Book Launch Joy

The folks who know me best know I have a love of books.  One that has me counting my books as some of my most prized possessions.  I have my favorites that I’ve had for many years, and I have books whose release dates are circled on my calendar.  I have books on my Kindle (sometimes that’s just how it has to be), but mostly I love the no kidding hold it in my hands books.  I worked in our library all four years of high school, so the smell of books brings me great joy and yes, I’ve been guilty of book sniffing.

I blame this love of books on my parents and my Aunt who took me to my first Old Book Sale.

The characters of the books become close friends and their stories intertwine with mine.  The authors of my favorite fiction and non-fiction books become my friends in real life, and I love celebrating the births of their new creations.

So imagine my joy to be chosen to be on the launch team for not one, but THREE books during the past couple of weeks.

THRILLED.  HONORED.

You mean I need to make reading a higher priority than I normally do?  Because after all, I have an obligation to help these writers with their launch.  In a timely fashion.

Sigh.  It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

I sure am glad it’s me.

I want to share with you about these books and then a special surprise at the end, if you have time to stick with me on this post.  If you have some reading to get to, I understand (bookmark me and come back to this later), but y’all, those dirty dishes can wait.  You need to know about all of these books.  You are going to want them ALL in your library.

(You do have a library, don’t you?  If you don’t, I can respect that, but please go to your public library and ask them to get these books for you, okay?  I want you to get to know them too.)

The first book is a lovely full color book by Roma Downey.  Yes, that Roma Downey from “Touched by an Angel.”  She was also in one of my favorite Christmas movies, “Borrowed Hearts,” with Eric McCormack, but that’s a story for another time.  I was sent the e-book version of this book, A Box of Butterflies,  but I will be ordering a hard copy as soon as it is released in March.  It’s beautiful.  The pages are gorgeous to view, and there are lovely and meaningful quotes all through it.  But the most beautiful parts are the glimpses into Ms. Downey’s life and the way her kind spirit shines through it.  Her friendship with Della Reese (who wrote the Foreword) is one of love and respect and compassion.  I could identify so much with the stories of her missing her parents, as this is part of my story too.  This book will lift your spirit and touch your heart.  I highly recommend this for you, and it is perfect as a gift book for those near and dear as well.

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The second book I just received, so I haven’t been able to read it yet, but I KNOW it’s what I need to hear from the title and the stories I’ve read about the author and her book.  Kate Bowler’s book, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, is a funny, frank, dark, and wise book that tells the story of this Divinity school professor and young mother’s diagnosis of stage IV colon cancer and how the prospect of her own mortality has changed the way she thinks and lives–for the better.  I saw on Twitter where someone was saying that every minister needs to read this book, especially the Appendix–I and II.  Never being one to skip to the end of a book, I admit that this morning I flipped to see what was in those appendices.  And yes, not only do all ministers need to read them and post them on their wall and carry them in their wallets and purses, but we all do.  I’m going to start the book when I finish writing this, but *spoiler alert* Appendix I is “Absolutely Never Say This To People Experiencing Terrible Times: A Short List.”  Appendix II is “Give This A Go: See How It Works: A Short List.”  The book is worth buying just for these pages.  And that’s without reading her raw and honest story, which I know will only offer more wisdom and insight on how to love each other through hard times.  I saw this quote from Kate Bowler on Twitter, and YES YES YES:

“The basic thing is not all pain has to be explained. I wish people would just, take a breath, notice the person in front of them, and realize that it’s probably a hard day and maybe they just want to talk about “The Bachelor.” It’s a good season.”

Whether or not you’re a Bachelor fan (no judgment here, my friends), we can do better by each other.  Not all pain has to be explained.  THANK YOU, KATE BOWLER.

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The third book—oh my, my soul is dancing—is When God Made Light by Matthew Paul Turner. Y’all.  It’s a children’s book, the second children’s book by the author of When God Made You.  When I applied to be on his launch team, I had no idea I’d actually be chosen (but as Mama always said, If you don’t ask, you won’t know), so when I got the email welcoming me on the team, I was THRILLED.  When the actual book came in the bubble wrapped envelope, I was no lie like one of my children on Christmas morning.  Or maybe more like Miss Sophie when she finds a chip on the floor and doesn’t want to share.  I tucked myself up on my spot on the couch, tenderly opened the envelope and pulled out the treasured book.

And it is a treasure.

If you have a child, are a child, know a child, were ever a child…..you need this book.  The words are lyrical, dancing across the pages just as the illustrations (fantastic job by David Catrow) do.  I join in with the children in the book, listening to the words that assure me I am a part of the Plan, of the Light, and I am loved.

Wow.

Right now—RUN, DON’T WALK, PEOPLE—you can pre-order When God Made Light, which is being released next Tuesday (yay!) and get your very own copy of When God Made You for FREE. (Click on FREE for the link as to how to make that happen.) It’s the ultimate buy one, get one, and y’all know how I love a bargain!  I already have both books, and I’ll be taking advantage of this special deal, because when it comes to your favorite books, you can never have too many copies.  Mama and Daddy taught me that.  This is a book for you to have and to share with all the people you hold dear.  If you want me to show you my copy and you’ll be on one of my Out and Abouts over the next few weeks, let me know and I’ll bring it along.  But you will want your own copy, I can assure you of you that.  And when you get your copy, please promise me you will all sit around taking turns reading it to each other–because you all need to hear this message.

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Here are two more books *BONUS TIME* I want to share with you.  First, one of our local stars and her sweet Mama have written a book and while I don’t have a copy yet (it’s a huge seller and constantly on backorder, but YAY that’s a great thing), I know this young woman and her mother, and they are the best kind of people.  Their hearts are so big, I don’t know how they keep them in.  The way they love others is an inspiration to all who know them.  I Want to Make a Difference by Kelsey Anastasia Norris and Carol Norris is a beautiful story of love and giving and overcoming odds.  I can’t wait to have my very own copy, and y’all I’m hoping to get it signed because I am a huge Kelsey fan.

 

Finally, this past Tuesday, A Cup of Love anthology was released on Amazon as an eBook.  I am honored that Ms. Barbara Barth once again asked me to be a part of this.  My story, “Love at the Laundromat,” is included along with stories by some of my favorite authors. (I’ll just be over here fangirling, don’t mind me.)  It’s the story of when my Mama met my Daddy for the first time, and I’m so glad it worked out because my Mama was full of spunk, y’all.  I think they would be okay with me sharing their story and even more so because the proceeds from the sale of this eBook go to First Book, a program that puts books in the hands of young children who might not otherwise have them.  That’s what they were all about–books and children.  So this honor is extra special for me to have my story included.  If you are looking for the perfect card for someone you hold dear this Valentine’s Day or any day at all, consider sending them A Cup of Love.  It’s cheaper than most cards and will last far longer.

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I hope you will find a book or few in these titles that will entertain you, lift your spirits, make you laugh, and bring you joy.  It’s still good reading weather around here (okay, yes, it’s always good reading weather to me), so I hope you will treat yourself or find one of these treasures at your library and spend some time tanning your soul with a good book.

Love and happy reading to all.

 

Quicksand

“If there’s anything to be amazed at,” said MayDean, holding the toothpick out of the side of her mouth with amazing skill while she talked, “it’s that all of these folks–look around you, ever’ single one of them, they all have fallen at some point or another in their lives.  There’s just no way around it.  There’s no way to know the pitfalls afore you on the path you’ve chosen, the one you’re on right now.  So yeah, they’ve fallen and don’t you believe anyone that tells you diff’rent. You hear me?”

“Yes ma’am.”  There was no sense arguing, and yes, I had actually heard the words she was saying.  Only now I was wondering what else was coming.

“So get ready ’cause this here’s the part I don’t understand.  Ever’ one of ’em have fallen. But ain’t nobody talking about it.  Everybody out here has a story that could help somebody else.  A warning flag for the pitfall or a lesson about how to get out of it.  Or even who to call when it feels like the quicksand is pulling you under.  But nobody’s saying a word.  Zip.  Nada.  Not a blame thing.   And that just feels wrong to me–to hang on to the one thing that could help another person, all to save your own skin from facing truth.” She shook her head.  “I just don’t get it.  But then, me, I’ve gotten old enough that most of the folks are gone who know much of my story, so I can tell what I want.  And I’m telling it.  I don’t want to leave this world holding within my hands and heart something that could save another.”  She looked real thoughtful for a moment.  “Would I hold on to a cure for the cancer if I found it by falling in a mudpit and rolling around with hogs?”

She bounced the toothpick up and down with her teeth, looking out toward the  technicolor painted sunset on the horizon.  “Nope.  I’m here to say I wouldn’t.  I don’t care how I got it.  If it’ll help, it’ll tell.”

And with that she pushed up out of the creaking rocker, made her way off the porch, and headed down the path to home, leaving without another word to those of us whom she called family.

And that was then it occurred to me how much of my childhood I spent terrified of stepping in quicksand, and I wondered why no one ever mentions it anymore.

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“Quicksandwarning” by Hughesdarren – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Where Was Her Biffle?

This afternoon I had the pleasure of being a part of a girls’ outing.  Aub, our Princess, a dear friend, and I went to see “Cinderella” together.  Cooter didn’t want to go, not because it was a Princess movie, but because he had heard about the “Frozen” short film that was to precede the main feature.  He’s so over Frozen, the thought of watching that short was downright off-putting.

We gathered in the lobby and headed down the hall to the third door on the right.  The previews started shortly after we arrived.  And still folks came in and wound their way to find seats in a nearly packed theater.  By the time “Frozen Fever” started, we were ready.

The short was actually cute and entertaining, and I can predict what Disney’s new stuffed critter item will be (spoiler alert–baby snowmen).  Then Cinderella started.  I watched the old and comfortably familiar story; yet I still found myself on edge, wondering what would happen.  Which part would they change, and which part of the story was so sacred that it could not be touched?

Photo via eonline.com

Photo via eonline.com

I enjoyed the movie, once I employed suspension of disbelief.  I think that the enthusiasm of my friend who is the mother of a son was infectious, and I was able to forget about the overall message and fall in love with the beauty and romance and magic.  Our Princess was enchanted, and her eyes shone brightly all through the movie.  She missed nothing.

A time or two during the movie a particular thought tried to surface, but it never quite made it.

Until the movie was over and I was sitting quietly with my thoughts.

Then it hit me.

Where were the people who knew Ella and her family?  Where were her friends?  Their friends?  Surely there was someone who, at some point, thought to him or herself, “Hey, wonder where Ella’s been?  I haven’t seen much of her since her Father passed on. I should really check in on her.”

I wondered where the people were who would feel inclined to pay their respects after his death.  Bring a casserole.  Drop by for a visit. Why was there no one to realize that this girl was being mistreated by the very ones to whom her care was entrusted?

Why didn’t someone notice and do something?

My friend who joined us reached out to me two weeks ago with a message: “Hey, if y’all are going to do a girls’ outing to see ‘Cinderella’ and I wouldn’t be intruding, could I join y’all?”

Absolutely.  It would be our pleasure.  And it was.

It was so good to see her, to sit and laugh over the hideous dresses of the stepsisters and gasp at the wickedness of some in the movie and to agree that we like to sit until the credits are pretty much over.  Most of all, it was good to visit.  To catch up.  To share stories.  To check in with each other.

The greatest gift is that she wanted to be with us, and she said so.

That right there.

How would the story have been different if Ella (Cinderella) had been able to call up a friend and say, “Hey, I would really love to spend some time with you”?  Where was her tribe?  Her friends?  Her “biffle,” as my college girl calls her best friend?

And then the next question is begging to be asked:

Who am I supposed to be reaching out to?  Whom should I be checking in with?  Who has locked him or herself away, and needs a friend to help bring him/her out?

Tonight I’m thankful for my friend who reached out and made time to be with us.  For seeing an age-old story with new eyes and feelings, I am grateful.  In this world of busy-ness and to do lists and running here and there and yon with littles in tow, it is good to be reminded to be still.  Be quiet.  Listen and look.  To check in with those I care about, and help those who need to be free and loosened a little from their worries and woes.  To be a good friend.

Wishing you all someone who will do that for you.

Love to all.

 

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As I was wrapping up writing this post, I saw this shared by Love Wins Ministries, folks who know how important relationships are and work hard to get them right and make a positive difference.  I think this is spot on and wanted to share it with you.  

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Cinderella could have survived locked in the attic, but what kind of survival would that have been?  

Just a thought.  

 

 

 

True Confession and the Comfort of the Familiar

Earlier this week Mess Cat told me she was listening to the radio, and the DJ asked the question, “What TV show do you watch and wish your friends did too so you could talk about it?”

She said a woman called in and said, “The Young and the Restless.”

The DJ laughed and said, “Well, yeah, because it’s not 1994 anymore.”

Bless her.

I understand.

Only I always had someone to talk about it with.

My first experience with the soap operas was when I was much younger, and Mama took us to Macon to visit my great great Aunt.   After our dinner with them, she and Mama sat in the living room watching the noon news and “Date with Del.”  After Miss Del said her trademark, “Trody tro,” the soap operas began.  Mess Cat and I were laughing the other day about how we all froze and were very quiet, in the hopes that they wouldn’t realize the soap opera had come on and we could watch it.  Sometimes it worked.

I was in college the first time I saw “The Young and the Restless.”  It was on during everyone’s free time of the day–from 12:30 to 1:30.  I remember the day that something bad happened to a fan favorite, and the cries of disbelief could be heard up and down the dorm hall.  We all wandered out of our rooms, crying and talking about how it just could. not. have. happened.

When my oldest (and only back then) and the Fella and I moved to Japan and I knew NOT ANOTHER SOUL, one day I turned on the TV and there was a familiar face.  A person I had known all through college.

Reva Shayne.

From Guiding Light.

That was the only CBS soap that was on the TV over there.  And it meant so much to have something that hadn’t changed in a life where EVERYTHING else had changed.

That’s kind of the nice thing about soap operas.  Not much changes year after year and if it does, it doesn’t take long to catch back up on it.  And besides, it’s storytelling.  Maybe not at its finest, but it’s storytelling nonetheless.  Those writers can have me go from barely tolerating a character to rooting for him faster than you can say, “As the World Turns.”  That’s pretty good writing in my book.

So the irony of Mess Cat bringing up Y & R the other day is that, though I haven’t watched it in years on a regular basis, I like to record the episodes around Christmas and New Year’s each year.  I don’t have the time to watch it regularly like I used to, but around the holidays…..The decorations are so lovely and everyone is so kind and the music is beautiful.  I think my love of jazz came from watching restaurant scenes on soap operas over the years.  At Christmas it’s just–

comforting.  An escape.  Heartwarming.

And when I had questions about how two of the women who had been rivals were sisters?  My sisterfriend who has always enjoyed watching the show and sharing with me caught me up to date.  In about three sentences.

And that’s another reason why I love them.

On the Christmas Eve episode, a woman, her husband, and her son were gathered together for the holiday meal.  After a few minutes of conversation, the husband said, “Well, let’s address the elephant in the living room.  What we are NOT talking about.”

He has cancer.

I had no idea.  Last I knew I thought he was about to go to jail maybe?  But then, it’s been a while.   At least a month in soap opera time.

He then proceeded to get his family up and dance around singing out the word.  Cancer.  Naming his enemy.

Bless it.

That made my day.

Oh, I know it’s not real.  I know it’s all fiction.

But still.

I wish we had done something like that.  Stood up to cancer, looked it in the eye, and said we weren’t afraid.

Only we were.

But I digress.  Anyway–

I know that many folks, like the radio DJ, think soap operas are a thing of the past.  And from the looks of things and the number of soaps that have been cancelled, it looks like that might be a valid argument.

But *true confession* I sure hope not.

In this life of so many things changing and so many folks leaving without a good goodbye, I sure do like to flip on the channel every now and then and see Victor, Nikki, Paul, Jill, Jack, and the whole Newman and Abbott clans.  I’ve known them longer than a lot of my real life friends.  And while I know the difference between real and make-believe friends, there is still comfort to be found in the familiar.

Tonight I’m thankful for things that don’t change and for story lines that touch the heart and the funny bone.  And for friends who can catch you up on things when you’ve fallen behind.  On story lines and on real life stuff.

Wishing you all a friend to talk about your favorite show and life in general with.  And if you’re a closet soap fan, know you’re not alone.  It’s okay.  As my friend wrote me today, “There’s a whole lot worse things to be addicted to.”

Truth.

Love to all.

All Need Telling

Back many years ago when I worked with Hospice, I had the privilege of visiting with an older gentleman who loved to tell stories.  He told me about selling Elvis his first car, about saving a ship from blowing up during WWII, and so many others.  I sat with him in the cold of winter in that very warm room on the most comfortable couch ever and listened while he told me stories.  I loved that part of my job, listening to the stories.  But I soon learned that after lunch was not a good time to go and visit.  He could lull me near about to naptime with his soothing voice and great stories.  Eventually I found myself wondering, ONCE, whether or not they were true.  And then just as quickly, I realized it didn’t matter.

There are stories that really happened and stories that just seem like they should’ve or could’ve happened.  All need telling though, don’t you think?

Here’s two such stories, I’ll let you decide which is which.