Saturday, January 31, 2009
When I started reviewing books on this blog, I just reviewed whatever I chose to read. Then I discovered First Wildcard and other programs where they send me books to read. Now, no one has ever sent me a book without asking me if I wanted it; but I reached a point when I said that I wanted to read what I wanted to read; not what was due next. Luckily, I only have three review books in my TBR stack, and they aren't due for a while.
I decided to pick up The Puzzle Bark Tree by Stephanie Gertler. Renee sent it to me some time ago and if you click on her name you can read her post about it. I enjoyed the book, and if you define literary fiction as fiction that is character-driven rather than plot-driven, then this is literary fiction.
Amy's question this week:
You have a good friend who is a devoted Christian and voracious reader. He or she, however, tried to read a Christian fiction book in the past and found it to be too preachy and unrealistic. Your friend wants to try it again and has asked you for a recommendation. Their favorite genre of book is what is considered literary fiction. What book would you recommend to them?
You also have a friend who is not a Christian but wants to read fiction that is considered clean without being too Christian. They have asked you if there are Christian fiction books that might meet their reading needs. They are interested in romance and novels. What book would you recommend to them?
Well, I just checked out literary fiction on Wikipedia and found that the only listed book which I had read was The Handmaid's Tale. Mostly I think of literary fiction as the stuff schools assign and I'm generally not too fond of it. In short I'm not sure what Christian books I've read that would fall in that category--but that may be because I'm not apt to order that type of book.
As far as romance type novels, hmmm....check my blog. I always note whether the books are preachy or not. Lately, books I've read that would fall in that category include Gingham Mountain, Plain Perfect, and Bride Bargain. I also enjoyed Christine Lynxwier's Pinkie Promise Sisterhood books, including Promise Me Always and Along Came a Cowboy.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
This is the fourth book in the "Sisters, Ink" series which is about four sisters adopted by a minister and his wife. They are of different races and live in a small Tennessee town. I reviewed book two here.
You can read the first chapter of it here.
Enough about book two. What about this book? Scrapping Plans is about Joy, the sister who was adopted from China. Joy is a Martha Stewart clone and a compulsive organizer and planner. Unfortunately her plans to have a baby haven't worked out. We journey with Joy and her husband through infertility treatment and beyond. As a Catholic I find it interesting that Joy, who is presented as a devout Christian, doesn't have any moral qualms about in-vitro fertilization. I realize that not all Protesants are opposed to it, but I've seen enough to realize that plenty are, and I guess I'm a little surprised that a novel marketed as Chrsitian fiction didn't at least consider the morality of IVF, even if it came to a different conclusion that what the Catholic church does.
We also journey with Joy to China where she goes to see the area in which she was born. Scrapping Plans is also about the girls' father, and his new love (their mom died of cancer a few years ago. Seitz does a good job of bringing out the feelings that even adult children can have when a parent finds a new love.
I've written about series books in my last few reviews and obviously this is a series book as well. I suspect the next book in the series will be about Meg, the first mother among the sisters, because we were told several times in this book that she was suffering from more and more headaches--headaches that had nothing to do with this story.
I've mentioned before that I don't like preachy books. I've also mentioned before that I don't like it when Christian fiction bashes Catholics. Well, I have to say, this book isn't preachy and it doesn't bash Catholics; it bashes Lutherans. Kendra, the sister featured in Coming Unglued wants to get married on an island and the only available church is a Lutheran church. Because her fiance's parents were Lutheran, they were allowed to use the church, but they said about his family that they "devoted their lives to Martin Luther". Somehow I don't think most Lutherans would characterize themselves in that way.
In short, this is a charming story, obviously part of a series of stories, with a couple of faith-based gems, particularly dealing with control of your life, but not so much religion that someone with no faith could not enjoy it.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Some books are just plain fun to read. Gingham Mountain is one of them. It is the story of Hannah, a young woman who survived childhood as an orphan and Grant, an orphan who was adopted shortly before his adoptive parents died, who now adopts orphans. Hannah, a newcomer to town is sure that Grant, like the man who took her in, is abusing the kids and using them as slave labor. However, she learns the truth about him, and despite her best effort, finds herself attracted to him. Though he has vowed to God never to marry so as to be able to care for orphans, he finds himself falling for her. Throw in a subplot about a couple of con artists who are trying to get Grant to marry one of them (a woman) so that when the other (her husband) kills Grant, she will inherit his land (on which they have found oil) and the story moves away from the standard romance model. While there are a few serious passages, mostly the book is upbeat and funny. It was just what I needed after working too much overtime to prepare for a trial that got postponed YET AGAIN!!
First Wildcard will tour this book February 16. Check back then to read the first chapter and to learn about the author.
Question for discussion: What can we do today to help children whose families are unable or unwilling to care for them?
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Carrie blessed me with this award. Here is the text that does with the award:
“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”
I met Carrie years ago on AOL's Catholic Moms message board. Another friend from that board who has a blog is Janette. I love reading about her "kids" -- those she bore, her grandkids and the kids to whom she reaches out every day at school We need more teachers like her. Teresa is another longtime internet buddy. Please keep her in your prayers. Elena and I debated on AOL for years, sometimes on the same side; sometimes on opposite sides, but her blog has let me see another side of her--and let me meet her beautiful family. Judy is another longtime buddy from AOL. She a living example of how God can turn lemons into lemonade. Carrie gave this award to most of my fellow bloggers from that board, so I'm going to reach out to some fellow book bloggers. Kristi follows my blog, so I have to count her as a friend, right? Wendi is one of the First Wildcard bloggers. I find I generally agree with her reviews, and she nice too! I have to recognize Bookish Ruth--she shares my name and love of books. Finally, I'll recognize Michele, a college friend, who like me is dealing with a toddler and a teenager at the same time. She also makes beautiful quilts.
Take a look at these blogs, maybe you'll find a new friend. God bless!
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Some series books are good in and of themselves. Others are clearly part of a bigger story. This book was in the second group. I want to know why DJ, who seems like such a good Christian girl, doesn't want to visit her dad and stepmom, even for a short time at Christmas--and why they don't register any disapproval at that decision. I want to know what Rhiannon is doing at a school whose lifestyle she clearly cannot afford. I want to know the story about Haley's suicide attempt. Why do Eliza and Kriti seem so close? Why is it important to the story that Grandma was in the fashion industry (though a little is said about a fashion show being in the girls' future).
I enjoyed reading the book and will give it to my daughter, but I did not enjoy it as much as I have some of the YA books I've read lately.
So...what fiction books with faith elements are on your keeper shelf? Please keep your answers to no more than 5 books!
Well, I'm not big on keeping books so I don't have a lot to choose from. On the other hand, the fact that I do choose to keep them means something, doesn't it. I chose my four favorite Harry Potter books, plus a book which explains the Christian elements of those books. You can read my review of How Harry Cast His Spell here, and read the first chapter here.
Friday, January 23, 2009
The Spring of Candy Apples is the fourth of the Sweet Seasons novels by Debbie Viguie. The main character in all of them is Candance a/k/a Candy, a high school student who works part-time at a local amusement park. Each of stories focuses on a different season of the year in which the park is open. You can read my review of Winter of the Candy Canes by clicking the link. My review of Spring of the Candy Apples wouldn't be significantly different--same characters, same park, different season, different lesson.
One thing I liked about the book is that it looked at teenage relationships. Candy realizes the difference between attraction and love, and learns that a guy who really loves you brings out the best in you and encourages you to grow, without putting you down. It is a lesson I sure wish I had learned a lot earlier in life.
My daughter was enjoying Winter of the Candy Canes before the Twilight books she got for Christmas interfered. I'll add this one to her tbr stack.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
In short, in this book a wealthy young woman takes up being a pirate in her spare time to acquire enough money so that neither she nor her sisters will be forced into marriage for the sake of money. Needless to say, that is not a traditional female role. Many non-believers criticise religions, including but not limited to the more traditional forms of Christianity, for oppressing women and keeping them in positions of subjugation.
What do you think Christianity has to say about gender roles? Do Christians, from what you can see, generally follow God's will with regard to gender roles, or have they conformed to the world? When looking strictly at things of this world (which I know isn't the Christian way, but let's pretend for a moment) are women better off because of Christianity, or would they be better off without it? Let's talk about Christianity, how it views gender roles and how Christians do or don't live out that part of their faith.
To participate, either copy this post to your blog and answer the question, and use the comment section to leave us a link, or answer in the comments. Thanks for stopping by!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)
Best-selling author of The Legacy of the King’s Pirates series, MaryLu Tyndall writes full time and makes her home with her husband, six children, and four cats on California’s coast. Her passion is to write page-turning, romantic adventures that not only entertain but expose Christians to their full potential in Christ.
For more information on MaryLu and her upcoming releases, please visit her website.
List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 318 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Matthew 13: 20-21
August 1713, English Channel off Portsmouth, England
This was Dajon Waite’s last chance. If he didn’t sail his father’s merchant ship and the cargo she held safely into harbor, his future would be tossed to the wind. With his head held high, he marched across the deck of the Lady Em and gazed over the choppy seas of the channel, expecting at any minute to see the lights of Portsmouth pierce the gray shroud of dusk. Another hour and his mission would be completed with success. It had taken two years before his father had trusted him to captain the most prized vessel in his merchant fleet, the Lady Em—named after Dajon’s mother, Emily—especially on a journey that had taken him past hostile France and Spain and then far into the pirate-infested waters off the African coast.
Fisting his hands on his hips, Dajon puffed out his chest and drew a deep breath of salty air and musky earth—the smell of home. Returning with a shipload of ivory, gold, and pepper from the Gold Coast, Dajon could almost see the beaming approval on his father’s sea-weathered face. Finally Dajon would prove himself an equal to his older brother, Theodore—obedient, perfect Theodore—who never let his father down. Dajon, however, had been labeled naught but capricious and unruly, the son who possessed neither the courage for command nor the brains for business.
Fog rolled in from the sea, obscuring the sunset into a dull blend of muted colors as it stole the remaining light of what had been a glorious day. Bowing his head, Dajon thanked God for His blessing and protection on the voyage.
“A sail, a sail!” a coarse voice blared from above.
Plucking the spyglass from his belt, Dajon held it to his eye. “Where away, Mules?”
“Directly off our lee, Captain.”
Dajon swerved the glass to the port and adjusted it as Cudney, his first mate, halted beside him.
“She seems to be foundering, Captain,” Mules shouted.
Through the glass, the dark outline of a ship came into focus, the whites of her sails stark against the encroaching night. Gray smoke spiraled up from her quarterdeck as sailors scrambled across her in a frenzy. The British flag flapped a harried plea from her mainmast.
“Hard to larboard,” he yelled aft, lowering the glass. “Head straight for her, Mr. Nelson.”
“Straight for her, sir.”
“Beggin’ your pardon, Captain.” Cudney gave him a sideways glance. “But didn’t your father give explicit orders never to approach an unknown vessel?”
“My father is not the captain of this ship, and I’ll thank you to obey my orders without question.” Dajon stiffened his lips, tired of having his decisions challenged. True, he had failed on two of his father’s prior ventures—one to the West Indies where a hurricane sunk his ship, and the other where he ran aground on the shoals off Portugal. Neither had been his fault. But this time, things would be different. Perhaps his father would even promote Dajon to head overseer of his affairs.
With a nod, Cudney turned. “Mr. Blake, Mr. Gibes, prepare to luff, if you please.” His bellowing voice echoed over the decks, sending the men up the shrouds.
“Who is she?” Cudney held out his hand for the glass.
“A merchant ship, perhaps.” Dajon handed him the telescope then gripped the railing as the Lady Em veered to larboard, sending a spray of seawater over her decks. “But she’s British, and she’s in trouble.”
The ship lumbered over the agitated waves. Dajon watched Cudney as he steadied the glass on his eye and his boots on the sodden deck. He’d been a good first mate and a trusted friend. A low whistle spilled from his mouth as he twisted the glass for a better look.
“Pray tell, Mr. Cudney, what has caught your eye, one of those new ship’s wheels you’ve been coveting?”
“Nay, Captain. But something nearly as beautiful—a lady.”
Dajon snatched the glass back as the Lady Em climbed a rising swell and then tromped down the other side. Sails snapped in the rising wind above him. Bracing his boots on the deck, he focused the glass on the merchant ship. A woman clung to the foremast, terror distorting her lovely features. She raised a delicate hand to her forehead as if she were going to faint. Red curls fluttered in the wind behind her. Heat flooded Dajon despite the chill of the channel. Lowering the glass, he tapped it into the palm of his hand, loathing himself for his shameless reaction. Hadn’t his weakness for the female gender already caused enough pain?
Yet clearly the vessel was in trouble.
“We shall come along side her,” Dajon ordered.
Cudney glared at the ship. “Something is not right. I can feel it in my gut.”
“Nonsense. Where is your chivalry?” Dajon smiled grimly at his friend, ignoring the hair bristling on the back of his own neck.
Cudney’s dark eyes shot to Dajon. “But your father—”
“Enough!” Dajon snapped. “My father did not intend for me to allow a lady to drown. Besides, pirates would not dare sail so close to England—especially to Portsmouth, where so many of His Majesty’s warships are anchored.” Dajon glanced back at the foundering ship, now only half a knot off their bow. Smoke poured from her waist, curling like a snake into the dark sky. Left to burn, the fire would sink her within an hour. “Surely you do not suspect a woman of piracy?”
Cudney cocked one brow. “Begging your pardon, Captain, but I have seen stranger things on these seas.”
Faith Louise Westcott flung her red curls behind her and held a quivering hand to her breast, nausea rising in her throat at her idiotic display. How did women feign such weakness without losing the contents of their stomachs?
“They ’ave taken the bait, mistress.” A sinister chuckle filled the breeze.
“Oh, thank heavens.” Faith released the mast. Planting a hand on her hip, she gave Lucas a mischievous grin. “Well, what are you waiting for? Ready the men.”
“Aye, aye.” The bulky first mate winked, and then scuttled across the deck, his bald head gleaming in the light from the lantern hanging on the mainmast.
After checking the pistol stuffed in the sash of her gown and the one strapped to her calf, Faith sauntered to the railing to get a better look at her latest victim, a sleek, two-masted brigantine. The orange, white, and blue of the Dutch flag fluttered from her mizzen. A very nice prize indeed. One that would bring her even closer to winning the private war she waged—a war for the survival of her and her sisters.
The oncoming ship sat low in the water, its hold no doubt packed with valuable cargo. Faith grinned. With this ship and the one she had plundered earlier, loaded with precious spices and silks, she was well on her way to amassing the fortune that would provide for her independence and that of her sisters—at least the two of them that were left unfettered by matrimony.
She allowed her thoughts to drift for a moment to Charity, the oldest. Last year their father had forced her into a union with Lord Villement, a vile, perverse man who had oppressed and mistreated her beyond what a woman should endure. Faith feared for her sister’s safety and prayed for God to deliver Charity, but to no avail.
Then, of course, there was the incident with Hope, their younger sister.
That was when Faith had stopped praying.
She would rather die than see her two younger sisters fettered to abusive men, and the only way to avoid that fate was to shield them with their own fortune. Cringing, she stifled the fury bubbling in her stomach. She mustn’t think of it now. She had a ship to plunder, and this was as much for Charity as it was for any of them.
The bowsprit of the brigantine bowed in obedience to her as it plunged over the white-capped swells. Gazing into the hazy mist, Faith longed to get a peek at the ninnies who had been so easily duped by her ruse but dared not raise the spyglass to her eye. Women didn’t know how to use such contraptions, after all.
Putting on her most flirtatious smile, she waved at her prey, beckoning the fools onward, then she scanned the deck as her crew rushed to their stations. Aboard her ship, she was in control; she was master of her life, her future—here and nowhere else. And oh how she loved it!
Lucas’s large frame appeared beside her. “The rest of the men be waitin’ yer command below hatches, mistress.” He smacked his oversized lips together in a sound Faith had become accustomed to before a battle. Nodding, she scanned her ship. Wilson manned the helm, Grayson and Lambert hovered over the fire, pretending to put it out, and Kane and Mac clambered up the ratlines in a pretense of terror. She spotted Morgan pacing the special perch Faith had nailed into the mainmast just for him. She whistled and the red macaw halted, bobbed his head up and down, and squawked, “Man the guns, man the guns!”
Faith chuckled. She had purchased the bird from a trader off Morocco and named him after Captain Henry Morgan, the greatest pirate of all time. The feisty parrot had been a fine addition to her crew.
Bates, her master gunner, hobbled to her side, wringing his thick hands together in anticipation. “Can I just fire one shot at ’em, Cap’n? The guns grow cold from lack of use.” His expression twisted into a pout that reminded her of Hope, her younger sister. “I won’t hurt ’em none, ye have me word.”
“I cannot take that chance, Bates. You know the rules,” Faith said as the gunner’s soot-blackened face fell in disappointment. “No one gets hurt, or we abandon the prize. But I promise we shall test the guns soon enough.”
With a grunt, Bates wobbled away and disappeared below.
Returning her gaze to her unsuspecting prey, Faith inhaled a breath of the crisp air. Smoke bit her throat and nose, but she stifled a cough as the thrill of her impending victory charged through her, setting every nerve aflame. The merchant ship was nigh upon them. She could already make out the worried expressions upon the crew’s faces as they charged to her rescue.
This is for you, Charity, and for you, Mother.
Heavy fog blanketed the two ships in gray that darkened with each passing minute. Faith tugged her shawl tighter against her body, both to ward off the chill and to hide the pistol in her sash. A vision of her mother’s pale face formed in the fog before her, blood marring the sheets on the birthing bed where she lay.
Take care of your sisters, Faith.
A burst of wind chilled Faith’s moist cheeks. A tear splattered onto the deck by her shoes before she brushed the rest from her face. “I will, Mother. I promise.”
“Ahoy there!” A booming voice shattered her memories.
She raised her hand in greeting toward the brigantine as it heaved ten yards off their starboard beam. “Ahoy, kind sir. Thank God you have arrived in time,” she yelled back, sending the sailors scurrying across the deck. Soon, they lowered a cockboat, filled it with men, and shoved off.
A twinge of guilt poked at Faith’s resolve. These men had come to her aid with kind intentions. She swallowed hard, trying to drown her nagging conscience. They were naught but rich merchants, she told herself, and she, merely a Robin Hood of the seas, taking from the rich to feed the poor. She had exhausted all legal means of acquiring the money she needed, and present society offered her no other choice.
The boat thumped against her hull, and she nodded at Kane and Mac, who had jumped down from the shrouds and tossed the rope ladder over the side.
“Permission to come aboard?” The man who appeared to be the captain shouted toward Lucas as he swung his legs over the bulwarks, but his eyes were upon Faith.
By all means. Faith shoved a floppy fisherman’s hat atop her head, obscuring her features from his view, and smiled sweetly.
“Aye, I beg ye, be quick about it afore our ship burns to a cinder,” the massive bald man beckoned to Dajon.
Dajon hesitated. He knew he should obey his father’s instructions, he knew he shouldn’t risk the hoard of goods in his hold, he knew he should pay heed to the foreboding of dread that now sank like a anchor in his stomach, but all he could see was the admiring smile of the red-haired beauty, and he led his men over the bulwarks.
After directing them to assist in putting out the fire, he marched toward the dark, bald man and bowed.
“Captain Dajon Waite at your service.”
When his gaze drifted to the lady, she slunk into the shadows by the foremast, her features lost beneath the cover of her hat. Odd. Somehow he had envisioned a much warmer reception. At the very least, some display of feminine appreciation.
“Give ’em no quarter! Give ’em no quarter!” a shrill voice shrieked, drawing Dajon’s attention behind him to a large red parrot perched on a peg jutting from the mainmast.
A pinprick of fear stabbed him.
“Captain,” one of his crew called from the quarterdeck. “The ship ain’t on fire. It’s just a barrel with flaming rubbish inside it!”
The anchor that had sunk in Dajon’s stomach dropped into his boots with an ominous clank.
He spun back around, hoping for an explanation, but all he received was a sinister grin on the bald man’s mouth.
Tentacles of alarm seized Dajon, sucking away his confidence, his reason, his pride. Surely he could not have been this daft. He glanced back at the Lady Em, bobbing in the sea beside them—the pride of his father’s fleet.
“To battle, men!” The woman roared in a voice belying her gender—a voice that pummeled Dajon’s heart to dust.
Dozens of armed pirates spat from the hatches onto the deck. Brandishing weapons, they hurtled toward his startled crew. One by one, his men dropped their buckets to the wooden planks with hollow thuds and slowly raised their hands. Their anxious gazes shot to Dajon, seeking his command. The pirates chortled. Dajon’s fear exploded into a searing rage. They were surrounded.
The woman drew a pistol from her sash. Dajon could barely make out the tilted lift of her lips. He wiped the sweat from his brow and prayed to God that he would wake up from this nightmare.
“I thank you, Captain, for your chivalrous rescue.” The woman pointed her pistol at him and cocked it with a snap. “But I believe I’ll be taking over your ship.”
Click here to read my review.
As is true of many books about the Amish, the main conflict in this one is internal. The main character, Carrie, has to decide whether to remain Amish or go to the outside world. Several other characters have to make the same choice, and not all of them make the same choice, and like other folks, people making the same choices may have different motivations for making them. The Amish are shown as real people--some are kind, others are not; and the non-Amish are not universally good or bad either.
The Choice is an enjoyable light read. A couple of the characters have a spirituality that is more like mainstream evangelical's than Amish and we get to hear one of those characters discuss the Bible and pray but I wouldn't call the book overly religious or preachy, nor is it syrupy sweet, though folks to live happily ever after.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Karen Kingsbury can write. She can tug at your heartstrings and make the tears flow. Her characters are well-drawn, even if she does recycle them through several books. However, unless the legal system in Colorado is vastly different from that in Louisiana (and I don't think it is), then she needs to do better research. This Side of Heaven is about Josh, a young man who was badly injured when he was hit by a drunk driver. The book tells of him giving several depositions, with the judge present. Generally, plaintiffs only have to give one deposition (and while it may go more than one day in extraordinary cases, in general any plaintiff lawyer worth his/her salt isn't going to allow his/her client to be deposed more than once without a big fight. Also, judges do not attend depositions. Further, thoughout the book, Kingsbury refers to Josh's settlement. It is true that most cases settle--the plaintiff and defendant agree on an amount before the case is tried. I seem to recall in this book though that the judge determined the amount of money Josh was to be paid--and that is called a judgment, not a settlement.
Other than her errors about the legal system, it is a good book. It deals with Josh's relationship with members of his family--including the daughter he has never met. Josh is a blue collar kid of white collar parents. He suffers great physical pain because of the accident and great emotional pain because of perceived failures in life. I don't want to say much more, because I don't want to spoil the story. Suffice to say it was a good read; and the ending was full of joy.
First Wildcard is touring This Side of Heaven on February 13. Check back then to read the first chapter.
Question for Discussion: Is there any problem with white collar, particularly wealthy white collar parents having blue collar children?
Friday, January 16, 2009
If you are reading this, and you aren't Catholic or familiar with Catholicism, Confirmation is a sacrament in which the Holy Spirit comes to you in a special way. It is the final sacrament of initiation, the other two being Baptism and Eucharist. As the name implies, it is also a time at which we are asked to confirm the decision made for us when we were baptized as infants.
All of my friends attend different parishes. We were discussing confirmation requirements. It seems that my parish's requirements are on the high side. Kids in Catholic schools are required to attend one Lifeteen Life Night per month(a particular one, not just any one), four classes their sophomore year and eight classes their junior year. They are also required to attend a weekend retreat as juniors. They have to earn service hours. Kids who are in public school have to attend Lifeteen every week for two years (during the school year) plus what the Catholic school kids do. Other parishes generally require some classes, and maybe a retreat. One friend said a bunch of parents at her son's school were comparing notes and trying to find the parish with the easiest requirements. Another friend said she heard the archdiocese was surprised at how few kids were confirmed last year (the first group under the new system). We basically agreed that it showed how little the archdiocesan leaders know about the lives of these kids.
In our area, Catholic high schools are the norm. However, it is not necessarily the norm to attend the nearest Catholic high school. Further, the boys' and girls' schools are generally separate. This means there isn't one school to which you can go and ask for a light homework load or no extracurriculars on a particular night or nights because many of the kids will be at confirmation. Further, it means that many of these kids leave home at or before 7 a.m. and get home, at best, after 3. They have sports practice, band practice, play practice, and club meetings before or after school. By their junior year the top students are taking heavy loads with lots of homework. Lots of kids have jobs after school. Yes, God should come before all of those things, but does that mean confirmation classes should? If a group of "church people" like my friends and I question the value of confirmation programs vs. the effort they require, what is the response of parents who don't value their faith? I suspect the lower confirmation numbers are the answer to that question.
My son is autistic. The DRE has basically agreed to waive whatever requirements need to be waived. For example, he did not attend the retreat (much to his relief, and I'm sure to the relief of those running the retreat too). My son has also decided he does not want to be confirmed because it cuts into his free time. I explained that he still had to go to all the classes, but in the end, he could make the decison. Confirmation is growing closer and he is no closer to changing his mind. I don't know why. He'd be aghast at the idea of missing mass on Sunday. He insists we pray before meals, no matter where we are. He does not want to be confirmed.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Thanks to the folks at Hatchette and some blogger whose name I can't find, I won a copy of this lovely book.
There are two types of cooks, in my experience. The first type follows recipies; the second mixes things together to make something new. This book is for the second type. There are no recipies; rather there are a couple of chapters about things to consider when mixing flavors, followed by lists of about every ingredient you can think of, followed by what to use with it. For example, about Blood Oranges, it says they are sour-sweet, medium weight and moderate volume. They go with carmel, Chapagne, white chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, cream grapefruit,honey, kumquats, lemon, mint, pomegranates, salads, brown sugar, tarts and vanilla. Regarding Oregano, it gives an extensive list of things that could be flavored with oregano, but suggests avoiding cilanto or desserts. For some ingredients, flavor affinities are suggested--for example, snap peas + brown sugar + sage. For sweet potatoes, among other flavor affinities, they list sweet potatoes + chile peppers + lemon zest.
If you are someone who likes to create in the kitchen and is looking for a roadmap to point you in the right direction, try this book.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Last week I reviewed two books by Cecelia Dowdy. As I noted in the reviews, they were the Christian version of Harlequin Romances. I generally like romance novels, but I generally prefer the longer version. Those 170 page books are too limited in size to allow a lot of character development, sub-plots or anything other than a pretty basic story with rather stock characters. Had I realized that was what those books were, I probably would not have requested them. That being said, since I requested them I read them. I was thinking of posting a review detailing what I saw as shortcomings in the books when it struck me that my comments were really applicable to the genre; so was it fair to criticise the books for being what they are? I decided instead to talk about restaurants in my review. I pointed out that both the most famous four star restaurant in town and McDonalds have their market niche and that to criticise one for not being the other isn't really fair. Dowdy read my review, and it must not have bothered her too much because she linked to it from her blog. Some of her readers did object to my review.
Questions: What makes a good book? If I like it, is that enough? If it meets the usual standard of its genere, does that make it "good" or do I evaluate those short formula romances by the same standard I would use to judge a longer work? Should someone hostile to Christian beliefs be able to read Christian fiction without feeling preached at, or is overt religous expression an important part of that genre?
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the books:
WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (December 16, 2008)
WaterBrook Press (December 16, 2008)
Chantel Hobbs is a personal trainer, certified spinning instructor, and motivational speaker whose no-excuses approach to fitness has won her a grateful following across the country. The author of Never Say Diet, Chantel hosts a weekly fitness program on Reach FM radio and is a regular guest on Way FM. Her “Ditch the Diet, Do the Weekend” bootcamp takes place several times a year in a variety of locations. She has presented her unique approach to lasting fitness in People magazine and on Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox News, The 700 Club, Living the Life, and Paula White Today. Chantel enjoys life with her husband and their four children in South Florida.
Visit the author's website.
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTERs:
Never Say Diet Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (December 16, 2008)
Changed My Life
How to Choose
to Do the Best
Job of Living
It should have been a scene of American family bliss. A Sunday afternoon in our home on a beautiful fall day in South Florida. My husband, Keith, was watching the Dolphins game in the living room with some friends. He’d waited all week for this. Our girls, six-year-old Ashley and four-year-old Kayla, were helping me in the kitchen. Well, kind of. Our six month-old, Jake, was jumping and laughing in his Jolly Jumper. I was baking Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, our favorite, and everybody could smell the cinnamon and butter and couldn’t wait for the cookies to come out of the oven. Especially me. As I worked in the kitchen, I could hear the football game coming from the living room. The announcers were talking about a player who had arrived at training camp completely out of shape. He was six foot four and weighed 320 pounds. “That is a big boy,” they said. “Wow! He is huge.” “Would you look at that guy,” I heard my husband say with disgust. “I can’t believe he got so fat! What a lazy bum.” Those words cut me to the heart. I had created a happy home, with a
happy husband and happy kids. But at that moment I wanted to die, because I outweighed that player by at least 10 pounds. I was bigger than anyone playing for the Miami Dolphins. And I knew I was anything but lazy. I pulled the cookies out of the oven and felt nauseous. I was pathetic. I’d been overweight my entire adult life, but I was bigger than I had ever been. I was miserable but doing an excellent job of faking out everyone who knew me. I was five foot nine and weighed 330 pounds, maybe more. I didn’t know for sure because it had been months since I’d dared to step on a scale. Besides, the only one in the house was a conveniently inaccurate discount-store model with a wheel underneath that calibrated the scale. I had adjusted it to register the lowest weight possible. I was in denial, but I was also without hope. It was the autumn of 2000. I was twenty-eight years old and was starting to believe I would never live a long and fulfilled life. Not this way. If an angel had landed on my shoulder and whispered in my ear that, in less than two years, Oprah Winfrey would have me on her show to tell a feel good weight-loss story, I’d have sent that angel packing and gone back to my cookies. I wasn’t Oprah material. And there was absolutely nothing feel-good about my life. Call me when you want a feel-bad story. That was me. If that angel had whispered that I would one day run a marathon, I’d have checked him in to an insane asylum. I couldn’t run around the block. Even in high school I hadn’t been able to run the required twenty-minute mile. My knees hurt all the time. I was morbidly obese—a term that I knew meant an early death. If one thing was clear about my life in the fall of 2000, it was that
I could never, ever run a marathon. But I did. I finished my first one in 2005 and after that ran four more— in less than a year. I went from weighing nearly 350 pounds to less than 150 pounds. And I have appeared on Oprah and Good Morning America and the cover of People magazine as one of America’s great weight-loss successes. Getting fit wasn’t easy—there was plenty of pain, deprivation, tears, and hungeralong the way. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I won’t try to sugarcoat any of that. But, honestly, I didn’t give myself a choice. Once I made the unconditional decision that I was going to lose weight and get healthy, nothing could stop me. And nothing will stop you if you make the Five Decisions to break the fat habit for good. That’s a guarantee. Here is the secret I learned—the same secret I want to share with you. I realized I had to change my mind before I could change my body, my health, and my life. I discovered the Five Decisions, which brought about an unconditional commitment to getting healthy and fit. Once I started, I treated it like a job so that no matter what else was going on in my life, I did what I had to do to achieve daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, and eventually the target weight and fitness that I desired. After making the Five Decisions, getting fit was a matter of showing up for work each day. The process developed from the inside out, which was a new concept for me.
FIRST, YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND
People constantly ask me how I lost 200 pounds and started running marathons. When I explain that it took several years to achieve those goals, they wonder how I was able to stick to the plan when so many others can’t. I ask myself the same question. I had failed plenty of times before. I’d tried a few diets and failed, including a bit of foolishness called the chocolate-wafer diet, which I’ll tell you about later. I’d resolved so many times not to eat the entire package of Oreos, without success. So how did I lose all that weight and keep it off reclaiming my health and gaining a new life in the process? Here’s the simple answer: my brain changed. I decided to first become a different person in my mind and then learned patience as my body followed. My success wasn’t measured only by a declining number on a scale; it was much deeper. I had to change on the inside. I needed to change my mind before I could change my body. It will work the same way for you. First you must get to the right place in your head, and then you can create the lifestyle to go along with that. Your body reflects your daily choices, so stop confusing it by the way you think. The mistake so many people make is to focus on weight loss and how long it will take. In fact, the multibillion-dollar diet industry banks on people thinking this way. Don’t get stuck in the weight loss weight gain cycle. What you should focus on is the person you want to be. Set your sights very high, and keep your commitment level even higher. In this book I’ll explain how I did that. I went from being someone who weighed more than a Miami Dolphins lineman to someone who is strong and trim and can run twenty-six miles. I went from a state of hopelessness to a life of incredible confidence. And I want to help you achieve something great in your life. If you change your mind before attempting to change your body, you can do this.
HITTING ROCK BOTTOM
While I was learning how to lose weight and regain my health, I faced setback after setback. My husband lost his job, and my mother was diagnosed with cancer—and those were only two of the crises that came along. Changing your life will never be easy, and that’s why in order to succeed, you first need to be ready to succeed. It’s a choice you make. In the fall of 2000, when I was baking cookies and overhearing my husband’s criticism of an overweight NFL lineman, I fell into despair. I realized my life was out of control and I was headed for an early grave if I didn’t change. But even then, I wasn’t yet ready to make the commitment that was necessary to change my life. The truth is, on that dark day I still wasn’t miserable enough to change. I hit rock bottom about six months later. I was at my heaviest ever—349 pounds, I think. Though I was still mostly in denial, I was starting to see myself clearly, and I hated what I saw. I’d look in the mirror and say, “You are pitiful! How could you have let this happen?” My appearance started to affect my family life. We live in South Florida, where every weekend is a pool party. My daughters were young, but they were being invited to a few parties, and I was horribly uncomfortable in a bathing suit. I knew it wouldn’t be long before my girls would be embarrassed by their mother, and that made me want to cry. It did make me cry. But that was the least of it. I was more worried that their mom would die young. I’d seen fat people, and I’d seen old people, but rarely had I seen fat, old people. If I couldn’t change for myself, maybe I could do it for my kids. One night I was driving home alone from an event at church. I felt trapped in despair. At age twenty-nine, my body felt old. I had recently had an emergency gallbladder operation, and the doctor had told me he was afraid to cut through all my layers of fat because of the risk of infection. Imagine being worried about your diseased gallbladder and experiencing anxiety about surgery. And then you learn that your weight problem makes you more prone to infection. That night in the car I felt like the most pathetic person who had ever lived. I believed that God had made me and put me on earth for a purpose, and I was not living the life He intended for me. I knew I had to change. As I drove, drowning in self-pity, I began to envision what my life would be if I weren’t fat. I thought of all the things I could do—even simple things, such as walking down an airplane aisle without having to turn sideways. I’d be able to board a flight without getting fearful stares from people hoping I wouldn’t sit next to them. And there were deeper things, such as being able to go down a slide at a playground with my kids. And I wanted never again to feel as if I was embarrassing my husband when he introduced me to business associates. I was tired of feeling prejudged by every server in every restaurant for what I ordered. I wanted to be able to shop in the same clothing stores as all my friends. I wanted a normal life. As I drove home from church, I came to the realization that I absolutely could not go on with my life as it was. I pulled over, sobbing. In total despair I cried out to God. I remember every word. “This is it!” I said. “I can’t live like this anymore. I’m done. I give all this pain to You. I surrender this battle. I need You to take over and give me a plan. Otherwise, I don’t want to live anymore.” Almost immediately a sense of inner peace filled me, and I calmed down. I had gone to church all my life and had a relationship with God, but I had certainly never felt anything like that before. The peace was real, and in my mind I heard from God. I clearly heard these words: You are not being the best you can be. It wasn’t a booming voice like in a movie, but it also wasn’t a voice coming from me. The words were a jolt to my soul. And that moment would change my life forever. Again, with crystal clarity, I “heard” a whisper: You are not being the best you can be. And for the first time in my life, I understood that this was a choice. I could choose to be the best I could be or not. We all have the same choice. We can’t choose our natural talents or what opportunities life is going to throw our way, but we can choose to do this one thing: we can do the best job of living that we are capable of. After praying alone in my car, I knew I could do better.
THE CHOICE IS YOURS
No matter how overweight and out of shape we are, our bodies and minds are capable of much more than we think. No matter what battles we face in life, we can have victory. The amazing thing is that so many of us choose not to. I know this is true because I was as guilty as anyone. For years I’d made poor choices and come up with excuses for why I really didn’t have a choice at all. I was big boned. I let myself overeat because I was pregnant. I skipped exercise because I didn’t have the time. I was too far gone to ever recover. I told myself whatever it took to hide the truth that I was not doing the best job of living. I was also being scammed by the diet industry. We all have been taken in by the hype. “We’ll give you your eating points,” the industry tells us, “and let you spend them on any food you want. And we’ll love you when you get on that scale, whether you’ve lost weight or not. We’ll keep hugging you for the next twenty-three years if need be.” Counting my points was not going to save me. Choosing the right frozen entrée and having it delivered to my home for the next two years was not going to save me. I didn’t need the unconditional love of strangers; I needed unconditional commitment from myself. I was also scammed by the “fat gene” scientists who insisted that my weight problem was out of my hands. They were wrong; it was in my hands. Chantel, I told myself, this is not cancer. I knew, because my mother had leukemia, and I had spent more tearful nights than I could count praying for her recovery something I couldn’t do anything about. I prayed that chemotherapy would work and that God would heal her. But I realized that I’d been thinking of my obesity in the same way, as an illness. I’d even been told by experts that drastic surgery might be my only option. But that was another lie. The way I lived my life and how I contributed to my health were completely in my hands. Every one of us knows what we should do, but we don’t always do it. Instead, we pretend it’s out of our control. We take the easy way out and let ourselves down. Gaining weight doesn’t come about by accident, and it’s not forced on us. We gain weight through a series of poor choices made on a regular basis over a long period of time.
We gain weight
through a series of poor choices
made on a regular basis
over a long period of time.
The same process holds true for achieving a goal related to your health and fitness. Whether it’s weight loss, athletic accomplishment, or any other personal or business goal, you achieve what you seek by learning to make the right choices and not being scared of self-sacrifice. I began wondering what my life would be like and what I would be capable of if I simply started being the best me I could. It was time to find out. After hearing God tell me, You are not being the best you can be, I made my decision, and I said it out loud: “I can do this. I will do this.” I repeated it, and I meant it. At that moment by the side of Cypress Creek Road, my life turned around.
DO IT, THEN TALK
Having made the commitment, I knew I was going to change my life, but I didn’t have a specific plan. I knew I’d have to start exercising, no matter how much I dreaded it. I knew I would have to change the way I ate, and I would need to learn more about nutrition. And to become a different person, I knew I would have to start thinking like the person I wanted to be and not the person I had allowed myself to become. I didn’t know how I was going to do all this, but I knew I would have God by my side. He might not make it easy, but He’d give me the strength to do everything that was needed. When I got home that night, Keith was already in bed. He had never criticized my weight, for which I was incredibly grateful, but I knew how he must have felt. I looked into my husband’s eyes, told him that God had spoken to me in the car, and announced that the next morning I would begin losing weight and getting healthy. (I even mentioned that one day I would write a book to reach others in my situation.) I made it clear that I was totally committed to being the best I could be. Keith smiled at me and quoted one of his favorite sources of inspiration, the self-made billionaire Art Williams: “Do it, then talk.” He was right. I shut up. Keith fell asleep, but I had a burning passion that kept me awake that night and has kept me up many nights since. Making the unconditional decision to change—the complete commitment with no turning back—had to be followed by action. First you change your mind. But to change your body and your life, you have to get moving. You have to do things and do them differently from the past. Do it. How incredibly simple—yet how long it had taken me to get to a place where I could see that clearly. Getting fit and accomplishing my dreams was simply a matter of choosing to do it, following through every single day, and understanding that failure was not an option. I could do it. I would do it. And I did.
Keep reading, and you’ll find out how to change your life through five crucial decisions. The Five Decisions change your brain, giving you a new way of thinking about yourself, your life, your health, and your future. As long as you keep thinking the same way you always have, you will keep doing the things you have always done—including the unhealthy habits you have developed. Join me in the next chapter as we explore the past—including all the influences that worked together to bring us to where we are today. Understanding the messages that influence our self-perception and the way we respond to obstacles enables us to make the new decisions that are necessary for permanent change.
What Do You Want to Change, and Why?
As you prepare to make the mental changes that will lead to permanent life change, think through the reasons you want to change. What is motivating your desire to lose weight and reclaim your health? Use the questions that follow to think in detail about your life, your goals for the future, and what you’re willing to do to make this happen finally and forever.
1. Beyond losing weight, what do you most want to change about your life?
2. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to see certain areas of your life undergo radical change? If you’re not yet willing, what is holding you back?
3. When in your life have you felt the most hopeless? Are you now ready to move past those scars and never look back?
4. When you gained weight in the past, what factors caused you to lose your focus on health?
5. Identify three reasons or influences from the past that convinced you that you couldn’t achieve permanent life change. After considering these reasons, can you now admit they were merely excuses?
6. Think about the necessity of changing your mind before you attempt to change your body. Do you agree that lasting change begins on the inside? As you consider being the best you can be, are you ready to work from the inside out?
7. A total life change involves your mind, body, and spirit. Think about the spiritual aspect for a moment. Do you accept the role that faith plays in the process of changing your life for good?
8. When have you been held back by a fear of failure? Write down your biggest fears in this regard. As you face your fears, can you decide to let them go and give your all to permanent life change?
Never Say Diet Personal Trainer Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (December 16, 2008)
The Perfect Body Type: Yours!
You Are Lovely Today
Scripture for the week: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.… When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”
Quote for the week: “Faith, as Paul saw it, was a living, flaming thing leading to surrender and obedience to the commandments of Christ.”
—A. W. TOZER
As you begin the journey to never say diet, remember that your value is based on who you are in Christ, not what the number on the scale says. God created everything about you, and He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows which foods are your weaknesses, and He is there whenever the temptation to overeat or consume unhealthy food seems overwhelming. The Lord knows the tears you have shed out of desperation. He was there to comfort you when it seemed like no one understood your pain. Trust me, on days when I feel the most flawed, I need the verses from Psalm 139 to remind me of what is true. The living God formed every part of my body, even the parts I would like to change. Although I used to struggle and fail in caring for my body, God always knew it best. When I finally cried out to my Creator and invited Him to help with the repair, I knew I could succeed. He wants you to succeed too. Start this week by thanking the Lord for the gifts of your life and your body. By focusing on making some improvements, you will ultimately be honoring Him more and more each day. Find a recent photo of yourself, or take one, and tape it in the space that follows. This picture will be a powerful reference for you in the coming weeks as you begin your transformation.
THE MIND FACTOR: CHANGE YOUR BRAIN
In Never Say Diet, I make a big deal about the Five Decisions—and for good reason. You will fail in this new attempt to change your life unless you first change your brain. To succeed, you need to be willing to do whatever it takes—unconditionally. I want to be your cheerleader and your friend. And for us to get going, you need to commit to the five Brain Change decisions found on pages 76–82 of Never Say Diet. Think about how each of the Five Decisions applies to your life. Also, try to memorize them. They will form the backbone you need to stand up to and overcome every area of weakness in your life. Create your personal surrender statement.
THE EXERCISE EQUATION: ARE YOU WILLING?
This week your first assignment is to start building a foundation of discipline. You will be successful over the next month if you show up for exercise thirty minutes a day, five days in a row, every week—no matter what. There are many choices for your cardiovascular exercise. Below is a list of suggestions. Even if your week gets hectic, finding the time to make this happen is imperative.
Cardio Exercise Suggestions
Cross-country skiing machine
Stationary bike/recumbent bike
How to Take Your Measurements
Taking your measurements at the beginning of each month is an important part of the process of losing weight. You will begin to see precisely where you are losing fat. As you start building more muscle, there will be months where your progress is more evident in your measurements than on the scale, because muscle is denser than fat. You will begin by taking six measurements. You should be able to do them by yourself, with the exception of your upper arm. (Ask a friend or your spouse to help you.) For instructions on taking accurate measurements, see pages 97–98 of Never Say Diet. Record your measurements below.
Be sure that you consistently measure in the same spots each month. I also recommend taking your measurements before your workouts.
Weigh yourself, and record your weight at the beginning of each week.
Week 1 starting weight: ________
WEEK 1 CARDIO TRAINING
Complete your cardio exercise five days in a row, for at least thirty minutes per day. In the space provided, write down the day, the date, the exercise you completed, and the duration of each exercise period. This serves as a reminder that you always found a way to get the exercise done, whether you felt like it or not.
Day 1 date/exercise/duration:
How did it go?
Day 2 date/exercise/duration:
How did it go?
Day 3 date/exercise/duration:
How did it go?
Day 4 date/exercise/duration:
How did it go?
Day 5 date/exercise/duration:
How did it go?
THE FOOD FACTOR: BREAKFAST IS
WHERE IT’S AT
This week you must place your nutritional focus on the most important meal of the day: breakfast. Plan to eat every day within two hours of waking up. Listed below are some fresh food ideas. Each one is about three hundred calories, which is perfect!
• Quaker Weight Control oatmeal, 1 tablespoon of raisins, cinnamon to taste, 2 slices of turkey bacon.
• One slice of whole-wheat toast, light spread of peanut butter (natural is best), and ½ grapefruit.
• Chocolate strawberry shake. Blend the following: 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, 10 small frozen strawberries, 1 packet sugar substitute, ½ cup low-fat milk, a few ice cubes.
• Egg white omelet. In a skillet with nonstick spray, cook veggies you like, 3 lightly beaten egg whites, and 1 tablespoon fat-free cheese. Accompany with half an English muffin with a dab of peanut butter.
Each of these breakfast meals provides a good balance of protein, carbs, and fat. This ensures your day gets off to a good start; it is igniting your source of energy. Find a few meals that you enjoy, and keep repeating them. This way you won’t stress out over deciding what to have.
Week 1 Breakfast Log
Using the space provided, record each day’s breakfast menu and the portions.
Day 1 date/time: ___________________________________ ________________________________________________
Day 2 date/time: ___________________________________
Day 3 date/time: ___________________________________
Day 4 date/time: ___________________________________
Day 5 date/time: ___________________________________
Day 6 date/time: ___________________________________
Day 7 date/time: ___________________________________
Monday, January 12, 2009
You can answer in the comment box below, or use the comment box to link us to your blog where you post the question and answer. Thanks!
Click here for my review. Leave me a comment and I'll link to yours.
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Grand Central Publishing (January 9, 2009)
Tiffany L. Warren is a technology manager who lives in suburban Cleveland, Ohio with her husband and four children. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed novel, Farther Than I Meant to Go, Longer Than I Meant to Stay.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (January 9, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
I'm snatched from my sleep by voices.
They're coming from the living room. The first voice is Shayna, my lover, although she likes to be called my girlfriend. She is not my girlfriend. Haven't had one of those since high school.
The other voice is coming from the television. It's way too loud, but not unfamiliar. I concentrate for a moment until familiarity becomes recognition. The voice belongs to that preacher Shayna likes to watch every Sunday morning.
Is it Sunday already?
I start a mental rewind in an attempt to recapture my weekend. Friday was standard. Edited a short story for a girl in my writer's group. She's entering a romance writer's contest, and wanted my opinion.
I didn't give it to her, because I'm possibly interested in sleeping with her. I told her that the uninspired farce was poetic prose. She won't win the contest, but she won't blame it on me. She'll accuse the judges of being amateurs and then come cry on my shoulder. I'll have tissues on hand – right along with the strawberries and champagne.
Also had lunch with Priscilla. My mother. The obligatory "good son" lunch that keeps me on the family payroll. I call her Priscilla behind her back, but never to her face. She's petite, cultured and polished but not above going upside a brotha's head.
We had the same conversation we have every week.
"Darrin, when are you coming to work for your father?"
"The day after never."
"You always say that."
"And I always mean it."
I love my mother, but I hate this conversation.
My father, Mathis Bainbridge, wants me to work in an office at Bainbridge Transports, shuffling papers, giving orders, and hiring overqualified people at ridiculously insulting rates of pay. He calls his company the 'family business' but only one person in our three person familia is interested in shuttling elderly people to doctor's appointments and on shopping trips.
It's not Priscilla and it's not me.
"You coming to church with me on Sunday?" Mother had also asked.
I'd let out a frustrated sigh. "I'll see."
My sporadic church attendance is Priscilla's other favorite topic.
"Don't you love Jesus?"
"Yes, Mother. I love Jesus."
That wasn't a lie. I do love Jesus. I just cannot say no to a woman who wants me to take her to bed and I have yet to hear a preacher tell me how.
Priscilla was extra irritated at our lunch date. She got borderline vulgar. "But you're willing to go to hell over some girl's dirty panties?"
I'd laughed then, and I'm still laughing. In Priscilla speak 'dirty panties' was tantamount to cursing me out.
I'd replied, "Mother, please watch your language."
Saturday was worse. I'd spent the entire muggy and rainy afternoon at a 10K marathon to benefit cancer research. Put on a fake smile and interviewed the sweaty first-place winner, asking him questions that no one wanted answers to, all the while thinking to myself, 'Why am I doing this?'
There was a time when I was excited to have comma writer after my name. You know, Darrin Bainbridge, writer. But the glamour that I'd envisioned has not yet materialized, and the less money I make with freelance journalism, the more my father threatens to chain me to a desk.
Then, when I should have been winding down for the weekend I blogged. Blogging is what narcissistic writers do when they don't have a book deal. Yeah, I'm just a bit narcissistic. Besides, people like to read what I think about social injustice, celebrities and whatever else. Ten thousand hits a day on my blogsite can't be wrong.
The thing I love about blogging is that I'm anonymous. Like, last week I wrote a piece on Jesse Jackson and how he's more of a threat to African American progress than the KKK. Then, I chilled with him at a networking function the same night. No harm, no foul.
Since I can no longer drown out the television or Shayna's 'Hallelujahs', I open my eyes and concede to starting the day. I stretch, take a deep breath, and grin at the memory of last night. Shayna's perfume lingers in the air. A fruity Victoria's Secret fragrance purchased by me for my benefit, but disguised as a spur-of-the-moment romantic and thoughtful gift. Yeah…I don't do those. But Shayna was pleased. So pleased that she stayed the night in my den of iniquity and is now watching church on television instead of getting her shout on in a pew.
I jump out of the bed in one motion, landing on the ice cold ceramic tiles. My pedicured toes curl from the drastic temperature change. Yes, a brotha likes his feet smooth. Hands too. What?
My apartment is slamming, and the furniture baller style – especially for someone with such a low income. If it wasn't for the deep pockets of my parents, blogging and freelance writing would pretty much have me living in semi-poverty. But my mother makes sure that I have the best of the best, and a monthly allowance. I keep thinking that at twenty-eight, I might be too old for a $6000 a month allowance. I'd be satisfied with less, but I'm not turning anything down. Priscilla's generosity (behind my father's back, of course) allows me to pursue my dreams, whatever they might be.
I pull on a pair of silk boxer shorts and walk up the hallway to the living room. Silently, I observe Shayna. She is rocking back and forth on the couch, her hands wrapped around her own torso. Embracing herself.
"You better preach, preacher!" she shouts at the face on the screen.
I mimic her movements and hug myself too, but not because I feel the love. It's freezing in here. Shayna likes to turn the thermostat on sixty no matter what the temperature is outside. Freon laced air rushes out of every vent.
"If you got breath in your lungs and strength in your body, you need to shout Hallelujah!" shouts the preacher.
"Hallelujah!Hallelujah!Hallelujah!Hallelujah!" Shayna's four-alarm Hallelujah sounds like one word.
I am amazed. How can Shayna feel so worshipful this morning when she just rolled out of my bed a few hours ago?
I'm curious. "Do you send this guy money? He's in Atlanta, right?"
Shayna looks up from the program and smiles seductively. Can she be any more blasphemous?
"Yes, Freedom of Life is in Atlanta and yes I do send in my tithe and offering on the regular. I'm a partner." She motions for me to come join her on the couch. I don't.
"About how many members do you think he has?" I ask as the television camera pans to what looks like the crowd at a Destiny's Child concert.
"The sanctuary holds ten thousand," she declares proudly as if it was her own accomplishment, "but there are about twenty thousand members and partners worldwide."
I'm in writer mode now. I can feel the wheels in my mind spinning. Probably something scandalous going on in a church that size. Pastor either skimming money off the top or sleeping with half the choir. Maybe blogging about a dirty Pastor will attract some sponsors. Exposing rich Black men pays well, and if he's truly grimy I won't have a problem spending the money.
Shayna asks suspiciously, "Since when did you get interested in church?"
"Since just now. I could feel the spirit oozing into the bedroom and I had to come investigate."
"I know you better than that. What's the real?"
Shayna doesn't know me at all, but she thinks she does. She assumes that we have a deep bond just because we've shared bodily fluids. There is more to me than my sex drive, but she'll never know that. She's not the wife type.
I humor her and reply, "Well, I just think that there has got to be a story here."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, this guy can't be more than forty five," I'm half-explaining, half-forming the story in my mind. "And he's got twenty thousand offering paying members? I bet he's living large."
Shayna frowns. "What's your point?"
"You don't think there's anything wrong with that?"
"Uh, no. Your daddy lives large."
I chuckle with disbelief. Didn't know she was one of those people. The ones who try to compare pastoring a church to running a business.
Just for the fun of it, I quip, "Jesus preached for free."
"He didn't have a car note," she shoots right back.
"Okay, I see this might be hitting a little close to home, but I bet if I go down there to Atlanta I can dig up a juicy story."
The thought became even more appealing as I put words to it. Atlanta is uncharted territory for me. Fresh stories, different scenery and untapped women. The more I wrap my arms around the notion, the more it turns into a need.
I need to get my butt down to Atlanta and break this story wide open. Blogging on location. Most definitely liking the sound of that.
Shayna leans over the back of the couch pointing her polished fingernail at me for emphasis. "Whatever. Bishop Kumal Prentiss is a man of God and he preaches the Word."
"Kumal Prentiss? That sounds like a hustler's name. And what do you know about the Word?"
"I grew up in church sweetie. I'm not a heathen like you."
"You're not the only one who was raised in church."
I'd had so much church growing up, that if church was food I could feed every one of those starving Ethiopian children who convince me every week to be their sponsor. If church was talent, I'd be singing like R. Kelly and dancing like Usher. If church was candy…let's just say I went to a lot of church.
Every Sunday Priscilla dragged me, unwillingly, into the huge stone building. Me always screaming, "But Daddy doesn't have to go!" Her always replying, "Daddy's going to hell." She'd give me money for my Sunday school offering and send me on my way.
I went through a phase where I enjoyed the services. I was thirteen and my first crush, Alexandra, was fifteen and fully developed. I joined the junior ushers, youth choir and youth department trying to get at that girl.
Then one Sunday morning, old Pastor Davis preached on lust and hell fire. He'd said that if we didn't repent of our lusts and get baptized, then we'd spend an eternity fighting fire. Since I had been drooling over Alexandra and her tight sweater for the entire service, I was terrified. Walked down that center aisle out of fear while Priscilla shouted, stomped and danced. Went down a dry devil, came up a wet devil.
At age sixteen, I just got tired of pretending that I could walk the narrow road. I prayed about it. Told God that I would come to church when I knew I could live right.
Priscilla wasn't having it. I think she literally had a nervous breakdown when I told her I wasn't going back to church. She cried for days; walked around praying out loud, lifting God up and putting the devil under her feet.
I didn't budge. And for the first time ever, my father defended me. He'd stopped Priscilla dead in her tracks.
He'd said, "Priscilla, you will not make my son go to church if he doesn't want to. Church is for women anyway, it's about time he found a more productive way of spending his time."
The memory brings a smile to my face, makes me want to taunt Shayna about her hypocrisy. "And since you know so much about the Word, what does it say about fornication?"
She must be done talking to me, because she turns back to Bishop Prentiss who has worked his congregation into a frenzy. Had to give it to him. The man had skills.
"You want something to eat?" I ask Shayna, ignoring her attitude.
Her face softens. "You know I do."
In minutes I've prepared a small breakfast feast. French toast on fresh French bread and garnished with powdered sugar, strawberries and carmelized bananas and a three cheese omelet, browned to perfection.
I can cook my butt off.
I arrange everything on the china my mother bought me for a housewarming gift. For me, it's not just the taste of the food, it's the look of it. Presentation is everything. I can make a grill cheesed sandwich look like a gourmet entrée.
Shayna's smile returns as she approaches the table. She tosses her red curls out of her honey colored face as she sashays barefoot over to the table. She looks as delicious as the breakfast wearing her baby t-shirt and boy shorts. I feel a hunger starting inside me that has nothing to do with breakfast food.
Shayna's a cute girl, not stunning, but standing there at my kitchen table, with her disheveled sexiness, she's irresistible. But then again, I have the same motto about women that I have about food. Presentation is everything.
"Why can't you be like the average guy and put everything on paper plates? This looks better than at the restaurant."
"For one, I'm not the average guy and two you wouldn't be so sprung if I was."
Shayna sits down and takes a bite before responding. Closes her eyes and chews slowly. I love the way she savors my culinary creations. She sounds just like a baby relishing the first sips of a warm bottle.
"Is that good?" It's real hard to hide the cockiness in my tone.
"You already know it is!" she exclaims, smacking her lips thoughtfully. "What is it that I taste? There's a different flavor in this."
Her observation fills me with pleasure. "Oh, you've been around me much too long if you are noticing flavor nuances. I'm proud."
She licks her fingers, one at a time. "Mmm-hmm. Maybe I have been around you too long, but baby I am not sprung."
This woman is hilarious. Shayna is not only sprung; she's 'in love'. I'm flattered, even if I don't feel the same way. She's been hinting that she wants to move in with me, but that is not going to happen. Rule number one of my cardinal rules is: never turn a bed mate into a roommate.
"Okay, you're not sprung. I believe you. That's actually a good thing, because then you won't miss me when I go to Atlanta."
"So you're serious about this?"
I fold my arms across my chest and nod my head emphatically. "It is my duty as a journalist to expose the charlatans and inform the people."
"You better be careful. The bible says 'touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm'."
"Look at you quoting scriptures. I'm impressed. And don't worry about me. If your precious pastor is everything that he says he is then he has nothing to worry about."
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