Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Review: Deborah Raney's Two Roads Home

Two Roads Home (Abingdon Press, June 2015)
About the book: 
Two Roads Home (Abingdon Press, June 2015)

What if it's too late for dreams to come true?

Minor---but-nagging setbacks continue to sour Grant and Audrey Whitman's initiation into the world of innkeeping, but larger challenges brew when an innocent flirtation leads to big trouble for the Whitmans' son-in-law, Jesse. Jesse Pennington's friendly, outgoing personality has always served him well, especially in a career that has earned him and his wife Corinne a very comfortable lifestyle. But Corinne and Jesse are both restless---and for similar reasons, if only they could share those with each other. Instead, too many business trips and trumped-up charges of harassment from a disgruntled coworker threaten their marriage and possibly put their three precious daughters at risk.

With their life in disarray, God is tugging at their hearts to pursue other dreams. Can Corinne and Jesse pick up the pieces of what was once a wonderful life before it all crumbles beneath them?

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1BdaEcG

My Thoughts:
I'll be honest-It's been a while since I've opted to read a Christian Fiction Novel! But when I had the opportunity to receive a complimentary copy Abington Press via Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review, and after being intrigued after reading the synopsis listed above, I decided it was worth broadening my reading scope!

Before my copy of Two Roads Home arrived, I purchased and read the first book in author Deborah Raney's Chicory Inn series. Mainly, I wanted my review of the 2nd book to include whether or not a reader of Two Roads Home needed to read both books. Here are my thoughts: Two Roads Home CAN stand as an independent read. It's a book full of great imagery, character development, and a story line that is different than the key storyline in Home to Chicory Lane. That said, there is a depth in character development regarding the extended Whitman family that is nice to have when you read both novels. A reader will especially gain a better grasp on the matriarch & patriarch of the clan, Audrey and Grant Whitman, by reading both books and having a better appreciation the couple and also of the family home that has become Chicory Inn.

Two Roads Home is a good reading choice for unwinding at the end of the day. This 2nd in the series held more suspense than the first, as a person outside of the family circle is stirring up trouble that affects married couple Corinne and Jesse. And as the situation takes over more of Corinne and Jesse's life, it impacts the lives of their children and the rest of the Whitman clan. Ultimately, Corrine and Jesse have to take a hard look at their marriage, realize their dreams have changed over the years, and choose to support one another as they focus on a career change and downsizing. The changes, while initiated as a result of a bad situation, do indeed lead to a good outcome and a more intentional marriage.

I hate to give so many details that it ruins a reader's own discoveries as they turn each page. But the situation Jesse finds himself in at work is extremely realistic, as is Corinne's response. Another nice aspect of Two Roads Home is the bond that sisters Corinne, Landyn & Dallas share. The sisterly bond includes touches of envy, lack of empathy, and then solidly lands with protecting, affirming, and caring for each other. Again, a very realistic scenario, and is a storyline that flows nicely with the main plot.

Probably the only thing I didn't care for was how the situation resolved itself with the person who had 'disrupted' Jesse and Corinne's life. Even though I thought it was a neat way to conclude that aspect of the book, it also felt a tad abrupt. But it did not take away from my thought that other readers will really also enjoy Two Roads Home.

*I received a complimentary copy per my honest review*

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Power {and Freedom} of Laughter

I'm not sure I quite knew what I was getting into when I decided to pursue participating in Hearts at Home's Third Thursday Thoughts Blog Hop. Here this is, only my second post, and the theme is Unleash your power to Lighten Up and Laugh...and all I could think of were the stupid things I've done over the years. Could I really write about them? And look like a dufus? Well, I decided that I should--I think it's important for we moms to recognize that laughing--even if it's at ourselves--is good for our souls and our confidence.
Anyone one who knows me knows a couple of things are very true:

  1. I really dislike attention. I like to plug away and remain "behind the scenes" as much as possible.
  2. I love to make those around me laugh. The more comfortable I am, the more naturally my wit and humor flow. It truly is a joy to make those close to me smile.
The thing is, I've spent most of my life keeping those two areas separate. Goofs, mistakes, and mishaps have often caused me to want to curl up under and chair and pray every one else would leave and forget about me. If I wasn't in control of the (potentially) funny situation, then I wanted it to all just go away. But things do occur in life, and some of the things in mine can truly be described as "LeAnne Moments". I realized a few years ago that my fears and embarrassments were crippling the authentic person I so desired to be. And with that realization, I began to lighten up, let things go, and fully embrace the life I live...even in the mishaps. And the past 40 years have held many "LeAnne Moments" that it's time for me to fully release. I hope you enjoy them!
  • Things "just happening to me" started in grade school. The summer after 3rd & 4th grade, my friend Heather and I had the chance to attend Project Excel at Bradley University (a gifted program for which you had to be selected). So, in 3rd grade, this 'gifted and talented' girl lost her BARBIE wallet at The Field Museum in Chicago. No big deal. But in 4th grade? I got stuck in a bog on our 'botany day'. Two adults had to pull me out, and in the process I lost a shoe. Not only did I spend the rest of the afternoon hiking wearing one shoe, but I got to wait for Heather's dad--who was a Professor at Bradley and our ride home--on a bench outside his office. And in case you wonder how many college students and employees do a double-take when they see a ten-year old, mud up to her waste, wearing one shoe...well, just trust me when I say it's every single one.
  • And the girl on the playground at recess who once laughed so hard she peed her pants a little? I know that girl. Very well.
  • As a child I had a big imagination. Which is a nice way to say I was always pretending to be a girl in commercials. So when my mom walked into the kitchen, fell flat on her back, and then discovered the floor and cabinets were coated with Pam cooking spray, she never dreamed I (the oldest of four) was the culprit. Have you ever tried to explain the reason the kitchen was coated in Pam was because you were doing an air freshener commercial? Trust me when I say Pam and air freshener are not the same thing (Pam does smell good, but please don't tell my mom I said that).
  • I never, ever drove a car until I went to Behind the Wheel for Driver's Ed. And I was very excited to come home and tell my mom what a great job I did driving stick shift. My mom was puzzled that the car was a stick, especially after talking to me about the clutch & shifting gears and I had no idea what she was talking about.  It look a little bit, but my mom finally figured out the truth that had eluded me...It was an automatic--with the gear shift NOT by the steering wheel, but in the floor panel.
  • Freshmen year of college held a couple of my bigger embarrassments. I attended the University of Iowa, which is absolutely beautiful. And hilly. And one day, as I walked down a snowy hill to get to my classes, it was my turn to land flat on my back. My feet flew completely out from under me and with a "whump" my whole body landed in perfect snow angel formation. And in true best-friend form, Colleen, my college roommate and dearest friend from home, continued to walk down the hill as if she had no clue who I was. So I stood up, straightened my backpack, and calmly pulled my hood back up over my head. A hood FULL of snow. For the record, quiet college freshman have no desire to be that girl who bit it on the hill...did you see her?
  • The next one was my own, true stupidity. As I sat at the desk in my room studying, I got distracted by my tanning goggles. And as a former swimmer, it made perfect sense to put the strap on them in a way that mimicked Swedish goggles (which are very tight swimming goggles that sit just barely around your eyeballs). The goal was to make Colleen laugh. It backfired when, after getting Colleen to laugh, I could NOT get them off my face. The pain was excruciating, and I laughed as I cried. And Colleen laughed, and helped get them off my face...but not before she grabbed my camera and took a picture!! For your entertainment, here is the picture. The giant sweater vest from the Gap circa 1994 is merely an added bonus.
  • Many other things have occurred since college, but one of the biggest was the turning point in how I respond to embarrassing moments. Nearly 4 years ago, my husband took a job as an Adult Ministries Pastor. I'd never been a pastor's wife before, and it was a strange feeling to have people know who I was and I didn't know them. So, I joined the greeter team at church and made a point to move beyond my comfort zone and meet as many people as I could. And after coming home after my second Sunday of greeting, I found I was wearing MISMATCHED EARRINGS:
It was that afternoon, at age 36, when I realized I had a couple of choices: I could act like I never knew and like no one could have possibly noticed; I could become meek, return to being shy and ultimately do a disservice to my husband and his role at church; or, I could accept the fact I had done something silly, and control it instead of letting it control me...by putting the picture of the earrings on Facebook! I chose the Facebook route:

In that moment, and in several moments since, I've chosen to be confident in accepting the woman God made me to be. I may still feel awkward at times, but I'm enjoying life so much more because I'm not allowing situations to be weights around my neck. Instead, I'm owning them, releasing them, and having fun. And that is a wonderful life to lead.

If you really want another "funny" moment that was worthy of its own blog post, click here.

And, you can find other encouragement and sources of laughter from Jill Savage as well as other bloggers on Jill's Website!

copyright 2015 LeAnne Klopfenstein

Monday, June 15, 2015

To Colleen, on Her {40th} Birthday

They say you should never room with your best friend when you head to college. But 'they' had never met 'us'. So when our separate searches led us to both to the University of Iowa (you for nursing & me for journalism), it made sense to continue our joined-at-the-hip friendship and become roommates. That decision and our journey to college remains one of the most favorite times in my life.

Thanks to the summer floods of 1993, our college adventure didn't begin in our own dorm room in Mayflower. Instead, we were plopped The Real World: Iowa City style with 6 other girls at the end of a hallway in another dorm, where we stayed for nearly 2 months. What a unique, crazy, and awesome experience...and it made me appreciate you & our dorm room when we finally moved!
Our 1st "dorm life" environment!

One of many 'floor meals' before we moved into our own room.

That first year was hard (the fact we never, ever, had to take finals in high school proved to be a kick in the teeth), but oh we had fun. I knew to never talk to you first thing in the morning, and you knew I'd be taking a nap in the afternoon whenever I had a chance. We made the same friends and also different friends, but we were always together. Even when we'd go home for breaks, we never needed a break from each other. We could connect with our high school friends, but also be very content to spend time without anyone else...which allowed us to stumble upon the Grease sing-a-long version New Year's Eve! I'm 100% certain I will never belt those songs out in front of anyone else.

Summer came & went, and we headed off for our Sophomore year. We moved back into our same dorm room and made it into a true luxury suite by making our room a shared bedroom with Amber and Tiffany (1/3 of the people we started our freshman year bunking with at the end of that hall!) and turning their room into our joint living room. Older and wiser, the year appeared very promising.

But sophomore year was hard. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually hard. It took its toll us both of us in deep, dark, & heavy ways. Only a few people truly know how traumatic that year was; friends from home didn't understand, and friends from college (and even our parents) didn't know what to do.  It was the first time we couldn't help the other, and that was heartbreaking. The only way for each of us to survive was to swim alone. While our friendship remained strong, our dependence upon each other could no longer keep us afloat. The light at the end of the tunnel was dim, but it was there. We completed sophomore year and dragged our weary bodies home. It would be another 4 years before I'd realize that I had spent that winter & spring suffering from depression. 

Junior year brought a new breath of life; the summer at home had helped us both in immeasurable ways. We moved into our sorority house and began a new normal. While our friendship was in a peaceful place, we wisely hung onto our independence. In the midst of that first semester, I realized how very tired I was of college; my English degree was going to require an extra semester of school thanks to the way U of Iowa offered my required classes. I should've told you I was looking into transferring-I'm sorry I didn't. To be honest, I didn't expect that I'd find a way to transfer as a 2nd semester junior and finish school in 4 years. I didn't expect that I would truly leave Iowa. But, I found a way. So at Christmas break, I came home for good to attend Bradley, and in January you went back to Iowa without me. Even as I type this, it's a very bittersweet memory.

The completion of Junior & Senior year for each of us had its perks--the biggest perk of all meeting and falling in love with our future husbands! You went gung-ho into earning your Business degree, and I loved completing my English degree. I got engaged and planned a wedding, and you worked on getting through your extra semester. I know I've told you this before, but one of my all-time regrets in life was not having you as a bridesmaid. I'm glad I still had you as part of the wedding, but I wish I had done more. Thanks for forgiving me.

A few years down the road, you got married, and, in true Colleen grace & love, my husband and I were 50% of your "non-family" attendees. A glorious weekend celebrating your birthday Friday, your wedding Saturday, and Father's Day with your dad on Sunday. Thank you, thank you.

Now that we are both married to guys named Mike and have both returned to Peoria, you'd think we would see each other more than we do. But the past 25 years of friendship have brought so much more than just time together. You were there for Charlie's adoption and my father-in-law's funeral. You're the one I can text, "DID YOU KNOW THIS???" along with the info, and never have anything be awkward because we haven't connected for a while. And the best part is knowing that, for the rest of our lives, we are "on-call" if the other one ever is in crisis. You are so steady, and so faithful. To know if I ever go through a tough time that you are always there for me means so much.

So today, as you turn 40, I look back on these 25 years with you and am forever grateful and blessed. You are one of the funniest people ever, and I love that not many people are aware of your hilarity. To know we both dated at least one person the other one couldn't stand, on occasion liked the same boy at different times (and perhaps even the same boy at the same time), but that our friendship always came first is still awesome. To watch as we each finally got it right was pure joy. And to watch the other become a mom has been simply amazing.  I love how you are so successful, yet you are so very humble. You keep your family as your top priority, and have passed up promotions to keep it that way. I love knowing that Ren & Stimpy was one of your favorite shows. And I can't listen to Pearl Jam, Counting Crows or Indigo Girls without thinking about you and our high school and college years. All the memories. All the laughter. All the tears. All together.
copyright 2015 LeAnne Klopfenstein

I don't tell you enough--but I love you very much, and I can't wait to spend 25 more years with you. Happy Birthday. ~L

copyright 2015 LeAnne Klopfenstein