Friday, February 21, 2014

Bits & Pieces: Connections

Connections.

Life is truly a small world. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to remind us how interconnected we are in this world.

As the Amber Alert went out for 10-year-old Haliey Owens, her photo began popping up on the social media accounts of friends in southwest Missouri.

Then like the ripples in a pebble tossed pond, the word began to spread - especially after Kansas and Oklahoma media were added to the Amber Alert.

We live in a vast interconnected world.

We laugh and celebrate together. We cry and mourn together.

My heart breaks for the family of Owens. It cries out for my friends who work within the Springfield school system and for those who have direct connections with the family.

Sometimes living in a community hurts.

In the wake of a tragedy like this, I know my immediate reaction is to grab my loved ones, hold them tight and well, find a hole and not come out.

But isolation is not the answer.

One of my favorite authors, Thomas Merton, penned a book, No Man Is An Island during his writing career. The jist of it is this. We cannot live without connections. We need each other — not only to share our joys, but also our sadness.

I wish I knew why things happen. I guess I'll add this to my "long list" of questions that have no answers.

Evil exists in the world. It's a fact. But here's the deal, we cannot let it win.

If we isolate ourselves, turn on each other, become suspicious, and frankly look for monsters behind every nook and cranny, evil wins.

I think Grove Police Chief Mark Morris summed it up best yesterday.

We need to educate ourselves and be aware of our surroundings — but we can't scare ourselves (or our children).

Monsters may not come with signs that say "I'm evil, run from me." They don't look like the zombies on Walking Dead. Sometimes they masquerade as people we would least expect.

We need to educate ourselves, we need to talk to the kidlets in our lives. We need to step out of our isolation and band together with our community. This means not only reporting suspicious behavior but also coming together to celebrate life.

Yes, evil won in this case. But in reality, the good is shining through.

From the Springfield (Mo.) Department's Facebook page: "We would like to thank all of you, the Springfield community, as well as the dozens of communities near and far that helped spread the word of Hailey's abduction. You often witness the strength of a community in the way they handle a tragic situation, and we couldn't be more proud of the citizens' concern and assistance in this matter. ... We certainly wish more than anything that this event could have had a different conclusion. If there's any positive news in this at all, it's that the suspect is no longer on the streets of Springfield. Please keep the family and friends of Hailey in your thoughts and prayers."

I think, more and more, I'm going to need to rely on a verse a friend reminded me of yesterday.

"Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love." — 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NLT)

I don't see things clearly right now. Evil has clouded the view for the moment. But I know that ultimately, faith, hope and love can, and will win - we just have to be willing to puzzle through the murky times in life to find them.

Kaylea M. Hutson is the managing editor of The Grove Sun. She can be reached at kaylea.hutson@grovesun.com or 918-786-2228. This column originally appeared in the Feb. 21, 2014 issue of The Grove Sun.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Blog Tour: Smitten (Review)

When I had a chance to review this book, I jumped on it. Honestly, I love all four of the authors who contributed stories to it.

I thought, it will be a fun book to read, I'll enjoy it, go for it.

Ok, I'll start with what I liked.

The idea of a group of friends having a book club, reading a joint book is just intriguing.

To have a group of friends you are so close to and can share with in this way sounds very inviting.

I really wanted to like this book. Like I said, I liked books by all of these authors.

Some how, though, I just didn't get the book. I didn't connect with the storyline. I tried. Really, I tried.

Ultimately, though here's what I know. This is a fun book. The authors are solid. If you like a light, fun read, this book is for you.

I'm not sure why it didn't "click" for me. Like I said, I like all of these authors. Here's what I know. If you like this group of writers, it's at least worth a look.

About The Book
The century-old Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship is no ordinary book club choice. But for the little book club in Smitten, Vermont, it might be their best pick yet!

The thick, leathery tome Heather pulled out of the dusty cardboard box was definitely coming home with her. Not only was The Gentlewoman's Guide to Love and Courtship an appealing curiosity by virtue of its title; it was also written by Smitten, Vermont native Pearl Chambers, a local gentlewoman from three generations back.

Little did Heather know the repercussions this little curiosity would have on her and her friends' romantic exploits.

When Heather and her fellow book club members begin passing the book around, their respective interpretations are unleashed on their respective love lives . . . for better or for worse. Is it a mystery? An idealist fantasy? An intimation of Jane Austen? As romantic love finds its way to each woman, the Guide proves itself both surprisingly prescient and hilariously irrelevant.

What's more, a handwritten inscription indicates that the arcane book might hold the only extant clues leading to buried gold---exactly what one of the members needs to keep her house. How could they not go treasure hunting?

In this remarkable collaborative novel, besties Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Denise Hunter, and Diann Hunt tackle the tale of the Gentlewoman's Guide by writing for one book club member apiece. Smitten Book Club is a hopeful, hilarious story of friendship and healing, written by friends for friends.

Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/t7BO1

Meet the authors:
RITA-finalist Colleen Coble is the author of several best-selling romantic suspense novels, including Tidewater Inn, and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series.

Christy Award finalist and two-time winner of the ACFW Book of the Year award, Kristin Billerbeck has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. Her books include A Billion Reasons Why and What a Girl Wants.

Denise Hunter is the award-winning and best-selling author of several novels, including A Cowboy's Touch and Sweetwater Gap. She and her husband are raising three boys in Indiana.

Diann Hunt has lived in Indiana forever, been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, her dog, and, well, chocolate. Diann lost her courageous battle with cancer in December 2013.

Smitten Book Club 
Kindle Fire Giveaway, 
Facebook Party and Saturday Brunch

The Smitten gals are back with their newest release, Smitten Book Club! Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, and Denise Hunter are celebrating with a Kindle Fire giveaway, a Facebook party on February 20, and a nationwide book-club brunch on March 22.

smittenbookclub-400-click

One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Smitten books (Smitten, Secretly Smitten, Smitten Book Club)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 20th. Winner will be announced at the Smitten Book Club Facebook Author Chat Party on February 20th. Connect with Colleen Coble, Denise Hunter, and Kristin Billerbeck for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! The Smitten gals will also be taking questions from the audience, giving away books and gift certificates, and sharing news about their upcoming nationwide Smitten Book Club brunch on March 22nd. (Sign up to host today!)

So grab your copy of Smitten Book Club and join Colleen, Denise, Kristin, and friends on the evening of February 20th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today

Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER 

and increase your chances of winning. 

Hope to see you on the 20th!

Sign up to host a Smitten Book Club Brunch 
on March 22nd!

Smitten Book Club Brunch Coble, Hunter, Billerbeck, Hunt

Read more reviews online at: http://litfusegroup.com/author/smitten

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this e-book by Litfuse Publicity. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Bits & Pieces: The tale of snow days and more

All in favor of spring starting immediately, say I? Motion carried. Now how do we enact this with Mother Nature?

I don't know about you, but frankly, I'm ready for spring, and as I write this, it's only Jan. 9.

From friends lamenting on Facebook about cabin fever to teachers trying crazy science experiences, I know that the last few days have been "challenging" to say the least.

Frankly, my favorite - don't try this at home without adult supervision experiments came from a couple of my teaching friends. I loved the one where you make boiling water become snow, which really does work (but note that it must be VERY cold outside, and you run the risk of being burned by water splash back if not done safely), and the "stiff as a board" frozen t-shirt.

Frankly some pictures of frozen bubbles have inspired me to have it on hand for the next really cold day.

Ah snow days. Somehow the carefree snow days of my childhood have moved into the reality of adulthood - there's really no "snow day" for adults. Work and life tend to fill in the gaps.

I know it hasn't been a popular decision at times, but after talking with Superintendent Sandy Coaly, I understand her reasoning for having canceled school in Grove - especially on Thursday.

It only takes one teacher, one student, and for that matter, one bus full of elementary students, running into difficulty, to make you realize life is short, and missing a day of school is well, not a matter of life or death.

I've been in her shoes. I've made the call when it meant more than 200 basketball players, parents and cheerleaders would miss - and not make up - an Upward Sports basketball game.

Deciding that for 200-plus individuals was hard enough - and yes, I didn't make everyone happy when I made the call for a snowstorm.

Imagine taking into account more than 2,600 students and more than 300 faculty and staff. Sandy Coaly has some hard shoes to fill in this case and I'm thankful that she is focused on the safety of GPS students and adults.

The point is this. I'm grateful to be writing a story about how the district will make up snow days, verses a story about a bus of children exposed to frostbite or worse - and I'm pretty sure, ultimately, most parents would agree they would rather read the later than the former.

Give us your opinion.

Some days, we ask questions, and get a few responses. Other days, like this week, wow, y'all have lots of opinions.

This week, we asked two questions that are still going strong, even days after the initial post on Facebook.

The first dealt with the proposed statue the Satanist would like to place on the capitol grounds featuring a seven-foot statue of what has been described as a "goat-headed demon sitting on a throne with children next to it."

The other, dealt with the city of Grove's decision to mirror the recent executive order to limit the use of electronic cigarettes on city property, well, has let us know there are some strong thoughts on both sides of the issue.

Thank you to everyone took time to share thoughts and opinions about issues raised in these question of the day. I believe it's a new form of democracy and truly lets local officials have a sampling of their constituents opinions.

So here's to snow days, snow ice cream and more. May your days be filled with laughter and humor, and may spring come quickly!

The column appeared in the Jan. 10, 2014 issue of The Grove Sun.
You can read the original column here.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, January 10, 2014

From the 01.10.13 Grove Sun




From the 01.10.14 issue of The Grove Sun
(Left) An eagle, captured in mid-flight over Grand Lake with its prey. Local photographer Dave Wagenblatt caught this image in December from his home on Monkey Island. - Dave Wagenblatt / Special to the Grove Sun

(Right) Kevin Swalley, with Vapers Tek, demonstrates the use of an electronic cigarette and the water vapor produced in the process. Swalley, who spoke at Tuesday's council meeting, urged council members to not limit the use of the devices on city property, saying many people - including himself, have used them to stop smoking regular cigarettes. - Kaylea M. Hutson / Grove Sun

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Renew my spirit



Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. - Psalm 51:10 NIV..

This week's faith photo.

Loving this concept.

Need to think of a slightly better game plan for future photos.

Fortunately a co worker took my idea - hands and snow - and made it awesome when she said "What about shaping a heart?" So I said yes! Then captured the pic after she made the shape.

Creativity and faith. Mixing the two on the faith page. I've created a monster. Now I need to think of ideas for the coming weeks.
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