@sprightlyamyanne Instagram photos

@sprightlyamyanne Instagram photos

Thursday, May 28, 2009

So...Why are you working?

Did you know that this week is National Work at Home Week? Recently I partnered up with Making Work at Home Work as a blogger. Author, Speaker Mary Byer's created this program after the release of her book, Making Work at Home Work: Successfully growing a business and a family under one roof, to help other Work at Home Moms (WAHM) conquer some of the struggles that she herself has been through. Mary says, "I feel really privileged that I was able to write this book. I wrote it with Work at Home Moms in mind. There are so many unique challenges about working at home that only another work-at-homer can understand!" I would like to encourage you to explore their website for some great advice and some much-needed encouragement. If you would like to become a Making Work at Home Work blogger, go here.


Why are you working?

Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who don't know why they are working. Most assume that they are working for money. But when I talk to people about the topic, I hear a lot of different reasons for work. Some work for the mental stimulation. Some to keep their skills up to date. Others work to support their scrapbooking habit or to be able to purchase cosmetics at a discount.

There’s a big difference between working to put food on the table vs. working for the “extras” such as summer camp or a vacation. Both are legitimate but it’s essential to be honest about your motivation. Knowing what drives you will help you keep your priorities in order.

When my children were young, I worked for the extras. However, instead of stopping when I earned enough to help with vacation costs I kept right on going, becoming a workaholic in the process. It didn’t serve me or my family. When I recognized my error, I was able to cut back on work in order to create a healthier balance. Now that my children are school-age and I’m working to help cover orthodontia, tuition and retirement, I’ve increased my hours accordingly.

Understanding why you are working makes it easier to make tough work-related decisions. Will you work on the weekends? Stay up late to get it all done? If you're working to put food on the table, the answer will more likely be yes. But if you're working for the fun of it, you may choose not to compromise family time by late night or weekend work. When you know why you are working, it gets easier to decide what kind of boundaries you'll adhere to.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Mamapedia!

Hi friends!

I'm away camping with my family. (So ready to get away). Kate will be guest blogging while I'm away (THANKS KATE!)

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, the questions began. Anxiety drove me to buy a book aptly entitled Do’s & Don’ts of Pregnancy. I thumbed through it nearly every day when faced with a product or food item I thought might affect my lima bean of a baby.

Cohen made his entrance into the world quite peaceably and though I’m the oldest of seven kids and have spent innumerable hours babysitting, it only took me three days home from the hospital to come unraveled. How in the world could they send me home from hospital’s monitors and trained professionals without as much as a manual?!?!

My son’s now two so we did manage to successfully navigate the infant and baby stages with relatively few catastrophes. But I won’t lie… I was on the phone seeking advice a lot. The nurse, seasoned Mama friends, Le Leche specialists, and even my own Mom probably tired of the endless questions…



I bet they all wish Mamapedia would have been saved on my laptop’s favorites! Mamapedia is an incredible resource for parents with children of all ages…(we certainly know, the questions don’t stop popping up- currently, I want to know how convince a little boy he’s not tall enough to pee standing up?) The questions are posted from moms and so are the answers. I love this website! With over a million answers from the ones who know best, search by age options along with a key word search what else could a mom hope for?

Check out this great encyclopedia for all things mom and sign up! Ask questions. Give answers. Be part of a great new community for all kinds of moms!

Another great MOMMY resource is Mom Central, their forumns are super helpful!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ruby Unscripted, Cindy Martinusen-Coloma

This book is stowed in my bag for the weekend away! Cindy, good friends with my client Tricia Goyer, is an excellent writer.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Cindy began writing around 1988, working on story ideas and writing plays. Her first book was contracted in 1998. Since that time she's written 8 novels, 1 nonfiction and over 100 articles, short stories, and curriculums.

Her critically acclaimed novels have been nominated for the Christy Award and Reader's Choice Award (Romantic Times), and chosen for the List of Best Books of 2004 by Library Journal.

Her first three novels have been translated into Dutch, German, and Norwegian.

Her newest novel is now a bestseller! ORCHID HOUSE

Cindy is the co-owner of METHOD 3AM WRITING & MEDIA SERVICES a newly created media service company (www.method3AM.com). She offers both aspiring and experience writers services in book doctoring, content editing, manuscript review and critique.

For the past ten years, Cindy has been speaking and teaching in different locations nationally and internationally. Her roles include conference leader, featured speaker and workshop leader at numerous women's gatherings, retreats and writers conferences most notably Litt-World 2004 in Tagaytay City, Philippines.

Monthly, she co-leads and teaches a workshop at Quills of Faith Writers Group in Northern California.

Look for Cindy on Facebook and on Twitter! And find out more on her website.



About the book:
List Price: $12.99

Reading level: Young Adult

Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 5, 2009)

ISBN-13: 978-1595543561

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



“Now he likes me?” I say aloud as I drop my phone to my lap and my heart does a strange little tuck and roll within my chest.

My ten-year-old brother, Mac, gives me a strange look from the seat beside me. With the top down in my aunt’s convertible, he can’t hear my words that are cast into the air to dance with the wind.

The orange towers of the Golden Gate Bridge loom toward us, with the darkening blue of sky and water filling the spaces between. Aunt Jenna is driving, with Mom talking beside her.

So it’s finally true.

Nick likes me.

I think I’m happy. Everyone will expect me to be happy. It’s not been a secret that I’ve liked him for . . . well, ever. Or at least for a few months.

And yet I have a very good reason for being completely annoyed about this.

The text stating Nick’s indirect admission of love, or at least “like,” arrives as we’re leaving an afternoon in San Francisco behind. But we aren’t driving the four hours home to Cottonwood. We’re driving toward our new life in Marin County.

Everyone at school knew that Nick liked me for a long time. His friends and my friends knew it. I knew it. But Nick apparently didn’t know his own feelings. Why can’t guys just trust others on these things?

I pick up my phone and reply to Kate’s text.

ME: Is Nick still standing there?

KATE: No. I think it freaked him out to wait for your response. The guys went to play Alien Hunter III before the movie starts. So what do you think? Patience paid off.

ME: I’m trying not to think that guys are really as dumb as most of us say they are.

KATE: Huh?

ME: Really now. I mean NOW. He says this on the day I move away?

KATE: Well you’ll be home most every weekend so it’s not that bad.

ME: But think about it. What made him decide today?

KATE: Who cares? He finally figured out he can’t live without you.

The car cruises along the bridge, and I stare up at the massive orange beams over our heads. Then I catch sight of a sailboat as it dips and bows on the evening waters of San Francisco Bay.

My brother is shout-talking to my mom and aunt. And with one earbud pulled out, I catch bits of the discussion being tossed around the car as the wind twists my hair into knots. The topic is “If you had one wish, what would you wish for?”

What poetic irony. Five minutes ago I would’ve wished that Nick would like me . . . and like some psychic genie working even before I wished it, the text arrived from Kate: “Nick said . . .”

So Nick likes me after I move four hours and a world away.

He likes me the day after I say good-bye to him and all my friends in Cottonwood.

I scroll back through my saved texts to find what he sent me after we said good-bye.

NICK: I wish you weren’t moving.

NICK: Next time you’re up visiting your dad let’s hang out.

NICK: How often will you be back?

NICK: So you don’t have a date for prom?

Men. I mean seriously.

So it’s like this. I’m moving to one of the coolest areas of California—Marin County. I’m going to live in this cool, quirky cottage that my aunt Betty gave us after she headed off on an extended Mediterranean honeymoon with the man, now her husband, she found online.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to live near San Francisco. Aunt Betty’s house was one of my favorite places. Kate and I plan to attend college down here. So now I get to live my dream sooner than expected.

Mac taps my arm, but I watch the little sailboat lean toward the open Pacific and wonder at its journey ahead, far or near, some California marina or faraway exotic isle.

My brother taps on my arm persistently. “Ruby-Ruby Red.”

I really dislike it when he calls me that. Then he reaches for my earbud, and I push his hand away.

“What?” I ask loudly, wiping strands of hair from my face. The sun falls easily into the cradle of the sea. It’s eventide—that time between sunset and darkness, a peaceful time of wind and bridges and dreams except for one annoying brother and an incoming text that could disrupt the excitement of a dream coming true.

“What do you wish for?” Mac asks earnestly.

My phone vibrates again, and I nearly say, “Don’t bug me, and don’t call me Ruby-Ruby Red,” but Mac’s sweet pink cheeks and expectant eyes stop me. I rub his hair and tickle him until he cries for mercy.

He laughs and twists away from my fingers, then asks me again what I wish for.

“Wait a minute,” I say, and he nods like he understands.

KATE: He said he’s been miserable since he said good-bye last night.

ME: So why didn’t he like me before?

KATE: He says he always did, he just kept it to himself.

ME: Or he kept it FROM himself.


Everyone said Nick said I was hot, that I was intelligent, that he’d never met a girl like me—which can be taken as good or bad. Everyone told him to ask me out, but he just didn’t. No explanation, no other girlfriend, just nothing. For months. Until today.

KATE: He’s never had a girlfriend, give the guy a break. I always thought he’d be the bridge guy! Maybe he will be!

I rest the phone in my hands at that. Nick has been the main character in my bridge daydream—only Kate knows that secret dream of mine.

We’ve crossed the bridge into Marin County with signs for Sausalito, Corte Madera, San Rafael. The names of my new home, and yet I’m still between the old and the new.

“What are you smiling for?” my brother asks.

“Nothing,” I say and give him the mind-your-own-business look.

Mac stretches forward in his seat belt toward the front seat, and I’m tempted to tell him to sit down. But for once I don’t boss him around. He’s so happy about this wishing talk, with his wide dimpled smile and cheeks rosy from the wind. His cheeks remind me of when I loved kissing them—back when we were much younger.

“Remember, no infinity wishes. That’s cheating,” Mac shout says to Mom and Aunt Jenna, but he glances at me to see if I’m listening.

“This is really hard,” Aunt Jenna yells back. She points out the window to a line of cyclists riding along a narrow road parallel to the highway. “I bet those guys wish for a big gust of wind to come up behind them.”

Mac laughs, watching the cyclists strain up an incline.

Now they’ll probably start “creating wishes” for everyone they see.

I bet that car wishes it were as cool as that Corvette.

I think the people in that car wish they had a fire extinguisher for that cigarette . . .

Mom and her sister often make up stories about strangers while sitting outside Peet’s Coffee or, well, just about anywhere people watching is an option.

My phone vibrates in my hand, and then immediately again.

KATE: Hello?? No comment on Nick being your mysterious bridge guy?

ME: Nope

JEFFERS: So beautiful, are you there yet?

ME TO KATE: I just got a text from Jeffers.

KATE: LOL He’s sitting beside me and saw me talking to you.

JEFFERS: When can we come party in Marin?

ME TO JEFFERS: Almost there. Ten minutes I think. Uh party?

JEFFERS: Yeah, party! How could you leave us, I mean what could be better than us? You’ll be too cool for gocarts and mini golf after a month w/ the rich and sophisticated.

ME: I hate mini golf.

JEFFERS: See? One day and already too good for mini golf.

KATE: You’re having us all down for a party?

ME: Uh, no

JEFFERS: Kate’s yelling at me. Thx a lot. But bye beautiful, previews are on with little cell phone on the screen saying to turn you off.

ME TO JEFFERS AND KATE: K have fun. TTYL.

KATE: Write you after. Bye!

It’s a significant moment, this.

One of the most significant in my fifteen years.

Not the “wish discussion” between Mac, Mom, and Aunt Jenna; not the text messaging back and forth; not the music playing in one of my ears; not even Nick liking me.

The significance comes in crossing bridges. Not the bridge in my dream, but the ones that take me into Marin. The many bridges that brought my family here with my dad still in Cottonwood, and my older brother, Carson, driving soon behind us. And though we can turn around and drive back to the small town I’ve always lived in, I wonder if, once you cross so many bridges, you can ever really go back.

The music in my one ear and the voices of my family in the other make a dramatic backdrop for this moment—one that will shape the rest of my life.

I feel a sense of wonder, but also of fear. It’s beautiful, this time of long evening shadows. The sky in the west where the sun has fallen turns from a subtle to defined sunset of red and orange.

The hills of Marin County rise to the nighttime with their myriad dots of light. The salty breeze is cool coming off the Pacific.

“What’s your wish?”

I jump as Mac shouts at me, leaning to get his face close to mine. I nearly throw my phone out the open rooftop.

“Mac! Mom!”

“Mac, leave your sister alone. She needs time to think,”

Mom calls back with a worried glance in my direction. She was more worried than I was about this move to Marin . . .well, until I said all the good-byes this week and especially now. I realize it’s the last remnant of what is, taking us from the past and what has been to the new place, the new life, and the what will be.

“Do you know what I wish?” Mac says in a loud whisper that only I can hear.

The innocent expression on his face soothes my annoyance.

He motions for me to lean close.

“I wish I was six again.”

“Why?”

“Promise you won’t tell Mom or Austin or Dad and Tiffany, ’cause I don’t want to hurt their feelings . . .” He waits for me to agree. “I wish I was six ’cause Mom and Dad were married then. But then that would make Austin and Tiffany go away, and I don’t really want them to go away, but I sort of wish Mom and Dad were married still.”

I nod and glance up toward Mom, who is staring out toward the bay. “Yeah, I know, Mac. But it’ll be all right.”

“So what do you wish for?” he asks again.

We’re almost there now, and I still have no singular wish. How do you make such a choice when your whole life is upended—for the good and the bad? I wonder if San Francisco Bay is like one giant wishing well, and in the coming years I can toss as many pennies as I want into the blue waters and have all the wishes I need.

I hope so. And maybe wishing that the bay would become one giant well breaks Mac’s rule about infinity wishes. But regardless, this is what I wish my wish to be.

It was my choice to move to Marin with Mom. But now I wonder if these bridges are taking me where I should be going. Or if they’re taking me far, far away.

“I wish for infinity wishes!” I say and kiss Mac on the cheek before he protests. “No one can put rules on wishes.”

And this is what I truly want to believe.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Moo...

I am all about the late night snack attack. (oh. that. is. so. cliche.) It's true. What is it about dusk that says chocolate or ice-cream. Or better yet, chocolate and ice-cream?

But, because I've made a life change to be healthier and treat my body as a gift of God (rather than be a slave to my foodie temptations) I don't do late night fatty sugary snacks. (Yum-O)

Enter Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches.


Meet my new best friend. (okay, not my best friend -- she lives in Uganda, but right up there!) These sandwiches are creamy and decadent without destroying the many sit-ups I did today or the miles I ran (huff,puff). I love that they're big and thick. Satisfying. They weigh in at 140 calories, just 2 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of protein.

So thank you Mom Central for giving me this opportunity to savor every last drop of these yummy, low fat treats! And be sure to check out the Skinny Cow website...it's moootivating! (Sorry - bad I know!) But, it's pretty great. Full of great tips on Skinny Livin' and you can sign up to receive news and coupons via their newsletter.
Oh, and for those of you who aren't yet familiar with Mom Central...they rock! I just subscribed to their Food & Healthy Living blog. Lots of great meal ideas and healthy options.
So...what is your favorite treat? I'm giving away a coupon for a free Skinny Cow product...so leave me a comment!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Motherhood is a valid profession.


Motherhood is a valid profession.


It is that belief that inspired Jill Savage and a group of women to plan the first Hearts at Home conference 16 years ago. Today these conferences are a place where moms can go to find the encouragement and education they need to do this mothering thing right!

The problem is, not everyone can attend a Hearts at Home conference, so Hearts at Home University was created!

Hearts at Home University is a new resource designed to encourage and equip you in your journey as a parent! These live web casts, affordably priced at $15 each, allow you to tap into continuing education as a mom on a regular basis right from the comfort of your own computer.

The topics that will be covered over the Spring and Summer Semester include:

“Is There Really Sex after Kids” with Jill Savage
“She’s Gonna Blow” with Julie Barnhill
“Redefining Romance” with Mark and Jill Savage
“Keeping Your Ducks in a Relative Row” with Karen Ehman

For information on dates and times, or to register go here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SPAAAHHH...

I got to Tweet Up with some Seattle area Mom Bloggers for a night of pampering (mani/pedi/massage) at Swoon. What a treat!




The event was sponsored by Pledge! They have this great new all surface spray. (I've only been home 20 minutes and already my hubby has cleaned every surface in the house - he's hooked!) The funny thing is that last week my hubby saw the Pledge commercial on TV and ooohed and aaahed over it. (Yeah...for those of you who know my husband, this is something you don't know about him. He loves a clean and shiny surface! A man of many layers.) So when I got invited to this blogger shin-dig put on by Pledge and 5 Minutes for Mom...we both had a good laugh.

I loved meeting bloggers in the flesh! Usually the only 'meeting' I'm doing is in the virtual world so it was nice to chat face-to-face for a change. The above picture was taken by Susan at 5 minutes for Mom and in the picture is Shera from 5 Minutes for Faith and A Frog in My Soup, Maggie from MightyMaggie.com, me, Erin from PlinkPlink, Wendi B from Wendi’s Book Corner, Mona from kirida.com. The other bloggers in attendance were:

Leslie (aka Mrs Flinger) from Seattle Mom Blogs

Ellen from Zoom About Ellen

Michelle and Laura Young from Seattle Mom Blogs

Shannon from The Mommy-Files

Alexis AKA MOM

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Moment Between!

Oh, oh, oh! YES! Stop right now (okay, after you read this post) and go get a copy of this book. (I'll wait.)




Okay...great. Francine Rivers says..."This is a heart-wrenching, beautifully rendered story...a novel that should not be missed." That about sums it up!

Nicole Baart was born and raised in a small town in Iowa, where she and her family now live.

She is the mother of two young sons and the wife of a pastor. After the adoption of their infant son, Nicole discovered a deep passion for global issues and is a founding member of a nonprofit organization that works with a church and orphanage in Liberia.

Nicole is the author of three novels. After the Leaves Fall was published in 2007 and was followed by a sequel, Summer Snow. The Moment Between is Nicole’s first stand-alone novel.

Visit the author's website.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:




~ I ~



Abigail Bennett was the definition of unexpected. She was one year on the wrong side of the knife blade that was thirty, but if she turned up at your restaurant and ordered a glass of wine, even high-heeled and clad in a black sheath, you’d card her every time. Petite and narrow-waisted, with a pixie flip of hair the exact color of coffee beans, Abigail could easily pass for sixteen in a pair of ripped jeans and an Abercrombie T-shirt.

Not that she liked looking younger than her age. In fact, most of the time Abigail hated the constant reminders that no matter what she did or where she went, she would not be taken seriously. This explained the harsh line of bobby pins that held her wayward hair out of her face as if the severity of it could add years. It also explained the almost-dowdy clothes, the earth-toned makeup, and the hard, thin line of a mouth that could have been very beautiful.

Once people got past the fact that she wasn’t a teenager, Abigail looked very much like the ideal kindergarten teacher. Her stature and dress were the opposite of intimidating, yet there was a spark in her dark eyes as if from time to time a match was struck behind the velvety chocolate of her corneas. These eyes could freeze hell over with a well-timed look, a piercing arrow of unmistakable meaning. But there was also the hint of tenderness in Abigail that translated into quiet strength when paired with the sharp edges that were inevitably unveiled before anyone had a chance to form a false opinion of her. But then again, maybe it was all a facade. She didn’t let people get close enough to find out.

In reality, Abigail was not a kindergarten teacher, nor could she remember a phase in her life when she ever wanted to be one. She was an accountant. Numbers were stable, unchanging, and best of all, incapable of being mysterious or of forcing people to act and think and feel in ways that they would not normally act and think and feel. Numbers were predictable; people were not. And because Abigail trusted the reliability of her chosen field, she was good at her job, meticulous and capable of holding the smallest detail in her mind for as long as it was useful.

During tax season Abigail worked more hours than anyone else at her firm, and that was saying a lot. It was why she was made a partner after only five years with the company and why she occupied one of two corner offices, the one with a view of the swampy man-made pond that graced the complex of professional stucco buildings on Key Point Drive. Johnson, McNally & Bennett was a Rosa Beach institution, and though Blake Johnson and Colton McNally could claim most of the honor behind their prestigious position in the community, Abigail knew she filled an important and indispensable role. Southern Florida had its share of widows and divorcées, and for some not-so-surprising reasons they preferred to have a woman handle their money. Abigail was happy to oblige. It kept her busy and the firm in business.

Keeping busy was what Abigail did best. When she wasn’t working, which averaged sixty hours a week, she was either running or reheating days-old Chinese takeout in a dented wok. Both activities were little more than a personal experiment; they were representative of the only two things in Abigail’s life that she really, deep down hoped to accomplish someday: run a marathon and learn to cook.

The marathon was a goal that she had already partly achieved. On the day of her twenty-ninth birthday, she ran a half marathon in Miami. Abigail could have easily completed it, and in fact, the finish line was in sight only two blocks ahead when she realized it was enough to know that she could do it. Crossing the finish line would have meant that she ran for someone else, that she ran for the glory, the recognition.

So Abigail had slowed down a little and then a bit more until someone thrust a cup of water in her hand and yelled, “You’re almost there!” She smiled her thanks, sipped the water, and folded herself into the crowd while all eyes were watching the other runners throw their arms into the air for the last few triumphant yards.

The cooking, on the other hand, was little more than a pipe dream. Abigail’s greatest accomplishment was adding a diced chicken breast and some soy sauce to leftover chicken chow mein. It was too salty. But propped on her counter in an antique, wrought-iron bookstand was a Williams-Sonoma cookbook with full-color photographs and extensive instructions on how to cook homemade delicacies like potato gnocchi with wild mushroom sauce and baked clams with pine nuts and basil. Every morning, while she waited for the last few drops of coffee to drip into her Gevalia carafe, Abigail would thumb through the glossy pages of the cookbook and imagine what it would be like to make a wine reduction sauce as the sound of laughter filled her apartment. Someday, she told herself.

And though there were many somedays in Abigail’s life, she tried not to let the particulars of her existence get her down too much. It didn’t matter that she didn’t have a boyfriend. It didn’t matter that every day plodded on with the same pitfalls and small successes. It didn’t matter that her apartment was quiet but for the hum of her empty stainless steel refrigerator. It was the life that Abigail had chosen, and she was a grim optimist, resigned to the path she was on—she was getting exactly what she had always wanted. So what if it was tilted heavily toward work, personal discipline, solitude? So what if it left little room for the things other people craved? So what if her cupboards were as bare of exotic ingredients as her apartment was bare of cheerful company?

But sometimes, alone in her apartment with the shades drawn tight, Abigail would stand in front of the full-length mirror on the back of her bathroom door and relax enough to admire what she saw. Tousling her wet hair and practicing a self-conscious smile that showed her teeth—her impossibly white, perfectly straight teeth that were a genetic legacy instead of the result of extensive dental work—Abigail could almost pretend that she was ten years younger and that the world was unfurling itself before her.

For those moments in the steam and warmth, dark ringlets of hair curling around her temples as if she were some Grecian empress, Abigail wished much more for herself than what she had. She wished that she could rewind the clock and find Abby, the girl she used to be, perched on the cusp of her life instead of entrenched in the middle of it with no apparent way out.

Every once in a while, she could gather the courage to admit that it would be a very different life if she had it to do all over again.

***

When Abigail first came to Johnson & McNally, she had a chance at a different life.

It was no secret around the office that Colton McNally had a thing for the new accountant. He was twelve years older than Abigail and divorced, and that seemed somehow estimable according to Abigail’s less-than-high expectations. It wasn’t that she would settle for just anyone, but she also didn’t enter into much of anything with a long list of prerequisites.

In truth, Abigail found Colton very attractive. She thought his salt-and-pepper hair was distinguished—even though she suspected it came from the hands of a very talented colorist as he wasn’t quite forty—and she liked the way his tailored suits fell across the straight line of his shoulders. Best of all, he was nothing like the immature, self-absorbed boys Abigail had dated in college. They had nearly turned her off of men altogether. So when Colton turned his attention toward her, Abigail let him flirt. For a while, she even stopped wearing the stern bobby pins so that her dark curls framed her rather nicely arched forehead.

And yet Abigail wasn’t naive. She knew that her employer loved her because of the photo. It would have been too much to ask for Colton to love her, or at least think he did, because of herself. But while she probably should have been reticent of attention resulting from such a faint and improbable notion, Abigail accepted—almost expected—the source of Colton’s desire.

The photograph in question hung neatly squared and centered on a fabric-covered board adorning the west wall in the reception room. It was a concession to the more traditional bulletin board, replete with employee photographs that were intended to look candid but often looked overposed.

Abigail knew of the board, she even shot glances at it whenever she could to detect updates and changes, but she was not aware upon settling into her position that tradition dictated a spot for her photo front and center ASAP.

It was her third day of work, and Abigail was immersed in balancing infinitesimal details and worlds away from the air-conditioned office she inhabited when Colton startled her with a quiet “Ahem.”

Her head was bowed, and her forearms rested on endless pages that sprouted like an unruly crop of paper weeds across her generous desk. Abigail blinked and raised her eyes, just her eyes, in time to be blinded by the flash of Colton’s expensive Canon. He laughed and snapped a few more pictures for which she cleared off her desk, sat up straight, and smiled, thin-lipped and toothy and even coy, trying them all in the hopes that one would be right.

But the next day, Abigail was surprised to see that the photo gracing the quasi bulletin board was the first of the batch. She knew she was looking at herself because seeing the small, hunched form over the crowded desk was a sort of déjà vu—she had been there before. If not for that, Abigail would have never believed that the woman staring back at her was her own reflection. The woman in the photograph had luminous—there was simply no other word for them—luminous black eyes of the starry-sky variety: endless and opalescent and dark like a time before the genesis. Like the event horizon of identical black holes—no way out, but no matter, for who would ever want to leave? Beneath the twin universes of those eyes, her lips were slightly parted, pink and full and evocative of bruised raspberries. Her skin glowed faintly (fluorescent light reflecting off all that white paper?), and her shadowy curls were framing and soft. The woman was lovely.

But what unnerved Abigail the most was that Colton had caught her at a moment between. A rare, uncovered moment between expressions: a moment of evaporation before the advent of her surprise became the dutiful smile that spread across her face in the split second after the shutter snapped. This woman was a living mystery.

Abigail wished she knew her.

***

One day, a few months after she started at the firm, Abigail went into Colton’s office to ask him a question about the tax return of a dual citizen living out of country. It was a legitimate question, but Blake’s office was closer than Colton’s, and her admirer acknowledged that fact the second Abigail rapped her knuckles on the doorframe. She realized almost too late that her presence would be read as an invitation, and sure enough, a smile unfolded across Colton’s face like a flag pulled taut in a billowing wind.

“Come in, Abigail! Why don’t you close the door behind you? There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”

Abigail did as she was told and crossed the plush, carpeted floor of Colton’s office with her heart stuck fast in her throat.

“But first—” Colton set aside what he had been working on—“what can I do for you?”

Passing him the papers, Abigail lowered herself to balance on the arm of one of the leather chairs facing the wide, black walnut desk. But Colton raised an eyebrow at her, motioned that she should cross behind the desk to stand beside him.

They had flirted before, secret half smiles conveyed across crowded rooms and careful conversations littered with possibilities. And it seemed that the unmistakable chemistry between Colton and Abigail was a favorite topic around the watercooler, boasting far more people in favor of a match than against it. It was impossible for Abigail not to get caught up in it a little. But she also couldn’t help being cautious, and suddenly, with the door closed and Colton looking far more handsome than she remembered from only the day before, she knew that he was a man who wouldn’t play games for long.

Colton waved her over again and Abigail moved slowly, explaining about the nonresident and his recent payout from a life insurance death benefit. She had just gotten to the part where he intended to give enough of it away to slip below the line of taxable income when Colton grabbed her wrist and, in one smooth movement, pulled her forward until her face was inches from his. He studied her, still smiling, then kissed her full on the mouth as if he had been intending to do so for a long time.

It wasn’t that Abigail didn’t want to kiss him back. Actually quite the opposite. It wasn’t even that she was stunned by the inappropriateness of such a gesture. Instead, it was a Tic Tac that ruined everything, a burning little grain of peppermint that she inhaled when Colton’s lips touched hers.

She drew back, pulling out of Colton’s embrace and coughing violently until tears collected at the corners of her eyes. Abigail struggled for a moment, choking mutely as she watched Colton bolt out of his chair and grab her upper arms. When the breath mint was dislodged from her throat and she could feel it hot and peppery on her tongue, she knew it was a very small thing that would be significant in ways that might cause her years of lament.

“I’m sorry,” Abigail murmured, utterly mortified for one of the first times she could remember. “I . . .” She couldn’t continue.

Colton stared at her, concern and disbelief gathering foglike across his forehead. At first, Abigail thought he might fold her into his arms, that the almost-pitiable comedy of what had just happened would become the sort of story they laughed about months down the road when they told people the tale of how they came together. But then Colton laughed, rubbing his hands up and down her arms. The moment shattered and fell away, disappearing in a shimmer of doubt that made Abigail wonder if she had merely dreamed it.

“As long as you’re okay,” he boomed. And then he sat back down and pretended nothing had happened. He never mentioned it again and neither did she.

Eighteen months later, Colton married Marguerite, the receptionist who was hired at the same time as Abigail. Marguerite was a few years younger than Abigail, but she looked much older due to a succession of bad dye jobs and what appeared to be a lifetime of sun damage spotting her skin. Colton seemed happy; from what little Abigail could discern of her boss’s marriage, he genuinely longed for companionship and Marguerite’s horselike laugh didn’t turn him off so much that he considered her a poor match.

Although it was against her nature, shortly after the happy couple’s beach wedding, Abigail went through a brief stage where she fixated on what might have been. The entire office had once been invited to Colton’s sprawling house only a block off the ocean, and Abigail could almost picture herself the mistress of his columned colonial. What sort of a woman would she be if she were Mrs. McNally? What would she look like offering guests a second martini and lounging in some bright sari that she had bought on their honeymoon in Belize?

It was a nice scenario, but Abigail wasn’t one to waste too much energy on regret, and she abandoned such nonsense the same way she set aside every other impossible dream: she placed it firmly out of her mind. A few years later when Blake and Colton approached her about being a partner, she was even able to congratulate herself that her business card would read Johnson, McNally & Bennett instead of Johnson, McNally & McNally. She convinced herself that it was much more satisfying this way.

For his part, after their less than romantic encounter in his office, Colton was nothing but a gentleman to Abigail. He treated her with the same respect, the same quiet yet somehow condescending pride of a father figure. Abigail was reduced from a possible lover to the discarded role of a dependable daughter. It was a character she was rather good at playing.

***

Lou Bennett was a father when he could have been a grandfather.

He met Melody Van Bemmel at Chevy’s Café a week after he turned forty-five. It was nearly a blizzard outside, and she blew into the warm restaurant off-balance and trembling as if she were a leaf driven by the vicious wind. When the door slammed behind her, Melody gasped, stomped her booted feet, and flung the hood of her parka back. She smiled shyly, looking around as if her entrance had been staged, as if she were taking her place beneath the spotlight and now that she was front and center she had forgotten her lines.

Everyone in the café glanced up at her for the blink of an eye and then turned back to their coffees and specials of the day without a second thought. Everyone except Lou. He had fallen in love the moment Melody raised her hands to turn back her hood. They were little hands swimming in a pair of men’s work gloves that were so big on her fingers they nearly slid off. Lou imagined they were his gloves. He wished they were.

And just as quickly as he longed for her, Lou hated himself for it. She was a child. Her eyes were too clear, her skin too bright for her to even look twice at a man whose own skin was as deeply lined as those etchings he had seen on display in the American National Bank. But when she caught his eye, when her lips pulled up slightly just for him, Lou knew there was nothing that could be done about it. He was hers, even if she never acknowledged his existence. Even if he loved her in secret until the day he died.

As it turned out, he didn’t have to. Melody came to Lou in the most natural, ordinary way: she brushed against the edge of his life and found herself inexorably pulled in. He didn’t even know he was drowning until he felt himself reach for her and cling for dear life.

They were married less than a year later, and though Melody was not as young as Lou had imagined, when she walked down the aisle in a confection of white, a little shiver crept up Lou’s spine because she did not look twenty-five. Twenty years, he thought in the second before the preacher asked him if he would have her and hold her until “death do you part.”

Lou said, “I do” without hesitation, but somewhere in the back of his mind he faltered. There was a nagging suspicion, an accusatory guilt that made him wonder if he had made her the happiest woman alive like she claimed or if he had involuntarily ruined her life.

It took Melody almost six years to get pregnant, though they tried to make a baby on their wedding night. She saw doctors and gynecologists and fertility specialists, but no one could tell her why her womb would not swell with a child. For a while, Lou entertained the possibility of joining her at one of her appointments, but those sorts of things made him unbearably uncomfortable. He avoided the conversation he knew Melody wanted to have the same way that he avoided the drawer where she kept her neat pile of lace-trimmed underwear.

When Lou was fifty-one, Melody’s cheeks took on a greenish hue in the early morning, and the waist that he so loved to encompass in his enormous hands began to expand. She wouldn’t admit it at first—maybe she was scared to hope—but Lou knew almost immediately. Something about Melody had changed, the scent of her skin or the complexity of the air around her when she entered a room. Maybe both. Either way, Lou was relieved. It wasn’t him, it had never been him, and now she would be happy. They would be a family.

Lou didn’t think much about the baby until the doctor handed him a tiny, tightly wrapped bundle with a pink cap sliding down over her lashless eyes. They were two little commas, those eyes, a break amidst all the words that comprised his many years of life, though certainly not a beginning or even an end. Lou stared at her and realized that he had planned on having a son.

“Abigail Rose,” Melody called weakly from the bed. She smiled at him with all the energy she could muster, and her eyes were dancing with tears. “Rose for my mother and Abigail because it’s the most beautiful name I’ve ever heard. I think we’ll call her Abby.”


What was there to say? It was a fine name, and Lou hadn’t wasted a single thought on another. “Pretty,” he said finally and brushed his lips tentatively across the soft forehead because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Taken from The Moment Between by Nicole Baart. Copyright ©2009 by Nicole Baart. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sugar Bomb!

The celebration for Susan May Warren's first release in her new PJ Sugar collection, Nothing But Trouble, is about to begin. Join Susan for a month long Sugar Party!

The fun will Kick-off with a SUGAR BOMB on Friday May 15th. Susan is encouraging everyone to purchase a copy (and maybe a few for friends) of Nothing But Trouble anytime during the day on May 15th. Every one who purchases a copy of the book will be entered into the contest to win a Sugar Spa Basket. All you need to do is purchase a book at Amazon or come back here (contest page at http://www.susanmaywarren.com/) and leave Susan a message letting her know where you bought your book. Easy. And for every additional copies you buy, you'll gain an additional ten entries into the contest. So just let her know how many copies you bought. Join the fun by putting this button on your own site! (Email me at amy@litfusegroup.com and let me know you added the button to your site and be entered to win $25 to Amazon.com, twitter and facebook it and get additional 5 entries! Include your twitter/facebook id in the email too!)


Get in Trouble with PJ Sugar on May 15 - come join the fun with author Susan May Warren


Email amy@litfusegroup.com to get the code!

The party will continue all month with a blog tour and chances to win copies of Nothing But Trouble from the blog tourists! Schedule posted below.


The Sugar party will conclude in a day of celebration on Friday June 19th with a day long ONLINE Sugar Bookclub Party. Susan will be giving away prizes, answering questions, hosting a live chat, and generally getting herself into some "Trouble".


Tell your friends...or better yet, host your own Sugar Party! Details to follow.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Seattle Spa Tweet Up!


Spahhhh --- Aaaahhh! Just in time for Mother's Day!

I love 5 Minutes for Mom! I won an exclusive invite to this pampering Tweet Up sponsored by Pledge!

About a dozen Seattle area bloggers will meet on Wednesday, May 13th from 7pm until 9pm for an ultimate luxury tweetup. We’ll relax with complimentary manicures, pedicures and shoulder massages. And while we’re being pampered, our laptops will also receive special treatment, including a surface cleaning by new Pledge Multi Surface Cleaner.

In between indulgences we’ll snack on hors dourves, sip on drinks and mingle with fellow bloggers.

I'm thrilled to be chosen and excited to meet some local bloggers (and hopefully new friends!).

Shera from 5 Minutes for Faith and A Frog in My Soup
Leslie (aka Mrs Flinger) from Seattle Mom Blogs
Ellen from Zoom About Ellen
Maggie from MightyMaggie.com
Michelle and Laura Young from Seattle Mom Blogs
Mona from kirida.com
Faith McVeigh from Mommas Tantrum
Susan from 5M4M
Shannon from The Mommy-Files
Alexis AKA MOM
Wendi B from Wendi’s Book Corner
Erin from PlinkPlink
AND ME!

Oh I almost forgot… You can enter to win an At-Home Cleaning Intervention with Trish Suhr of The Style Network’s Clean House.

I'll be posting more about it later this week!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

My new friend Kate!


I'm super excited! God has plopped the PERFECT person for Litfuse into my lap! I've been praying for oh-so-long that I would find just the right person to partner with me in Spreading the Word for the Litfuse Nest!


You'll love her!

Kate McDonald graduated in 2002 from Wright State University, contemplated grad school, and ended traveling with her musician sister, Bethany Dillon, for a few years doing grassroots marketing and networking and… (let’s just keep it real) …selling t-shirts.!”

After landing in Seattle mid-2005, Kate took up blogging as a means to staying in touch with friends and family, but ending up rediscovering her love of story telling. Some four years later her blog, The Accidental Traveler, is still a staple in her creative life. She worked with CCM Magazine for a couple of years doing regular music reviews and several special columns and is thrilled to be working with Litfuse publicity!!” (YEAH!)

Find out more about Kate here!

Please go visit her TREMENDOUS blog and give her some love!



Saturday, May 02, 2009

Amy Wallace's Enduring Justice!


What an action packed whirlwind of a story! Bravo Amy...I was on the edge of my seat right up to the end. Amy's character's jump right out of the pages of the book. What a treat! Be sure to catch the first two books in the Defender of Hope series! Amy's hosting a FAB contest...be sure to read to the end of this post for details.

About the book:

A painful past
Hanna Kessler’s childhood secret has remained buried for over two decades. But when the dark shadows of her past threaten to destroy those she loves, Hanna must face the summer that changed her life and the man who still haunts her memories.

A racially-motivated killer
As a Crimes Against Children FBI Agent, Michael Parker knows what it means to get knocked down. Difficult cases and broken relationships have plagued his entire year. But when the system fails and a white supremacist is set free, Michael’s drive for retribution eclipses all else.

A life-altering choice
A racist’s well-planned assault forces Hanna and Michael to decide between executing vengeance and pursuing justice. The dividing line between the two is the choice to heal. But when the attack turns personal, is justice enough?

Buy the book here!

Read an excerpt here!


About Amy:

Amy Wallace is a freelance writer and self-confessed chocoholic. She is a graduate of the Gwinnett County Citizens Police Academy and serves as the liaison for the training division of the county police department. Amy is the author of Ransomed Dreams, the first book in the Defenders of Hope series, and a contributing author of several books including God Answers Moms’ Prayers, and God Allows U-Turns for Teens. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Georgia.


Contest:

Enter to win all THREE BOOKS in the Defender of Hope series by signing up for Amy’s Dark Chocolate Suspense Newsletter and then leave a comment on the blog tour post. It’s chock full of insider info on the writing world, a thought-provoking devotion, and easy but yummy recipes. If you already subscribe to the newsletter, just leave a comment saying so on the blog tour post! The winner will be chosen at random on 5/8/09. Two runner's up will also be chosen to win a copy of Enduring Justice.

I'm not the only one totally impressed with Amy's Enduring Justice:

Mimi: I love Amy Wallace's stories. She thrills as well as makes your heart soar. Very intellegent along with a lot of heart.

Amy: This is a great read, and if you’re looking for an edge of the seat thriller, this one is it!

Laura: I’ve read all Amy’s books since the beginning and can honestly say that she’s only gotten better with time...ENDURING JUSTICE is a book that will not be easily forgotten.

Find out what others are saying about Enduring Justice!