Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. The holiday was officially proclaimed May 5, 1868, by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was first observed May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. It is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971).

Here in Othello, the local VFW places small flags on the graves of each veteran at the cemetery. They also line the edge of the grounds with large casket-size flags, many of which were donated by family members of veterans. My sister’s flag flies among those. She served in the Army in the mid-1960s.

The photo above is one I took in 2004. My husband Eric coordinates the flag flying at the cemetery and spends the day there – in uniform – to answer questions and help visitors find the graves of their relatives buried there. The little girl was running around pulling flags out of the ground and having a great time. Rather than having to continuously replace them, Eric offered her a flag of her own. You can see the look of delight on her face!

This is one of my favorite photos I’ve taken through the years. I love the contrast of ages between Eric and the toddler, especially against the patriotic background. It’s truly one of those pictures that say a thousand words!

Eric is now retired from the service, having spent 40 years in uniform. He started in the active Army during the Vietnam War and served two tours of duty there. Afterward, he was a member of the reserves, both Army and Air Force, then joined the National Guard. The last years of his service were with the Washington State Guard, which is the third line of defense in our state.

Of course, he doesn’t see these many years of giving to his country as a “big deal,” but we are all very proud of his service.

I’d like to share a poem I found, which was written by Roger W. Hancock, who is known as the Poet Patriot. You can read more of his poetry at

Freedom's Colors
Red is for Bravery;
blood shed in sacrifice.
Freedom came with lives the price.
White is for Liberty;
freedom's purity.
Life be free from God's decree.
Blue is for Justice;
as vast as the sky.
Over freedom's land to occupy.
If you have a few moments to spare, visit your local cemetery and walk through the gravesites of the veterans. Take the time to bow your head and thank them for their service to our country. Without them, we would not enjoy the freedoms we have today.

Friday, May 27, 2011

So Much Pretty

By Cara Hoffman

From the book jacket:

When she disappeared from her rural hometown, Wendy White was a sweet, family-oriented girl, a late bloomer who’d recently moved out on her own, with her first real boyfriend and a job waiting tables at the local tavern. It happens all the time – a woman goes missing, a family mourns, and the case remains unsolved.

Just my opinion:

This is a difficult book to describe. It is intriguing, a fascinating study of murder and edge-of-your-seat interesting. On the other hand, it’s also a book that deals with the feelings of the victims and their families and friends and makes you feel sympathetic and angry at the same time. How could these horrific crimes occur and why doesn’t anyone look at reason to solve them?

Although the story revolves around the people in the town where Wendy disappears and is later found dead, it’s also about the new reporter on the scene who seems to be the only one who sees the obvious. As she argues with the law and digs deeper and deeper to uncover the truth, she finds herself caught up in the politics of small town life. Why don’t the police look closer at the person who seems to have had the opportunity to commit this crime? Why don’t they question his motives and follow the clues he left behind.

And why is everyone trying to blame the victim and refusing to believe the facts?

I really enjoyed this book. It did bog down a bit in the middle, but as the story progressed, it picked back up again and I found myself getting more and more into the book. It’s well-written and interesting, as well as a pleasure to read.

Some favorite passages from the book:

There was a renaissance of strangeness going on in the neighborhood.

There’s nothing quite like a hellhole to raise kids in.

I honestly believed articles in the newspaper could change the way the world worked. And that meant I could change the way the world worked. And that’s not the healthiest thought for a human being to have.

A man can only take so much pretty walking back and forth in front of him.

No women’s clinic or search or prayer or self-defense class is going to prevent these things. When the kinds of men who do these things are eliminated completely or live in fear for their lives – not just their time or livelihood – if they act, when that happens, we’ll have progress. And no sooner.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pump Up Your Book blog tour: Friendship Bread

About the book:

One afternoon, Julia Evarts and her five-year-old daughter, Gracie, arrive home to find an unexpected gift on the front porch: a homemade loaf of Amish Friendship Bread and a simple note: I hope you enjoy it. Also included are a bag of starter, instructions on how to make the bread herself, and a request to share it with others. Still reeling from a personal tragedy that left her estranged from the sister who was once her best friend, Julia remains at a loss as to how to move on with her life. She’d just as soon toss the anonymous gift, but to make Gracie happy, she agrees to bake the bread.

About the author:

Darien Gee is an author, wife and mother of three. She’s a Libra Monkey, a chocoholic and, of late, an Amish Friendship Bread addict. A former California resident, Darien served on the board of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library and ZYZZYVA, an award-winning literary journal. She’s an alum of Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Her next Avalon novel Memory Keeping will be published in 2012 by Ballantine Books.

She has also written three books under the pen name Mia King – Good Things, Sweet Life and Table Manners. Those books were also published in Germany and Norway. To learn more about my Mia King titles, visit the website

Just my opinion:

This book definitely has a spot on my favorite books of 2011. It really is an awesome read. In fact, I liked it better than I thought I would and I’m so glad I read it.

Friendship Bread is the story of a small city in Illinois. The cast of characters is so eclectic and varied. It really revolves around five or six main characters, but others make appearances throughout the story. By the time you’ve reached the final pages, you feel like a part of this unique group of people.

This is a story of friendship and how a simple act can lead to a special relationship between two or more people. It’s also a story of healing and finding a way to get back what you’ve lost. And it’s a story about being there for others and learning how to be there for yourself, as well.

I originally agreed to take part in this blog tour because, at the time, my husband was into making Amish friendship bread. Somewhere along the line, his enthusiasm faded and the bag of starter disappeared from our kitchen counter. By the end of the book, I understood why he was first attracted to the idea of baking the bread and why he abandoned it. It’s an amazing book and one that will have a special place on my bookshelf for a long time to come.

Some favorite passages from the book:

The three women sit there, in comfortable and uncomfortable silence, giving themselves a little time before eventually talking in low voices about matters of the heart that can never be forgotten.

Life is a bit like doing laundry – you have to separate the darks from the lights. One’s not necessarily better than the other – they’re just different. They have different needs, require different levels of care.

Despite the company of friendship we still have ourselves to reckon with at the end of the day.

Sometimes we push people away because we want them to come back to us. We want them to come and get us, to say they haven’t forgotten about us. We want them to show us how much they want and need us. We want them to prove they love us enough to fight for us.

The most basic elements of our life – our birth and our death – are out of our control. People spend a lifetime trying to control these things, but it’s impossible. Even if we think we’re calling the shots, we’re not.

There’s something appealing about a quiet story that has depth, that has the ability to reach out and connect people for a long time to come.

If you don’t get the basics right, none of the rest matters.

It’s a gift when the people who have known and loved us since childhood are a part of our lives.

To learn more about Friendship Bread, visit the website dedicated to this book. There you will find more than 100 recipes and learn the history of friendship bread.

You can find more information about this blog tour at the Pump Up Your Book website.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pump Up Your Book blog tour: Exposure by Therese Fowler

From the back of the book:

High school seniors Amelia Wilkes and Anthony Winter are deeply in love, though until she turns eighteen, Amelia is keeping their relationship a secret from her overbearing father. But their passion is exposed much soon than expected when Harlan Wilkes finds naked “sexting” photos of Anthony on his daughter’s computer. Furious, Harlan calls the police and pressed criminal charges against Anthony for disseminating harmful materials to a minor. Anthony is arrested, expelled from school, and labeled by the salacious media as a sexual predator. He becomes a walking pariah.

About the author:

Therese Fowler has believed in the magic of a good story since she learned to read at the age of 4. At age 30, as a newly single parent, she put herself into college, earning a degree in sociology before deciding to fulfill her longtime dream of writing fiction, which led to an master’s degree in creative writing. From there, she composed stories that explore the nature of families, exploring their culture, mistakes and desires. Her novels are published internationally, in nine languages and more than 28 countries. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and sons.

Just my opinion:

What an amazing story! Therese Fowler takes a current issue among today’s teens and weaves a tale of heartache and determination around the age-old emotions of love and devotion.

The love Amelia and Anthony have for each other is very real. It’s deep and compassionate and it goes against everything Amelia’s parents believe are in her best interests, so she makes the decision to hide her feelings from them until she is old enough to have control over her own life. Unfortunately, when she accidentally forgets her laptop at home, her father discovers inappropriate photos of Anthony that he sent to her via the Internet. He’s appalled and, without thinking clearly, contacts the police. Anthony is arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.

The investigation doesn’t stop there, though. As the FBI steps in, Anthony is charged with a federal crime, as is Amelia, for child pornography. The lives of both families begin to spin out of control and Anthony and Amelia finally decide to take things into their own hands, which could potentially lead to disastrous results.

This is absolutely a superior novel among those released this spring. Not only is Exposure a great story, it also provides some much-needed information about the issues of “sexting” and cell phone use among today’s young people. These are more than just means of communication; they can easily be used to break the law without the person even knowing what they are doing is wrong.

Parents may find they are compelled to share this book with their own teenage sons and daughters. That could be a good thing as it may prevent some very real heartache for families. Please consider reading Exposure. You’ll be glad you did.

Some favorite passages from the book:

Loss creates a hole, true, but it also opens space to be filled anew.

A wildfire starts small – from a dropped cigarette, someone burning leaves or trash, a single lick of lightning to a vulnerable tree – and then spreads in every opportune direction, eventually becoming so hot that nothing short of a torrent, man-made or otherwise, can put it out. To travel, it needs little more than favorable conditions and available fuel to feed on, and will grown without conscience, disregarding wildlife, structures, prayer.

For more information about this blog tour, visit the Pump Up Your Book website. To purchase Exposure, visit Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Apple a Day

By Caroline Taggart

From the back of the book:

Proverbs—those colorful time-honored truths—have become part of our everyday language. But how often do we think about their origins and meanings? This unique collection of words to live by reveals the source of these timeworn expressions, which are as relevant today as they were when first coined generations ago. An Apple a Day provides the fun facts behind 200 proverbs.

Just my opinion:

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is nothing new to the folklore of many, many generations. From medieval times, an anonymous text recommended eating an apple a day, as did Ayurvedic medicine. Touted as a cure for headaches then, today we know about the fiber and antioxidants this delicious fruit provides.

As the title of the book, this proverb is just one of many interesting entries sure to delight and entertain the reader. I’ve read and reviewed several of the books in the Readers Digest Blackboard Books series and I’ve enjoyed every one of them, including this one. Well-written and fun to read, the books offer little tidbits of information.

In fact, An Apple a Day is probably one of my favorites. Other expressions I enjoyed learned about include “every little bit helps,” “still waters run deep,” “time flies when you’re having fun” and “a watched pot never boils.” Entries are in alphabetical order and there is also a handy index in the back, so the book will surely occupy a nice spot on my reference shelf.

31 Bond Street

By Ellen Horan

From the back of the book:

Though there are no clues to the brutal slaying of wealthy Dr. Burdell, suspicion quickly falls on Emma Cunningham, the refined, pale-skinned widow who manages his house and servants. An ambitious district attorney seeks a swift conviction, but defense attorney Henry Clinton is a formidable obstacle – a man firmly committed to justice and the law, and to the cause of a frightened, vulnerable woman desperately trying to save herself from the gallows.

Just my opinion:

This is perhaps one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a long time. It is so well-written and the research is so extensive, you just can’t help but bury yourself into the pages and become a part of the tale yourself.

The story revolves around a defense attorney who takes on the case of a woman who he believes is wrongly accused of murdering a prominent dentist in New York. The writing goes back and forth in time as we learn about how the woman met the victim and how their relationship developed and the events following the crime. We are also taken back and forth between New York and New Jersey, where the sale of some swamplands are being negotiated for future development, which also plays into the crime.

What I found so very interesting was the way the legal system worked in the mid-1800s. Only men served on juries, the suspects were sequestered to their home under house arrest, the newspapers were used to interview the witnesses for the prosecuting team and members of the jury took part in the investigation. Really very intriguing and so different from how these events would have taken place today.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, as well as some of the extras found at the back, such as an interview with the author and some true life facts about the characters in the story. I really hope you will read this one … it’s well worth your time.

Some favorite passages from the book:

If the roof fails, we’ll live under the stars.

The city split away as the river opened into the wide mouth of the harbor, swelling like an upturned silver dish.

The room was deadly quiet, and yet it was a ballet of anticipation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mother's Day series wrap up and giveaway winner!

Thank you all so much for following along with the Pearl Girls™ Mother of Pearl Mother's Day blog series. I pray you laughed, cried and were touched by the translucent stories of real life written by new moms, stepmoms, grandmas, adoptive moms, and moms without moms. Iridescent reality. And how poignant that the translucent nacre that coats the sand stuck inside an oyster’s shell is called Mother of Pearl. Mothers surround children with their love and with God’s love so they can grow in grace. I hope you'll join us this December for the third annual 12 Pearls of Christmas series.
AND ... thanks too, to all of you who entered to win the beautiful handcrafted pearl necklace. I'm thrilled to announce that the winner is ...
Jennifer (heavensent1)!
Jennifer, please email with your mailing address.
If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit and see what they are all about. The purpose of Pearl Girls is to connect women so that together, we can make a difference in the world.  All proceeds of the Pearl Girls book go in full to two charities: Wings (women in need growing stronger) to help fund a safe house in the Chicago suburbs and to Hands of Hope to help build wells for schoolchildren in Uganda . Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls™ products to help support Pearl Girls.
Please stop by the Pearl Girls blog.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pump Up Your Book blog tour: Promised Valley Rebellion

Welcome to another Pump Up Your Book blog tour. This week, the focus is on the book Promised Valley Rebellion, by author Ron Fritsch. To learn more about this tour, go to the Pump Up website.

From the back of the book:

Prehistoric farmers inhabit a fertile river valley they believe their gods promised them in return for their good behavior. Their enemies, hunters roaming the mostly barren hills beyond the mountains enclosing the valley, believe their gods gave it to them. When the farmers’ king refuses to allow the marriage of the coming-of-age prince to the daughter of the farmer who saved the king’s life in the last war with the hunters, her brother decides he has to help his sister and the prince, his boyhood friend, correct the flagrant injustice.

About the author:

Ron Fritsch grew up in rural northern Illinois. His parents were hard-working tenant farmers who passed their love of reading down to their children. The children also enjoyed the deep, wooded valley near their home and the creek meandering through it, flooding over the banks in the spring. The family lived by the season for planting and harvesting, similar to that of their prehistoric ancestors.

Ron earned a bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of Illinois, majoring in history with a minor in English literature. He went on to get a law degree cum laude from Harvard Law School. He lives in Chicago and is currently writing and publishing a tetralogy asking whether history and civilization might have begun and proceeded differently than believed. It’s his way of sharing his story with the world.

To learn more about Ron and his book Promised Valley Rebellion, visit the website. You are also welcome to stop by Ron’s blog and add your thoughts.

Just my opinion:

This is probably one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a long time. Somewhat styled after the novels of Jean Auel, Ton Fritsch weaves a tale of two separate “tribes” during the prehistoric age – the hunters and the gatherers. The hunters live in the hills, while the gatherers are in a fertile valley and ruled over by a king.

There seems to be a fairly equal caste system among the valley people, although some rules are imposed to give the royalty an upper hand. For example, the king can control who marries each other, especially when it come to those with higher status who want to mate with someone from the regular citizenry. In those cases, there are definite boundaries that simply aren’t crossed.

When the king’s son falls in love with a girl who isn’t of the right class, the king and queen put their collective foot down. This causes dissension and rebellion.

As I first began to read this novel, I could see where some would compare the hill people to the Neanderthals and that has been mentioned by others. If you visit Ron’s blog, however, he addresses this very question and explains why it’s not possible. I really appreciate how Ron takes these types of queries and discusses them to provide a better understanding of his book. Also, he provides a list of characters on his website following a review by Kirkus Discoveries that suggested that would make the book easier to read.

Yes, at first, Promised Valley Rebellion can be difficult to follow, but Ron does a good job of telling his tale so that you catch on fairly quickly. It’s a nicely written book and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Have a wonderful day, full of love and joy!

Mother's Day series Day 7 and giveaway

Welcome to Pearl Girls™ Mother of Pearl Mother's Day blog series. The series is a week long celebration of moms and mothering. Each day will feature a new post by some of today's best writers (Tricia Goyer, Megan Alexander, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Beth Engelman, Holley Gerth, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson and more). Please join in each day for another unique perspective on Mother's Day.

AND ... do enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful handcrafted pearl necklace. To enter, just (CLICK THIS LINK) and fill out the short form. Contest runs May 1 to May 8, with the winner announced on May 11. Contest is only open to U.S. and Canadian residents.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit and see what they are all about. In short, they exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the U.S. and around the world. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls™ products (all GREAT Mother's Day gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

And to all you MOMS out there! Happy Mother's Day!

Each Life is Unique by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” II Peter 1.3 (NIV).

Moms, God wants you to know that He has given you everything you need for life – your  unique life. He does not plan to give you what you might need to live the life of your best friend or your neighbor or even your favorite mother-model. No, God has called you to the life He planned. I suspect, for most of us, it didn’t turn out to be the life we thought it might be … so long ago when we were young and dreaming of “growing up.”

On Mother’s Day, I often recall my own dreams to one day be a mother. I grew up playing with dolls and looking to my own Mama as a model for that particular role in life. However, by the time I reached my 30s, I was still not a mother! God did, however, have a plan. It just wasn’t what I imagined.

My own unique life would find me becoming a mother through the adoption of my first three children, who were ages 9, 7 and 4, and then, much later, giving birth to our fourth child. Of course, I was shocked when God revealed this to me, but I was ecstatic, as well. It’s as though I could hear Him saying, “Well, you’re not getting any younger so I’m just going to give you a jump start with three at one time!”

A huge blessing! A huge adjustment! A joy and a struggle. Change is often like that, isn’t it? We finally get what we want then we have to deal with it. May I just offer a bit of advice if you just got a great answer to prayer, but perhaps not in the way or form you imagined? Just receive it. Embrace it. And be willing to move forward into a new paradigm for your life. So what if you’re not like all the other mothers you know? So what if you’re not like your own mother? So what if your family unit is different? I guarantee God has a plan.

Not only did he want me to embrace my own story, He called me as a mother to do perhaps one of the most important tasks of all – to nurture my children to live their own unique lives. Not for me to try and squeeze them into what I hoped and dreamed they would be. Not for me to try and live my life through them. But to recognize how God made them, gifted them and called them to their own special place.

All of my four kids are different from one another. Let’s take sports, for instance: I have one child who wins gold medals in international tennis competition, one who is a born equestrian, another who competes nationally in obstacle course shooting matches and yet another who manages to dance onstage in three-inch heels, do cartwheels and splits while singing at the same time. Now, honestly, I do none of these things. And yet, they do.

I don’t remember placing my order with God for these things. But I do remember when that tennis player turned 9 years old and I enrolled him in Special Olympics for the first time and how it changed his life … and ours. I remember getting a counselor job at an exclusive summer camp so my daughter could take English riding classes. I remember being a Cub Scout leader (even though I knew nothing about boys) so that son could one day become an Eagle scout and pursue his love of the great outdoors. And yes, I remember enrolling my preschooler in dance lessons. Later, when all the little girls were scared to go on stage for the recital, she exclaimed that she had endured a whole year of lessons just so she could go on stage.

Don’t compare yourself to someone else. And don’t live vicariously through your favorite reality show star. Live your own story. And Moms, raise your kids to embrace the unique life God has for them.

Remember, He has given us everything we need for life!

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, is the author of 10 books, including Role of a Lifetime, Amazed by Grace, Spa for the Soul and the new Bible study Fit and Healthy Summer. She is an international conference speaker and enjoys being a Pearl Girl from “Sunnyside” – her home in a New England village. Visit Cindy at