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have a little faith

I was going to do this as a book review…but it’s so much more than that. READ THIS BOOK!!! have a little faith by Mitch Albom is absolutely wonderful; and so, so thought-provoking. I’ve never read anything by Albom before, but you can bet your sweet a$$ that I’ll be picking up his other books soon (like, Tuesdays with Morrie).  I LOVED his writing style!

First of all, I think I would have really liked the Rabbi (The Reb). And it doesn’t matter that he’s Jewish and I’m Methodist. That was his point – everyone needs something to believe in … who am I to judge if who (or what) they believe in is right or wrong? As The Reb states, I’m pretty sure that almost all religions have something somewhere along the lines of “Love thy neighbor” … it shouldn’t matter if that neighbor has a different religion than I do.

There were two spots in the book that made me sit up and take notice (and no, these shouldn’t be too much in the way of spoilers…)

The first is when The Reb says “It’s far more comforting to think God listened and said no, than to think nobody’s out there.” WOW. I’d never really thought about that before, but he’s spot on! I can’t even imagine not talking (in my head) to God at times…and who else can you ‘blame’ when bad things happen – like if a child passes away (which is the context of this quote)?

The second is actually a story about The Reb’s wife. From the book:

They truly were a team. From the pulpit, the Reb might zing her with, “Excuse me, young lady, could you tell us your name?” She would get him back by telling people, “I’ve had thirty wonderful years with my husband, and I’ll never forget the day we were married, November 3, 1944.”

“Wait . . .,” someone would say, doing the math, “that’s way more than thirty years ago.”

“Right,” she would say. “On Monday you get twenty great minutes, on Tuesday you get a great hour. You put it all together, you get thirty great years.”

I think that’s just wonderful … and a great reminder that life – including marriage – is not all sunshine and roses. Nor is it supposed to be! You need a little rain to achieve rainbows.

I really wish all religious leaders – or even all people! – could be as accepting as The Reb. We’d have Holiday parties that include all aspects rather than ones that strip so much away there’s no meaning left for anyone. We’d have no anger or awkwardness if someone happens to say “Merry Christmas” to a non-christian. They could perhaps simply say “Happy Hanuka” back if they’re Jewish, and both people could just smile and feel that warm, tingly feeling when you wish someone a happy day. (By the way, can someone tell me why it’s not right to say “God bless you” to a Jewish person?) And why is it “Our God, Your God” ?  …what if it’s all the same being – just called a different name by the different world-wide religions?  …in the US alone there are 4 or 5 different terms for a big sandwich (Sub, Grinder, Hero, etc.) …why is having a different name for your spiritual being so different than that? (Did I really just compare God to a sandwich?? Hm.) ANYWAY…I’m by no means a religious scholar, there could be many reasons why it’s way different. I’m just saying – what if it IS the same being (or beings in some cultures) and there’s all this discomfort for absolutely no reason.

Anyway. Read the book. I really, really enjoyed it. And it’s a very fast read!

I did not receive this book from anyone – it’s simply one I read for my book club.

Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Cross-posted on my My Opinion Matters blog.

I just finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Overall, I enjoyed the book. I have to say that it took about 50 – 100 pages to really get into it though. HOLY SLOW. Thank goodness at least 3 different strangers walked by me while  I was reading and asked how I liked it…and recommended that I keep reading because it is worth it. They were RIGHT!

I think the biggest problem for me is that the “wrapper story” (more on that in a bit) is not in my area of interest: Finances. And while the characters needed building and there needed to be the “wrapper story” for that…I didn’t care as much about that part of the book as the “real” story.

The other problem that I had is that it’s set in a foreign country (Sweden) with many places that I’d never heard of and had a hard time pronouncing (in my head). And yes, I’ve heard of Sweden! It also means that many of the names were Swedish, so I also had a hard time pronouncing those (in my head). Think: Harry Potter and when you realized that Hermione is pronounced Her-My-Oh-Nee (or even Her-My-Nee if said quickly) …except that I have no such realization here. LOL

What’s a wrapper story, you ask? Well, it’s the first and last part of the book that only has a little bit to do with the meat (and the middle) of the book. Sure, there are characters who play parts in both stories (otherwise, it’d be two books, right?), and the wrapper one is necessary to set up why the middle part happens…

The middle story totally sucked me in. I love a great mystery, and this one was wonderful. I’m usually fairly good at predicting story lines, and this one got me – a few times!

I enjoyed reading about the main characters (and I’m actually looking forward to the sequel!)

Toy Review and Giveaway!

Sorry, this giveaway is now CLOSED.

Yesterday, MyBlogSpark.com and Hasbro sent me 2 toys to review. (You can see Burke and Marjorie testing them out in yesterday’s post.)

The Elefun & Friends collection, which includes Elefun, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and Gator Golf, provides a great way for parents and their kids to enjoy silly, active playtime together.

We received SCATTERPILLAR SCRAMBLE and GIRAFFALAFF LIMBO. The kids started out with Scramble and then went to Limbo and then came back to Scramble. Both games are for kids 4 years old and up.

In SCATTERPILLAR SCRAMBLE kids do their best to balance marbles in the hands of one very wiggly caterpillar. Kids have fun dancing along to the music with Scatterpillar in this fast-paced marble game. The first player to securely place all 8 marbles in Scatterpillar’s hands wins. SCATTERPILLAR SCRAMBLE was named the 2009 Preschool Game of the Year by Creative Child Magazine.

Burke and Marjorie started out with this one…and quickly got frustrated because the Scatterpillar moves so much. However, they did come back to it when we talked about how it takes practice and that if they kept at it they’d be able to do the game in no time. I think part of their frustration was that the marbles would get away from them. Mike fixed this by putting the Scatterpillar in a box top – no more runaway marbles!

As the kids practiced, they actually got pretty good at it. They never really played the game, but they had fun putting marbles in Scatterpillar’s hands.

I liked this game because it teaches kid persistence and hand-eye coordination. It’s also fun to watch the Scatterpillar dance around.

GIRAFFALAFF LIMBO is the crazy new game of “how low can you go?” Spin the dial to try one of the 6 limbo styles: classic limbo, crab walk, crawl, giraffe walk, bend forward or backward. The game’s built-in sound will play an encouraging song as preschoolers try not to bump into Giraffalaff. If he’s knocked over, he´ll roll on the floor in laughter. The player who passes under Giraffalaff at the lowest level wins.

This one makes me laugh. Every time you knock the giraffe off the poles, he laughs…and it’s infectious. And I like that it gets the kids up off their butts and active! I don’t quite understand why the giraffe is up-side-down (apart from, you know, gravity), and it makes the limbo-er have to go very low, but it’s for kids, so I suppose that’s okay. (You won’t catch ME trying to go under that thing though!)

Burke and Marjorie had fun running around and ducking under the giraffe, but didn’t quite get the “spin and do the funny walk” part of the game. We’re working on that. They were really digging the music though – and doing well taking turns walking under.

Now for the Giveaway part.

Would you like your own Giraffalaff Limbo and Scatterpillar Scramble games to enjoy?

There are multiple ways to enter – you do not have to do all of them to be entered!

One entry each for the following comments left. Pick and choose the ones you want to do, but please leave a separate comment for each option – makes for easier random.org picking. 🙂

  • What is your favorite children’s toy? (And if you’d like to state why, I’m curious about that as well…but that won’t impact your entry 😉 )
  • What is your child’s favorite toy?\

You can also get more entries (1 each) if you:

  • Blog about this giveaway and link back to me (let me know with a comment please)
  • Tweet about this giveaway (please let me know with a direct link in your comment)

You have until Midnight on Monday, October 12th to enter. Random.org will choose the winner and I’ll post it on Tuesday the 13th.

But Wait! There’s More!

Once you’ve purchased (or won!)  an Elefun & Friends game, Kids can also experience the fantasy world of Elefun & Friends online by visiting www.elefunandfriends.com and entering the special code that can be found inside each Elefun & Friends game box. Once the code is entered, kids can access The Tangled Tale, an Elefun & Friends animated short. This entertaining tale features Elefun on an adventure to untangle a kite string, which ultimately leads him to the true meaning of friendship. The Elefun & Friends online experience also lets kids play games and sing along to songs like “Friends’ til the End” and “Follow that String” that help remind children of the importance of fun and play!

Coupon, Coupon, Coupon: visit http://bricks.coupons.com/bstart.asp?o=59048&c=EL&p=ERf0P5lm to download a printable coupon for $4 off any Elefun & Friends game! This valuable coupon offer is valid until December 31, but it´s only available for download through October 31.

Book Review: The Lost Symbol

Cross-posted on my new My Opinion Matters blog!

I just finished reading The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, so I figured I’d put a few thoughts together. And I’m going to try to do with without any spoilers…if I spoil it for you, I’m sorry!! (And let me know so I can reword it…)

I’m a fan of Mr. Brown – I’ve enjoyed all of his books; probably because I can set aside some things and realize that it’s a novel. I don’t take everything he writes as truth – even though I know that around the novel part are things that are absolutely true. I really enjoy the way he makes you think about things.

With The Lost Symbol, he does a lot of the same stuff…uses the Bible and the Masons to create a conspiracy theory-type story. And while I was entertained with this one, and enjoyed following Langdon on his newest adventure – it seemed like a lot of the same type of stuff. Codes to be broken (makes sense – that’s what Langdon does), bad guys to find and figure out, things the world isn’t ready to know yet…yadda, yadda, yadda.

And I was a little disappointed that I was able to figure out a major plot-line…all by myself! I mean, I was proud of myself for doing it…but still.

So… I’m happy I read it, and I love that there are so many facts and real places/technology/sciences that are new to me, but Mr. Brown needs to find a way to spice up an old recipe if he’s going to continue to write about Langdon (and I hope he does!).

Book Review – Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms

Cross-posted on my new My Opinion Matters blog!

I received Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Wendy Walker about a month and a half ago. And I had great intentions to read it from cover to cover right away…but a few things got in the way (you know, besides kids! heh)

The first thing was that I was actually embarrassed to read it in public. I mean…does this mean that I think *I’M* a power mom? Does it mean I want to strive to become one? (Yes, I know…the book was sent to me, I didn’t purchase it – but the people watching me read it don’t know that! …and yes, I’m always watched when I read. LOL!) No matter, I (mostly) got over myself and brought it out with me anyway.

The second thing is that the by-line is 101 Stories Celebrating the Power of Choice for Stay-at-Home and Work-from Home Moms. I had thought, “Sweet! I work from home…this should be right up my alley.” Ya. Not really.  At least, not at first. I had a really hard time getting into it because all of the first stories are about these SAHMs whose lives are all rainbows and flowers. “It’s the best decision I ever made!” yadda yadda yadda. Seriously? Not ONE of you thinks “OMG, get this kid AWAY from me??” It just didn’t seem real.

I ended up putting the book down for a while (mostly because I started reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. WOW!) …anyway…when I picked it back up, I figured I’d just skip around looking for stories I could relate to. (THIS is what I love about the Chicken Soup series! If you don’t relate to a story, skip it … you’ll soon find one you can get into.)

I found the work from home chapters and dug right in. YES! This is the stuff. There was one mom in particular who hit the nail on the head when she wrote about everyone envisioning that you’re playing with your kids all day when you work from home…and that it couldn’t be further from the truth. She also totally got the having to hide in your office stage when your kids are at the age when they are horrific if you show your face (and then you get dirty looks from your nanny).

As I read more though, I started to get an uneasy feeling again. And it didn’t hit me right away, but when it did, boy was it big. All of the stories that were written by non-corporate moms (writers and such) were telling their stories, but – at least to me – it felt like a big advertisement for their stuff! Don’t get me wrong – in the same position, I’d probably do the same thing. And I still enjoyed some of the stories…and might even check out some of the products/novels. But it still didn’t seem quite right.

Official Press Release

COS COB, Conn. Get up at 5:00 AM.  Make breakfast.  Get kids ready for school.  Drop off.  Check email.  Bake cupcakes for class party.  Plan PTA meeting.  Pick up kids.  Drive to soccer/ballet/Scouts.  Sound familiar? Every mom is a master juggler and a powerful multitasker – a “power mom” – and for her, life is a constant balancing act. These moms juggle the competing demands of children, husbands or single life, home maintenance, fitness, full or part-time work, pets, and volunteering, while struggling to maintain their own identities and carve out a little “me” time.  Wouldn’t it be nice to get some support from other power-moms-in-the-trenches?

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms (Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC, March 2009, 978-1-935096-31-3, $14.95) offers stories, laughs, and encouragement for moms everywhere.  The book celebrates hard-working moms, with 101 stories written by “power moms” for each other, sharing their common experiences as new moms, experienced moms, or empty nesters who are finally getting a chance to reflect on their marathons. Stories by regular moms and celebrity moms such as Liz Lange, Melora Hardin, Jane Green, and Lynne Spears all sound the same themes – “power moms” juggle all day long, and they do it beautifully.

In her story “A Mother’s Intuition,” Britney Spears’ mother Lynne Spears writes about the sixth sense every mom possesses. “It’s our job as moms to act on that sixth sense we have, the one that tells us something is not as it seems,” she writes, recalling one of Britney’s first pageants – a pageant she reluctantly agreed to let her daughter do.  “The pageant lived up to my fears, and then some. The mothers were appalling backstage, fussing over their daughters and backstabbing the other contestants. I put her in the wrong dress (it didn’t even fit properly) and the wrong kind of socks. Britney ended up placing near the bottom, and the poor little thing was in tears.  When I ignored [my mother’s intuition], the result was tears and a very unpleasant day,” says Spears.

On the flip side, mother and bestselling author Jodi Picoult talks about a different kind of day: The day of a working mom.  In “The Second Shift,” she recalls her struggle transitioning from a nine-to-five writing schedule with a nanny to help with kids, to no nanny, no nine-to-five, writing only when her husband Tim came home after six.  “Some things you just can’t do with three kids who are awake,” writes Picoult.  “You can’t drink a cup of hot coffee – someone’s always tugging on your leg. You can shop for groceries, but it becomes an Olympian event.”

But once she embraced her role as a full-time mom, Picoult noticed an interesting shift.  “I stare at my computer, where I am supposed to be mulling over the plot and characters of a new novel,” she writes.  “But I find myself thinking instead of my own children, characters who have taken the story of my own life and have given it twists stranger and far sweeter than in any fiction.”

In Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms, you’ll also read about:

  • How Terri Major-Kincade gave up her medical practice for a more fulfilling career as a stay-at-home mom
  • How Liz Lange raised her children while building a maternity clothing empire
  • How bestselling author Jane Green left an unhappy marriage and devoted herself to her kids and writing career
  • How Patti Woods learned to let go and nurture independence in her son
  • How Wendy Walker wrote her first novel from the backseat of her minivan

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms (Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Wendy Walker) released in March 2009. Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC, publishes all the latest titles in the famous Chicken Soup for the Soul book series which are distributed through Simon and Schuster, Inc. Since 1993, books in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series have sold more than 112 million copies, with titles translated into more than 40 languages. Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing also licenses the right to use its famous trademark to high quality licensees through IMG, the world’s premier licensing agent. The company is currently implementing a plan to expand into all media, is working with TV networks on several TV shows and is developing a major Internet presence dedicated to life improvement, emotional support and inspiration.  In 2007, USA Today named Chicken Soup for the Soul one of the five most memorable and impactful books in the last quarter century. For more information visit: www.chickensoup.com.

Review: Palm Pre

I’m in love. I’ve had my Palm Pre for a week now, and I can honestly say that I love it! I’m still getting used to it and I haven’t downloaded any new apps or ring tones or anything, but niiiiiiice. 🙂

The story of going to the Sprint store with all 3 kids is enough for its own blog post…so I won’t go into the details…but I will say that before the guy behind the counter could program things into the phone, Palm makes you go through a little tutorial – on the phone. Now imagine me trying to do this with 3 VERY hungry kids…who have already been waiting with me for about an hour. Yup. good times.

When I got the phone home, I read through the little tiny manual. (I’m a tech writer – it’s a professional courtesy!) I haven’t even looked at the in-phone help yet, though I plan to at some point in the future, and that may address some of the things I’ve come up against.

Again, I’m loving the phone. Love the slide-out keyboard. Love the big screen. Love the picture quality. Love the wireless charging dock that turns the phone into a bed-side clock (sold separately).

There are definitely things that I still need to get used to … and things that took me a little bit to figure out … and things that could work a bit differently. (Keep in mind that my previous phone was a Rumor, another phone that I really liked, so I’m probably comparing it to that…)

Here’s my list in no particular order:

  • The apps load fairly slowly. Once they’re loaded, they go pretty fast, but the loading is a lot slower than I would expect given that it’s this brand new kick-butt phone. (The internet, on the other-hand, is SUPER fast!)
  • Still don’t know how to download a new ringer. Spent some time on the internet this morning and found all sorts of ring tones, but no ringers. *I* want to hear the new ringer, I don’t care if the people calling me hear “ring ring, ring ring” or not. 😛
  • There doesn’t seem to be a way to set a different tone for different things for the same person. It looks like I can set the same tone for all phone calls, another one for text messages, etc. Or I can set a tone for a specific person. But I can’t set one tone for  a call from a specific person and another tone for a text for the same person. (My old phone had that – very handy for knowing who was ringing me up and if I had to run to the phone to answer it, or let it sit cuz it was a text.)
  • I use my phone as my alarm clock. When the alarm goes off in the morning, I have to unlock the phone to turn it off. It would seem to me that automatically unlocking the phone so I just have to push the “snooze” or the “off” button would make more sense. My brain isn’t awake enough to make that swish movement needed to unlock it.
  • At first I was annoyed because I set up my email account and then thought that I had to open an email to delete it. (Very annoying when you receive lots of spam). THEN I realized that the sideways swish removes items from a list. Duh Nancy, the Inbox is a list. Swish! It’s gone.
  • There are no arrow keys. With a tiny little keyboard, it’s easy to make mistakes (and not realize it until said mistake is half way up the page). You can touch the screen and move the pointer back up – but unless your fingers are elf-sized, you aren’t going to hit the right spot on the first – or second, or third – try. And who wants to use the backspace key to remove all of your hard work on that tiny little keyboard?
  • The first time I made a support-type call, I panicked because I needed to enter my phone number, but there was no keypad! Okay, found that button and hit the first digit…and the screen went blank. GAH! It took me two more calls to figure out that if I tilt the phone slightly away from my body, the keypad stays lit. (There must be a sensor of some sort that makes it turn off when it thinks it’s up to your ear.)
  • There is no video camera. The still pictures are FABULOUS. But no video. If you’ve come to depend on your cell phone for video, you’re going to be disappointed here. (Strange, right?)
  • I wanted to put an icon I knew I’d be using a lot in the Quick Launch bar (the internet icon). Figured that I could just drag and drop it in…no such luck. Duh Nancy, you need to remove one to make room for it first.
  • It’s not as easy to use this phone with one hand. It’s not even easy to open the keyboard with one hand. I’m still working on unlocking the phone with a thumb swish, but it’s a lot easier if you hold the phone in one hand and swish with the other.
  • I wish there was a way to have my different email accounts as different “cards”. I’m getting used to them all in one, but it’d be more convenient if I could switch between work and home accounts quicker.

I admit – a fairly long list considering that over-all, I really like the phone.

(Did this help you? Lemme know!)