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See Jane Run! Is Close to 50 Amazon Reviews

See Jane Run! Is Close to 50 Amazon Reviews

See Jane Run! is close to 50 Amazon reviews. So close, in fact, I’m breaking out my dance moves and choreographing a little something to record on video when the milestone is reached.  50 reviews, by the way, is when Amazon sits up, takes notice, and begin to assist authors and publishers in promoting their books. It’s a big deal. So how close is See Jane Run! to 50?

Drum roll please……

As of today, See Jane Run! is sitting at 42 positive reviews.

If my math fact memory serves, only 8 more reviews until spunky Jane can grab the Amazon promotion ring. I know more than 8 people who haven’t yet reviewed the book have read and liked it. If you’re one of those people, I’m on my knees begging you to write and post your review on Amazon. Just go to See Jane Run! on Amazon, scroll down and click on the white “Leave a Customer Review” (it’s on the left hand side beneath the starred ranking graph), and Amazon will walk you through the process.

I promise to post a Facebook video of me doing a happy dance when the big 5-0 is reached.

In case you’re wondering, See Jane Sing! has 31 reviews and See Jane Dance! has 24. The See Jane Dance! number delighted me considering I haven’t been able to promote it much due to health issues that began shortly after it was released. Once again, I am down on my knees begging for reviews. Once again I promise to post a happy dance video when those books reach the magic number too.

Also my dance moves are epic. You don’t want to miss them.



Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving Giveaway

Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving Giveaway

Special Needs Parenting CoverDr. Lorna Bradley is the mother of an adult son with Asperger syndrome.and she’s an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. If that short description rings a bell, perhaps you read her Different Dream guest post about beauty in brokenness. Now she’s combined her personal and professional expertise to write an invaluable new book for parents of kids with special needs. I’m excited about how much this book will help families, the book and am eager to tell you more about it.

Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving Addresses Issues

Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving addresses many spiritual questions parents ask when their children are diagnosed with special needs. It discusses difficult issues like dealing with grief and guilt with compassion and candor. And it also offers practical advice to makes life easier for parents. A sneak peek at the table of contents to see what it covers:

  1. God and Special Needs
  2. Understanding Chronic Grief
  3. Breaking Free from Guilt
  4. Tools to Increase Patience
  5. Self-care for Caregivers
  6. Building Healthy Relationships
  7. Hope and Healing

Notes for Small Group Leaders
Blessing of the Parents Liturgy
Resource List
Self-care Inventory
About the Author

As you can see, Special Needs Parenting: From Coping to Thriving has something for every parent of a child with special needs. Each chapter ends with a list of questions for personal reflection, prayer helps, and Scripture references. The questions can also be used for small group discussion, which makes Bradley’s book a natural for Bible study or support groups.

To read the rest of this post and enter the give away, please visit Down the Gravel Road’s sister site at

Turkey-Veggie Sloppy Joes

Turkey-Veggie Sloppy Joes

Our second grandchild is due in about a month. The soon-to-be-mamma-again may or may not be in nesting mode already, but this grammy certainly is. My nesting consists of preparing and freezing meals to take to the new parents when the baby arrives.

That’s why many of our meals for the past week (and for several weeks to come) are large batches or double batches of freezer meal recipes. We eat some for supper, the Man of Steel packages some for lunch at work the next day, and the rest goes in the freezer.

This recipe for turkey-veggie Sloppy Joes is one we really liked. It comes from the Go Ahead and Snicker website.  I used less ketchup and more tomato paste (because we were out of ketchup), substituted yellow pepper for the green and red (because that’s what was on hand), used regular-sized buns rather than sliders (because it takes too many sliders to fill up the Man of Steel), and made sure the buns were dairy-free (because life is just better that way).

This recipe will be used in our kitchen again for 2 reasons. First, they were really good Sloppy Joes. Second, no one at our house drinks beer so the rest of the six pack needs using up.

Turkey Veggie Sloppy Joe Sliders

1 pound ground turkey
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup corn
3 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 Tbls. Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup ketchup
1 bottle of dark beer
olive oil
salt and pepper
non-dairy hamburger buns

Fry turkey in a dutch oven, crumbling with a spoon or spatula until well-browned. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic and cook until veggies are tender. Add chili powder and tomato paste and cook a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add ketchup and beer and cook, stirring until foam subsides. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes for a runny sauce, 30 minutes for a thicker sauce. (I did 30 minutes) Season with salt and pepper, add corn and cook until heated through. Serve on buns.

Refined by Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace

Refined by Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace

refined by fire cover

I suspected, when asking Mary Potter Kenyon for a review copy of Refined by Fire, that it would be a hard book to put down. Once I opened the book, my suspicions proved to be absolutely true. The book was nearly impossible to put down for two riveting reasons.

Refined by Fire: Two Reasons It’s Hard to Put Down

First, the author tells a heartbreaking story of loss. In the span of a few years, Kenyon lost her mother Irma and then her husband David. Just as she discovered writing as a way to regain her emotional footing, her young grandson Jacob died of cancer.

Second, she makes the story more compelling by being transparent. She lays her journey of grief before the reader, refusing to hide her emotional pain, her tears, her anger, her loneliness, and her doubts. We see grief take its toll on her relationships and especially on her youngest daughter, Abigail, who was just 8 when her father died.

Refined by Fire: Snapshots of Grief

Though overwhelmed by grief and shedding tears every morning for years, Kenyon somehow writes her way through her grief. Throughout the book, excerpts from her blog and daily journals are featured:

Grief at Ten and a Half Weeks
The First Holiday
Grief at Twenty Weeks
Grief at Five Months

Each entry is a word picture, a snapshot of grief frozen in time. Between those entries, the reader sees grief melt and morph and reform as Kenyon questions God and hears him answer in sweet and unexpected ways. Though devastated by her losses, she begins to see God at work in her life. Her heart is still broken at the end of the book, but thanks to her determination to cling to God, she is also stronger and more capable than before.

Refined by Fire: A Grief Handbook

Kenyon’s Refined by Fire is essentially “grief handbook” for those dealing with loss, something Kenyon wished for as she grieved. It is also a useful tool and resource for pastors, grief support group leaders, hospice workers, funeral home directors, and anyone working with people dealing with grief.

Refined by Fire Give Away

I have a copy of Refined by Fire to give away. To enter the drawing, leave a comment in the box below between now and midnight on November 1, 2014. To increase your chances of winning, sign up for the Gravel Road’s RSS feed at the top, right side of this page and leave another comment saying you did so by midnight on November 1, 2014.

MPKheadshot (2)Mary Potter Kenyon graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in Psychology and is the Director of the Winthrop Public Library. She wrote several of the devotions included in the NIV Hope in the Mourning Bible released by Zondervan in 2013. Mary writes a weekly couponing column for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald and conducts writing and couponing workshops for women’s groups, libraries, and community colleges. Mary is also the author of Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America’s Extreme Obsession and Chemo­Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage.

Do Not Be Afraid

Do Not Be Afraid

Do Not Be Afraid

This month marks the first anniversary of the publication of Sun Shine Down, Gillian Marchenko’s transparent memoir. In it, she tells about coming to terms with her third daughter’s diagnosis of Down syndrome, and her slow and reluctant falling in love with her baby girl. Today’s guest post celebrates Gillian’s daughter, the anniversary of Sun Shine Down, and the faithful presence of God in our troubles. At the bottom of the page, you’ll get the scoop on how to enter the give away for a copy of Gillian’s memoir.

Do Not Be Afraid

The phrase “Do not be afraid” is written in the Bible 365 times. That’s a daily reminder that God is in control! Whatever you a dealing with today, give it to Him and watch how God takes care of you.

A friend of mine posts this status on Facebook and it immediately gives me pause.

Although I’ve been to Bible college, I wasn’t aware that “do not be afraid’ is in the Bible 365 times. Wow. One for every day of the year. Amazing. My feet start to tingle and my face grows hot. I reread the sentences in awe.

“Thank you, God, for this,” I whisper.

Too often, as a parent of two girls with significant special needs (Polly has Down syndrome and a stroke and seizure disorder called Moyamoya. Evangeline has Down syndrome, too, and was diagnosed with autism just this last year), I let fear rule.

Truth be known, I’ve lived mostly afraid for the last eight years, ever since my ears first heard the words ‘Down syndrome.’ Since then there have been strokes, missed developmental milestones, seizures, brain surgeries, social regression, tonsils removed, vertebrae problems, biting, scratching, tears, and too many other situations and incidents to name. I learned quickly how to walk around with one foot elevated.

I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

‘Do not be afraid’ sends a wave of warmth through me. I decide right away to give it my own interpretation. I want to claim it as a promise from God. ‘Do not be afraid’ becomes ‘relax, nothing else is going to happen.’ ‘Do not be afraid’ means ‘enough bad and scary and difficult. Don’t worry about another shoe dropping.’ ‘Do not be afraid’, I imagine God saying, ‘I got this, and everything is going to be okay.’

Oh, how I love my interpretation. Oh, how I want ‘do not be afraid’ to mean those things.

But as follower of Christ, as someone who tries to read and understand scripture, as a person who wants to commune with God, I know better.

‘Do not be afraid’ isn’t in the Bible 365 times so a person will trust that nothing bad is going to happen to her family. Because this is life. We live in a fallen, broken world and bad stuff happens all the time.

365 days a year.

Some beloved verses in the Bible come to mind:

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” –Genesis 15:1

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. –Deuteronomy 31:6

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. –Isaiah 41:10

These verse don’t claim nothing bad or difficult will happen. In fact, all kinds of bad things happened in Genesis, Deuteronomy, and Isaiah.

Instead, these verses tell us not to be afraid because no matter what comes, God is on our side. “I am your shield, your very great reward.” “For the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” “I will strengthen you and help you;”

Now, this is the correct interpretation.

As a mom to kids with special needs, more shoes will drop. It is just life.

But I am encouraged. I am not alone. God is with me. God is with my family. And because I get to be in his presence through the blood of his son Jesus, I don’t have to be afraid.

When bad things come, I don’t have to be afraid.

“Thank you, God, for this,” I whisper.

“Do not be afraid,” he answers.

Sun Shine Down Book Give Away

Do Not Be Afraid Sunshine DownDo Gillian’s words make you want to read her book? Then you are invited to enter the give way in which one reader will win the copy of Sun Shine Down Gillian is providing. Just leave a comment in the box below by midnight on Saturday, September 20, 2014 to be entered in the drawing. That’s all there is to it!


Laurie Wallin Says Your Weirdness is Wonderful

Laurie Wallin Says Your Weirdness is Wonderful

Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful

Who is Laurie Wallin?

I’m so glad you asked! She’s a writer friend and also the parent of a child with special needs. Until her writing career went into high gear last year, she was a regular guest blogger at, my special needs parenting website.

Laurie’s first book, Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful, will be released by Abingdon Press on March 18. (The paperback and Kindle versions are available for pre-order on Amazon now.) I interviewed Laurie about why she wrote a book encouraging women to view the quirky things they don’t always like about themselves as the way God designed them. Here’s what she had to say.

When did the idea that our individual quirks–those personal weirdnesses that drive us crazy sometimes–are part of who God created us to be?

The pivotal moment was while reading a colleague’s blog post. She shared how frustrated she was with her tendency to overthink things, and how she prayed God would make her different. I was mad! Not at her, but at the situation. . . that clearly gifted people spent so much time lamenting how they are. And how easy a strategy that would be for Satan to use to keep us distracted from living well. If we’re fighting who we are most of the time, we’re missing out on the reflection of God’s image that is trying to show through us. I commented on this post, asking what if God made you that way because something about that tendency reflects something about Him, rather than it being a flaw? We went back and forth about the idea for a few comments, and ultimately, she said, “You need to write a post about this.” I did, it went viral, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Why do you think it’s important for women to see their weirdness as wonderful?

Women, in particular, have this fog of expectation clouding our view of ourselves and each other. The more I studied personal strengths, the more I noticed that:

  1. the things that annoy me in other people are them living their strengths and either me not appreciating them in the situation, or them not living them in a loving way; and
  2. the things that annoyed me about myself suffered from the same two issues.

So I started asking myself “What strength is she trying to live right now?” when I sensed jealousy or frustration or judgment creeping up with a friend. You know what happened? Where I used to feel insecure, I started noticing a desire to see the good in others and celebrating—affirming—the God-glimpses I saw in them. As a woman, to be able to feel secure in the face of others is a HUGE change to what we often experience. It makes us allies, supporters of each other, champions of what God’s doing in each others’ lives, instead of defenders of what we think is insufficient in ourselves.

In the book you talk about the dark sides and positive sides of our quirks. Could you give a few examples for readers?

As a Star Wars fan, I’ve always related to the whole Dark Side, Light Side (or, as I call it in the book, Life Side) idea. God invests tendencies in us, and we either love Him and others with them (reveal their Life Sides) or we live from fear (Dark Sides). The most common struggle strengths I hear about from people are tendencies to overthink things, be too sensitive, worry too much, argue too much, or be controlling. There are a lot of possible strengths hiding in these Dark Sides, and maybe they come from different strengths in different situations. For example, overthinking can be the Dark Side of being analytical, an achiever, someone who is contextual and sees connections between anything done or said now, and what it will effect. It’s not an exact science, but the important thing is to allow the question—to stop fighting who we are long enough to let God show us what is possible in us right then.

Can you pinpoint a quirk of your own that you now appreciate, even though it once drove you crazy?

Mine is the need to make a difference and matter to people. Anyone who knows anything about Christian beliefs will see pride all over that. For years, I fought God, asking Him why I need to be involved in projects that are high profile and far-reaching. It was a sore spot and something I wanted to hide about myself for years. When I started writing this book, I had to sit down and face my big-scary-strength/weakness. God brought to mind projects I’d taken on over the years that nobody else wanted or would touch. Yes, I wanted to be the one at the mic at retreats. But I also was the one who saw a need in my then-classroom and hunted down grants, applied for them, and pulled in thousands of dollars of funding and 20 computers for my science program. I’m a big thinking gal, and in God’s hands it can bring big good. In mine, of course, it’s prideful and annoying. The job every day for me is to listen to His voice and only go after the big fish He leads me to pursue, the way He’s leading me to do it!

How can women embrace their weirdness? Where should they start?

First, we have to decide to suspend judgment about our natural tendencies. This one trips a lot of people up. They’re scared that if they do that, they’re dropping their moral standards. But that’s not what I’m saying. I’m asking people to stop assuming they understand God’s design in the ways they’ve always thought, acted and reacted in life. His thoughts are higher than ours, after all, right? So step one is to notice when we’re making ourselves feel bad about some way we are, like when we use negative words to describe ourselves (overthinker, worry wart, impatient, lazy. . .) and stop right then to chat with God about it. To say, “What natural desire or strength of mine is wanting to come out right now? How would YOU reveal that trait, God?” Then, let God tell you what He thinks. And keep eyes open to see His answers to the questions unfold in life and relationships.

How do you suggest women maximize their quirks to build God’s kingdom?

The more we listen to what God meant when He designed us the way He did—quirks and all—the more we let God reveal His heart for the world around us. The more we’re attuned to the unique ways God designed us to think, communicate, plan, care and relate with others, the more people are drawn to Him, and the kingdom grows.

How can they maintain a balanced perspective about quirks and weirdnesses?

Our weirdness—our blend of strengths and their quirky upside down versions—stays balanced when we focus it on loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving other people as ourselves. The Greatest Commandment is our great balancer in this tightrope walk of living our weirdness wonderfully.

Where can people connect with you and buy your book?

Come visit me and check out more about the book at, or stop by my facebook page at

Anything else you’d like to mention?

I certainly hope you’ll grab a copy of my book and allow me to walk this road with you, but whether you buy my book or not, you owe it to yourself to learn more about your strengths. Whether it’s Gallup’s StrengthsFinder program, the Meyers-Briggs assessment, or Gary Chapman’s Love Languages assessment. . . find out who God designed when He made you. Because if you’re not being all God designed you to be, there’s a hole in the world that nobody else can or will ever fill.