Saturday, January 31, 2009

Library Journal Ad

I had my marketing conference call this week to go over the marketing plan for The Moment Between. I've gotten to participate in this fun conversation three times now (once for each book), and it never gets old! True, I can't contribute much more than a frequent witticism (like: "Great!" "Mm-hmm." and "Wow!"), but I love it all the same. It reassures me that yes, they do really like the book, and yes, they do really think other people will, too! Phew.

Anyway, thought I'd share a cool ad with you. This lovely little thing will run in the next issue of Library Journal. Hey--if you get it, save me a copy! I'd love to see it in print! :)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Teenagers & Sex

Next week Aaron is the keynote speaker at a one-day conference called "The Day of Encouragement." He's an amazing speaker and has a genuine passion for reaching people, so I'm really looking forward to his address: "What Moves You?" However, after the big opener, my husband has also agreed to lead a breakout session on how to talk to teenagers about sex (and not be afraid to do so). Gulp.

I find this situation fascinating for a number of different reasons. First of all, Aaron is no longer a teenager and therefore can't possibly know what's going on inside a teen's mind where sex is concerned. Granted, our teenage years weren't that long ago, and for all intents and purposes not much has changed in that regard for many, many moons. But still. Second, not only is Aaron not a teenager, he also isn't the parent of a teenager and won't be for another eight years (Praise the Lord!). So that can't be his shtick: "I've parented two sons through adolescence!" So he's not a teen, not the parent of a teen, not a therapist, sex-expert (sexpert?), or counselor... and yet he signed up to teach this course. Who in their right mind would want to talk about teenagers and sex???

Apparently me because he roped me into it. Isn't that cute? We're going to teach the course together. What was I thinking when I let my lips form that nasty, little word: yes?!?!? Okay, I joke, but in all reality I am rather perversely (ignore the bad, bad pun) looking forward to it. No, that's not quite right. I'm not looking forward to it, I just think it's a really, really important topic that too often gets shushed in Christian circles. After all, we don't do... that. And neither do our kids. Yeah, right. Gulp again. I feel insomnia coming on.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I had a weird experience today. I saw an ad on MSN for an article about little, everyday things you can do to improve your life. Since I'm gettin' fit, I took a moment to peruse the article, skimming the headlines and digging deeper into anything that looked interesting. Advice like "Talk to Strangers" and "Work-Out for One Minute a Day" made me smile. They weren't kidding when they said little things.

But when I clicked to the next bit of advice, I missed the headline entirely. There, smiling at me from my computer screen was my look-alike.

No, not her. He-he-he! ;)


Maybe I'm crazy. You know how sometimes you hear your own voice on an answering machine or a videotape, and you're shocked that the person speaking is actually you? I had that strange, out of body feeling looking at this woman. Does she look like me? I asked my hubby and he thinks so. Hmmm. I realize we're hardly twins, but there is a definite resemblance. I'd like to meet her on the street someday...

Anyway, how about you? Do you have a look alike? Have you ever met her (or him)? What about a celebrity look alike? Aaron has always told me that I remind him of Jenna Elfman. Remember Dharma & Greg? I don't get the connection, but it's pretty strong to him. Maybe I just need colored contacts. I've always wanted to be a brown-eyed girl! :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Get Fit, Niki

I have good genes. Or, at least I have slender genes. Never mind the cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, and bad eyesight in my gene pool. Those things are pretty crummy. But the slim perk is nice--I am and always have had a pretty average build that I've never really had to work at. Until now. My mom always warned me that when I turned 30 everything would start to go downhill. I'm discovering that she meant that in more ways than one.

Although I inherited a fast metabolism, I've always tried to be active and eat well. After all, my body is a temple, right? But these days, activity for me translates into chasing my boys (I clock hours every day quite literally doing exactly that), and eating well means two big slices of supreme pizza when what I really want is three. Eh, not bad. I figured I was doing pretty good for myself.

And then came Get Fit, Iowa. Does your state have a program like this? Basically, the idea is that for 90 days you focus on living healthy, eating well, and starting a good exercise routine--one that works for your lifestyle and schedule. You can form a team of up to ten people, and then spend three months encouraging each other on toward your personal goals and possibly earning cash prizes for most activity or most weight lost. Sounds pretty good. Until you step on that nasty little scale with the magic fat-o-meter. Last week I weighed in, and discovered that while my weight was exactly what I thought it would be, my body-fat percentage was a little higher than the 17% I sported in high school. Ugh. Apparently chasing my kids and eating almost anything I want isn't quite cutting it.

So, here I am, busy mother of two, writing books every spare second I can scrounge, and working on the Articles of Incorporation and IRS Section 501 (c) (3) papers for our growing nonprofit in the spare time of my spare time. When's a girl supposed to do the treadmill thing? Since I have absolutely no illusions about my workout routine being as blissful as this young woman obviously finds hers, I'm left to realistically consider my possibilities.

And those possiblities are... um... I don't know. Help! What do you do to stay in shape? My once a week yoga class is bliss, but it's not cutting it. I am in serious need of advice from all you buff babes out there. I know you're sitting on a goldmine of awesome ideas... Don't leave me hanging. And please don't make me beg. ;)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Up and Running

Well, it's official--I have internet again! Thank you, thank you to the very kind and efficient young man who came and installed our new router...? rooter? roto-router? Let's call it what it is: a box. A wonderful box with little twinkly lights and a good, strong signal. Ah, happiness is having fast internet.

But as you can imagine, I'm still way behind. So I'm going to leave you with an image and a promise of more to come. Here is an ad for The Moment Between. I just had to share. Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Internet Woes

Hello, hello. Did you think I dropped off the face of the earth? I feel like I did! Our home internet connection is woefully kaput, and I am slowly losing my mind. How did we ever survive without the wonderful world wide web?!?! I could write an ode to its many virtues, its ability to keep us connected and current, its colorful, blinking lights... But that might be a bit overboard. Especially since I just went looking for a cool internet graphic to jazz up my blog entry and found an image depicting Elmo and Grover crowded around a computer screen with the caption: Internet Is For Porn. Uh, not cool. Very, very not cool. And sad. Did I mention sad? I was so depressed I stopped looking for a jazzy photo. Sorry.

Anyway, I have about a hundred things I'd like to blog about, but I'd better keep it short. I have a ridiculous amount of emails to sift through and not a lot of time. So, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to leave you with a recipe (less internet time has turned me into a quasi domestic goddess) and a question. The recipe is for my new favorite dessert: sticky toffee spoon cake. Forget the New Year's resolutions and indulge a little! And the question is a ploy to help me better organize my time while I'm internet-less. My next blog will be about what you want to read. Leave a comment!

The Recipe:

Sticky Toffee Spoon Cake


¾ cup butter
¾ cup dark brown sugar
3 tbsp. golden syrup
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup self-rising flour
1 pinch salt


1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 4 ramekins. Heat ¼ cup butter, ¼ cup sugar, and syrup in a pan over low heat until smooth. Pour the sauce equally into the ramekins. Melt the rest of the butter and sugar in a pan. Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes. Mix in eggs.
2. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in melted mixture and stir until combined. Spoon into ramekins.
3. Bake for 20 minutes or until springy to the touch. Run a knife around the edge. Carefully turn onto a large plate. Serve with toffee sauce and whipped cream.

Toffee Sauce:
¼ cup butter
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup packed brown sugar

The Question:

What should I blog about next? Another of my favorite recipes? The Moment Between news? My New Year's Resolutions? My (idiotic) participation in Get Fit Iowa? You decide. :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Dream Job

I always thought my dream job was writing books. Bah! Books-shmooks. This is my real dream job:

SYDNEY — Position: Island caretaker. Duties: Lazing around Australia's Great Barrier Reef for six months. Salary: $105,000.

Unemployed, take heart — the aforementioned job ad is for real. Billing it the "Best Job in the World," the tourism department in Australia's Queensland state on Tuesday said it was seeking one lucky person to spend half a year relaxing on Hamilton Island, part of the country's Whitsunday Islands, while promoting the island on a blog.

The "island caretaker" will be expected to stroll the white sands, soak up the sun, snorkel the reef, "maybe clean the pool" — and report to a global audience via weekly blogs, photo diaries and video updates.

I could do that! Better yet, I'd be good at that. Can I stroll white sands? Check. Soak up the sun? Check. Snorkel the reef? Hey, I love snorkeling! And what's this about reporting to a global audience? I do that every week! Okay, so my audience is made up of five of you (hello, my peeps!)--I'd be willing to expand my horizons. ;)

Life's too short, methinks. Of course I love my husband, my kids, my real job (hopefully my muse hasn't left me because I just dissed her), my sweet community, my extended family, etc., but I'd love to do something crazy. Like go on Survivor, live in a foreign country long enough to learn the language, go back to school for art or photography or journalism or politics or law, take off on an extended mission trip to the farthest corner of the earth... Or apply for a job as a beach bum. I love life, and I can't help sorta liking the idea of reincarnation. Can't I have another go-round? There's so much I want to do.

How 'bout you? Are you in your dream job? If not, what would your dream job be? Maybe they'd take a group of us and we could all spend six months soaking up the sun... Email your resumes to!

Monday, January 12, 2009

A few of my favorite things...

Cuddling my precious, adorable, perfect, darling new nephew.

Enjoying the newest Thursday Next book (thank you, Jasper Fforde).

Bailey's in my coffee. But not before 10am, of course. ;)

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Not really. Just making sure you're still reading. (BTW, this is the funniest photo I've ever seen.)

Vacations! Florida, here we come! Okay, not for over three months, but I have to have something to look forward to...

Writing weird, random posts. Happy Monday!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns

I finished reading Khaled Hosseini's second offering a few days ago and I'm still thinking about it. The Kite Runner, his debut, earned a prominent place on my bookshelf, and I have to admit that I didn't have very high expectations for Suns. How can you strike gold twice? But Hosseini has. When Aaron found me shortly after I had read the last few lines, I was bawling like a baby, snot bubbles and all. It's a sorry picture, I know. Of course, Aaron had to dispel the magic of the book by commenting, "The Tin Woman found her heart." He's so unfair sometimes. Just because I don't cry often doesn't mean I'm heartless, thank you very much.

Anyway, Suns tells the intersecting story of two women living in Afghanistan. Mariam is a harami, a bastard child whose father has three legitimate wives--Mariam's mother was the maid. When Mariam's mother dies, her father is forced to take her in, but only briefly. Her step-mothers arrange her marriage to a shoemaker in Kabul, a city some 600+ kilometers from her hometown of Herat. Rasheed, Mariam's aging husband, is abusive and harsh, and he makes his young wife wear a burqa and stay indoors. When war breaks out between the Russians occupying Afghanistan and revolutionaries, their world begins to fall apart. Rockets rain down on Kabul, and in the crossfire a young woman named Laila loses her parents... I think I'd better stop there. If I tell you much more I'll begin to ruin some of the twists the story takes. It's just... wow.

One of the things that I loved about this book was the history lesson that is woven through the narrative. It explains the birth of a modern-day understanding of jihad, the Taliban, and radical Islam in a way that all my Newsweek reading was unable to impart. And it's an all-around beautiful story. It's haunting, heartbreaking, and hopeful. I loved it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Finalized Cover

I just had to share the finalized cover for The Moment Between. Isn't it pretty? I love it. Can't wait to see it in a store! :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I have had glasses since I was in fourth grade. You really should see those early pictures of a be-spectacled me, but since I try to retain a little self-respect, I won't be posting them. Suffice it to say my second pair of glasses (around 6th grade) were thick-rimmed (to hide the coke-bottle sized lenses) and tinted blue on the top and pink on the bottom (to give a make-up effect? I'm not really sure...). Anyway, at some point I couldn't stand being four-eyed anymore and entered the torturous world of "hard" contact lenses. The technical term is gas permeables, but we're real here, let's call them what they are: hellish chips of jagged glass that you poke into your poor, unsuspecting eyes on a daily basis. I carried Visine in my jeans pocket, my purse, my backpack, my car... And even then I should have bought stock in the company the way I went through their drops. Halfway through high school I had finally had enough. My parents ponied up the dough for disposables and I thought I had been reborn--this time, with good eyes.

Fast forward fourteen years or so... I don't know if you know anything about eye prescriptions, but I still wear disposable contacts for the almost legally blind. My prescription for both eyes is -8.0 with allowances for a massive astigmatism. The contacts work okay, but these days my eyes are so dry and sore that I can only wear them for a portion of my day. When I can't wear my contacts, I'm back to being four-eyed, and though my glasses are arguably rather cute I still get headaches because my vision is so limited and glasses can't allow for astigmatism. What's a girl to do?

Get Lasik surgery. Get Lasik surgery? Really? Ever since I heard of laser eye correction, I've wanted it. And now, nearly two decades after I got my first pair of glasses, I'm seriously considering it. Aaron and I have been saving for a while and the time is now. Now? Okay, I'll admit it, I'm a big, fat chicken. These are my eyes after all, and even though they're a K-car when they should be a Benz, they work and I love 'em.

I'm scared. What if I go through with the surgery and the laser slips, zapping my eyes into jelly? What if they overcorrect or undercorrect and I end up still needing glasses? What if twenty years from now they discover that people who underwent Lasik eye surgery will eventually have their eyeballs fall out of their heads? It could happen, you know. This is a fairly new surgery yet. Argh! The hideous possibilities are endless.

So, any advice? Have you done it? Do you know anyone who has? Did their eyeballs fall out? I'd love to hear what you have to say!

Monday, January 5, 2009

What I'm Listening to...

I tend to be a little (okay, a lot) dramatic, but I am wildly in love with Missy Higgins new CD, On a Clear Night. Thanks to i-Tunes Genius, this Australian singer/songwriter is a new, and very welcome addition to my playlist. The album is mostly acoustic with a folksy, blues-like feel, and Missy's smoky vocals are stunning. She reminds me in some ways of Ingrid Michaelson or maybe Colbie Caillat, though she's a bit more off the beaten path than Colbie's popular, mainstream tunes.

Anyway, just thought I'd share. I love being introduced to a new artist--thought you might, too.

From one of my favorite songs: Forgive Me

oh, my God
how you make it hard
not to pick the apple
pick the apple
and how I long to give it back
and I was on shaky land
lost and not sure
I opened my hand
and she held it like sinking sand

but all, all, all of my light is for you
home, home's anywhere you are too
so take this one fallen man on his knees
saying please, forgive me

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Peace to You

As a pastor's wife, the weeks leading up to Christmas all the way through the New Year are typically the most hectic, busy, and all-around exhausting weeks of the year. There are extra church services, tons of gatherings, presents to buy, people to visit, kid's to pacify after sugar highs and missed bedtimes... The list goes on and on. But for some reason, the holiday season this year has comprised the most restful and enjoyable weeks of my entire 2008 experience.

I've laughed (at my friend who dressed up as Flavor Flav for our "Bling-Bling" New Year's party), I've cried (at the sight of my 5 year-old singing in his very first Christmas pageant), I've enjoyed great food (warm from the oven sticky-toffee spoon cake, my dad's ham, my grandma's chocolate covered cherries, a fantastic Beaujolais, honey glazed salmon...), and, remarkably, I've reveled in more than my share of peaceful evenings at home with my family (Christmas music playing softly in the background and requisite multi-colored lights twinkling on our tree). Bliss.

But this holiday season was especially meaningful to me because I met God. Twice.

I don't know about you, but I'm not one of those people who can "hear" God talking to me on a regular basis. He doesn't call me up on a Tuesday morning to shoot the breeze or answer my prayers with a voice booming from heaven. The times that I have clearly felt the presence of God (as if he was sitting beside me, whispering something that for once I could actually make out) are few. Usually my experiences are mere suggestions--a breath of awareness that prickles my skin and makes me wonder, if only for a moment, Is it you? And I'm fine with that. It's enough. In fact, most of the time it's more than enough. It makes me keep longing for that moment of connection, that almost mystical experience of the divine.

But, like I said, this Christmas season granted me a deep awareness of the One Who Is. I think he knew I needed him.

The first time I felt God this season coincided with the first time I held my new nephew in my arms. My brother and his wife have been waiting to adopt domestically for nearly eighteen months. And less than ten days before Christmas, their little son was finally born. He's beautiful and perfect and tiny. My baby (who is definitely no longer the baby of the family) thinks that his new cousin is Jesus. That might border on sacrilege, but since he's two we'll let him get away with it. In fact, I'll welcome the comparison because for a few seconds as I held my new nephew and kissed his sweet, soft head, I felt the weight of all God did and the depth of his love for us and the beauty of the grace that he so freely gives press on me so heavy that I swear I caught a glimpse of heaven. It was breathtaking.

The second time I felt God was on Christmas morning in church. My husband and I were blessed to go to a more traditional church in town where the sound of the organ so transported me back to my youth I had trouble singing all the beautiful hymns around the knot in my throat. It was lovely. But it wasn't in the songs or the sermon that I was so moved. It was in the lighting of the Christ candle. The woman who rose to light the final advent candle was middle aged with brown curls that were beginning to gray and a pretty purple pantsuit that fit her just so. She walked slowly to the front of church and took the long, lit matchstick from the pastor with solemn grace. Usually, I watch the candle, not the candle lighter, but for some reason my eyes were drawn to her on Christmas morning. She was radiant. She grinned as she lit the candle, and when she blew out the match she watched the smoke rise with such expectation I believe she caught a glimpse of heaven. After church we happened to walk out together and I couldn't stop myself from telling her that she did a wonderful job. She hugged me like we were long lost friends, and I understood without a doubt that God does have a very special place in his heart for people with Downs Syndrome. So do I. She was gorgeous. Illuminating.

Anyway, as we head into 2009 I have a wish for for you (and me). I wish you peace. The sort of deep, ineradicable peace that is steadying against whatever storms your coming year may hold. The sort of peace that keeps you watching, even expecting the next moment when the veil will be pulled back and you will feel a touch of holiness as real as a hand on your cheek. I know I'm being a sentimental shmuck, but I have a whole new year to crust those jagged edges around me again. I like starting fresh in January, and I like it that God continues to peel back those layers and find the woman inside. She still believes in it all.

Grace and peace to you in the coming year.