have a job outside of that.  The day of the funeral a couple desserts, a meat and cheese tray, and some bread arrived at the house.  Then it seemed like silence.

Death is a part of life, but it shouldn't happen too young.  The author's son was in 7th grade.   It was a freak accident during a flood.  Children shouldn't die.  Yet they do.  Life comes with no guarantees.  Picking up this book is like taking a walk with the author in her painful journey of everything being fine one moment -- her last Facebook photo before the accident was of her children and candlelight because of the power outage.  The next day her life was changed forever.

While I have lost family members before, I have never lost a child, an hope I never do.  But this is a glimpse into the horrible pain that those who have lost a child must feel.   Read this book hug your children tighter, and cherish each day because this moment is all we are guaranteed.   Make the most of it.

FTC disclosure:   I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  

Watch the trailer:

You can purchase a copy here:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

U.S. Cellular's Shark Tank Sweepstakes

I love entering contests and sweepstakes!  Who doesn't love to win a prize?   Well, did you know that U.S. Cellular is sponsoring a new sweepstakes in conjunction with ABC's show Shark Tank.

Last year U.S. Cellular launched the contest called "Spotlight on America's Backbone" in which they asked for small businesses to enter to win a prize of free advertising and free wireless for a year.  This year, U.S. Cellular expanded on the idea and gave consumers access to more tools and support to grow their business.

First, there were casting calls that were held giving small businesses a chance to appear on national TV on the show Shark Tank.  U.S. Cellular worked with the show to make it possible for some entrepreneurs to be able to give the casting call a try!

Now, it's time for the second phase of the sweepstakes (and you'll want to be sure and enter!)  This time one person who lives within the U.S. Cellular footprint will be given a trip to to Los Angeles.  The winner will receive a VIP seat during the entire pitch process in California, lunch with the casting team, and an opportunity to interact with the "sharks" during the day to ask any business questions if the winner is a small business owner.

U.S. Cellular is committed to those who live within their marketing area in a way that other wireless providers are not.   This is just one example of their commitment to communities that U.S. Cellular services.   (Think no one ever wins these things?   Think again!  Our local high school won a $100,000 grant from U.S. Cellular in 2009!)

In addition to schools, U.S. Cellular champions small business owners and wanted to give access to some tools that would make them successful.  By operating these casting calls, it was an unprecedented way for U.S. Cellular to provide people in local communities an opportunity to pitch their ideas and hopefully see their business grow.

You can enter daily through October 31 if you are in the U.S. Cellular marketing area.    Just go to  to enter.

Also, if you haven't already, please visit this link to download your free parent / child cellphone agreement compliments of U.S. Cellular.

FTC disclosure:  I am part of the U.S. Cellular blogger brigade and this is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I'm tired of saying my mother died.

I took RCIA this past year, and had every intention of joining the Church afterwards.  As some of you may remember, Feb 18, I had to leave RCIA class because I got the call asking if my mother was a DNR (do not resuscitate), she passed away before RCIA was finished that evening (I left, of course.)  I didn't feel quite confident I was ready emotionally to join the Church (theology was no problem), so I asked my priest if I could join in a few months.  He said that he would need permission from the Bishop, but that yes, I could.  I specifically asked if I had to go through RCIA again  (I completed the class although I didn't join).   I was told that once through RCIA was all I needed.

Now we have another priest.   I was ready to join the church a couple months ago, but he is telling me I have to go through RCIA again.   I'm trying to convince the powers that be the reason I didn't join was based on circumstances and not theology.

I'm so tired of saying "My mother died" or "I was at RCIA class when my mother passed away"

I see the Eucharist at Mass each week.  I can't receive.  This upsets me, and to think it could be Easter before I could receive just seems so far away.

I've been through so much this year, I've had so many losses, and the one thing I'm wanting is to receive the Eucharist.

I am hopeful that something can be done, but I'm also tired of talking about the loss that consumed my mind around Easter Vigil.

Monday, September 15, 2014

How to Watch TV with No Cable Bill

FTC disclaimer:  This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own.

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them. 

When my mother passed away, one of the first things I did was get rid of the cable TV service.   I'm still finding ways to watch some of my favorite shows and have a routine with others.  One of these ways is using my Apple iPhone 5s to watch shows, and of course you can also watch them on Samsung Galaxy S5..   I have a data plan through U.S. Cellular, and their reliable 4G network means I have access to my favorite shows when I want to watch them without cable TV.

For starters, I have downloaded the apps for some of the larger networks.  Just today I watched a reality show that was aired on Thursday.  It was one of the shows I hated giving up when I got rid of cable.

Photo courtesy of

If your favorite shows aren't accessible through an app, Google Play and iTunes sell a number of shows at $1.99 to $2.99 each with a season pass that gives you a discount.  (I might have to do this to watch Jill Duggar's wedding.  With me planning my own wedding, I have been really wanting to see that episode!)

Other options are Hulu Plus and Netflix.  For $7.99 a month, you can watch HD shows on all your devices including your computer, tablet, and phone!

If you are already a subscriber to one of these services, then maybe you would be interested in a Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV to stream these services to your television.  They allow access to thousands of channels and low cost rentals, even the ability to play games.

Being able to stream shows is great for people on the go.  That way you can watch them at your convenience.  I watched one of my favorite shows today while I was exercising.  Maybe combining the treadmill or spinning could help you lose weight in addition to catching up with your favorite shows.  I know I'm trying it!

Of course if you watch a large variety of shows, it might be better to keep your cable service so that you can see everything you want to watch, but I will say that I haven't missed cable TV very much.    Even when my mother and I had cable TV, I didn't have a TV in my room, and her lift chair was in the living room, so I found myself streaming shows even when we had cable.  I even regularly watched a channel that we couldn't receive on our local cable line up, but it was accessible to me because of an app on my phone!  How neat is that?

I haven't had cable television since February, and I love the accessibility of shows on my mobile device.  Just this past week I introduced my fiance to a new series I discovered on my tablet.  How cool is it to be that in the know about television without cable?   Personally I think it's pretty great.

One last thing, with back to school, it's a great time to talk to your children about phone safety and responsibility.  You can download a FREE Parent / Child agreement to help you talk to your teens about some things that might be otherwise difficult to bring up with them.    Get your free agreement by Clicking Here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The $10 item that cost $186 in medical bills.

I was looking through "my notes" on Facebook and found this story.  I thought it was funny and that I would share.

From August 2008.

The day started early, early, early.  I headed out to one of my favorite garage sales -- a community sale that is held indoors. It was packed. I could barely get through the crowd. There was a woman who kept shouting "Pay me on your way out. Shop often. Don't be afraid to shop a lot." (Imagine this as a running commentary.)

I found some interesting stuff -- cookie cutters, craft booklets, puzzles, etc. So, anyway, I started looking at the pictures. I've found some fascinating pictures at garage sales. I once found a beautiful antique painting of a lady, and recently I found a reverse painting with mother of pearl inlay. But I digress. At this sale today I found a print that was signed by the artist. I debated getting it for $3 but thought I'd go ahead.

As I was back at this area, I heard someone start mocking the "Shop often" woman who was still continuing. I wished I had brought earplugs! :)

By this time I had a stack of books, the print, and a couple puzzles. When I was able to say something to "Shop often" I asked if I could set the stuff down somewhere while I continued looking. Most years they allow you to put it in the kitchen. She said "Shove it under the table" "SHOP A LOT!" Then turned to me and said she couldn't guarantee that no one would take it (at which point I was thinking she could be put to better use watching purchases rather than being a cheerleader to encouraging shopping.) "PAY ME ON YOUR WAY OUT! SHOP OFTEN!" Then she turned back to me and said, "Just pay for it and take it to your car and come back". *sigh* I've gained some weight and I thought "Why did she make me try to get it out of the way under a table and now telling me not to leave it there". So I slid the stuff out as best I could on the carpet and slipped my fingers under the print, which was the largest thing I had, which I had put on the bottom. I was going to gather the items and after having my hands in the middle of the print, pick the whole stack of items up. The next thing i knew I was in excruciating pain. I didn't know this but the print was broken on the underside. I rammed some of the broken wood through my finger, slicing it about a quarter inch below my right index fingernail. I pulled my hand out from under it and I was dripping blood. "SHOP OFTEN"

I said to Shop Often that I needed a band-aid. My blood is starting to drip at this point onto the carpet. It's already on my shirt. She asked someone if they had a band-aid and they said yes. She said "Loretta has one in her purse." I have NO idea who Loretta is, so I think that Shop Often might be able to get it for me. "DON'T BE AFRAID TO SHOP A LOT. PAY ME ON YOUR WAY OUT. SHOP OFTEN. COME AGAIN. SHOP A LOT" This woman is really grating on my nerves. I figured the best thing to do to keep myself and the carpet clean is to put my finger in my mouth. At this point someone is starting to look at my stuff. I said muffled with my finger in my mouth "That's mine". Shop Often turned to me and said, "That's why you need to pay for it and take it to your car." Again, muffled I told her that's what I was doing when I got hurt, and please, could I have a band-aid. "SHOP A LOT" She turned back to me and told me to see Loretta. Again, I still have not had the pleasure of making Loretta's acquaintance, but someone overheard me asking for a band-aid and got out a first aid kit from the building. I was still in a lot of pain, feeling a little woozy as well. I reached for a fingertip band-aid and was told I couldn't have that one. WHAT THE HECK? All this time "Shop Often" is still continuing her monologue in the next room. 

I'm forbidden from a fingertip bandage which I think would be best but am given one. I go to pay for my stuff and "Shop often" decides to charge me $5 instead of counting everything up. I count it up later, and had it all been counted up it would have been $4.85, but I'm just happy to be getting out of there although I would still like to look, I just am feeling a little light headed and think I best either plan on going back later or not at all. The woman sees I'm looking a little woozy and asks if I need to go to the hospital. I said I don't have insurance, so I wouldn't be going. Little do I know, although I go to the doctor instead of the hospital.

By the time I get to the car, my finger is throbbing and I'm in a lot of pain. Mom comments that if a little thing like that could hurt so much, how could I ever stand surgery. When Mom can, I like her to drive when I go to yardsales because she can let me off, I can look and I don't have to take the time to park -- it saves me a lot of time. So Mom says we're going home so I can get some Tylenol. I'm feeling a bit sick to my stomach at this point. Blood doesn't bother me, but this was really hurting.

I was able to clean my finger off a bit at the house and saw something in it. Great. That's why it was hurting so bad. It was deep enough I couldn't get it out. I called my doctor, and she wasn't in today, but someone she works with was. The first appt. I could get was at 1, and this was hurting so badly.

So Mom says just stopping in at the doctors might get more results. Bingo. I get in less than 15 minutes later although I have over a 2 hour wait. The doctor comes in and sees my finger. He agreed that, yes, part of the picture was left in my finger. He asks about the picture. Old or new? New. What was it of? Did I get a good deal on it? Was there anything else interesting at the sale? What else did I buy? :) 

So the next thing I see is a tray with surgical instruments on it, and a big light. I think "I'm not having a baby, that's just fat." Which I tell the doctor when he stops in again and he says he's only going to deliver a metal splinter. (At this point we thought it was metal.)

I also mention I wasn't sure when my last tetanus was, it was either before I went to China in 1997 or before I went to Europe in 2002. He looked at me and said, "You get a technical shot." (I think he thought this was funny because he kept saying it. Of course I have an odd sense of humor, too, and can make jokes in some of the worst of situations.)

Finally, he comes in, and has me get up on the chair. He asks me to put my finger up, and puts a sheet around it. I said, "We're number one". :) So he numbs it (and why does it hurt so much to numb something? Isn't that an oxymoron?)

I can feel him digging around in my finger, but it doesn't hurt. I can tell it went pretty deep. He said I needed to see him today, that this shouldn't have been left on its own. Afterwards he tells me I did really well through the procedure and said that men are the worst, they can't handle pain. I told him I had a professor in college say it is because women have two X chromosomes and men have an X and a Y. He said, "That's probably true, but I don't know Y." 

So I am told to wait for my technical shot. I started feeling really nauseated, and let's just say there was a good thing there was a trash can in the room. Yuck.

The nurse comes in with my technical shot. I wait a couple minutes after she gives it to me for my stomach to settle, which it did. 

Itemized cost of everything:
base doctor visit $50
technical shot: $50
removing the splinter$75
antibiotics that were prescribed $11.99 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Plain Faith: A True Story of Tragedy, Loss, and Leaving the Amish
by Tricia Goyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s the way things are done.  Tradition.   Looking good to others to allow them to see your quiet, simple faith.  Being peaceful.

But what happens when things are no longer quiet and simple, let alone peaceful?   How do you live these things when your world has been turned upside down?  When your faith is tested and you find it lacking?   This is one couple’s story.

Ora Jay and Irene Eash were coming home from visiting friends.  It had been a long day, and when driving an Amish horse and buggy, unlike a car, it’s okay to doze off except for intersections.  But when Ora Jay dozed off, he was awakened to the sound of a semi truck, his buggy being shattered into pieces, and screams.  He found his two daughters dead, and the peaceful life was no longer peaceful.

He and Irene joined a “circle letter” for those who had lost children.  With eternity so close, yet so far away, they began questioning their faith.  This is the story of loss, both of daughters, and the faith they had once so willingly embraced.   In its place, they found faith that gave them hope and peace.  Ironically, the peaceful life didn’t give them peace on the inside.

Leaving the Amish community is difficult.  You lose your family, friends, and basically everything you have ever known.  Their journey is a fascinating one that spans many years.

I very much enjoyed this book.   I would have liked for there to have been a bit more about losing their daughters and that painful time — how they coped and got through each day.  But I realize that was the tragedy that happened which changed the course of their lives from Amish to “English”, so while it is a heartbreaking event, the focus on the book was more the journey away from the Amish community.

This book was co-written with author Tricia Goyer, and her books are always a delight.   They are well written, and something you can feel good about reading.

I highly recommend Plain faith to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction (although this is a true story) as well as to anyone who has lost a child.

You can purchase Plain Faith here:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, September 8, 2014

Happy Day, Sad emotions

I just wanted to write.  To someone.  To no one.  Blogging is a way of writing publicly, yet sometimes feels as if I write to no one.

Yesterday was hard.  I had another day of thinking about how there will be only two family members of mine at the wedding.  I have eight more months to ponder this.

I'm hoping there will be a lot of friends there.  We are doing an open church wedding.  Right now, eight months away, it looks like we'll have nearly 50 guests, and I'm sure more will confirm closer to the time.  I want to celebrate with those who love me, those who like me somewhat, and those who are coming just to eat fried chicken.  I want to celebrate life.  I want to laugh, enjoy, and smile with those who have stuck by me the last year.

I want those who are there to know that I'm still grieving the loss of my parents.  I'm not sure I'll ever get over that.  But I want something there to remember my parents.  Instead of a bouquet, I'll carry the Bible my mother carried at her wedding.  Aside from her engagement ring (which is now mine) and her wedding rings, that is the only item I have from my parents' wedding.  I may pin Dad's high school class ring inside my dress.

It seems like since my dad is no longer here, I will have to have someone else walk me down the aisle.  The more I think about it, the more it may be two someones.  Why?   Because it feels like if just one man walks me down the aisle, he is a replacement for my dad.  Having two close friends walk me down the aisle seems to say that no ONE can ever replace my dad.  I know it means different things to different people, but it feels that way to me, and all that matters at my wedding is the symbolism I want to give things.   I haven't decided for certain, but both men I have considered asking to walk me down the aisle will be there.

It's amazing to me how such a happy day can also bring up sad emotions.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

DVD review and Giveaway: Holy Ghost Be Bold Be Brave

Wanderlust Productions is putting out a movie called Holy Ghost.   On September 6, is the worldwide premier at

This is a 113 minute film where the premise is there would be no script, just allowing the Holy Ghost to direct the movie.  What it reminds me of is people having cameras follow them around while doing street evangelism.

As a Pentecostal turned Catholic, I thought I would either love this movie or not care much at all for it.  I did street evangelism in my day, and looking at this movie, I wonder if they helped those people connect to a local church.   I'm sure the intentions were good in by the people who made this film, but I wonder how much good it actually did for the people who were shown in it.  Now, it may well be the bigger purpose of this movie is encouraging the watchers of this movie, but I felt it left me with more questions than answers, questions that have no answers.

At one point, it is said in the movie "God will heal you".   Not "God can heal you".  Do I believe God heals?  Yes.  Do I believe God always heals?  No.  I think back to a year ago this week, I was told I was likely going to have to remove my mother from life support.  Was she healed?  Not in my mind.  She lived through that episode and her health deteriorated rapidly  and she passed away less than six months later.  I don't believe that means anyone lacked faith.  It just was.  God didn't fail me, it's just that His answer was not what I had hoped.  I'm sure someone could say she was healed by physical death, but I don't like that answer.

Another point I wasn't real keen on is how the encounters with God seemed almost emotional to some of the people.  I believe that can happen, but I also believe that God speaks in a still small voice as well.   I've been in the extreme emotional services, but I found at times I was chasing an emotional high instead of God.  Mass is rarely emotional, although sometimes it is for me.  The peace, the love God has for us speaks so loudly I occasionally shed a tear or two.   I experience God's love more through the stillness, the Gloria, and the acknowledgement that I am a sinner and He forgives than I do in another type of service.  While I believe others can experience God in other ways, I once heard it said that the way I worship God is something that others may not be able to understand because it is personal to me, and it doesn't make me wrong in how I worship, it's just different.  I'm not judging how others worship God, just saying it is different for me.

Still, I think this movie could be a huge encouragement to others, especially if you attend an Evangelical, Pentecostal, or Charismatic church.  Also, I think it would be great for someone who has never experienced this type of worship to see how others feel led by the Holy Spirit.

And for the giveaway:

Open to U.S. and Canada, 18 and older.  Winner has 48 hours to respond to the winning e-mail or another winner will be chosen.    Ends Sept 4.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”