December 25, 2012

the most anticipated movie of my life?

About two years ago, completely out of the blue, my sister Val posed the following question to Blendy and me: If you had to marry an old guy, who would you choose?

Blendy chose Liam Neeson. Val chose Jeff Bridges. I chose Dennis Quaid. They said my choice didn't count because Dennis Quaid isn't old enough. In actuality, Quaid is only two years younger than Neeson and three years younger than our parents ... so I think that qualifies him as an old guy in this scenario. However, I'd still like to change my pick. But before I tell you who I'd change my pick to, watch this video. THIS is why I love Dennis Quaid!

Dennis Quaid is here! OK, now that we have that out of the way, which old guy would I marry? Hands down, no question about it: I'd pick Colm Wilkinson. Have you heard the man sing? He was the original Jean Valjean in Les Miserables (the musical). I have the CD and DVD 10th Anniversary Concert sets, and I can't get enough of them. And then there's this video from the 25th Anniversary Concert. Or this one. Love!

I fell in love with Les Mis (and Wilkinson) in 1999 when I saw the 10th Anniversary Concert on PBS. Since then, I've seen the Broadway touring company twice, and I watched the 25th Anniversary Concert on PBS three or four times (in my opinion, neither lived up to the amazingness that was the 10th Anniversary Concert). So when I heard that the stage musical was being made into a movie musical, I eagerly devoured each piece of news I could find. And the best news? That Wilkinson would play the Bishop of Digne. It's a very small role, yet I was thrilled that he would at least get to sing in the film.

As the movie's release approached, I got more excited by the day. I even spent nearly as much time listening to my Les Mis 10th Anniversary Concert CDs as I spent listening to Christmas music in the last couple weeks.

And then Friday happened.

That's the day the movie soundtrack released. Well, actually it's a "highlights" album, though I have no clue how they decided what to call a highlight. "Do You Hear the People Sing?" didn't make the cut! That quibble aside, I still wasn't thrilled with the album. There's a lot more acting than singing going on—something that I expect to work marvelously in the film, but it doesn't make for a good listening (or sing-along) experience. I was so disturbed that I even reviewed the album, even though I didn't have to (something that very rarely happens anymore).

Now, Les Miserables is in theaters. My mom, sisters, and I will see it at 12:30 this afternoon. And now I find that, while this has indeed been the most anticipated movie of my life, my expectations are no longer in the stratosphere, just in the clouds. And I'll probably enjoy the film much more with my lowered expectations!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. 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.”

December 17, 2012

time to catch up

December is more than half over, and my life is finally beginning to slow down! I've hardly had time to read, let alone blog recently. But I do have a few things I want to tell you about!

  • Singing Christmas Tree is officially over for another year. It's crazy how quickly it goes once our concert season hits! I stood on the fourth row this year, the highest up I've ever been, where I experienced new levels of heat. Seriously, one night we were literally dripping sweat! But, despite the varying levels of discomfort this year, I truly enjoyed my time in the Tree. I'm so thankful I have the opportunity to be involved year after year!

  • As you well know, it's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year ... which means loads of Christmas movies! I've already watched more than my fair share: the good, the bad, and the painful. I still have a few to watch, but I've picked out some of the best and worst to tell you about.

    The Best: Favorite New Movie: Matchmaker Santa. It's cute and romantic without being over the top or cheesy ... until the very end. It just kind of fizzles out. But overall, it's an enjoyable movie, and Lacey Chabert is adorable. Favorite New to Me Movie: Trading Christmas. This premiered on Hallmark last year, but as I had no access to cable, I missed it. It is completely delightful and actually comes across as semi-realistic! (Trust me, "semi-realistic" is one of the highest compliments you can pay to a Christmas movie.) Plus, Tom Cavanagh (I'll always remember him affectionately as Ed) is one of the stars. This is a great movie that I'd love to add to my ever-expanding Christmas movie collection.

    Now for the bad: Cheesiest, Most Unrealistic Movie: A Bride for Christmas. This is also a Hallmark movie, and it's all kinds of terrible! I almost didn't even watch it because I'm not a fan of the star. You know how sometimes you can't get past a role that an actor or actress had, even if it was years ago? That's how I feel about Arielle Kebbel. She's probably a really great person, but she was the much-despised Lindsay on Gilmore Girls, and I just haven't liked her ever since. Then you throw in McNab from Psych as an ex with a horrible haircut ... and it just gets worse from there! Basically, the plot is a cross between Runaway Bride and She's All That with a little How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days thrown in for good measure. It's really, really bad. But it's still not The Worst Movie I've Seen This Season. That honor goes to The March Sisters at Christmas. It's a horrible update of Little Women. Normally, I love adaptations of classic literature, but this is terrible! I could go on and on, but instead I'll just send you to this article that says practically everything I'm thinking. (Warning: There is some mild cursing in the article.) The movie does have one redeeming quality: Mark Famiglietti as Marcus Bhaer. But trust me, you do not want to watch this movie. (We have Lifetime to blame for this one, not Hallmark.)

  • In an effort to be a responsible pet owner, I just dropped off my three—Isis, Skaara, and Hammond—at the local vet clinic, where they will be spayed or neutered. OK, so perhaps I did it not because I'm responsible, but because I'm selfish. In actuality, I couldn't care less if there are lots of cats roaming the earth ... I just don't want my cats roaming the earth, and I read that neutered cats are much more likely to stay close to home. And as for Isis, while I'm sure she'd be a great mother, my biggest fear surrounding her is that she'll have kittens in the dead of winter, which would then most likely die because my cats have to be outdoor cats.

    It was really hard to leave them at the clinic, and I can't wait to pick them up on Wednesday! (I'm also really thankful they spend the night before and the night after the procedure at the clinic.) In case you've forgotten how adorable they are, here's a refresher.

  • I saved the best for last: I recently learned that I've been chosen to be part of author Tricia Goyer's 2013 Fiction Launch Team! There are about 100 bloggers that have been chosen, and we're starting by promoting Tricia's new novel Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska, which is co-written by Ocieanna Fleiss. There will be giveaways, author interviews, book reviews, and other promotions, so stay tuned! 
Button Designed by Team Member Marcy Crabtree
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. 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.”

December 13, 2012

live second: release

This is the second of four posts about the new book Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First. See my first post here.

Week seven in Live Second is about relationships. The video is of Jeff & Cheryl Scruggs.

I chose to focus on Day 2: Release. The daily Bible reading is Matthew 18:21-35, the parable of the unforgiving servant.

I don't know about you, but I've been that servant. I know that God has forgiven me, and I know what Ephesians 4:32 says, but it's sometimes hard for me to extend forgiveness to those who've hurt me. This was especially true a few years ago. Someone close to me hurt me more deeply than I'd ever been hurt before. She asked for forgiveness, and I told her I forgave her, but I didn't. Instead, I hung onto the pain and bitterness, and I let it fester inside until I had not only practically severed my relationship with my friend, but I also had pushed so, so far from God. 

Finally, God used a sermon preached by my pastor to get my attention. (I blogged about the sermon here.) I finally truly forgave. I would say that, more than three years later, I'm still reaping the consequences of my bitterness, and I don't know if my friend and I will ever again experience the closeness we once had. But I've also learned a powerful lesson about the perils of unforgiveness, and every time I'm tempted to hang onto something, this example from my own life comes to mind. I truly believe what Doug Bender says in Live Second: "Forgiveness is what lets hurts heal, relationships begin recovery, and life to move on."

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the author. I was not required to give a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. 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.”

December 11, 2012

live second: undeserved

Over the next several days, I—along with many other bloggers—will be blogging about the new book Live Second: 365 Ways to Make Jesus First. Rather than giving my thoughts on the book right now (I'll do that later), I'll be responding to different readings in the book. In the book, each week has a different theme, and each theme has an "I am Second" video that goes with it. I will be writing about one reading from weeks six through nine.

Week Six in Live Second is called "Struggles." The video is of Brian "Head" Welch, former Korn guitarist.

I am focusing my attention on Day 7, "Undeserved." The day's reading is Psalm 104:1-6 (ESV):
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
  and all that is within me,
  bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
  and forget not all his benefits,
  who forgives all your iniquity,
  who heals all your diseases,
  who redeems your life from the pit,
  who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
  who satisfies you with good
  so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The Lord works righteousness
  and justice for all who are oppressed.
I'll admit it: often I forget just how undeserving of salvation I really am. As someone who grew up in the church, whose entire teenage rebellion consisted of sneaking into my parents' basement to watch shows like (gasp!) Friends, and who is inherently a rule follower, it's easy to get sucked into thinking that I am and have always been a pretty good person.

But the reality is that before Jesus saved me, my heart was black with sin. No, God didn't redeem me from the pit of drug or alcohol addiction, from a life of promiscuity, or from any of those other so-called "bad" sins. But he redeemed my selfish, proud, angry heart that was just as deserving of Hell as any murderer, prostitute, or addict (Romans 3:23).

Each December, I sing in the Singing Christmas Tree choir. SCT is my church's Christmas program, and we have 12 performances over three weekends. As I sing the songs, especially by this point in the season, I usually don't think about the meaning of the lyrics; in fact, I often am not thinking about much of anything as I sing ... unless I'm debating whether or not I'll drive through Starbucks or stop at Walmart on my way home! Last weekend was different, though. As I drove to our first performance on Saturday, I was listening to my practice CD. One of my favorite songs, "Jesus Saves," came on, and while I sang, I actually thought about what I was singing. Suddenly, I couldn't even get the lyrics out, as I was completely awash in wonder that Jesus would save me! After that, each time we reached this section of the song, I'd get a hitch in my voice:
"It is done!" will shout the cross
Christ has paid redemption's cost
While the empty tomb's declaring
Jesus saves!
I did nothing to deserve salvation. I did nothing to earn it. And yet He freely offered it. That's Grace!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the author. I was not required to give a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. 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.”

November 11, 2012

media update & a giveaway

Here are a few things I've been thinking about/obsessed with recently ... and be sure to keep reading to the end because I'm giving away a good book!
  • Hart of Dixie: I recently reviewed the pilot on my new blog. That's right; I started a new blog. I may have some mental issues! I haven't done too much with it yet, but hopefully now that I'm not reading quite so much I'll be able to spend more time on it. Anyway, Hart of Dixie. It's one of those shows that's in the same vein as Gilmore Girls—quirky characters in a small town. It's even filmed on the WB lot in some of the same places that Gilmore Girls used. I discovered this show on Netflix a couple months ago and powered through all of season one in less than a month. Now I eagerly await each new episode. Also, I recently discovered that Scott Porter, who plays one of Dr. Zoe Hart's potential love interests, is a huge Nebraska fan, which immediately endeared him to me. (And no, I still haven't watched that little show Porter's mainly known for ...)
  • Kindle Fire HD: Last winter, my dad gave my mom a Kindle Fire. I immediately fell in love with it. I contemplated getting one, but I decided to wait for the inevitable new model. I'm so glad I did! I ordered the Kindle Fire HD the day after it was announced, and it arrived on my doorstep the day it was released. For a while, I thought I'd use both my Kindle Keyboard (that I bought 1-1/2 years ago) and my Kindle Fire. Not so. I haven't used the old Kindle once since I got the Fire ... so I'm giving it to my sister.
  • Christmas Music: Today is November 11, which is much too early for Christmas music. Christmas music should not be listened to prior to Black Friday (when it turns into a Christmas music free-for-all) ... or so I normally claim. But recently I stumbled across some cheap ($5 or less) Christmas music on Amazon, and I had to indulge myself! They have 100 $5 Christmas albums this month (and my guess is they'll have 100 more next month). Plus, there are other ridiculously discounted Christmas albums, like the Elf soundtrack for $4.49. I ended up buying two soundtracks: Elf and Home Alone. Can a person have too much Christmas music? I don't think so! 
  • Christmas Movies: My parents have cable now (for the first time ever!), so I thought perhaps my compulsion to purchase Christmas movies during the holiday season would disappear due to the plethora of cheesy Christmas romance at my disposal. I was wrong. So, so wrong. Lifetime just released this item. Twelve Christmas movies for $30? That's just $2.50 per movie—and two of them (Recipe for a Perfect Christmas and His & Her Christmas) were ones I wanted anyway! Purchasing them separately would have cost half of what I paid for all 12. See how easy it is for me to justify Christmas movie purchases? I've already watched and reviewed one of the movies, Christmas in Paradise, on my other other blog. Check it out.
  • Giveaway: I received an extra copy of The Memory Jar from Zondervan, so I'm giving it away! Tricia Goyer is a great writer, and I enjoyed this book. Enter using the form below. (Giveaway open to US residents only.) 
  • a Rafflecopter giveaway

October 31, 2012

shapelygirl fitness: wrap up & giveaway

I spent the month of October working out with Debra Mazda and ShapelyGirl Fitness. While the month was a challenge for me physically, I loved working out with my chosen DVD, Walking Fit and Fabulous. This DVD is something anyone can do! Sure, you may not be able to keep up all the time, but, as Debra says, "Just keep walking!"

One thing that really surprised me was that I didn't get tired of doing the DVD. I almost always picked one or two of the Pre-Mixes to do, and that helped keep the workout from feeling monotonous.

I didn't experience any giant strides in my fitness level this month, but every little bit counts! I actually enjoyed exercising, which is something I've only rarely experienced in the past. I am confident that I will continue using my DVD even though this review is finished.

Now for my monthly results:
I lost five pounds and .5 inches from my neck, 1.5 inches from my chest, .5 inches from my hips, 1.5 inches from my thigh, .5 inches from my gut, and 1 inch from my upper arm. That's a total of 4.5 inches lost!
Not a huge difference in my appearance, but I can tell that my clothes fit differently!

To see my other thoughts on ShapelyGirl Fitness, go to my initial post and my weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4 updates.

About the giveaway: I love my Walking Fit & Fabulous DVD, and I'm thrilled to announce that Debra Mazda has given me a copy to give to one of my readers! Simply enter below for a chance to win! (I'm trying out Rafflecopter for the first time, so please let me know if you have any problems.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free copy of this product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 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.” I am part of the CWA Review Crew.

October 27, 2012

shapelygirl fitness: week four update

Week four with ShapelyGirl Fitness is over! This week was a bit of a challenge as busyness coupled with the flare up of some of my health issues left me with not much time or energy to work out. But I did manage to get my three workouts in!

Workout 1 (10-24-12): I was finally able to work out again today following last week's knee injury and a super busy Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday where I was home basically to sleep and shower. I did the Quick Walk & Cool Down from the Pre-Mix menu, and boy did Debra kick my butt! It felt good to sweat again and get my heart rate up, but it also wore me out!

Workout 2 (10-25-12): I did the Bonus Walk from the Pre-Mix menu tonight. It went well, and I finished feeling good.

Workout 3 (10-27-12): My goal today was to do the Long Walk ... well, I got through half of it! I was just so exhausted by that point that I had to quit. I see my doctor again on Monday, and I hope we'll be able to get to the bottom of this fatigue issue.

This week's numbers:
Weight: 191.2 (down .2 pounds)
Measurements: Down 1 inch on my chest, down .5 on my hips, down .5 on my thigh, down .5 on my calf, down .5 on my gut, same on my neck, same on my arm, and up 1 on my waist (huh???).

Check back in next week for my overall review of my experience with ShapelyGirl Fitness. In the meantime, feel free to check out my other ShapelyGirl posts. You can also check in on the other women who are on this journey by clicking below. Not everyone is giving a week four update (we had a choice about when to post our final thoughts, and I decided to do that next week), but you can check out the ones who decided to through this link up.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free copy of this product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 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.” I am part of the CWA Review Crew.

October 20, 2012

rethinking reviewing

I came to a realization this week. This is something I've known for a long time, but I ignored it. However, this week—when I had three book reviews due on Monday, one on Thursday, one on Friday, and one on Saturday—made one fact abundantly clear: I need to review fewer books.

When I began reviewing books on my blog (four years ago now!), I only reviewed for Thomas Nelson, and I averaged about one review a month. Then I began joining the book review blogger teams for other Christian publishers. And then, in February 2011, I hit the book blogger's jackpot when I became a Litfuse blogger. Litfuse is a publicity group, and they tour the best—seriously, the absolute best—in Christian fiction. (They also have non-fiction book tours, but I rarely sign up for those.) And when there's a wealth of excellent books, I have trouble saying no to any of them. (I've been trying—I even made "learn to say no" one of my goals for 2012—but I haven't been incredibly successful.) This year alone, I've discovered five or six new authors whose writing styles I really enjoy.

But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. I feel like reviewing is beginning to take over my life. The last time I read a book purely for fun—no review strings attached—was after my gallbladder surgery in May. (And then I went ahead and reviewed it anyway because apparently I have a mental condition.) I have a full shelf of books I've purchased in the last 18 months that I really want to read but haven't had time for yet. I have a Kindle brimming with free books that I've never opened. I still haven't finished Loving or read Coming Home, the book that wraps up Karen Kingsbury's Baxter family saga. 
This is my "to be reviewed" shelf.
This is my "I so want to read you, but I can't because I have too many review books" shelf.
Probably the most important reason to review fewer books is that my spiritual life is suffering. In my spare time, either I'm reading like a mad woman or I'm vegging out in exhaustion. I can't remember the last time I picked up my Bible when it wasn't related to church or one of my Bible studies. 

So I've decided that, for the next six months to begin with, I will only request books from authors whose previous books I've loved. These are authors whose books I would purchase if I wasn't a reviewer—authors like Susan May Warren, Becky Wade, Sarah Sundin, and Tricia Goyer. This will cut back on my reviews drastically and should give me time for other things. Things like ...
  • Spending time with God.
  • Getting healthier. I'm working out and trying to eat better, but I know that the stress and lack of sleep due to reading and reviewing so many books is also wearing on my health.
  • Finally reading some of the other books on my "to be read" shelf.
  • Cleaning my house.
  • Continuing my Cinematic Survey project.
  • Blogging about things other than books.
  • Getting farther than episode four on Friday Night Lights.
  • Focusing on relationships.
For a while, my reviewing pace won't slow too much because, as you saw above, I already have a bunch of books to review. However, I don't think any week will be quite as crazy as this one has been!
    I know this won't be easy. I'll be very tempted to "cheat" now and again. But it will be healthy—for my body, mind, and soul.

    a long time ago, we used to be friends, but I haven't thought of you lately at all ...

    This made my night that much better:
    Now I think I need to go watch an episode of Veronica Mars before bed ...

    shapelygirl fitness: week three update

    "Life doesn't always turn out the way you plan." -While You Were Sleeping

    If I had to title this week, I would call it Week of Frustration. I began the week feeling so much better than I'd felt in over a month. Sunday and Monday were crazy-busy with church, Singing Christmas Tree practice, work, a visit from my cousin and her adorable daughters, and reading and blogging about three books, so I didn't have time to work out. Then on Tuesday night, I hurt my leg ... so I wasn't able to work out nearly as much as I'd hoped. This was especially frustrating because I felt like I finally had the energy for a good hard workout! Plus, I'm mad at myself because I know this injury is of my own making ... I inherited my mom's bad knees, and I've had problems with them off and on since high school. Well, on Tuesday night, I was working out barefoot. Yes, barefoot. So I had no support. Stupid, stupid, stupid!!! My leg is healing, and I'm hoping to be back at full strength by next week.

    Workout 1 (10-16-12): My goal was to do the bonus walk and abdominal workout tonight. Things didn't go as planned, though. I started the bonus walk with a lot of energy and enthusiasm ... but about 10 minutes in, my left leg started hurting on the back side of the knee. Probably stupidly, I finished out the bonus walk and moved into the standing abs. But my leg hurt more and more every minute, and I stopped after just a couple minutes. I ended up elevating and icing my leg for the rest of the evening.

    Workout 2 (10-19-12): Even though my leg felt much better on Wednesday, I didn't want to push it, so I didn't do anything strenuous. I was sure that I'd be able to jump back in on Thursday. I was wrong. I woke up Thursday morning with an aching knee, and when I got out of the shower, I saw that it was swollen. So I iced it off and on all day.

    I was finally able to work out again today (Friday)! I did the Beginner's Walk ... and I left out certain parts in an effort to keep from re-injuring my knee. I felt a few twinges of pain, but for the most part, I was okay. Then I iced my knee again when I finished.

    This week's numbers:
    Weight: 191.4 (down .8 pounds)
    Measurements: down 1 inch on my thigh, down .5 on my upper arm, and up .5 on my calf (I knew that would happen!)

    As I've read through other ShapelyGirl Fitness Review Crew blogs, I've noticed a similar theme. Women are dealing with sickness, back problems, leg problems, marital problems, job stress, and the list goes on and on. We're all doing our best to fulfill our commitment to CWA and ShapelyGirl Fitness, but obstacles are being thrown into our paths. We all need your prayer! Yes, we are facing a physical battle, but it's also spiritual! Several of the women have chosen power scriptures for each week. I hadn't ... until now. This is my prayer for all of us on the crew:
    For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)
    Check in with the other women on the Crew and see how they're doing!

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free copy of this product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 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.” I am part of the CWA Review Crew.

    October 18, 2012

    it's anti-slavery day. how will you get involved?

    You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know. ~William Wilberforce

    I remember the first time I was aware—really aware—of the horrors of sex slavery and human trafficking. My baby sister Blendy was competing in Serious Prose at State Speech, and a girl in one of her rounds performed a heartbreaking (and far too explicit for a high school competition) piece about a Nepali girl who was sold into sex slavery by her father. I did a bit more research, and I was horrified by what I learned. But what could I do to help?

    Then it hit me. I may not be able to go physically rescue people, but there are three other vitally important things that I can do.
    1. Pray. This is the one thing I can do all the time. I use this prayer guide from the A21 Campaign.
    2. Give. There are many wonderful anti-trafficking organizations; I'd encourage you to research them and, if you're able, choose one to financially support.
    3. Spread awareness. This can be done through blogging (like this post) and social media, through wearing items that spark conversation (like the One Girl bracelet and A21 Campaign KEY2FREE necklace), through talking with your friends, and through many other means. (For ideas, click here.)
    A few years ago, I ran an article about trafficking in the Advance, the school newsletter that goes out to NC parents, alumni, and supporters. The article was written by Sara, an alum who worked for World Vision as an associate expert on trafficking. Sara's article eloquently and tastefully opened people's eyes to the horrors of human trafficking. If your eyes need to be opened, I think this article is a great place to start. You can read it here—scroll to page six.

    Here are a couple videos about trafficking:

    I also recommend you watch Human Trafficking, an eye-opening, disturbing, action-spurring miniseries. If you have Netflix, you can watch it here.

    Today, on Anti-Slavery Day, why don't you take a few minutes to consider how you might get involved in this fight for freedom? Educate yourself. Pray for the victims. Spread the word.

    October 13, 2012

    shapelygirl fitness: week two update

    This week was a bit of a challenge because of the health issues I alluded to previously. But I did manage to work out ... (To see why I'm on this journey with ShapelyGirl Fitness and my week one update, click here and here.)

    Workout 1 (10-9-12): I felt pretty terrible all day (yesterday, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor, but the soonest she could see me was Wednesday), so I didn't feel like working out when I got home from work. But I also knew that, depending on what I found out when I saw the doctor, I might not have much of an opportunity to work out for the rest of the week. So I put on the Beginner's Walk. By the end, I was actually feeling more human than I had all day, but I also didn't want to overdo it, so I didn't do any of the premixes after the Beginner's Walk.

    Workout 2 (10-10-12): I felt a little better today, though not very energetic. The doctor didn't have any answers for me, so we're waiting on lab work to come back.

    I took the dvd to my parents' house, since I cook supper for them on Wednesdays (they help with Awana at their church, so their time between work and church is pretty rushed) and my mom and I planned to watch a movie together after she got home from Awana. I did the Quick Walk from the premixes after supper. My mom watched part of the dvd, and she said, "This reminds me of Richard Simmons!" Yes!!! She also thinks she would like to work out with me sometime. Double Yes!!!

    Workout 3 (10-11-12):
    I felt worse today than yesterday, and by the time I got home from work, the last thing I wanted to do was work out. In the past, whenever I felt the least bit sick, I'd use that as an excuse to skip exercising. But since I committed to three times per week with ShapelyGirl Fitness, I decided to work out even though I didn't want to. I did the Bonus Walk tonight, and I definitely felt better than I had all day after I finished. I wonder what would happen if I started my day with the dvd? Would I feel better throughout the day? 

    Workout 4 (10-12-12): Last night, I toyed with the idea of getting up in time to do the dvd before work. That didn't even come close to happening, as I accidentally turned my alarm off when I meant to hit the snooze button! My lab panel came back today, and everything looks good! On the one hand, that's great news, but on the other, well, I know something is going on, so it's frustrating to not have any answers. But I'll keep plugging along ...

    I do feel better today than I have all week, so I decided to try for the whole dvd again. I did it! I'm definitely feeling more flexible than I was when I started—my kicks are higher, I can bend lower, and my body just feels more limber.

    This week's numbers:
    Weight: 192.2 (down 1.2 pounds)
    Measurements: all the same as last week

    I have a feeling that the weight loss came more from the lack of appetite than the exercise, and I would not be the least bit surprised to find my calves have grown by next week. I've always had insanely muscular calves (really the only part of my body that's remotely muscular!), and the walking workout makes me feel my calves in ways that even jogging doesn't! 

    One thing I've learned this week is that I should stop using "I don't feel good" as an excuse to skip exercising. Obviously, if I was down with the flu or something, exercise wouldn't help, but when I feel like I've been feeling lately—incredibly fatigued, crampy, and just blah—even a short workout can help me feel better.

    Check out how the other women on the ShapelyGirl Fitness review crew are doing:

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free copy of this product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 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.” I am part of the CWA Review Crew.

    October 7, 2012

    the proof of your love

    A while ago, a friend introduced me to the Christian band for KING & COUNTRY. Their music is great, and if you haven't heard them before, you really should check them out. As I thought about what to title this post, their song "The Proof of Your Love" kept running through my head. It's a song about wanting your life to reflect God's love to those around, which is really not the focus of this post ... but the title still applies!

    One of the things we're supposed to be doing in my Beth Moore Bible study is writing down personal revelations for each week—ways God shows Himself to us. Honestly, I've been struggling with that part. September was a pretty terrible month for me health wise—nothing major, but I felt sick more often than not, and when I don't feel good, it's hard for me to take my eyes off myself and see how God is working.

    Yesterday, my mom and I went to Omaha to visit Blendy and go to the symphony. But on the way, I started feeling sick again, and we ended up leaving Omaha before the symphony. This morning, I still wasn't feeling well, but I'd made plans with someone after church, and Singing Christmas Tree practices started today, so I decided to go ahead and go to church. Right before leaving for church, I found out my friend needed to cancel our lunch plans, and I almost just stayed home. I'm so glad I didn't!

    As I was walking toward the church building, I bumped into my new friend Julie. Julie and I went to college together, but we never met. We connected over facebook during the Nebraska-Wisconsin game last week; we have a mutual college friend who asked a question about Bo Pelini, we both responded, and we discovered we both live in the Grand Island area. (This is big because there aren't many Grace alums in the area. At all.) Then on Thursday night, we met for coffee at The Chocolate Bar. Anyway, it was a nice surprise to run into Julie this morning and to meet her husband and son.

    Then when I walked into the sanctuary, I spotted Stephany and her boyfriend. Steph and I are rarely in church on the same Sundays, and it was so nice to sit with her and catch up a bit. On the way out of church, I chatted with one of my VBS kids, last year's Bible study leader Carol, and former student Jess.

    I decided to go hang out at Barista's for a while, as practice didn't start until 3. And who should walk in but Jamie, a friend I hadn't spent any time with since the end of May! We didn't have long to talk, but it was so nice to see her.

    As I drove to Singing Christmas Tree practice, it hit me that my day was the proof of God's love for me. He used people to make my day better and take my eyes off my own problems. (And if you're wondering, Singing Christmas Tree practice was wonderful—our director said it was like a family reunion as we all got back together for the first time since last December, and she was right!)

    I'm sure that if I would just keep my eyes open, I would see so many more proofs of God's love for me. What about you? How is God showing you His love?

    shapelygirl fitness: week one update

    Week one of working out with ShapelyGirl Fitness is on the books!

    Now that you know why I'm on this journey with ShapelyGirl Fitness, I want to share some thoughts on the workout dvd I chose.

    I chose Walking Fit & Fabulous as my workout dvd for two reasons. First, I have knee problems that flare up now and again, and I figured a walking workout would be as low impact as I could find. Second, I'm hoping my mom will work out with me sometimes, and I thought the walking workout would be easiest for her. We haven't worked out together yet, but I'm hoping maybe sometime this week we can.

    In addition to the full walking workout (which runs approximately 80 minutes), the dvd also includes a beginner's walk of 13 minutes and four pre-mixes that combine parts of the full workout. I love that there are options because I'm pretty sure I would get tired of doing the exact same workout every day!

    Since this is a once-a-week recap, I'm going to journal about each workout just after it happens to give you a look at the day-by-day stuff:

    Workout 1 (10-1-12): I decided to do the whole workout video in one session, and I did it! My neighbor kids interrupted me several times, so it took 1-1/2 hours to do it, but I made it! I didn't do the bonus walk at the end because it was time for Dancing with the Stars (priorities, you know?), but I did get through everything else.

    Most of the workout was quite easy to do, but one of the steps did throw me for a loop. I'm sure I'll be better at it next time! I didn't feel truly winded until close to the end of the workout, when Debra asked us to do "quick feet." At that point, I may or may not have yelled at the TV!

    Workout 2 (10-2-12): I fully expected to feel sore after my first workout, even though it wasn't too taxing. I wasn't, though ... until I started working out tonight! I didn't want to do the full workout tonight because I came home from work absolutely exhausted. I wanted to hit the couch for some reading time, but instead I popped in the dvd. I did the Quick Walk & Cool Down from the preset menu. This is just over 30 minutes long, and believe me, I felt every single one of those minutes! Once I started moving, I could feel the soreness in my legs, and by the end, it was only sheer willpower that kept me from collapsing to the floor and giving up. But I made it through, and now I feel great! Gotta love those after-exercise endorphins!

    P.S. The sashay is the step I couldn't get yesterday. Today, I paused the dvd and practiced it for a while ... and by the end, I had it down pretty well!

    Workout 3 (10-3-12): Tonight I did the bonus walk. I think this may be my favorite premix! It incorporates the arms more than the regular walk does ... and I could definitely feel the burn! Even though I only worked out for 16 minutes, I felt like I'd gone 30 or more.

    Workout 4 (10-5-12): I know I won't always get in more than three workouts a week, but I had time tonight (after taking last night off), so I decided to go for it! I did the bonus walk and abdominal exercises. My right leg was hurting me a bit, so I didn't go all out—but I still got a good workout!

    Now for the week's numbers!
    Weight: 193.4 pounds (down 2.6 pounds!)
    Bust: 45.5 in (down 1/2 in)
    Waist: 39 (down 1 in)
    Hips: 45 (same)
    Thigh: 26 (same)
    Calf: 16 (same)
    Gut: 47 (same)
    Arm: 13.5 (same)

    One thing I'm learning most is about the power of community. If I was doing this on my own, I might have given up by now. But I have 26 other women who are doing this challenge along with me, and their support has been amazing! We have a secret facebook group that we can post in, and I find such encouragement as I interact with them. Below, you can see where we've linked up our posts. Please read some (or all!) of them and leave comments encouraging them. We come from many different backgrounds, live in various parts of the country (or Canada), and are all dealing with various challenges, but we have two things in common: we love Jesus, and we need to get in shape. I know they would appreciate your encouragement, just as I've appreciated theirs!

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free copy of this product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 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.” I am part of the CWA Review Crew.

    September 30, 2012

    shapelygirl fitness: initial thoughts

    If you've been reading this blog very long, you know I review a lot of products, mostly books. You also know I struggle with my weight. (Well, let's be honest: sometimes it's a struggle, and other times it's more like whatever, who cares, I give up!) I was recently offered the opportunity to combine my love of reviewing with my quest to lose weight by being a part of the ShapelyGirl Fitness review crew through Christian Women Affiliate.

    ShapelyGirl Fitness founder Debra Mazda believes that every woman, no matter her size, can improve her life and health by getting off the couch and moving! Here's a little bit about Debra's philosophy (provided by ShapelyGirl Fitness):
    Fitness Comes In Many Sizes. You’d never know this by looking at most fitness DVD’s or at the women in your average health club workout classes, because the majority of fitness products are targeted to thin women. As a result, larger women can be intimated by traditional health clubs and workout tapes. They are often encouraged to focus first on dieting … and we all know how well diets work. Enter Debra Mazda, the founder of ShapelyGirl Fitness™ – a still “shapely” 165-pound fitness trainer, who transformed her life through exercise. Mazda began her transformation 25 years ago, tipping the scale at 310 pounds and in the habit of enjoying a rack of ribs for breakfast. Mazda learned firsthand that getting moving is the first step to better health and self-esteem. Through her ShapelyGirl Fitness™ program, Mazda puts the focus directly on other ShapelyGirls, encouraging plus size women to “get off the couch.”
    Debra's philosophy is what convinced me to apply for this review crew—well, that and the fact that she used to work with Richard Simmons! I loved his videos when I was in high school. (That makes me sound really uncool, doesn't it?) His videos and Debra's are the only workout videos I've seen that use actual plus size people in them.

    This opportunity couldn't have come at a better time. My goals for 2012 included exercising four times per week and losing 30 pounds. At the time, I couldn't have foreseen my May gallbladder surgery, which made me feel better but totally knocked me off my exercise regimen. And once I stopped exercising, I never really started again. I don't weigh as much as I did at the beginning of the year, but I'm in much worse shape. So I am committing to getting off the couch and moving!

    I can't believe I'm about to post this, but here's a picture of me now. I generally avoid full body shots, and I always, always do the suck in the gut, stick out the neck, turn slightly to the side photo slimming tricks. Hopefully my "after" shot won't be so cringe-worthy!

    Currently, I weigh 196 pounds (did I really just say that?) and wear a size 14 pant and 18 top (one of my high school friends nicknamed me "Top Heavy" for a reason!). I'll also be tracking inches lost, as I'm fully aware that as my muscles tone up, my clothes will fit differently, but I may not see much of a change on the scale.

    Each week, I'll post an update on my progress (including pounds and inches lost), as well as my thoughts on the dvd and any breakthroughs or challenges I'm experiencing.

    I have agreed to use the ShapelyGirl Fitness dvd of my choice three times per week during the month of October. (I chose Walking Fit & Fabulous—you can see all the dvd options here.) I received the dvd earlier this week, and I couldn't wait until October 1 to use it! A full review of the dvd will come at the end of the month, but for now, I want you to know that the workouts are easy to follow and fun!

    One of my favorite aspects of this review is that I have the support of 26 other women who are in the same boat as me—women who are committing to regular exercise and healthier living. Heather at Marine Corps Nomads is hosting a voluntary blog link-up for those of us on the Crew, and I've decided to participate. You can follow the other Crew members' journeys by clinking on the links below.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free copy of this product to review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 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.” I am part of the 
    CWA Review Crew.

    September 16, 2012

    a revelation journey

    I'll be honest: I've never liked the Book of Revelation very much. When I was a kid, it terrified me (as did those A Thief in the Night movies). As I got older, I just ignored it. Then last year, my Bible study group started listening to a series of sermons by Pastor Bob Thune from Coram Deo in Omaha. It was a take on Revelation I'd never heard before—rather than focusing on future events, he talked about how to apply the teaching in Revelation to our lives now. I was intrigued and challenged.

    When my church announced its fall women's Bible study series, I knew I needed to be involved: it's Beth Moore's Revelation study, Here and Now ... There and Then. I'm excited for this study not only because it's about Revelation, but also because I have benefited from her teaching in the past (such as when God used her to reveal the bitterness in my heart).

    We began the study last week. The first video was phenomenal! I'm very excited to continue learning.

    Beth Moore studies are notorious for having lots of daily homework, but this study only has one homework assignment per week. (This should help me stay caught up!) Since I stayed home from church this morning, thanks to the "school cold" that smacked me in the face yesterday, I decided to do my homework with a nice cup of tea. It was really, really good—sent me to Scripture and didn't ask any of the inane questions present in most Bible study curriculums that drive me batty. It also took me only about 30 minutes to complete.

    I'm very much looking forward to learning whatever God has for me through this study of Revelation!

    P.S.: You can't see it, since the picture didn't turn out great, but I was listening to Travis Cottrell's When The Stars Burn Down as I studied. Not only is the title track completely fitting for a study of Revelation, but the whole album is so worshipful. Amazon tells me I bought it exactly a year ago, and in that time, I've listened to it countless times. You should really check it out!

    September 5, 2012

    myspace, frustration, and love

    This afternoon, we were reminiscing at work. A few years ago, we had a principal (who also served as student council adviser, a role I've had for the past three years) who decided that each spirit day during Homecoming Week should have a spiritual application. Blendy was a student then, and hopefully she'll chime in with her thoughts in the comments.

    Anyway, we were remembering how this guy was super serious and conservative (like when it came to assigning spirit days), but every once in a while, he'd let his guard down. That made me think of the time I "confessed" my love for him. I knew I'd blogged about it, so I decided to find the post when I got home. Easier said than done!

    I soon discovered that I'd written the post while I was still blogging on Myspace. Here's what happened when I went to log in (this is how I put it on Facebook):
    So I'm trying to log into Myspace for the first time in well over a year, and I can't remember my password. I try to reset it, but the reset information goes to an email address I haven't used in three years. I can't remember my password there, either, and the password recovery email goes to an account that no longer exists. Then I see this nifty "log in with facebook" button on the Myspace home page. I click it, and suddenly I have a brand new Myspace account! That wasn't the result I was looking for. I just wanted to access one of my old blog posts, but I protected them so that only my friends had access ... sometimes technology can be so frustrating!
    A couple of my friends offered to log into their own Myspace accounts to help me out, and Melissa found the post I was looking for! Here it is, from October 20, 2006, for your reading pleasure:

    embarrassment at the office

    Current mood:embarrassed
    Fact 1: I love listening to music in the office. We have probably 25 cds to choose from (most are mine)--most of them are instrumental or contemporary Christian.

    Fact 2: We have a new principal at NC this year. He's 26, single, and very conservative. Things between us have been awkward at best, and most of our conversations consist of : "You have a call on line three."

    This morning, we were listening to a cd of 90's-ish pop hits played by an orchestra when Robert (aka the principal) asked me to help him find something in the files. Suddenly he stopped looking through the files, looked at me, and said, "I don't know what song this is."

    I, of course, did, so without thinking, I said, "It's 'Have I . . .'" And then it hit me: Oh, crap! Now I have to say the rest of it! "'. . . told you lately that I love you?'"

    He smiled (or maybe smirked) and said, "No, actually, you haven't."

    My face turned five shades of red, and I wanted to sink through the floor. Fortunately, my mom walked back in from lunch at that moment, and we were able to move on.

    The more I think about it, though, the more I think that he knew exactly what the song was, and I just walked right into his trap.

    Think, Becky, Think Before You Speak!!!

    A few thoughts: 1) I'd totally forgotten that Myspace let you pick a mood for each post. 2) Six years ago? Really? I can't believe I've been blogging that long! 3) It's fun to remember the good times ... 'cause goodness knows, most of my memories involving this man don't make me smile like this one does!

    September 3, 2012

    crafting with blendy & becky: bath bombs

    Finally Blendy and I did a craft together again! I'm woefully late in posting, as we did this craft in July ...

    Who doesn't love a nice bath? (Okay, so I know a lot of people who don't ... but I sure do!) These bath bombs are easy to make and fun to use. I found the recipe on Pinterest (of course). I'd been wanting to make these bath bombs with Blendy for months—Pinterest tells me I pinned it 28 weeks ago—but we just never got around to it until the Olympics started.

    I adapted this recipe from the one found on Pinterest to work with the ingredients I bought.

    Step 1: Gather your materials—one 16 ounce box baking soda, 7 ounces of citric acid (I found mine on Amazon), 4 tsp scented massage oil (or 4 tsp olive or unscented massage oil and 10-20 drops essential oil), water in a spray bottle (I used a rinsed out spray gel bottle), mold (I used a 1/3 cup measure), large bowl, whisk, baking sheet.

    Step 2: Dump baking soda and citric acid into bowl and whisk to combine.

    Step 3: Gradually add oil(s) and mix in. (Essential oil is very strong, so start with just a few drops and then add more until you reach the desired potency.)

    Step 4: Spray a little water onto the mixture and whisk in. The amount of water you need will depend on humidity—I only needed two sprays, but in the middle of winter, I'd probably need much more. The mixture is perfect when it will hold together when you squeeze it.
    When your mixture looks like this, it's just right.
    Step 5: Pack into your mold and gently unmold it onto a cookie sheet.

    Step 6: Allow to dry overnight. (Seriously. You'll be tempted to touch the bombs, but you need to leave them be for at least 24 hours. I learned this the hard way!)

    Step 7: Store in an airtight container or package individually to give as gifts. Enjoy!

    My recipe made eight bath bombs. Each one will fizz for about 45 seconds. It's so much fun to use these—just look at Blendy's delight as we were cleaning up!

    If you're looking for a fun, easy project, try out these bath bombs!

    August 26, 2012

    reflections on the creek

    The other night, I finished watching Dawson's Creek. I watched the pilot episode in May, right before my gallbladder surgery. In the week following surgery, I watched all of seasons one, two, and three. The final three seasons I watched at a more reasonable rate—about one season per month. Now that I've finished, I have a few things to say about the series! (This is more for me than for you, so you won't hurt my feelings if you click away now—especially if you've never seen Dawson's Creek!)

    1. For a show called Dawson's Creek, I cared surprisingly little for good old Dawson Leery. In fact, I rejoiced whenever Dawson didn't appear in an episode, which happened surprisingly often in season six. Really, Dawson's Creek turned into the Joey Potter show, and that was fine by me. Even when Joey was making boneheaded decisions (like leaving Pacey for Eddie), I was captivated by the life and times of Miss Potter.
    2. As I watched the first few seasons, all the Tom Cruise references made me snicker, knowing that Joey's portrayer was actually married to the man. Then the news of the Cruise-Holmes divorce hit, and any Tom Cruise reference after that wasn't quite so humorous. Also, I found it interesting that two Cruise exes appeared in the same episode, though they never shared a scene: Mimi Rogers (ex-Mrs. Cruise #1) played Jen's mom in a season six episode.
    3. Is it just me, or does Capeside have the longest, most convoluted school year on record? Season one: sophomore year. Season two: sophomore year. Season one clearly begins at the beginning of their sophomore year and ends either at Christmas or summer break, as Joey is contemplating a semester abroad and would have to leave in a couple of days. Then in season two, they have homecoming. I've never heard of a spring homecoming, though I suppose it's possible ... but would the guys be wearing their football jerseys if that were the case? 
    4. Holy dropped story lines, Batman! Does anyone remember Eve? Anyone? In season three, she was the bad girl Dawson met on the bus from Philly (where Gail lived momentarily) who turned out to possibly be Jen's half-sister. She disappeared and was never mentioned again until the end of season six, when the writers did acknowledge that they dropped the ball. Jen mentioned her, and when someone asked who she was, Jack's reply made me smile because it was so true: "Long story. Ambiguous ending." And then there's Gail's new husband. The whole reason everyone goes back to Capeside in the finale is for her wedding, but after the actual wedding, Gail's husband is never seen again—not at the house, not at the hospital, not at the funeral. Even though he didn't know Jen, you'd think he would have been there to support his wife. Also, this doesn't constitute a dropped story line per se, but I wish they would have told us what happened to C.J. (Jensen Ackles of Days of Our Lives and Supernatural), Jen's season six boyfriend, as he was supposedly the love of Jen's life. 
    5. Boy, did the writers know how to do death! I did the ugly cry twice during Dawson's Creek. The first time was the episode after Mitch's car accident. I cried off and on through the entire episode as characters remembered how Mitch impacted their lives. And then there was Jen. I actually knew she would die because, for some unknown reason, I watched the finale when it aired, even though I'd never before seen a single episode. I had no idea, though, that Jen would end up being one of my favorite characters—especially since I loathed her through the first few seasons! Michelle Williams knocked that last episode out of the park, and I found myself wondering why on earth she didn't at least get nominated for an Emmy for that performance. I also found myself crying. A lot. And I was glad no one else was there to witness my farewell to Jen Lindley/Dawson's Creek meltdown!
    6. Pacey & Joey. In season one, I was pulling for Dawson and Joey. That was before Dawson got all annoying and Pacey got sweet. Once Dawson's went down the Pacey-Joey road, there was no turning back ... at least for me. The writers seemed to have another opinion, as they "forgot" about the Pacey-Joey magic for all of season five and the first half of season six. Fortunately, they found their way back to Pacey and Joey in the end! In my favorite episode of the entire series, season six's "Castaways," none of the other main characters appeared, only Pacey and Joey. Not only did it feature a return to the wonderful Pacey-Joey banter of yore, but it also marked the end of the hideous growth on Joshua Jackson's face—the ill-advised goatee. If you have Netflix or Amazon Prime, you can watch the episode free.
    7. I have never liked Paula Cole's "I Don't Want to Wait." Never. But I was still disappointed when I started watching Dawson's and realized that Paula Cole's tune had been replaced by Jann Arden's "Run Like Mad." That song ended up growing on me, and I could definitely sing the whole thing for you, but I felt sheer joy when I heard the strains of the original theme on the series finale! And without knowing the original theme, one of the funniest moments of the finale would make no sense: Sam (the Joey character on Dawson's show The Creek) comes into Colby (the Dawson character)'s room and says, "I can't take it anymore, Colby. I don't want to wait for my life to be over. I want to know right now. What will it be?" Love it!
    8. Some people (like Blendy) didn't like the finale. I loved it! I thought it stayed true to the characters in a way that had been missing for quite some time—and the return to greatness may have had something to do with the fact that creator Kevin Williamson wrote it. I thought it was the perfect combination of humor and sadness, and it left me feeling satisfied ... what more could you want from a finale? (Blendy's beef with the finale is that we didn't see Joey pick Pacey. But we see the aftermath of that choice, plus Williamson totally telegraphed that she would make that choice, and that's good enough for me!)
    If you've seen Dawson's Creek, I'd love to know your thoughts!

      August 12, 2012

      the end of summer

      I feel like I haven't had a summer break ... and school starts again on Tuesday! (Is it just me, or does school seem to start earlier every year?)

      One reason my summer has felt shorter is because I have had an international student staying with me for the past five weeks. She came right after the Fourth of July to boost her English before beginning her senior year. She worked extremely hard, and her English improved greatly ... and I learned that it's hard work being a "mother"! She didn't even have any crises or behavioral issues; I just struggled with things like getting up in time to make sure she got around in the morning, making supper every night (when you live alone, you can do cereal ... or just go to your mom's if you're fortunate enough to live close by), and figuring out what on earth to pack for her lunch. Plus, I've gotten way less sleep than I need. If I've had trouble with a fairly independent and self-sufficient 17-year-old, I don't even want to imagine what an infant would be like!
      Hoa and me at Buffalo Wild Wings. She tried a lot of new foods this summer!
      Another reason my summer has seemed short is that I'm reading all the time. Remember how one of my goals for 2012 was to learn to say "no"? Well, while I have passed on many a book review, I probably need to pass on more ... because this is my current "to be read" bookcase! The top shelf is my review books (except for Attachments, which belongs on the shelf below—not sure how it ended up on the wrong shelf), and the bottom shelf is my "read when I don't have a review deadline approaching" section. While I've read some fantastic books this summer (like this one, this one, and this one), I think I'm going to have to cut back for sanity's sake!

      I did manage to go on a short trip this summer. Blendy and I try to take a road trip each summer, and this year we decided to go to Indiana and Ohio. Hoa went with us to Indiana, and then she met up with her cousins who attend Indiana University. Blendy and I went on to Ohio, where we spent a few days with college roomie Jodi, her husband Peter, and their adorable baby girl. Our friend Holly met up with us one day for mini-golfing and supper, and it was great to see her again. Back in Indiana, we had lunch with college roomie Jen and her adorable baby girl. And we spent time relaxing with Val. It was a short trip, but it was fun! Most of the pictures we took revolve around food ... if you want to see them, go here.

      While I'm sad to see summer's end, I'm also very excited for the return of my kids! When I go to work in the morning, most of the ones who are returning will be back at school. And tomorrow night, my mom and I are going to pick one up at the airport. I can't wait to see them all!

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