Friday, September 30, 2011

Writing Ups and Downs

First, for a writing "up." The cover for The Upside of Down is on a Goodreads list of breath taking covers of 2011. If you like this cover and want to vote for it here is the link Thanks!

Now, for a writing "down." I wrote a short ebook Hook Me: What to Include in Your First Chapter to help aspiring writers know what to include in a first chapter. It's based on my experience reading many, many first chapters from novice writers. I placed it on Kindle and on Smashwords for $.99. Earlier this week, someone posted a very negative reviewon Amazon giving it 2 stars and warning people to stay away. The reviewer even said that after reading the entire book he/she asked for a refund of the $.99. Others who've read the book then posted 5-star reviews. Interestingly enough, the 2-star reviewer changed his/her rating to 1-star and then another very negative review popped up with another 1-star. Bad reviews are nothing new, but this one seems odd, almost as if the reviewer(s) is on a personal vendetta or crusade to stop people from purchasing my ebook. I have no idea what sparked such a response nor how my book might have offended the reader(s). It's been interesting to watch and disappointing that someone would be on such a crusade to stop every potential reader from purchasing the book simply because he/she didn't find it valuable. I don't understand it. The reviews are here if you want to read them

Writing makes me feel bi-polar at times. Up one minute, down the next. Some days I feel like quitting and never writing another word and other days I feel like there will never be enough time to write all that's in my head and heart. Quite the strange business. I've often thought it would be easier to be a brain surgeon, but as my friend Josi Kilpack pointed out, you can't continually revise a brain surgery you have to actually get it right the first time.  Guess I'll stick to writing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Blue Rose

This is circulating on the internet. Thank you to my sister for passing it along to me. I do not know who wrote it, but this sweet story brought tears to my eyes and I wanted to share it with you. May we all acknowledge the blue roses around us.

A Blue Rose

Having four visiting family members, my wife was very busy, so I offered to go to the store for her to get some needed items, which included light bulbs, paper towels, trash bags, detergent and Clorox. So off I went.

I scurried around the store, gathered up my goodies and headed for the checkout counter, only to be blocked in the narrow aisle by a young man who appeared to be about sixteen-years-old. I wasn't in a hurry, so I patiently waited for the boy to realize that I was there. This was when he waved his hands excitedly in the air and declared in a loud voice, "Mommy, I'm over here."

It was obvious now, he was mentally challenged and also startled as he turned and saw me standing so close to him, waiting to squeeze by. His eyes widened and surprise exploded on his face as I said, "Hey Buddy, what's your name?"

"My name is Denny and I'm shopping with my mother," he responded proudly.

"Wow," I said, "that's a cool name; I wish my name was Denny, but my name is Steve."

"Steve, like Stevarino?" he asked. "

Yes," I answered. "How old are you, Denny?"

"How old am I now, Mommy?" he asked his mother as she slowly came over from the next aisle.

"You're fifteen-years-old Denny; now be a good boy and let the man pass by."

I acknowledged her and continued to talk to Denny for several more minutes about summer, bicycles and school. I watched his brown eyes dance with excitement, because he was the center of someone's attention. He then abruptly turned and headed toward the toy section.

Denny's mom had a puzzled look on her face and thanked me for taking the time to talk with her son. She told me that most people wouldn't even look at him, much less talk to him.

I told her that it was my pleasure and then I said something I have no idea where it came from, other than by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I told her that there are plenty of red, yellow, and pink roses in God's Garden; however, "Blue Roses" are very rare and should be appreciated for their beauty and distinctiveness. You see, Denny is a Blue Rose and if someone doesn't stop and smell that rose with their heart and touch that rose with their kindness, then they've missed a blessing from God.

She was silent for a second, then with a tear in her eye she asked, "Who are you?"

Without thinking I said, "Oh, I'm probably just a dandelion, but I sure love living in God's garden."

She reached out, squeezed my hand and said, "God bless you!" and then I had tears in my eyes.

May I suggest, the next time you see a BLUE ROSE, don't turn your head and walk off. Take the time to smile and say Hello. Why? Because, by the grace of GOD, this mother or father could be you. This could be your child, grandchild, niece or nephew. What a difference a moment can mean to that person or their family.

From an old dandelion!

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

Leave the rest to God.

"People will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel!"

~ Anonymous ~

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Perfect Family Day

On Saturday we took the whole family to watch their brother's soccer game. After the game, we took a trail near the river and walked to one of our favorite restaurants, Serious Texas BBQ, for some Texas Tacos. WE finished lunch and then made our way back along the river stopping to play in the water. My husband taught the kids how to skip rocks while my youngest just played in the mud. The cool water was the perfect compliment to the warm day.

After a stop at Sonic for some refreshments, we drove home. I cut the boys' hair and then made pizza for dinner. We watched, "How to Train your Dragon," for our family movie. Cute show.

It was a relaxing, fun day that we spent entirely with the family. We don't often get days like that. Usually we are running from here to there to everywhere with lots and lots of activities. It was a nice day and each of the kids commented on how much they enjoyed it.

I am thankful for simple days like that remind me of what really matters.

Here are some photos from our day:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Speech Therapy Rant

I am quite aware that my son has Down syndrome. I have been aware of that for over five years. I also freely admit that he has a speech delay and may have other struggles down the road. It is no secret that he has Down syndrome and I took off my rose-colored glasses years ago.

I have never sent any of my children to pre-school or kindergarten. I am a SAHM and I have chosen to teach all of my children to read and do math so when they enter school in first grade they are prepared. My children enter school reading 2-4 years above grade level. I take my responsibility as a parent very seriously and want to make sure my children are life-long learners. Not all parents would make the same decision as we have regarding pre-school and kindergarten. We are fortunate that we have the opportunity and freedom in our country to make the decisions we feel best serve our individual children and it does no one any good to be judgmental of those decisions.

For the second day in a row, I was judged for my decision to homeschool my son. I was chastised by a professional today who has never met my son and knows nothing about him. I was calling to get information about speech therapy in my area and instead was treated like a horrible mother because I did not enroll my son in school at three years of age so he could receive all the services he needs. Umm, excuse me? How can someone who has never met my son decide what services he needs? Unless of course he's lumped into the "Down syndrome box" where every child with DS needs every available service. Any child that needs services should absolutely receive them, but I strongly disagree with the idea that all kids with Down syndrome are the same anymore than all kids without Down syndrome are the same. Not all kids with Down syndrome need all services. My son no longer needs physical therapy and has never needed occupational therapy (according to his doctor and previous therapists).

He does need speech therapy but because he is not enrolled in school he cannot receive it unless it is through a private speech therapist. The problem? Finding a private speech therapist is next to impossible. So, my taxes go to pay for these state services but my son cannot use any of them because he isn't in school. Did it occur to anyone that one of the determining factors for my husband and I to feel comfortable in sending him to school will be his ability to communicate verbally? The very service they are denying him is exactly what he needs to be able to attend school in the future.

My son is not ready for school away from home yet and we can make that decision because we are his parents and know him and his abilities better than anyone else. In fact, he is currently enrolled in a virtual kindergarten program we do every day at home and he's doing fine. He can match letters and recognizes all the letters of the alphabet. He understands "the same" but not "different" yet. He is also learning his numbers.

Don't get me wrong, he can totally communicate but he needs to be able to do so verbally. All I want to do is find a therapist that can help him do that.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Exercise is Killing Me!

I used to play basketball in high school. In college, I took aerobics classes and then found exercise shows on TV after I had kids. I loved working out to "Gilad's Bodies in Motion" in the 90s. I then found "The Firm" and "Tae Bo" videos/DVDs. I've worked out over the years, some times more than others depending on pregnancies.

One of my older daughters has returned home to go to a local college that is far less expensive than her out-of-state first year. And she's discovered P90X, a new exercise program on DVDs. My nephews have been doing P90X for a few years and talked a lot about it but I never thought much about it.

What is P90X? Well, it's death by exercise. No kidding--Tony Horton, the creator, is an exercise madman. This guy is definitely the inspiration for the Energizer Bunny. He's 45 and totally ripped. He looks better than most guys half his age. But, the guy really belongs in a torture camp.

This exercise program is not for the wimpy (me). It is a serious program that boasts a complete body change (if you stick with the program and follow it closely) in 90 days. I think all it will do to me is send me into cardiac arrest. But, I am going to stick with it nevertheless. My daughter will make sure of that.

I did Plyometrics this morning which is one of the 13 DVDs and is basically aerobics on crack. Lots of jumping and barely any time to breathe. But, if I can keep up with it without sucking so much air by the end of 90 days, I will really accomplish something. I want to be in better shape as well as take some weight off.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Review: Ribbon of Darkness

Back Cover:

A split-second decision could change the world’s darkest hour to one of triumph--but who is willing to pay the price?

Kennedy Campbell has been running away for a long time--using her position as an international journalist to escape the ghosts of her family's past. She finds some solace working in an Afghan refugee camp, until the Taliban attacks them and Kennedy is forced to flee. She is pulled into a terrorist's realm of darkness as she fights to save those around her, but will it come at the expense of her own life?

Ethan Barak leads a double life, helping MI-6 bring down arms dealers all over the world until his father is murdered by an old associate. Ethan makes his next mission a personal vendetta by tracking down the killer to Indonesia.

While there, he finds himself in a position to either avenge his father or stop a terrorist attack on the Malacca Strait that will jeopardize innocent lives across the world. Can he look past his father's murder to save others?

The line between justice and mercy is blurred with each passing second, and international intrigue becomes intensely personal as the age-old struggle for redemption is brought close to home.

Sounds intriguing, doesn't it? Well, let me tell you, this is one fast-paced, gotta-keep-reading novel. If you love suspense, this is one book you have to read. And, if you haven't experienced a suspense novel, this one will hook you for sure.

Page after page I kept thinking, "Okay, I have to go to sleep now," but I couldn't because I had to keep reading (or clicking since I read it on my Kindle). I had to find out if Ethan was going to be a good guy or not and if Kennedy would ever get out alive. I also had to see if there'd be enough smooching--there was. I kept finding my heartbeat speeding up either because of the action or because of the smooching.

I loved Kennedy, she was strong yet feminine. She wasn't about to take anything lying down and she was with Ethan throughout the whole ordeal despite his attempts to baby/protect her.

Bellon does an excellent job with her descriptions. I felt like I was right there handcuffed to a pipe in the bathroom or in the middle of the boat or hiding in a closet trying to keep my breathing quiet so I wouldn't get caught. I could "see"  the setting and the people.  Bellon is a master storyteller and this book will keep you hooked until the last page.

And, I love the cover, too.

I definitely recommend this book. You can purchase it at Amazon. It's available in paperback or for your Kindle.

This book is also eligible for a Whitney Award.

PS I won this book in a contest. My opinion is my very own and no one else's.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Great Bench Building Eagle Project

Two years ago my then 13-year-old son got approval for his Eagle project. Behind our elementary school we had a bunch of dirt. Some parents got together and decided to make that area useful by turning it into a learning garden where they could plant different types of plants to teach the kids about different growing zones of the country. Another young man took the planning of the garden and its initial creation on as his Eagle project. He then named the garden area after his older sister who'd passed away at age 12.

The garden has grown and has some really cool features like the peace pole and a shade area and unique paths. The kids work in it during the fall and spring (when it isn't too cold). It's a great place to sit and watch birds and insects, except there was nowhere to sit. Until now. My son's Eagle project has been to build benches for the learning garden so the kids can observe nature and write in their journals.

The original plan was to build these benches two years ago but then my oldest son decided to get married and that threw all of us into a tailspin as we planned (and I sewed) for the wedding and reception. Then it was too cold to work on the benches so we hoped to complete them last summer.

As part of the project, my son had to solicit a donation to pay for the supplies. He wrote a letter and then patiently waited for a reply. The reply didn't come and didn't come and we discovered that the company had never received his request. So he had to wait again to go through the process and when the approval came through, it was too cold to build and polyurethane the benches.

This summer he finally had the funds and we had no wedding to plan. So we embarked on the Great Bench Building Project of 2011. It has taken us all summer to get them built between all the summer camps, trips to Utah, and family visits. We've been polyurethaning them for the last three weeks. My son has had to organize and supervise building and then polyurethaning parties and it's taken so long because while we've had an extremely dry summer, every time, and I mean every time, we've pulled the benches out to polyurethane them, it's rained.

I guess we don't need an Indian Rain Dance we just need to try to finish an Eagle project to get it to rain in our area. And not sprinkles. No, we've had downpours. And we've had to rush outside and haul the benches inside the garage and stack them up to keep them out of the rain.

But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We only need one more coat of polyurethane. And what is that I hear outside? Oh, yeah, it's thunder . . . .

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Winner of Blog Hop

Thank you to everyone who participated in the blog hop. Wasn't it fun? Thanks to Tristi Pinkston for sponsoring it. If you haven't read any of Tristi's books, you are missing out! Be sure to visit her blog and learn about all of her books--she's multi-talented for sure.

Without further ado, the winner of a copy of my book The Upside of Down is . . . . (drum roll, please) Alison. Yay!!! I hope you enjoy the book, Alison. I'll contact you for your address.

Thanks again for the support! Happy reading!