Sunday, June 24, 2007

Once Again, the Critics Got It Wrong

I often wonder who these people are who write the reviews for the latest Hollywood movies. What kind of a life must they lead? Do they all wait to read that first review before they make up their mind about a film and their opinion of it? Why do they so often get it wrong?

This weekend I took my sons to see Evan Almighty. Now, I admit, I have never seen Bruce Almighty, and the reasons have been clear: the previews for the Jim Carrey film were crass in my opinion. The MPAA rating service agreed with me: “Rated PG-13 for language, sexual content and some crude humor.” I did not want to pay money to watch a movie make fun of the very core of my beliefs.

There was something different about the tone of the trailers for Evan Almighty, however. The situations were funny and the characters seemed genuine, in a sweet and innocent way. The rating was only PG for mild rude humor and some peril. So off we went, including my 7 year-old, and I’m here to tell you, I was not disappointed.

The movie was hilarious, one of the best comedy films I’ve seen in the last couple of years. And that crude humor? Bird poop and alpaca spit. Seriously! Even when Evan Baxter and his wife get into bed at night, they are modestly clothed, and here’s the clincher—Evan gets onto his knees and PRAYS! When’s the last time you saw that happen in a movie made in Hollywood?

Morgan Freeman is great as God. He’s funny and personable, and someone I’d want to know as my Father in Heaven. The lesson Evan learns about following God’s will is beautiful, and even the bad guy gets what he deserves in the end.

There was not a single moment that I wasn’t enjoying myself. I never worried about my youngest watching this movie with me. I will admit, one of my teenagers thought it was stupid (of course, he thinks mostly everything is stupid—it comes with the age), but then, he loves Jim Carrey and crude humor so this one didn’t meet his lower level comedy standard. It required the audience to THINK.

And as for Hollywood? My husband is working on a shoot there this weekend as I write this. He passed on my review to their director who said, “I’m so glad to know. I was looking for a movie I could take my children to without having to worry.” Go figure!

I finished reading my first book for the Summer Reading Thing, so here’s my review.

The Fudge Cupcake Murder - Joanna Fluke

Hannah Swenson, owner of The Cookie Jar bakery, once again finds herself in the middle of a mystery, and it’s not just trying to discover the secret ingredient in a fudge cupcake recipe for the cookbook she’s compiling (although readers do get that recipe along with several others in the chapter divides.) After teaching her evening cooking class, while taking out the trash, Hannah discovers the body of Sheriff Grant, a not-well-liked man who was running a campaign for re-election against Hannah’s brother-in-law. The last thing the sheriff had been doing before his death? Eating one of Hannah’s trial fudge cupcakes, and the icing is all over him.

This fifth book in the series will continue to delight (and probably make hungry) fans of cozy mysteries. I know I’ll go back to Lake Eden, Minnesota, for another stop at The Cookie Jar.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Logan Bound

As some of you know, I’m currently enrolled in the Utah State University Graduate Program for a MEd in Instructional Technology. My focus area is Library Media, so this week I’m off to Logan to finish up my practicum, hours spent working in real libraries alongside my professors.

Since Murphy seemed to know what he was talking about with his Law, the fact that have to be gone from Sunday night until Friday evening also means that my husband, who has been home nearly full time for the past couple of months, has now been called to work on a series of commercials in Los Angeles and a film being made in Salt Lake. Ya gotta love it, but now we need to figure out how to fit his job around watching the kids who are still home for the summer.
(Of course, life will only get more insane if Mike’s jobs overlap the BIG TRIP planned for July that takes us off to Disney World for ten days.)

In any case, being in Logan means a top ten list for me:

1. I’ll have a whole week without my husband and kids driving me insane.
2. I’ll have a busy week attending classes and working in libraries.
3. I’ll not have access to my computer or the files at home.
4. I’ll be totally out of touch with all of YOU.
5. I’ll be worrying like crazy about finishing my homework for my classes.
6. I’ll be wondering how I’ll ever get the manuscript ready that a local publisher has requested.
7. I’ll be thinking about the deadline I set for myself on the new novel that isn’t getting done.
8. I’ll be too tired every evening to read the books that will be overdue at the public library.
9. But maybe I’ll never sleep in a strange apartment, on a strange bed (should I take all 5 of my pillows?) While sharing the bathroom with people I don’t know.
10. I’ll be so worn out when I get back from this trip, I’ll be happy to be bothered by my husband and sons while I try to write that work of art which will bring me fame and fortune, if I only survive the week in Logan.

See you all when I return, but in the meantime, I think I’ll join Tristi in the Summer Reading Thing. Here’s my list of books, and in no particular order:

1. The Book Thief - Markus Suzak
2. The Fudge Cupcake Murder - Joanna Fluke
3. The Children of Hurin - J.R.R. Tolkien
4. Tantalize - Cynthia Leitich Smith
5. Ghost of a Chance - Kerry Blair
6. Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth - T. Harv Ecker
7. It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff - Peter Walsh
8. Shakespeare's Landlord - Charlaine Harris
9. New Moon - Stephenie Meyer
10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J. K. Rowling

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Publication by Piggyback

Okay, okay, so it isn’t my book that’s new in the stores, but I feel like I’ve helped give birth to this baby all the same. Michele Paige Holmes ( has just released her first novel, Counting Stars. Since I’m a member of Michele’s critique group, and since I helped edit this book, I feel like it’s got a little part of me inside. As a matter of fact, it does—it has my name in the acknowledgment page.

Michele should be proud. This is a great story, and readers will love it. I’m happy to recommend it to all of you, especially since I played a small part of seeing it be released.

Thanks, Michele, for letting me be a support to you on this project, and for all the support you (and the rest of our illustrious group) give to me. Maybe next year, I’ll be the one standing at the autograph table, handing out chocolates and hoping people will buy my book. In the meantime, keep working on Jay’s story and I’ll get back to creating a romance for Jenny and James.

From the back cover of Counting Stars . . .

Jane was hoping for a date—maybe even a boyfriend. What she wasn't expecting was Paul Bryant's completely original and sincere pick-up line: Hi. I'm Paul. I have terminal cancer. My wife was killed in a car accident, and I'm looking for a woman to raise my children.

It was never Jane's plan to fall in love with a dying man and his two infants. But her seemingly simple decision to date someone outside her faith leads to one complication after another. With the stakes this high, is choosing to help Paul a choice to be alone forever?

And how can Paul feel so confident that this woman—who's never managed to keep a checking account for more than six months—should be the one to raise his children?

How can something that seems so unbelievably insane feel so completely right?

Sometimes love is found in the least likely places, and the greatest blessings are discovered while counting stars.

Available now:

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Take A Meeting

We have become a world filled with meetings. There are meetings for planning, meetings for training, meetings to plan for meetings! No organization seems to be able to run anymore without heaping on meetings.

Take the church for instance. Elder Henry B. Eyring reminded us the November 1996 General Conference: “Prophets in our time have consolidated our meetings on Sunday to allow time for families to be together.” Yet this morning, three of my teenage sons are already at the church—four hours before our block starts—attending a training meeting. Once this meeting is done, they will be off doing fast offerings. Tonight there is a Stake Fireside kick-off to this week’s Youth Conference which takes them out of town for two days, after an evening of doing service projects in the neighborhood. Last night, one of the boys had a meeting to plan this morning’s meeting, and a phone call earlier today confirmed that all three of the boys have an extra meeting every Sunday this month except for Father’s Day, which is always our stake conference. So, would someone please remind me, when we are supposed to have extra family time on Sunday?

Church isn’t the only place we’ve become meeting-happy. I teach school and it seems that preparing lessons and spending quality time in my classroom isn’t enough, despite the fact that my students’ scores on the time-wasting tests are sky-high. Last year we started collaboration—which so far has meant that my former student teacher tries to tell our entire department what to do. Next year, the district has found this extra meeting to be so important that we have a late-start every Wednesday—more time away from teaching—so the teachers can meet to collaborate (lock-step might be a better description of the intention in my opinion). Isn’t is amazing that I’ve survived 28 years of successful teaching without this extra weekly meeting?

Then there are board meetings. I’m on several boards for education-related organizations. What used to be monthly on-line meetings for one board is once again swaying toward in-person meetings that require members to travel from the far reaches of the state for an hour of face-to-face. Another local board calls for a small group (3-5 people) to meet at a central location each month, despite the fact that a conference phone call or e-mail could handle all of the decisions in a matter of minutes.

Add to this the meetings we have to attend as parents (state-required SEOPs four times a year per child, for example), and the list of places we have to be can suddenly become overwhelming! Is it any wonder people skip out, don’t participate, or are always running late? Obviously, they are scheduled for too many meetings!

How I long for the good old days, when life seemed to go along smoothly and was not run by a day-planner scheduled full of excess meetings that some leader has deemed as vital to the success of their program.