Friday, July 27, 2007

Taking a blogging break

I'm heading out this evening from O'Hare to visit my family members that live in the Austin area! I can't wait to see all of them, especially my six-month-old grandson, Payton, who I haven't seen since he was six weeks old.

If you're a praying person and would send up a quick one for traveling mercies, I would be deeply appreciative!

God willing, I'll be back blogging around August 7th...unless I take a quick peek in on my vacation. Blessings to all!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

No time for Thursday Thirteen today, but...

I do have a few things to tell you about:

1) I just interviewed the wonderful Randy Alcorn, author of Deadline, Dominion and the unputdownable Deception. Expect me to blog about it soon and hopefully include sound clips. Exclusive: Randy told me he may not be finished with the Ollie Chandler character. Yay!

2) This grandmother walked over 4-thousand miles to pray for America.

3) I don't feel so bad about being a klutz, after watching Beyonce take a tumble.

4) My Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop today was about these incredible (but real!) pictures.

5) I'll probably post tomorrow, but after that I'll be taking a blogging break. Lord willing and if the creek don't rise, I'll be flying out tomorrow evening to Texas to see my precious grandson Payton, and many other loved ones who live there!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

WayBack Wednesday

A peek back at my post about my Lebanon experience

First, this note: Debra at As I See It Now is celebrating her third blogiversary today. Why not go over and wish her a happy blogiversary? If you're not familiar with Debra's blog, you'll love it. Visiting her blog is like stepping into the cozy kitchen of a dear friend and sharing coffee and quiet conversation.

WayBack Wednesday

Today, I continue my on-again-off-again tradition of sharing things from out of the archives of Notes in the Key of Life.

Here is what I was blogging about a year ago this week:


Originally posted 7/24/2006

The current Lebanese evacuation brings back memories of June 1967

The ongoing evacuation of Americans out of Lebanon brings back a lot of memories for me, because in June 1967, it was happening to me.

I was 10 years old, and I remember it very well. My family had been in Lebanon for a little over two years, my parents being missionaries with the Baptist Bible Fellowship International missions board.

I have wonderful memories of my time in Lebanon. As children do, my younger sister and I adjusted quickly to life in a foreign country. (My older sister, a teen-ager, ended up returning to the United States early so she could finish high school in the States. At the time, it seemed like she had been gone forever, but in reality she left Lebanon less than a year before the rest of the family did.)

As I wrote in my bio, my time in Lebanon had far-reaching effects on my life. (I reminisce at more length in my bio.)

When we were evacuated out of Lebanon in June of 1967, I was in the closing days of fifth grade at American Community School in Beirut.

Leaving American Community School

My experience at ACS had been quite positive, but it had had some low spots. First of all, having spent the previous year and a half at a British school (Manor House School), I didn't know how to play American games like kickball and baseball. My attempts to do so were abysmal, and I got made fun of. (To this day, the thought of having to play a team sport of any kind makes me cringe, and I generally avoid it as much as possible.)

ACS was also my first introduction to the concept of the classroom bully. In this case, the bully was a girl. Her name was Lisa Harrison, and she was formidable. She pretty much ruled the schoolyard via threats and intimidation. She wasn't a big girl, but she had a flair for tyranny that belied her tender years.

I can vaguely remember her threatening to beat me up at some point, and I remember quaking in fear of her. I can also remember her picking on me for one thing and another--really stupid stuff which today I would just laugh at, but as a skinny little fifth-grader (yes, that was the last time in my life I was skinny), it was all pretty traumatic.

As I look back on it, she just may have been jealous of me. My teacher, Mr. Frank Ford, was wonderful, and I guess I was a kind of teacher's pet. It wasn't unusual for Mr. Ford to praise me in front of the entire class. I was the kind of student who tried very hard to please.

Despite the problems with P.E. and bullies, I still had wonderful experiences at ACS. I thoroughly enjoyed singing in the choir and participating in the Christmas Pageant. (No Winter Pageant or Winter Solstice Pageant for us! Christmas hadn't become a dirty word yet.)

One of my favorite childhood memories is when the choir got to sing on television at Christmas time. After the taping, I came home to a supper of chicken pot pie. I was filled with the joy and general good cheer of the Christmas season.

I can remember the first time I read something out loud in class, and being encouraged and praised for the feeling I put into the words. I'll never forget the passage:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them, - Ding-dong, bell.

It was from Shakespeare's "The Tempest." For perhaps the first time, I experienced the unique pleasure of reading words aloud, of using my voice to interpret the written word. I realize that pleasure every day now as a radio announcer and voice-over artist.

And just before we were evacuated out, my class had been rehearsing for a play we going to perform for the school, in which I had a substantive role. It was a play about the Inca Indians and the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizzaro (why we were doing a play about that, I have no idea.) I loved it.

Of course, we never got to perform the play.

Saying goodbye

As hostilities heated up between the Arabs and the Israelis, things were changing. I can remember black-outs. I can remember the constant playing of martial anthems on loudspeakers. I can remember shopkeepers and business people who had previously been kind to us, suddenly becoming cold and aloof.

I can clearly remember my last day at ACS. Mr. Ford wasn't even trying to teach that day. One by one, parents arrived to claim their kids and prepare to leave the country. Obviously, this would be the last day of the fifth grade for all of us.

I remember my dad showing up at the door of my classroom, and being nervous and excited as I gathered my things and got out of my desk. What I wasn't expecting was my classmates gathering around me to say good-bye.

Most shocking of all? The "bully," Lisa Harrison, came up to me and hugged me with surprising emotion. Wow. Maybe she didn't really hate me after all.

That was really one of the biggest surprises I had experienced in my short life--that a person wasn't necessarily exactly what I thought they were, or at least that there were facets or layers to a person that weren't immediately visible. It's a lesson I've often had occasion to remember.

Leaving Lebanon

I remember my dad stopping at the U-S embassy in Beirut and getting instructions on what to do. We were given a sticker of a U-S flag to put on the front door of our apartment, proclaiming something to the effect of "This is the home of a U-S citizen...if you mess with it, you'll have to answer to the U-S government" (obviously, that isn't the actual wording, but it was the sense I got from it.)

We had to pack our belongings in big barrels, which meant we had to leave a lot of stuff behind. I remember one of my main concerns was the huge quantity of stories I had written on tiny little notebooks in tiny handwriting. I never did recover those. I think it would be cool to see those childhood scribblings now.

Another concern was all the baby clothes we had to leave behind. My mom was nine months pregnant with my younger brother (another big cause for concern for my family--she could go into labor at any time, and here were were being evacuated out of a country.) A friend had given my mom the hand-me-down baby clothes and blankets, but they were in really good shape. My mom had laundered them and they were at the ready for my new baby sibling, and I used to go sniff them and touch them in anticipation. For some reason it really pained me to have to leave those baby clothes behind.

Finally, my parents had made all the preparations, and we went to the American University of Beirut campus to await our evacuation.

We learned that Americans would be put on planes and flown to various points in that part of the world. (Obviously, the Beirut airport was still functioning, unlike in this current crisis.) Some fellow missionary friends of ours were going to Athens; someone else was going to Cyprus. We found out we would be going to Ankara, Turkey.

Long story short...

We flew out of Lebanon that night, and never returned. My dad tried later, but it never panned out.

I've often wanted to go back. Lebanon was a beautiful country and it holds many pleasant memories for me. Politics aside, on a personal level it saddens me to see it being devastated once again. The time I spent there has influenced me and enriched me for a lifetime.

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--Originally posted 7/24/06

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I talk with Sharon Hinck, author of The Restorer

...and my comedic acting career is launched!

Cindy's Book Club has been a real success so far! We started off the summer with Lisa Samson's Quaker Summer. Then last night, we met to discuss Split Ends, by Kristin Billerbeck.

Once again I was so impressed with the ladies who participated. They are truly enjoying the books, and I think the authors would be so pleased with how they "got" the books, and how the books have enriched their lives. We've been having a great deal of fun and fellowship at the discussions.

My pick for the month of August is The Restorer, by Sharon Hinck. As I blogged earlier:

The Restorer is an unusual book, and one that, frankly, I wasn't sure I was going to like. It's a unique blend of fantasy and faith--pretty hard to describe. But as I told Sharon, she grabbed me from the first paragraph. I had a really, really hard time putting the book down--I LOVED it-- and I'm thrilled to spread the word about it.

Fortunately for me and those who have yet to fall in love with The Restorer, this is a series as well. I can't wait to sink my teeth into The Restorer's Son!

Here are a couple of sound clips from my interview with Sharon Hinck. In the first one, she explains what The Restorer is about:

In this next soundclip, Sharon talks about the "world" she created in the book:

I am SO excited about this book, and I recommend it highly!

My career as a comedy actress?

Well, OK...I am a voice-over artist, but my career as a comedy actress is so far limited to a skit I recently recorded for Sheep website that boasts "clean Christian humor, jokes, funny photos, a huge comedian list and a weekly podcast!"

The site's webmaster is the very talented Fred Passmore.The site also offers Christian skits and CD's containing Christian skits. My 101QFL co-host, Darren Marlar, plays Adam and I play Eve in a skit to be included on an upcoming CD.

You can listen...

This was the first time I've ever used a "cartoony" voice, and it was actually a lot of fun! If you're so inclined, you can listen to the skit here.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Monday Madness

It's a busy Monday for me...but I'm taking time to answer the Monday Madness quiz. Feel free to do this meme on your own blog or in my comments section!

1. Are there any weird "food rules" you have? Feel free to list as many as you like.--I can't think of any food rules. I have friends who can't have anything on their plate touching each other. My main food "weirdness" is tht I sometimes eat ketchup on things that most people don't use ketchup on---like baked potatoes, rice, and macaroni and cheese.

2. When you were growing up, what ONE thing did your parents always remind you of, when it came to meal time (or cooking)?--We asked the blessing before every meal.

3. Is there anyone you know whose food you won't eat (for one reason or another)?--Not that I can think of...but I'm a little leery of some dishes at church potlucks.

4. Is there anything you "specialize" in cooking, that people actually ask for?--My kids really like my beef stew, my banana bars and my graham cracker dessert.

5. When you were growing up, what one meal do you remember as being your favorite?--My mom is a great cook, and every meal was really delicious. But I probably loved Sunday dinners most. My mom made a delicious roast with potatoes and carrots, and she'd sometimes make a wonderful chicken and rice meal.

6. Today, what is your IDEAL meal?--I hardly ever make steak at home, but at a restaurant I love a nice steak with a baked potato and a salad. At home, I love a roast cooked with potatoes and carrots. I also love the traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, mashed potatoes and dressing. A vegetarian I'm not!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

13 Reasons Why I Love "Lost"

...even though it got robbed by the Emmys

Well, the Emmy nominations were announced today, and "Lost" got snubbed in the major categories. The good news, though is that Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson were nominated in the best supporting actor category--well-deserved!

This from

The 2007 Emmy nominees have been announced and it looks like the rivalry between Ben and Locke continues off-screen. Lost picked up six Emmy nominations, but was surprisingly missing from the "Outstanding Drama" category. Michael Emerson and Terry O'Quinn were both nominated in the same category for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse share a nomination for outstanding writing for the season finale episode, "Through the Looking Glass". An Emmy nomination for outstanding directing goes to Jack Bender for outstanding direction for the same episode. The crew also picked up a third nomination for the season finale in the single-camera picture editing category. The final nomination was for Outstanding sound editing for the season premiere episode, "A Tale of Two Cities".

I've got to admit, I'm annoyed that "Lost" wasn't nominated for best drama and that Matthew Fox wasn't nominated for best actor--although my 101QFL co-host, Darren Marlar, reminded me that the Emmys don't mean that much, and everyone forgets who won anyway.

But in the spirit of being annoyed with the Emmys, I give you 13 reasons why I love "Lost":

1) It keeps you guessing.--If you saw this season's finale, you know what I mean. What could POSSIBLY be going on? I can't wait till February (what a long wait!) to find out.

2) Those jaw-dropping moments. --Remember when you first saw John Locke's circumstances before crashing on the island? Remember the first time we "saw" Jacob? Remember, again, the very end of this season's finale? Those "whoaaa" moments remind you of what a terrific show this really is.

3) Matthew Fox as Jack--I personally believe Fox should have been nominated in the best actor in a drama category. There were so many instances this season of great acting on the part of Fox. Remember the look on his face when he saw Kate and Sawyer through the video monitor? That moment alone was worth an Emmy nomination.

4) Michael Emerson as Ben--Yeah, we can't stand Ben, but don't we love to hate him? Emerson has to be one of the best actors on television. His Emmy nomination is well-deserved.

5) Josh Holloway as Sawyer--How many times have you gotten a good chuckle out of Sawyer's nicknames and pop culture references?

6) Terry O'Quinn as John Locke--Yes, John Locke is often strange and his actions inexplicable--take his behavior in the finale. What's up with that? Still, he's one of my favorite characters...and I also believe his Emmy nomination is well-deserved.

7) Naveen Andrews as Sayid--The character of Sayid has probably done more good for Iraqi PR than anything the UN could come up with. Face it, there are many, many wonderful Iraqi people, and the character of Sayid is very appealing.

8) Dominic Monaghan as Charlie--I am so, so sorry that the character of Charlie is dead. Some people would like to believe that's not true, but I have a hard time seeing him survive his fate in the season finale. Even though he started out as a drugged-out loser, Charlie was sweet and appealing.

9) Evangeline Lilly as Kate--She annoys a lot of my friends and family, but I do still like the character of Kate, and I think she's central to the show.

10) Jorge Garcia as Hurley--Hurley is absolutely vital to the show. For a while, I was watching "24" fairly regularly, and it's excellent--but there is almost no comic relief, if any. The intensity blasts you nonstop. But the great thing about "Lost" is that just when everything gets a little too spooky, scary or strange, there's Hurley saying, "Dude..." and bringing everything back down to earth. I totally love Hurley.

11) Henry Ian Cusick as Desmond.--Desmond has been a great addition to the show. I think we've yet to find out just how essential his story is. And as I've mentioned before, I could listen to that Scottish accent all day.

12) The soundtrack.-- Composer Michael Giacchino does a beautiful job scoring the show. Listen to his haunting "Life and Death" in the video below.

13) The characters and the writing.-- I've mentioned some of them already, but the characters are what keeping bringing me back, even when the show sometimes strains credulity. And the writing--the storytelling, the dialogue, the plotting--is just terrific.

Bottom line, "Lost" is my favorite TV show, and one of the only TV shows I ever watch.

If you haven't watched it, I suggest you start with the first season DVD set and then go on to the second (the most recent, the third season, won't be available until December.) If you can watch the first two or three episodes without getting hooked, I'll be extremely surprised.

And now, the video:


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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Some summertime pics to share

This summer has already had some great moments. Here a few in this slide show. You can click on the bottom of the pictures to see the captions, but some explanations are below the slide show.

1) When my sister Lisa and her husband David and their son Nathan arrived from Texas, we headed over to Chili's for supper. (Their daughter, Katie, had arrived the week before.) This pic is of David, Lisa, my son Justin, and Katie.

2) Sitting across from them were my daughter Elizabeth, Nathan, me and Doug. Don't we all look happy?

3) Elizabeth and me at the wedding reception for our friends Matt and Jill. It was a lovely wedding and reception! (My son Justin and my nephew Jeff were groomsmen.)

4) During Katie's visit, my kids went to Chicago no less than three times! Katie absolutely fell in love with the city. This is Katie, Justin and Liz on one of those visits.

5) Katie and Liz love each other very much, and it shows!

6) Me experimenting with taking my own picture. You always risk having the stretched-out-arm syndrome! But the great thing about digital pictures is that if you don't like the way you look, simply delete and try again.

7) These last few pictures were taken at a 101QFL/Radio 91 Fourth of July tradition, the Patriotic Prayer Breakfast. It's held at the beautiful Sinnissippi Park bandshell. This year, we honored Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson with a Citizenship Award. That's me getting in a little schmooze time with the Chief.

8) When Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey showed up, he coincidentally decided to sit right next to my nephew Jeff, my nephew Ben, and Ben's girlfriend (and our dear friend) Ashley! That's the mayor in the white ball cap.

9) Our special guest speaker was outstanding. He is Lt. Col. Steve Russell (ret), whose unit was instrumental in the capture of Saddam Hussein. Lt. Col. Russell's speech was very stirring. Here's a quote: "People come up to me and say, 'I support the troops but I don't support the war. To a soldier, this statement in absurd. That's like saying I support the Chicago Bears, but I don't want them to win their season!"

Russell has started an organization called Vets for Victory. Russell says his mission now is to raise the soldier’s voice in the national debate on the war.

10) Lt Col Russell against the backdrop of the beautiful American flag and an arc of balloons created my by co-workers, Carol Larson and Susan Hollingsworth. What a beautiful day!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Are you wild about Harry?

With the latest Harry Potter movie in theaters, and the newest Harry Potter book poised to hit bookstores, PotterMania is at a fever pitch.

It seems everyone's talking about Harry--in newspapers, on TV and across the blogosphere.

Yet, despite the fact that I am an avid reader of fiction and count the Chronicles of Narnia among my favorite books, I have never read a word of a Harry Potter book. Why is that?

Why am I not into Harry?

Well, when the Potter books first gained popularity, I read some things and interviewed some Christians who were totally opposed to the books. They made some good points. They worried about the brand of magic in the books and the possibility of children being lured into the occult by reading them. This article is representative of that opinion.

My kids were already growing up, and they weren't attracted to the books, so I didn't have to take a stand about having them in my home...but based on the anti-Harry things I had read, I just decided it wasn't for me.

Christian Fans

Not long afterwards, I began hearing from Christians who I really respect, who are fine with the Harry Potter books, and in fact are avid fans. Political blogger La Shawn Barber, an outspoken Christian, has her own Fantasy Fiction for Christians site that prominently features Harry Potter.

La Shawn points out that Steven Vander Ark, creator of the popular Harry Potter Lexicon, is a Christian who is a librarian at a Christian school and attends a Christian Reformed church. She quotes Vander Ark:
"There are some things that shouldn't be in kids' hands," he says. "But Harry Potter isn't one of them. Here's a kid who fights against evil at the risk of his own life. That's more Christian than playing Monopoly, where you try to slaughter the other players and leave them destitute.

Vander Ark goes on to say:

The message of Harry Potter is that evil is there, it's awful, we have to fight it," he says. "Sometimes it's sneaky and you don't quite know it's there. But you have to fight it. It's about how your choices make you who you are -- so you better make good ones.

So why am I still not reading Harry?

I'd be disingenous if I said I don't read Harry Potter because of the sorcery aspect. After all, as I mentioned earlier, I love The Chronicles of Narnia and enjoyed The Lord of the Rings books. Bottom line: they just don't appeal to me.

How do you feel about Harry Potter? Do you let your kids read the books? Do you have your copy of The Deathly Hallows pre-ordered?

Let me know what you think!

UPDATE 7/18/07: This World Net Daily article raises more concerns. Hat tip to Joel Griffith of The Seventh Sola.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Ok, this is really weird...

Today I got an e-mail from someone named Tanya Hanna...basically a 4-page screed concerning a woman named Becky Pelfrey, who is apparently Tanya's ex-husband's wife.

Apparently Tanya (who I don't know from Adam) thinks I'm a friend of Becky (who I also don't know from Adam), and the purpose of the e-mail is to set me straight about this supposedly awful woman.

Naturally I headed to Google. I found out that both Tanya and Becky and apparently all parties concerned really do exist, and were involved in a mini-scandal that caught the attention of news media in the Mansfield, Texas area.

I won't bore you with the particulars, but it all happened in October 2005. That was two years ago!

Why is Tanya e-mailing me? Have any of you gotten this e-mail? I'm curious as to why I was on the recipient list, but I'm not about to e-mail Tanya and ask her. I'm not opening that Pandora's box, thank you very much. But I must admit I'm curious as to why I got the e-mail.

...and I do the Monday Madness meme...

1. Do you feel that children these days are disciplined enough? In fact, I'm appalled at what I see kids get away with.

2. What are your thoughts about the "time out chair?"--I don't think it's a bad idea, if it works for that particular child. I never used it when my kids were small.

3. When YOU were a child, what form of discipline did your parents use most often?--I was spanked! Sometimes with a belt! It was always brief, and always administered to the rear end. Never did it leave any permanent physical or emotional harm. I honestly didn't get as many spankings as my siblings, though, because I always tried really hard to be good. (Just ask my mom. :))

4. Did your parents have to constantly remind you of the guidelines they set for you, or did they just have to LOOK at you as a "gentle" reminder?--Again, this makes me sound ridiculously saintly. But my dad often said that he could accomplish more with a stern look my way than with a spanking.

5. What are your thoughts about screaming kids in public places?
--I've got to admit, it's annoying. But I honestly try to put myself in the mom's shoes. We've all been in situations in public with a crying baby or toddler...often it's just a case of an infant being over-tired or hungry. But I've seen kids throwing outrageous tantrums, and there's just no excuse for that. In that case, I think I would drop everything and leave the public venue and go where I could discipline the child without onlookers.

6. What do you feel is the BIGGEST mistake parents make when it comes to disciplining children?--You know...I guess I would say just letting children have their way all the time. You're not doing your child any favors by giving in to them on everything. Basically, you'll be raising a spoiled brat who thinks the world owes them something. Let them find out what it's like not to get what they want all the time, even if it means having to discipline a tantrum. They'll grow up with much better character.

Hey, answer the Monday Madness questions on your own blog or here in my comments section!

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's FRIDAY!!!

...and I do the Friday Feast meme


What is your favorite fruit?--Bananas. Always has been, even when I was a baby. I have a banana almost every single day.

Who is someone you consider as a great role model?--My mom. I wrote a tribute to her here.

If you were to spend one night anywhere within an hour of your home, where would you choose?--OK, it's just a little more than an hour, but definitely Chicago.

Main Course
Name something you do too often.--Overindulge in sweets!

Fill in the blank: I really like __summer___because __I don't have to wear a coat!__

You can play too...just go to and copy and paste on your own blog. Or if you don't have a blog, answer the questions in my comments section!

Have a blessed weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

13 Things to Let You Know About

OK, you and I both know that you're not going to be able to check out all these links right now. So why not scan the list, bookmark this page and come back to it when you have time to browse? These are just some interesting links I've culled from various sources:

1. If you have daughters and you don't want them growing up too fast, check out
We Believe in Girls.
Hat tip to Melodee at Actual Unretouched Photo. I love this quote from Mel:

I want my daughter to play with dolls, to be oblivious to teenage concerns (make-up, boys, high-heels, shorts with words written across the backside!), to be as unselfconscious for as long as possible. I don’t want her to want highlights in her hair and lipstick on her mouth and a sparkly cell phone with which to call boys until she is . . . well, twenty-three. Or at least thirteen. What’s the rush?

2. A pro-life video that I found powerful.

3. Phil Johnson blogs about the Emergent Church's drift to the political left: "We are seeing history repeat itself."

4. Semicolon tells us about a Bedtime Story writing contest.

5. Stop the presses! Girls like guys with muscles.

6. An interesting article about 70's rock icon Alice Cooper. Let's just say he's no Ozzie Osbourne.

7. If you're a blogger who supports Fred Thompson for president, (I personally have not made up my mind about anything yet) this is for you.

8. If you happen to be a fan of Christian fiction (like me), you'll want to check out Robin Lee Hatcher's pics from the recent Christian authors retreat.

9. Amusing: from the Headmistress at The Common Room, Rules My Mama Never Told Me I'd Have to Make. Hat tip again to Semicolon, who added a few of her own.

10. Don't own a Mercedes-Benz but wish you did? The official website is now offering "weekly 20-minutenews magazine and five channels with an hour each of programming that focuses on lifestyles, cars, engines and sports, automotive legends and the company's history."

11. Are high-tech gadgets driving you to distraction?

12. Who knew that Rod Stewart would be appalled at Live Earth's raunchy language?

13. And if you wonder why I loved "Wicked" so much, here's part of the reason.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I've been honored!

I should hire Grams of as my very own personal publicist. This is the second award she's given me, and I'm so honored!

The Blogger Reflection Award was originated by a teen-aged girl. Here are her guidelines:

As for my award, it is called The Blogger Reflection Award. Why? The reason for the title is because this award should make you reflect on five bloggers who have been an encouragement, a source of love, impacted you in some way, and have been a Godly example to you. Five Bloggers who when you reflect on them you get a sense of pride and joy... of knowing them and being blessed by them. This award is for the best-of-the-best so consider who you pick, carefully. This award should not be given to just anyone. If you're going to do the award don't just write a few words and slap it on your blog. Write real thoughts about these bloggers and what they've been to you, and if the bloggers you pick have already been given the award, don't be afraid to give to them again. They deserve it as many times as it's given.

Well, it looks like this is going to take some thought, so I won't give out the award right away. But thanks again, Grams. I truly appreciate the award and your kind words!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Karen Kingsbury wins "Christian Book of the Year"

A first for a fiction book

USA Today reports that Karen Kingsbury's Ever After has won Christian Book of the Year from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. It's the first time the award has gone to an author of inspirational fiction.

Karen is a wonderful author. I've read several of her books, and in fact just recently finished Just Beyond the Clouds--a sensitive, thoughtful story of a widowed man and how his Down Syndrome brother helps him find new hope.

Back in 2004, I blogged about Kingsbury's Redemption:

Just read "Redemption," by Gary Smalley and Karen Kingsbury... and I have to tell you, it was a really, really good read.

At first, I was a bit leery of these writing combo's consisting of established Christian fiction writers and evangelical luminaries. Were the luminaries just latching their names onto the star of a good author, for publicity or whatever reason?

Then I started reading Nancy Moser's series with Vonette Bright. And I found that attaching an evangelical celeb's name to a good book doesn't hurt it at all, and their contribution and experiences may actually help.

What you get is the author's own unique style of writing, but with the added benefit of whatever the co-writer has to offer.

In the case of Redemption, Gary Smalley's considerable background and expertise obviously influences the story line, but none of Karen Kingsbury's excellent writing and storytelling ability is lost in the mix.

"Redemption" is the first in a series about the Baxter family, who live in Bloomington, Indiana. Apparently I found this series late in the game (my friend who I visited in Ohio last weekend gave it to me to read on the way home); at least two additional titles in the series are already on the market, and I definitely want to get my hands on them.

The story revolves around Kari, who discovers that her college professor husband is cheating on her with a young student. Kingsbury vividly captures the pain, grief and confusion inherent in such a situation for both Kari and Tim,her wayward husband. When the spurned ex-boyfriend of Tim's paramour turns volatile, you have the added spark of danger and suspense.

The plot also gives Smalley a platform to encourage married couples in such situations to fight to hold their marriage together, and offers hope to help them beat the odds.

"Redemption" also introduces us to the rest of the Baxter family, giving us a basis for future books that will flesh out their own stories. As I said, at least some of those books are already out there, so I need to play catch up!

I've been impressed with everything I've read from Karen Kingsbury, and this book does not disappoint, despite the fact that it a well-known Christian marriage counselor's name precedes hers on the cover.

My daughter has since read the entire Baxter family series, and loved them. I have not yet read Ever After, but I hope to remedy that soon.

Congratulations, Karen!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Some pictures from our Chicago trip

...and I get the new Angela Hunt book!

Thought I'd share some pics from our wonderful Chicago trip last week!

Woo hoo! I got an advance copy of Angela Hunt's Doesn't She Look Natural?

It almost makes Monday morning worth it! :)

Angela Hunt is, as I've reiterated here repeatedly, one of my favorite authors. I recently finished The Elevator, and found it riveting. I'm really looking forward to this book, which is the first of a series about a woman who inherits a funeral home.

According to PR for the books, the Fairlawn series "will continue Angela Hunt's brand of writing stories about extraordinary circumstances while adding a dash of humor and small town flavor."

I'm on it!

Happy Monday, all...

Friday, July 06, 2007

"Wicked" was outstinkingstanding!

Dee Roscioli, "Elphaba"

I saw "Wicked" yesterday in Chicago, and I was blown away!

My sister Lisa and I had planned a trip into the city yesterday, along with my niece Katie and my daughter Elizabeth. We had talked about trying to get into a matinee performance, but weren't holding out a lot of hope.

Eric Mackey, "Glinda"

However, as soon as we got to Chicago, I dropped Lisa and the girls off at the Oriental Theater and circled the block until they came out, tickets in hand! We had balcony seats that were really not bad at all.

The entire performance as awesome, but I was particularly blown away by Dee Roscioli as Elphaba. Having been used to hearing Idina Menzel on the soundtrack, I wasn't sure how I would like someone else in the role. Believe me, Dee Roscioli filled Menzel's shoes admirably. Her voice was amazing. Her "Defying Gravity" was a huge, triumphant, emotion-inducing, spectacular, show-stopping tour de force that we will never forget!

And props also have to be given to Erin Mackey as "Glinda." She took the role originated by Kristin Chenoweth and spun her own brand of sparkly sugar around it. She was winsome, funny, and adorable...and her lovely voice was more than up to the challenge.

If you don't know, "Wicked" is a prequel to "The Wizard of Oz," and it's fascinating to see the story unfold and to find yourself rooting for Elphaba--a character Playbill calls "the green-faced, misunderstood, not-so-wicked witch."

I've seen "Mamma Mia," "Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables" in Chicago--and I've also seen "Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway. "Wicked" now ranks right up there with my favorite theater experiences.

After the play, we had dinner at Tucci Benucch, then did a little shopping before heading home. All in all, it was a wonderful day that we'll think of fondly for years to come.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

I won't be blogging tomorrow, so I want to take this opportunity to wish every one of you an amazing 4th of July! I'm blessed to have my sister Lisa and her family with me here to celebrate Independence Day.

Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" still stirs my heart. I leave you with this video. God bless America, and bless and protect our troops!

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Cindy's Book Club Review was a Blast!

The first book discussion for Cindy Swanson's Book Club took place this past Saturday, and it was wonderful! Thirteen ladies of the 20 who had won places at what we're calling the Book Review showed up, copies of Lisa Samson's "Quaker Summer" in hand.

The setting was the lovely Cannoli Caffe, and they were incredible hosts. The women who took part in the discussion were wonderful, we all connected beautifully, and their comments were thoughtful and insightful. There was a lot of laughter too! It was a fantastic experience all the way around.

I've posted some more pictures of the event at the Cindy's Book Club blog. Check 'em out if you have a moment.

The Cindy's Book Club featured book for the month of July is Split Ends, by Kristin Billerbeck. I'm looking forward to another terrific Book Review event!

On a personal note...

This week is going to be kind of crazy, hopefully in a very fun way. My sister Lisa and her family are here from Texas, and I'm not going to be working or blogging on Wednesday or Thursday. I am SO enjoying having my sister here!
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