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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Do, Do, Do A Review!

Photo Credit:  DodgertonSkillhause from
Hey!  That title sounds like a song, chant, or cheer, huh?  Do, do, do a review!  Do, do, do a review!  Anyway, I’ll get to that in a minute.  (Keep reading if you like money, too.)  I saw a funny post online the other day and it said something like, “I’d truly love to be a Pinterest mom, but instead, I’m more of an Amazon Prime kinda mom.”  I loved it because, well, because that describes me.  I can order something and receive it within two days?  Yep, I’m in!  I’m totally in!

I enjoy many things about Amazon.  I love the quick shipping.  They have good prices.  The selection is awesome.  And, I’m thrilled that I can check out a ton of reviews before I order a product.  Reviews.  Hmmmmm.  That’s something that I ALWAYS take the time to read, but never take the time to write one myself.  If I look up ANYTHING – electronics, home and garden gizmos, toys, games, sports and outdoorsy gadgets, or health goodies – you better believe that I’ll read the reviews!

For instance, last February we were researching hotels and I forgot to select a decent star rating as a filter.  So, ALL of the gems showed up, like this hotel jewel!  Check out THIS review:

“They need to tear this place down because it’s unfit to stay.  Take it from me and I’m not picky at all.  There were many guests - cockroaches, rats, and cats to name a few.  The shower didn't work and the floors and walls were filthy.  I would never recommend this place to anyone.  It doesn't even deserve a star.  Whatever you do, do not stay here…RUN, RUN, RUN!  Did I mention cockroaches?  There were no bath towels and we even found bed bugs on our clothing.  We felt unsafe.  There was dog poop at the entrance of the lobby.  This was the most disgusting place I had ever walked into in my life.  The room reeked of old smoke, so thick that you couldn't breathe. The kitchen was dirty and the walls were yellow and sticky from the smoke.  I was afraid to sit down in the place.  Did someone die in there?  You better lock your car and sleep with a weapon. The TV didn't work at all.  The door wouldn't close unless you channeled your inner Hulk and slammed it as hard as you could.  It was so noisy everywhere.  If sleeping at night really isn't your thing, then this is the place for you.  There was tons of mold and the mattress had wires sticking out of it.  Our ceiling fan almost caught on fire and the elevator looked like a death trap.  The balconies were tilted down as if they were sinking and going to collapse.  Don’t even ask about the bedding.”

Needless to say, we did NOT stay in this beauty.  Why?  Because of the reviews, of course.  Reviews can certainly determine what we buy, where we vacation, hotels we’ll stay in, what activities we’ll do, and on and on.

Reviews.  We read them.  We use them.  We need them.  We want them.  I want them. Yes, I know that all you need is love, but what else I’d love are some book reviews from you, my lovely Sunshines!  My publisher shared this - We encourage you to do everything you can to help spread the word about your recent publication.  Probably the most important action that new authors can take is to obtain online reviews from your readers.  Many sites implement a rating system to help readers choose new books.  The more reviews and positive reviews you receive, the greater your chances are for success!

My life has been so richly blessed by all of the people and precious children that I’ve met at my book signings and author visits over the last few months.  In my heart, I feel that my book has been super successful.  Gabriel’s Golden Key has been so warmly received that I’m beaming with joy!  I thank you for that and I thank God for that!  Nonetheless, I think the online world really likes reviews to monitor success.  Soooo, we’ll go with it!

A common question from the children is always, “Mrs. Kallus, will you be doing a SECOND book?”  Of course the answer is YES!  However, I need your help today by doing a review for my FIRST book.  You’re awesome, so I know you will. 

However, to make this whole review thing more fun, I’m going to bribe you…I mean…encourage you to take a few moments to do a review for Gabriel’s Golden Key by offering a chance to win $100.  Yep!  I was inspired by my children’s recent 100th day of school.  Everyone likes a dollar.  But, everyone LOVES one hundred dollars!  So, hop on over to Amazon and review my children’s book today!  From all the reviews, I will choose a winner at random and announce the lucky guy or gal in next week’s Sips.  Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

To further entice you, I have a short little poem here to get you in the review mood:

All you need is love (and reviews),
A super quick way to share the good news!
A new book’s in town,
No need to frown!
Choose some stars – maybe five?
Type a few words to make it thrive.
Amazon loves it, so do I,
Do a review so I won’t cry.
Please, please do a review!
Thank you bunches and Woo-hoo!

Okay, so that was a bit silly, but I still appreciate your time.  I look forward to seeing who wins one hundred bucks next week!

Here are my upcoming author visits and book signings:
Jan. 31 - Author Visit at Nazareth Academy in Victoria, TX
Feb. 1 - Author Visit at Our Lady of Victory school in Victoria, TX
Feb. 3 - Author Visit at IEW in Inez, TX
Feb. 7 - Writing Academic Focus Night at Patti Welder in Victoria, TX
Feb. 9 - Author Visit at William Wood in Victoria, TX
Feb. 16 - Jackson County Library in Edna, TX (6pm)
Feb. 28 - Author Visit at Trinity school in Victoria, TX

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  Bye for now!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Full or Empty?

Photo Credit:  andreeautza from
There are many people in our world.  Yes, and people can be so very different in their views, temperaments, attitudes, and personalities.  Some of us can be easy-going, flexible, and upbeat, while others can be cantankerous, argumentative, and uncooperative.  Let me interrupt for just a second – isn’t that a fun word?  Cantankerous.  I haven’t used it for a long, long time, but it’s a word full of letters and it basically just means crabby and cranky.  Cantankerous.  CANTANKEROUS!  Anyway, as a word-lover, I thank you for allowing me to digress for a moment.

When we can, we prefer to hang out with people who are positive and uplifting, right?  If given the opportunity, most of us would choose to surround ourselves with people who inspire, motivate, and encourage us.  If given a choice, we’d pick a friend who views the glass as half-full instead of half-empty, right?  We wouldn’t want to purposely seek out the irritable grumps in our world, would we?

Well, I just got a cute little story from Mikey that compares twins.  So timely and I love it!

A family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks.  If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold.  If one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up.

Opposite in every way, one was an eternal optimist, the other a doom & gloom pessimist.  Just to see what would happen, on the twins' birthday, their father loaded the pessimist's room with every imaginable toy and game.

The optimist's room, he loaded with horse manure.

That night, the father passed by the pessimist's room and found him sitting amid his new gifts crying bitterly.

"Why are you crying?" the father asked.

"Because my friends will be jealous, and I'll have to read all these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff.  I'll constantly need batteries, and my toys will eventually get broken," answered the pessimistic twin.

Passing the optimistic twin's room, the father found him dancing for joy in the pile of manure.

"What are you so happy about?" he asked.

To which his optimistic twin son replied, "There's got to be a pony in here somewhere!  Woo-hoo!"

Oh, that story made me smile!  A perfect example of half-full vs. half-empty!

So, I’ve seen a version of the following question in many places over the years and I wanted to share it with you.  I was inspired by it so much so that I wrote a poem about it today.  Here’s the question:  “What if we woke up this morning and ONLY had the things and people in our lives that we had thanked God for yesterday?”  Hmmmm…..would we only have the traffic light that finally turned green, the winning scratch-off ticket, or the passing grade on that final exam?  Would we have anyone to share our joy with?

Here’s my poem:

How full or empty would our world be,
If we had only things we’d thanked God for on bended knee?
Would we have a home, some food, or money?
How ‘bout a job, some clothes, and our Honey?
Could we see with our eyes and speak with our lips?
Could we walk with our legs and dance with our hips?
Would our children be there to tuck in at night?
Would the sun wake us up with new morning light?
How full or empty would our world be,
If we had only things we’d thanked God for on bended knee?
Would we have friends and fam to call on the phone?
How ‘bout some ice cream on a cone?
Could we turn on the A/C or heater at whim?
Could we hit the gym or sing a hymn?
Would our parents be there to spend some time?
Would we find that lucky penny, dollar, or dime?
Would there be hugs, kisses, and love?
What about chances to thank God above?
Would there be stars in the sky for wishes?
How ‘bout mouths to feed and all those dishes?
I ask again, to reflect and think,
Ponder on this the next time you blink.
How full or empty would your world be,
If you had only things you’d thanked God for on bended knee?

Full or empty?  We choose.

Half-full or half-empty?  We still choose.  Let’s choose to look for the pony!  I’m in!  Are you?

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  Bye for now!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Complain Train

Photo Credit:  erdenebayar from
I love to laugh and I love to make others laugh as well.  I treasure hanging out with people who make me giggle.  I enjoy reading things that make me chuckle too.  So, it was perfect and timely that Mikey sent me this email funny:

The priest said, "Sister, this is a silent monastery.  You are welcome here as long as you like, but you may not speak until directed to do so."

Sister Mary lived in the monastery for 5 years before the priest said to her, “Sister Mary, you have been here for 5 years.  You may speak two words."

Sister Mary said, "Hard bed."

"I'm sorry to hear that," the priest said, "We will get you a better bed."

After another 5 years, Sister Mary was summoned by the priest.  "You may say another two words, Sister Mary."

"Cold food," said Sister Mary, and the priest assured her that the food would be better in the future.

On her 15th anniversary at the monastery, the priest again called Sister Mary in to his office.  "You may say two words today."

"I quit," said Sister Mary.  "It's probably best," said the priest, "You've done nothing but complain since you got here."

So super duper cute, huh?!  I loved it!  It’s one thing for me to laugh, but when I finish up all my snickerin’, cacklin’, hootin’, and hollerin’, I find it fascinating if the joke is actually thought-provoking.  And, this one prompted some thought.  It got me to thinking about complaining.

Complaining.  Hmmm.  That’s something we all do.  Some of us more than others.  Some of us WAAAAAY more than others.  Why?  Complaining is draining.  It is.  Why do we even get on the Complain Train?  Some of us hop on the train first thing in the morning.  Some wait until mid-day.  Others have a bit more self-control and get on the train only at night or every other day.  Let’s be honest and say that most of us have been a passenger on the Complain Train at some point in our lives.  Heck, some of us just live on the train and never get off!  Ha!

We groan.  We moan.  We complain…about anything or anyone really…the weather, our clothes, our job, our home, our body, someone else, our kids, our spouse, our siblings, our parents, our neighbor, etc.  But, complaining stops us from gaining.  Yes, it can prevent us from gaining peace, contentment, joy, and happiness.  It thwarts our ability to be thankful for what we DO have.  The happiest people I know don’t HAVE the best of everything.  However, they do MAKE the best of everything.  I admire those people immensely.

We’re still in January, right?  We’re technically still at the beginning of this new year and possibly still in the mode to modify some of our less-than-desirable ways?  Maybe?  Well, I have a little challenge if you’re game.  Let’s take baby steps together and let’s be realistic.  We probably won’t be able to stop complaining altogether.  However, we can set ourselves a time limit for our complaining.  We can set a time each day to get on the Complain Train.  We can set a time to get on and, most importantly, we can set a time to get off of it.

Let’s say we board the Complain Train at 8:00pm.  We can then pour out our complaints from the day, one after the other, on and on and on.  To ourselves.  To someone else.  To God.  Then, at 8:15pm (or 11:00pm – depending on the day! Heh!), we can get off of that train and vow not to get back on until the next day at 8:00pm.  No complaining until we get on the train.  That’s the rule.

It’s kinda crazy and a tad goofy, but the idea is to set a time limit to our complaining instead of residing on the Complain Train all day, every day.  It’s not healthy.  It’s energy-zapping for us and those around us, for sure.

Anyway, the Sister Mary joke provoked all that thought about complaining.  Interesting, huh?  Since happiness is an “inside job,” it will depend on the glasses we use.  What we SEE in this life depends on how we LOOK at it.  Will we complain or will we appreciate?  The choice is truly up to us.  The number of times we hop onto the Complain Train is up to us, and how long we stay there is too!

Ooohhhh, I have a HUGE challenge to put out there for the real dare-devils of the bunch:  What if we don’t board the Complain Train at all for ONE WHOLE WEEK?!  Is that even possible?  Are you in?  Just think about how much time that would free up for us to do the things we love!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  Bye for now!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Another Level

Photo Credit:  bhjoco from
While I was putting away some laundry on Sunday evening, I saw a note that my daughter had written on her easel.  In beautiful cursive, she penned, “Aw man!  It’s MONDAY!”  There was a sad face drawn underneath that statement. Then, I looked farther down on the easel and there was another note that said, “But, ALWAYS be glad for another day!”

Yes, children can certainly inspire us.  Her first sentence was resonating with me as I was starting to feel the Monday Blues that can accompany the beginning of another week.  Then, after I read her other sentence, I smiled when I realized that maybe she gets it!  She is capable of thinking on “another level.”  She gets that every day is a gift.  So awesome.  A perfect reminder for me as well.

I saw something online that also inspired me.  It encourages us to think of ourselves as getting to different “levels” instead of ages.  It said that we should start referring to our age as levels because ‘I’m at level 65’ sounds way cooler than just getting older.  Hee hee!

I’d like to take that train of thought to “another level” (wink, wink).  Let’s think about each new DAY as a level.  So, instead of waking up and groaning, “Oh, it’s just another day,” we could view each day as a challenge and say, “Hey!  Today, I get to conquer Level 15!  Let’s DO this!  Woo-hoo!”

Just think about it.  With each new day/level, we gain experience that we can use on the next day/level.  The catch is that after Level 365, we’ll need to start back over at Level 1 and do it again.  HOWEVER, just think of all that wisdom we learned from the other levels that can help us along our way back up to Level 365 again!

Anyway, for all the game lovers out there, it’s a fun concept to ponder!

So, my sister-in-law, Sandra, gave me a beautiful Christmas gift.  It was a wooden wall hanging inscribed with special dates.   There were six dates listed:  my birth, my husband’s birth, our wedding date, and each of my three children’s birth dates.  At the bottom of the gift, it read, “What a difference a day makes.”  Her thoughtful gift will be treasured forever.  Yes, indeed, one day can make all the difference! 

For instance, I won’t soon forget January 5th (aka Level 5).  I received a sweet message from my friend, Deneen.  Actually, she made my day!  She wrote, "Your book is wonderful!! You'd be happy to know that one of my students brought it to school for show and tell as one of his favorite Christmas gifts!  He's one of the sweetest and brightest Kindergarteners you'll ever meet!  He told me all about the book and let me read some.  Chapter 5 was his favorite!"  Now, for a gal who used to LOVE show-n-tell days in her elementary years, this put a perpetual smile on my face.  To think that out of all the gifts he could have brought that day, he brought MY book…WOW!  Just WOW.

Yes, some days aren’t just “another day.”  There are certain levels amidst the 365 that you will never forget:  a birth, a death, a wedding, a funeral, conquering a fear, finding true love, becoming a parent, becoming a grandparent, making the impossible possible, doing something for the first time, and doing something for the last time.  Speaking of the last time, I want to share a beautiful piece that a friend posted on facebook.  The author is unknown, but I’m sure it will touch you as it touched me:

The Last Time
From the moment you hold your baby in your arms,
you will never be the same.
You might long for the person you were before,
When you have freedom and time,
And nothing in particular to worry about.
You will know tiredness like you never knew it before,
And days will run into days that are exactly the same,
Full of feedings and burping,
Nappy changes and crying,
Whining and fighting,
Naps or a lack of naps,
It might seem like a never-ending cycle.
But don’t forget,
There is a last time for everything.
There will come a time when you will feed
your baby for the very last time.
They will fall asleep on you after a long day
And it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.
One day you will carry them on your hip then set them down,
And never pick them up that way again.
You will scrub their hair in the bath one night
And from that day on they will want to bathe alone.
They will hold your hand to cross the road,
Then never reach for it again.
They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles,
And it will be the last night you ever wake to this.
One afternoon you will sing “the wheels on the bus”
and do all the actions,
Then never sing them that song again.
They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate.
The next day they will ask to walk to the gate alone.
You will read a final bedtime story and wipe your last dirty face.
They will run to you with arms raised for the very last time.
The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last time
Until there are no more times.
And even then, it will take you a while to realize.
So while you are living in these times,
remember there are only so many of them
and when they are gone, you will yearn for just one more day of them.
For one last time.

Whew!  Go ahead.  Grab a tissue.  Wipe the tears.  Now, let’s take a deep breath and pray for the grace to be in the moment.  Let’s pray for patience.  Let’s show love.  Let’s rejoice in the opportunity to tackle “another level” because we never know when our game will be over.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  Bye for now!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Present of Presents

Photo Credit:  RainbowhART from
Hello there, Sunshines!  Happy 2017!  I’ve missed you!  I hope that your holiday season was packed with all the people and things that you love.  Did Santa bring you everything on your wish list this year?  Did you get the latest and greatest phone, tablet, or notebook?  What about those must-have kitchen gadgets or groovy photography supplies?  Did you find a big ole TV under your tree?  How about that drum set you longed for since you were a kid?  A new gaming system possibly?  Hunting and fishing gizmos?  Other cool thingamabobs, doodads, and devices?  Well, maybe, just maybe, you got THE present of all presents this year?

However your Christmas turned out, I truly hope it was sprinkled with a bit of peace, love, hope, joy, health, and happiness.  Each of my children surprised me with thoughtful gifts that I’m eager to tell you about today.

My seven-year-old daughter made me a stack of coupons and wrapped them up in festive Christmas paper.  These eighteen coupons are awesome because of the great love behind them.  What was written on the coupons you ask?  Here goes: 
  • Take my bath first without complaining.
  • Don’t say, “I’m bored.”
  • Pack my own lunch.
  • Brush my own teeth.
  • Help clean the dinner table.
  • Make you smile.
  • Make you laugh.
  • Go to bed on time.
  • Massage your back.
  • Help with dinner.
  • Say, “I love you.”
  • Write a letter to you.
  • Draw a picture of whatever you want.
  • Don’t bug you.
  • Pick out my clothes by myself.
  • Do it the first time you ask.
  • Give you a hug and a kiss.
  • Be patient.

Priceless.  Yes, I’m going to keep them forever and possibly make copies of them so I can use them over and over!

My ten-year-old daughter bought me the softest stuffed monkey in the world.  She bought it with her own money at a Christmas store at her school.  The monkey is red and red is my favorite color.  I love monkeys too, so this was perfectly perfect!  She knows me.  She gets me.

My thirteen-year-old son wrote a beautiful piece entitled, “Where I’m From.”  I’m so proud of it that I must share it with you:

“I’m from the smallest town that has the biggest heart in Texas.  A place where you can faintly hear a train whistle as you drift off to sleep.  I’m from a place where oak trees surround the house like a wall guarding a fort.  From fried chicken and mashed potatoes.  A place where love is shared all around.  I’m from fresh baked cinnamon rolls and watching Saturday football.  Tossing the pig skin to hitting buzzer beaters.  From floatin’ the Frio on a hot summer day to setting the hook and reelin’ them in on my Shimano and Lagoon.  Sitting back and relaxing on my Grandma’s front porch.  I’m from Russell and Heather.  From the old green Chevy pulling in at 5:30pm every day and the sounds of keys clicking as stories are being written.  From two sisters arguing in the back seat.  Hearing “Get out of my room!” or “Clean off the table.”  And in the darkness of my mom’s closet, there is a faint glow of happiness from the scrapbooks that hold old photos that will one day emerge to be shared and cherished with family and friends.”

Oh yes, I cried.

Along with these precious and thoughtful gifts from my children, I did get THE present of presents.  Well, actually I need to spell that last word differently.  I got the present of presence.  Yes, “presence” is a gift.

Presents are great, but PRESENCE can be life-changing!  Do you find comfort or joy by just being in someone’s presence?  Even without words being spoken, do you feel unbelievably loved just by being near a certain someone?  Do you somehow feel brave or happier when you are with them?  How in the world did I ever find the courage to take my very first plane trip this past December?  It was the strength I found in the presence of my family and friends who were with me.  Flying was one of my greatest fears and I conquered it with the help of presence (and Bonine, of course!). Ha!

I also had the magnificent opportunity to visit with the amazing and talented Ingra Sparkman for an interview on her 365 Victoria project page.  I’m Day 357 if you want to check it out.  It’s such an inspiring project!  Ingra is a biographer, photographer, and momma.  She’s hilarious, witty, compassionate, and has a heart of gold filled with love for all those around her.  I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet this incredibly motivated woman without the wonderful gift of presence.

Presence.  Let’s be more mindful this new year of being fully present when we’re with the people who mean the most to us.  We’re not promised tomorrow, so let’s be present today.

Before I close, I know that many of us have made some sort of New Year’s resolution, right?  That’s what people do in January.  We set goals.  Maybe we’ll make healthier choices, exercise more, worry less, sleep more, fight less, be positive, be organized, save money, and pray more.

Well, Father Bentil wants us to add something to our list of resolutions.  Maybe we won’t make and break this particular resolution in January.  He suggests adding the following prayer, “Lord, help me to be more loving.”  It’s a good one!

So, in 2017, I say we treasure the gift of presence and we make our best efforts to be more loving to others.  We can do it!  It’s possible!  No dieting or exercise required!  Hee hee!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!  Bye for now.