Friday, September 12, 2014

10 Most Influential Books to ME

My brother, Walker, mentioned I should participate in the meme going around Facebook where participants list their top ten most influential books. I laughed at first because he actually reads books that can actually influence. I read historical fiction romance with cowboys and pirates... But he explained it was suppose to be a list that influenced me personally for whatever reason. The more I thought about it, the more I figured I could do this. I should mention that I rarely read to research. I read to escape. I like to be lost in a book. I love happy endings. I love LOVE. So a lot of my books are going to fit into that category...

So, without further adieu I present to you-- the 2 people who still read my blog--  

TORI'S Top 10 MOST INFLUENTIAL BOOKS!! (in no particular order...)

1- Ghost Stories of Texas by Ed Syers - I read this book over and over again in elementary school. I can't even really say if the book was any good. But I do know it fueled my flame of the love of all things supernatural. (Shout out to Sam and Dean Winchester!!) I love ghost stories and ghost hunters and all things ghosts... 

2- UFOs, JFK, & Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have to be Crazy to Believe by
Richard Belzer - I've read this book 3 times. There's better conspiracy books out there, but I like the way Belzer presents his theories. This book helped me realize it's ok to ask questions and that I don't have to just believe what I've been told about anything. And I do not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, if he acted at all.

3- Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler - This book was about forbidden love between a white woman and a black man during the Civil Rights Era. The reason this book was influential to me is because it stayed with me, for days... weeks. I could cry speaking about it. Forbidden love- especially because of race- infuriates me. Everyone thinks they are doing what is "best" for this couple and instead ruined so many lives. I'm getting frustrated thinking about it... Just let people love.

4- The Work & The Glory Vol. 4: Thy Gold to Refine by Gerald N. Lund - I read this entire series a couple of times 15+ years ago. This is the book that stuck with me the most. It detailed the expulsion of the early Latter Day Saints from the Far West, the massacres, the abuse, the prejudice... There was a legal "Extermination Order" in Missouri where Mormons could be killed for being Mormon. Most people don't realize the early Mormon pioneers were forced to FLEE THE COUNTRY in order to save themselves and to worship as they please. Utah was NOT a part of the United States at the time- it was a vast, mountainous, unknown wilderness. Their faith and determination are inspiring and the prejudice is sickening.

5- Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke - I'll be honest and admit I read this book because I saw the Hallmark movie. But wow- this book led me to read 15 other books by Oke and encouraged my love of reading, especially historical fiction. I hadn't read anything regularly since the Twilight series and that was years ago.... This book revealed my inner bookworm. I was reading the Love Comes Softly series when the 50 Shades of Gray frenzy hit. I'm glad I was too into my Christian romances to be bothered with Christian Gray...

6- Dusty Britches by Marcia Lynn McClure - This wasn't the first book by McClure that I read. I read The Visions of Ransom Lake first. That was a great read, but Dusty Britches won me over as a Marcia McClure fan FOREVER. Our library only has one MLM book, so every book I've read of hers has been through an Interlibrary Loan, which means extra waiting. I've read 40 MLM books and have loved them all. I own several now and have re-read half of the ones I read before. She is fun, clean, spunky, and can write kisses like no one else I've read. Yep, Ryder Maddox in Dusty Britches sealed the deal forever for my love of cowboys and romance.

7-  Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life by Joshua Becker- Joshua Becker also has a blog I read regularly called Becoming Minimalist ... I think I've always been a minimalist at heart. "Things" aren't important to me. I've never had a dream car or dream house or dream shopping spree... This book helped with the "hows" and "whys" of minimalism and jump-started me on my journey of decluttering and living life. :)

8- Be the Miracle: 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible by Regina Brett - I just loved that this book reminded me that I can do little things each day that seem insignificant to me, but could make a huge difference in someone else's day. :)

9- Don't Sweat the Small Stuff in Love by Richard and Kristine Carlson - I actually read this book in the midst of my divorce back in 2001. I can't tell you anything from this book except one piece of advice that I've always remembered and hung on to. Kris- the main author's wife - said to ask yourself "Who's quirk is in anyway?" In her example she said she found herself getting so frustrated because she would get a towel out for herself before her shower, but would inevitably get sidetracked. Her husband would take a shower first and use the towel she had set out. She was so bugged he would use "her towel" and thought he was so inconsiderate. Eventually she figured out that maybe SHE was the one with the problem. As far as her husband knew he had the most thoughtful wife who would set out a towel for him each day. He had no idea that she was irritated and thinking the worst of him. She started getting 2 towels out- one for him and one for her. It solved the "problem" that never was really a problem other than in her head. I've tried to remember to ask myself "Is this really MY quirk?" whenever "issues" arise in my marriage... I think it's awesome advice.

10- The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay - I actually just finished this book yesterday. I haven't stopped thinking about it since. I don't even really know WHAT I'm thinking about. It's like I miss the characters. They got in my head so deep. They were so broken and perfectly imperfect. All I could think was "JUST BE NICE!" the whole time I read it. People are each fighting their own personal battles, whether we can see it or not. Just be kind. I loved Josh's description of how people treat you when you're grieving. Truth. I mourned with Sunshine and her loss. I loved seeing them both struggle with loving someone and allowing themselves to be loved. It was about healing and letting go; about realizing you can't "fix" other people, but you can love and accept them. It was beautiful, emotional, powerful, and unforgettable.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our reasons for deciding to sell our home

Well, my husband and I have decided to "throw our money away." We sold our home we owned fo 7 years and we don't plan to buy. We want to rent. And we understand that our reasons won't match others or make sense to all people, and we're ok with that. That's why they are *our* reasons.

Our reasoning all boils down to:

Pic found at:
  • We didn't own our house. It owned us. We had to take out a huge loan to basically prepay for shelter. Shelter we were responsible for maintaining including repairs, lawn care, HOA fees, etc... If something breaks WE were responsible for paying to fix it. If our yard needed mowing, but we've just been too super busy we could either pay someone to do it or do it our self- after receiving a mean "reminder" letter from the HOA. 
  • We like to move. And we couldn't move without selling it. We were stuck. STUCK. I hated that feeling. We were blessed in that our house sold in 6 weeks- but I didn't like the uncertainty of when we could move. The first 7 years of our marriage we moved 4 times. I loved it. I loved knowing that any place could be temporary if we wanted it to be. Some places we stayed just a year. Another place we stayed 3 years- because we had that option! There was a year when both of our "exes" took us to court regarding child support changes and visitation. Lawyers aren't cheap, especially an international lawyer which is what we needed for my husband. We wanted to move to a little apartment so we'd have a little extra money. Nope- we couldn't. Instead we took on more debt. :(
  • We became hoarders. Ok- I'm exaggerating. But we did collect so much stuff simply because we had the room for it. It's easy to say "Just get rid of stuff..." but not as easily done when you have room to fit more. I purge all the time, but stuff just collects again. It's a never-ending cycle.
  • Less stress. Home ownership can be stressful, especially financially. One year our monthly payment jumped almost $200. That's like adding another car payment to our budget. The next year it went down $150, and now it's gone up $60. Not only that- it was a super hot summer and to cool our house (and by "cool" I mean "keeping the a/c on 81 degrees, and ceiling fans going...) and our electric bill was $150 higher than average. This was the same year I mentioned about exes, and court, and we had ZERO extra money. We are still paying debt from that year- 5 years later. And we just gave up on watering our backyard at our house because we would go broke. Our backyard looked like hay every summer. Not only that- but the process of buying a home is stressful too. All the paperwork, finance people digging into every little nook and cranny of your life. Not an enjoyable process.
  • Why do we own now? We couldn't think of one real reason why we felt the need to BUY a home when we moved back to Texas from Utah. We just *did*. We must have because that's just what you do- you buy a house, you settle down. Now when we talk about it neither one of us remembers even discussing renting or anything when we moved. We jumped right into buying and regretted it pretty quickly.
  • We are wannabe beach bums. Our ultimate goal is to move to Hawaii. Yes, the cost of living is crazy. We know that. Yes, we'll have to change our standard of living drastically. We have no problem with that. We embrace that. Hawaii doesn't make sense to a lot of people, and who knows, we may only be there a year or we may end up at a different beach. But we want to try it. Life is way too short to do what everyone else expects or be scared to try new things or follow your heart.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Why do we need so much space?
Two of my favorite TV shows growing up were "Little House on the Prairie" and "The Brady Bunch." In one show we had a family of 5+ people living in a one room cabin with a loft. The other has 6 kids sharing 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom (...with no toilet. HA!) On LHotP you can see that anything they owned was a necessity. It was a big deal to have a doll or a jewelry box. Books were prized possessions. I LOVE this. LOVE it. When did more space and more things become the norm? When did more room and more stuff become happiness? It hasn't.
Currently the home we are selling is 2566 square feet. It has 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bath, 2 living areas, a dining area, breakfast nook, and a nice sized backyard. The bedrooms are nicely sized as well. And all I can think is: We don't need all this room. I'm somewhat of a minimalist. I don't like to buy things we don't need. I don't like clutter. I decorate with things that are important to me. I'm really hard to shop for when it's my birthday or Mother's day because I truly do not like to add things to my home that I don't need. However, I live with 5 (sometimes 6 when my soldier is home!) other people who don't seem to hold the same philosophy... I'm not saying I want a log cabin with a loft, but in this home we can all spread out and not see each other at all, even when we're all home. I don't like that.

Homes have gotten bigger and bigger over the years. Did you know the average American home in 1950 was 983 square feet? I found this cool pic on The information is based on the census. Our home size in the US on average is almost 2200 square feet. From 983 sq ft to 2164. Yet, the family size average is shrinking.
Personally for our family I don't want to be spread out over 2500 square feet. Not only that, but our in-home family size is shrinking. Our oldest is in the army and most likely won't live with us again (I'm trying not to cry as I admit that!) Our next oldest graduates high school next year so time with him in our home is limited... Our family doesn't need more space. I'm not really sure when society decided more square footage was a necessity...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Stupid crappy Flappy Bird

You may have heard about the game app "Flappy Bird." My teens introduced it to me this past week. Basically you tap your screen to keep a bird in the air as you "fly" it through random Super Mario-looking pipe thingies. I've played it some and, well, I just suck. I do. I don't play it obsessively or anything, but I'm so bad that Liv beat me in her third try. My high score was 6. Yes, SIX.

I made the mistake of showing Seiuli this game. Sei is good at everything. Especially things that I suck at or have to work really hard to be good at. Take Guitar Hero, for instance... I would practice and practice one song, on medium, just to beat the high score and here comes Seiuli... He picks up the Guitar, puts it on hard or expert or whatever the hardest level is and beats my high score. No practice. No nada. He crushed my high score and my self-esteem as a hardcore gamer. ;) But I digress.
I introduced him to Flappy Bird and of course he's awesome. But I let him try it on my phone and he beat my amazing score of 6 his first try. He got 7. I yelled at him that it's rude to beat other people's high scores on their devices and to play it on his own phone. Y'all, it took me 3 days not to BEAT his score, but to TIE the seven. I'm that good.
We had a big discussion last night that lead to me crying because I was laughing so hard, about the correct part of the thumb to tap the screen with. He proceeded to show me and casually scored a quick 39 points. (That's not his high score. I think it's 43...) He even showed me how his thumb curves weird and that it was "made for Flappy Bird." Oh my. I didn't care because finally the 7 on my phone was MY 7 and not his. I even took a screen shot to commemorate the moment.
Imagine my surprise when I found this on my phone this morning:

What a weenie. Seriously. Who does that? My gamer self-esteem has again plummeted, much like the bird when I play. Sei was in training today so I had to text him. If you watch "Supernatural" you'll appreciate it a little more...

He is so lucky I love him.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Lots to catch up on

We were able to travel as a family to Missouri to see Tristan graduate from bootcamp! It was awesome and a fun trip. And so so SO good for my MOM HEART because I have been missing my boy!! The first day was "Family Day" on base. So basically Tristan had a pass to hang out with us on base... which isn't all that exciting, but it was exciting because we were with him!!!

Hanging at BK
Part of the Berlin Wall
So basically that day we ate at the Burger King, went to the PX, went bowling, and visited an Army museum. That was pretty cool. Tristan was so tired and I wished we had a hotel room on base, but we had too many kids so they were gonna charge us for 2 rooms... haha
The next day was the actual graduation. It was also Alec's 17th birthday!! My sister and her kiddos came from Kansas for his graduation. I thought that was way cool of them. We had a great time that day with Tara's family. I am so stoked they were able to come.
I loved the graduation ceremony and I'm pretty sure we cheered louder than any other family when Tristan said his name!
My soldier

We were able to visit his barracks that day, which we hadn't been able to the day before. We also visited the museum again with Tara.
A heart made of stone made by WWII POWs

Livie and her cousin!
Birthday dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings!
Crazy nights at the hotel!
Alec and Isabel left with my ex on Friday morning because they both had basketball tournaments to get to. Tristan went straight into AIT (advanced individual training). He is still at Fort Leonard Wood, while other soldiers left to new places. Sei and I took Taj and Liv to Branson for a little weekend vacay. I'll post more about that next. :)

Monday, November 04, 2013

Colorado Promise!

In the next few days look for my review of Colorado Promise by Charlene Whitman!!! Historical Romance is my favorite genre of book and I am excited to review this one. :)

Colorado Promise
Book One in the Front Range series – Historical Western Romance

In this passionate sweet Western Historical Romance, author Charlene Whitman introduces Emma Bradshaw—a high-society young woman from New York, who is forced to move out to the untamed Front Range in Colorado and finds that true love can withstand all the dangers the West can throw at her.

Greeley, Colorado, in 1875 is a town built on a promise . . .

. . . but to Emma it is a desert prison in the middle of a hostile and dusty prairie. Emma had hoped to go to Vassar College, to pursue her dreams of becoming a botanical illustrator. But when her father, struck with “Western fever” moves the family out West, Emma’s dreams are shattered. Her only consolation is that her childhood friend, handsome Randall Turnbull, has moved to Greeley to work for his railroad baron father. Her heart sparked by his comforting presence, she hopes Randall will fall in love with her and marry her.

But promises often turn bitter . . .

. . . as Lucas Rawlings, veterinarian and horse lover, well knows. Lucas has lived on the Front Range for three years at Sarah Banks’s horse ranch, after stumbling down from the Rockies consumed with grief. Since losing his precious wife and baby in childbirth, he doesn’t think his heart can bear ever loving again. But Sarah, a half-Cheyenne with a medicine woman for a grandmother, has a vision showing it’s time Lucas married again. He scoffs until he rescues Emma in a sudden hailstorm and their lives become intricately entwined.

Emma must choose—and fight—for the man she loves, at the risk of all she loves . . .

Emma yearns for the comfort and familiarity of Randall’s company, but Lucas’s easy confidence and gentle ways snag her heart. Facing a new life beset by grasshoppers, drought, and blizzards is hard enough. But when murderous ranchers try to force Sarah off her land, and her brother takes up dangerous company, the lives of her family and the man she’s come to love are threatened. It will take a miracle—and the strength and promises of true love—to come through unscathed in this untamed land.


Colorado Promise is now live. Here is the Amazon link:
 Print book, here it is:

About the Author

Charlene Whitman spent many years living on Colorado's Front Range. She grew up riding and raising horses, and loves to read, write, and hike the mountains. She attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins as an English major. She has two daughters and is married to George "Dix" Whitman, her love of thirty years. Colorado Promise is her first Historical Western Romance novel.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Strange things are afoot...

So I mentioned a couple posts ago that I was taking a self-defense class. I finished the course and it was so awesome. It really was. In fact, in the final test where we fight our way out of the room was recorded so we got to watch ourselves at the end. The instructor actually had the guy back my video up so we could watch me deck this cop in the face again. It was awesome. (We were all suited up so I didn't hit his actual face.) I can't post the video because they asked us not to, but I really left the class feeling more confident and assertive and prepared.

I mean, I was already pretty safety cautious and always uber-aware of my surroundings. Seriously- ask my husband. He taught a safety awareness class at our church and he asked me for all my ideas that I already do... So, I always try to aware of what's going on around me... But since finishing that class 2 weird things have happened to me.
A few weeks ago at the grocery store I was loading my groceries into my van when a car parked beside me. It was an old Crown Victorian that was obviously an old cop car that was sold in auction. The windows were tinted way too dark and even though I couldn't see in the car, I could feel someone watching me. No one got out of the car so I kept me distance and finished what I was doing. Then as I was closing my trunk the driver side window of the car rolled down. I could see 3 people clearly. There may have been a 4th. This is the conversation that took place:

Driver: Hey, can you come here for a minute?
I didn't answer, but I took a step back, angling myself so the bumper of my car kind of protected me some.
Driver: I'm not from around here... Can you hear me way over there?
Me: Yes. (still standing in a cautious contact stance)
Driver: Do you know how to get to the mall?

Ok, so I kept my distance, answered quickly, and got in my van, locking the doors. I started watching the car as they backed out and you know what? It didn't drive to the street I told them to go to. It circled around the parking lot going up and down the parking rows. When I told Seiuli he told me I should have called it in as suspicious activity or whatever, but I didn't. But it was WEIRD. Even weirder? I saw the car last week in our neighborhood and I now see it parked regularly in front of a house near Isabel's friend's home. I don't know if they moved here recently or if they loaned their car to a friend visiting when they approached me. Maybe they really didn't know how to get to the mall. Or maybe they, according to Sei's cop-brain theory, were going to gang rape me. I don't know- but it was eery and creepy. Why would you ever say to someone "Hey, can you come here for a minute?" and "Can you hear me way over there?" I was like 8 feet away?!

That was weird experience #1. Weird experience #2 happened yesterday... I often like to walk or ride my bike to random places. Just call me Elizabeth Bennet...
So I decided to walk to the library. I had on workout clothes, my headphones in listening to a book, and a small backpack that had a couple books I needed to return, my wallet, my gun, and chapstick. (What!? My lips are dry!) So it was pretty obvious I was out WALKING, not stranded because my car broke down or something. This big, black truck drives past me and pulls over and parks in front of this lake thing at the front of my neighborhood. I thought he was on his phone or stopping to help a turtle in the road... So I kept walking although I did walk as far away from his truck as possible AND got my lethal key chain off my backpack. It makes it easy to swing your keys into someone's face, but anyway... I noticed him and was aware he was there. I started walking past his truck and he said something to me. I had my headphones in, but the volume was low enough so I can hear things going on around me. I just didn't understand what he said. So, I took another step further away and pulled out an ear bud and said, "Excuse me?" and he said, "Wanna a ride?" Ok WEIRD!! 1st off- Do people actually ACCEPT rides from strangers?!!? Don't people know what can happen?! You end up a sex slave in a box under a guy's bed for 7 years. That's what happens! And 2ndly, WHY would you ask someone who is obviously out for a walk if they need a ride?! I just said, "Um, no thank you?!" and kept walking...quickly. I'm sure my face was like, "Seriously guy? You think I'm gonna ride with you?!" He drove off. Is that not weird?! And don't even get me started about the teenager walking with headphones in that kept "rapping" the same part of a song over and over and over... for like 1/2 a mile. I was on a sidewalk parallel to his and I wanted to yell "Learn the rest of the words! Oh and pull your pants up." People are weird.

Friday, October 18, 2013

"What excellent boiled potatoes..."

Ahh, Mr. Collins... Gotta love him... Poor, socially awkward man...

Lately I've been slightly obsessed with "Pride & Prejudice." I prefer the 2005 movie with Matthew Macfayden as Mr. Darcy. He's so cute and ridiculously introverted, bless his heart. The thing is... I can soooo relate to his quote:
 "I do not have the talent of conversing easily with people I have never met before."

 Amen, Mr. Darcy. Amen. Some people, like my husband, can talk the paint off the wall. Not in an annoying way... He can just converse easily. I am not good with small talk with random people I don't know. I don't even do well in a group of people I DO know because I have no desire to be the center of attention. And I really enjoy listening and people watching. But for some reason, this introversion is seen as a personality flaw rather than just a personality trait. I'm often told that I need to "come out of my comfort zone" or "practice talking to people" or "socialize more." And here's my question:

I'm not socially awkward- at least I don't think I am... I'm not even really shy. I have friends. Not a ton, but I have friends who I know I can trust and I'm cool with that. I prefer small groups. I don't feel the need to have a "Girls Night Out" every week or talk on the phone constantly to my friends. I actually prefer to hang out with my kids, my husband, or alone. I'm perfectly ok with being alone. And I'm here to proudly declare:

I don't mind if no one sits by me in class at church. I don't mind if they do either. But I don't have this overwhelming NEED to be around other people. And no, it's not imperative that I make comments out loud. I don't need people telling me "It's ok to comment once in a while" like I need their permission. I don't need "assignments" that require me to talk to people like I'm some kind of experiment or something that needs to be "fixed." I'm not broken.
All the ladies LOVE Mr. Darcy. Why is that? He seemed like a prick in the beginning, right? He wouldn't talk, he said things like, "She's perfectly tolerable, I dare say. But not handsome enough to tempt me..." and he couldn't even propose right- although he makes amend for that... But we love him because we learn he is "loyal" (Col. Fitzwilliam called him that), kind, intelligent, "good-natured and generous" (as his house servant described him), and ultimately MISUNDERSTOOD. We don't try to change him. We don't tell him to come out of his comfort zone, because once he was comfortable and ready he said rad things like this:
So if you know an introvert don't treat them like something is wrong. I married an extrovert. My closest friends are extroverts. We balance each other. There is no "wrong" or "right." And anyway, how boring would it be if we were all the same? We all remember what happened to Spongebob when he became "normal" like everyone wanted him to be...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My kid's tougher than your kid ;)

Every recruit who goes through basic training undergoes nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) training, and is subjected to training in the gas chamber. They are required to remove their gas mask and answer questions while in the gas house. Overall, this is to help the soldiers gain confidence in and learn the importance of their equipment, such as their gas mask. Tristan did that this past week. Seiuli has done this in the past during SWAT school. We have a video of it and as a family would watch, and laugh, at the men coming out of the gas house. Seiuli looked tough. He didn't fall to his knees or throw up.... 
So, I'm sure memories of our family watching this video came in to Tristan's head before he entered the gas chamber... If the pictures I found say anything- He ROCKED it. I'm so proud.
I also finally got an address!!! I sent my stack of letters... like 8 envelopes... And I've mailed 2 more today. Livie is so cute because she'll write little notes and want me to mail them immediately. I'm gonna go broke... :)

Basic training photos found at: