Monday, October 18, 2010

Catching MoonDrops {Review}

I'm still working on this one.
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!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Catching Moondrops
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (September 20, 2010)
***Special thanks to Maggie Rowe of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***
Jennifer Erin Valent is the 2007 winner of the Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest. A lifelong resident of the South, her surroundings help to color the scenes and characters she writes. In fact, the childhood memory of a dilapidated Ku Klux Klan billboard inspired her portrayal of Depression-era racial prejudice in Fireflies in December. She has spent the past 15 years working as a nanny and has dabbled in freelance, writing articles for various Christian women's magazines. She still resides in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia.
Visit the author's website.
Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (September 20, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414333277
ISBN-13: 978-1414333274

There’s nothing in this whole world like the sight of a man swinging by his neck.
Folks in my parts liked to call it “lynching,” as if by calling it another word they could keep from feeling like murderers. Sometimes when they string a man up, they gather around like vultures looking for the next meal, staring at the cockeyed neck, the sagging limbs, their lips turning up at the corners when they should be turning down. For some people, time has a way of blurring the good and the bad, spitting out that thing called conscience and replacing it with a twisted sort of logic that makes right out of wrong.
Our small town of Calloway, Virginia, had that sort of logic in spades, and after the trouble it had caused my family over the years, I knew that better than most. But the violence had long since faded away, and my best friend Gemma would often tell me that made it okay—her being kept separate from white folks. “Long as my bein’ with your family don’t bring danger down on your heads, I’ll keep my peace and be thankful,” she’d say.
But I didn’t feel so calm about it all as Gemma did. Part of that was my stubborn temperament, but most of it was my intuition. I’d been eyeball to eyeball with pure hate more than once in my eighteen years, and I could smell it, like rotting flesh. Hate is a type of blindness that divides a man from his good sense. I’d seen it in the eyes of a Klansman the day he tried to choke the life out of me and in the eyes of the men who hunted down a dear friend who’d been wrongly accused of murder.
And, at times, I’d caught glimpses of it in my own heart.
The passage of time had done nothing to lessen its stench. And despite the relative peace, I knew full well that hearts poisoned by hateful thinking can only simmer for so long before boiling over.
In May of that year, 1938, that pot started bubbling.
I was on the front porch shucking corn when I saw three colored men turn up our walk, all linked up in a row like the Three Musketeers. I stood up, let the corn silk slip from my apron, and called over my shoulder. “Gemma! Come on out here.”
She must have been nearby because the screen door squealed open almost two seconds after my last words drifted in through the screen. “What is it?”
“Company. Only don’t look too good.” I walked to the top of the steps and shielded my eyes from the sun. “Malachi Jarvis! You got yourself into trouble again?”
The man in the middle, propped up like a scarecrow, lifted his chin wearily but managed to flash a smile that revealed bloodied teeth. “Depends on how you define trouble.”
Gemma gasped at the sight of him and flew down the steps, letting the door slam so loud the porch boards shook. “What in the name of all goodness have you been up to? You got some sort of death wish?”
A man I’d never seen before had his arm wound tightly beneath Malachi’s arms, blood smeared across his shirt front. Malachi’s younger brother, Noah, was on his other side, struggling against the weight, and Gemma came in between them to help.
“He ain’t got the good sense to keep his mouth shut, is all,” Noah said breathlessly.
I went inside to grab Momma’s first aid box, and by the time I got back out, Gemma had Malachi seated in the rocker.
Gemma gave him the once-over and shook her head so hard I thought it might fly off. “I swear, if you ain’t a one to push a body into an early grave. Your poor momma’s gonna lose her ever-lovin’ mind.”
Along with his younger brother and sister, Malachi lived down by the tracks with his widowed momma—as the man of the house, so to speak. He’d taken up being friends with Luke Talley some two years back when they’d both worked for the tobacco plant, and they’d remained close even though Luke had struck out on his own building furniture. Malachi was never one to keep his peace, a fact Gemma had no patience for, and she made it good and clear many a time. Today would be no exception.
“Goin’ around stirrin’ up trouble every which way,” she murmured as she pulled fixings out of the first aid box. “It’s one thing to pick fights with your own kind. Can’t say as though you wouldn’t benefit by a poundin’ or two every now and again. But this foolin’ around with white folks’ll get you into more’n you’re bargainin’ for.”
The man who’d helped Noah shoulder the burden of Malachi reached out to take the gauze from Gemma. “Why don’t you let me get that?”
Gemma didn’t much like being told what to do, and she glared at him. “I can clean up cuts and scrapes. I worked for a doctor past two years.”
Malachi nodded towards the man. “This here man is a doctor.”
I was putting iodine on a piece of cotton, and I near about dropped it on the floor when I heard that. Never in all my born days had I seen a colored man claiming to be a doctor. Neither had Gemma by the looks of her.
“A doctor?” she murmured. “You sure?”
He laughed and extended his hand to her. “Last I checked. Tal Pritchett. Just got into town yesterday. Gonna set up shop down by the tracks.”
Gemma handed the gauze over to him, still dumbfounded.
“What d’you think about that?” Malachi grinned and then grimaced the minute his split lip made its presence known. “A colored doc in Calloway. Shoo-whee. There’s gonna be talkin’ about this!”
The doctor went to work cleaning up Malachi’s wounds. “I ain’t here to start no revolution. I’m just aimin’ to help the colored folks get the help they deserve.”
“Well, you’re goin’ to start a revolution whether you want to or not.” Malachi shut his eyes and gritted his teeth the minute the iodine set to burning. “Folks in these parts don’t much like colored folk settin’ themselves up as smart or nothin’.”
Gemma watched Tal Pritchett like she was analyzing his every move, finding out for herself if he was a doctor or not. I stood by and let her assist him as she’d been accustomed to doing for Doc Mabley until he passed on two months ago. After he’d bandaged up Malachi’s right hand, she seemed satisfied that he was who he said.
Noah slumped down into the other rocker and watched. “It’s one thing to get yourself an education and stand for your right to make somethin’ of yourself. It’s another to go stirrin’ up trouble for the sake of stirrin’ up trouble.”
“I ain’t doin’ it for the sake of stirrin’ up trouble. I done told you that!” Malachi flexed his left hand to test how well his swollen fingers moved. Ain’t no colored man ever goin’ to be free in this here county . . . in this here state . . . in this here world unless somebody starts fightin’ for freedom.”
“Slaves was freed decades ago,” Noah said sharply. “We ain’t in shackles no more.”
“But we ain’t free to live our lives as we choose, neither. You think colored people are ever gonna be more’n house help and field help so long as we let ourselves be treated like less than white people? No sir. We’re less than human to them white folks. They don’t think nothin’ about killin’ so long as who they’re killin’ is colored.”
“Don’t you go bunchin’ all white people together, Malachi Jarvis,” I argued. “Ain’t all white folk got bad feelin’s about coloreds.”
Malachi waved me off in exasperation. “You know I ain’t talkin’ about you, Jessilyn.”
Noah had his hands tightly knotted in his lap and was staring at them like they held all the answers to the world’s problems. “All’s you’re doin’ is gettin’ yourself kicked around.” He looked up at me pleadingly. “This here’s the second time in a week he’s come home banged up.”
I put a hand on Noah’s shoulder and set my eyes on Malachi. “Who did it?”
He put his bandaged right hand into the air, palm up. “Who knows? Some white boys. You get surrounded by enough of ‘em, they all just blend in together like a vanilla milkshake.”
“How’s it you didn’t see them? They jump you or somethin’?”
“Don’t ask me, Jessie. I was just mindin’ my own business in town and then on my way home, they start hasslin’ me.”
“What he was doin’,” Noah corrected, “was tryin’ to get into the whites-only bar.”
Gemma sniffed in disgust. “Shouldn’t have been in no bar in the first place. There’s your first mistake.”
“Whites-only, too.” Noah kicked his foot against the porch rail and then looked up at me quickly. “Sorry.”
I smiled at him and turned my attention back to Malachi. “It’s a good thing Luke ain’t here to see this. He don’t like you drinkin’ and you know it.”
His eyeballs rolled between swollen lids. “I don’t know why he gets his trousers in a knot over it anyhow. Ain’t like there’s prohibition no more. And he’s been known to take a swig or two himself.”
“Luke says you’re a nasty drunk.”
“He is.” Noah knotted his hands back in his lap. “And he’s been at the bottle more often than not of late.”
“Quit tellin’ tales!” his brother barked.
“I ain’t tellin’ tales; I’m tellin’ truth. They can ask anybody at home how late you come in, and how you come in all topsy turvy. He comes home in the middle of the mornin’ and sleeps in till all hours the next day.”
“What about your job at the plant?” Gemma asked.
Malachi closed his eyes and waved her off, but his brother provided the answer for him. “Lost it!” He loosened his grip on his hands and snapped his fingers. “Like that. There’s goes his income.”
“I said I’ll get another job.”
“Oh, like there’s jobs aplenty around these parts for colored folk. And anyways, if you find one, how you gonna’ keep that one?”
Gemma had her hands on her hips, and I knew what that meant. I leaned back against the house and waited for the lecture to commence.
“You talk a fine talk about colored folks needin’ to stand up for equality, but you ain’t doin’ it in any way that’s right and good. You’re goin’ about town gettin’ people’s goat, and tryin’ to get in where you ain’t wanted, and gettin’ yourself all liquored up and useless. Now your family ain’t got the money they depend on you for, and why? Because you walk around livin’ like you ain’t got to do nothin’ for nobody but yourself.”
“I’m standin’ up for the rights of colored folks everywhere.” Malachi was angry now, pink patches spreading on his busted-up cheeks. “You see anyone else in this town willin’ to go toe to toe with the white boys in this county?”
“Don’t put a noble face on bein’ an upstart.”
Malachi pushed Tal’s hand away and sat up tall. “You call standin’ up to white folks bein’ an upstart?”
Doc Pritchett tried to dress the wound on Malachi’s temple, but Malachi pushed his hand away again. That was when the doctor had enough, and he smacked his hands on his thighs and stood up tall and determined in front of Malachi. “I ain’t Abraham Lincoln. I’m just Doc Pritchett tryin’ to fix up an ornery patient, and I ain’t got all day to do it. So I’m goin’ to settle this argument once and for all.” He pointed at Gemma. “She’s right. There ain’t no fightin’ nonsense with more nonsense, and all’s you’re doin’ by gettin’ in the faces of white folks with your smart attitude is bein’ as bad as they’re bein’.” Then he pointed at Malachi. “And he’s right, too. There ain’t never a change brought about that should be brought about without people standin’ up for such change. And sometimes that means bein’ willin’ to fight for what’s right.”
Gemma swallowed hard and didn’t even try to argue. My eyes must have bugged out of my head at the sight of her being tamed so easily.
“Now, I’m all for civil uprisin’,” Tal continued. “I don’t see nothin’ wrong with colored folk sayin’ they won’t be walked on no more. I don’t see nothin’ wrong with wantin’ to use the same bathroom as white folks or sit in the same chairs as white folks. Way I see it, none of that’s goin’ to change unless someone says it has to.” He squatted down in front of Malachi again and stared him down nose to nose. “But all this hot-shottin’ and show-boatin’ ain’t goin’ to do nothin’ but get your rear end kicked. Or worse. You aim to stand tall for somethin’? Fine. Stand tall for it. But don’t you go around thinkin’ these battle scars say somethin’ for you. You ain’t got them by bein’ noble; you got them by bein’ stupid. All’s these scars say is you’re an idiot.”
It was one of the best speeches I’d heard from anyone outside my daddy, and if I’d ever thought for two seconds put together to see a colored man run for governor, I figured Tal Pritchett would be the man for the job. As it was, I knew he was the best man for the job he had now. Sure enough, being a colored doc in Calloway would be a challenge. But I figured he was up for it.
Regardless, he shut Malachi up, and for the next five minutes we all watched him finish his job with skill and finesse. When he’d fixed the last of Malachi’s face, he stood up and clapped his hands. “Suppose that should do it. Don’t see need for any stitchin’ up today. Let’s hope there’s no cause for it in future.” Then he looked at me. “You got someplace out here where I can wash up?”
I held my hand out toward the front door. “Bathroom’s upstairs.”
He hesitated. “I’d just as soon wash up out here.”
I caught the reason for his hesitation but didn’t know what to say. As usual, Gemma did.
“I done lived in this here house for six years now, and I’m just as brown as you. You can feel free to go on up to the bathroom, you hear?”
He looked from Gemma to me, then back to Gemma before nodding. “Yes’m.” And then he disappeared inside.
“Ma’am,” Gemma muttered under her breath. “Ain’t old enough to be called ma’am, least of all by a man no more’n a few years older’n me.”
“You know what happens once you start gettin’ them crows feet . . .”
Gemma whirled about and gave Malachi the evil eye. “Don’t go thinkin’ I won’t hurt you just because you’re all bandaged up.”
Noah got up and paced the porch until Tal came back outside. “Doc, you have any problem gettin’ your schoolin’?”
Tal shrugged and leaned against the porch rail. “No more’n most, I guess. There’s a lot to learn. Why? You thinkin’ about goin’ to college?”
You could have heard a pin drop on that front porch. Never, and I mean never, in all the days Calloway had been on the map, had there ever been a single person, white or black, to step foot at a college. The very idea of that mark being made by a colored boy was a surefire way to start war.
And Noah knew it.
He looked at his feet and kicked the heel of one shoe against the toe of another. “Ain’t possible. I was just wonderin’ aloud, is all.”
“What do you mean it ain’t possible? All’s you’ve got to do is work hard. You can get scholarships and things.”
But Noah took a look at his brother, whose face was hard and tight-lipped, and nodded off toward the road. “Nah, there ain’t no use talkin’ over it. We’d best get home anyhow.”
Tal didn’t push the subject. He just picked his hat up off the porch swing and plopped it on his head. “Miss Jessie. Miss Gemma. It was a fine pleasure to meet you, and a kindness for you to give us a hand.”
“You should stop by sometime and meet my parents,” I said. “They’re off visitin’, but I’m sure they’d be right happy to know you.”
“I’m sure I’d be right happy to know them, too.” He turned his attention to Gemma. “You said you worked for a doctor?”
“I worked for Doc Mabley. He was a white doctor. Died some two months ago.”
“He let you assist?”
“Only with the colored patients. Doc Mabley was kind enough to help some of them out when they needed it. Otherwise I kept his records, kept up his stock.”
“Well, I’ll tell you, Miss Gemma, I could sure use some help if you’d be obliged. An assistant would be a good set of extra hands, and I could use someone known around here to make my introductions.”
Gemma eyed him up before slowly nodding her head. “Reckon I could.”
“Wouldn’t be much pay, now, you know. Ain’t likely to get much in the way of fees from the patients I’ll be treatin’.”
“Don’t matter so long as I have good work to put my hands to.”
“That it would be. My office is right across the street from the Jarvis house.”
Malachi snorted. “Shack’s more like it.”
“Room enough for me,” Tal said. Then to Gemma, “You think you could stop in sometime this week to talk it over?”
“I can come day after tomorrow if that suits.”
“Nine o’clock too early?”
“No, sir! I’ve kept farm hours all my life.”
He grinned at her. “Nine o’clock then?”
“Nine o’clock.”
Malachi watched the two of them with his swollen eyes, a look of disgust growing more evident on his face. He’d made no secret over the past year about his admiration for Gemma, and the unmistakable attraction that was growing between her and Tal was clearly turning his stomach.
“Mind if we go home?” he muttered. “Before I fall down dead or somethin’?”
Gemma tore her eyes away from Tal to roll them at Malachi. “Would serve you right if you did.”
“And on that cheery note . . .” Malachi groaned on his way down the steps. “I’ll bid you ladies a fine evenin’.”
I gave Noah a playful whack to the head, but he ducked so it only clipped the top. “Luke will be back home tomorrow evenin’. He’ll be itchin’ to see you, I’m sure.”
“I’m itchin’ to see him.” He took the steps in one leap, tossing dust up when he landed. “You tell him to come on by and see us real soon.”
“And tell him to bring his cards,” Malachi added. “He owes me a poker rematch.”
I squinted at him suspiciously. “Only if you play for beans.”
“I hate beans.”
Malachi leaned on Tal for support and Noah scurried to catch up and help. I watched them go, but I wasn’t thinking much about them. I was thinking about Luke. It had been two months since he’d left to collect customers for his furniture-making business, and every day had seemed like an eternity.
The very thought of him got my stomach butterflies to fluttering, but one look at Gemma told me it was another man who had stolen her attention. “That
Doc Pritchett’s a fine man.” I looked at her sideways with a smirk. “Looks about twenty-five or so.”
“Good marryin’ age.”
She crossed her arms defiantly. “Jessilyn Lassiter, what’s that got to do with anythin’?”
“Only what I said. I’m only statin’ fact.”
“Mm-hm. I hear ya. You’d be better off keepin’ your facts to yourself.”
She grabbed the first aid box and headed inside, but the sound of that door slamming told me I’d got to her.
It told me Tal Pritchett had got to her, too.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lady In Waiting {REview}

I love history.  I would love to take a year off and tour/travel the eastern seaboard of the United States just to see all the historical sights. That would thrill my soul. I would also love to travel to Rome and see all the history there.  I would love to go to England and see the Tower of London. I know that is where people who opposed the crown had their head rather rudely separated from their body, but the history is so very rich.
And there is a very sick part of me that wonders if ancient blood is still on the floor. Not that they did it inside...
Lady in Waiting is by Susan Meissner and is a historical fiction novel about Lady Jane Grey. You may remember after King Edward VI died (and I've always wondered if someone killed him), Princess Mary was the rightful heir but greedy men had their own designs on the throne and Lady Jane was coronated in her place. Because she was a she and Catholic and her mother had been put to death by King Henry VIII, she was deemed to be illegitmate and there for unworthy of the crown.
The book is written with an idea that Lady Jane was secretly betrothed to King Edward and given a secret betrothal ring. The ring survives and is uncovered in the binding of an antique Catholic prayer book by a lady named Jane living in New York.  While there is no historical evidence this ever happened, it does make a good story.
The book flips between the sixteenth century and modern times. Personally I would have much preferred just reading about Lady Jane Grey in the sixteenth century.  But honestly that is the only thing I would change about the book. This is definitely a book I want to read over and over...and I could always just skip over the modern time.
In typing that I realized I had failed to say anything at all about the modern-day Jane. The book starts with her husband leaving her. That hit a little close to home because I've walked that road with some friends. It's not fun, or pretty and really is a minefield.  That part of the book ends not with them reconciling but definitely working toward that end.  I liked that about the book, because sometimes life isn't pretty. Not everything comes together in the end.  But God is still God, and He still offers grace and HOPE.
Below you can read the first chapter.
 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!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

WaterBrook Press; Original edition (September 7, 2010)
***Special thanks to Cindy Brovsky of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc., for sending me a review copy.***

Susan Meissner has spent her lifetime as a writer, starting with her first poem at the age of four. She is the award-winning author of The Shape of Mercy, White Picket Fences, and many other novels. When she’s not writing, she directs the small groups and connection ministries at her San Diego church. She and her pastor husband are the parents of four young adults.
Visit the author's website.
Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Original edition (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307458830
ISBN-13: 978-0307458834

Upper West Side, Manhattan
The mantle clock was exquisite even though its hands rested in silence at twenty minutes past two.
Carved—near as I could tell—from a single piece of mahogany, its glimmering patina looked warm to the touch. Rosebuds etched into the swirls of wood grain flanked the sides like two bronzed bridal bouquets. The clock’s top was rounded and smooth like the draped head of a Madonna. I ran my palm across the polished surface and it was like touching warm water.
Legend was this clock originally belonged to the young wife of a Southampton doctor and that it stopped keeping time in 1912, the very moment the Titanic sank and its owner became a widow. The grieving woman’s only consolation was the clock’s apparent prescience of her husband’s horrible fate and its kinship with the pain that left her inert in sorrow. She never remarried and she never had the clock fixed.
I bought it sight unseen for my great aunt’s antique store, like so many of the items I’d found for the display cases. In the year and half I’d been in charge of the inventory, the best pieces had come from the obscure estate sales that my British friend Emma Downing came upon while tooling around the southeast of England looking for oddities for her costume shop. She found the clock at an estate sale in Felixstowe and the auctioneer, so she told me, had been unimpressed with the clock’s sad history. Emma said he’d read the accompanying note about the clock as if reading the rules for rugby.
My mother watched now as I positioned the clock on the lacquered black mantle that rose above a marble fireplace. She held a lead crystal vase of silk daffodils in her hands.
“It should be ticking.” She frowned. “People will wonder why it’s not ticking.” She set the vase down on the hearth and stepped back. Her heels made a clicking sound on the parquet floor beneath our feet. “You know, you probably would’ve sold it by now if it was working. Did Wilson even look at it? You told me he could fix anything.”
I flicked a wisp of fuzz off the clock’s face. I hadn’t asked the shop’s resident and unofficial repairman to fix it. “It wouldn’t be the same clock if it was fixed.”
“It would be a clock that did what it was supposed to do.” My mother leaned in and straightened one of the daffodil blooms.
“This isn’t just any clock, Mom.” I took a step back too.
My mother folded her arms across the front of her Ann Taylor suit. Pale blue, the color of baby blankets and robins’ eggs. Her signature color. “Look, I get all that about the Titanic and the young widow, but you can’t prove any of it, Jane,” she said. “You could never sell it on that story.”
A flicker of sadness wobbled inside me at the thought of parting with the clock. This happens when you work in retail. Sometimes you have a hard time selling what you bought to sell.
“I’m thinking maybe I’ll keep it.”
“You don’t make a profit by hanging onto the inventory.” My mother whispered this, but I heard her. She intended for me to hear her. This was her way of saying what she wanted to about her aunt’s shop—which she’d inherit when Great Aunt Thea passed—without coming across as interfering.
My mother thinks she tries very hard not to interfere. But it is one of her talents. Interfering when she thinks she’s not. It drives my younger sister Leslie nuts.
“Do you want me to take it back to the store?” I asked.
“No! It’s perfect for this place. I just wish it were ticking.” She nearly pouted.
I reached for the box at my feet that I brought the clock in along with a set of Shakespeare’s works, a pair of pewter candlesticks, and a Wedgwood vase. “You could always get a CD of sound effects and run a loop of a ticking clock,” I joked.
She turned to me, childlike determination in her eyes. “I wonder how hard it would be to find a CD like that!”
“I was kidding, Mom! Look what you have to work with.” I pointed to the simulated stereo system she’d placed into a polished entertainment center behind us. My mother never used real electronics in the houses she staged, although with the clientele she usually worked with—affluent real estate brokers and equally well-off buyers and sellers—she certainly could.
“So I’ll bring in a portable player and hide it in the hearth pillows.” She shrugged and then turned to the adjoining dining room. A gleaming black dining table had been set with white bone china, pale yellow linen napkins, and mounds of fake chicken salad, mauvey rubber grapes, and plastic croissants and petit fours. An arrangement of pussy willows graced the center of the table. “Do you think the pussy willows are too rustic?” she asked.
She wanted me to say yes so I did.
“I think so, too,” she said. “I think we should swap these out for that vase of Gerbera daisies you have on that escritoire in the shop’s front window. I don’t know what I was thinking when I brought these.” She reached for the unlucky pussy willows. “We can put these on the entry table with our business cards.”
She turned to me. “You did bring yours this time, didn’t you? It’s silly for you to go to all this work and then not get any customers out of it.” My mother made her way to the entryway with the pussy willows in her hands and intention in her step. I followed her.
This was only the second house I’d helped her stage, and I didn’t bring business cards the first time because she hadn’t invited me to until we were about to leave. She’d promptly told me then to never go anywhere without business cards. Not even to the ladies room. She’d said it and then waited, like she expected me to take out my BlackBerry and make a note of it.
“I have them right here.” I reached into the front pocket of my capris and pulled out a handful of glossy business cards emblazoned with Amsterdam Avenue Antiques and its logo—three As entwined like a Celtic eternity knot. I handed them to her and she placed them in a silver dish next to her own. Sophia Keller Interior Design and Home Staging. The pussy willows actually looked wonderful against the tall jute-colored wall.
“There. That looks better!” she exclaimed as if reading my thoughts. She turned to survey the main floor of the townhouse. The owners had relocated to the Hamptons and were selling off their Manhattan properties to fund a cushy retirement. Half the d├ęcor—the books, the vases, the prints—were on loan from Aunt Thea’s shop. My mother, who’d been staging real estate for two years, brought me in a few months earlier when she discovered a stately home filled with charming and authentic antiques sold faster than the same home filled with reproductions.
“You and Brad should get out of that teensy apartment on the West Side and buy this place. The owners are practically giving it away.”
Her tone suggested she didn’t expect me to respond. I easily let the comment evaporate into the sunbeams caressing us. It was a comment for which I had had no response.
My mother’s gaze swept across the two large rooms she’d furnished and she frowned when her eyes reached the mantle and the silent clock.
“Well, I’ll just have to come back later today,” she spoke into the silence. “It’s being shown first thing in the morning.” She swung back around. “Come on. I’ll take you back.”
We stepped out into the April sunshine and to her Lexus parked across the street along a line of townhouses just like the one we’d left. As we began to drive away, the stillness in the car thickened, and I fished my cell phone out of my purse to see if I’d missed any calls while we were finishing the house. On the drive over I had a purposeful conversation with Emma about a box of old books she found at a jumble sale in Oxfordshire. That lengthy conversation filled the entire commute from the store on the seven-hundred block of Amsterdam to the townhouse on East Ninth, and I found myself wishing I could somehow repeat that providential circumstance. My mother would ask about Brad if the silence continued. There was no missed call, and I started to probe my brain for something to talk about. I suddenly remembered I hadn’t told my mother I’d found a new assistant. I opened my mouth to tell her about Stacy but I was too late.
“So what do you hear from Brad?” she asked cheerfully.
“He’s doing fine.” The answer flew out of my mouth as if I’d rehearsed it. She looked away from the traffic ahead, blinked at me, and then turned her attention back to the road. A taxi pulled in front of her, and she laid on the horn, pronouncing a curse on all taxi drivers.
“Idiot.” She turned to me. “How much longer do you think he will stay in New Hampshire?” Her brow was creased. “You aren’t going to try to keep two households going forever, are you?”
I exhaled heavily. “It’s a really good job, Mom. And he likes the change of pace and the new responsibilities. It’s only been two months.”
“Yes, but the inconvenience has to be wearing on you both. It must be quite a hassle maintaining two residences, not to mention the expense, and then all that time away from each other.” She paused but only for a moment. “I just don’t see why he couldn’t have found something similar right here in New York. I mean, don’t all big hospitals have the same jobs in radiology? That’s what your father told me. And he should know.”
“Just because there are similar jobs doesn’t mean there are similar vacancies, Mom.”
She tapped the steering wheel. “Yes, but your father said . . .”
“I know Dad thinks he might’ve been able to help Brad find something on Long Island but Brad wanted this job. And no offense, Mom, but the head of environmental services doesn’t hire radiologists.”
She bristled. I shouldn’t have said it. She would repeat that comment to my dad, not to hurt him but to vent her frustration at not having been able to convince me she was right and I was wrong. But it would hurt him anyway.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” I added. “Don’t tell him I said that, okay? I just really don’t want to rehash this again.”
But she wasn’t done. “Your father has been at that hospital for twenty-seven years. He knows a lot of people.” She emphasized the last four words with a pointed stare in my direction.
“I know he does. That’s really not what I meant. It’s just Brad has always wanted this kind of job. He’s working with cancer patients. This really matters to him.”
“But the job’s in New Hampshire!”
“Well, Connor is in New Hampshire!” It sounded irrelevant even to me to mention the current location of Brad’s and my college-age son. Connor had nothing to do with any of this. And he was an hour away from where Brad was anyway.
“And you are here,” my mother said evenly. “If Brad wanted out of the city, there are plenty of quieter hospitals right around here. And plenty of sick people for that matter.”
There was an undercurrent in her tone, subtle and yet obvious, that assured me we really weren’t talking about sick people and hospitals and the miles between Manhattan and Manchester. It was as if she’d guessed what I’d tried to keep from my parents the last eight weeks.
My husband didn’t want out of the city.
He just wanted out.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Eat This and Live! For Kids (Review)

I was just thinking how incredibly odd it is that I write book reviews for fun. I still remember my first book review. I was in the third grade and had to give a book report for school. At the last minute I grabbed a book off my bookshelf, scanned the back and wrote a very nice review.
For a book my teacher had read. And LOVED. And I was busted.
I have since read Rabbit Hill and while it is not a treasured book, I did enjoy it.
Today I have a review for a book I actually read more than just the back cover. I read the Table of Contents also.
And the rest of the book!
The book I'm talking about, has been mentioned a time or fifty. (You can find it mentioned here, here, here, and here.)  I've talked about it on Twitter too.  I talked about it in my neighborhood, at the grocery store, to my family so much they wish I'd never heard of the book.
The book is Eat This and Live! For kids by Dr. Don. Colbert, MD and Dr. Joseph A. Cannizzaro, MD. and the information inside this books pages will astound you.  One example is the difference between being just "overweight" and being "obese". I always thought those two were light years apart.  And they aren't. One BMI number separates them.
Dr. Colbert gives you the formula for figuring out your child's BMI (Body Mass Index) and even includes in the back of the BMI chart for boys and girls.
What I thought of the book
WOW!!!  This book is CHOCK-FULL of useful information. There was nothing in the book I read that I did not automatically think I couldn't do. I love the practicality of the information. We all want our children to be healthier, we all know we have to set the example, which means we all know WE need to be eating healthier. This book gives practical steps we can take to be eating healthier and being healthier.
Reading this book makes me want to go get his other books and devour them.  I give this one 5 turning pages. You can read more below.
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!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Eat This and Live! For Kids
Siloam; 1 edition (September 7, 2010)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***
Don Colbert, MD, is board-certified in family practice and anti-aging medicine and has received extensive training in nutritional and preventative medicine. He is the author of numerous books, including two New York Times best sellers, Dr. Colbert’s “I Can Do This” Diet and The Seven Pillars of Health.
Joseph A. Cannizzaro, MD, has practiced pediatric medicine for thirty years with specialties in developmental pediatrics, nutrition, and preventive medicine. He is the founder and managing pediatrician for the Pediatricians Care Unit in Longwood, Florida.
Visit the author's website.
Here's a video about the adult version, Eat This and Live!:
Product Details:
List Price: $17.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Siloam; 1 edition (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381388
ISBN-13: 978-1616381387

Eating Habits and Our Future
How Has an entire generation of hefty eaters changed the face of the world? By starting young. And once again, this unflattering trend originated in America. In the United States, 17.1 percent of our children and adolescents―that's 2.5 million youth―are now reported to be either overweight or obese.
As a result of childhood obesity, we are seeing a dramatic rise in type 2 diabetes throughout the country. And because of the connection obesity has with hypertension, hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), and heart disease, experts are predicting a dramatic rise in heart disease as our children become adults. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) reports that overweight teens stand a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight adults, and that is increased to 80 percent
if at least one parent is overweight or obese. Because of that, heart disease and type 2 diabetes are expected to begin at a much earlier age in those who fail to beat the odds.2 Overall, this is the first generation of children that is not expected to live as long as their parents, and they will be more likely to suffer from disease and illness.
If you do not take charge of your food choices for yourself, at least do it for your children. Children follow by example, by mirroring the behavior of their parents. Don't tell them to make healthy eating choices without doing it yourself. I'm sure most of you love your children and are good parents. But ask yourself: Do you love your children enough to make the necessary lifestyle changes? Do you love them enough to educate them on what foods to eat and what foods to avoid? Do you love them enough to keep junk food out of your house and instead make healthy food more available? Do you love them enough to exercise regularly and lead by example?
If you answered yes to those questions, it is important that you not only take action right now but also that you make changes for them that last a lifetime.
But let me be honest; this is not an easy fight when it involves your children's lives. As the little boxes of information on this page illustrate, the culture in which your children are growing up is saturated with junk food that is void of nutrition but high in toxic fats, sugars, high

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Money Saving Tips Part 1

I promised some money saving tips. One of my favorite ways is to use non-chemical cleaners. Especially when they clean better than their chemical counterparts and generally everyone already has them on hand.

Vinegar has a million and ten uses, most of them do no involve making pickles.  I mix a spray bottle of vinegar and water. I use a ratio of 2:2, or equal parts. I just like using ratios because I learned how in math class.

While I taught my fifth grader.

Vinegar has been used for centuries! I wouldn't be surprised if Eve used it in her home.  It is incredibly inexpensive, even compared to other chemical cleaners. For example, 21 ounces of Comet with bleach will cost you $.97 at Target. A gallon of distilled white vinegar will cost you a few pennies more.
On of my favorite places to use vinegar is in the laundry room.  I add it to the rinse cycle in my washing machine and all the soap is rinsed out.  It is much cheaper than liquid fabric softener and you get the same result.

Okay, baking soda. You want to talk about a great cleaner! The little dynamo in the orange box is cleaning machine. And you thought it was only for cooking!

I use in the place of harsh chemical cleaners to scour my sink, polish my faucet. I use it when I vacuum as an instant carpet deodorizer. Sprinkle some on, vacuum and sniff the clean air. It is, of course, much less expensive than the scent carpet cleaners you can buy.  

Have you noticed your tennis shoes are smelling less than sweet? Sprinkle baking soda in your shoes, leave over night, shake out the excess and your shoes once again are not announcing your presence.

The Food Cure

My blogging friend, DeeDee (of Fiddledeedee fame!) asked on her blog about fruit and vegetables. Namely what fruits and vegetables my children will eat without coercion. Before I share, I have to share a story.

When I was first pregnant with my oldest, who is now 10 (and as she is quick to remind me, "almost 10.5!"), I craved salads from Subway.  And since I drove past Subway twice a day on my way to and from work, I ate a lot of salad the first three months of my pregnancy. For the remaining six months, I existed on Chips Ahoy and Pepsi. And it wasn't that Diet Pepsi junk either. Nope, full sugar, full caffeine.

When I was pregnant with my youngest, soon to be 8, I didn't have the salad cravings. In fact I can't really remember having any cravings with her at all.  There were things I ate often, but I'm not sure it was a craving.

We have a video of Elizabeth, my youngest, opening her stocking on Christmas morning and exclaiming, "Lookit! I got chock-it!" You can hear my voice telling her "only one piece", you can hear Dear Man's voice saying, "only one piece" and then you can see her, deer in the headlights look, cheeks stuffed with the forbidden chock-it, and another piece of chock-it in each hand.  She was going to have "only one" a time.

A few years later, when offered a piece of candy for a snack, my oldest would say, "But, Momma, can't I have some fruit?" And when offered a piece of fruit, my youngest would say, "How 'bout some chock-it?"

Ariana has never met a fruit she didn't like. She is not as hip on vegetables but put fresh vegetables in a salad and she is all over it!

It took Elizabeth a few years to like salad. Her favorite comment when salad was on the menu, "But Momma, you knoooowwwww it's not my favorite." I'm not sure what changed for her, but now she is giddy with excitement when it is. She has also come a long way toward liking fruit.

We are a fruit-loving family. And is it any wonder really?
I went down to the garden of nuts to see the fruits
Song of Songs 6:12 kjv

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm having a problem.

I really am. I find myself once again eyeball-to-eyeball with Monday which means a "Go MAD Monday post". I am once again at a loss.

I could blog about spending Friday afternoon sewing with a sweet friend. But did I make a difference?

I could blog about taking the girls to the park this week for a picnic lunch and some run around like a banshee time. But did that make a difference?

I could blog about spending time with Elizabeth and her math this week. But did that make a difference?

I have a  hard time thinking of something I can do to make a difference in someone'e life. It seems somehow so fake to do something just so I can have blog fodder on Monday mornings.  It seems so self-serving and isn't the point of Making a Difference to serve others?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Checking stats

I've been checking my blog stats and finding a number of people from around the world are visiting. 

So this is your time to stop and introduce yourself! I'd love to hear how you found my blog and what you think!  

Friday, October 1, 2010

Homemaker's Challenge!

Are you up for it? I am taking the Homemaker’s Challenge ( It is fun for the homemaking, cooking, baking, wife, simple living mom, organizing, decorating, money saving, fashionista, and blogging “expert” in all of us!

Picture Post!!!!!!

 This little squirrel was so friendly. 
 The squirrel eating a piece of apple we tossed to him.
 And eating 1/4 of an apple we gave to him. 

 Climbing the fence with the 1/4 apple.
 He left the apple on the fence. We went back later in the evening and it was still there. 

The best part of the day!