Friday, December 31, 2010

And the winners are ...

Just a quick post to let you know who the winners are for the last few giveaways:

Jane Seymour book, Among Angels : Cecil

Dawyn Meehan book, You’ll Lose the Baby Weight (And OTHER LIES About Pregnancy and Childbirth): Alana

Please send my assistant Amy ( your mailing addresses and we'll get those sent right out!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


A great Hawaiian saying is “Imua!” which means to move forward with confidence and courage.  It’s a great word for the upcoming new year as we explore new opportunities and perhaps face fears.

This week, I put into practice “imua” by facing my fear of ziplining.  Yes, I stepped off a wooden platform to soar across 1800 feet of the world’s fifth largest caldera located in Kauai.  Encouraged by my teenage daughters, I faced my fear of not being in control of my destiny and took a leap of faith.

The excellent guides, Mitch and Chris of Outfitters Kauai prepared us well for our ultimate “black diamond” zipline adventure.  We did several practice runs on what I thought were “big ziplines” but little did I know what was really awaiting.  The guides constantly reminded us that the most important lesson we all needed to learn to be safe was to “trust our gear.”

True wisdom that I needed to hear.  For too long in life, I have “held on tightly” when what I should have done was to “let go and let God.”  He provides “the gear” that we need to sustain us through the difficult moments of life as we soar across jungles.

So I guess my advice would be this:  “Face your fear and trust God’s gear.”  IMUA!!

What fear do you need to face this year?  What have you been holding on too tightly?  What does “imua” mean to you?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Maestro of Music Shares His Grace Notes on Life: Wayne Messmer

Wayne Messmer greeted my friend and me with a song when we met during a business lunch.  He approached the table at Wildfire in Schaumburg and sang, “When the moon meets the sky like a big apple pie that’s…” He pretended to hold a microphone and encouraged me to sing in response and so I did: “Amore.”  I would like to publicly extend an apology for those diners who had to endure my off pitch musical response.

Interactive encouragement is a true trademark of this incredible music man.  A famous personality in Chicago, Wayne has sung the national anthem for all of the professional sports teams in the area.  He has also taken his distinguished voice to the airwaves with his own weekly radio show, Homelife on WIND AM 560 each Saturday morning from 8-9.  But most of all, Wayne is a survivor and a “thriver” from an act of violence which temporarily took away his passion:  Singing.  A teenager shot him in the throat in a senseless act of violence which as Wayne describes on this video “stole his voice.”  Silence can be deafening, especially when the voice of Wayne Messmer is quiet.  Through hard work and by God’s grace, Wayne found his voice again and is able to communicate his love for life through the songs in his heart.  
I asked Wayne for tips on how to make the holidays special this year.  He said that the holidays can be a reflective time on the past, remembering people who are no longer with us or regretting things we didn’t do or say.  Wayne encourages us instead to embrace the present moment and to make a point to find opportunities and create memorable moments with those who are still in our lives.  As Wayne knows firsthand, tomorrow is not always a guarantee.  Today is a gift, so as Wayne reminds us, “Take a breath of life.”  Celebrate and make your moments great.
And for more additional information about Wayne Messmer, consider purchasing his autobiography, The Voice of Victory and tune in on Saturday mornings on WIND AM560 for Homelife with Wayne Messmer

Per the wisdom of Wayne to make memorable moments during Christmas, I am trying to overcome my fear and embrace the opportunity to go ziplining with my family.  How do you plan to create memorable moments during the holidays with the ones you love?  I would love to hear your stories!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Diapers and Wings and win a copy of You’ll Lose the Baby Weight (And OTHER LIES About Pregnancy and Childbirth)

‘Tis the Season for giving……. a Baby Shower! Popular blogger and author, Dawn Meehan helped host a baby shower for Wings as she launched her latest book: You’ll Lose the Baby Weight (And OTHER LIES About Pregnancy and Childbirth) . Here’s a quick Flip Clip of Dawn discussing her new book.

For those of you who may not know about Wings (women in need growing stronger), it’s a great charity based in the suburbs of Chicago. As full disclosure, I am on the Leadership Advisory Board. This non-profit provides a much needed Safe House in the suburbs along with transitional homes and programs to help women who are fleeing from domestic violence to get a new start in life. There are some babies in the Safe House now so they need diapers, formula and other items. Many of the attendees for this latest event brought along some great donations for the Baby Shower. As you think about ways to give during this holiday season, please keep Wings in mind. Donations don’t even have to be monetary. If you are cleaning your closet as a New Year’s resolution, please think about donating your clothes to Wings which will either give the items directly to those in the Safe House and transitional homes or generate revenue by selling the items at the Wings retail stores. Also, please consider doing some of your Christmas shopping at the resale stores. Great gifts at much lower prices. Click here for the locations.

Beth Engelman, (aka mommy-on-a-shoestring and a supporter of Wings), wrote a great column for Pioneer Press/SunTimes Media about crafting with a purpose for the holiday season. She gives instructions on how to decorate onesies with a stamp pad. She donated some beautiful onesies to the babies in the Safe House.

Please share your stories about the most memorable baby shower you attended. Any tips on home made gifts? Are you a Dawn Meehan fan? Leave a comment and you will be entered to win an autographed copy of Dawn’s book!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Not Exactly an Angel

Guest blog by Patricia Crisafulli

The line at the bank was long and the tellers were few. With a tight schedule, I felt my impatience rise along with my indignity. Everywhere I looked young bankers strolled to and fro talking to each other. Didn’t they see the line? Didn’t they understand the concept of customer service?
As I waited my turn with two customers ahead of me, I was joined by a tiny older woman, white haired and stooped shouldered. She looked around through large soft eyes magnified by her glasses, no doubt wondering how long she would have to stand there.  When another elderly woman, well dressed with a smart hat, joined the end of the line, I thought for sure someone would notice. Then came Mr. Tall and Strapping, as I labeled him, who took his place behind Mrs. Soft Eyes and Mrs. Hat. He and I exchanged a knowing glance; we were comrades in indignation. Into the bank strolled a jolly older gentleman, walking stiffly with a cane. He stood behind Mr. Tall and Strapping.
By now my normally low blood pressure was spiking. All I needed was to catch the eye of one of these bankers to deliver a withering stare from my arsenal of dirty looks. Or, if the chipper fellow who greeted customers at the door with a “Happy Holidays” would just wander my way I’d give him a piece of my mind.
As my thoughts roiled, I could not see the opportunity that I was being given, especially as we approach the celebration of Christ’s birth, to demonstrate religion as St. James described it, looking after orphans and widows in their distress. (James 1:27, NIV) Although I could not attest to the marital status of Mrs. Soft Eyes, Mrs. Hat, and Mr. Cane, metaphorically speaking here was my chance to show a little Christianity in action. Instead, I was too interested in finding fault with someone else (the speck in their eyes, as opposed to the log in mine).
When my turn finally came to make my deposit, my anger had cooled a few degrees; after all, the young woman at the teller window was not at fault. Yet I couldn’t resist pointing out that there were several older people in line, including a gentleman with a cane. She smiled graciously at me and asked me if I wanted to let them go ahead of me.
“Yes,” I said sheepishly, “that’s what I will do.”
I ushered Mrs. Soft Eyes to the teller and let Mrs. Hat ahead of me, too. Mr. Tall and Strapping told Mr. Cane to go to the head of the line.
In that moment I was given a gift, a chance to demonstrate my better self not only to the other customers but to myself. Yet, if it had not been for the teller who made the suggestion to me, I would have stayed with my angry indignation. Through her thoughtfulness she instructed me, reminding me of St. Paul’s words to Timothy to “correct, rebuke, and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. “ (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV)
As she left the teller window, Mrs. Hat turned and blew me a kiss as if I were some kind of “angel” who had come to her rescue. I felt completely unworthy to receive such a gift. Then again, aren’t we all if not for grace? It moves and inspires, and brings us up to all we are capable of being.

Patricia Crisafulli is a professional writer and published author, and founder of

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Heart of Rachael Ray: Recipes and Rescues

What a delight to meet Rachael Ray at Barnes & Noble Oak Brook.  She was in Chicagoland to promote her latest book Look and Cook!

Before she signed books, Rachael hugged dogs. Rescue dogs from Chicago Canine Rescue.  Rachael loves dogs, and she got lots of smooches from the pooches.

The dog featured in this Flip clip was brought to the rescue shelter with a head injury that required 150 stitches.  Thanks to the caring staff at Chicago Canine Rescue, this dog now thrives and is looking for a home.

At this event, Rachael presented a check for $7500 to Chicago Canine Rescue as part of her recent announcement to donate over $750,000 to animal shelters across the country with proceeds from her pet food line Rachael Ray Nutrish™. Yes, you can now give your precious pups a selection of canine cuisine from Rachael Ray and even get recipes online for your pets! Throughout her latest book tour for Look & Cook, Rachael recognizes a local shelter at each venue and encourages fans to adopt a pet!  For more information about organizations that help animals in need, visit her website Rachael’s Rescue.  There is also a picture of Rachael with her beloved Pit Bull Isaboo on the website.

Rachael also has a heart for recipes. In her latest book Look & Cook, Rachael offers a multimedia experience in the kitchen.  You can look at over 600 pictures to make sure the dish looks like it is supposed to at each stage.  And you can connect to a video via Rachael’s website to “look & cook” along with her as she prepares some selected recipes from the book.  I can’t wait to prepare Sliced Chicken with Apples, Pears and Camembert featured on page 189 of Look & Cook. Yum!

So during this holiday season, put Look & Cook on your shopping list. And please consider adopting a dog from a local shelter.  A dog’s kiss reminds us that unconditional love is truly a gift from the soul.

What is your favorite Rachael Ray recipe? Have you adopted any rescue dogs? Please share your stories.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Among Angels

As many of you know, my brother, Randy passed away On December 2nd. A week before he died, Randy was fishing and took a lovely picture of clouds with his cell phone. The photograph, however, captured a remarkable image: Angels in the sky! My heart likes to think that perhaps these heavenly hosts in the clouds had gathered to safely lead my brother home.
Angels were on my mind when I attended Jane Seymour’s book signing event at Barnes & Noble Oak Brook on December 5th. Over 200 people were lined up to greet Jane and purchase an autographed copy of her latest book, Among Angels (Guideposts, 2010). This lovely gift book features Jane’s beautiful paintings with inspiring quotes and stories about ministering angels and even everyday “angels” we encounter through our friends and family. This books makes a delightful hostess and holiday gift. A few remaining signed copies are available at Barnes & Noble Oak Brook.

Jane Seymour is a genuine and gracious soul. She gave me a hug from her heart when she learned about the death of my brother. Jane is one of those women who seem to have it all. She’s an actress, an artist, an author, a mother, a philanthropist, and even a jewelry designer. She was given much, and in return she gives so much to others. At age 40, Jane was nearly bankrupt when she attended a charity event to help abused children. With limited money remaining, she bid on painting lessons in the silent auction and won. The artist came to her home to teach her to paint with watercolors and noticed a finger painting that Jane had done with her children. He remarked that she had real talent. Painting became a healing process for Jane. Three of her paintings were even shown at The Guggenheim. I first met Jane in person at Wentworth Gallery Woodfield when I purchased a copy of her painting “Peace” which depicts two sisters dancing with a white billowy sheet on the beach. The young girls remind me of my own daughters, and the painting provides daily inspiration in my writing alcove. Jane has a unique gift to transform an empty canvas with the fullness of life, reflecting the intangible in the tangible, the inexplicable in the explicable, and complexity in its utmost simplicity.

Jane has a heart for charity and listened with interest when I told her about Pearl Girls and how the proceeds benefit a Safe House for Wings and build wells for school children in Uganda. She even signed my painting: “To Margaret McSweeney and her love of sisterhood.”  Proceeds from her painting also benefit charities. At the book signing, Jane announced the plans to establish Open Hearts Foundation, a non-profit which will help other charities. Her late mother would always tell her “If your heart is open, love will always find its way in.”  Jane has designed a successful Open Hearts jewelry line with Kay Jewelers.

Jane’s heart is also full of love for her family, and she is a proud mother. At the book signing, she promoted her teenage son, Johnny Keach who is in a band called PT5 which stands for Plead the Fifth. And of course Jane provides a link to a free music download on her website. The band has a great sound!  And as a mother, I will always treasure the moment when Jane spent several minutes with my youngest daughter, Katie to encourage her and provide advice about fashion design. Jane has such an open heart!  

One of my favorite quotes in Jane’s latest book, Among Angels is on page 91 in her book:
“Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering to fly.”  
Thank you to all the “angels” in my life who have lifted me to my feet during the difficult times in my life. Who have the angels been in your life?  Leave a comment and you might win an autographed copy of Jane Seymour’s Among Angels.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Sampling of Serendipity

One of my favorite places to visit in New York is the restaurant Serendipity a block away from Bloomingdale’s.  And of course one of my favorite movies, Serendipity featured this special restaurant.  Serendipity is like Disney World for your taste buds- truly one of the happiest places in the world and hosted by one of the nicest people you will ever meet, Stephen Bruce.  He is one of the three original founders of this delightfully eccentric gathering place which is best known for its frrrozen hot chocolate.

And if you watch Serendipity during the holidays, look for Stephen’s cameo appearance.  He is the one holding the scarf when John Cusack returns to the restaurant.

Stephen personally answers the phone and writes down the reservations.  A humble and gracious gentleman, Stephen does not boast about his famous friends and accomplishments, so let me do that for him.  He was very close friends with Andy Warhol who was a frequent diner at Serendipity.  Stephen even designed Warhol’s first apartment in Manhattan, and Andy did over twenty drawings of Stephen while sitting at a table in Serendipity.  The world famous James Beard taught Stephen how to make omelets, and that dish is still a delicious feature on the Serendipity menu. Over the years famous politicians, artists, musicians, and celebrities have enjoyed the food and fellowship at Serendipity,  Enjoy listening to my podcast interview with Stephen on Kitchen Chat for more inside “scoop.”
And check out Stephen’s fabulous books with recipes and ideas for entertaining – a must for everyone’s kitchen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Cup of Cheer

As we prepare for the hectic schedule of the holiday season, please remember to take a few quiet moments and share a cup of cheer with a special friend or family member. 

Recently, I met  my dear friend, Tricia Crisafulli, an accomplished author and businesswoman at Tea Lula, our favorite gathering place in Park Ridge.

What a lovely venue to reflect upon life and memories, hopes and dreams.  Tricia has been an inspiration to me through the years as I continue to rewrite my first novel, and I encourage her as she finishes her first novel.  As businesswomen, we are both venturing into a new world of fiction.

Tricia, however, has taken giant steps.  She launched a wonderful ezine called Faith, Hope and Fiction. Reflective of her generous spirit, Tricia mentors writers who would like to be published on this website.  I encourage you to take a moment to read the uplifting stories to fill your hearts with joy during this holiday season.  Perhaps you can find a cozy spot and sip some hot tea while you are inspired.

What are your favorite gathering places with friends and family?

Friday, December 3, 2010

My Brother’s Death

My brother Randy just died. He was only 53 and had a heart attack on his back porch while feeding his cat. He loved animals. 

I head to Alabama today for his funeral. What a juxtaposition of life that in the past two weeks, I have attended a wedding (my niece’s) and a funeral (my brother, Randy).
My grief is really raw right now as the initial shock wears off and the reality of finality seeps through the crevices of my consciousness. I cannot sleep. As a Christian, I know that death is only the beginning of an eternal life with God, but as a sister - the pain of death is intense tonight. I mourn the loss of our shared childhood. I mourn the loss of his presence in my life.  I just plain mourn. 

“Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.”  Matthew 5:4
Tonight during this really difficult moment, I feel God’s hug from heaven in my heart. I know that He will provide the strength I need to bury my brother, Randy on Saturday. I know that God will provide a peace in my heart as I mourn this beloved sibling. I know that my brother, Randy will spend his first Christmas in Heaven rejoicing with my parents. But in the meantime, I will miss him as I mourn.

Are you mourning? Do you need some extra prayer?  Please let me know.  You are not alone.  God loves you and He is there for you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cheerleaders Help Feed the World

Before Thanksgiving, I had the pleasure of going to Aurora, Illinois to help the Barrington High School cheerleaders prepare and pack powdered vegetable mix at one of the Feed My Starving Children facilities. My daughter, Katie is on the Junior Varsity squad, and the coaches needed an extra mom to drive.  What an experience!  Feed My Starving Children really provides a hands-on opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of children around the world.  Each day over 18,000 children die from starvation! A bag of FMSC vegetable mix that costs only 19 cents will serve a child nutritious meals for six days.   As you can see from this “Flip Clip”, the girls had a great time with this project.

Coach Meehan (Varsity) and Coach Milne (JV) were thrilled that the cheerleaders put so much enthusiastic effort into such a worthwhile endeavor.  Listen to their comments about the importance of  volunteer work. They both have a heart for charity. 

Learn how you can make a difference in the world, too. Plan a party or celebration and bring along some friends to Feed My Starving Children.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You, too, Can Make It Better!

This week I enjoyed a delightful lunch with Susan Noyes, the founder of – an online community catering to women as well as a magazine for the suburbs of Chicago. With the purchase of North Shore Magazine’s assets, has further broadened its leading presence in the Chicago suburbs.  The premise of the name is derived from Susan’s philosophy that women can make things better – especially when we work together. From the school rooms to the board rooms, women have unique gifts and talents to truly make a difference. 

I especially appreciate Susan’s heart for charity.  Through, Susan has raised over a half million dollars for charities! The online magazine promotes auctions and donates $5 to a charity for each new subscription. And here’s the best part. The subscription is free, and the subscriber gets to choose from a list of charities where she would like for that money to go.  And you get free access to some great articles and ideas about a broad variety of topics.

It’s worth “clicking” into.  And here’s my quick Flip Clip with Susan and the Laura, the Editor in Chief of

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The “Turkey Necks” of Life

I hope you shared a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends and counted your blessings with the five kernels of corn.  My oldest brother and youngest niece drove from the Deep South to join my family for this traditional gathering. My homemade pecan pie was a real hit, and my turkey turned out to be quite moist and delicious – despite the unexpected surprise while prepping the bird at my friend, Chrissie’s house.  You can enjoy the comedy in the kitchen ...

Yes, I was somehow the lucky one to pull out a turkey neck while washing the bird.  Typically the giblets and neck are neatly packaged in a tidy, white plastic bag.  I have decided to share my unscripted humiliation in the kitchen and view this moment as a unique lesson.  Each of us has our own “turkey neck” days, right? The messy moments of life aren’t always tucked neatly away in a disposable plastic bag.  Life can surprise us with something we don’t quite like the feel of or something we don’t know quite how to handle – like a turkey neck!  At first I had Chrissie deal with my problem as she so graciously finished pulling the turkey neck out and placed it in the sink for me.  But at the end of the video clip, I pick up that turkey neck on my own and throw it away.  I faced my fear of dealing with something that I didn’t expect.

What have some of your “turkey neck” moments of life been?  Would you mind sharing them with me?

My brother, Claude brings the turkey to the kitchen counter to carve.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Share Your Blessings (and WIN a book!)
Each Thanksgiving, my father would leave five kernels of corn by our plates. The backdrop for this family gathering was always a formal, Southern celebration held in the dining room with the Royal Copenhagen china and silver. The week before the festivities, I would sit in the kitchen and help my parents polish each silver fork, knife and spoon until they sparkled. My dad would whistle as he prepared the homemade cornbread in my grandmother’s cast iron griddle for the dressing while my mother baked the pecan pie and basted the turkey.
After each Thanksgiving dinner, my dad would tell us the story of the Pilgrims and how they faced starvation during that first winter. Each Pilgrim was allotted only five kernels of corn for a daily sustenance. As a very young girl, I confess that I enjoyed flicking these kernels of corn towards my brothers’ plates. But as I got older, I better understood the solemnity of this tradition. Each of us would take turns lifting the kernels by our plate and counting aloud five blessings – somehow these five kernels became three kernels as the years passed. Perhaps with two sons and a squirming daughter, my parents decided to shorten this tradition to keep our attention. However, this tangible act of giving thanks and counting our blessings was a lesson from childhood that I still remember.

Even today, this is special family tradition that I keep in an effort to remind my daughters to count their blessings, too. For simplicity sake, I use three “unpopped” popcorn kernels or frozen corn. I don’t always get around to polishing the silver, but I do try to make Thanksgiving dinner a time of remembrance and gratitude to God for all that He has done. Perhaps you can add this special touch of thanks at your table, too.  Let me know how it goes.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Win a coy of the Pearl Girls book - leave a comment and share your 'kernal' blessing here.

We'll give away three copies of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace. 

Contest ends 11/28.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Creative Chaos
Have you ever noticed that when you start an organization project or even a writing project that you create chaos?  As I was continuing to de-clutter my life last night, I seemed to create more of a mess with my attempt at organization.  But I didn’t get overwhelmed.  I persevered – separating the tangled cords of cellphones, cameras, and any other digital device into separate baskets, along with notebooks and papers and photographs.  The final result was accessible shelves.  A masterpiece.

As I rewrite my novel in an attempt to streamline the story, I am once again creating initial chaos.  But as I untangle the plot and better understand what motivates each character, I can then clean the clutter.  So when the reader opens the book, the shelves, or rather the pages will be accessible and easy to read.

What needs to be uncluttered in your home?  In your writing? What are you doing about it?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Charity Chat: Healthy Home 2010

When their precious daughter, Colette was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor and passed away, Nancy and Jim Chuda looked in vain for any clues to the cause of her condition.  Much to their surprise, they found that there was very little scientific research on the link between the growing incidence of childhood cancer and environmental toxins.  These grieving parents became a voice for the nation and the world by founding the non-profit, Healthy Child Healthy World to educate parents about important things to do to keep their family safe from environmental toxins.

The recent construction of Healthy Home 2010 by Dior Builders in Palatine, Illinois is a culmination of over 16 years of scientific research and the collaboration of experts in a variety of areas to build a “Healthy Home” as a tangible means of educating the public about keeping families safe from environmental toxins. We spend at least 90% of our lives inside a home or building, so the quality of the environment can be essential to our good health.

This week Beth Engelman (aka Mommy on a Shoestring) and I had the opportunity to tour the stunning designer showcase, Healthy Home 2010.  Victoria DiIorio shared some insight into this wonderful project built by Dior Builders along with Cambria, Kohler, Holiday Kitchens, Susan Fredman Design Group, Greenguard and many other fine partners. 

Beth and I learned about the five steps to have a healthy home:
•    Avoid Pesticide;
•    Use Non-Toxic Products;
•    Clean up Indoor Air;
•    Eat Healthy;
•    Be Wise with Plastics

The first step is essential and easy to apply.  Take off your shoes before you enter your home and track in pesticides and other potential environmental hazards. Beth and I wore “slippers” to tour the Healthy Home 2010. For additional details on these steps, please go here.

How fascinating to learn about the intricate process of building and sustaining a “healthy home.” Much of the insulation was made from cotton and denim, including some recycled jeans! Almost all products were sourced locally. Chef George Economos from Whole Foods in Palatine discussed the importance of the kitchen in a healthy home and shared a great recipe for Classic Butternut Squash Soup. Here is my video interview with him 

In addition, I spoke with Penny Bonda, the Green Guru of America, about how her book and how she helped advise on ensuring that the interior decorating of Healthy Home 2010 is also environmentally safe.  Please enjoy that interview here:

You can purchase admission online to tour Healthy Home 2010.  All proceeds from the admission price go in full to Healthy Child Healthy World and to a local charity, Infant Welfare Society.  Tours are open to the public until November 21st.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Inside Guideposts Books

I just discovered wonderful blog posts by editors of Guideposts Books. Inside Guideposts Books provides a great insight into not only what books they are working on but also why they connected with certain stories. The website also provides video trailers with author interviews. It’s a great place to visit.

Beth Adams, a Senior Editor at Guideposts Books and I spoke on the phone today. We met years ago at ICRS in Denver. I asked her about Guideposts’ recent acquisition of Ellie Claire Gifts and its subsidiary Summerside Press.

Beth admires the success of Ellie Claire and Summerside Press and is thrilled to be working on the same team. She said with a chuckle, “For years I’ve been jealous of them and now I don’t have to be jealous anymore.”
Also on the Guideposts site, you can download for free the ebook Positive Thinking 2010: Rediscover The Power of Positive Thinking

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mise en Place

(Ranger Mike Designs)
I love the phrase “mise en place” – a culinary term, yet also a life lesson: “Everything in place.” Technically it means that before you prepare a dish, you have all the ingredients, bowls, and appliances you will need in one space.

As I conquer adult AD/HD, that culinary phrase takes on a whole new meaning.  I plan to apply “mise en place” on a daily basis – starting with my kitchen.  Last night was productive.  I tackled an extremely cluttered pantry that had cans of soup which had expired in 2008!  How empowering to clear that mess and put everything in order.  I can now open the pantry and see what items need to be replenished.

I have begun the process of preparing for my Thanksgiving Dinner.

Here’s what’s on my menu, what’s on yours?
  • Appetizer:  Baked brie with apricots
  • Entrée:  Turkey, homemade cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole,
  • Dessert: Traditional Southern Pecan Pie 

Do you have any special tips for “mise en place” for your meal preparation?

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Cluttered Life


Last week I was officially diagnosed with something that I had suspected for awhile:  Adult AD/HD – not the hyperactivity type, but the “inattentive” type.  As I discussed my childhood with the doctor, I realized that my whole life I have had to work extra hard to stay focused and organized. In debating whether or not to share this information, I decided that perhaps my candor and transparency might help someone else who is going through the frustration of trying to balance the challenges.

Just because someone has AD/HD does not mean that he/she is not intelligent or able to succeed.  I graduated Magna Cum Laude from college and earned a master’s degree in international business; I lived in Brazil and even worked my way up to become a vice president at a very large New York City bank.  In retrospect, I realize that I always had to work a bit harder to stay focused – As a student, I would constantly misplace notes and papers from class, and as an adult, I constantly misplace the keys and my children’s papers from school.  So right now, I would like to say a special “thank you” to all my friends from elementary school, high school, college and graduate school who shared their notes.  In addition, I would like to say a special “thank you “to other moms who have faxed over school papers and cheerleading forms I have lost.  Thank you for your patience, understanding and support.

As I approach the second half of my life (I will be 49 in March), I look forward to having more focus and a greater productivity – both personally and professionally.  I even plan to “declutter” my closets along with my characters.  Yes, as I rewrite my first novel yet again, I plan to simplify and streamline the story.   I will tackle head-on the clutter in my life that holds me back.  A friend of mine mentioned to me about how her friend filled up a glass jar with pieces of paper of things that needed to get done around the house.  Then, each weekend, her friend would pick a piece of paper from the jar and focus on that project.  Will you join me for this challenge, too?

What would you like to “declutter” in your life?  What projects would you write down on those pieces of paper to put in the jar?  What does your jar look like?  Are you going to decorate it? Where will you keep the jar? Please send pictures along with your progress.  Together we can leave behind a cluttered life.  

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cooking with the Bible

Friday's are a “pinch” of faith here on From Finance to Fiction!

Since mid-September, the women’s Bible study group at Lutheran Church of the Atonement has been reading the Bible from cover to cover in 90 days! The discipline of this Zondervan study is to read 12 pages a day. I confess that I am still a week behind in my reading, but I am determined to catch up.

Throughout the pages of The Old Testament, I have not only been amazed by God’s relationship with humankind, but also I have been intrigued by the types of food mentioned in the Bible.  How delighted I was when I found this wonderful website and book called Cooking With The Bible. The recipes come along with the Bible reference and story.

Here’s the recipe from Cooking with The Bible for Raisin Cakes – the dish Abigail made to appease David after her husband had insulted him.

Raisin Cake
•    1 ½ cups raisins
•    2 cups water
•    1 cup white granulated sugar
•    1 tsp. Balsamic vinegar
•    ¾ cup butter
•    3 eggs
•    2 tsp. vanilla extract
•    1 ½ cups oatmeal
•    1 tsp. baking soda
•    ½ tsp. salt
•    1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
•    2 tsp. ground cinnamon
•    1 ½ tsp. ground allspice
•    1 tsp. ground nutmeg
•    2 tsp. baking powder
•    ½ cup chopped walnuts
•    whipped cream or vanilla butter cream
•    frosting

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 10″ tube pan or a 10″ square pan.

In a large pot, boil the raisins in enough water to cover (about 2 cups). Add the sugar and vinegar and stir. Set aside and let cool for about 10–12 minutes. To the same pot, add the butter, eggs, vanilla, and all the remaining dry ingredients. Mix well, then pour batter into pan. Bake for 35–45 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream or a vanilla butter cream frosting.

Yield: 8–12 servings

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Charity Chat

Charity Chat

If you live in the Chicago area, please take the time to visit the Healthy Home 2010 in Palatine presented by Healthy Child Healthy World.  

This beautiful designer showcase built by the distinguished Dior Builders in collaboration with design industry leaders and indoor air quality experts sets a new benchmark for stylish green living with a focus on healthier indoor air quality.   And here’s another great reason to visit the showcase:  The $20 admission ticket will benefit Infant Welfare Society of Chicago, the local charity partner for Healthy Home 2010.

In 2011, the Infant Welfare Society will celebrate 100 years of delivering critical health care and wellness services to infants, women and children.  Last year Infant Welfare Society served more than 12,000 patients.  For more information or to support Infant Welfare Society, please visit

On a personal note, I was a chapter president of Infant Welfare Society many years ago.  It’s a great organization, and Dior Builders is a wonderful company.  So enjoy a breath of fresh air as you support a great charity by visiting Healthy Home 2010 from November 6 – November 21st.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Flip Clips: Linda Evans Shepherd

In this recent interview we learn all about Linda's Potlock Club series and the great recipes found in those books!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Grab Your Cape!

Waiting for Superman has made us all realize that change needs to happen within our educational system.  However, this paradigm shift in education will take time.  So what can be done immediately while a longer term plan is put into place?  The answer: Grab your cape and become a superhero! 

Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama during the late 1960s and 1970s, I learned the importance of education.  My mother was an English teacher at a local high school, and my father was then Dean of the Music School at Samford University.  My mother always taught me that “Education levels the playing field.”  That is why she would take an hour each week to sit down at the kitchen table with Flora, our African American cleaning lady, and teach her how to read and write.  Years later when Flora died from cancer, her sisters told my mother that a highlight of Flora’s life was learning how to read and write during those hours spent at the kitchen table with my mother.  Flora no longer had to sign her name with an “x” and she could read what she was signing. Even in her seventies, my mother still volunteered at local high schools and tutored at-risk students. She also designed remedial English programs to help struggling students understand the basic concepts of grammar.
My father also “grabbed a cape.”  He invested in the lives of students by setting aside and raising “seed money” to help educate students that otherwise couldn’t afford that opportunity.  In 1985, my parents flew to Rio de Janeiro to spend Christmas with me.  At that time I was earning a Master’s Degree in International Business at The University of South Caroline and was assigned to work at an international company in Rio as an intern.  My father was president of Palm Beach Atlantic University (then college).  During brunch, my father started a conversation with Edson who was waiting tables.   Edson had grown up in a favela, or rather one of the shanty towns made of cardboard houses on the hills of Rio.  A few days later, my dad offered Edson a full scholarship to Palm Beach Atlantic University.   However, my father told Edson that he must pay his own way to get to Florida.  My father knew the importance of a student personally investing in his/her own future to ensure commitment.  After a few years, Edson raised enough money to get to Florida and not only attended undergraduate school at PBAU but also earned an MBA there. After a successful career, Edson returned to Rio where he now helps educate children living in the favelas.  Education truly levels the playing field and empowers children with hope for a future. Learn more about that here.
What can an individual do right now?  Volunteer!  Check in with your local schools and offer your expertise.  Turn education into an action verb.  Grab your superhero cape!  Make a difference. In the process, you will change the nation one student at a time. 

Please share how you have “grabbed a cape” to make a difference.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Flip Clips: Exotic foods with Robin Jones Gunn!

During my agent's author retreat last week, I was able to catch Robin for a quick interview! Such fun!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bread Crumbs of Grace

On Saturday evening, I went to my very first Steven Curtis Chapman concert at Harvest Bible Church in Elgin.  It was a night that I will always remember. Not only did Steven Curtis Chapman sing, but it was also a  family event. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Steven sang Cinderella and Heaven is the Face of a Little Girl.

The unforgettable moment of the evening was listening to Mary Beth Chapman share her heartache after the loss of their five year old daughter, Maria.  With candor and raw emotion, she spoke about her “freefall of faith” and how “bread crumbs of grace” helped her find her way through the darkness. I cannot imagine the deep abyss that must swallow one’s life after the loss of a child.  My heart weeps with mothers and fathers who have experienced that despair. Mary Beth Chapman’s book Choosing to See captures the journey of struggle and hope that she and her family experienced firsthand after Maria’s death. I couldn’t put that book down, and a lot of laundry went unwashed this weekend because of that. I highly recommend that you read this book, especially if you are going through a difficult time right now.

Read the rest of the post at the Pearl Girls blog.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Kitchen Chat Relaunch!

I'm whipping up something new in the kitchen over at Kitchen Chat! The show will be on a brief hiatus until February while my 'kitchen' gets a new location and a remodel. Excuse our mess during construction. :)  If you are looking for one of the podcasts or a recipe - those will be returning shortly as we get everything transferred over to the new location. Stay tuned for the new location and updated information.

In the meantime - enjoy a few of the past Kitchen Chat recipes:

Andy Andrews: Andy’s Smoked Fish Surprise.

Smoked Fish Salad
Start with your favorite white flesh fish. Squeeze lemon juice over fish, sprinkle with black pepper and brown sugar. Smoke fish on hickory wood on Low heat approx 200 – 250 degrees until done. Cool fish then crumble by hand

Mix mayonnaise, sweet pickle relish into crumbled fish to desired consistency
Mix with a big fork for best results.
Salt to taste
Serve on Sociable Crackers

Suzanne Woods Fisher: Whoopie Pies

4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup shortening
1 cup cocoa
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup thick sour milk
1 cup hot water

Cream together sugar, salt, shortening, vanilla and eggs. Sift together flour, soda and cocoa. Add this to the first mixture alternately with water and sour milk. Add slightly more flour if milk is not thick. Drop by teaspoons. Bake in hot oven at 350 until done.

Once cool fill with whip cream or your favorite frosting or filling.

Dallas Jenkins: Foolproof Steak

Pour some garlic salt and Lowry's seasoning on one side of the steak while you're heating up your frying pan, which should have been lightly coated with some olive oil, at very high heat. Once it's very hot, put the steak on, seasoned side down. Give it a minute or two, then pour the same seasonings on the exposed side before turning it over. Give it another minute or two--this sears both sides, which will trap the juices in. Then cook on low heat, turning the meat over every few minutes, until you have it where you want it.


Serves 4

3 tbsp butter, divided

4 chicken breast halves

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 lb wild mushrooms such as shiitakes, chanterelles or cremini, sliced

Juice from ½ lemon

2 tbsp chopped shallots

¾  c Madeira wine

¾ c heavy cream

¾  c shredded Gruyere cheese

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat 2 tbsp butter in a large skillet.  When butter has melted and stopped foaming, add the chicken and sauté 5-6 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Transfer to a 7” x 11” baking dish.  Add a bit of wine to the skillet and scrape up any carmelized juices on the bottom of the pan. Add the liquid to the baking dish.  Brush the mushrooms to remove any dirt, slice (remove stems if using shiitakes), and toss with lemon juice.  Add the butter to the skillet, stir in the shallots and sauté on medium heat for 2-3 minutes until softened.  Add the mushrooms, increase to medium-high heat and sauté about 5 minutes until they begin to brown.  Pour in the remaining wine and add the cream.  Continue to cook 3-4 minutes, stirring often until the sauce reduces and thickens slightly. Mix in ½ c of the cheese and stir until melted.  Pour the sauce over the chicken in the baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese on the top.  Sprinkle lightly with chopped fresh thyme if desired.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until chicken has cooked through and sauce is bubbly.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

TOMORROW on Kitchen Chat: Editors Beth Adams and Ginger Kolbaba

Welcome to this week's Kitchen Chat - Be sure to tune in on Friday at 11:00AM Central! To listen, follow the link and click on the player in the upper right hand corner.

I'm thrilled about our guests this week - two amazing women who are both editors and authors. Best of both worlds I'd say! The first half hour we'll hear from Beth Adams who is an Editor with Guideposts. The second half of the show will feature Ginger Kolbaba, who is an editor for All you aspiring authors (myself included!) have your questions ready. Call into the show (1-877-864-4869), tweet them (@mcsweeney) or leave them on the segment post.

About Beth: Beth Adams is a senior editor at Guideposts Books. She works on primarily on inspirational fiction. She hails from California, and lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

About Ginger: Ginger Kolbaba is editor and manager of discipleship and women’s resources, including the newly launched, and Marriage, an award-winning publication and website of Christianity Today International, both with more than 2.5 million unique visitors annually. She is also a freelance book editor for several major publishing houses and a former editor of the award-winning publication Today’s Christian Woman.

Also an accomplished author, Ginger has written more than 300 articles and has written or contributed to more than 16 books, including the best-seller Refined by Fire, which received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly and was nominated for a Gold Medallion award. Her most recent novel series, Secrets from Lulu’s Café, includes Desperate Pastors’ Wives, A Matter of Wife and Death, and Katt’s in the Cradle.

Ginger also teaches and speaks across the country. She’s been quoted in Newsweek and the Chicago Sun-Times and has appeared on national venues such as CNN’s Nancy Grace and Court TV’s Catherine Crier Live, as well as Chicago’s top rated talk radio station WLS, Family Life Radio, and Moody Radio’s Midday Connection.

She is a graduate of Anderson University (Anderson, Indiana), and worked as a professional actress and singer before making the transition to more sane and solitary roles behind a computer.

When she isn’t chained to her computer, Ginger enjoys spending time with her husband motorcycling through the countryside, visiting Yellowstone National Park, walking her Doberman, reading good books, and talking theory with her friends about the television series Lost. She believes one of her greatest accomplishments would be dusting off her piano and treadmill and using them both—at least once this year.

Visit her at

About Ginger's latest book: Four pastors' wives. All desperate for something.

Is it possible that their desperation will lead to hope?

Mimi, Lisa, Jennifer, and Felicia all live in the fishbowl of Red River, Ohio. Everyone expects something from them. Gourmet casseroles. Perfect husbands. Well-behaved children. They expect even more of themselves.

The constant demands and always-ringing phones are enough to drive any sane woman crazy. Add to all that the condescending Katherine Fleming Katt -- self-promoting pastor's wife of the town's largest church -- who loves to flaunt her superior position. In the midst of such chaos, will each woman find the one thing she longs for?

When the unflappable Kitty Katt starts showing up at odd places, the four friends get suspicious. Is Kitty hiding something? What secrets lie behind her "perfect" exterior? But even more significant than unraveling Kitty Katt's secrets is finding answers for themselves.

Win an on-line membership to and a copy of Desperate Pastors' Wives, the first novel in the Lulu's Cafe series. Leave a comment {HERE} and don't forget to include your email address.

Monday, August 9, 2010

For so long I have lived my life in fear...

My Lesson from a Horse Whisperer

On Kitchen Chat a few weeks ago I interviewed Dr. Lew Sterrett, an internationally acclaimed horse whisperer. Little did I know that this show would transform my life.  As someone who is afraid of horses, I did not miss the irony that I was interviewing a horse whisperer.  When I was ten years old and went to a church camp, I rode a tall horse for the very first time.  This horse trotted away.  The saddle was not completely tightened and it slid down the side of this large animal. I fell off. Like a heavy tumbleweed, I rolled through the dusty dirt among the gravelly rocks.

So what did Dr. Lew Sterrett say that changed my life perspective?  In the last segment of the show, I asked him to please help me get over my fear of horses.  He “whispered” me through my fear by saying that it wasn’t the horse’s fault.  The people that worked at the barn should have been more careful.  However, he said that my real fear wasn’t horses, but rather the fear of being out of control.  His words hit me straight in the heart.

During my whole life, I have had this need to be able to control my environment so nothing bad will happen to me or my family.  I even keep my dogs on a short leash, fearful that if they venture too far they will be attacked by the coyotes that live in the woods behind our house.  For so long I have lived my life in fear.  In essence, I am filtering my faith, i.e. limiting God.  Ouch!

So what does this have to do with writing my first novel?  Everything!  My theme throughout this book is “to let go and let grow.”  However, how can I authentically write about this if I myself haven’t been able to let go of my own fear?  While editing my manuscript, I realized how fearful and reserved my main character is.  She has to be in control.  Perhaps I have held back my characters from being who they really are, too.  I have kept their emotions reined in (please pardon the equestrian pun).

During these next few weeks before ACFW, I plan to rework the pages not only of my novel, but also of my life. Thanks for your prayers and encouragement along the way.

What fears keep you reined in?

Dr. Lew Sterrett’s insights into applying the principles and techniques of building trust with a horse are applicable to all relationships.  You can listen to my interview with this horse whisperer for free here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

This week on Kitchen Chat: Dr. Lew Sterrett

Welcome to this week's Kitchen Chat - Be sure to tune in on Friday at 11:00AM Central! To listen, follow the link and click on the player in the upper right hand corner.
Not just for horse lovers! Join me on Thursday as I interview Dr. Lew Sterrett - a fascinating man who has been a positive influence in the lives of many through his Miracle Mountain Ranch.
Distributed by Kregel Publications: A champion trainer and true horse LLFAHW_coverwhisperer, Dr. Lew Sterrett has used patience and a firm but gentle hand to earn the trust of more than 3,500 horses. In this book, Lew tells the stories of his work with these horses and the lessons each one has taught him.
Sometimes heartbreaking and often uplifting, Lew has condensed his lifetime of learning into messages for the Christian life. Today, Lew shares these messages with more than 50,000 people each year through horse training presentations at Miracle Mountain Ranch and nationally through his Sermon on the Mount Ministry.
The author's engaging style and adroit mixture of well-tested anecdotes and thoughtful instruction make this a winning read-and not just for horse lovers. Read an excerpt!

Lew Sterrett (Ph. D) had little idea that his boyhood interest in horses would open doors internationally for speaking and training. During his years in 4-H, he savored many opportunities to train and show horses and earn national recognition. As a student leader at Penn State University he benefited from many mentoring relationships from which he received valuable training, experience and honors. This foundation provided a basis for an extensive horse career with a unique emphasis on training youth and community leaders.

Lew has served as the Executive Director of Miracle Mountain Ranch Missions, Inc. (MMRM) since 1977. MMRM, located in northwestern Pennsylvania, is home for a summer youth camp, and a leadership training center for youth, adult, and family groups. He has also promoted safety in public riding programs, serving as President of the Certified Horse Association for 7 years. A licensed pastor, certified Youth, Marriage and Family Counselor, he earned his PhD from North Tennessee Seminary in 2007. For more about Lew and Miracle Mountain Ranch visit his website.
Win a copy of Lew's book by leaving a comment {HERE}. We'll randomly select one winner. The winner will be notified by email, please be sure to include your email address.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Friday on Kitchen Chat: Kristen Jane Anderson

I'm so excited to share my guest with you this week - she's an AMAZING woman who has radically reoriented her life to be a source of encouragement to those who have lost all hope. Kristen has shared her story on Oprah, the 700 Club, and all across the country. Her Reaching You Ministries is a vital outreach to those considering suicide. Don't miss this show!

About Kristin: Kristen Jane Anderson has been featured on Oprah and is a popular speaker at colleges, women's and youth events, churches, and suicide prevention outreaches. A graduate of Moody Bible Institute and the founder of Reaching You Ministries, Kristen seeks to help those who are hurting, hopeless, lost, suicidal and depressed.

About Life, In Spite of Me: Co-written with Tricia Goyer After her fatal choice… extraordinary hope.

Kristen Anderson thought she had the picture perfect life until strokes of gray dimmed her outlook on life. Once a happy child, Kristen’s world darkened after three friends and her grandmother died within two years. Still reeling from these losses, she was raped by a friend she thought she could trust. She soon spiraled into a depression that didn't seem to have a bottom.

One January night, the seventeen-year-old made a decision: She no longer wanted to deal with the emotional pain that smothered her. She lay down on a set of cold railroad tracks and waited—for a freight train to send her to heaven…and peace.

Amazingly, Kristen survived her suicide attempt… but the 33 freight cars that ran over her severed her legs. Now she not only had to deal with depression; she also had to face the physical pain and life without legs.

But Kristen's story didn't end there. After her darkest days Kristen discovered a real purpose for living. Now, in her compelling book Life, In Spite of Me, Kristen shares her journey from despair to hope.

Includes letters from Kristen that share messages she wishes someone would have told her—when she was depressed and struggling with loss, shame from sexual abuse, and suicidal thoughts.

To win a copy of Kristin's book leave a comment {HERE} along with your email address. One name will be drawn at random to receive Life, In Spite of Me. The winner will be announced here and be notified via email.

About Reaching You Ministries: Depression and Suicide are an epidemic in our culture today.

These are the Sad Facts:

19 million American struggle with depression and two out of three people with depression never seek help.

More than 800,000 people attempt suicide every year in America and more than 32,000 of them die. That's 89 lives lost every day!

8 out of 10 teenagers think about suicide, 1 of those 8 tries. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for those aged 24-34.

Our Mission:

Our mission is to reach the hurting, the hopeless, the lost, the suicidal and the depressed with the life transforming hope and leadership offered to us in Christ.

Our History:

In 2003 Kristen Jane Anderson was asked to share the story of her transformation with the high school youth group in her church. More speaking requests soon followed. In response to the many reaching out to Kristen who were struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, Kristen started Reaching You Ministries in December of 2004. Quickly, Reaching You grew beyond Kristen's wildest dreams. God opened doors for us to reach and help thousands with the love, hope, healing, and leadership of Christ through Kristen's story. With the publication of her book “Life, In Spite Of Me” in May of 2010, Kristen is praying that Reaching You's impact will be bigger than ever before, that lives would be saved, and that God's goodness would be made known to many. Find out more at

Friday, July 16, 2010

Robin Jones Gunn interview rescheduled

Just a quick note to let you know that Robin's interview is being rescheduled. The server is down at Toginet and they are not broadcasting today.

Thanks for understanding and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This week on Kitchen Chat: Robin Jones Gunn

Don't miss Kitchen Chat this week - beloved author Robin Jones Gunn will be on the show sharing about her latest book and the writing life. Robin is also a Pearl Girl, don't miss her essay in Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace. Robin is such an encourager, she has been such a gift to me on my writing journey.

Robin Jones Gunn is a best-selling, Award Winning Author, and International Speaker
Over the past two decades Robin has written 70 books including the popular Christy Miller Series for teens and the Sisterchicks® Series for women. Combined sales of all her titles have reached over 4 million with translations in seven different languages. Robin has won numerous awards for her work including three Christy Awards for excellence in fiction and finalist for the Gold Medallion.

As a sought after speaker, Robin has appeared in public auditoriums from Helsinki to Hawaii and Brazil to Belfast. She serves on the Board for Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild and for Media Associates International. Married for over 34 years, Robin and her husband live near Portland, Oregon and have a married son and a grown daughter. For more about Robin and her books please visit,

Robin will be giving away a copy of her latest book, Under a Maui Moon. To enter to win, simply leave a comment {HERE}. We'll select one name at random to win. The winner will be notified via email so be sure to leave your email address too.

About Under a Maui Moon: Fans of the Sisterchicks® books will love this new destination novel written for midlife women.

Carissa doesn't know who she is anymore. She and her husband, Richard, are recent empty nesters; Richard is spending more and more time at work counseling his volatile clients and less time at home with his wife; his clients are starting to show up at the house at night causing Carissa to feel scared in her own home; and to top it all off, Carissa's boss informs her that she's been “let go.” She wonders where God is in all of this since He doesn't seem to be around to protect her—and she's already stopped trusting her husband.

In the midst of her world tilting off center, she's offered time at a hideaway on Maui. Hiding seems like the best way to respond to life's overload, and the thought of being alone sounds like just the right balm to soothe her wounded heart.

The languid Hawaiian sun, white beaches, and warm-hearted people bring respite, but meeting handsome Kai causes Carissa to toy with the idea of being romantically involved with him. Then, under a Maui moon, she looks to God for guidance and hope for the future. That's when she discovers His hand still is on her life, and that love is closer than she ever realized.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tomorrow on Kitchen Chat: Pat Williams, Robert Beeson, & Stephen Kendrick

Welcome to this week's Kitchen Chat - Be sure to tune in on Friday at 11:00AM Central! To listen, follow the link and click on the player in the upper right hand corner.
We've got an exciting lineup today! A few weeks ago I attended the International Christian Retail Show in St. Louis, Missouri where I had the privilege of interviewing several wonderful authors - three of which will are being featured today.

Pat Williams: Professional Sports Team, Orlando Magic Co-Founder --Pat Wiliams, senior vice president and cofounder of the Orlando Magic, author of The Leadership Wisdom of Solomon (Oct. 2010). Williams' book applies King Solomon’s ancient insights to the high-speed world in which we live. He is the best-selling author of more than 55 books, and a sought-after motivational speaker, and the senior vice president and cofounder of the Orlando Magic. Pat and his wife, Ruth, are parents to nineteen children. For more about Pat, visit his website:

About The Leadership Wisdom of Solomon: King Solomon transformed the tiny tribal nation of Israel into an economic and military superpower. His brilliance as an international financier made Israel the wealthiest nation of the ancient world. He led Israel into its Golden Age.

And he did it with integrity.

King Solomon left us twenty-eight profound leadership strategies—as valid today as when the proverbs were written. The same extraordinary wisdom that transformed Solomon's world can revolutionize every aspect of leadership for any CEO, manager, pastor, coach, military strategist, or government leader.

In The Leadership Wisdom of Solomon, Pat Williams, senior vice president of the NBA's Orlando Magic, applies Solomon's ancient insights to the high-speed world in which we live. The study sections promote discussion and prompt immediate action.
Robert Beeson: Robert Beeson grew up in South Africa a son of missionaries. He returned to the USA as a teen and lauched Christian record label Essential Records in Southern California in 1992. After selling the rock/alternative music label to Brentwood Music/Zomba Records (which eventually became Provident Label Group, a unit of SONY) a few years later, he relocated to Nashville where he served as the label president, developing artists as diverse as Jars of Clay, Third Day, Caedmon’s Call, Bebo Norman and FFH. Beeson was promoted to Sr. VP of A&R for Provident Label Group in 2003, where he oversaw the careers of Casting Crowns, Michael W. Smith and Leeland, among others. Though all was going exceptionally well, he eventually decided to step down and create a music/multimedia ministry geared specifically towards the tween marketplace - and in 2008, iShine was born. More about Robert here!

iShine is a faith-based entertainment company that develops products and properties specifically for the tween market. iShine impacts tweens through music (iShine Records), television (iShine KNECT), concerts (iShine Live tour), the web ( and additional resources for parents and tweens. Since 2008, iShine has taken it’s tour nationwide, launched 16 CD/DVD releases and they just completed production on season two of the Saturday morning TV series iShine KNECT, which reaches an estimated 1 million viewers each week on TBN. The iShine Records (Provident/Sony Distribution) roster includes singer/actor Luke Benward (How to Eat Fried Worms, Because of Winn-Dixie), The Rubyz, Mission Six, Kylie Jean, Paige Armstrong and Jasmine – winner of Radio Disney’s Next Big Thing! iShine has partnered with The Salvation Army, Make a Wish Foundation, American Heritage Girls, World Vision and more. For more information, visit

Learn more about Robert’s vision for the next generation by watching the short but powerful video “Am I Your Child?” here:

Stephen Kendrick: Stephen Kendrick is a senior associate pastor of preaching at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. He helped establish Sherwood Pictures in 2003 and has served as co-writer and producer for each of its films: Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof. Stephen has spoken about his work on ABC World News Tonight and CNN and in The Washington Post and American Profile magazine among others. Currently earning a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, he lives in Albany with his wife and three children.

About The Love Dare: In the movie FIREPROOF, a couple dares to rescue their choking marriage from the flames of divorce and temptation using The Love Dare book as a guide. Now you can take the experience of the film one step further with your own copy of The Love Dare book. This daily devotional steers you through the fiery challenge of developing a strong, committed marriage in a world that threatens to burn it to the ground.

The Love Dare personally leads you through daily devotionals, records your thoughts and experiences, and ends each day daring you to perform a simple act of love for your spouse. This 40-Day journey equips you to melt hardened, separated hearts into an enduring love that can withstand the flames of fear, pride and temptation. The Love Dare book will help you reinforce and enrich your marriage, earn back a love you thought was lost, and hear more about the One who not only designed unconditional, sacrificial love—He illustrated it.

In a world that attacks, devalues, and redefines relationships every day, learn how to rescue and protect your marriage from the firestorm.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Weight of Shadows.

The title intrigued me. The Weight of Shadows. A profound description of how the heaviness of one’s past can remain a burden in the present.

I met the author, Alison Strobel last year at ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. We sat at the same table, and I shared with her a copy of my compilation Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit Experiencing Grace. We talked about how the proceeds from my book goes to Wings to help fund a safe house in the Chicago suburbs. Alison then told me about Weight of Shadows and how it addresses the pain of domestic violence. Here is a poignant trailer about this compelling book:

As you turn the pages, you will immediately be drawn into the story and stay up late to read each word. This gripping novel explores how the choices we make—and the courage we find to forgive—can touch the lives of others forever.

Leave a comment on this blog post, and you will be entered to possibly win a copy of The Weight of Shadows. Also, on July 18th, Alison will choose one commenter from the blog tour to either receive either autographed copies of her first three books or a gift card to a favorite bookstore.

Visit her website: for more exciting details about her books and ebooks.

Have a great 4th of July!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Friday on Kitchen Chat: Jennifer Degler and Madeline Robison

Welcome to this week's Kitchen Chat - we're thrilled to be interviewing two fascinating people. Be sure to tune in on Friday at 11:00AM Central!

Don't miss this diverse show on Friday. Jennifer is the author of No More Christian Nice Girl and Madeline is the founder of Madeline Hymns and a child ambassador for World Vision.

About Jennifer: Jennifer Degler, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and life coach with degrees in clinical psychology and business administration. A frequent speaker at women's events and marriage retreats, Jennifer is known for her entertaining and engaging presentations that make audiences laugh while they learn. Her extensive background in theater and teaching, coupled with her quick wit and willingness to "get real" with audiences, make her a dynamic speaker. She also maintains a counseling practice in Lexington, Kentucky, seeing adults, children, and couples for psychotherapy. She has served as the Ethics Chair for the Kentucky Psychological Association and is also a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.

Jennifer is the founder of Creating Christian Change, a life coaching enterprise that works with clients across the United States helping them to create lives they love. She has been interviewed by Psychotherapy Finances, the Lexington Herald-Leader, and local NBC and CBS affiliates as an expert in life coaching and mental health issues. Jennifer and her husband, Jeff, live in Lexington, Kentucky, with their two teenage children. For more about Jennifer and her work, please visit her website:

About No More Christian Nice Girl: When passivity and false niceness don't bring the abundant life Jesus promised, some Christian women try even harder to hide behind a fragile façade of pleasant perfection. Paul Coughlin and Jennifer Degler give women the empowering message that they have options far beyond simply acting nice or being mean--if they will emulate the real Jesus Christ and face their fears of conflict, rejection, and criticism. Brimming with enlightening information, thought-provoking questionnaires, real-life stories, and biblically based teaching from both the male author of the pioneering No More Christian Nice Guy and a female clinical psychologist, this book will motivate women to allow God to transform them into authentic, powerful women of loving faith.

From the Back Cover

Be the Strong, Confident, and Caring Woman You Were Meant to Be Tired of doing all you can for others while your relationships remain stuck in neutral--or headed in reverse? Paul Coughlin and psychologist Jennifer Degler show how being nice can harm you and drain the life out of your relationships. They explore the keys to fulfillment at home, work, church, and even in the bedroom. You'll discover that emulating the real Jesus is the key to transforming from a Christian Nice Girl into an authentic, powerful woman of loving faith.

"What's wrong with being nice? Paul Coughlin and Jennifer Degler make a strong case that women need to be bold and assertive rather than people pleasers who try to do too much. I recommend this book to you." --Dr. Kevin Leman, Author of The Birth Order Book and Have a New Kid by Friday

"This refreshingly practical book is a must for any woman who yearns to move from the entanglements of being nice to the freedom of being real." --Georgia Shaffer, PA Licensed Psychologist, Certified Life Coach, and Author of Taking Out Your Emotional Trash

"As a Christian counselor, I see many women paying the high price of being too nice: depression, anxiety, stress-related physical ailments, as well as difficult and destructive relationship patterns. Finally there is a book I can recommend that gives women the reasons why nice isn't always good and the tools to help them stop." Leslie Vernick, Licensed Counselor, Speaker, and Author of The Emotionally Destructive Relationship and Lord, I Just Want to Be Happy.

About Madeline: Madeline Robison is a singer, writer, and public speaker. She is the founder and owner of Madeline Hymns Music, a 501(c)(3) whose mission is to use the power of hymns to minister to believers and to fund charitable, life-saving projects world-wide through established, respected Christian humanitarian organizations. She is also a wife and a stay-at-home mother of four who is actively involved in her church and community.For more about Madeline, please visit her website:

About her music project: Hymns are sung prayers, and they have gripped me and caught my attention since early childhood. From Christmas songs that remind us of the majesty and mystery and origin of the season to perennial favorites for children like “Jesus Loves Me,” many of the best-loved Christian songs are actually hymns. It brings me pleasure beyond words that this CD will be placing into the ears of its listeners the beauty, praise, and vulnerability of these hymns … AND that with the sale of each CD, we will be funding clean water wells in Africa (as we partner with World Vision) and the freeing of young girls from brothels in India (as we partner with International Justice Mission).


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