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Monday, September 30, 2013

Together Despite Our Differences

Sometimes I look at my husband and wonder what brought us together in the first place. We are so different. But we keep at the business of kindling the flames. Most of our strategies for romance are unorthodox, and he and I both agree that this approach is by necessity. We seldom gather enough minutes to complete a conversation or to qualify as for "alone time."

As of late we've been bonding in the stands at our sons' football games. He calls for the refs to throw flags, and I try to figure out which guy has the ball. Up until the other day, it was working well.

But then, out of the blue, at our youngest son's middle school game, my beloved yells, "Yeah! That was a Clowney tackle!" In his excitement he turns to me and offers a palm for a presumed high-five, which I give for the sake of unity. And he asks me, "Did you see that? Did you see him blow up number 14?"

I saw a lot of things. I saw white jerseys and black jerseys. I saw some boys fall down. I saw a couple of coaches about to bust blood vessels. I saw a bird land on the goal post. I saw a lady walk by wearing an enormous hat. I saw a plastic bottle roll down the stadium steps. I saw the large man three rows in front of me hike his pants up to cover his crack that I saw before that.

I smiled at my husband, who accepted the gesture as indicative of our mutual agreement on what just happened.

But the man could not let it go. He said, "That was awesome. That was just like Clowney. Remember how Clowney did the same thing in the game against Michigan last year? Only, he forced the fumble?"

I remember so many things. I remember that Clowney's first name is Jadeveon. I remember that he plays for the South Carolina Gamecocks. I remember that we don't follow University of South Carolina football and that we agreed to share mutual dislike of USC and Coach Steve Spurrier. I remember what I wore to watch the UGA (our team) v. USC game. I remember that my middle son wore jersey number 7 last season. I remember the middle school coach who stomped his play sheet on the sidelines last fall. I remember some basic calculus after all these years since college. I remember the exact time each one of my children was born and how much each one weighed. I remember several songs from camp when I was a kid.

With all of this churning between my ears, now filled with my husband's elation and his invitation for me to join him in the revelry, I smile. We stand right next to each other, a million miles apart with our elbows touching. He puts his arm around my shoulder and gives me a squeeze.

Us being so different, I wonder how all of this - marriage, kids, making the most of what the day gives us - came about. Fortunately, I don't think the strangeness of it ever crosses his mind. He accepts me as I am, blind, senile and sentimental.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Grace Unplugged Movie Review

Tuesday night I attended a screening of Grace Unplugged in my local market. The movie release date is Friday, October 4. Grace Hill Media contacted me and offered me two free passes, which I eagerly accepted. Representatives from Grace Hill Media have not tried to sway my reaction to or opinion of the movie and this review is my honest assessment. (Keep reading for a chance to win a Grace Unplugged soundtrack, too!)

Grace and her father, Johnny, in the praise band.
My synopsis: Grace Unplugged depicts a young woman reaching for her dream but struggling between bending to the will of God and bending to the will of man. She grew up learning music from  her father, a former down-and-out, one-hit-wonder rocker turned Christian music pastor. Together they perform in their Birmingham, Alabama church's praise band. But 18 year-old Grace, played by AJ Michalka (who reminds me of Carrie Underwood), wants to be under the bright lights of a big stage. Clashes with her tight-fisted father strengthen her resolve to break away. Without the consent of her parents, she leaves for Hollywood to chase her dream.

The official trailer:

Five Reasons to Go See Grace Unplugged:
1) It's a Hollywood movie that presents overt Christianity without apology.
2) There's no foul language and no nudity.
3) It's a family-friendly movie without talking animals!
4) The soundtrack is fantastic. (Details below on how to enter for a chance to win the soundtrack. Keep reading.)
5) The good guys come out on top. It's a movie that leaves the viewers feeling positive and optimistic.
Bonus Reason: Grace is a positive role model for tween and teen girls. On the heels of Hannah Montana twerking, this is a welcome change from the mainstream.

Tween and teen girls will identify with Grace Trey.
My non-essential commentary: There is one huge, glaring error in this movie. I can't believe no one caught it. You'll think I'm quibbling here, but I'm southern and this is important. There's no ice in the tea! In several scenes of the movie, the characters drink tea without ice in it. They're in Birmingham, Alabama. No one there drinks tea without ice! (Sakes alive, now I'm thinking there might not have been any sugar in it either. Someone's soul is surely in jeopardy.)

A portion of the Topline Overview of Grace Unplugged:
Grace Trey has just turned 18 and aspires to do more than sing in her church’s worship band, which is led by her father, Johnny Trey, a one-time pop star who gave up his life in secular music when he became a Christian. Grace longs to escape his shadow and make a name for herself singing songs about something other than God, but Johnny warns her that fame is not as glamorous as it looks and reminds her that serving and worshipping God with the talent she’s been given is a far more worthwhile goal.

My review: While tweens, teens and young adults, especially girls, will love this movie, discerning Christian adults will leave wishing that it was more. The father, played by James Denton of Desperate Housewives fame, is a stock, stereotyped character. Viewers never get a glimpse of his internal struggle. As all Christians know, believing is easy, but faith is hard.  

I wanted to experience him wrestling with faith in God and His plan for Grace. I wanted the father to support Grace in following her dream, rather than fighting her on it, while at the same time reminding her of the pitfalls of temptation in the secular world. It was an opportunity for him to be honest with her about his past and it how it affected him. 

The movie needs authentic parental angst. It needs to touch on the difficulties of supporting a child as she begins adulthood and at the same time worrying about her. While watching, I desperately wanted Grace to remind her father that the low point of his music career was what brought him to Jesus. Then I wanted him to advise her to go change the world, but to not let the world change her. 

Seasoned adult viewers who are mature in their faith will also note that the movie missed an opportunity to make a statement about Christianity and to inspire those of us who may have lost the fire for evangelism. Without giving too much away, I will tell you that the movie ends with Grace singing to the choir, so to speak, which sends the message, "Christians belong at home with other Christians." 

But Christians do not fear the sin of the world. Mother Theresa didn't hide in her convent ministering to people just like her. She went among the poor and the dirty and the faithless and showed them the face of Christ. We are here to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus for those who need Him most, not to sing to the choir. (In a later post, after you've had an opportunity to go see Grace Unplugged yourself, I will share with you my proposed ending. Oh, I should have gone into screenwriting.)

Overall, I say go see this movie and take the whole family. This film does an excellent job of depicting Grace's struggle with temptation, something we and our children face daily, without being graphic. Grace is a character audiences can latch on to and understand and root for. Her internal battle between doing her own will, other people's will or God's will is a universal theme. 

Parents and kids will come away with talking points to discuss over post-movie pizza. Underage drinking, the theology of the body, choosing role models, resisting temptation, personal prayer, identifying and using gifts and talents are all great conversation starters. You're likely to think of others after seeing Grace Unplugged. Asking younger viewers how they think the characters addressed these issues and what the characters might have done differently can make for lively table-talk that teaches a lesson without a lecture.

Instructions on how to  
Enter to Win 
a Grace Unplugged soundtrack. It's easy! Just leave a comment. Everyone who posts a comment will be entered into a random drawing. The winner will be announced on Thursday, October 3.

Enjoy the trailer one more time then go see the movie on October 4:

***Reminder: Enter to win a FREE copy of The Beast of Blue Mountain. Contest information is here. Entries must be received by September 30th. Be sure to let me know you are an Internet entry.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Apple Picking Gang

My mama and daddy up and went missing last Friday. I probably should have panicked, but my mother would frown upon that. So I went out the garden and weeded around my collard plants and waited for news. Saturday afternoon I received word from my mama that she and my daddy had run away and were staying with the Patels. She emailed:

We are up in the mountains this weekend. Our van is filled up with junk we have bought unintentionally while trying to find apples for sale. We are in Blairsville tonight. As soon as we find apples, we will buy some boxes of them (honey crisps, I hope), wedge them in among the chairs and settee and various brickabrack and start back. The people in my "Farmers Group" have all been coming up here for apples, and so we thought they would be all over the place. We saw one stand but didn't stop because we thought we were just getting warm.  It will be to NC tomorrow to find where all the apples are.  We will get plenty for all of us. We are staying with the Patels tonight.

I considered whether this is how Alzheimer's starts - on Thursday a person's parents are at home and accounted for and on Saturday they've taken the car and moved in with strangers, excusing all with cliched apple-a-day cockamamie. I ventured some reality orientation in my reply:

I hope the Patels have put you in their best room. Perhaps they can guide you to where the apples are hidden. By the way, not everything people - even farm people - post on FaceBook is true. 

To avert worry, I went back out to my garden and picked peppers while thinking ill thoughts of farm people image crafting on FaceBook. On Sunday, my mother messaged again:

It is almost 3 PM and at last we have the apples. We are just leaving the orchard with Cameos and Jonagolds, thanks be to God.  Also, and from various locations, we have a settee, a table, two chairs, 12 barbed wire stars, 12 birdhouses, 5 plants, two safety vests, 10 door mats, various cups and figurines,4 cowboy hats, two hornets nests, 2 large gem stones, other miscellany too numerous to mention, and a large chocolate malt. We are turning for home, as soon as we figure out this convoluted intersection right here.

 My pulse quickened at the words "chocolate malt." The prospect excited me. I pictured my father, dressed in a safety vest, revolving the car in a round-about and my mother, dressed in a safety vest and flailing at a swarm of hornets, ordering him to exit it after each orbit. This is not how Alzheimer's starts, I decided. This is how a good adventure ends. 

The chocolate malt did not survive the return trip, but my parents and the apples did.

***Reminder: Enter win a FREE copy of The Beast of Blue Mountain. Contest information is here. Entries must be received by September 30th. Be sure to let me know you are an Internet entry.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Deceitful Like My Watermelon Contest

 My newspaper column last week offers readers a chance to win a FREE copy of my new children's book, The Beast of Blue Mountain. All you have to do is fill in the missing words in the newspaper column and mail in your entry. The newspaper column, address for entries and other information are found at the link below. Be sure to let me know that you read my column on the Internet. (All entries will receive a coupon code for a 20% discount.)

***Only a couple of days remain to listen to the audio version of The Beast of Blue Mountain for FREE. If you enjoy it, you may purchase an mp3 download here

Friday, September 20, 2013

My Yellow-Bellied Watermelon

Well, I've spent a lot of time in my garden lately keeping an eye on my watermelon. Kinfolk have whispered questions about whether I've been sitting out there watching it ripen or watching it rot. The fruit didn't have the courage to volunteer clues to the answer and sat in solitary resistance to my prodding.
I finally mustered the nerve to show up the naysayers. Marching out to my small plot with knife in hand, severed the melon from the vine. It was a crime of passion. I immediately felt remorseful and wallowed in the what-ifs of what I had done. Regret moaned a sad song in my soul. But the deed was done, so I hauled the harvest inside and hid it in the crisper.
In the evening, I gathered my family in the kitchen and confessed what I had done. I plead my case:


Children eagerly crowded around. The dense interior of the watermelon's inner sanctum remained a mystery. I would have to violate its integrity (if it had any) again:


It was not enough to just expose its red flesh. Hands greedily reached for it. Mouths salivated. We would quickly know the answer to the unkind speculation made about my gardening habits. Anticipation met anguish:


The worst of it was accidentally edited by an inept camera operator. It was a blessing. He prodded for a re-taste so he could do a re-take. No one wanted seconds:

The seeds of despair are all that remain.

As a reminder, you can listen to the audio of The Beast of Blue Mountain here for a limited time. Let your kids listen. It's free and it's for them!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Listen to a Story

This is my 400th blog post! I'm celebrating by sharing my new children's story with you. For a limited time, preview the audio version of The Beast of Blue Mountain:

***The free audio version has expired. An mp3 download may be purchased here for 99-cents.***

Purchase the paperback picture book to read along with audio:

 Purchase the mp3 download here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Keeping Our Priorities Straight in the Bible Belt

Down with the devil in the Bible Belt. We love Satin in the south! 

The star next to the word means we think it's very important.

Reported by Fox 5 News Atlanta.

Friday, September 13, 2013

New Children's Book: The Beast of Blue Mountain

Crunch, crunch. Swish, swish. What is that?

I'm excited to announce the September 12 release of my new children's book,  

Color illustrations accompany this tale of suspense and surprise dedicated to anyone who has ever heard a noise in the night and whispered, "What is that?"

Order a soft-cover copy for every kid you know by clicking here. Or at Amazon.

Order a signed copy through PayPal. Click on the link and fill out the simple form. You will make a payment of $12.45 ($9.95 for the book and $2.50 s&h) to Be sure to write in the name of the child receiving the book so I can personalize it.

Save money. Order a pdf download from Etsy for only $2.99. Or order a Kindle version for the same price.

Thank you. I'd love to hear your feedback. If you are a blogger who reviews children's books, email me,

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dude! You Should Totally Hire Me

My husband works for a leading on-line job board and candidate recruitment service. Routinely, he reads job copy, resumes and cover letters that range from stellar to pitiful to I-can't-believe-you-put-that-in-writing-to-a-potential-employer. Today, he forwarded me a brief cover letter from the latter category.

It isn't the awkward opening sentence paired with later touting of his excellent communication skills that raises eyebrows. I think employers may overlook that inconsistency. He proves himself a winner in the rat race by what he claims he's doing on the side:

I'm currently a business student at Kent State University that is ready to begin my business career. I'm highly motivated and driven to succeed and will not let anything stop me from doing just that. I already have a good bit of knowledge about led lights because I'm currently studying Medical Marijuana on the side. I'm great with people and know how to make people believe in what I'm telling them. I have great communication skills and connect with people of all ages on a personal level.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Wisconsin Called

Friday, I posted about my on-line run-in with a woman from Wisconsin. Her mama failed to teach her not to say anything if she could think of nothing nice to say about Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run. I speculated that perhaps she wrote such poor comments and put them on the Internet for the whole world to see because she is the victim of an unfortunate personality. Of course, I made sure to add that I would pray for her. Taking the high road is important in matters like this.

In fairness to her, I noted that there may be other explanations for her inability to laugh on cue. Communism was suggested. That's only a natural assumption.

And I do recall mentioning that her problem may be that Wisconsin as a state lacks humor. Everyone knows that. I meant it as a simple statement of fact, not as derision. 

The communists haven't called, but Wisconsin did.

Friday, September 6, 2013

But Am I Still Pretty?

Yesterday, I was looking over my books on Amazon. I was doing obsessive things like examining sales charts, reading reviews and analyzing data by geographic region. ThenI came across this humbling review

"Unfortunately, the title was the funniest thing in the whole book. This is a collection on barely amusing, tedious, little stories."


I cascaded through several stages of emotion. First, I succumbed to shock. How could someone say such a thing, even if she is from Wisconsin, a state notorious for its lack of humor?

Next, I experienced anger. The thought, How could someone say such a thing, took on a different tone. To be so rude and insensitive to another person is plain wrong. Didn't her mama ever tell her that if she couldn't say anything nice, not to say anything at all? The nerve!

Alas, I was stricken with sadness and grief. I'd let a reader down. I wracked my brain in an effort to determine where I'd gone wrong.Was it my calculation of my wedding anniversary in dog years that left her flat? Did she find my admission that a little girl down the street spotted a dead roach in my house offensive? Or was the fact that I've dubbed the child Little Miss Bad Cholesterol due to her monogram, LDL, the turn off? I revealed, in print no less, that I strolled down a long hallway past my peers with my skirt shoved deep in my underwear. Could she not even giggle at that?

I did dedicate two entire pages to the communist pig roast that my brothers hosted in Mississippi. Maybe she's a communist. Maybe she has something against my brothers.

Maybe she's one of those people who doesn't know how to laugh at life's inevitable comedy of errors. Thus, her negativity has nothing to do with me or Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run and everything to do with her unfortunate personality, as we call the condition here in the South. In that case, I'm obliged to pray for her.

My feelings are hurt, but after working through my emotions, I'm perking up.

Nonetheless, that hasn't stopped me from desperately calling out, like the 40-year-old bridesmaid wearing cornflower blue, "But I'm still pretty, right?"

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Can You See Me Now?

I caught a gallon of skim milk hiding in IGA's beer cooler last Friday night. What a wanna-be! 

Or maybe someone had a moment of weakness. He waffled between milk for the baby or beer for big daddy. Beer won and milk was abandoned. In these tough economic times, priorities must be set, sacrifices have to be made.

How would you caption this picture? 

What creative explanation would you give for why this milk is feeling so out of place?