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Life is Fleeting

On Sunday, a friend of a friend went missing.  Tragically, her body, along with the body of one of her friends turned up a few days later.  As of now, they still haven’t found out who did it.  This has been shocking.  I never met June personally, but I heard so much about her through our mutual friend that I felt like I knew her.  I know this much–she didn’t deserve to die in such a horrifying way.  My greatest hope now is that they can find the person responsible and bring some small justice to June and her friend. 

It really makes me realize that life is unpredictable and can be fleeting.  I’m sure nobody guessed that day that anything sinister was going to happen to their daughter.  Their friend.  Their mother (yes, June had a child).  How could anyone have known?   

I don’t want to go through life constantly afraid that myself or someone I love is going to tragically and unexpectedly die.  We have so many dangers in this world we live in, and it’s easy to get swept away in fear.  However, I keep telling myself there is a lot of good out there, too.  We don’t have the power to predict how long our lives will be, so the best advice I can give is to just keep living and looking forward.  Tell your loved ones that you love them often.  Work toward your goals.  Don’t take anything for granted.  

I’d like to sum things up with the bitter sweet lyrics of The Band Perry’s song, If I Die Young:

If I die young, bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

Lord make me a rainbow, I’ll shine down on my mother
She’ll know I’m safe with you when she stands under my colors
Life ain’t always what you think it ought to be
Ain’t even grey, but she buries her baby

The sharp knife of a short life, well
I’ve had just enough time

And I’ll be wearing white, when I come into your kingdom
I’m as green as the ring on my little cold finger,
I’ve never known the lovin’ of a man
But it sure felt nice when he was holdin’ my hand,
There’s a boy here in town, says he’ll love me forever,
Who would have thought forever could be severed by

The sharp knife of a short life, well,
I’ve had just enough time

So put on your best boys and I’ll wear my pearls
What I never did is done

A penny for my thoughts, oh no, I’ll sell ‘em for a dollar
They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner
And maybe then you’ll hear the words I been singin’
Funny when you’re dead how people start listenin’

The ballad of a dove
Go with peace and love
Gather up your tears, keep ‘em in your pocket
Save ‘em for a time when you’re really gonna need ‘em, oh

The sharp knife of a short life, well
I’ve had just enough time

So put on your best boys and I’ll wear my pearls

What’s Up With Debt These Days?

Like most people, I love a good deal.

Last year when it became apparent that my husband and I weren’t going to be able to slide by with a single car anymore we started looking at used cars from private sellers.  We didn’t want anything fancy.  We wanted safe and reliable, and the cheaper the better.  We ended up buying a 1994 BMW 7 series from a family friend for a smoking $800.  Like you’d expect from a car that’s nearly 20-years-old, we had to do some work on it.  But even after adding the costs of the work we did, we still spent well under its KBB value, and best of all, didn’t have to go into any debt for it. We love this car!  It has the safety and reliability we wanted, and as a bonus, it’s a luxury car.  Even though it’s from 1994, it has more features than our 2008 Hyundai.  BMW knew what they were doing!  Plus it drives like a dream.  Many have marveled at what a terrific deal we got on such a great car.   

People also tend to think our dog was expensive.  She looks fancy with her blue eyes and silver brindle coat, and we have had people ask if we had to pay a lot of money for her and go to a special breeder. Really, we paid $50 to adopt her from the pound.  Most are surprised to hear she was a rescue.  There are so many great dogs at the pound these days that I see no reason to shell out big bucks at an expensive breeder.  Who really needs a $5000 dog?

We have also been thrifty while furnishing our house.  We have some pretty nice furniture in there, most of it from Craigslist. A few pieces came from family.  I don’t think any of it looks junky, but we have spent less than $1300 on everything.  Some of this involved work on our part.  My computer desk and our coffee table were both pieces that we re-finished, but it was really amazing to see how beautiful the furniture looked once we freshened it up.  The computer desk was given to us for free and the coffee table was $20, but they looked very high-end when we got done with them.

My husband and I are not rich by any means, but we live comfortably.  By careful deal hunting and patience, we have filled our little home with nice quality things that we didn’t break the bank for.  We didn’t need a car that cost more than our yearly income.  We didn’t need to buy furniture that required us to make payments on it.  I don’t understand how debt has become such a huge problem in America.  You can get a good car without spending a fortune.  It may not have all the bells and whistles, but do you really need it?  Is it worth going into financial ruin for? If you get down to the end of your paycheck and have to choose between a manicure and buying food, should that really even be a choice?  There are things we can live without.  Sure, everyone would love to be able to get anything they want and not have to think twice about it, but that just isn’t the way it works for most people.  Material objects, in my opinion, are not worth going into debt over.  Admittedly we haven’t saved as carefully as we could have, either, and we certainly have a lot of things we don’t need.  But we haven’t ever gone into debt for an object and we don’t buy things we can’t afford.

We have also redefined the word “poor.”  I still remember watching a news story where the parents said they had been out of work for three years and living off of government support.  Meanwhile their child was in the background playing on his iPhone.  Really?  You’re on food stamps, but you have an iPhone?  I don’t even have an iPhone. We also recently saw someone pay for $100 of expensive maple syrup with food stamps, and then drive away in their SUV with a boat on the back.  REALLY???  I feel like people in the US don’t really know what it means to be hard up.  We have become so spoiled as a society. 

Some of you have amazing, inspirational stories about getting out of debt and turning your spending around.  Would anyone like to share?  And why do you think debt is such a huge problem today?

What is “Tolerance” anyway?

In recent years, I hear the word “tolerance” tossed around more and more. But what does it really mean?  Does it mean you just accept anything and anyone, no matter what?

Earlier this year, my husband’s aunt passed away, succumbing to years of alcohol abuse.  She was a sweet, caring woman, and her death was heartbreaking.  I love her and I miss her.  However, nothing and nobody will ever convince me that alcoholism is ok.  Does that make me intolerant? Some may say yes, but I don’t think so.  I don’t believe you have to like and support every little thing a person does in order to love them.  You can love the person without loving their choices. But these days, it seems like anytime a person disagrees with someone, it means they are intolerant.  How did this come to be?  Are we not allowed to take a moral stance on right and wrong anymore?  

What I find ironic is that many people who proclaim their own tolerance really are not.  How can you call yourself tolerant and then tout your hate for all Christians in the same breath?  Intolerance against religion is also intolerance, is it not?  If you hate someone because they believe in God, that’s just as bad as hating someone because they are gay, in my opinion. It’s the pot calling the kettle black. Hate is hate.

My personal opinion on tolerance is this:  Tolerance is akin to respect. You don’t necessarily have to agree with what someone does or what they believe, but you don’t have to hate them for it, either.  You can respect them and love them in spite of the differences. I have friends whose political, moral, and religious views are vastly different from mine, yet somehow we manage to get along and care for each other.  It IS possible!  There is nothing to be gained by publicly declaring someone stupid, hateful, or ignorant because they disagree with you.  Make your case by promoting your own position–not by tearing down someone else.  I’ve always felt that if someone has to argue their point with childish name-calling, slandering, and degradation of other groups, they don’t have much of a case to stand by to begin with.  Persuade me with something more civil and concrete!

I’m totally open for debate on this.  I feel like lately tolerance has just been one of those buzz words passed around and people don’t really know what it means, or pick and choose which groups to be tolerant of.  What do you think it means to be tolerant?  And why does it seem to be ok to tolerate some groups yet hate others?

Discuss!  

My First Bookstore Reading

I had the wonderful opportunity last Saturday to read A Lamb and a Llama at Barnes and Noble. 

I’ll admit I was extremely nervous.  I know I shouldn’t have been, but I can never seem to help myself in those situations.  I thought about it all week long with butterflies in my stomach, and when the morning finally arrived I was very distracted and kept running things over in my mind and wondering how everything was going to go.  However I’m really happy with how things went and it was a great experience overall.  I felt we had a modest turnout, and found out later that this was actually the biggest turnout this location has had for one of these events.  That was pretty exciting!  I had a lot of support from family and friends and I’m so appreciative to everyone who came.

We had one family there who was visiting from about 50 miles away.  They told me they came out specifically for the reading.  I was so shocked!  I hope the experience was worth the long trip.  The kids were very bright and engaged and they asked a lot of good questions, so I think they had a good time.  I think it’s so wonderful that there are parents who make such a strong effort to enrich their kid’s lives with reading. They could have spent their Saturday morning at the arcade or the movies, but instead they choose to go to a bookstore.

All of the kids were adorable, and I was so happy that a good number showed up.  It’s always a lot more fun reading with those cute little faces smiling up at you. And all the questions they asked at the end told me they were listening and enjoying the story.  I feel reading is so important to children, so this was absolutely wonderful!  Thank you to all the little kiddos who showed up, and to their parents for bringing them. :-)

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was that we sold ALL of the books in the store!  I was warned by the manager beforehand that normally there isn’t a lot of success at these events, so I was preparing to only sell a book or two, if that. So you can imagine my shock when the spot on the shelf that held the books was empty by the end of the event. I can’t even tell you how grateful I am, and how touched that so many people liked my book.

I try to learn something from every experience so that I can make things better if I’m given similar opportunities in the future.  Things I learned at this event:

1. Don’t for get to introduce yourself!  I completely forgot to tell people who I was before I started the reading.  I wasn’t even thinking about it since they had just announced me over the intercom.  But when we opened up for questions at the end, the very first question was a little boy asking, “Who are you?”  Whoops!  I’ll definitely remember that next time.

2. It doesn’t matter how many people are there. I had no idea what to expect when I got there, but I hoped for a good turnout.  When I first arrived, only one family was there.  But then I realized I was so happy just that one family was there that it really didn’t matter what kind of crowd I had.  They were there for story time with their kids.  It was important to them, so it was important to me.

3. Don’t take anything for granted.  I fully recognize that there were so many factors at work to make this happen, and so many people involved.  I know I probably sound like a broken record talking about my gratitude, but I really am thankful and I feel like I can’t express it enough.    

Thank you again to those who were there, and I hope I can do similar events in the future.

Check out Phantom by Laura DeLuca!

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Phantom of the Opera fan.  My biggest interest is the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, but I also like the original Gaston Leroux novel, and other related materials.  So when I heard about Phantom by author Laura DeLuca, I had to give it a read.

Phantom caught my interest for three main reasons:

1)      It’s Phantom  of the Opera related.

2)      It’s a thriller/mystery/suspense novel, which I always enjoy reading.

3)      I like the occasional Young Adult novel.  I admit it.  Though judging by the popularity of books like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight, I’m not alone there.

If your interests fall into any of the above three categories, then Phantom just might be a perfect summer read for you.

Between the love triangle and the unraveling mystery, Phantom is not short on suspense.  You know how some books focus way to much on the action when you want to read more about the romance?  Or some are just the opposite where the romance is way too mushy and overdone and you want the action part of the plot to move forward?  This book did not have either of those problems.  It has a perfect balance of mystery, action, suspense and romance.  I’m also impressed with how well DeLuca was able to keep all of her characters in character.  There is a fairly big cast of characters in Phantom, and they were all managed nicely.  I felt like they were all individuals with different motivations and personalities.

DeLuca has a very descriptive writing style, so expect a lot of lush descriptions and vivid imagery.  You’ll feel like you’re seeing the story played out in front of your own eyes instead of just reading it.  There are a lot of great sensory details. This book is also great for fans of musicals.  This may seem like a strange thing to say since it’s a book and not a musical, but DeLuca obviously has a great love for music and this is played out well in Phantom.  If you like high school musical dramas such as Glee, then odds are you’ll like this book.

You can buy Phantom on Amazon here:

http://www.amazon.com/Phantom-ebook/dp/B007Q3W7XC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1340164949&sr=1-1&keywords=phantom+laura+deluca

Be sure to check out Laura DeLuca’s networks as well so you can stay up-to-date on what else she’s up to:

http://authorlauradeluca.blogspot.com
www.facebook.com/authorlauradeluca
www.twitter.com/authorldeluca
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4670048.Laura_DeLuca

And lastly,  if you think you might be interested in Phantom, check out this excerpt for a little taste. :)  Happy reading!

http://authorlauradeluca.blogspot.com/2011/11/excerpt-from-my-young-adult-novel.html

Family Photos in the Mountains

What do you think of when you hear the words “Family Photos?”  Does it feel you with joy or with dread?

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to take a vacation with my husband and family. We traveled through beautiful Silverton Colorado and then through New Mexico. Quite a contrast in scenery! There was a lot of driving involved, and even though at times being squished into a car with 8 people and their belongings was unpleasant, I enjoyed the trip and am thankful for the time spent with people I love.

 For awhile now, my mom has wanted to take an updated family photo. It has been about 3 years since we have taken one, and it’s hard to get everyone together at once. So on vacation when we were all on the same schedule seemed like the best time to snag some photos. Having been a photographer for the past 7 years, I can’t be satisfied with quick snapshots. Pictures have to be properly arranged, lighting has to be good, and the camera settings must be perfect. Since we wanted a family photo, this also meant bringing along a tripod, setting a timer, and making sure the shots were arranged in a way that made it easy for me to jump into the picture before the timer went off.

 Some of my family members don’t have a lot of patience for group photos, so arranging them resulted in a bit of contention and complaint. There was also a moment where I tripped, attempting to run down a rocky hill in time to get in the shot, and I fell scraping up my arm and knees and narrowly avoiding being stabbed in the eye with a branch. I was fine and on my feet again quickly, but this added extra stress, as each time I ran back to get in the shot I had family members instructing me to be careful and watch my step.

 While the actual experience of taking the photos may not have been the most pleasant, I know that each of my family members will be grateful to have them. Years from now, we’ll look back on these pictures of us all together in the scenic Colorado mountains and we probably won’t even think about the negatives. I know I will always cherish these photos and I’m grateful to have them.

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A Little About My Dad

We all know that moms work hard, and a lot of emphasis gets put on that.  Mothers are deserving of every bit of recognition.  However, I sometimes feel like there isn’t quite enough recognition given to dads. 

My dad has always been a hard worker and growing up he was gone for most of the day.  Despite this I have never felt disconnected from him.  I always knew my dad was there for us and he somehow managed to find time to spend with his family.  I still remember how excited my four siblings and I would get when we heard the garage door signaling dad’s arrival.  We would often run into the living room and hide so that we could “surprise” him.  Even though this happened almost daily, he always acted surprised.   While I’m sure he felt tired at the end of the day, I can never recall a time where he brushed us off and didn’t indulge in the silly games we liked to play. 

I remember liking to go out with my dad when he ran errands on Saturdays.  The places he had to go were often places that most children wouldn’t find exciting—places like the hardware store or an auto parts store.  But these outings were special because they were with dad.   

There were several things my dad did that we all enjoyed and looked forward to as kids.  I remember him doing something he called “Baby-ups” when my siblings and I were really little.  Baby-ups were where he would lie on his back and lift us up high with his arms and legs.  We thought it was the most fun ever and it was a common request.  We also liked it when he read to us because he would keep us on our toes by interjecting something silly now and then.  This of course would make us laugh and say, “That’s not part of the story!”  He would act incredulous and insist that that’s how the story went.  We definitely paid attention when my dad was reading.

I always smile when I think back to the times where mom had to go somewhere and dad was left to tend us on his own.  When he was in charge of dinner, he had an arsenal of maybe two or three dishes.  And I think two of the three were breakfast foods.  I can also remember the mornings before church when he had to get all 5 kids ready on his own.  “These socks don’t match!”  I said once.  “Here, roll them down like this…” He would say in a conspiring voice.  “Nobody will ever know they’re different.”  We may not have always been 100% polished when dad got us ready, but we always made it there.

The other thing that is so important to me about my dad is the love and respect he has shown and continues to show for my mom.  We often hear stories about abusive husbands, and I’m so happy I can say my dad has never laid a finger on my mom.  Even in times that they argued, I can never recall him speaking to her disrespectfully.  This was an important lesson to his children—teaching his sons to respect their wives and teaching his daughters that they are worthy of respect from their husbands.

I’m so thankful to have been blessed with the dad I have.  Happy Father’s Day to good dads everywhere!

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