Monday, March 29, 2010

short weekend, short week!

  • My school had its annual benefit auction on Saturday night; as a result, I worked for seven hours Saturday afternoon and evening! (Fortunately, my job was fun, fairly stress-free, and with great people, so it didn't actually feel like seven hours.) That left me with a shorter weekend than usual ... however, one of the benefits of working at a Christian school is that we take time off for Easter, so I have a four-day weekend coming up!
  • Once again, I seem to be in the business of killing plants. Stacey gave me an aloe vera plant around Christmas. It looked great for a long time, but recently it's been looking a little peaked. It's probably because it hasn't gotten much light ...
  • I finally got some data pulled off the hard drive of my fried computer. I bought this external hard drive enclosure from, and it works really well. I was concerned it might not be compatible with Windows 7, but I had no problems at all ... even though the installation instructions were quite obviously not written by a native English speaker and I had to fill in the blanks! (Example: After plug the external box into, the system will remind you there is a new hardware of USB Storage Adapter adds into. After for a while, click "My Computer", USB HDD will appear the relativity on the PC.) I pulled off the things I needed (my 2008 tax return) or wanted (my iTunes download of Dr. Horrible) and left everything else alone--it seems to be working well, so why fill the hard drive of my laptop if I don't need to?
  • Blendy and I cleaned my apartment because one of my students will be staying with me over Easter. She then actually updated her blog, so you can read about our weekend here!
  • I am totally caught up on my reading! I have two reviews due the week of April 5 and another due the next week--and I've read all the books and written one of the reviews already! So what am I doing with my spare time? Reading! I just got the newest Karen Kingsbury book, Take Three, and I had a really difficult time putting it down last night.
  • Speaking of my book review books, I have a whole bunch of giveaways coming up, so keep checking the blog! 
  • I got my free copy of Emma today. Perfect timing, as the last movie I reviewed on my other blog was the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma. If you click over there, you'll notice the blog has a new look ... one that's much more "me"!
  • Spring has finally come to central Nebraska! As I dove home from work today, I noticed the other drivers; nearly every one had the driver's window open. I immediately opened the windows in my apartment once I got home, and I'm thoroughly enjoying the warm breeze.
  • The weddings are coming up! I bought my dress for Jen's wedding last Sunday, and Melissa's aunt is altering my dress for Melissa's wedding ... which is now less than two weeks away!
  • Right now, I'm watching the new season of Dancing with the Stars. Missed it last week because of a work thing, so I'm seeing the changes--the new opening, new co-host, new dancers--for the first time. So far, I don't have a favorite ... but I do have someone I'm hoping gets kicked off first: Jake Pavelka, the Bachelor himself. Does ABC really think America still loves him? And if Vienna's sitting in the audience looking all googly-eyed, I may just have to hurl.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

need a boost?

Dunkin' Donuts is giving away samples of their new coffee. Thanks to Jen for alerting me!

Dunkin' Donuts. Dunkin' keeps me blogging. Try Dunkin' Donuts Coffee For Free. Get a Sample

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I've had a really crummy attitude about health care lately. Not because of the health care legislation--I'm ashamed to admit that I don't know too much about it. No, my attitude has stemmed from my ER visit in January. The visit itself was fine (aside from the nurse who couldn't get the IV in and had to try repeatedly ... that part wasn't pleasant!), or at least as fine as an ER visit can be. I really didn't want to go in the first place because I knew it would cost me a lot of money ... I just didn't have any idea how much!

Three weeks after my visit, I got notification from my insurance company that they weren't covering any of the bill--which totaled nearly $4000! My first reaction was anger--what good was my insurance if it wasn't going to help me out? My next reaction was panic--how would I pay for everything? My medical issue didn't end with the ER visit--I still had to see my doctor a couple times and undergo more tests. The bills kept coming--a $90 doctor visit here, a $400 hospital bill there. Most bills were partially covered by insurance, but at the beginning of March, it looked like I'd still have to pay between $5500 and $6000. I know that many people are struggling to pay bills so much higher than mine, but to me, these bills looked nearly insurmountable.

Early in January, before I knew what was wrong with me and that it was, at least for now, manageable by diet and exercise, I came across these verses in my daily Bible reading:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:25-34
When the bills began rolling in, I clung to those verses, as well as this one:  And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 Sometimes, I didn't do a very good job of trusting, but it seemed like every time I reached full freak-out mode, one of those verses would pop back into my head.

Through it all, God took care of me--sometimes in large ways, and other times in small ways. One person God used to bless me was Gary. I've mentioned him in the past--he runs Gary's Body Shop here in town. My driver's window broke in January (the pic to the left is me driving home from Grand Island right after it broke. Blendy gave me her hood to wear with my coat because I was so cold!), and when my dad took my car in to Gary's, Gary said he thought the broken part was still under warranty from when he fixed it last summer. It was, and on top of that, he refused payment for labor, saying that when you go to Gary's, you expect to have the job done right!

Then there was the speech judging job where I got paid double for one round because it was longer than a normal round, plus they gave me mileage even though I carpooled with another judge!

And then there's Tom. He's the business manager where I work. About two weeks ago, he got on the phone with the insurance company (I get my health insurance through my employer). I was so grateful that he offered to call because I wouldn't have had a clue what to say! He put the lady on speaker phone, and pretty much everything either of them said was Greek to me! I learned that I definitely didn't follow procedure when I went to the ER without calling the insurance company first, though I didn't realize at the time that I was supposed to do that. (Perhaps I should have read the massive booklet I got when I first signed up for the insurance five years ago?) The good news is that had I called, they would have sent me to the hospital I went to, and they agreed to review the charges. Anyway, long story short, today I learned that insurance would cover over half of the ER charges!

I still have a large bill to pay. I'll have to be careful about my spending. I won't be using my tax refund to buy a Wii like I'd been planning for the last six months. But I also won't be in financial trouble. I don't deserve this. I don't know why God has chosen to work out my finances. But I am grateful!

I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13:6

Monday, March 22, 2010

book giveaway #2 winner!

Congratulations, Trina (comment #5)! You win the copy of Start Here. Please send your address to christianchicksthoughts[at], and I'll get the book sent off right away. I'm sure your son will really enjoy it!

Friday, March 19, 2010

"start here: doing hard things right where you are" by alex & brett harris

Start Here builds upon the notion Alex and Brett Harris presented on their blog,, and in their first book, Do Hard Things: teenagers should counter society’s low expectations and instead strive to do hard things for the glory of God.

The Harris brothers (younger brothers of Joshua Harris, whose Dug Down Deep I recently reviewed) wrote Start Here as a “personal field guide to jumping in and getting involved.” The book gives practical advice on a whole range of topics that teens may encounter when trying to do hard things. The book is obviously geared toward teenagers, but much of the advice could apply to anyone stepping out of his or her comfort zone to do something difficult.

In chapter four, the authors talk about saying no to some things, even though they are worthwhile pursuits. They say, “We realized that we didn’t have to do everything and be everywhere in order to serve God. We actually make ourselves more fruitful when we learn to say no (and yes) to the right things." I have a difficult time saying no, and then I get really busy and stressed out, so their words really resonated with me.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I think it will be an excellent resource for teens who desire to serve God, especially if they’re not quite sure what that looks like.

Should you read it? Absolutely.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.You can purchase it here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

book giveaway #2!

I have another Waterbrook Multnomah title to give away--Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are by Alex & Brett Harris. This is a follow-up to their book Do Hard Things, and it is "a powerful and practical guide to doing hard things."

If you're interested in winning a copy, please comment on this post by March 19. And if you're out of the target teenage demographic, don't let that stop you from entering. You probably know a teen you could give it to, or, at the very least, I'm sure this book would be a great addition to your church library!

Friday, March 12, 2010

"raven's ladder" by jeffrey overstreet

Raven's Ladder is the second book I received for the fantasy blog tour. (Read my review of Lady Carliss here.) It is book three of Jeffrey Overstreet's "The Auralia Thread" series.

Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of "The Auralia Thread," though I was familiar with Overstreet through his articles on Christianity Today's movie website. Those essays were what compelled me to reply "yes" when offered the chance to read and review this book. It's a decision I regretted as I slogged my way through the book.

"I don't like feeling stupid when I read" are the exact words I used to describe to someone how I felt about Raven's Ladder. As I worked through the book, I frequently had to stop and ponder what I'd read or even go back and reread a section. I often mentally--and sometimes verbally--expressed my frustration with Overstreet's lack of description of places and creatures I had no concept of. Then it hit me: Overstreet certainly described those very things in the first book of the series! Of course I was confused and frustrated--I had jumped headlong into the second half of the story!

Once I got through the first 200 pages of the 380 page book, the puzzle pieces began falling into place, and I started to appreciate Overstreet's story. As the book ended, I felt like I was just getting started, and I am very curious about what will happen next to the characters who at first frustrated me. Also, the last two pages left me with a gasping "aha!" moment ... and I really love those!

Following House Abscar's destruction, King Cal-raven leads the survivors on a journey to find a place to establish New Abscar. After Cal-raven disappears, the Abscar survivors find their way to House Bel Amica, where they find favor with the royal family. The queen's Seers, however, would love nothing more than to destroy the survivors ... and the royal family. Cal-raven's faith in the Keeper will be tested as he attempts to regain leadership over his people, rescue the ale boy and the Treasure from House Cent Regus, and discover what happened to Auralia. (See? What did I say about it not making sense if you haven't read the first two books?)

Should you read it? If you enjoy fantasy, a la Lord of the Rings. But please read the books in the proper order! (You can purchase it here.)

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"lady carliss and the waters of moorue" by chuck black

For my most recent Blogging for Books blog tour, I received two fantasy books: Lady Carliss and the Waters of Moorue by Chuck Black and Raven's Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet. I read Lady Carliss first. (Confession time: I'm still reading Raven's Ladder, and I'm only about 60 pages in. I have until Friday to post my review ... I may be lacking sleep in the new few days!)

Lady Carliss is the fourth book in Black's The Knights of Arrethtrae series. Marketed as youth/teen fiction, I'd say it's suitable for ages 7 and up, though it would probably be okay for younger children who don't scare easily, as well.

Lady Carliss, a Knight of the Prince, is returning home from a mission when she learns that a friend's family has been taken captive by followers of the Dark Knight. Then her friend Dalton is poisoned by a mysterious lizard-like creature, and Carliss must race against time--both to rescue her friend's family and to find a cure for Dalton.

Black's series is an allegory for Christianity, similar to C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. However, based on Lady Carliss, I'd guess that these books more closely parallel biblical narrative than Lewis's did. Parents could easily discuss the themes present in this book with their kids and draw out applications to their lives. Black seems to have intended this, based on the author's note at the end and the discussion questions that follow.

I am certain that my 8-year-old self, the girl who read everything she could get her hands on and even used a flashlight under the covers to read late into the night, would absolutely love Lady Carliss. Oh, who am I kidding? My 28-year-old self loves it, too! This is the kind of book you could read with your elementary-aged kids and enjoy just as much as they do.

Besides the previously-mentioned discussion questions, the book also includes sheet music for a song called "Journey to Moorue." I banged it out the best I could, and even in my feeble attempt could tell that it's a hauntingly beautiful piece.

Should you read it? Yes, yes, yes! (And I plan to go back and read the first three books.) You can purchase it here.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Friday, March 5, 2010

single shopper on aisle one

I went to Walmart last night to pick up a few things ... which turned into a cart full! As I was walking down the dairy aisle, I glanced down at my cart and realized that anyone who looked at my shopping cart--without seeing me--would be able to ascertain that the cart's owner was a single woman on a diet! The items in my cart:
  • nail polish
  • feminine products
  • concealer & foundation
  • diet soda
  • skim milk
  • yogurt
  • a greeting card
  • baking soda
  • pretzels
  • powdered sugar
  • hair dye
  • Peeps
Then I looked at the carts around me and began to do a little guessing. The man pushing the cart containing beer and frozen pizza? Single. The elderly woman pushing the cart full of cookies, pop, fruit, and toys? Shopping for the grandkids. The man looking back and forth between the creamer case and his list before finally selecting a bottle of CoffeeMate? Married and doing his wife's shopping. (Okay, so that wasn't his cart--I didn't even notice what was in his cart because I was so amused by his befuddled countenance!)

I decided you can surmise a lot about a person based on his or her shopping cart. Not only does mine say I'm single, but it also says I neglect one or two of the major food groups and I don't cook a lot.

So, what does your shopping cart say about you?


I never win anything. Maybe that's not technically true, but the last thing I remember winning was a McGee & Me video from our local Christian radio station when I was in elementary school. Wait, I guess I did win a $5 Pampered Chef gift certificate at the Kansas State Fair a few years ago, but $5 doesn't go very far when you're talking Pampered Chef, and I never got around to redeeming it.

This afternoon, I received an email from an employee at WGBH, the Boston PBS affiliate. I won a free copy of the new Masterpiece Classic production of Emma!

I watched Emma when it aired in January, and I desperately wanted to buy it, but I've been saving my money to pay off those pesky medical bills. I added it to my Amazon wish list in hopes that my mom would buy it for my birthday ... which isn't until August. Earlier, I was watching the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow version for my movie rewatch project, and I found myself wishing I could follow it up with the Masterpiece version, which I believe is far superior. And now I can! (Well, I can after I've allowed 3-4 weeks for delivery ... )

Here's the funny thing: I don't even remember entering the drawing! Guess I can't say I never win anything anymore!