Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Musings - Commercials

Today's blog is brought to you by Coca-Cola and Pepsi products (just kidding). I love books and nothing is better than losing myself in a story whether I'm reading or working on one of my own ideas. A good story is a good story though and sometimes those are shown on a small screen in our living room. Yep, I'm talking about TV.

One of my . . . pet peeves about television is the commercials. I know that they pay the bills and I'm all for keeping my favorite shows on the air, but . . .

#1. The volume is almost never the same as your show (and the commercials are generally louder).

#2. The commercials seem to be taking over the shows - in length and even during the shows.

  I thought I was the only one who was thinking along these lines but a quick search before I posted this blog led me to: Commercial Length where a man went back and compared the length of commercials from 1952 until 2011. They started out at only 13% and now can be up to 31-38%. That's not including my very worst pet peeve --- when they have the actors give commercials during the show. "My Prius can do ______" "Really? What will they think of next. Can it _____?"

I remember when nobody would even do product names in their shows. Then a few product placements was okay -- as long as it was tastefully done. Now, actors give sales pitches as part of the show. Does anyone enjoy having a car commercial written into the show? I groan every time. Not only do I have less and less of the actual show every year because of commercials, but now they are taking that time and writing in more commercials. Fabulous.

I read somewhere that the smart technology like they're using in our phones will soon be able to offer us "targeted offers" wherever we go. A tech-smart guru I talked to said it would be "kinda like super-commercials based on your interests and the surrounding area." Great. {wink}

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fibro Fridays - Supplements

We all know there are a lot of medications out there being used for Fibro and the associated disorders. Some of them work very well, some cause more problems than they're worth. Because of that, people are always on the lookout for some new supplement or natural solution to the problems we all have to deal with. There are some very promising options and some very scary scams. To be totally honest, some of them may work wonderfully for one person and either do nothing at all or make the symptoms worse for someone else.

My best advice is to arm yourself with knowledge and then to talk it over with a trusted doctor. He or she will know better if any particular supplement could interfere with any medications you're on - or possibly make one of your medical problems worse.

There is an article on matching basic supplements with symptoms here: Supplements for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It's an excellent start and gives good, basic information.

I'll give you one of my hints now. Fish oil is touted as healthy for everyone. It can be hard on sensitive stomachs - and not everyone likes those fishy burps. You can get around that a couple ways. One is to shop around for different kinds of fish oil. Some are coated so they don't break down as fast, so they're less likely to cause stomach upset and fishy aftertaste. You can also purchase a totally new kind that squeezes out of an envelope and comes in a couple different flavors. It has no "fishy" aftertaste at all and just as much - or more - of the benefits. You can also either refrigerate or freeze your fish oil pills. For many this solves the problem. Good luck!

If you've tried any of these methods, what has your experience been? Has it helped or made things worse? Is your doctor open to using supplements? I would love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Promise Me This

Summary: Michael Dunnagan was never supposed to sail on the Titanic, nor would he have survived if not for the courage of Owen Allen. Determined to carry out his promise to care for Owen’s relatives in America and his younger sister, Annie, in England, Michael works hard to strengthen the family’s New Jersey garden and landscaping business.

Annie Allen doesn’t care what Michael promised Owen. She only knows that her brother is gone—like their mother and father—and the grief is enough to swallow her whole. As Annie struggles to navigate life without Owen, Michael reaches out to her through letters. In time, as Annie begins to lay aside her anger that Michael lived when Owen did not, a tentative friendship takes root and blossoms into something neither expected. Just as Michael saves enough money to bring Annie to America, WWI erupts in Europe. When Annie’s letters mysteriously stop, Michael risks everything to fulfill his promise—and find the woman he’s grown to love—before she’s lost forever.

My Take: I'm going to admit to be being more than pleasantly surprised by this book. There's something about Titanic that still captures our imaginations and breaks our hearts. With the anniversary this year there have been a lot of books and events to help us never forget. This story doesn't stop there though. It travels farther and deeper into the lives of one family to see how they were never the same after that night.
I've heard comparisons before that a good character is like an onion -- you can peel back layer after layer, revealing more and more of the "real" person as you go. This whole book is like that. It is filled with so much meaning and depth and you watch as the characters mature and change into who they need to be - always hoping for them to find happiness in the midst of the sorrow around them. 

The summary tells you enough about Annie and Michael - at least I don't want to give away any more than what she has. What I would like to say is that the author has written the perfect story for us right now. Not just as a tribute to those who went through the events described in her book, but when we look around and see war and wish our loved ones were home safe, or we have worries about the economy in the United States or around the world, with a divisive election coming up . . . We can read about the insecurities, failings, bravery, determination and the faith of those that came before us. A reminder of who we are and how we overcome is exactly what we need - and this does it with a beautifully woven story that is one of my favorites.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Garden of Madness

Summary: "Three princes who would all have me. One as a means to peace, one as means to power, and the other—the other to set me free."
For seven years the Babylonian princess Tiamat has kept her family's secret, waiting for her father, the mad king Nebuchadnezzar, to return to his family and his kingdom. Married for treaty at fourteen and widowed at twenty-one, she revels in her newfound independence, determined to
control her own destiny.
But when a nobleman is found dead in the palace, Tia must discover who is responsible for the murder, even if her own freedom is threatened. Evidence points to the man-beast roaming the Gardens, and Tia fears the closely-guarded secret may soon be discovered.
But the lies have only begun to unravel, and as Tia uncovers one unspeakable truth after another, she finds that she is the center of the intrigue, and her questions are a threat to her very life. Madness, sorcery, and sinister plots mingle like an alchemist’s deadly potion, and Tia must dare to risk everything—to save the kingdom and herself.

My Take: One day. That's all it took for me to finish this book. It's an election year and I thought today's politicians were scheming and sometimes willing to do almost anything for power. The characters in this book show you how far the quest for power can corrupt man.

One of Tracy Higley's gifts is to make a time and a place come alive. You can hear the sandals slapping, smell the fresh baked bread, and feel the fear as Tia is faced with the demons trying to control her and her kingdom. It all feels as if you are standing right next to her - living it with her.

This was a complicated plot, but it never felt overdone or too difficult to follow. It wasn't easy to predict though - the author manages to surprise you even if you know the story. 

I loved Tia. She reminded me a bit of Jane Austen's Emma because she always went against the tide and wanted to remain single and control her own destiny. She also was naive, and didn't understand what was happening around her and why. She needed maturity - and God to shape her into the woman she was meant to be. It was glorious to see her make the journey.

The three princes vying for her hand are all different and are like choosing turns down a hedge maze. Who truly offers the way out? She thinks she knows the answer many times - but only someone with a different perspective can truly know the right answer. 

This was a fabulous book. It makes my favorites list. I want to thank Thomas Nelson for providing it through the Book Sneeze program. It didn't influence my review in any way.

Friday, May 18, 2012

In Too Deep

Summary: He casually agrees to a marriage of convenience... never expecting to fall in love with his bride.

Ethan Kincaid proposes marriage with the same detachment he gives every decision. Audra Gilliland accepts his proposal so she can stop being a burden to her newly married stepdaughter.

But Ethan never expected Audra to affect him so profoundly, and it terrifies him. Someone he loved was once seriously injured on his watch, and he won't let that happen again. If Audra will just do as he says, he can keep her safe from the dangers that lurk on the ranch.

Audra has been cared for all her life by one man or another--and they've done a poor job of it. Now she's planning to stand up for herself. And her new husband had better agree or get out of her way!

Can two fearful hearts--wary of getting in too deep--become two trusting hearts, willing to let go and fall in love?

My Take: I always look forward to books by Mary Connealy because of the humor and great dialogue she inserts into all her novels. I have to say this one had the perfect title. I felt as if Ethan and Audra were almost like two inexperienced boaters tied to a canoe that was speeding down raging rapids. I think it was the first book I read where both main characters were forced into situations pretty much totally out of their control. 

Now that isn't to say they didn't make any decisions or were unlikeable. They were unique. I loved watching Audra and Ethan first plan to avoid and work around each other and then learn to love and rely on one another. It was a wonderful journey. The author didn't take it easy on them though. This is a story filled with tense action and danger as well as tender romantic moments. It's the kind of thing that keeps you from eating, sleeping, and doing anything but flipping pages.

This one makes my favorites list. I want to thank Bethany House for providing my copy in exchange for my honest review. They did not influence my opinions or require that I provide a positive review.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Lordship of Christ

Summary: "Becoming a Christian means being sick of your sin, longing for forgiveness and rescue from present evil and future hell, and affirming your commitment to the Lordship of Christ to the point where you are willing to forsake everything. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it isn't just holding up your hand or walking down an aisle and saying, 'I love Jesus.'" ―John MacArthur

Best-selling author and pastor John MacArthur brings his deep knowledge of Scripture to this foundational subject. Step by step, he walks through the impact of God's sovereignty, our submission, the characteristics of holy living, and our assurance of salvation. MacArthur makes the case that the Christian life is full and rich―but not easy. It requires sacrifice, perseverance, and transformation in the ongoing process of becoming more like Christ. And it is absolutely worth the cost.

My Take: When you select a book from John MacArthur you can expect it to theologically sound. This book is certainly that. Usually his books are . . . a little more challenging than I found this one. Maybe that's because the subject matter is both difficult for many and important enough that he wanted to make it more easily understood by everyone.

I think the title can be misunderstood. People could read it and think it's going to be about Jesus. It's really about us and how we relate to Christ -- what our role as Christians and disciples is. That is important and often misunderstood in this era of me first, what feels good to me, what pleases me, what I like, what I think, and so on. We are so centered on ourselves that it can be incredibly difficult to give the reigns to someone else.

I don't agree with everything said by anyone but I think this is a book that should be in every church library to help believers understand what is meant by Jesus being the Lord of their lives.

I was given this book by Thomas Nelson as part of the Book Sneeze program but it in no way influenced my review.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Messenger

Summary: Hannah Sunderland felt content in her embrace of the Quaker faith

...until her twin brother ran off and joined the army and ended up captured and in jail. Suddenly Hannah's world turns on end. She longs to bring her brother some measure of comfort in the squalid, frigid prison where he remains. But the Quakers believe they are not to take sides, not to take up arms. Can she sit by and do nothing while he suffers?

Jeremiah Jones has an enormous task before him. Responsibility for a spy ring is now his, and he desperately needs access to the men in prison, whom they are seeking to free. A possible solution is to garner a pass for Hannah. But while she is fine to the eye, she holds only disdain for him--and agreeing would mean disobeying those she loves and abandoning a bedrock of her faith.

With skill and sensitivity, Mitchell tells a story of two unlikely heroes seeking God's voice, finding the courage to act, and discovering the powerful embrace of love.

My Take: When you pick up a book by Siri Mitchell, you know it isn't going to be just like anything else you've already read. She has a passion for research and building complex characters who don't always do what you or I might expect of them. They always seem real enough to take their pulse though. 

She has to be the only one who would cast a committed Quaker as a spy. I was as terrified for Hannah as Jeremiah (and as frustrated too). I wondered if this was how the spies of the Bible acted. Did they always tell the truth when they were sent to find out information about the Promised Land? She was brave, determined, and more than a little stubborn. I could feel the tension in the scenes where she wanted to say something, wanted to act, and yet felt powerless to do so. This was a challenge to her sense of right and wrong and a challenge to her ideas about faith and submission.

Jeremiah seems defeated. He has been a member of the British army (before the rebellion) and has the wounds to prove it. He serves those same soldiers in his bar, all the while hating them and everything they stand for. He wants to feel worthy and thinks doing something for the prisoners is his one chance. That desire to make a difference for so many and redeem himself wars with his guilt for endangering Hannah.   

This is a story about two powerful characters that find themselves because of what they go through. They strengthen each other, bring out the best from one another, and come to know life wouldn't be the same without the other one. Because of who they are, this isn't going to be a romance with lots of lingering kisses and stolen moments building on top of one another. You still feel these two building a bridge between each other that is the foundation of a true and lasting love. 

I loved it and am putting it on my favorites list.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Happily Ever After - Part 3 - If & When

In our desire and search for happiness, we often trip on words like "if" and "when." We say things like, "If only I had enough money for ______" or "When I get ________ that's when I'll know I've made it, when I can relax and be happy."

Sometimes we even get to that benchmark. The problem is that we rarely notice because we've spotted the next one down the line. I don't know about you but I remember making statements like these ever since I was a little girl. I think my first "if/when" statement was about making it to high school. That seems like forever ago. If only that really was the secret to my eternal happiness. :o)

All this focus on benchmarks makes us miss the real point of life - the real source of joy. It comes from the journey itself and all the people, lessons, love and blessings you have along the way. You have to take the time to enjoy it for the gift it is though. That's why they call it the present.

When I was preparing this I was reminded of an essay that came out right before I graduated that speaks to this point so eloquently that I'd love for you to read it yourself. It's called The Station by Robert J. Hastings.

Have a wonderful day! :o)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fibro Friday - Awareness Day

Tomorrow is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. There are lots of places to get involved, spread the word and show your support. This is really important because there are a so many people suffering with these autoimmune disorders and not a lot of understanding or support for clinical studies and research.

Here is one site you can go to for info: The National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association. They have this great logo you can download to show your support and promote awareness (in several different sizes).

Let's band together and create awareness so nobody has to suffer.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kitty Friendship

These are two of my cats, Faith and Thomas. They had just gotten baths earlier in the day (hence the hair dryer and the rag towel). They, like most cats, don't enjoy bath time -- at all. A kind of strange thing they do -- if we bathe one of them and not the other -- is hiss at each other as if they're strangers. Since they normally get along so well, it totally surprised us the first time they did it.

This is such a sweet picture because it shows that after such a traumatic and stressful day for them (and me) they decided to cuddle up with each other. Thomas is holding Faith's paw (he likes to hold our hands too) and you just know it's making him feel better so he can nap. Everything is better with a friend.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Beauty for Ashes

She's a beautiful young widow. He's a Southern gentleman with a thirst for adventure. Both need a place to call home.
It's 1876 and eligible bachelors are scarce in Hickory Ridge. But Carrie Daly has found love. Not the weak-in-the-knees kind, but something practical. Still, she isn't quite ready to set a date with Nate Chastain.
Griff Rutledge is passing through to collect an old debt. Formerly a member of Charleston society, Griff has been estranged from his family for years. Determined to lead an unencumbered life, he is on his way to explore the gold fields and cattle ranches of Australia. But when he's asked to train a Thoroughbred for an upcoming race in Hickory Ridge, he decides to stay a bit longer.
Despite objections from the townsfolk, and her fear that true happiness has eluded her, Carrie is drawn to Griff's kindness and charm. But Griff isn't sure if he wants to settle down. It will take a leap of faith for them to open their hearts and claim God's promise of beauty for ashes.

My Take:
This is one of those books that can keep you biting your lip and wondering will she or won't she? Which man will she choose? Nate may not give her the butterflies in the stomach, but he's always been there - always been dependable and the one she can rely on. Griff -- well he tends to not always hang around the right people and make the right choices . . . plus he's already planning on leaving. He's as much as told her not to count on anything with him. That doesn't stop her heart from beating out of control when he's around though.

Carrie has plenty of other things to deal with in this book as well. Family problems of every kind pile on her until a lesser woman would crumble under the weight. I don't know if I would have had her strength or patience. She certainly got mad - but when push came to shove - she was there when they needed her.

I think the title fit this story perfectly - and not just for Carrie but for many of the characters. Thankfully it's a promise for us as well. I look forward to the next installment by this author.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Happily Ever After - Part 2 Heroes

Look at your typical romance cover and we may likely drool and possibly swoon. Read between the pages and you'll find handsome, strong, brave, tall, and impossible stubborn and old-fashioned men. Sure they get the old day-dreams going for the knight on a white horse to carry us away from our concrete jungle, but would we really want to stick around them for very long?

I was talking to a friend of mine and she was lamenting over how stubborn the heroine was in her book. "She won't give him a chance and he's being so kind and considerate. I mean, he even lets her read!"

Seriously? Wow, what a liberty. What would we do to a man today that didn't let us read? He wouldn't be up for hero status, that's for sure. Now before you scalp me and tell me things were different back then - I know that. Don't tell me all those books are being historically accurate with their heroines that are feminist and always trying to be just like the men. It just didn't happen - nor was it tolerated. We let that go because we like reading about feisty leading ladies.

To be fair I have read some very forward thinking male characters as well. They just don't happen to appear as often. One friend suggested it's because in "escape literature" it's nice to think of someone strong taking charge and carrying the load for us. Another said they're the bad boys we read about but wouldn't really want to have for real.

What do you think?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fibro Fridays - Depression

Hold on tight - I'm taking on the establishment today. I read in a magazine article once (forgive me I forget which one - I'll try and find it) that one in four people in the United States is on an anti-depressant. One in four! I was shocked. I know depression is as real as fibro and people need solutions . . . but is it really to the point where one in four American have altered brain chemistry and need medication to fix the problem?

Then I started researching and found this article CDC: Antidepressants most prescribed drugs in U.S. The first story shared is about a woman who was frustrated with how her husband was handling the finances so her doctor put her on anti-depressants. It also says prescriptions have tripled in recent years and most psychiatrists are pleased because people are finally getting the help they need.

Even more alarming to me was listed on Depression Facts and Stats. It says that the fasted growing market for anti-depressants isn't fibromyalgia patients or women - it's preschoolers. I can't tell you how scary I find it that these pills that . . . mess with our minds are being given to little children. When I talked to some teachers (off the record) about it they said a lot of it has to do with behavior. That made me angry.

The same website says depression is increasing among children at a rate of 24%. We've all seen the warnings on commercials that claim higher rates of suicides if taken by children under 18. Another page I visited Trends in Prescribing PDF said there haven't been enough studies to see long term side effects for children and that at least a third of these prescriptions were being given without the benefit of a "mental health provider."

Then I found something really interesting. The Emperor's New Drugs is an article put out by the American Psychological Association. They looked at the data supplied to the FDA about the major anti-depressants and found no significant difference between them and placebo.

What does this all have to do with us? I'm not totally sure yet. I do know that nearly every patient with Fibro and CFS are put on anti-depressants as a matter of course - whether they "feel" depressed or not. The symptoms of our disorder mirror depression in a lot of ways, and -- I know that dealing with chronic pain can lead to depression. I did see this article though about CFS: 10 Discoveries About the Biology of CFS. The first one talks about depression.

Since most evidence points to us not starting out with depression, perhaps if we had better support systems, better resources, and could get better treatments - we wouldn't end up needing those anti-depressants. I know they make all the difference for many of you. I wouldn't want to stop that. I only want to cut down on the unnecessary prescriptions and have doctors treat us all as individuals.

What do you think of all this?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Heart's Safe Passage

Summary: It's 1813 and all Phoebe Lee wants out of life is to practice midwifery in Loudon County, Virginia. When Belinda, her pregnant sister-in-law, presses Phoebe to accompany her onto a British privateer in order to cross the Atlantic and save her husband from an English prison, Phoebe tries to refuse, then finds herself kidnapped.

Captain Rafe Docherty is a man in search of revenge. His ship is no place for women, but he needs Belinda in order to obtain information about the man who destroyed his family and his life. Between Belinda's whining and Phoebe's hostility, Rafe can't help but wonder if he made the right choice.
When it becomes apparent there is an enemy among them on the ship, the stakes are raised. Will they reach the English shore in time? Can love and forgiveness overcome vengeance?

My Take: I liked the first book in this series, Lady in the Mist, but I must admit this one is even better. Why? Well . . .

It's hard to really put my finger on it, but it may be because they went out to sea and added all that action to the romance. Then there were truly (and I mean it) fantastic characters. They were not your perfect heroes and heroines -- and some finely crafted secondary characters also populated the pages of this book. So - great story and characters. How could it lose?

Rafe - I just love his name. Sometimes a lot is carried into a character just by name choice and Rafe conjurers up images of some kind of gentleman pirate -- a little bit dangerous, with a past or something that haunts him . . . and yet not altogether evil. So perfect! He starts off willing to use a pregnant woman to get revenge - despite danger from enemy (and friendly) vessels - and a crew that doesn't understand women on board or forgoing their lucrative privateering.

Phoebe is caught up in all of this because her sister-in-law is desperate to get her husband back and needs someone to help her if she goes in labor. But she is lied to at every turn and resents being held against her will on the ship. Her history with Belinda doesn't help and her lack of trust sometimes makes things worse instead of better.

There is a lot of tension from the action and mystery in the story as well as lots of romantic tension and sparks. Characters like Mel made it so much fun and captured my heart from the beginning. I can still visualize the scene with the rigging - and my heart catches in my throat like I'm the one up there. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am adding it to my favorites list!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Accidental Bride

Summary: Two high-school sweethearts, a wedding reenactment, and one absent-minded preacher. Is it a recipe for disaster or a chance for a new beginning?
Shay Brandenberger is a survivor. She's lived through a crazy childhood, a failed marriage, and single parenthood-with her confidence intact.
But not for long. Because when Shay participates in her town's Founder's Day wedding reenactment, she finds herself face-to-face with the one man who takes her breath away and leaves her weak in the knees: Travis McCoy.
Travis is back in town after years way on the rodeo circuit. His one regret in life is breaking Shay's heart when they were high-school sweethearts. He's determined to get it right this time.
So when their Founder's Day ""marriage"" is accidentally made official, Travis seizes the day. Can Shay put aside her pride to let Travis help her, or will their accidental marriage be dissolved before it can begin?

My Take: I wasn't sure about the premise of this book but the characters . . . they reached in, grabbed my heart (right out of my chest), and stole it. I was hooked from that point on.

Shay is almost like this wounded animal that you want to help -- but she is still strong enough to stand on her own and just hurting enough that she might strike out at you instead of accepting any help. You can't help but admire her desire to stand on her own two feet -- yet at the same time you're screaming at her to accept help and open up her heart and take a chance.

Travis is the epitome of the knight in shining armor. Except he doesn't wear armor - and he has a guilt trip about a mile wide and long from hurting Shay when they were younger. Okay, so maybe his "armor" has some dings in it, but it was a boy that hurt Shay - a man has ridden to the rescue now - and he loves her more than ever.

This was a great romance. I'm glad I bought it so I can cuddle up and enjoy it over and over whenever I want.