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Sunday, September 4, 2011

President at Our House

I was sitting in a Primary Sharing Time one Sunday when I saw very clearly what I should do if I were Primary president. I furrowed my brow, a little worried. My thoughts didn’t usually run that direction. Indeed I can say they ran away from that direction as much as possible. Perhaps it was the Spirit telling me I would be president. I sighed in relief as I thought about it. Though our sweet Primary president was moving, I knew I was safe. First off, I have to be the least reverent teacher in Primary. Second, my husband was already Elder’s Quorum president. I’ve been in Primary for nearly seventeen years and have held all the callings except for three; One of those being Primary president.

When the Bishop called me into his office and said, “I’m sure the Spirit has already told you what this is about.” My mind sped through a tunnel of memories to that day in Sharing Time. Surely I would be a nursery leader or secretary… only I know what I saw. For a split second in that Sharing Time I saw a big view of what I should do. I leaned back, “Not Primary president?” I squeaked, trying to dissolve into the back of my chair.

He nodded, assuring me they’d put it off as long as they could but it was the answer they kept receiving. I argued that I wasn’t reverent enough to hold that calling and he kindly said, “Call reverent counselors.” That’s the beginning of the story and the end isn’t too long after it. I’d held the calling for a week when I woke at four in the morning and sat straight up in bed. I clearly saw how I was to organize everything for the next President. I needed to work like there was no tomorrow to be ready. Hmmm, what could I possibly do in the future to be booted out of my calling so soon? I shrugged. A revelation is a revelation. So I pushed up my sleeves and started organizing down to the tiniest details.

The mystery was solved a few weeks later when over the pulpit the new handbook was introduced and two presidents in one house became a solid no-no. I stood up as the sacrifice because, unlike my husband, Heavenly Father had already told me I was to prepare for the presidency change. Okay, let’s be honest here. We both jumped up and down, shoving the other out of the way, saying “Me! Me!” I just won, that’s all. He’s still got a few good years in him.

The new Primary president turned out to be wonderful and the change was made with little fanfare. Aside from being the quirky organization tech, why would I have a short calling like that for just a few months? To liberate women everywhere, that’s why. Ladies! We are living beneath our privileges. We all have a mountainous mansion of personal revelation to live in and we’re choosing to live in the garage. When I was president, Heavenly Father helped me see the problems that were coming. I’d have them dealt with before they arrived. I knew that no matter what, I couldn’t screw up this calling because it was His work. I had unwavering faith that my efforts were consecrated and He would amplify my natural talents and abilities. The key to my constant stream of revelation for my calling was unwavering faith. I knew that I was doing what Heavenly Father wanted me to do. I knew I was doing His work. I knew in my little corner I was building the kingdom. I knew I wasn’t all that great but Heavenly Father would make it work out anyway.

Today I want to talk to you about using the power of faith at home. When I was released I asked if the Bishopric counselor could set me apart to be a mother, wife, and homemaker. He laughed nervously, wondering if I was batty. Some of the power I had was because I was set apart to do my calling via priesthood power. However, the bulk of the power Heavenly Father shared with me was from faith.

The week before I was released we had a Primary function to plan and execute. I knew by then who the new president would be and I’d been working with her to get ready to hold the reigns. Everything just went screwy for that whole Great to be Eight presentation. I pulled her aside and asked, “Do you think, perhaps, that you have the mantle of the calling right now, and not me?” I asked because before that everything had gone my way, or rather HIS way. Everything was easy. The way was prepared before me. I needed only to stand ready to serve and he made the path smooth so long as I obeyed his will and the revelations he was giving me. Why, all of a sudden, was everything going so…I can’t say wrong, but it was downright average compared to earlier perfection?

I had lost faith in my position and my mission. For whatever short time I had left I was president. Through some sincere prayer and supplication it became clear to me that the power was in my faith. For the last few weeks of my calling I reminded myself often that He was there helping, guiding, and making the way smooth. I reminded myself that it was His business I was about and nothing could go too wrong. Through the last day, everything went fine.

Sisters, how much more important than a Sunday calling is our calling at home as mothers, wives, and homemakers? Are we not on the Lord’s errand as we change diapers? Are we not caring for His little ones and building His kingdom? How much confidence do we have in our callings at home? Do we trust that our work is divine? Do we acknowledge a loving Heavenly Father who wants us to succeed in building His Kingdom and will therefore assist us and amplify our natural talents and sincere efforts in the HOME?

Do we fret about our problems after we pray or do we trust that He will help us where we need it as we stand ready to serve? In my office hangs a sign, “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength.” Do we worry that we are inadequate in our duties? Do we beat ourselves up because we cannot reach our ideals in our service to family and home? If you do, I will tell you plainly, you have forgotten your God. You have forgotten that it isn’t about you at all. You are on His errand. You are His angel. It is not by our own abilities that success in the home will be achieved. This calling is too large for that. We must let Him make us more than we can be when we lean to our own understanding. He will let us see His vision for our families and homes and He will help us bring that vision to fruition.

With confidence plant your feet firmly as a divine daughter of God. Know that you are about His business. Know that He will amplify your talents and efforts for the sake of His children, for the sake of His kingdom. That confidence is faith. That faith will pull down the power of heaven to assist you in the great work you do within the walls of your homes. His work. Stay close to Him and He will not let you fail on His errand.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Plucking Away at Eternity

Years ago my husband and I mastered companionship prayer and scripture study but our children were getting to that age where we could no longer ignore the commandment to have Family prayer and scripture study.  How did you do that with shorties when only a few could read?  Prayer wasn't too hard.  You did that with one eye open so you could grab them by the ankle when they crawled away, diaper rustling and giggles gurgling. 

But what about that scripture thing? After the children faked death from boredom as we read our regular amount of verses to them I wondered, how did people do this?  Needing an example, I pulled out the handy dandy ward directory and set to work picking brains of families who had children similar in age to ours.  If you don't have an example, go find one.  The more I studied and interviewed the sisters in my ward the more frustrated I became.  Nobody used the exact same method.  Some did it one way, some another.  I decided it was like a recipe.  You just have to make it.  Go through all that work.  Use all those ingredients to see if you like it. 

Some families only read from the Book of Mormon Stories with illustrations. Some read through an entire  Book of Mormon chapter every night.  Some listened to one parent read.  Some did only a few verses each.  Some taught a lesson with each chapter and only read key scriptures. Most of the families didn't have scripture study together at all.  All I had to do was try something and I'd be ahead of the curve.  Whoo-Hoo!... Not that we're racing or anything, but it was kind of a rush.

I won't illustrate all of our failures but I will say we had to fail.  Failing was an essential part of our scripture study success.  We had to see what didn't work to find what would.  And what works changes over the years.  My first discovery was that for little kids the Book of Mormon Stories pictures were good.  The children didn't have the attention span for the words.  I would have the children talk about the pictures and notice details. I'd tell them stories with my eye's wide and animated.  As time went on and attention spans grew I would read the captions under the pictures and have them choose their favorite part of the story.  We would look up those verses and I'd read them so the children could hear them in scripture form.  That evolved into the children reading the captions themselves when they could. 

Now we read the actual scriptures.  We purchased several missionary copies of the Book of Mormon.  We use Post-it notes to mark the verse we're on each night so everyone starts in the right place the next day.  Everyone reads three verses because that's the attention span capacity of the smallest child. We read in order of age. In the middle of study we've been known to set the scriptures down and talk about important concepts or ask "Do you understand what is happening here?"  We've even gotten out the Legos and built our own Nephite cities where armies are holding us captive but Lo!  Someone is lowering weapons over the wall.  Won't those stinky ol' Lamanites be surprised in the morning when we're in charge again?

So how do you do scriptures study with a family?  You just begin.  The only wrong way to do it is to never start.  I guarantee you if you can push through for two weeks the children won't let you forget after that.  We have a whole routine built around scriptures now.  Brush your teeth at 7:45, scriptures at 8:00, followed by prayer, then Dad reads a chapter from a novel the family is working on while I color with the shortest shortie.  It's not for everyone, but it's ours. It's unique and I know if I called around today I'd still discover every family has a right way just for them.

Elder Howard W. Hunter said, “Families are greatly blessed when wise fathers and mothers bring their children about them, read from the pages of the scriptural library together, and then discuss freely the beautiful stories and thoughts according to the understanding of all.” (Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 64)

Family prayer and scripture study blesses our home.  Is it post card perfect?  No.  Are we all great readers? No. But we can feel the Spirit here even on giggly nights (The nights where half of us are speaking in a Brittish accent and the other half are saying "A moron" instead of "Ammoron").  The children understand the stories and they're hearing our testimonies of how this story or that applies to our lives or things we know. 

It's a together time the children will always remember.  Some nights it's little ones on our laps and the sound of a clock ticking in the background.  Some nights we have to sit on the children, or between them.  On those nights I close my eyes a moment and picture myself in the Celestial Room with my grown child, nodding my head, thinking no matter the type of night, it was worth it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Parable of the New Shoes

I love claymation and I Love a good English accent. Years ago, before the Wallace and Gromit enterprise was as renowned as it is now, there was a special showing of one of their films in Salt Lake County. It was a perfect double date for that hottie I would end up marrying and the fellow who would come to be our best man. Because the movie wasn’t widely distributed in the United States we had the pleasure of driving into town to see it in an antiquated theater, complete with red velvet curtains and light bulb trimmed marquee.

We parked and walked down the wide sidewalks, joking and laughing in the late afternoon sun. I can’t explain what I was feeling as we walked toward the theater other than to say I felt normal. I didn’t feel special in the least, only happy to be with my companions. That is until we reached the threshold of the theater. I stepped through the doorway into the fine trimmed lobby and something left me. I didn’t make it three steps into the room before I stopped and looked around. It was as if I’d been clothed and I was now exposed.

With my brow knit in frustration I stepped back outside. I felt secure again, protected, and wrapped in comfort. Though I hadn’t noticed feeling that way before I entered the theater, I knew that somehow I had always felt that way. I bit my lip, staring at my husband who was waiting for me inside. I gingerly stepped over the threshold, feeling again exposed and alone. Testing to see if I was actually crazy I did a little dance back and forth across the threshold. My husband sighed heavily and closed his eyes, patiently extending his hand for me to come to him. I was embarrassing him. However, I learned what I wanted to know. On the outside of the threshold I felt comfort and security. On the inside of the threshold I felt exposed and vulnerable.

As we walked deeper into the theater I looked behind me at the light coming from the entrance. I knew what had left me when I stepped inside. The Holy Ghost was waiting out there for me. He wouldn’t come in. The message was clear. If I went in, I went in alone. I explained to my husband the Holy Ghost wouldn’t come in and asked what he thought was wrong, but he only shrugged, not experiencing what I was. I watched the movie, glancing around often, worried about what kind of a place I’d entered that He would not come into. I couldn’t see anything untoward and tried to focus on the toothy grinned characters.

The most frightening thing about the theater was using the ladies room. It was clean and nice but the dim hallway was long and I was alone. All alone. More alone than I had ever felt before. I was unprotected and exposed.

As we passed the ticket counter on our way out my husband stopped me and pointed to videos behind the counter. There for rent was an amazingly large collection of pornography. Mystery solved. As soon as I was on the other side of the threshold I felt the Holy Ghost with me again and I basked in the feeling of it, reveling in the security and warmth. Once we were alone in the car I expressed my amazement that I’d never noticed the Holy Ghost was with me until He was so obviously gone. I talked to my husband about my conversion and how strongly I felt the Holy Ghost when I was first coming to church. When had I stopped noticing the Holy Ghost? How could anyone stop noticing that sublime feeling?

There are moments in a dating relationship that mark a man as marriage material and here is one of those moments. He told me about his mission. At the beginning of his mission he was on fire with the Holy Ghost, feeling lifted and inspired at every turn. He was excited about the work he was doing and shone with the glow of that excitement. Sometime late in his mission that feeling ebbed for him and he became frustrated, remembering how constant the feeling had always been, he wondered if he was doing something wrong because it wasn’t there anymore.

His wise companion then shared with him the parable of the new shoe. I will be sharing this parable for the rest of my life. When you buy new shoes and wear them the first day, or even the first few days you are very aware of them. They aren’t worn in. The contours of the shoe are new to you. You step down and a message is sent to your brain that something’s different. For a few days you’re thinking of your feet when you walk. But in no time at all, the shoes feel right on your feet and you think of them only when you put them on in the morning and take them off at night.

Feeling the Holy Ghost is like that pair of shoes. When at first you feel Him with you, the feeling is marked as different than your ordinary awareness. At times His presence is stronger, particularly when we’re learning a new truth or in the presence of a great good. However, so long as we stay worthy He’s there silently beside us, completely unnoticed until we leave His side. For He will never leave us. It is always us who chose to leave Him. He will wait patiently for us on the other side of the thresholds of life, constant and true.

In hindsight I erred by entering the building. His companionship is more valuable than entertainment. The price of having Him not with me was too high. And in the end I own many, if not all, of the Wallace and Gromit claymations anyway. We watch them in our home and I feel comfortable, warm and safe. I look around sometimes during the movies and smile, knowing the Holy Ghost, though unseen, is there with us. I wonder if He likes claymation as much as I do.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Last Waltz

"The Last Waltz"  by G.G. Vandagriff was a pleasant surprise. The book was recommended to me by a dear friend. Because I enjoy fluffy, fun stories most of the time, an uber thick (591 pages) historical romance made me bite my lip, doubting I’d take pleasure in it. My friend, however, loved it. I’m pretty sure her IQ is several notches above mine, and she probably paid attention in History class. I, however, did not.

I did love this book… but to explain why, you must first meet Mrs. Henry. Mrs. Henry used to live one street over from me. She had five children. She home-schooled her older children, and always had a baby on her hip. I admired her greatly. I sat at the opposite end of a couch in her living room, a pile of clean gym socks and underwear between us, her folding, me not daring to touch someone else’s undies. She’d educate me on motherhood as she matched socks. I placed a hand on my growing belly, the baby inside me kicking my palm. This was my second child. It gave me hope to see her happy and surviving with five. Surely I could handle a scant two. I leaned forward as best I could, so the whole house wouldn’t hear the sacrilegious question I’d come to ask her that day. “How do you love another baby?” Luckily she knew just what I was asking about.

I did not have a particularly happy childhood. I was sickly in high school. I was too serious in college. My first real dose of sustainable happiness came when I discovered the Savior. My second came when I married. He was mine, all mine, forever!! And how dear he was. I wore a sappy smile that first year we were married, before the baby came. But the baby… oh, there was nothing like the joy she brought. I still have days where I joyfully cackle like a haggard old witch because of the sheer ecstasy of motherhood. To toss a child in the air, spin with them in your arms, rub your cheek against theirs, watch them grow into adulthood. There is truly nothing like it.

I sat before Mrs. Henry, my heart full to bursting with joy of husband and child. How would there be room for another? How did I love someone less to fit one more? It seemed wicked and unfair to have another child when I had nothing left of my heart to give away. Mrs. Henry, wise old soul that she was in her pretty, young body, narrowed her gaze at me, thinking before she spoke. She reached over the pile of laundry, putting her hand on mine. With an understanding smile she explained, “Your heart is a muscle. It is a strong, strong muscle. And like other muscles, it can grow. I’m not saying that it won’t be a painful experience. When a muscle grows it tears and aches, but becomes larger nonetheless. There will be room. Your heart will always make room.”

And so it did. When they handed me my second daughter it was love at first sight. I had plenty of room. The ache came with two children in diapers, sleepless nights, and learning how to juggle both their needs when they were completely opposite in their wants. After many years I’ve learned that the kind of heart-growing love that hurts most is the temporary separation caused by death. It awakens the heart, increasing love with a rush of memories and longing. That rush stretches the heart muscle, maturing the soul, sweetening memories, and cementing the departed into a more permanent and larger place in the heart.

In “The Last Waltz” Amalia Faulhaber has a growing heart. The reader follows the delightful and painful growth of her capacity to love, until, as a mature woman, she governs her choices with her wizened loving heart.

I count this as three historical romance novels. It spans World War I to the beginnings of World War II. Amelia has three loves in this book, and she is faithful to all. Her first love for an idealistic young doctor is born of chemistry. I applaud that the author, G.G. Vandagriff, doesn’t put this love on a pedestal as the begin-all and end-all of love. Chemistry happens, but it isn’t love. Love is a choice. Love is a verb. Chemistry is a longing, a blush, a thrill that can fade with time. Though Amalia’s first chemistry encounter doesn’t fade with time, it is too weak to overcome the pride of youth.

Amalia’s second love is born of duty. Despite finding herself in a nearly loveless marriage, she stretches her heart until she understands her husband and his motivations. A love born of compassion becomes serviceable for a time as romance that sustains them until his death.

Amalia’s strongest love is a love born of choice. When she chooses to marry a man she respects, she backs up the choice with loyalty and dedication. This love defines her. This love creates her. This love is her strength. And though she is enticed repeatedly to abandon this love, she does not. When presented with the chemistry of her youth once more, the feeble flicker of it cannot hold temptation compared to her love of choice, and the life she has built around it. Now she has practiced duty. She has mastered commitment. Chemistry for her chosen love grows of its own accord, stronger because of dedication.

The Amalia that ends the book is different than the one that begins it. Watching the growth of this character was an absolute delight. G.G. Vandagriff masters character development as well as setting and historical significance. The settings themselves become characters as we watch a pristine 1913 Vienna lose its spiff and shine in days of war. The ideas become characters as we watch ideals become the clashes of history.

After setting the book down I felt to infuse my love with duty, loyalty, and dedication. Amalia’s struggles to become what she knows she must be, her own ideal, take the reader on a rare journey of growth and introspection about how a woman should handle love and how choosing it can cement the surest happiness into a growing heart.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hearts Through Time

In Marie Higgins’ ghost story, Hearts Through Time, beautiful Abigail Carlisle finally finds the man she’s been searching for all her death. She doesn’t want him for his looks, his flashy car, or his law degree. He’s just the right man, in the right building, with the right initials. Before she died her grandmother told her she’d find a solicitor with the initials N.M. who would help her.

Nick Marshal is renovating his career when he meets the ethereal Abigail, garbed in elegant 1912 attire, complete with an overly large, bow trimmed hat. In a way I wish this had been a period movie. I love to watch old movies that require hours of choreography so male actors can seamlessly dodge the
wide brimmed hats and feathers of elegant ladies.

It doesn’t take long for Nick to pass a hand through Abigail’s insubstantial body and figure out he’s either seeing a ghost, or having a nervous breakdown. As Nick thinks over the mystery of Abigail’s murder and begins taking actions to solve it, Abigail becomes more solid. He is able to touch her and, little by little, she takes form as they develop feelings for one another. Alas, fate finds them hopelessly entangled in syrupy, doe-eyed love only to thrust them into the past.

There, alive and kicking, Abigail can’t remember Nick, who's wearing an Armani suit that marks him as alien to the inhabitants of 1912 Sacramento. However, even time can’t prevent their love, and soon they’re rushing across rooms into each other’s arms again. But can Nick prevent Abigail’s impending murder? How will they ever be able to stay together?

Call me waxing poetic, but there is something in Nick’s reaching out to the unsolid vision before him that’s akin to us reaching for our own dreams and desires. When first our imaginations alight on a dream or desire, it is insubstantial, just like Abigail’s ghostly body. However, as we let our minds chew on those dreams to the point where we can’t help but take action towards attaining them, we find our dreams solidifying into reality before us.

Ten reasons I like this book:

1. Marie Higgins flushes out a sweet romance that’s squeaky clean, meaning she spares the reader the world of lusty, hormonal characters.

2. She does it twice because Abigail falls in love all over again in 1912.

3. Marie weaves a whodunnit that had me really wondering "who done it?" Predictable is not the word to describe this book.

4. Nick Marshal tosses the scantily clad, clacky stiletto heeled swimsuit model. Whoot!

5. Abigail dares to live her own dreams instead of her father’s.

6. Down and out in 1912 Sacramento, Nick picks himself up and gets a job.

7. Even though she’s sent the servants away for the day, Abigail can still cook.

8. Who wouldn’t love the cover of the book? Gorgeous!

9. Hearts Through Time entertained my thirteen year old daughter.

10. In Higgins’ 1912 Sacramento, attractive women pull up to attractive men in Armani suits and pat the passenger seat in invitation, just like they do today.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Love songs

Who doesn’t adore a love song? Maybe we all enjoy them in a different style, but the fact remains that someone is gushing out compliments to us through our stereo speakers. How can we resist? The truth of the matter is people who actually know us, possibly live with us, and can claim us as friend aren’t generally big on breaking into song when we enter a room. Sure they know all that is great about us. They know the heights of our talent, the scope of our potential. They’ve seen us at our best. They should be singing. Unfortunately those same people, the ones who know us best, have also seen us at our worst. Though we can impress them for a few scant moments, it will just become a dot on a timeline to them. And really if any Joe Schmo on the street cornered us and broke into ballads it wouldn’t mean as much.

No, in a world where we brush our teeth side by side, wash our make-up off, brush out our glorious hair-do’s, and climb into bed in our most cozy, garish pajamas it seems less likely as we age that anyone will burst out in song around us. In fact, we rarely look at the people we’re closest to. We don’t search for the best in them, but rather take them as they are… take them for granted as they are. My husband grew a mustache a few years ago. It was several days along before I blinked in conversation, leaned back with a creased brow, and asked, “Are you growing a mustache?”

It’s all tangled up in a concept called
mindfulness. Our minds are so busy mulling over the unimportant that we completely miss the moment we are in. We’re too busy in our heads to observe or appreciate. Do you remember childhood? Time clicked by slowly. It took forever after Valentines Day for Easter to arrive. Fast forward, and I mean fast, to now. We sit around the Christmas tree scratching our heads as we open presents thinking, Whoa it feels like last Christmas was just last week. Where did my year go? Our year was probably spent chewing gummy thoughts of worry, day dreaming, and anticipation.

Mindfulness is the skill of living in the moment. In fact, if living is a verb, the only way you can do it is to be present in a moment. We were better at doing this when we were children. Some moments we felt too acutely, such as any that would inspire, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Much like gulping down your favorite dessert without running your tongue over it and savoring the bites, your life can pass by with little flavor. At some point we have to shock ourselves into a mindful state so we can see a world around us that will make us want to compose love songs. Just because nobody is singing to us, doesn’t mean there aren’t songs to be sung.

The trick is to look at the people around you and realize you’re only with them for a given time on earth before one or the other of you passes on to a different life. Each moment is temporary by nature. It’s with slight panic that I grab my youngest child each morning and swing her around in my arms saying, “Today is the very last day you’ll be this big.” Treasure up moments on purpose. Study the faces of the people you love. Pick up the phone and really listen to someone’s voice.

If you admire something about someone, sing your love song. If you’re not the breaking into song type, shell out a compliment. You don’t need to gush. In fact it can just be a smile; something that says, “You’re easy on the eyes,” or, “I’m not at all opposed to being in your vicinity.” What makes a moment wonderful and memorable are the eyes you’re seeing it with. I hope they’re smiling-love song eyes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Winning Mr. Wrong

I finally got my hands on Winning Mr. Wrong by Marie Higgins. I knew I had to read it the moment I saw the cover on My first thought was, Who cares what it's about? It's the cutest book cover I’ve ever seen, it must be owned and read!

Often you’ll find families that possess one common skill they excel in. Down the street from us there’s a family that oozes musical talent. Down the street from them, there’s another that has athletic prowess. Even further down the street there’s a family of high fashion. Our family of six…well, we’re good at maniacal laughter, even the kindergartener. When we’re thrilled about something, it isn’t rare to see one of us hunched over, brows pulled together, mischief glinting in our eyes, and a trilling, “Mwah ha ha ha,” filling the air as we rub our hands together. I'm sure I was in such a position when I opened the box containing Winning Mr. Wrong.

My children gathered around, hoping I’d ordered a game for the Wii. When I pulled out the book and clutched it to my breast they rolled their eyes and scattered. All the better for me! I only had a few spare minutes to begin reading before it was time to cook dinner. I can have a good book in my possession, ready to read…. Or I can cook dinner well. These are mutually exclusive situations. One or the other. At dinner I finished my Lemon Herbed Chicken Helper Whole Grain Pasta before everyone else. They stared dejectedly at the slimy lumps of starch on their plates. Being too polite to read at the table, I pushed my chair back just enough to satisfy decorum, and opened my book.

The sound of forks pushing food into piles on plates was punctuated by my delighted giggles. No longer was it just the thrill of owning the book with the darling cover. Now I was getting to know Charlene Randall. She is a delightful creature. I dare say she is the most vibrant and endearing main character I’ve ever read. One of the most satisfying things in this book is the feeling of uncontrived humor. So often you can feel an author trying to be funny. In this book, you don’t feel the author at all because the main character is so engaging.

Mr. Wrong could be one of two characters. Damien Giovianni, president of a company that creates hair and skin care products, inactive Latter Day Saint, Charlene’s neighbor, and woman magnet extraordinaire is candidate number one. He’s sensitive. He speaks that language usually known only to females, i.e. make-up, emotions, and style. He’s got better taste than the Queen of England. And if he’s enamored with you, he might even do your hair, bulging muscles straining against his shirt as he gets it just right. Though he would seem a perfect catch, Charlene is looking for a forever love and she’s seen him go through women like tissues in cold season. However, he makes a great best friend and advisor when she sets her sights on candidate number two.

Charlene’s old high school crush, Maxwell Harrington, reminds me of the Jeffry I had a crush on when I was nine. My grandmother sat me down on the couch one day, worried about my crazed fixation, and explained a principle that basically destroyed any hope I had of a normal crush for the rest of my life. These are words of wisdom that make you less jealous of Angelina Jolie, put high school popularity in perspective, and level the playing field of life in a way nothing else can. Grandma looked at me, merry blue eyes sparkling, love in her maternal smile, and said, “He sits on the toilet like everyone else.” Let me just give you a moment to picture someone you idolize, and let this sink in…… (Might I suggest a President, George Clooney - who would still look really good sitting on porcelain, or Taylor Swift).

Throughout the book I began to wonder if poor Max could survive Charlene’s crush. This is where my snorting laughter comes in. My husband would stir from wherever he was in the house and come to loom over my shoulder every half hour or so. “Is it really that funny?” I’d just nod and push him away as I cuddled further into the couch, biting my lip, completely lost in Charlene’s newest quandary.

I've read that laughter is alkalizing and can kill cancer. I think I’ll read this book every year just in case.
Winning Mr. Wrong is a fresh spin on romance. It is delightful seeing the world through Charlene Randall’s eyes. My daughter is reading it now and I’m magnetically drawn to the laughter. I stand over her shoulder, still giggling with delight when I think of the story line, and ask, “What part are you on?” I read over her shoulder for a while before I can pull myself away, glad that Charlene Randall and her antics can keep me laughing days later. Thank you Marie Higgins for boosting health at the Johnson house.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Heart of a Hero

There is nothing like a good book to rescue you from the hum drum of everyday living. It’s amazing to me that another person can literally daydream on paper and transport me to another place and time. I recently read Heart of a Heroby Marie Higgins.

It started innocently enough. I read a few pages in the morning, intrigued by the unexpected quirks of the characters. Soon we were on errand number three and I was reading at stoplights, kid number two on green light alert. This could only last for so many stop lights before annoying my green-light-alerter, who felt she had better things to do than watch traffic signals. I figure I was doing my duty, getting her acclimated to the world of driving and its many laws at the ripe, early age of eleven.

 Soon we were wrestling over the book, her figuring if the offending book were gone, the responsible mother would return. What I did not realize was the oldest child, my thirteen year old, who never in her life had expressed interest in Christian romance, was watching this exchange, calculating how interesting a book that would cause such contention must be. Yoink! Child number one plucked the book from both of us. I didn’t see it for a day and a half. I wrestled her at morning carpool, barely letting it slip through my fingers as she toted it into the school. I chased her over carpet in my electrifying fuzzy socks for it after dinner, delivering several successful shocks before she was able to hide away with it.

The problem was that feisty Summer Bennett and Deputy Marshal Jesse Slade had some refreshing banter going on, a whole lot of problems to untangle, and a twangy cadence I couldn’t get out of my head. It was torture being away from the book. To make matters worse the teenager would emerge from her hiding place from time to time to announce “This is sooooo good.” She was smiling ear to ear, trembling with giddiness as she held that carrot of information just out of reach. I sat on my bed folding laundry, listening to her laughter reverberate through the heat register. My room is just above hers. She’d squeal out to taunt me, “This is so exciting!” knowing I could hear her through the vents.

Finally, looking as though she’d just spent an afternoon pampered at a day spa, she danced into my room, collapsed on my bed, and let the book fall limply from her hand. “Where’s the next one?” she asked dreamily. I did what any deprived from the good book she was reading mother would do. I tugged her out the door, left her in a dreamy heap in the hall, and locked myself in my room.

At one in the morning, with ten pages left to read, my husband came home from working a late shift. I was unashamed of having done nothing for hours. The sink full of dishes and laundry on the bed were battle scars for having waited so long to get my book back. The true measure of a good book is how much housework goes undone when reading it. Unlike most Christian romance the last several pages of Heart of a Hero are as exciting as the first, and by now I was head over heals in love with the characters. My husband brushed his teeth and readied himself for bed. I read on greedily. He sat beside me, talking about his day. I had only pages left. Couldn’t he see I was reading? I was swept away to antiquated Richfield, Utah, wondering how Summer and Jesse were going to get out of this last scrape. Unable to bear the distraction, I turned to my husband, clamping a hand over his mouth. I then used my impressive coordination skills to hold the book with my other hand and turn pages with my face.

Moments later it was my turn to collapse back on the bed and let the book fall limply from my hand. I loved the unpredictable plot. The banter was priceless, making me smile and at times laugh out loud. I have a short attention span so the quick pace of adventure mingled with romance was just what the doctor ordered to kick me out of my hum drum week. By far my favorite thing about Heart of a Hero was how much my Wuthering Heights, pirate adventure, sword fighting addict of a daughter loved it. I’ve never seen her so alive about a book.

So cheers to those who daydream on paper and double cheers to Marie Higgins for doing it well!