Friday, January 30, 2009
To celebrate this momentous occassion, Harlequin is currently offering 16 books in e-format for FREE. Just visit the download page to see what books are available. Pick and choose your most likely candidates or download them all. Your choice. Then sit back, read, and enjoy!
Happy Anniversary, Harlequin!
Monday, January 26, 2009
Silver Bells, while based on a common Christmas theme, is an inspirational anthology that I would say makes a great read no matter the time of year. Each individual story does happen to be centered around the Christmas holiday, but in each this is a secondary aspect when compared to the main storyline. I, a person who will generally avoid holiday related reads unless it's the holiday season, was uncertain how much I'd enjoy this particular book since I was getting to it after the holidays. As it turns out, my doubt couldn't have been any more misplaced. This was an incredible, make your heart go all warm and fuzzy, compilation.
Silver Bells by Fern Michaels
In the first story, Fern Michaels' Silver Bells (which does happen to be the title for the entire book too), we meet actress Amy Lee. Unsatisfied with her life as a big screen goddess, Amy returns to Apple Valley the place of her early childhood home. Hoping to relax and reconnect with her past, Amy isn't expecting how quickly it will all come rushing back at her.
Being the mother of two young twins and the wife a deployed military man, Alice Andrews wasn't holding together by more than a frazzled thread. At the sight of her brother-in-law, Hank, showing up to spend the holidays, Alice does what every mother, at least at one point in her life wants to do, she runs away. Leaving Hank with the twins and a laundry list of things to do, Alice throws caution and reasoning to the wind, then she's gone.
Hank who just happens to be Amy's childhood love interest, has no idea that Amy is in town for the holidays. After her parent's tragic death all the many years before, Amy had been rushed away from Apple Valley to California by her well meaning aunt. And that was the last Hank had ever heard or seen of her. So, when the pair discovers that they are suddenly and once again holiday neighbors, it becomes a chance to make up for years lost.
If it all happened seemlessly though there'd be no chance for the story to really build, especially in one as short as 82 pages. Let me tell you though, it is a great story with plenty of ups and downs, and an ending you're sure not to be disappointed in.
Dear Santa by JoAnn Ross
Holly Berry is not one for Christmas. So much in fact that even with the holiday upcoming, she sets out on a trip to research, of all things, a murder that she's thinking of using as a base for her upcoming book. But due to bad weather, a reindeer, and a wrecked car Holly finds herself stranded in, of all places, the little mountain town of Santa's Village. Yes, a town so caught up in the spirit of Christmas that they live and breathe it 24/7, 365 days a year.
Surely this can't be happening to Holly. There's got to be a way to get out. She's got a book to plan, and she can't be wasting her time away in a town that so obviously goes against everything she belives in. And what's with the attraction building between her and her rescuer, Gabe? Could it just be a case of temporary hero worship? Whatever the case may be, Holly senses the attraction is going both ways, and she's not sure how to deal with it. Add to that the fact that she's overcome by the holiday spirit surrounding her every which way she turns. It's enough to drive a person crazy, yet slowly but surely she's finding her heart warming to the idea.
Will Holly give herself over to attraction and the simple joys of Christmas?
Christmas Past by Mary Burton
Of all the stories in this compilation, I'd have to say that this was the most unChristmasy of the bunch. It was kind of strange how the story fit in as it definitely had a grittier feel to it. But fit it did.
Nicole is a single mother who, since having escaped an uneasy and tormented past, is simply trying to make a fresh go of things in her life. She may not have much, but she and her daughter, Beth, are safe. What's more, they have friends and a place in life free of fear.
Nevertheless, everything changes the day she puts in an unmarked video tape found forgotten but addressed to her. And who or what of all things should appear on the tape but her dead ex-husband. The person solely responsible for causing so much pain and fear in her life.
Bound and determined to shake the shackles of her past, Nicole sets out, as instructed by her ex on the video, on an endeavor to discover the truth about a friend's death. It's the least she can do for her friend's family this holiday season. Having suffered more than her fair share of abuse and pain at the hand of her contemptuous ex-husband, Nicole's best friend encourages her not to set out on her own. What she'll find is uncertain, and it's all together likely it won't be as cut and dried as the video implied.
Trying to do the smart thing, Nicole goes to Sgt David Anders, the man most recently known for trying to steal her heart away. It's not an ideal situation because Nicole hasn't actually seen Anders since she told him they were moving too fast and called things off between them. Add to that the fact that they're now getting in to uncharted territory wherein her sketchy past with her ex is concerned. This isn't the way she'd envisioned getting back together with Anders, if at all. Still when push comes to shove, Nicole would rather have someone by her side that she can trust than go it alone on this unpredictable adventure. If something romantic should crop up between them during the iterim, they'll just have to cross that bridge when they come to it.
With action, intrigue, and romance you can't go wrong here.
A Mulberry Park Christmas by Judy Duarte
In A Mulberry Park Christmas there's more than a neighborhood feud brewing on Sugar Park Lane. Mac and Jillian haven't seen each other since they were teenagers- since the day Jillian obeyed her cancer afflicted father's wishes and broke things off with Mac. What Jillian never knew was how deep her act had cut Mac. Full of pride, he'd brushed off her dismissal as if it meant nothing to him. On the contrary though, it broke his heart.
Now years later, Jillian finds herself returning to her father's old home on Sugar Plum Lane. Her husband has left her and their kids for another woman, and Jillian just needs to get away from everything that had once been a part of her married life. The trouble is as soon as she and the kids set foot on Sugar Plum Lane, Jillian's son becomes an unwilling participant in feud with their old crotchety neighbor, Charlie.
Mac hasn't lived in these parts in years himself, though a dear friend's death has recently brought him back. He has no intentions of staying or involving himself with the neighbors; he's only in town long enough to ready his friend's house for sale. Then it'll be back to his loft apt, and the life he's come to know.
When Charlie comes to him and asks for his assistance in dealing with the young ruffian next door, Mac's initial instinct is to remain a bystander. Howbeit, as a detective, Mac has an ingrained sense of wanting to catch the bad guy and keep the peace. Figuring that Charlie is blowing the entire situation way out of proportion, Mac decides to step in momentarily to ease the agitation and hopefully settle things once and for all. Mac figures he can show up at the kid's house, have a quick chat with the mother, and be on his way. But when the woman who answers the door is Jillian, Mac's world is suddenly turned upside down.
Only time will tell if the starcrossed pair can break free of their illfated past to turn over a new leaf that will leave them both sharing the best Christmas of all.
Again, this was a really great book. I have never been a fan of anthologies for the pure and simple fact that I don't usually enjoy how the authors must cram so much in to so little space. To me it seems you generally don't get to really connect with the characters or everything is so rushed it becomes unbelievable. Somehow though each of the authors presented here has managed to not only develope and write an entertaining and sweet story, but they've each done so compactly and without leaving any holes in the construction. Each story was passionate and sweet, yet had a great plot, well developed characters, and enough detail to thoroughly draw me in. I found myself sad when each came to end, yet I didn't feel like I was left grasping for anything to pull it all together. Even the romance was balanced in such a way that made it believable for the characters in play to develope and act on their common feelings towards one another.
Of all the authors featured in this book, Duarte was the only one I'd previously had the pleasure of reading. That being said, I can't believe I've gone this long without ever being introduced firsthand to the works of Michaels, Ross, and Burton. That'll all change from here on out. Each has gone on my list of authors to read again. Seriously, they all contributed such fabulous shorts for this book.
Thank you to Joan S for this review opportunity.
Whether you believe in God, perhaps in some other spiritual being, or even in no greater source at all, Judy Duarte's Mulberry Park is a book you should strive not to miss. Centered around a child's play place, Mulberry Park, this story packs a whopping punch that can only be accused of disappointing for the pure and simple fact that it did not go on forever. A remarkable, memorable cast, the characters in Duarte's book all lead such different lives, but throughout it Duarte does an incredible job of weaving their stories together in a piece by piece style, much like a quilt. Each individual quilt square is beautiful in and of its own right, and each tells its own story. But when put together with a variety of other quilt squares, what was once a fine stand alone piece suddenly becomes a magnificent tapestry and work of art. This is what Mulberry Park felt like to me. Each individual had his or her own sad, lonely tale to tell. Each was flawed and suffered from a very real tragic fate. And yet throughout the story not once did Duarte drop the ball and leave me wondering "Why?". Not once did a single iota of this tale ring untrue or unbelievable.
A young girl's utter and complete heartbreak turns in to a soul searching, heartwarming, life changing, unshakable faith that should not, for all intents and purposes, have been able to withstand the doubts, trials, and tribulations thrown at it. Her pure innocence focused on bringing those around her hope and healing, both spiritual and physical. Her inability to give up that faith girded her against further heart ache and loss. A sweet child's unadulterated prayers to God, and her undying faith that He was out there listening to her, no matter how busy He was, will go a long way towards turning even the most stubborn reader's heart to a new way of thinking.
As a six year old girl, little more than a baby, Analisa loses her parents and finds herself being cared for by her Uncle Sam. Sam loves his niece, but he's a workaholic. On top of that, Sam is unsure how to relate to his newly orphaned niece, and as a non-believer he is even more perplexed when faced with the question of eternity. Are Analisa's mommy and daddy in Heaven? Are they okay? Are they happy there? These are the questions Analisa finds herself penning to God when her Uncle can't satisfy her curiosity. Writing a letter to God, as Analisa believes, is the perfect way to be sure God knows your deepest, darkest questions and hears your prayers. Praying aloud, or even quietly, is one thing, but writing it all down for God gives Him a chance to speak back a response in an entirely different way. The trouble is, you can't just write a letter to God. You have to write the letter, and then get it as close to Heaven as possible before God can reach it. And what better place to release such a letter than in the top most portion of the great old Mulberry tree in Mulberry Park? Analisa is too small and young to accomplish the feat of getting her letter to God up as high in the tree as necessary, yet the lonely boy who comes to the playground by himself every day looks just about the right size to be able to help. Asking Trevor to climb the tree and release her precious pink envelope into the branches takes a lot of guts. It's not every day you can tell someone you're writing a letter to God, and that you want their help in making sure it gets there. As it turns out though, this step of courage and unimaginable endurance of faith, leads both Analisa and Trevor on an astoundingly, phenomenal journey through faith, to God, from this place we call life. Others, many others in fact, are impacted too, and the life they all lead will never be the same again.
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Meekness, and Temperance. These are the nine Fruit of the Spirit, according to Galatians 5:22-23. And all of these are actively taught, learned, and lived throughout the pages of this book. Duarte's characters all suffer in one form or another, and each is at a different spiritual level of maturity. However, Duarte's attempt to combine several individual stories and perspectives in to one concise novel is nothing short of triumphant. As she has woven together all the lives and tales within the pages of Mulberry Park, Duarte has done a smooth and seamless job.
Inspirational, thought provoking, and heartwarming. Mulberry Park is a narrative of epic proportions that is best served up and digested in as few sittings as possible. If readers are anything like me they will not be able to put this one down, and will be intently reading until the very last word on the very last page. A truly moving read, if ever there was one.
-Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Any woman that's pregnant or who has ever been pregnant knows the worries you feel when it comes to considering post pregnancy weight. All moms or moms-to-be have been there and done that. But I ask you, how wonderful would it have been to have had a book written just for you all about what you, as a new and incredibly busy mom, could do to lose the weight and look fabulous? I'm not talking your average weight loss book that lays out a plan for your average person. I'm talking a book specifically geared towards women looking to shed those unwanted pregnancy pounds. Pounds that, despite your best attempt to eat appropriately during the 9months of pregnancy, crept up on you and don't want to go away. Preggo pounds you simply don't seem to have the time or energy to lose now that you're constantly busy taking care of baby as well as trying to keep up with everything else you do on a daily basis to keep your family going. Would that be a book you'd find interesting?
If you answered "yes" then you must keep reading. Because today I bring to you both an interview with the authors and a review of the book The Baby Fat Diet.
Shara: I grew up in Yardley PA, a Philadelphia suburb and went to the University of Pennsylvania for my bachelors degree and to Tufts University for a masters in nutrition communication. I received my registered dietitian certificate from The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. My work experience includes serving as nutrition editor at Family Circle, nutrition communications manager at a major food manufacturer and a professor of nutrition at a community college. I am currently co-owner of a nutrition communications company and a freelance writer for several magazines and websites. I also serve as editor of the New Jersey Dietetic Association’s newsletter and I’m on the advisory board for American Baby magazine. I have two children. Eli is 5 and Oliver is 2. My husband is Harris.
Where did you get the idea for the book? What compelled you to write it?
Shara: Monica and I both are moms of young children and recognize the challenges moms face in finding time to focus on themselves, including eating well and exercising. We wanted to write a book that took our experiences and those of women we know and have worked with as dietitians over the years to make a simple, realistic book to help them take off the baby weight. Most importantly it had to be fun to read in short chapters so moms could pick it up, read a few pages and put it down - not to be another chore on her to do list.
Shara: In addition to talking to many women about the challenges they face and the solutions they find realistic, we did much research on the latest studies on each topic to provide scientifically based information that works.
Shara: They have little time and energy to focus on themselves. Eating well and exercising go by the wayside.
Lastly, what do you hope readers will take away from your book?
Shara: That it’s worth focusing on yourself and your health – to be the best mom you can be you need to take care of yourself by eating well and being active. Small changes make a world of difference so it’s not a huge overhaul but tweaks that can really lead to taking off the baby fat.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the books:
Never Say Diet
WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (December 16, 2008)
The Never Say Diet Personal Fitness Trainer
WaterBrook Press (December 16, 2008)
Visit the author's website.
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTERs:
Never Say Diet Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Reprint edition (December 16, 2008)
Changed My Life
How to Choose
to Do the Best
Job of Living
It should have been a scene of American family bliss. A Sunday afternoon in our home on a beautiful fall day in South Florida. My husband, Keith, was watching the Dolphins game in the living room with some friends. He’d waited all week for this. Our girls, six-year-old Ashley and four-year-old Kayla, were helping me in the kitchen. Well, kind of. Our six month-old, Jake, was jumping and laughing in his Jolly Jumper. I was baking Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, our favorite, and everybody could smell the cinnamon and butter and couldn’t wait for the cookies to come out of the oven. Especially me. As I worked in the kitchen, I could hear the football game coming from the living room. The announcers were talking about a player who had arrived at training camp completely out of shape. He was six foot four and weighed 320 pounds. “That is a big boy,” they said. “Wow! He is huge.” “Would you look at that guy,” I heard my husband say with disgust. “I can’t believe he got so fat! What a lazy bum.” Those words cut me to the heart. I had created a happy home, with a
happy husband and happy kids. But at that moment I wanted to die, because I outweighed that player by at least 10 pounds. I was bigger than anyone playing for the Miami Dolphins. And I knew I was anything but lazy. I pulled the cookies out of the oven and felt nauseous. I was pathetic. I’d been overweight my entire adult life, but I was bigger than I had ever been. I was miserable but doing an excellent job of faking out everyone who knew me. I was five foot nine and weighed 330 pounds, maybe more. I didn’t know for sure because it had been months since I’d dared to step on a scale. Besides, the only one in the house was a conveniently inaccurate discount-store model with a wheel underneath that calibrated the scale. I had adjusted it to register the lowest weight possible. I was in denial, but I was also without hope. It was the autumn of 2000. I was twenty-eight years old and was starting to believe I would never live a long and fulfilled life. Not this way. If an angel had landed on my shoulder and whispered in my ear that, in less than two years, Oprah Winfrey would have me on her show to tell a feel good weight-loss story, I’d have sent that angel packing and gone back to my cookies. I wasn’t Oprah material. And there was absolutely nothing feel-good about my life. Call me when you want a feel-bad story. That was me. If that angel had whispered that I would one day run a marathon, I’d have checked him in to an insane asylum. I couldn’t run around the block. Even in high school I hadn’t been able to run the required twenty-minute mile. My knees hurt all the time. I was morbidly obese—a term that I knew meant an early death. If one thing was clear about my life in the fall of 2000, it was that
I could never, ever run a marathon. But I did. I finished my first one in 2005 and after that ran four more— in less than a year. I went from weighing nearly 350 pounds to less than 150 pounds. And I have appeared on Oprah and Good Morning America and the cover of People magazine as one of America’s great weight-loss successes. Getting fit wasn’t easy—there was plenty of pain, deprivation, tears, and hungeralong the way. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I won’t try to sugarcoat any of that. But, honestly, I didn’t give myself a choice. Once I made the unconditional decision that I was going to lose weight and get healthy, nothing could stop me. And nothing will stop you if you make the Five Decisions to break the fat habit for good. That’s a guarantee. Here is the secret I learned—the same secret I want to share with you. I realized I had to change my mind before I could change my body, my health, and my life. I discovered the Five Decisions, which brought about an unconditional commitment to getting healthy and fit. Once I started, I treated it like a job so that no matter what else was going on in my life, I did what I had to do to achieve daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, and eventually the target weight and fitness that I desired. After making the Five Decisions, getting fit was a matter of showing up for work each day. The process developed from the inside out, which was a new concept for me.
FIRST, YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND
People constantly ask me how I lost 200 pounds and started running marathons. When I explain that it took several years to achieve those goals, they wonder how I was able to stick to the plan when so many others can’t. I ask myself the same question. I had failed plenty of times before. I’d tried a few diets and failed, including a bit of foolishness called the chocolate-wafer diet, which I’ll tell you about later. I’d resolved so many times not to eat the entire package of Oreos, without success. So how did I lose all that weight and keep it off reclaiming my health and gaining a new life in the process? Here’s the simple answer: my brain changed. I decided to first become a different person in my mind and then learned patience as my body followed. My success wasn’t measured only by a declining number on a scale; it was much deeper. I had to change on the inside. I needed to change my mind before I could change my body. It will work the same way for you. First you must get to the right place in your head, and then you can create the lifestyle to go along with that. Your body reflects your daily choices, so stop confusing it by the way you think. The mistake so many people make is to focus on weight loss and how long it will take. In fact, the multibillion-dollar diet industry banks on people thinking this way. Don’t get stuck in the weight loss weight gain cycle. What you should focus on is the person you want to be. Set your sights very high, and keep your commitment level even higher. In this book I’ll explain how I did that. I went from being someone who weighed more than a Miami Dolphins lineman to someone who is strong and trim and can run twenty-six miles. I went from a state of hopelessness to a life of incredible confidence. And I want to help you achieve something great in your life. If you change your mind before attempting to change your body, you can do this.
HITTING ROCK BOTTOM
While I was learning how to lose weight and regain my health, I faced setback after setback. My husband lost his job, and my mother was diagnosed with cancer—and those were only two of the crises that came along. Changing your life will never be easy, and that’s why in order to succeed, you first need to be ready to succeed. It’s a choice you make. In the fall of 2000, when I was baking cookies and overhearing my husband’s criticism of an overweight NFL lineman, I fell into despair. I realized my life was out of control and I was headed for an early grave if I didn’t change. But even then, I wasn’t yet ready to make the commitment that was necessary to change my life. The truth is, on that dark day I still wasn’t miserable enough to change. I hit rock bottom about six months later. I was at my heaviest ever—349 pounds, I think. Though I was still mostly in denial, I was starting to see myself clearly, and I hated what I saw. I’d look in the mirror and say, “You are pitiful! How could you have let this happen?” My appearance started to affect my family life. We live in South Florida, where every weekend is a pool party. My daughters were young, but they were being invited to a few parties, and I was horribly uncomfortable in a bathing suit. I knew it wouldn’t be long before my girls would be embarrassed by their mother, and that made me want to cry. It did make me cry. But that was the least of it. I was more worried that their mom would die young. I’d seen fat people, and I’d seen old people, but rarely had I seen fat, old people. If I couldn’t change for myself, maybe I could do it for my kids. One night I was driving home alone from an event at church. I felt trapped in despair. At age twenty-nine, my body felt old. I had recently had an emergency gallbladder operation, and the doctor had told me he was afraid to cut through all my layers of fat because of the risk of infection. Imagine being worried about your diseased gallbladder and experiencing anxiety about surgery. And then you learn that your weight problem makes you more prone to infection. That night in the car I felt like the most pathetic person who had ever lived. I believed that God had made me and put me on earth for a purpose, and I was not living the life He intended for me. I knew I had to change. As I drove, drowning in self-pity, I began to envision what my life would be if I weren’t fat. I thought of all the things I could do—even simple things, such as walking down an airplane aisle without having to turn sideways. I’d be able to board a flight without getting fearful stares from people hoping I wouldn’t sit next to them. And there were deeper things, such as being able to go down a slide at a playground with my kids. And I wanted never again to feel as if I was embarrassing my husband when he introduced me to business associates. I was tired of feeling prejudged by every server in every restaurant for what I ordered. I wanted to be able to shop in the same clothing stores as all my friends. I wanted a normal life. As I drove home from church, I came to the realization that I absolutely could not go on with my life as it was. I pulled over, sobbing. In total despair I cried out to God. I remember every word. “This is it!” I said. “I can’t live like this anymore. I’m done. I give all this pain to You. I surrender this battle. I need You to take over and give me a plan. Otherwise, I don’t want to live anymore.” Almost immediately a sense of inner peace filled me, and I calmed down. I had gone to church all my life and had a relationship with God, but I had certainly never felt anything like that before. The peace was real, and in my mind I heard from God. I clearly heard these words: You are not being the best you can be. It wasn’t a booming voice like in a movie, but it also wasn’t a voice coming from me. The words were a jolt to my soul. And that moment would change my life forever. Again, with crystal clarity, I “heard” a whisper: You are not being the best you can be. And for the first time in my life, I understood that this was a choice. I could choose to be the best I could be or not. We all have the same choice. We can’t choose our natural talents or what opportunities life is going to throw our way, but we can choose to do this one thing: we can do the best job of living that we are capable of. After praying alone in my car, I knew I could do better.
THE CHOICE IS YOURS
No matter how overweight and out of shape we are, our bodies and minds are capable of much more than we think. No matter what battles we face in life, we can have victory. The amazing thing is that so many of us choose not to. I know this is true because I was as guilty as anyone. For years I’d made poor choices and come up with excuses for why I really didn’t have a choice at all. I was big boned. I let myself overeat because I was pregnant. I skipped exercise because I didn’t have the time. I was too far gone to ever recover. I told myself whatever it took to hide the truth that I was not doing the best job of living. I was also being scammed by the diet industry. We all have been taken in by the hype. “We’ll give you your eating points,” the industry tells us, “and let you spend them on any food you want. And we’ll love you when you get on that scale, whether you’ve lost weight or not. We’ll keep hugging you for the next twenty-three years if need be.” Counting my points was not going to save me. Choosing the right frozen entrée and having it delivered to my home for the next two years was not going to save me. I didn’t need the unconditional love of strangers; I needed unconditional commitment from myself. I was also scammed by the “fat gene” scientists who insisted that my weight problem was out of my hands. They were wrong; it was in my hands. Chantel, I told myself, this is not cancer. I knew, because my mother had leukemia, and I had spent more tearful nights than I could count praying for her recovery something I couldn’t do anything about. I prayed that chemotherapy would work and that God would heal her. But I realized that I’d been thinking of my obesity in the same way, as an illness. I’d even been told by experts that drastic surgery might be my only option. But that was another lie. The way I lived my life and how I contributed to my health were completely in my hands. Every one of us knows what we should do, but we don’t always do it. Instead, we pretend it’s out of our control. We take the easy way out and let ourselves down. Gaining weight doesn’t come about by accident, and it’s not forced on us. We gain weight through a series of poor choices made on a regular basis over a long period of time.
We gain weight
through a series of poor choices
made on a regular basis
over a long period of time.
The same process holds true for achieving a goal related to your health and fitness. Whether it’s weight loss, athletic accomplishment, or any other personal or business goal, you achieve what you seek by learning to make the right choices and not being scared of self-sacrifice. I began wondering what my life would be like and what I would be capable of if I simply started being the best me I could. It was time to find out. After hearing God tell me, You are not being the best you can be, I made my decision, and I said it out loud: “I can do this. I will do this.” I repeated it, and I meant it. At that moment by the side of Cypress Creek Road, my life turned around.
DO IT, THEN TALK
Having made the commitment, I knew I was going to change my life, but I didn’t have a specific plan. I knew I’d have to start exercising, no matter how much I dreaded it. I knew I would have to change the way I ate, and I would need to learn more about nutrition. And to become a different person, I knew I would have to start thinking like the person I wanted to be and not the person I had allowed myself to become. I didn’t know how I was going to do all this, but I knew I would have God by my side. He might not make it easy, but He’d give me the strength to do everything that was needed. When I got home that night, Keith was already in bed. He had never criticized my weight, for which I was incredibly grateful, but I knew how he must have felt. I looked into my husband’s eyes, told him that God had spoken to me in the car, and announced that the next morning I would begin losing weight and getting healthy. (I even mentioned that one day I would write a book to reach others in my situation.) I made it clear that I was totally committed to being the best I could be. Keith smiled at me and quoted one of his favorite sources of inspiration, the self-made billionaire Art Williams: “Do it, then talk.” He was right. I shut up. Keith fell asleep, but I had a burning passion that kept me awake that night and has kept me up many nights since. Making the unconditional decision to change—the complete commitment with no turning back—had to be followed by action. First you change your mind. But to change your body and your life, you have to get moving. You have to do things and do them differently from the past. Do it. How incredibly simple—yet how long it had taken me to get to a place where I could see that clearly. Getting fit and accomplishing my dreams was simply a matter of choosing to do it, following through every single day, and understanding that failure was not an option. I could do it. I would do it. And I did.
Keep reading, and you’ll find out how to change your life through five crucial decisions. The Five Decisions change your brain, giving you a new way of thinking about yourself, your life, your health, and your future. As long as you keep thinking the same way you always have, you will keep doing the things you have always done—including the unhealthy habits you have developed. Join me in the next chapter as we explore the past—including all the influences that worked together to bring us to where we are today. Understanding the messages that influence our self-perception and the way we respond to obstacles enables us to make the new decisions that are necessary for permanent change.
What Do You Want to Change, and Why?
As you prepare to make the mental changes that will lead to permanent life change, think through the reasons you want to change. What is motivating your desire to lose weight and reclaim your health? Use the questions that follow to think in detail about your life, your goals for the future, and what you’re willing to do to make this happen finally and forever.
1. Beyond losing weight, what do you most want to change about your life?
2. Are you willing to do whatever it takes to see certain areas of your life undergo radical change? If you’re not yet willing, what is holding you back?
3. When in your life have you felt the most hopeless? Are you now ready to move past those scars and never look back?
4. When you gained weight in the past, what factors caused you to lose your focus on health?
5. Identify three reasons or influences from the past that convinced you that you couldn’t achieve permanent life change. After considering these reasons, can you now admit they were merely excuses?
6. Think about the necessity of changing your mind before you attempt to change your body. Do you agree that lasting change begins on the inside? As you consider being the best you can be, are you ready to work from the inside out?
7. A total life change involves your mind, body, and spirit. Think about the spiritual aspect for a moment. Do you accept the role that faith plays in the process of changing your life for good?
8. When have you been held back by a fear of failure? Write down your biggest fears in this regard. As you face your fears, can you decide to let them go and give your all to permanent life change?
Never Say Diet Personal Trainer Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (December 16, 2008)
The Perfect Body Type: Yours!
You Are Lovely Today
Scripture for the week: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.… When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”
Quote for the week: “Faith, as Paul saw it, was a living, flaming thing leading to surrender and obedience to the commandments of Christ.”
—A. W. TOZER
As you begin the journey to never say diet, remember that your value is based on who you are in Christ, not what the number on the scale says. God created everything about you, and He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows which foods are your weaknesses, and He is there whenever the temptation to overeat or consume unhealthy food seems overwhelming. The Lord knows the tears you have shed out of desperation. He was there to comfort you when it seemed like no one understood your pain. Trust me, on days when I feel the most flawed, I need the verses from Psalm 139 to remind me of what is true. The living God formed every part of my body, even the parts I would like to change. Although I used to struggle and fail in caring for my body, God always knew it best. When I finally cried out to my Creator and invited Him to help with the repair, I knew I could succeed. He wants you to succeed too. Start this week by thanking the Lord for the gifts of your life and your body. By focusing on making some improvements, you will ultimately be honoring Him more and more each day. Find a recent photo of yourself, or take one, and tape it in the space that follows. This picture will be a powerful reference for you in the coming weeks as you begin your transformation.
THE MIND FACTOR: CHANGE YOUR BRAIN
In Never Say Diet, I make a big deal about the Five Decisions—and for good reason. You will fail in this new attempt to change your life unless you first change your brain. To succeed, you need to be willing to do whatever it takes—unconditionally. I want to be your cheerleader and your friend. And for us to get going, you need to commit to the five Brain Change decisions found on pages 76–82 of Never Say Diet. Think about how each of the Five Decisions applies to your life. Also, try to memorize them. They will form the backbone you need to stand up to and overcome every area of weakness in your life. Create your personal surrender statement.
THE EXERCISE EQUATION: ARE YOU WILLING?
This week your first assignment is to start building a foundation of discipline. You will be successful over the next month if you show up for exercise thirty minutes a day, five days in a row, every week—no matter what. There are many choices for your cardiovascular exercise. Below is a list of suggestions. Even if your week gets hectic, finding the time to make this happen is imperative.
Cardio Exercise Suggestions
Cross-country skiing machine
Stationary bike/recumbent bike
How to Take Your Measurements
Taking your measurements at the beginning of each month is an important part of the process of losing weight. You will begin to see precisely where you are losing fat. As you start building more muscle, there will be months where your progress is more evident in your measurements than on the scale, because muscle is denser than fat. You will begin by taking six measurements. You should be able to do them by yourself, with the exception of your upper arm. (Ask a friend or your spouse to help you.) For instructions on taking accurate measurements, see pages 97–98 of Never Say Diet. Record your measurements below.
Be sure that you consistently measure in the same spots each month. I also recommend taking your measurements before your workouts.
Weigh yourself, and record your weight at the beginning of each week.
Week 1 starting weight: ________
WEEK 1 CARDIO TRAINING
Complete your cardio exercise five days in a row, for at least thirty minutes per day. In the space provided, write down the day, the date, the exercise you completed, and the duration of each exercise period. This serves as a reminder that you always found a way to get the exercise done, whether you felt like it or not.
Day 1 date/exercise/duration:
How did it go?
Day 2 date/exercise/duration:
How did it go?
Day 3 date/exercise/duration:
How did it go?
Day 4 date/exercise/duration:
How did it go?
Day 5 date/exercise/duration:
How did it go?
THE FOOD FACTOR: BREAKFAST IS
WHERE IT’S AT
This week you must place your nutritional focus on the most important meal of the day: breakfast. Plan to eat every day within two hours of waking up. Listed below are some fresh food ideas. Each one is about three hundred calories, which is perfect!
• Quaker Weight Control oatmeal, 1 tablespoon of raisins, cinnamon to taste, 2 slices of turkey bacon.
• One slice of whole-wheat toast, light spread of peanut butter (natural is best), and ½ grapefruit.
• Chocolate strawberry shake. Blend the following: 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, 10 small frozen strawberries, 1 packet sugar substitute, ½ cup low-fat milk, a few ice cubes.
• Egg white omelet. In a skillet with nonstick spray, cook veggies you like, 3 lightly beaten egg whites, and 1 tablespoon fat-free cheese. Accompany with half an English muffin with a dab of peanut butter.
Each of these breakfast meals provides a good balance of protein, carbs, and fat. This ensures your day gets off to a good start; it is igniting your source of energy. Find a few meals that you enjoy, and keep repeating them. This way you won’t stress out over deciding what to have.
Week 1 Breakfast Log
Using the space provided, record each day’s breakfast menu and the portions.
Day 1 date/time: ___________________________________ ________________________________________________
Day 2 date/time: ___________________________________
Day 3 date/time: ___________________________________
Day 4 date/time: ___________________________________
Day 5 date/time: ___________________________________
Day 6 date/time: ___________________________________
Day 7 date/time: ___________________________________
From one of those people who has tried and failed at countless diet plans, I really enjoyed this book. I have to be honest though. My failures in the past haven't been entirely due to the diets themselves, but due to my own inability to stay motivated. Like Hobbs mentions in her book, if you're not there mentally you can't expect to have lasting results. If I was successful enough to stick with a diet I'd be high as a kite on excitement for a few weeks. Then the scales would turn against me again. Darned Cabbage Soup Diet. Great for keeping the weight off if you can live on it FOREVER. Not worth it if you're only going to do it for a short time, and then go back to normal eating habits. Plus, let's be honest, this plan can be really detrimental to your social life. I mean, come on. We're talking serious daily cabbage consumption here!
But back to Never Say Diet. The reason I, myself, think this is an option worth considering is because Hobbs breaks the mold on the traditional diet stance. Sure there are others out there who work to retrain the mind in to thinking of dieting in new ways. Consider Atkins. But plans like that are so strict on what you can and can't do and when you can and can't do them, that it's only a matter of time before you burn out. Hobbs' methodology here is one that helps you set yourself up for success from the very beginning.
In order to lose the weight you have to be willing to make sacrafices, but there's so much more to it than that. As Hobbs explains in her book, there are five very important decisions one must make before they can hope to break the fat habit and live their life to the fullest of their abilities.
You must decide to:
- Be Truthful
- Be Forgiving
- Be Committed
- Be Interested
I think it's great to read a fitness book that incorporates your entire lifestyle. One that shows the importance of not only eating better and working out, but of also being true to yourself and getting your brain on board. With God anything is possible, and as Chantel has shown through her book, that does not stop at turning your life around and recreating a whole new you- inside and out.
With helpful eating and exercise tool guides, The Never Say Diet book is one I intend to consider more fully. My husband and I both need to lose weight, and it's important to me that we do this together. For each of us on our own, for us together, and for our little girls. They won't always be little kids, and I want both my husband and I to be around to see them grow up and lead the lives that God has destined for them. Likewise, I want to be sure that we set a good example for them now, while they're young, as to how one should live. If we can get to them now while they're young, then maybe when they are older they won't ever need to consider a life changing plan because they'll already be living on the positive side of the coin.
**I have not yet embarked on the Personal Fitness Trainer book, but the journal style layout has me eager to overhaul my mindset, strap on my dedication, and get to trekking on this amazing journey I know God has in store for me.**
-Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC
Friday, January 9, 2009
I am a huge vampire story fan, so when I heard that Jeri Smith-Ready had a new Urban Fantasy vampire novel coming out I was totally psyched. For even though I had never read anything by Ready, she had come highly recommended. And let me just be the first to say, boy was that recommendation spot on!
WVMP is a failing radio station until Ciara Griffin comes on the scene. As a young con-artist trying to go straight, Ciara applies for a real job- as a marketing intern at the radio station. She knows the station needs help, but what she doesn't know is what secrets lie behind the locked station doors. So, when Ciara gets the intern position and it is revealed that the radio station DJs are all vampires, Ciara has a bit of a laugh. Then the novelty wears off as she begins to realize it isn't joke, but a very stark reality. The station isn't succeeding, and if the station doesn't improve its ratings it's going to be sold and everyone fired. Since WVMP is a safe haven for the vamp DJs Ciara can't let this happen, especially since she's really starting to get the hots for the undead but totally sexy Shane.
I have to admit that it's been awhile since I actually got to read a good vamp novel, but I couldn't think of a better way to get back on the wagon than with this delightful book. Ready set the scene beautifully for a unique story that brought in all the elements of a good vampire read and then some. And perhaps I'm not really up to date on vampire lore, but to me it seemed like her idea for what happens to a vampire when staked through the heart was completely and totally new. It was gruesome and wicked. In other words, it was awesome! The characters, even the ones you aren't supposed to like, seem to have a certain allure to them. They're so evil you can't help but love them. And if that's the case with the ones you aren't supposed to like, then hold on to your seats when the scenes come to characters you are meant to like. Woo baby!
Wicked Game is an urban fantasy thrill ride. Not only is the story incredibly entertaining and exciting- even a little romantic, but it's also sexy as hell.
-Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC
Initially, when the opportunity came up for me to read and review this book I felt like the book was calling to me, choosing me. It was anything but my normal kind of read. But I'd heard many great things about Jennifer Donnelly's previous works, so I figured "what the heck". I chose the book. Then it arrived and I saw how enormous it was (707 pages, to be exact), and I started second guessing myself. What if the book was so out of my comfort zone that I couldn't get in to it no matter how hard I tried? What if I'd made a mistake in asking for it? Had the book really chosen me after all, instead of the other way around? I decided to put it off for a couple of days while I mulled it over in my head and worked on gaining the courage to tackle it. There it sat on my desk like a huge white elephant in the room, screaming at me until I could ignore it no longer. I finally picked it up- I chose it, and that's when the magic began.
The Winter Rose gripped me in such an explosive way. There were times I laughed, times I was literally shouting at the book and shaking my fists at the characters' stupidity, while at other times I could almost feel my heart breaking for them. They were so real- the characters, the setting, the story. I loved the way there were several different stories all going on parallel to one another, but how they only intersected when the time was just right. There was such a smooth and consistent flow from one scene and storyline to the next, that I never found it hard to keep track of who was who or what was what. And Donnelly's descriptions were so incredibly poignant that I couldn't help but feel transported in to another era and place. I'll be the first person to admit that history was never my strong suit in school. Yet when I was reading this, it felt like the historical background was secure. It felt like the author had thoroughly researched her history to hit the details surrounding this time period spot on. Granted any good author would, but just the attention to detail and how she left no little thing untouched upon was amazing. I actually feel like I know more about the early 1900's after reading this book than I did before I started.
In the end, if I was to have any complaints at all about this book I would only be able to come up with one. That is, I think that after spending several hundred pages building the story up, perhaps the author might have rushed the last part just a teeny tiny bit. It wasn't a bad ending by any means; however, it seemed like so much time was spent on Parts One and Two that by the time Part Three rolled around things just happened a little faster than I would have expected. Still a great story and ending though.
Additionally, I have to say that this is a book I would just love to see adapted in to a screenplay. Lately there seem to have been quite a few period pieces come to the big screen, and I can totally see The Winter Rose showing there along side them. What a wonderful movie that would be.
So, I started out not knowing if I chose the book or the book chose me, but then it dawned on me. In the end it really doesn't matter who chose who. What matters is whether you liked each other. And in this case, we most certainly did.
-Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC
It was shortly there after that I decided to start up my own review blog. Because my reviews were technically still the property of the other site, I wasn't able to cross post any of them here. However, effective the beginning of this year, the other site's owner decided to close up shop. I'm sorry to hear this, especially knowing the behind the scenes circumstances. But, I am happy to say that I can at least now share my older reviews with you here. Maybe not all of them, and certainly not all at once. I will though begin working to add in, at least, my favorites from the bunch. So, be on the look out.
-Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC
Thursday, January 8, 2009
It seems I've been on a non-fiction kick lately which is really unusual for me. I do enjoy reading non-fiction, but generally speaking I tend to lean more towards the fiction side of things. When I received an invite, however, to review The Secret Lives of Men the title sparked my curiosity. Naturally that meant I had to accept.
To be brutally honest, I'm not sure this book was really my cup of tea. I believe the author is likely a skilled researcher and physchologist, but the information just didn't excite me. I found I was forcing myself to drudge through it just so I could write the review. I definitely found portions of the book to be interesting or informative (More specifically Parts I and IV.), but over all I found it be to be a bit tedious. Maybe if my dad had been emotionally stoic, or perhaps if I was married to a man as such I'd have found better use for the book. Maybe even if I had a background in psychology, more than the one semester I took in college, I'd have benefitted from it more. As it was though, I really didn't get a lot out of this book.
I understand and agree that over time men seem to have been given the short end of the stick when it comes to what is socially acceptable and what is not when considering the emotional, er more feminine side, of existance. I also think that men tend to have high pressure on them when it comes to the three P's (as Blazina puts it) of Manhood- progenitor, provider, and protector. These three things can be emotional hot items for a man, and emotions are something many men in today's society tend to label as too feminine. Unless they're hard core and not touchy feely, most emotions are barred from the average man's public image (meaning from immediate friends and family too).
But I do think that sometimes there can be just way too many excuses. I don't doubt the validity of the excuses, or rather reasons behind, the inept emotional behaviors that Blazina discusses, I just don't think they really apply as much as the author might have you believe. I tend to follow the mind set of men and women being equal. We both have our own emotional, physicial, and spiritual struggles. We all can be made to feel like parts of ourselves are bad or shouldn't be shown to the outside world. I really don't think that applies solely to men.
Part I (The Secret, Inner World of Me) of The Secret Lives of Men goes in to what the author describes as "The Ten Commandments of Growing Up Male". As we've all likely seen, if not in real life, on tv or in books, there do seem to be a select set of fundamental rules for boys, as well as for girls, when growing up. Boys are the dirty ones, the strong ones, the ones who like to fight, and who hide all emotions that tend to be too touchy feely. I wasn't aware that there was ever a specific list of commandments, so to speak, but many make sense when you consider them. And that does shed an interesting light on the subject at hand.
The author then moves on to the three parts I found most interesting within the entire book. These were the sections where Blazina discussed libido, sex, and aggression.
I had no idea that libido isn't specifically related to sexual urges. I always was under the impression that libido was another term for sexual desire. And while it is in many instances, it does not soley relate to the sexual side of things. On the contrary, I learned that libido is technically an energy put forth towards the development of oneself or a relationship with another. Libido actually has to do with work and feelings involved in any human connection where there are "tender feelings".
As for the sex, I found this segment quite interesting because the author breaks sex down in to several different types, and what each kind generally implies the man is feeling. I've heard of the majority of the types labeled here, but there were also a couple I hadn't heard defined quite so before.
The author also breaks down aggression in to several types. And again he defines what each implies the man is feeling at the time of experiencing the said aggression. Like I said earlier in regards to general emotions and struggles, I think these could easily apply to men or women. The point though was that I found the breakdowns and discussions intriguing.
Parts II (The Growing-Up Years) and III (Making Peace with the Past) were the hardest ones for me to get through. My husband had anything but a great childhood, yet I don't really see him being flawed or damaged goods because of it. He is a wonderful person both because of and in spite of his past. To me I just didn't see a lot that would currently be applicable to my own life (ie husband's life) in this section.
Lastly, Part IV (What Every Man Needs from a Woman, but Is Afraid to Ask) was about summing up the man and making your relationship together be the best it can be, all the while giving him room to be his true self. I found the section on how to give feedback somewhat insightful, and I also appreciated the the Relationship Red Zones, Toolbox Tips, and Wakeup Calls that were scattered throughout each chapter in the entire book.
All in all I'd probably give this one a 3 out of 5 rating. It wasn't a great read for me personally, but I can see why it has it's merits.
-Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC
It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book's FIRST chapter!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Focus (December 8, 2008)
Tim Sanford is a licensed professional counselor with Focus on the Family and in private practice. An author, speaker, ordained minister, and former youth worker, he has more than 30 years of experience with teenagers. Tim and his wife, Becky, have two adult daughters and reside in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Focus (December 8, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Control: It’s Not Your Department
As a therapist working with teenagers and their families, I’ve heard many a story from parents. Some of them go like these.
• Denise’s daughter is overweight, and the two constantly battle over junk food. While Denise serves low-calorie dinners and packs healthy lunches, she frequently finds her daughter sneaking between-meal cookies and chips. The 14-year-old spends her babysitting money at the nearby convenience store, loading up on snack cakes and soft drinks. Angry, Denise strikes back by withholding allowance and repeatedly warning of the consequences of unhealthy eating habits. Nothing seems to work.
•Mac’s blood pressure skyrockets when he thinks of his 15-year old son getting his driver’s license in a few short months. The boy has completed an expensive, private driver-training course and seems cautious and responsible. But Mac can’t stop remembering his son’s kamikaze approach to theme-park bumper cars five years ago. This hapless father’s knuckles turn white when his teenager is at the wheel; his right foot presses an invisible brake pedal while his heart races like crazy. He wonders if he should make his son wait to get his license until he’s 17 . . . or 18 . . . or 20.
• Joe wonders where his little boy and girl have gone. His sweet, bright-eyed grade-schoolers suddenly have been replaced by a shaggy, lanky 15-year-old boy who appears unaware of his own overwhelming body odor—and a 13-year-old girl who favors tight tank tops and too much eye makeup. Joe’s wife has had some loud conversations with their daughter about her tastes in clothes and cosmetics, but neither parent has confronted their son about his pungent smell. Joe knows it’s probably up to him, but he hates to destroy the boy’s self-esteem. He wonders whether he’s just being a control freak. He looks on his bookshelf for help, but finds nothing. They never deal with anything practical in those parenting books, he thinks.
Like Denise, Mac, and Joe, you probably face plenty of situations in which a book called The Complete Guide to Controlling Your Teenager would seem helpful. It wouldn’t be, though. The idea of being your son’s or daughter’s puppeteer might sound appealing, but the results would
be disastrous for both of you. This book takes a different approach. And when it comes to control,
many of us parents need to as well.
Are You Out of Control?
Parenting is a daunting task when you consider the consequences of major decisions like these:
• how your teen spends his free time
• which friends she spends time with
• how he makes and spends money
• how she approaches her schoolwork
• when he starts driving
• what she eats, where she eats, and how much
• whether he goes to church or youth group
• what she looks like
• what level of personal hygiene he attains
• whether or not she uses foul language
• what parties and other social events he attends
• whether she smokes, drinks, or uses illegal drugs
It’s no wonder so many parents would like to control those decisions until the last possible second. But is that wise, not to mention doable? Here are some questions you may be asking about control as you try to set boundaries with your teenager:
•Which parts of a situation belong to me and which belong to my teen?
•What’s mine to decide and what’s not?
•How much “rope” can I give my daughter before she “hangs” herself?
•What does my son get to choose, and what do I choose for him?
• Should I make my teenager go to church with the family?
•What about rules?
•What about freedom?
•What about being responsible?
•What about respect?
•What about his hair?
• How do I get her to do her homework?
•What if my daughter is already 18 years old?
Over and over I’ve heard parents ask questions like these. Control is one of the biggest issues they encounter, and one of the most misunderstood.
Illusions of Control
I try to base all my counseling on what Jesus said in John 8:32: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus was talking about a particular truth—who He is as the Son of God. But I believe His observation applies to all reality. Knowing and understanding the truth—what reality actually is, like it or not—can set you free from the problems that come with lies and mistaken perceptions.
Error, wrong thinking, skewed beliefs, and misconceptions lie at the root of many, if not most, conflicts. That’s certainly true of control. The more accurately you think about something, the healthier your life will be. The converse is also true. The more inaccurate your thinking, the
more dysfunctional your relationship with your teen will be—even if you assume your thinking is fine, which we all usually do.
So here’s a good place to start: thinking more accurately about control, in order to undo common confusion about its role in relationships.
Many tensions between parents and teens boil down to the issue of control. Sometimes it’s not visible on the surface, but lurks below. For instance, you may think you’re pressuring your son or daughter to work harder in school to have a better chance at college scholarships. But the deeper issue may be how you feel about the way your teen spends time—texting from that iPhone or hanging with friends instead of doing homework. The two of you are battling for the right to decide.
There are as many myths about control as there are days of the year.
Our culture doesn’t make it any easier; an alien visiting our society might think we’re all a bunch of control freaks. Consider the phrases we use that have the word control in them. Here’s a starter list:
• remote control
• quality control
• cruise control
• climate control
• traffic control
• crowd control
• master control
• weight control
• arms control
We talk about controlling our destinies, our lives; we study ways to control the aging process; we attend expensive seminars in an effort to control our eating habits, anger, financial future, thinking, moods . . . and children.
Self-help books and workshops—in the Christian arena as well as the general market—promise control. Much of the psychology practiced in the U.S.—cognitive behavioral therapy—focuses on control, too.
Don’t get me wrong. The idea of having control is not bad in itself.
Therapy that focuses on what you can legitimately control, as well as what you can’t, is a healing and helpful tool.
But a person’s fixation on needing control, which I often observe as a therapist, and the illusion that you need or have more control than you actually do, turn healthy ownership into a control-freak thing.
Most of us want control, plain and simple—and the more the better, thank you very much! That’s because when we have control, we can make things turn out the way we want. We can be happy and avoid pain or displeasure.
If only it were that easy.
High-control people believe the best way to avoid pain is to keep a tight rein on the things around them—including key people, especially their children. After all, there can be a whole lot of hurt when children go astray.
I met such an over-controlling parent many years ago when I worked at a psychiatric hospital. I was the primary therapist for a teenage girl from a military family. She was rebelling, skipping school, experimenting with alcohol. Her family diagnosed her as a “behavior problem.”
In our second weekly family therapy session, the girl’s father—a high-ranking officer—stated emphatically that the only reason something goes wrong is because somebody didn’t do his or her job correctly. Therefore, that somebody is at fault. He was referring to his teenage daughter, of course; everything else was under his control.
This father had an exaggerated sense of control, and a huge misconception about it. He’d carried his “systems checklist” mentality home from the office, refusing to see that there were some things he
couldn’t control. He also refused to see that his campaign to over control his daughter was partially—though not completely—to blame for her rebellion. Her behavior was an attempt to escape his over control.
When you think of control, you might have visions of someone like this father—or a power-mad villain from an old James Bond movie.
While I’ve met a few who could have been cast for such a part, the vast majority of us parents are much more “normal” in our desire for control.
But because our culture encourages us to seek control—and because some Christians overemphasize its role in parenting—it’s important to look at the way you think about the topic.
Everyone Has “Control Issues”
Most parents don’t behave as extremely as the aforementioned dad. But that doesn’t mean they have no problems with control. It’s not an “all or nothing” proposition.
Take, for example, the issue of trying to “guarantee” what will happen to our children.
My early years were spent as a missionary’s kid in Ecuador. In that culture there was a life philosophy that could be summarized as “Quesera, sera”—“What will be, will be.” There was no “I am the captain of my fate and the master of my soul” quoted at graduation ceremonies.
As a result, I’ve come to see the truth in the following observation:
• You can drive the safest car built in the world (control).
• You can place your infant in the safest car seat manufactured (control).
• You can be the safest driver in your state, with all the necessary skills for every possible situation (control).
• Yet a drunk driver can still cross the double yellow line, hit you head-on, and take the life of your baby.
“Que sera, sera.”
Where is your control now?
You were very wise and responsible. You did everything correctly. You controlled the things that were yours to control. But after all was said and done, there was no guarantee that you could keep your child safe. There were a lot of elements—including people—you couldn’t control, yet which could have a huge impact on you.
“But I want a guarantee!” you may plead.
You’re not alone. As parents, we want certainty that we can keep our children safe and raise them so they’ll turn out well, following scriptural guidance.
But there is no guarantee.
“That kind of thinking is negative and scary! I don’t like that.”
Yes, it is scary.
“But what about the verse that says, ‘Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it’?”
Proverbs 22:6 communicates a very wise principle. But it’s not a guarantee that magically or spiritually overrides your teenager’s free will—which, by the way, was given to him or her by God Himself. This biblical principle does not obligate God to you or force Him to make your teenager turn out the way you think he or she should.
I hear you.
We parents want control so badly because we think that if we do the right things, our kids will turn out the way we want them to. It doesn’t matter whether we’re Christians, or whether we’re “high-control” people or think we have no control at all. We still want it.
We want to be able to lay our heads on our pillows at night, with our teenagers snugly tucked into their clean beds, and know we did it “right.”
Since there aren’t any guarantees, many parents settle for illusions of control. An illusion often is more comforting than the truth. That may sound harsh, but I’ve found in my years as a therapist that most people have a hard time with the truth.
Reality can be a hard pill to swallow. But last time I checked, whenever you fight reality you lose.
That’s just the way life is. Reality wins.
The only absolute assurance, for those who have a relationship with God through Christ, is that eventually they’ll enjoy life forever with the One who made and redeemed them. That’s guaranteed.
The rest of life isn’t. Ask parents who’ve lost a son or daughter to an automobile accident on the way home from a church meeting, or in a rock climbing fall, or to the sudden onset of cancer, or in a school shooting incident, about guarantees. See what they have to say about control.
I know parents like these. I’ve looked into their tear-filled eyes and attempted to field the “Why?” questions. Maybe you are one. If so, I’m truly sorry.
Does this mean our lives are careening, like cars with the brake lines cut, toward the edge of a cliff? Should we just take our hands off the wheel and brace for the crash? Why try to guide our teenagers at all?
Keep in mind that there are degrees of control. While you can’t guarantee the outcome, you can make a baby safer with a good car seat.
There are also different kinds of control: the kind that is actually yours to exercise and the kind that isn’t. The key in parenting is knowing which is which—and knowing what to do with each.
You need to keep and use the control you’re entitled to—or take hold of it if you’ve lost it.
And you want to lose the control you really don’t have in the first place—and give up illusions you may have about it.
It’s not easy to figure out! But that’s why you have this book. It explains what’s truly yours to control—and helps you quit trying to grasp control that doesn’t belong to you.
Believe it or not, when it comes to raising teenagers, losing control can be a wonderful and freeing thing!
Your Brain and Control
To understand your assumptions about control, it helps to understand what you’ve been telling yourself about it. Your need to control grows out of your experiences, and how they affect your thinking and decision making.
The neurology of your brain is complex, but for the moment let’s compare it to a jukebox.
I mean a real jukebox, not a digital one—the old kind with vinyl 45s inside and a panel of buttons, each corresponding to a hit single. You watch as the record drops onto the turntable, the arm swings over, and the needle slips into the grooves to play your selection. If you have teenagers, maybe you can remember when these weren’t called antiques!
That’s what your brain is like. Each “record” has etched on it a simple, short phrase known as a belief. A belief is a statement of what you think is fact. Most of your beliefs were recorded, catalogued, and filed in your jukebox during the first seven to ten years of your life.
When you hear the word belief, you may think first of religious beliefs. But you have beliefs about every subject under the sun. You use them every day as you try to make sense of life. They’re your worldview— all on a bunch of 45s!
So your thought process plays out (no pun intended) in the following sequence:
1. A new experience happens, or a series of similar experiences. Perhaps a bully trips you in the school cafeteria, and you land in the middle of your own mashed potatoes. Or you feel guilty while reading a “how to raise a teenager” book.
2. You attempt to understand this situation as best you can.
3. You draw a conclusion from the experience. It may be based on
incomplete information available at that moment, but you
assume your conclusion is true.
4. A recording of your conclusion is made into a belief statement
and filed in your jukebox. The new record is polished, catalogued,
and ready for future reference.
5. Every time a similar situation arises, that record plays. You
respond according to the belief it contains.
We all have one record that sounds pretty much the same. It says, “All my records, all my beliefs, are true. I can even validate them with life experiences if I have to!”
We’re quite defensive about our record collections. If you disagree with me, my defenses shout, “What do you think I am? Stupid? I wouldn’t believe a lie! I’m intelligent! I know what’s right and true, and I can back it up!”
If you’re willing to drop those defenses, you may find some of your records are a bit warped. Some conclusions you’ve drawn about walking in the school cafeteria may have been based on incomplete information. What you read in that parenting book may be partly true, but may not be the best advice for you and your situation.
Remember, most of your records were forged in your first seven to ten years—long before you ever thought of raising a teenager. Your beliefs about things like love and discipline—and control—may not be totally accurate.
There are plenty of books for Christians that tell you what you should have on your records. But I want to encourage you to think deeply about the “control songs” your jukebox is already playing and whether they’re true.
It matters because those records remain in the slots of your jukebox, some of them warped and misleading, waiting to be activated when life “pushes your buttons.”When one of them plays, it may sound funny to everyone but you. To you, it sounds true. Most of us, after all, never stop to question our beliefs; we just believe them.
Some of your records may need to be remixed, updated, even tossed. This book will help you do that with records that revolve (so to speak) around the subject of control.
Many of us have whole albums on that subject. One of yours probably features the hit single about how every parent’s job is to make sure his or her children turn out “right.” Even though most of us don’t quite know what that standard means, we feel obliged to meet it.
Oh, how wrong that record is.
If it were true, it would mean God messed up.
Control: A Reality Check
In Genesis we read about a place called the Garden of Eden. It was a perfect environment, a perfect “home.”
In this perfect place there were two perfect people—God’s children, Adam and Eve. Wouldn’t that be nice to have perfect children?
And there was a perfect God—the perfect parent.
There was also a rule: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
You’ve probably heard the rest of the story.
Adam and Eve chose foolishly, defying what God had told them.
Our human decay and ultimate death are stark reminders of that wrong choice—made by perfect people in a perfect environment with a perfect parent.
So what did God do wrong? If He “trained them in the way they should go,” why did Adam and Eve choose the other option? If Proverbs 22:6 is a guarantee of success for parents, why wasn’t it a guarantee for the Author of the Book?
Enter free will.
I’m talking about a God-given freedom to choose—part of being created in His image. Adam and Eve exercised it, and your teenagers exercise it today.
“But I want them to turn out right,” you say.
Yes. I agree with you. But that’s not your job.
“But I want the best for them, for their sakes.”
I won’t argue with that. But it’s still not your job to make sure they do.
I know. I’m a parent, too.
You do have a job, which I’ll get to in the next chapter; it’s just not that one. You could do everything exactly “right” all 18 years of your child’s life under your roof—assuming you could know what “exactly right” was—and he or she could still choose “wrong.”
God has given our children the option to be foolish, even to sin.
He doesn’t want them to be foolish or to sin. But they’re free moral agents to pick right or wrong, wisdom or folly, truth or lies, righteousness or evil.
To a parent, that’s scary news. There really is a whole lot more that you can’t control than you can control.
But before you get too discouraged, rest assured that we’ll get to the topic of influence—of which you have a great amount with your children. You are not powerless as the parent of a teenager.
For now, though, I want you to go back and read the fine print on the bottom of that contract—the one you signed when you became a parent, the one that includes the possibility of having your heart broken.
“I never signed up for that,” you might say.
But that’s exactly what you did. You opened your heart to the possibility that it would be broken by the very child you love and want the best for.
You signed up to raise a little person—one for whom you’re responsible but are not able to control.
So before we go on, take time right now (yes, I mean right now, or you probably won’t do it at all) to contemplate the powerful words of “The Serenity Prayer.”
It may be familiar. You even may have it memorized. But as you reflect on it this time, don’t do it as an abstraction or for somebody else’s benefit. Do it practically, for yourself as the parent of a teenager. Make it a personal prayer from your heart to God.
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
My girls are only 3 and 5 so thankfully it should be a while still before I'll have to really put the info I learned from this book in to effect. Having said that, I would recommend this book to any Christian family with teens. Sanford is careful to share his professional knowledge in such a way as to be understandable, almost in layman's terms, to those of us who haven't received a degree in psychology or counseling. He manages to express his ideas succinctly so there's no confusion on the reader's end as to what he was saying.
I found it interesting to read that, according to Sanford, control isn't the issue that we need to focus on. Control will come when a child is well loved, well taught, and able to thrive on his/her own. What is important is the specific part each parent plays in raising their child(ren). I think we all grow up knowing that there are things daddy will impart and others that mommy will impart, but I'd never heard it broken down in the quite this way before. Per Sanford, dads are there to validate while moms are there to nuture. It's easy to see where this idea comes from though when you look on traditional families of the past. Dads are always cast in the role of showing approval such as "Good job, son." or "That's my girl." Meanwhile, mom's role is cast showing her tending to the booboos, reading the bedtime story, playing with the baby on the floor. Sanford believes that without these two aspects of parenting there will never be any control because these are what build the child and give him/her the ability to function fully.
There are actually only so many things you can control in the world, no matter how hard you try. In truth, your kids are one of them- especially as they get older. But if you take the time when they're young to guide them in the right directions and to help them become strong individuals with a good support network, you'll be aiding them more than you know when it comes to control later on down the road. We've all seen the toddler that acts out after his new sibling is born. It's not that the child is naturally bad. No, the trouble is the toddler feels his place in the world being usurped by the family's new cooing addition, and in an attempt to garner more attention- positive or negative because, hey, let's face it, attention is attention- he acts out in whatever extreme manners he can think of. It's because he is craving attention that the child acts poorly. According to Sanford, this is what happens with a lot of teenagers as well. When they aren't given the right amounts of attention they'll do their own thing, leaving you, the parent, feeling completely out of control. When really, all along, the child/teen is simply trying to get your attention because they miss the validation and nurturing that gave guidance and comfort.
In short, what Sanford goes on to discuss is that as a parent you are not here on this earth to control your child(ren). Every person must eventually grow up and learn to be independent. If someone else is constantly controlling their every move, they'll never be able to grow and mature in the way God intended. God gave us all free will. And no matter how badly we, as parents, might want to scream about some of the choices our children make, we simply must give up that control which is no longer ours to hold. It is then that we must fall back on our subsequent role of influencer. We may not be able to control the things our children do, but with a healthy influence we can hope they'll live by example and make the right choices. If, and undoubtedly when, they make the wrong choices, they will learn from their mistakes.
Just remember, we were all teenagers once, and more likely than not we all had our turn to fight for control with our very own parents. We're still here to talk about it right? That must mean there really is a light at the end of the tunnel for us when it's our turn to play the role of parenting a teenager.
-Bookish Mom, aka RebekahC