Sunday, January 30, 2022

Book Review: A Deep Divide, by Kimberley Woodhouse

You know sometimes, you order a book, and by the time to get around to reading it, you can't really remember why you ordered it to begin with? I mean, there must have been a reason you chose it, but you just can't put your finger on it?

Well, that was me when I finally sat down to read A Deep Divide

BUT, by the time I finished the first chapter, I was HOOKED!

No spoilers, but the first chapter grabbed me, and the story didn't let go from there. It's not a rip-wild thriller or anything like that - it's a story with great characters, an incredible setting, truly interesting history, and a fast moving plot that keeps moving along at the perfect pace.

Our heroine, Emma Grace McMurray, is a late-Victorian-era American heiress. Early childhood trauma sets her on a dramatic path that takes her all the way to the "Wild West" of the Grand Canyon.

Her epic journey involves hiding in plain sight, learning a whole new way of life, and discovering the power of trust and honesty.

(And yes, if you read my recent review for Every Word Unsaid, you'll feel a bit of a crossover theme of travel, adventure, secret identities, and Victorian photography!)

Harvey Girls in original uniforms

As always, I love how historical fiction introduces us to fascinating chapters of real life history. In the 1800's, Fred Harvey built a chain of hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses beside railroads across America. He essentially invented the American chain restaurant and helped develop tourism in the "wild" west. In a century where women's roles were limited, the Harvey House hotels and restaurants offered respectable and well-paying work to single women. The "Harvey Girls" were highly trained, with a reputation for impeccable hospitality. They even inspired a Judy Garland musical! Emma Grace finds work and independence as a Harvey Girl at the very real, and still operating, El Tovar hotel. 

I really loved this whole story! The setting - both in time and location - were beautiful and fascinating. The history made me dig deeper into the real-life people and places. I loved the characters and was truly rooting for all them. Most of all, the plot kept me guessing, and ended in a very satisfying conclusion. 

What else could you want from a novel?

Kimberley Duffy is incredibly prolific, with books, blogs, and special offers for book clubs.
You can find out more at:

El Tovar Hotel, in the early 1900's (source: Wikipedia

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Book Review: After She Falls, by Carmen Schober

Okay, stay with me - this is going to be a different one:

Today, I'm reviewing After She Falls -
a mixed martial arts (MMA) romance by Carmen Schober.

You heard that right: an MMA Christian Romance!

Let's start by going back a bit:

When Gerald and I were first married, we decided we would each subject invite the other to watch one of our favourite TV shows, in the interest of sharing our hobbies and interests. 

I chose American Idol - a fairly safe bet given our love of singing. Gerald chose The Ultimate Fighter - an MMA reality show about fighters trying to make it in the big leagues.

At first, I was horrified! I'm not a fighter, and I hated watching these young men (and eventually, women!) smash each other's faces into the canvas. But my new husband had a 2nd Dan Black Belt in Ishinryu Karate, and an extensive history in martial arts. Where I saw only violence, he saw skill and technique. Over time, I came to appreciate the true sport in the fights, and the incredible spirit of these talented athletes. 

So, when I saw that a new author had written an MMA Christian fiction romance,
I knew I had to review it!

Our heroine -  Adri Rivera - was raised in an MMA family. Her talent and passion had her on the fast track to success, until an abusive husband and unplanned pregnancy set her on a very different path. As our story opens, Adri has returned home to find a new life for herself and her daughter. But you can't escape old dreams and old flames in a small town.

I read After She Falls really quickly. The plot has a great pace, the characters are really clear, and the story comes to a very satisfying conclusion. 

But full disclosure with no spoilers - this book isn't going to be for everyone. 

There are detailed descriptions of MMA fights. They're really well done, but I did read some reviews where readers struggled with the violence. There are also descriptions of domestic abuse. These scenes are never gratuitous, and are completely necessary to the plot, but they're definitely difficult to read.

I'm not sharing this to be negative, but I know that scenes like this aren't typical for Christian fiction. I just think it's fair to warn you, just in case you're sensitive to such things.

Ultimately, After She Falls is a story of redemption, rebuilding, and returning to your dreams, 
and we all need more stories like that! 

Carmen regularly blogs about faith, writing, and fighting at: 

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Goal Setting Fridays - What Exactly Is a “Single Moment Goal”?

Welcome to Goal Setting Fridays!

Why Fridays?
So you can ruminate over the weekend & get a fresh start on Monday!

Please subscribe to receive all new posts!

Last week, we talked about how to
Sort Your Goals for Goal Setting Success

Sorting our goals involves organizing our dreams and aspirations into one of three categories:

  • Single Moment Goals
  • Habit Goals 
  • Longterm Goals

Today, I want to take a moment and talk about Single Moment Goals.

Many of us are familiar with Habit Goals and Longterm Goals,
but what exactly are Single Moment Goals, and why do they matter at all?

A Single Moment Goal has a few qualifications that make it unique:

  • It can be defined in just a few words.
  • It can be achieved with a few simple actions.
  • It generally has one singular result.
  • It can be achieved in a short period of time, generally under a day.

“Wait a second,” I hear you asking, “Is something that small really worthy of the word 'Goal'? Isn’t it just a To Do List item?”

Good question!

Your To Do List is probably like mine: full of simple, action-based tasks. Crossing items off your To Do List feels fantastic, but let’s be honest. At the end of the day, do you ever cheer, “Yay, another goal completed!” No, you don’t. You’re just happy to get stuff done.

A Single Moment Goal may be brief, but it's still a proper goal - something worth reaching for, something that takes effort beyond the every day. Any goal - big or small - should require us to reach outside our comfort zone, even just a little. 

How do you tell the difference between a To Do Item and a Single Moment Goal?

Goals always involve some degree of risk.

Signing up to receive a newsletter? No risk. Not a goal.
Signing up to audition for a play? Risk! Definitely a goal.

Buying a head of lettuce? No risk. Not a goal.
Starting your first day as a vegan? Risk! Absolutely a goal.

Ordering a book? No risk. Not a goal.
Emailing a publisher? Risk! Total goal!!

Notice that all these actions are small - signing up for something, shopping, sending an email. Each can be completed with a reasonably small investment of time and effort. But once you recognize that element of risk, you can feel the transition from a To Do Item to a Goal!

When trying to decide if an action should go on the To Do List or the Goal List, simply ask:

Is there any risk in doing this?
Do I get butterflies in my tummy when I think of completing this action?
Will this stretch me beyond my comfort zone?

If you can see the risk, fantastic! Name it and acknowledge the emotions spurred by that risk. Take a moment and imagine what it’ll feel like to complete that action. Finally, put it on your list of Single Moment Goals.

If there’s no risk, simply move the item over to your To Do List. Make sure it gets done quickly so you can spend your energy focusing on your actual goals.

Next week, we’ll talk about the "secret message" in those pesky items
that stay on your To Do List for weeks, months or even years!

What are some of your Single Moment Goals for 2022?

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Book Review: Every Word Unsaid, by Kimberly Duffy

Welcome to my first book review of 2022!

Last year, I read a whopping 55 books! Definitely a record for me. 

If you're new to my blog, I regularly review books for Graf-Martin Communications' Nuts About Books review program. I had three books to read over the holidays, so hold on to your seatbelts - we've got three reviews coming in over the next few days!

Last year, I read and reviewed Kimberly Duffy's A Tapestry of Light. 
(True confession - I was about to write that I read this book in 2020! Pandemic time warp is a real thing!!!)

I loved Kimberly's detailed and engaging approach to historical fiction, so I jumped at the chance to review her latest offering.

Every Word Unsaid opens in Deadwood, 1897. If you've ever studied anything about the Wild West (or watched HBO's Deadwood series), you'll know this is a dramatic spot for an opening chapter.

Here we meet Augusta (Gussie) Constance Travers - a New York socialite with a taste for adventure. Her magazine readers know her as Miss Adventuress - a fearless, modern traveler. Her writing and photographs bring tales of exotic lands to housebound American housewives. But not everyone values her work, and when scandal threatens her family, she embarks on a journey overseas. A trip to India and a visit with friends drops her in the midst of a pandemic, a love story, and her greatest adventure yet.

First, can I say how bizarre it is to read a story set in a historical pandemic? Some of our characters are in the medical field, and it's painful watching them struggle with illness and death, knowing the limits of their own scientific knowledge.

Second, I loved these characters! Actually, I pretty much loved everything about this book. It was emotional, fun, heartbreaking, and beautifully descriptive. Gussie's relationship with her uncle might have been my favourite in the whole book.

As always, I loved googling the different locals and historical figures referenced in the story. One of my favourites was the Kodak Girl. As Kodak started to develop portable cameras, they created a savvy marketing campaign targeted at the new, modern woman. The Kodak Girl was a fresh incarnation of the classic Gibson Girl, with smart clothes and an independent spirit. Gussie aspires to be just such a modern woman and references the iconic character several times. 
(Ryerson University in Toronto has a really interesting article about the Kodak Girl HERE.)

What's Left Unsaid
is an engaging, dramatic, beautifully written piece of historical fiction. I turned down many page corners and circled many wonderful passages of writing. 

I can't wait to see what Kimberly writes next! 

Kimberly Duffy's site offers a free short story, as well as a special invitation for all Book Clubs!
You can find out more at: 

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Goal Setting Fridays - Sort Your Goals for Goal Setting Success

Welcome to Goal Setting Fridays!

Why Fridays?
So you can ruminate over the weekend & get a fresh start on Monday!

Please subscribe to receive all new posts!

Last week, we talked about
If Resolutions Aren’t Goals, What Good Are They?

In our last post, I encouraged you to start writing down your dreams and aspirations for all the different areas of your life.

By now, you should have a wonderful pile of aspirations for your Relationships, your Profession, your Creativity, your Spirituality …  So many wonderful dreams for the year!

But now that we have this awesome pile of ambitions, what do we do with them?

The next step is pretty easy, but also really critical. If you’re like me and you love organizing things, this next step is for you!

(And if you don’t like organizing, no worries. It’s a pretty simple step!)

It’s time to sort your goals!

“Oh,” I hear you saying, “They’re all so important. How can I possibly sort them?”

Different dreams have different needs, and that’s what we’re going to figure out next.
Some need lots of time, some need an ongoing commitment, and some just need a spark of energy. 

By figuring out which goal has which needs, we give that goal a better chance of success!

We’re going to sort all the aspirations on our page into one of three categories:

  • Single Moment Goals
  • Habit Goals
  • Longterm Goals


These are small items that can most likely be achieved with a single effort. They might, in the end, become part of a larger project, but for now, let’s just put them in this category. Since Single Moment Goals can be achieved fairly quickly, they give us a swift sense of accomplishment and a strong jolt of motivation to tackle larger projects! 


Habit Goals don’t have end date. Instead, these aspirations are going to become part of your daily, weekly, or monthly routine. For example: "Read 50 books this year” is a Longterm Goal that will take you a year to achieve. While “Read 30 minutes a day” is a Habit Goal, requiring a regular commitment. Success with a Habit Goal comes by living into that commitment. Eventually, succeeding in this Habit Goal will help you achieve your Longterm Goal, but it’s important to differentiate between the two. We’ll discuss this important distinction in more detail in a future post.


This are the big projects that need concerted effort over a significant period of time. As I’ve already mentioned, both Single Moment Goals and Habit Goals can help contribute to achieving your Longterm Goals. For us creative types, a Longterm Goal could be write a book, record a CD, or perform a national concert tour. Other examples could be launch a new business, rebuild a broken relationship, or find and become a regular member of a local church.

To start this sorting process, let’s first choose one life area from last week’s brainstorming session. Since I talked about my walking habit in my first post, let’s look at the area of Health.

Look at all the aspirations you listed under Health.
Now, let's designate each item on your list as a 
Single Moment Goal, a Habit Goal, or a Longterm Goal.

Which items on your list are achievable in a Single Moment? Which will simply take a phone call, a few hours of research, or an afternoon of creativity to achieve? For example, one of your Health aspirations might be to catch up on overdue medical appointments. In that case, items such as “book my annual bloodwork” or “google local dentists” can go in the Single Moment category.

Next, which items from your list of aspirations can become part of your routine? Habit Goals are the things that will fall easily into a some kind of regular or semi-regular schedule. For example, my initial walking goal was a 20-minute walk, 5 times a week. It was something I could regularly mark on my calendar, and check off for each day I actually made it out the door.

And finally, of all your dreams, which are going to take a long time to achieve? Now’s the time to name those Longterm Goals! For many people, their longterm Health goals might look "like lose 40 pounds", "reduce my cholesterol", or "run a marathon". These are goals that will encompass many dedicated steps over a significant period of time. But once accomplished, they can literally become a "dream come true!" Ideally, we should have a least one Longterm Goal for every area of our lives. These are the major aspirations we have for our Spirituality, our Profession, our Family - everything! Do you want to travel to another country? Restore a French chateau? Launch your child into adulthood? Start your own publishing company? This should be an exciting list filled with inspiring dreams for your life.

Don’t just mentally sort all these aspirations - actually write them down. Maybe you can take your initial brainstorming list, and simply write SMG, HG, or LTG next to each aspiration. Or start a whole new list and colour-code everything. Either way, write it down and let it imprint on your brain.

And once that’s done, take a break. Have a snack. Let things percolate.
Goal setting can be overwhelming.
Allow yourself time to breathe and reflect.

What are some of your Single Moment, Habit and Longterm Goals for 2022? 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Goal Setting Fridays - If Resolutions Aren't Goals, What Good Are They?

Welcome to Goal Setting Fridays!

Why Friday?
So you can ruminate over the weekend & get a fresh start on Monday!

Please subscribe to receive all new posts!

Last week, we started this series with
The Power of the Gentle Start.

In last week’s post, I made this declamatory statement:

Resolutions aren’t Goals!

Every January 1st, we start claiming our New Year’s Resolutions:

I’m going to eat better!
I’m going to lose weight!
I’m going to write more!
I’m going to be happy!

And within a few weeks, or days, or even, let’s be honest, hours, we fall back to eating junk, packing on pounds, and ignoring our writing journal. And with that, the idea of being “happy” starts to feel very far away.

Why? Because we (unintentionally!) set ourselves up for failure!

We gave ourselves healthy, positive Resolutions, but as I stated already:

Resolutions aren’t Goals!

In this context, a Resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or not to do something.

So, that sounds good, right? But think about the the word “Decision”:

A Decision happens in the moment, in the “now".
So how do you carry that Decision from the “now” into the longterm?
How do you find the strength to make that same Decision day after day?

It’s one thing to make that positive choice in the rush of New Year’s celebrations, but what happens in a few days when you’re tired, and hungry, and your old habits just seem so comfortable and safe?

Resolutions can be turned into Goals, and we’ll talk about that next week, but first let’s ask this:

If Resolutions aren’t Goals, what good are they?

On the surface, Resolutions are amazing! They speak to the great passion we all have to create a better life for ourselves.

But the moment we call them Resolutions, we fall back into the bad habits of January-past:

Make it - Break it - Feel bad - Give up until next New Year’s.

But, what if we could transform the way we think about Resolutions?

Instead of Resolutions, what if we called them our
New Year’s Aspirations?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Aspiration” as “a strong desire to achieve something high or great.

Right away, we see a change. A Resolution was a “decision”, but an Aspiration is a “desire.”

Desires aren’t limited to a single action. Desires flow through us constantly, pushing us forward from moment to moment.

Read down a little bit in the dictionary, and you'll also find this interesting definition: “the act of breathing and especially of breathing in”.

Now, we all know this is a medical definition of the word, but think of it in our context:

Our Aspirations are literally driven by the act of breathing,
which is an act of life!

This month, I suggest you spend some time thinking about your New Year’s Aspirations!

At this stage, don’t think about how you’ll achieve them or whether or not they’re practical.

Just breathe - in and out - in and out.

First, write a list of all the areas in your life:

  • Family
  • Profession
  • Spirituality
  • Creativity
  • Volunteering
  • Community
  • Health
  • Education
  • Add your own areas that make sense to you!

If you’re like me, you’ll do this on a large sheet of paper with lots of coloured markers!
I have friends who do this on apps on their phone, or on a fresh Word Doc.
Find the way that works best for you.

After creating your list, start to dream big!

What are your Aspirations, your desires, for your family, your profession, your spirituality?
Write them out. Be specific, and be bold!
Don’t be afraid to write too many answers!
This is dreaming, brainstorming!
Write down all your ideas!

And when you think you’ve written enough, step away for a few hours or even a few days.
Take time to breathe in and breathe out.

Then, come back to your list, and add a few more.
Don’t take anything away at this stage.
Dare to dream a little bigger!
Add a few things that will stretch your comfort zone and really excite you.

Spend some time looking at your list, thinking about the things you’ve written, and if you’re like me, praying over those desires for your life.

Next week, we’ll talk about how to turn those Aspirations into Goals.

But for this week, just breathe and dream…

What are some of your New Year’s Aspirations?

Friday, January 07, 2022

Goal Setting Fridays - The Power of the Gentle Start

Welcome to Goal Setting Fridays!

Why Fridays?
So you can ruminate over the weekend & get a fresh start on Monday!

Please subscribe to receive all new posts!

We're kicking off the New Year with:

The Power of the Gentle Start

Once, a lifetime ago, I belonged to a gym.

I joined in the summer and, over the months, I created a strong habit of visiting three times a week. Being self-employed, I could attend during the slower daytime hours. I enjoyed small classes, a quiet locker room, and my choice of machines.

That first week of January, I showed up for my usual Tuesday afternoon visit.

I was shocked at the transformation of my quiet neighbourhood gym! Bodies pressed upon bodies as classes were filled to capacity, line-ups wrapped around machines, and the locker room resembled a scene from Blake Edwards' “The Party”. 

I expressed my surprise to the staff, who rolled their eyes and said, “Give it a week.”

Experience had taught them well. 
By the following week, the place had started to settle down. 
By the end of the month, I had my quiet gym back to myself.

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 
This quote - generally misattributed to Albert Einstein -
should be the official motto of New Year’s Resolutions! 

You know the story:
Year after year, people make resolutions to “drink less,” “eat better,” and “lose weight.”
And year after year, they set records for how quickly they break those exact resolutions.

First, we need to address the biggest problem:
Resolutions aren’t Goals!

(I could talk about this all day, so stay tuned next Friday for a post on how to turn Resolutions into Goals.)

But for now, let me address a second problem:
The Gangbuster Approach.

After the feasting and indulgence of the holiday season, people jump into their New Year’s Resolutions feet first and eyes closed. They throw out all the sweets, lock the liquor cabinet, and yes, sign up for a gym membership. 

For the next week, they are “The New Me!”

But just as quickly, it all starts to fall apart. That kind of instant and complete lifestyle change just isn’t sustainable.

This January, may I propose a different approach?

May I suggest
The Power of the Gentle Start?

The Gentle Start invites grace into our goal setting.
You need to stretch before you can run. 
You need to build your muscles and endurance before you can run your first marathon.
It’s the same thing for setting and achieving goals.

At the start of the pandemic, I decided to start walking.
It was a habit that could potentially fulfil several desires for increasing
my overall physical, mental, and emotional health.

I started with three 20-minute walks a week.

Now, for those of you who work out regularly, that probably seems like a really small commitment. But trust me, for me, it was a challenge! It took genuine focus to prioritize my walks and not let weather, tiredness, or really any excuse, keep me from taking that first step outside. And in the beginning, those 20-minutes felt like forever!!! What was my brain supposed to do with all that time??? 

So, I found my first solution - call Mom and Dad.
Soon, I was having my daily phone call with them during my walk.

After a few weeks, I decided to increase it to 22-minute walks.
A tiny increment, but it felt like progress.

Over the months, I increased both the length of the walk and the number of walks per week. 
I challenged myself to increase the amount of time spent in the “cardio zone” on my FitBit.
Mom gave me a new pair of sneakers that made me feel like I was bouncing along the sidewalks.

Now that the physical part was rocking,
I started to have fun with it:

I created fun games for myself, such as discovering the best bakery within walking distance of my house.
I learned which homes had the best gardens, and created routes to visit those throughout the summer.
I always allowed time at the start or end of the walk to have a driveway chat with any neighbour who might be on their front porch.
And on those particularly difficult days we've all had in the pandemic, my walks became Prayer Walks, lifting pleas for my family, our ministry, and our community.

By the end of 2020, I was walking 5-6 times a week, for a minimum of 35 minutes each time.
I was able to carry my habit successfully into 2021, and now, into the start of 2022.

My Gentle Start delivered huge results! 

With a small initial goal, and slow incremental changes, I’d created a sustainable habit that was meeting larger goals for my physical, mental, and emotional health.

What are your big Dreams for 2022?

Maybe, instead of going headfirst into January, you could incorporate the Gentle Start.

Find a small place to begin.
Choose one tiny, achievable step to get the ball rolling.
And for now, just do that one thing.

Want to eat better?
Start with one vegetarian meal a week.

Want to write a book?
Start by writing 10 minutes, 3 times a week.

Want to record an album?
Set up one cowrite for this month.

Over time, you can increase what you’re doing. As a matter of fact, studies show that once you start taking tiny steps towards your goals, momentum will kick in and you’ll want to do more!

For now, just start.
Do something small.
Get your energy flowing in the right direction.
Invite a Gentle Start into your Goal Setting...

And before long, you’ll be on the path to succeeding in your New Year’s Resolutions!

What’s one thing you can do today to create a Gentle Start?