Lots of irons in the fire, folks!

You know how I’m always saying I wear eleventy jillion hats? Figuratively speaking, that is. I think it’s reached a fever pitch now, y’all. So I’m about to list ’em for you, and then ask a favor. You knew that was coming right? Of course you did. Because y’all are fancy schmancy mind reading followers.

1. Full-time, mom

Lots of people would just stop here. After all, it’s a 24/7 PLUS job. Especially with The Beans. Which is why it’s listed FIRST.

2. Creator, Co-Producer and actress for THE BAR, a new comedy web-series coming soon from Bless Her Heart Productions.  

Trust me. You wanna know more. And you’ll want to get in on the action. Now, watch this.

3. Stella & Dot  jewelry stylist 

Oh, and I just promoted to Lead Stylist, which means I have people under me now. Wanna have a Trunk Show?

4. Kitten mom.

Let it be known, I didn’t intend to have a cat. But it was destiny. His mama abandoned him, and I took over when he was a day old. Round the clock bottle feedings…keeping him clean and safe…basically like having a newborn. Of course, I wouldn’t know anything about THAT. We named him Hiccup and he is almost 7 weeks old now. Eating food on his own, potty-trained, getting into mischief. I guess he’s a toddler now? Regardless, he’s the cutest. cat. ever.

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5. Mixologist/Bartender at one of our favorite local spots. 

This was an accident. I swear. But I’m gonna roll with it, okay? You should too.

6. Volunteer at our church. 

God called, and I need to make sure my ticket to Heaven is punched. Enough said.

7. Blogger 

This is no surprise. I mean, you wouldn’t be reading right now if I stopped wearing this hat. But, recently I’ve been doing more posts like this onethis one, and this one.  Oh, and this!!  So I think it’s kind of a big deal.

Since seven IS a lucky number, I’m cool with it. That is, until somebody hands me NUMBER EIGHT. Because I simply don’t see the line most people believe exists somewhere between ‘overextending yourself’ and ‘why-can’t-I-say-no-insanity’. Yeah, that.

Anyway, remember when I said I needed a favor? Well… here it is. I want y’all to help me with #2. Oh, stop snickering like Beavis and Butthead.  I’m serious. Please consider donating to the Indiegogo campaign for THE BAR. We have the best ensemble cast ever, and it’s hilarious. Not to mention there are some serious, tangible perks to donating! Every penny counts y’all and we’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there (See what I just did? Do you recognize that line from the title song of another iconic Southern film? Hint: Smokey).  It’s my baby, and I really wanna see it blossom. But if you can’t donate, I totally understand. You can still SHARE THE LINK TO THE CAMPAIGN WITH EVERYONE YOU’VE EVER MET. Or share this post you are reading. Or even better… BOTH!

 Love y’all. Have a great weekend 🙂

Is God Real or Pretend?

I know what I believe: a very emphatic, loud, resounding YES MA’AM!  I mean, if you read this post , you’ll understand that it’s by His very Grace that I’m alive. In addition, I believe He is a loving God, who through the Christian principles and teachings I’ve chosen to follow from The Bible, compels us to be compassionate, tolerant, non-judgmental and forgiving. And also that, as Glennon Doyle Melton, of Momastery  puts it…“God is forever tries.” In other words, no matter how many times we sin, or how bad the sins are…if you ask Him to come into your life and forgive you….He does. No questions asked.

At the same time, I respect what you believe. Even though your answer to this question may be vastly different from mine. That’s perfectly fine with me, because differences are what make our world a unique place to live. I’ve never been one to force my beliefs on anyone, and I don’t plan on starting now, on the 42nd anniversary of my birth (yes, today is my birthday). The various religions of the world and their individual teachings and guidelines have always fascinated me. I’ve even sought classes on the History of Religions, only to enroll and find out it was not going to supply me with the knowledge I was seeking, so I dropped out. Oh well. I suppose as an eternal student of life, I’ll just have to keep looking. But anyway, enough about that.

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The reason for my post today is simple. I was asked by TLC Book Tours to review a book entitled “Is God Real or Pretend”, by Jennifer Horsman.

Is God Real or Pretend? is the story of young Franklin’s engaging and enlightening journey to answer this age-old question. Franklin’s grandmother, Dr. Wendy Knowles, a professor of astronomy, first provides Franklin with the basic scientific means of determining what is real and what is not and how science distinguishes questions it can answer and those it cannot. Franklin’s mission of discovery continues as he meets a kindly professor of Greek mythology who offers a historical-cultural prospective on the question. Here Franklin meets the Greek Gods and their timeless myths.

Once armed with these new ideas, Franklin meets with representatives of the world’s five major religions: Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. These knowledgeable teachers from the great religions charm and delight as they shine positive lights on their religion. Franklin asks probing questions, while learning to appreciate and admire the diversity and beauty of these religious beliefs and traditions. Ultimately, Franklin’s dynamic school report on the immensity and magnificence of the universe becomes the backdrop for thinking critically about religion and questions about God.

This book is designed for anyone and everyone, young and old, religious or not, who wants to know more about these five great religions. It’s the most unforgettable and exciting journey, one every thoughtful child (and the curious adults in their life) will enjoy.

REVIEW

Being the mother of The Beans –Sugar, Butter, and Sweet Pea– and having just concluded a glorious holiday season during which they were all three baptized in a beautiful ceremony, our family lit the last candle of Advent–the Christ Candle — at our church’s Christmas Eve service, and then witnessing them open the gifts Santa brought them on Christmas Day…..my biggest issue with this book is that on page 2 it clearly states “SANTA CLAUS IS NOT REAL.”  WTF? Seriously. For a book that is geared towards a young audience, that’s just…well…wrong in my honest opinion. And to think, I almost read it to my youngest two children, who still whole-heartedly believe in the magic of Santa. Talk about dodging a bullet inevitably designed to break a tiny heart! Now, I realize not everyone allows their children to believe this myth based on the assumption that it’s ‘lying’ to them. And hey…to each his own. But I, for one, plan to allow mine to enjoy the magic for as long as they choose to. They grow up fast enough. Besides, I’ve witnessed Christmas miracles in my life that could only be explained by belief in both God and Santa Claus. So there.

All that being said, the book does an effective job of explaining the 5 major religions of the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It talks about each one separately, outlines the major rules or principles its followers abide by and explains the differences between the faiths. At the same time, the author manages to highlight how the various religions are similar in their teachings on an elemental level, which I very much enjoyed. In addition, the book addresses the existence of God from a scientific perspective, discusses the history of Greek Gods, or polytheistic belief, and talks about Agnostics, or those who are unsure whether God exists at all. The language is easy to understand, and it flows well, which is definitely a plus for a book about religion. All in all, an interesting read full of useful information.

In the end, Franklin, the curious child at the center of this story, says  “I learned that religions all have different ideas of God, but that God still remains mysterious,” and, “All religions try to help people be better.”  Both valuable points, I believe. However, ultimately he decides he likes “the scientific way of knowing best.” For me, this is not the conclusion I would prefer my children to settle upon, but that’s likely because I feel the presence of God in my life, have a strong faith and want my daughters to grow up with the same. Because often, at the end of a particularly challenging period in one’s life….hope, belief and faith may just be all you have to cling to.

Think I’ll tuck this book away from the eyes of The Beans until they begin asking questions. For now, they love Jesus with all their hearts, and believe God is very real….which is fine by me!

The Beans just after their Baptisms.

The Beans just after their Baptisms.

Jennifer Horsman is the author of many popular books for both young readers and adults. In addition to a B.A. from UC Irvine in Social Ecology (don’t ask; no one knows what it means), she has spent a lifetime reading about religion, philosophy, history and science.

You can find her books at www.JenniferHorsman.com, or by clicking on her picture below.

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GRACE UNPLUGGED

Every so often, I’m invited to cool events as the result of my incessant over-sharing here  at a calibama state of mind. Some are blogger networking soireés, others are invitations to be part of the audience for a talk show, and others are opportunities to attend private screenings of great films before they are released.  That’s what happened last week, and the film sent such a positive message, I want to tell y’all about it so you won’t miss it once it opens in theaters this Friday!

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**A talented young singer and aspiring songwriter’s Christian faith and family ties are tested when she defies her worship-pastor father and pursues pop-music stardom in GRACE UNPLUGGED, a moving and inspiring new film that explores the true meaning of success.

Grace Trey has just turned 18 and aspires to do more than sing in her church’s worship band, which is led by her father, Johnny Trey, a one-time pop star who gave up his life in secular music when he became a Christian. Grace longs to escape his shadow and make a name for herself singing songs about something other than God, but Johnny warns her that fame is not as glamorous as it looks and reminds her that serving and worshipping God with the talent she’s been given is a far more worthwhile goal.

When Johnny’s former manager, Frank “Mossy” Mostin shows up 20 years after the two parted ways to offer him another shot at the big time, Johnny declines the opportunity. But Grace takes it – without telling her parents. She records a cover version of her father’s old Top 10 hit, runs away to Los Angeles and, under Mossy’s guidance, begins to taste the kind of success she’s always dreamed of, landing on the charts herself, attracting the attention of the entertainment press, even dating a popular TV star.  But with each rung of the ladder she climbs, Grace feels pressure to compromise her Christian values, and her relationship with her parents gets further strained. Even as plans move forward for her to record a follow-up album, Grace learns not everyone who says they’re on her side really is. The one exception is Quentin, an intern at her record company and a fellow Christian who urges Grace to reassess her choices and put God first again in her life. Will everything she experiences lead her to reject her faith … or …rediscover it?

 

Ironically, the screening was scheduled for last Wednesday evening, which happened to be not only the eve of Sugar Bean’s 14th birthday, but also the night she attends her beloved youth group meeting at our church. And as much as I adore attending a private screening (and even more so the party that usually follows) I must admit, when Sugar Bean opted to attend youth group instead of the movie, I smiled a bit. Okay, a lot. Because raising a teenage daughter in LA is really tough, and there is always a moment of pride when you are presented with unequivocal evidence your angel has her priorities aligned properly: God, Family, and Fun. In. That. Order.

Our very important scheduling conflict did not, however, mean all was lost. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, and a great girl named Briana at Grace Hill Media, who hooked me up with a digital link, and provided me with log-in credentials…we were able to enjoy the film from the comfort of our own home, snuggled up together in our jammies. And it’s such an amazing, feel good family flick, that was an outstanding way to experience it. Quality mother/daughter bonding time is always sheer perfection! And the icing? The film is partly set in Birmingham, Alabama, which is not far from where I grew up, so I recognized the scenery. That’s always fun!

Anyway, the film itself is just the kind of movie I love to show The Beans. It’s packed with teenage angst, disobedience and rebellion. Wait…what?! Did I just say that? Yes. Yes I did. It’s incredibly relatable, and the rebellion is dealt with sensibly; emphasizing faith, family and the importance of remembering your roots, following your beliefs, maintaining strong morals, and trusting God to lead you along the path to where you belong. It’s packed with teachable moments. Yes, it’s a Christian film. But it’s much much more than that, so don’t shy away from seeing it, even if your spirituality and faith is rooted elsewhere. Because with all the horrifying images and behavior exhibited these days by the very pop stars whom our youth once viewed as ‘role models’, this movie is a gust of fresh, clean air our children can breathe in and be inspired by. The character of Grace Trey is just the kind of girl anyone would be overjoyed to have as a daughter, and fortunately….I’m pretty sure I’m raising three of her, with help from positive works of cinematic brilliance like GRACE UNPLUGGED. 

Starring AJ Michalka, James Denton, Kevin Pollack, Shawnee Smith, Michael Welch, and Jamie Grace, GRACE UNPLUGGED arrives in theaters October 4 from Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. Inspired by a true story, GRACE UNPLUGGED is directed by Brad J. Silverman and produced by Russ Rice, the team behind NO GREATER LOVE.

AJ with Dad Performing In Church[1]

Grace Piano & Guitar[2]

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You can visit the official website, view the trailer and follow the journey of this film by clicking the links below:

Website: www.graceunplugged.com

Official Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0zIUGjIR1Q

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/GraceUnplugged

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/GraceMovie

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**Denotes synopsis provided by Grace Hill Media. All images provided by Grace Hill Media, with permission from Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions.

The opinions stated here are entirely mine, and mine alone, and I did not receive any monetary compensation in exchange for my review. 

On top of Forgiveness Mountain

Photo credit: HelloGiggles.com

Photo credit: HelloGiggles.com

Pretty bottles of poison, huh? Actually, I don’t know what the heck is in them, but given the nature of this post, and the quote I’m borrowing from HelloGiggles.com  I’m just gonna stick with the assumption they have poison in them. Besides, one of them has a skull on it, and another has a pentagram. That can’t be a good sign. So there.

“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for someone else to die.”

Honestly, that’s the best advice/reason I’ve ever seen about forgiveness, because grudges are toxic…even lethal…substances we carry around. They consume our insides and warp our sense of reality. And with 3 Beans and The Man to take care of, I’m already teetering on the verge of insanity most days anyway, so I’ll pass on the help. Thanks. Admittedly, I’ve fallen victim to grudge holding. Hell, I’ve dragged my family into it, and I’m not proud of that, to say the least. Sometimes being human really is an impossibly heavy cross to bear. 

Anyway, back to forgiveness.

Mama always told me, “Look for the good in people, even if you have to use a magnifying glass once in a while.” Pretty sage advice, I believe. She also taught me to be forgiving and compassionate, with the knowledge that nobody is perfect. Especially me. Despite the handful of times I mentioned previously…when I fell into the grudge trenches, grabbing those within my reach on the way down…I’ve always been generously forgiving. Sometimes to a fault. It also takes A LOT to make me angry enough to cut someone out of my life to the point of holding a grudge. And by a lot, I mean major betrayal, heaps of heartache, or life-altering actions….over an extended period. Usually. But I do have a breaking point, and it has happened. The good news is, as I’ve gathered life experience, resulting in more gray hair than I want, I’ve also developed a keener eye for people with agendas. Thus, resulting in a tighter circle full of loyal people whom I would trust with the lives of myself and family, rather than energy vampires who suck the life out of me or threaten to wreck what I’ve got going on. Must be true….wisdom comes with age, huh?

For the past few years, our little tribe has been on a seemingly never-ending hike over some very rough terrain. Let’s see…there has been betrayal by friends and/or trusted business associates, job related shake-ups, financial destruction/rebuilding, addiction and recovery, not one but two family moves, and the deaths of two beloved family pets. Clearly, our plates have overflowed with a variety of things. And that’s just the general Cliff Notes summary. Plenty of other less devastating, yet still significant hurdles have presented themselves along the way as well. But, in the spirit of my mama, and her wish to always focus on the good, and avoid shrouding the entire span of time in darkness, I will direct you to some positive times. Like thisthis and this. And this. OH… and this, of course. But, suffice to say, we’ve learned enough life lessons in the past 8 years to keep The Beans’ (along with their children & grands) karma cards free of a balance for quite a while. Just about the only things we haven’t had to endure are divorce and the terminal illness or loss of a family member. God-forbid any of those happen!! Seriously. I know The One in Charge thinks I’m a bad-ass already, as evidenced by the weight of what I’ve carried in the past. So I’d prefer not to be reminded again just yet. All good for now, and honestly…I could use a rest.

Did you hear that? (please say yes)

Fortunately, it seems that prayer has been heard, although I’m understandably hesitant to hold my breath, or sigh in relief just yet. I mean, you never know…right? However, I am happy to report….as we waded through the muddy water, and slid down slippery slopes into deep valleys at times…we also managed to simultaneously climb a mountain called FORGIVENESS. Mostly of those who betrayed us and of each other, but especially of ourselves. Oh and the view from atop, looking down at the distance we’ve traveled is a marvelous one indeed. The words “I FORGIVE YOU” have never felt so powerful and freeing as they do in my life today. I’ve said them before, but the sound of that phrase now is the equivalent of harp strings plucked by angels’ fingers. Oh, and the bottles of poison? They have been emptied, their contents replaced with the liquid of GRATITUDE. As the saying goes…“To err is human; to forgive is divine”. So so true. I’m proud of how much The Man and I have grown–as people–and the resilience we’ve had in the face of all sorts of things. The Beans will be stronger and smarter as the result of it, I hope.

And more appreciative.

And kinder.

But most of all, more….

FORGIVING.

 

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