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This Phoenix Speaks

Seven years in the making, my first published book, This Phoenix Speaks , is now a reality. The tireless and tiring work invested to ma...

Les Misérables: Movie Review

I do not claim to be a big shot film critic; however, I do take claim to the fact that I have eyes, ears, and a heart.

Going in, I thought I had never been exposed to Les Misérables in any of its forms. I knew for certain that I had never been fortunate enough to have seen it on the stage; therefore, I assumed I didn't know its story. (I bought Victor Hugo's book awhile back, but have not read it yet!) The film's soundtrack music had escaped my notice because I had been too distracted by heavier things to take time to click on even one of the numerous links whirring past me on Facebook and Twitter.  Out of all my several friends and acquaintances, no one could join me, so there was no pre-viewing anticipatory  conversation.

The movie theater was packed like a can of sardines, but since I had made the fortunate mistake of choosing the handicapped seating, I had two seats to myself. I spread my short legs across the other seat, laid out my long, puffy jacket like a comforter snuggling up with my caffeine-free diet cherry Coke and my purple monkey that pretty much begged to go to the movies for a photo-op. (Yes, I did feel awkward having a stuffed monkey with me and no children, but I will endure just about anything in order to indulge in purplicious shenanigans.)

Then, the movie started.

My senses told me that I knew this story. I had felt the anguish and hope of Jean Valjean; I had seen the mercilessness of Javert; I had stepped into the shoes of Fantine, but when? My mind kept flashing back to a different movie--a non-musical version--when I was with my parents. Once the music burst from Jean Valjean's lips, I was flooded with emotion. Seeing a CD case with the iconic Les Misérables cover art on my mother's book case by the large window in her kitchen. And the performances of the many actors and actresses transformed the flashes of past memory into a wild and joyous experience in the present.

The connection of past to present made the movie all that much more wonderful to me, yet it stands alone in its merit. There are those who criticize some of the actors for not singing up to snuff with performances they've seen in London or Los Angeles or New York. As I said before, I have not seen any stage production of Les Misérables, but I do not need to in order to say that these actors and actresses were amazing. No, Russell Crowe should not go into professional stage singing. His performance was stellar nonetheless. And as for the criticisms of Amanda Seyfried--a load of hogwash. I find her singing voice to be like a songbird that I never could be but always longed for. I feel sorry for the catty and backbiting sorts of critiques that have peppered the internet. These people who performed for the world are PEOPLE. With FEELINGS. Don't be so rude about your dislikes of this or any other performance. There are ways to communicate dislikes without putting artists and actors on the rack for public torture.

Another, more priceless, aspect of this story is the allegory of Christ's redemption which is threaded throughout the lives of each character. The example that stands out most poignantly for me is how Fantine makes mistakes, even commits dreaded sin, yet she is Jean Valjean's angel leading him back to God. I was able to see, within a secular movie, my faith strengthened and renewed. I was reminded that liberty and love are in my grasp, that God does not forsake even the lowliest of his children. I was brought to realize how blessed I am to not be as lowly and impoverished as those portrayed in the film, as those somewhere in the world are right now. My humanity was touched to the core.

I encourage anyone who is thinking about going to see this film to go.

Five out of five stars

Polka Dot Purple goes to the movies.

Top Ten Readers' Choice 2012

Reading through these ten blogs, I realize how my words are not my own. Each one has been inspired by someone else. I give each of you who have made these rise to the top my thanks for being, recognizing, and sharing my inspiration. 

As in all truly fabulous countdowns, we shall start with ten in order to lead up to the Number One Readers' Choice.


10. Purple Pancakes

9Without Them, Life Would Be Miserable

8. Sunlight and Supernovas

7. The Best Mostaccioli Recipe Yet Written

6. Thirty Days of Gratitude

5. Top Ten -licious Words Every Geek Should Know

4. My Heart Exposed

3. WANTED: Awareness, Respect, Acceptance

2. Short People Problems and Painting

1. Heartbreak Hotel: Lunchroom Edition

Thoughts On Silence

Do you ever get so full of silence that you feel you might burst, but since it's silence, nothing comes out? That is where I am right now.

The roller coaster of my life has been whipping me around and taking me for plunges and climbing many a hill, yet I don't think I am overburdened by it anymore. Most days, I am able to focus on what is going right or what positive thing might come from the current hardship. And I can't thank all of you enough for your encouragement when I happen to allow myself to indulge in negative attitudes. Your words truly make a difference, changing the course of my day.

So, why do I feel like this? Is it the calm before the storm? Is it a bizarre form of nervous anticipation for what is to come? I don't know, but I feel ponderous as all get out and don't know what to do with myself.

Purple Pool Balls

I don't know about you, but I have this thing for playing pool. My dad got me started at a young age by buying a custom table for in our family room. It had leather pockets and bright turquoise felt.  We'd have family tournaments and on-going rivalries between each of us, and then friends would come over and mix things up a bit from time to time. One of my brothers was even the junior high school champ one year. Now that I think of it, I wonder how his grades were that year...

I've never really gotten very good at pool ever, but I am not terrible at it either no matter how long it goes between games. I think it's because playing pool is just part of me. It doesn't hurt that there are two purple balls either. Seriously.

A friend of mine and I played a few games the other day, and it was rejuvenating to talk and play a game I have loved for as long as I can remember.

Do you have a game or hobby you began learning as a child and still participate in as an adult?
Please share--I would love to hear from you.

looking too far ahead

I have abandoned my love project for too long.

The reason I say this is because, instead of constantly reflecting on where I am in life in the now, I have been allowing myself to get caught up in wishing life to be different. Wishing doesn't make me happier though. I get to romanticizing my world, and it just isn't that word. There is nothing of the wonderful part of romance in my life. I have the dramatic and pining part down—the princess wishing for a rescue, but not the deep, abiding mutual care that is so essential. It's not even a good time for me for some miraculous rescue to happen. I wouldn't know how to trust anyone just yet and knowing this about myself hurts. But it is the truth. It is real.

I don't know if I'm making any sense whatsoever, but I just want you to know that I am feeling my lack of romantic love quite keenly, even feeling quite alone and pitiful, and I want to stop wishing for this elusive and possibly non-existent for me aspect of human existence.

The realization that I was in a mess came as I tortured myself with the lovely film Young Victoria (2009). The accuracy of much of it coupled with the stunning costuming and amazing lines provided me with the perfect storm. I actually got to crying so sloppily over all this stuff that I had mascara streaming down my face as if I were playing in some ridiculous, sappy chick flick after the main character gets dumped or something. My lack of grounding myself in reality hit hard, and I am left here writing in an attempt to make sense of why I cried out loud into the dark night at a movie that cannot give me answers.

Here is the song that broke me down. It says everything I wish to find and enjoy one day. if ever.

I realize that some of you might want to tell me things like It will get better; You are loved already; or even You will find someone when the time is right, but please don't. I've heard them all. I believe them at least a little bit too. But I just can't hear it right now. It won't help. It's not happening now, so I think it will be better for me, healthier, to stop looking that far ahead. I need to recognize now and let that sink in enough, so I can start breathing again.

Shoelaces for Christmas

Shoelaces for ChristmasShoelaces for Christmas by Craig S. Buehner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While this is a shorter length book, Shoelaces for Christmas by Craig S. Buehner packs a whole lot of story into its few pages. The story starts out at a gripping pace and never lets off the gas.

This is a story of how life's challenges and the suffering of others changes a young man's perspective on what Christmas and even what life means to him. I was compelled to read and read until I had it finished. There is never a slow moment--only layers of meaningful expressions teaching about life and love and the gift of Christmas. 

My heart was truly touched as I was moved to tears by this beautiful story, and I encourage everyone to give it a read. You'll be glad you did.

View all my reviews
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for this honest review, as well as a copy to give away to one of you lucky readers. Merry Christmas!

Seeking to Become - December 2012

...Because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
1 John 4:9-11

Spending the past month or so pondering on 1 John Chapter 4 in The New Testament has led me to know what I want to focus on this month for Seeking to Become and ever after: learning to love as God loves.

Let us look to the Lord's perfect example of love. He loves continually no matter what we do. He sent his Son to establish His gospel and atone for our sins. And by him providing that example for us--his children--we must have the divine ability to love continually as well. I do not think it an easy task, but it is a simple task. It boils down to seeing what needs to change and doing it.

I will seek out ways to be more patient, kind, and peaceful especially in difficult situations. It is very easy to be kind and patient when things are going well, but it is in the challenging moments when we (our resolve to love) will be tested. Love does not mean take people's garbage when they treat you ill, but it means to not harbor grudges, express love after having to discipline a child, and working things out and saying you're sorry when problems arise. Forgiving others translates into love.

Please join with me in seeking to become more loving to everyone regardless of how they treat you in return so that we might enjoy the peace that will come from seeking to be more like the Father and his Son, the Savior, even Jesus Christ. 

the (dis)enchanting

On broken wing we swiftly fly away
To find the world we loved
Never to see what we thought we had
Now knowing, disbelieving, 'twas at bay

Hopes for tastes of perfect beauty, peace,
Remain trapped within a dream
Where everything we might believe
Was and is arrived in Paradise

Dedicated to the victims and their families of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy. 

related link: Hug Them a Little Tighter

Hug Them A Little Tighter

As a hundred witty musings were whirring through my head, I read a tweet. It said that there was a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. And I mused no more. Floods of disturbing details inundated my timeline and my heart.

This event is a tragedy. Every single time a deranged or calculating killer strikes out against the innocent public, we are yet again reminded of the brevity of life, the precious few moments we have with our loved ones, and that everyone makes a mark on everyone else's lives somehow--whether it is for good or ill.

I don't have any answers as to why this happened, but I do have some thoughts on how we can live each day so, that if it is our last one with our loved ones, we will be at peace as much as possible. On these occasions, I have often imagined myself in the position of the family of victims because of certain factors at play in my own life. These things really steal my breath away. I mean, what sets these people off? What does it look like in daily life when someone is about to crack in such horrific ways? Is it possible to see warning signs and what are they?  These are my thoughts. So, I have pondered on what I can do to live in a way that I might not have regret if my family is ever instantly taken from me, no matter the cause.

These suggestions are things I try to implement daily:

Hug your children every single day--no matter how naughty or irritating they might be. Hold them when they cry. Hug them a little tighter all the time.

Call, text, email, write a letter, tweet, post a message on Facebook--whatever--if you are thinking of someone and want them to know you care. Just do it. Now.

Be aware of people's feelings and try to help if they need to talk.

Be a friend to the friendless. Seek out loners and be as much of a friend as they will allow.

Don't be afraid to ask questions and encourage someone who seems more than just a little sad to get help.
The list could go on and on, but my point is there's nothing like piling up a mountain of I wish I hads only to be crushed by it when tragedy strikes.

My heart goes out to everyone involved in the Connecticut tragedy as well as all the others. Our society seems to be plagued with these type of terrible events. Please know that my prayers are with you.  

the dearness of a friend

How does a person measure
     how much a friend is treasured?
How can one tell the value
     in what mere words allow you?

Once a soul touches your heart
     never is there thought to part.
Friendships such as this are few.
     Once realized, love ensues.

Priceless tender memories
     Many days gone by
     Private trials borne
To finally be at Peace

Kind, generous, and friendly
     an honor to have known her
     My heart will forever keep
Remembrance of this lily

Dedicated to my dear friend
Tomilyn Stone Malkiewicz
(December 13, 1971 - December 25, 2007)

12 . 12 . 12

With ecstasy, I reach for yet another word

To tell the world of what I've seen and where I've been,

Wishing a purple hue may ever paint your view.

the little space heater

OR The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Waking up in a 55 degree Fahrenheit house makes one grateful for a few things.

First, shelter tops the list. If the house was that cold, you can bet it was significantly colder outside the protection of walls. Second, blankets. Without nice, warm blankets, we could not have slept through the night as soundly--or at all. Third, a working furnace. It's amazing how much we take for granted until it is no longer at our beck and call.

Last, but certainly not the only other thing I have become keenly thankful for since my furnace broke down, this little heater that my parents gave me around fifteen years ago. As you can well see, it's junky and old--even is jalopy-looking enough to possibly be broken. However, looks can be deceiving...

Long story short--we thought the furnace was fixed, but it decided to stop working again in the middle of the night, and so I thought of the little space heater my parents handed down to me since they didn't need it anymore, turned it on in the hallway between my children's rooms, and prayed it would keep them warm enough until morning.

And it worked.

I never thought that a funky junky, old little heater like this one could be such a Godsend, but it certainly proved its worth last night. Thank you once again, Mom and Dad, for kicking down all your old stuff to me. You were and always will be the best.

The Snow Lay On The Ground

As I take pause to reflect on snow, Las Vegas, and Christmas time, I am reminded of my mother and a favorite Christmas carol.

Growing up in Las Vegas meant not seeing much snow, if any, except for during our annual sledding excursions to Mt. Charleston. While this might cause some people to have an aversion to snow, I think that's why I have such an affinity for it.  I can't seem to take enough pictures or stare long enough as it falls--I am in complete awe of its radiance and how it affects any landscape.

When I think about our snowless Christmases, back in my parents' home, I am reminded of how my mother played a part in encouraging my love of snow. She was the one packing the van with blankets, food, and hot chocolate; making sure everyone had as many layers of socks on but would still allow feet to get into our shoes; and singing Christmas songs all the way to Mt. Charleston. (My dad seemed to enjoy it plenty, but he was definitely not the concertmaster on these gigs.) Once we drove around a bit and found a good spot, they let us play until there were too many of us whining, and then we'd make the trek home with an ice chest full of snow if were were lucky.

I am also reminded of another way snow was brought into my life--through music. Mom always pointed out how Jesus was born in Bethlehem and it probably wasn't actually snowing there at the time, but for some reason she seemed to play carols about snow the most--or maybe those are just the ones I remember most because they weren't accurate. Who knows?

So anyways. When we were dividing up her belongings after she passed away, I ran across her Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD, The Spirit of Christmas (1996) and remembered how she used to blast it in the kitchen while baking Christmas cookies enough to stock every home within a ten-mile radius. I play this CD so much during Christmas time that it has become part of the fabric of the season for me and hopefully for my children too. I never thought I would care so much about a CD, but I must tell you it moves me to tears every time I listen to a particular song: The Snow Lay On The Ground. If I am actually hearing the song, it doesn't matter what's going on, I stop and let the music blanket my soul and I am with her in that kitchen so long ago feeling her warmth and love of music even better than I did when I was actually there because I see her now. I understand what mothers go through, what sacrifices they make. I understand the importance of surrounding myself with godliness. I understand better, by not having her close, how beautiful she made life with what she had to offer. I believe I have learned to appreciate her divine and infinite worth.

When I think of snow, I think of my mother which turns me closer to my God and Savior, and thus awe and wonder are beyond justified.

The recording in this video is not near as good as the one I have, but it will give you a sense of the what the song sounds like, at least.

conveyance of feeling

Overwhelmed and suffocating, yet finding joy in the small and precious moments.
Reaching for a lifesaver, wishing for a boat to remove me from all the madness.
Finding silence to be a healer--a vehicle for my mind to reach calmer waters.
Attained gratitude for what makes life worth living despite the constant havoc.
Saturated with friendship washing over me from near and far, surprising.

Hopeful against the odds. Smiling through the tears.
Loving and loved, continually striving.

i {heart} dancing

Dance has changed me.

I went to church and school dances religiously growing up, so I already knew that I enjoy dancing. However, when I signed up for this beginning social dance class I had no clue what I was in for. The high life of making friends who can dance, experiencing the rejection of wallflowers—although I am not one, trying my hand (or rather my feet) at competition, and witnessing first-hand the glorious beauty of excellent dancing has brought me to the realization how very much I adore dancing.

While I have no plans to get into championship dancing, my glint of excitement turned into a fiery blaze of enchantment in the midst of watching the pre-championship level dancers. The glitter-encrusted women up close look almost freakish, yet once they are on the floor, the glitter, rhinestones, flashy makeup, and outrageous costumes create a charismatic showcase. All the pop and glow is part of the dance—the presentation and mood of the individual dancers. There were comediennes, clothed strippers, show girls, and dancers more like Elegance personified than I have ever beheld. The style and showmanship required to make it to the top makes dance more magical.

The dance experience has added sparkle to my perspective: music has more meaning in its rhythms; high heels hold more allure; and, as a woman, I feel the power of my femininity much more poignantly as I move across the dance floor with confidence. 

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Reflection

When I first began the Thirty Days of Gratitude experiment, I had an idea that it might help me; however, I could not have anticipated the breadth and depth of the positivity I would encounter as a result of following through with it.

I have to admit that some days were easier to write than others. About a week into it, I thought to myself What the heck were you thinking? Blog EVERY day with mid-terms and final projects and divorce issues and holidays coming up??? I must want to go nuts. But then, I wrote the post and realized how much I have to gain by stepping outside of myself every day.

One of those pay days happened to be yesterday. A twitter pal sent me a music video attached with the simple words:  Because I know you are thankful for dancing, here's a special wish for you today. While he had obviously read my gratitude blog on dancing, he could not know how much the song he sent means to me. Several years ago, a cousin of mine tragically died in a car accident and they had the lyrics to that song on the back of the program at her funeral, so ever since then I think of her when I hear it. Until now. Those few words from a social media friend opened the door to another perspective. I listened to it anew, and all the meaning was transformed in my mind and heart.

I have found my fight song--a theme for what I want for me, for you, for my children, for everyone I can ever touch or hope to touch with these words that I keep spilling onto the page. As I reflect on how consistent gratitude has opened my heart, I give thanks for all the good and bad that have brought me here, to you, that I might share my life adventure of hope, love, and faith.

Thank you for being part of it all. 

related link:

My Battle Cry: Canta y no llores

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Electricity

Sitting here contemplating on all the things I am thankful for, I took a moment to look around and mindfully absorb my environment. There is a computer at my fingertips as we speak; a lamp turned on at the table; the hall light is working to wake up children in a gentle way; porch lights putting off a soft glow to help keep my property well-lit, and therefore, safe; and when I finish writing this, I will be using electricity to prepare breakfast and light my bathroom while I ready my face and hair for the day.

Not everyone has unlimited or even any use of electricity. I cannot imagine that life since I rely so heavily on it, but reflecting on how my life would be different without electricity causes me to recognize the luxury of it. I am thankful to have so many comforts afforded by it.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Makeup

Although it seems like an unimportant thing to be thankful for, I didn't want the month to go by without expressing my gratitude for makeup and the many other cosmetics sorts of things I use and enjoy every day. Since entering my 30's, I have come to appreciate foundation and mascara especially, and who doesn't love a really nice lipstick, right? I'm not the type who has to have her "face" on to feel complete--I go days on end with no makeup sometimes; however, I like how I am able to have a sense of glamour on occasion, not to mention the whole accentuating the positive aspects of it.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: My BYU Education

There are not words sufficient to cover the depth of my gratitude for being able to go to the university of my choice. When I had set the goal, I had no way of knowing the circumstances in which I would be once I could attend. I don't want to set forth a long, drawn-out sob story, but needless to say, I could not be where I am today achieving my goals and reaching those dreams without the absolute generous hearts of the donors and facilitators of the scholarship programs at Brigham Young University. My heart is burgeoning with pure thankfulness and love for these complete strangers. Even on my worst days, I always remember how lucky I am to be there. How very blessed and fortunate I am. When I am struggling to keep going, I remember how they, not even knowing me, have put there confidence in me by making it all possible, and I am encouraged to continue working.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Photography

I am quite the novice, but I adore picture-taking. Really good photography has always been something I have sought after, but another thing that has come about since the inception of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is how much I enjoy seeing the photography of other novices. There really is something captivating about seeing something through other people's lenses. It is exhilarating to visit new to me places, enjoy a meal, and even share in the joy of the mundane with friends, family, and complete strangers all via snapshots of varying levels of quality. I am very grateful for cameras, phones with cameras, and the ability to share the product. 

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Scriptures

I didn't always have an appreciation for the holy scriptures, but over time, I have come to treasure them. The direction and purpose I find as I search their pages blesses me beyond anything I can explain. I certainly do not read them as often or as deeply as I ought, yet I am working on improving in this area. The monthly challenge Seeking to Become has aided me greatly in this goal. With a grateful heart, I look forward to seeking guidance from the words of the ancient and holy prophets of God.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Feelings

While some feelings are undesirable, the ability to feel is a gift regardless. We are better able to recognize the happy times from the bad, as well as comprehend how we are getting on in the world surrounding us. I am quite the passionate soul, so I spend a good deal of time feeling. In fact, I cannot imagine life any other way. I am setting a goal to work on not wasting my feelings on those who cannot or will not appreciate them in order to show gratitude for such an invaluable aspect of this existence.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Artificial Trees

It sounds ridiculous to be grateful for artificial (FAKE) trees, but I am serious. If I didn't have my fake Christmas trees, I would not have my Christmas trees up, decorated, and warming my house with all the cheer entailed in that. Some people might buy their tree this early, but I never have, and this year is just not my year for spending money on anything frivolous. It has been a big blessing to have a couple of these lovely things in my storage to use each year. So maybe I am also grateful for a tight pocketbook for it guided me to see how much abundance I enjoy--even in the fake Christmas tree area.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: YOU

As I was pondering on what I am grateful for on this particular day, all I could think to say was you.

It matters not whether I know you so well you feel compelled to read or you found this on a random search and you're wondering Why did this pop up? or we are social media friends living the life of sharing too much: I am grateful for you. My cup runneth over with heartfelt thanks for each person who reads my writing and comes back for more. You have been part of my healing process this year, and I didn't realize what an integral role you would play (and I'm quite positive you had/have no clue) when I set the goal to heal from my brokenness at the start of 2012, but you truly have made a difference.

On days when life seems to be so not worth it due to the constant barrage of negativity, when I don't think anyone could possibly like me--let alone love and appreciate me for who I am, when the tunnel seems so long that there couldn't possibly be a light at the end, there you are.  To each and every one you, I say thank you.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Balance


Every day seems to have this uncanny balance to it. I get whack news; then, I get fabulous news. And the cycle just keeps going. This pattern has been part of my life for a few years now, and I never cease to be amazed at how the unfairness or injustice or whatever it may be continually ends up being made right in a round about way.  In one light-- my life is craptastic. In another more positive light-- my life is deliciously lovely. When I look at everything all together, all I can think about is how much God must love me. It is undeniable. He cannot take away other people's freedom to do as they will, but he can and does inspire others to reach out with the pure love of Christ to keep life in balance, helping me to keep going.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Food

As I walked through the grocery store, I was thinking about how much food was in the place. There was a shortage of eggs in the refrigerated section, but only because of the Thanksgiving holiday coming up in a couple of days. In my life, I have always had more than enough food to eat even when times were tough for my parents and now for myself. I do not know true want in this respect. For the food I have on my table each day and for the ever-present abundance, I give thanks. How I show my gratitude is in doing my best not to waste food and not be wasteful with my means concerning food. When possible, I also give of my means to others in order to provide some relief.

Let us all stop to think of ways we can help others who might be struggling to keep or get any food on their table that we might make gratitude an action word.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Traditions

Whether it's for a holiday or just a family thing, I am grateful for traditions. Life is more interesting when peppered with them.

One of my favorite traditions of all time is going Christmas caroling. My mother took me when I was growing up, and I keep the tradition going with my children. The music of Christmas, both spiritual and festive, enchants my heart.

I recently read a book The 13th Day of Christmas, by Jason F. Wright (New York Times best-selling author of Christmas Jars), that takes a creative spin on one of my most beloved Christmas songs ever, The Twelve Days of Christmas. I love Jason Wright's book for many more reasons though. I was touched deeply by its message. It addresses real issues such as social status change, cancer, old age, and others, all while drawing the audience in as if we were all around the hearth drinking hot chocolate together and reading this lovely book.

To add to this coziness, I would like to present to you an All Things Purple exclusive author video from Mr. Wright to all of us:

In closing, the story truly warmed my heart and caused me to think more mindfully about the people around me and the traditions I keep. I hope you might give it a read. To learn more about the book's message go to: www.the13thdayofchristmas.com

And for Reader Appreciation, please note the giveaway happening NOW for a copy of Jason Wright's The 13th Day of Christmas.

Disclosure: I was given one copy for myself and one copy to giveaway in exchange for this review.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Compassion

Compassion is a feeling that cannot be forced or feigned; therefore, it is all the more valuable when given or received. In my life, I have been the recipient of great compassion on many occasions. Compassion is so beautiful because it is something we need desperately due to the circumstances which have created the need. My heart is burgeoning with gratitude for every ounce of it given to me by God through his divine grace.

I pray we may all acknowledge the beauty of compassion by reaching out to give it more freely as we go about daily life.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Movies

It might seem trite, but I grew up going to the movies with my family, and so I am thankful for such an enchanting and fun way to spend family time. My parents used to take us to the drive-in quite a lot. Also, we were hardcore junkies for getting in to see movies on opening day. I will never forget standing in line with my family for the opening day of The Empire Strikes Back nor opening day with my mom and brothers for Star Wars: Episode I, plus many others.

Today, I spend time with my children watching movies while folding laundry. We look forward to seeing one at the theater every so often. We enjoy the memories made and all the creativity we are able to acknowledge. I am thankful for every happy memory made.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Goodly Parents

While my parents were not perfect, no one can deny the fact that they worked tirelessly to do their best. They set an example for me that I look to even still and, I imagine, will do so until the day I die. I love them for it. I miss them and wish they could be here with me sometimes, but I would not have it because they finally have the peace they always deserved. (I will admit to wishing I could get a hug from time to time.)

I give thanks to God for blessing me with a mother and father who loved me with all they had to give. No one could ask for more.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Literacy

I can't tell you enough how thankful I am for my ability to read and write. I've known how to read for as long as I can remember (honestly, I don't remember learning--I just did it), and, well, writing simply gives me the wings I need to feel  free.

Pondering on how I can show my gratitude for literacy, I realize I am already doing it. Between school, the blog, and my journal, I write every day.  Also, I am going to be an English teacher so I can help cultivate a love of literacy and learning in others as well.

Related Links:

Introduction to Thirty Days of Gratitude
My Children
Seeking to Become
Fresh Water

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Poetry

Sewing of Sails

If only I could send all the brokenness in the world
Out to sea where the current could whisk it away
Into the vast unknown where no one would have to feel it.
Yet sailing off into sunsets is something from books--
Books with  happy endings that never tell the tale
Of when hearts are wounded nor of parting of ways
That happens from time to time and all too often nowadays.

If only I could mend all the hearts in the world
With a stitch or two of kindness that would last a lifetime through
Making all those I love somehow able to feel the happiness
Weaved between the threads that bind our lives together--
Together in harmony and joy with a foundation in reality
Of another world where justice and mercy meet
That God from whence we came before time could teach.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Friends

I cannot say enough about how grateful I am for friends. Every day of my life is blessed by the presence and mindfulness of friends, so I would live quite a different existence without them. Friends come in many forms: my children when they show appreciation for who I am and love me with eyes wide open; sisters-in-law looking to me for advice and love; perfect strangers talking with me in a waiting room; sweet neighbors helping me to make it through a bad day by stopping over to talk or go for a treat run; an online friend engaging with me when I feel lonely and they don't even realize it; and, so many more. I find that friendship is part of the air I breathe, and I am grateful for its invaluable refreshment.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Veterans

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I give thanks for the many sacrifices made by those who serve in my country's military. The first thought is to thank those who have lost life or limb because the cost is so high. My highest respect is given to them now and always. In addition, I would like to stop for a moment to add an offering of gratitude for a few of the less recognized aspects of what our servicemen sacrifice while doing their duty. They miss birthdays, baby's first steps, baptisms, weddings, play time with their children, date nights, family meal time, and the list goes on and on. But I would like to add one more aspect I have personally witnessed as a family member of sailors and soldiers, and it is how they inadvertently sacrifice a certain depth to relationships sometimes. Getting sent to battle sends ripples of lasting change throughout their life, thus making a mark on all who love them. My heart is grieved over the disconnect that has touched my life and I am only on the outskirts of the pond. I cannot imagine the grief and pain that others feel who are in the midst of where this stone's throw lands.

For all that veterans past and present have given, I offer my humble gratitude. 

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Love

I know, I know. Love is a broad topic, but I truly am grateful for it. Being able to feel love for others in its several forms is a gift and privilege. The love I have for my friends is different from that which I feel for my children, and the way I feel toward a suffering stranger differs from my sentimentality toward a neighbor; however, love is the the common theme in all of these relationships. Love is why we experience so much emotional pain when we are having problems with others for whatever reasons. Without love, we wouldn't care enough to give the person another thought. With a full heart, I can say I am thankful for every drop of love I've given because I would not feel alive without love for others. Connectedness to others gives me strength. The only hard part about love it that it often gets taken for granted, so it isn't able to heal or strengthen or enliven. I will acknowledge my thankfulness for love by striving to stop taking the love I receive for granted in any way, thus helping to find connectedness with those around me.

Love ties all of humanity together—if we allow it to do its work.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Dancing

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As I embark on my first (and possibly last) dance competition ever, I pause to think about what a blessing it is to have such an opportunity.

My mom put me in gymnastics and the typical ballet/tap classes when I was really young, but none of it stuck. I didn't have enough stick-to-itiveness to go any where with it, yet I have always had a desire to learn how to dance well.

When I needed a bit more credit hours this semester, I decided I ought to schedule some happy time by taking Beginning Social Dance AKA Ballroom. The experience has had its ups and downs, but it has been pure goodness overall. One of my friends is taking it with me; I am making more friends; Dance has been a surprisingly great form of exercise; and I am learning how to dance.

Gratitude for having the chance to learn dance fills me with a smile. Thanks goes to my instructor, Trevor, and the ever-helpful TA, Sara, for making my dancing experience so fabulous.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Fresh Water

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As the days go by, I have been reflecting on some of the smaller things that constitute my quality of life. One of those things is fresh water. I would just say water for the sake of simplicity, but water is not always usable. My dishwasher and washing machine for keeping clothes fresh could not work properly if the water going into them wasn't clean. Let us not forget being able to drink the water and cook with it either. There are many areas in the world where this level of quality is not attained and people have to purchase water to drink in order to stay healthy. It is a luxury to have free-flowing, fresh water come from my tap on demand and to always have enough.

This past summer, there were many fires in my area, and so our secondary water for the lawn and garden went low or off several times throughout the season. I hadn't thought about what a great luxury having irrigation water at my beck and call was before then, but I have a great appreciation even for non-potable water now.

Having water for daily use is a blessing and I am thankful for it.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: My Children

Every mother I have ever met or can even dream of loves her children. We wish for every good thing for them. They drive us bonkers on a weekly, if not daily, basis. We see them for who they can become. They love us back in such uniquely touching ways.

All of this said, I am moved as I think of the road my children and I have had to travel the past several years. It has been sad, confusing, strengthening, and heartening--a hot mess of love and tears. Yet, they keep going. They keep on looking to me for love, answers, support. They keep me going. My heart is burgeoning with adoration, respect, and awe as I am merely scratching the surface of recognizing their worth as individuals. I do not know where I would be at this moment if I didn't have them.

I dedicate Home by Phillip Phillips to my precious children.

It is a great privilege to be their mother, and I hope they will always know where to find home.

For more information on how to participate in Thirty Days of Gratitude, click here.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Books

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If you couldn't tell, I love books. I love reading them; I want to create them; I enjoy reviewing them; and I've found that I thoroughly enjoy giving them away to you lovely people. Books have always played a big part in my life for which I am grateful.

So, in honor of Reader Appreciation Month (no, it's not a national holiday--I just decided it was so because I am so grateful for all of you), I offer you a review of Pingo and the Playground Bully, a children's picture book, and a giveaway of this fabulous book which ends on the eve of November 14th.

Pingo and the Playground BullyPingo and the Playground Bully by Brandon Mull

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In a world where bullying never seems to end, books like Pingo and the Playground Bully can make a difference. The simple message it suggests shows all who read it a solution to the ever-present not-so-imaginary monster lurking in the shadows of our society.

The art, done by Brandon Dorman, is colorful, imaginative, and enticing. The coupling of the great message with uniquely expressive artwork makes for a delightful masterpiece of a children's book.

Pingo and the Playground Bully is a picture book, and, yes, it is directed at primary school-aged children, but I suggest it would make a difference at any age in any educational environment.

I recommend it to readers of all ages.

Disclosure: I was given one copy in exchange for this review, as well as one copy to give away to you!

View all my reviews

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Slicing

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Since I began participation in the Slice of Life Story Challenge on Two Writing Teachers, I have become so much more aware of the importance and value of online communities. Not only have I become acquainted with a great deal more writerly sorts of folks, but I have been able to cultivate more sense of community within my own blogosphere, which has always been one of my goals.

I am grateful to Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz for creating something so special. I am also very thankful for each slicer who has taken time to comment and make me feel a part of your community. You are all so encouraging and uplifting, and I thank you with all my heart.

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Music

From a young age, even before I can remember, my parents filled my world with music. There are photos of me standing on the brick fireplace with a magazine in hand pretending to lead music. I sang in church and school choirs, and I played piano for a few years and flute for junior high and high school. Add in all the 8-tracks, cassette tapes, records, and CDs that brought popular (and not so popular) music into my universe, and you can see how music-immersed life was for me . I fell in love with Elvis, The Beatles, and The Mamas and The Papas before I knew how I had been sheltered. Then-- enter Tiffany, Depeche Mode, The Pet Shop Boys, and the naughtylicious likes of The Beastie Boys and Sir Mix-a-lot (I think my mom wished she never bought a CD player once some of that stuff came onto the scene.)

I love music so much. My life would not be the same without it. I give thanks to all song writers, composers old and new, and performers of good music.  ABBA's 'Thank You For The Music' expresses my sentiments perfectly.

You make life beautiful by sharing your talents.

For more information on how to participate in Thirty Days of Gratitude, click here

Thirty Days of Gratitude: Seeking to Become

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As I reflect on my spirituality, I am humbled to see how far I've come as well as how far I need to go. God grants me daily breath to keep living life, learning how to be, for which I am exceedingly grateful. I think about all the roadblocks I've been able to get through and my heart is encouraged to keep going. I am thankful for the inspiration to create my Seeking To Become series. It helps to provide me with some focus and sense of community with those who contribute to the discussions. I am brought to a remembrance of one of my favorite verses of scripture:

 For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.
Jeremiah 31:25

I know these words to be true because, although I am suffering a great deal, I am touched by God's love for me. I am replenished.

This month is dedicated to tuning into how much there is to be thankful for, recognizing the Lord's hand in our lives, and allowing Him to fill our souls in order to carry on.

I invite you to join me by leaving a comment with your thoughts.