Book Review: Hidden Under Her Heart

 

Hidden Under Her Heart by Rachelle Ayala is a wonderful book to add to your summer reading list!


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Unwanted pregnancies bring a torrent of emotions and choices. Maryanne Torres tries to gain validation and love by giving more in each relationship than she takes. Her boyfriend, Lucas Knight believes his reason for existence lies in becoming a triathlon champion.

An unexpected pregnancy forces Maryanne to examine her past while Lucas is torn between concern and bitterness.

A tiny life hangs on the balance. Is it worthless because it is unwanted?[/dropshadowbox]

Generally I give a new book three chapters before putting it away and not completing it. I didn’t need three chapters to decide. I was drawn into the story within the first few pages.

Maryanne is tired of her life and failed relationships. She decides to make a bet with a friend and stop having sex. The first one to “fall off the wagon” owes the other one a weekend spa getaway.

Maryanne meets Lucas when he becomes a patient at the allergy clinic where she works. After Lucas hits on her in a completely immature way, I couldn’t understand why Maryanne would give him another chance.

Soon Maryanne’s need to have a man validate her became a central theme. For years she had bounced from one boyfriend to another, each one a failed relationship because she lived only for them. Her self worth was entirely wrapped up in what her current boyfriend thought of her.

Her relationship was with Lucas was no different. She often jumps to conclusions and makes judgments based on past experiences. She creates pain within the relationship but also battles with an overwhelming need for his love.

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I know a book is good when I stay up late into the night.

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Ms. Ayala does a wonderful job intertwining themes of love, hurt, pain, and past regrets. She leads the characters down a path that few stories take. This book has a good balance of a predictable story line with plenty of surprises to keep you interested.

She tackles guilt, abortion, religious legalism, and unwanted pregnancies. In the end, she shows how God and faith can lead to grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness.

If you are looking for a realistic love story, this one pushes the limits. There were times when Maryanne and Lucas’s relationship went a direction quicker than I feel would have happened in real life.

However, as a Christian Romance novel it hits the spot. I was looking for a book to get lost in and forget the world for a bit. This book definitely meets that mark.

I highly recommend adding this read to your summer list. And for .99 for the ebook at both Smashwords (multiple formats) and Amazon, it is well worth it.

 

~Crystal
I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Simple Things Volume 9

Living In Green Grass is about being content and happy with the basic things around you. It is the little things in life that make it wonderful. Here are four of the simple things that made me smile this week.

Leave me a comment below and share some of your highlights.

 

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I love free samples and I hit the jackpot on Monday. All this was waiting for me in my mail box. The best part was that there were no bills, only free samples. It was a wonderful way to start the week.

 

 

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I have a hard time staying hydrated and often forget to drink. I started tracking my fluid intake on a white board this week. I also set hourly alarms on my phone to remind me to hydrate.  I have met my goal every day this week except one. A big improvement for me.

 

 

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The inventor loves bugs. Better yet, she loves tormenting her sister when she catches creepy crawlies. She caught this dragonfly and wanted me to take a picture before releasing it.

 

 

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You may wonder why a dried fish head is one of my weekly highlights. We walk past this every time we have errands or go to the library. Miss Crafty does the typical, “Ewwwwww” and quickly passes the fish. Meanwhile The Inventor stops to look and take note of all the parts. It makes me smile to see my two girls developing such unique and different personalities.

 

 

I hope you all had a good week and a better weekend.

~Crystal

Providing Magic in the Party

In 2008 Karrinne was a stay at home mom looking for creative solutions to supplement their income. She was trying to find the perfect balance, allowing her to stay at home during the week and work on the weekends when her husband was home.

After countless hours of planning and dreaming, Karrinne thought she had it figured out. She would open a mobile entertainment business. She had done it before as an Event Coordinator for the local Rescue mission, now she would do it on a different scale and take magic people’s homes.

Karrinne had a dream. She wanted to be a fairy godmother and bring a princess dress up and tea parties to girls on their special day. Her hope was to bring a variety of themed parties to little boys and girls. She wanted to bring the fun.

In January of 2009, Tea in Tiaras was born.

magic of tea in tiaras

That first year Karrinne learned a lot. She learned some ins and outs of starting a business. She learned some tricks and ways to make her parties better. Most importantly of all, Karrinne stayed focused on the business. She realized that not everyone would want a fairy godmother, they may want a princess or a superhero to host their party instead.

Not to be discouraged, Karrinne found others who wanted to create magic too. They joined her team as independent contractors and together they labored to make Tea in Tiaras grow.

Fairy Godmother

And grow they did. In that first year Karrinne planned 30 parties. She found dresses for girls of all ages and sizes so they too could feel like a princess. She gathered decorations of all kinds so she would be prepared for whatever came her way. She did free events and found ways to creatively market her business.

Over the years she has provided magic for many different occasions. She has been there during some of life’s most memorable events. She has created those memories for children and adults alike.

She brings happiness and joy to children during the good times and bad. She as thrown a party at her local hospital for a child dying of cancer. That child passed on a few weeks later. Karrinne would like think that they made a difference in her life, giving her joy during her final days.

As Tea in Tiaras grew, so did the responsibilities. Karrinne found herself networking with more and more people. She added princesses, pirates, and many other characters to her team. She increased her services and what they offered.

She learned to face paint by watching YouTube videos and practicing many hours. By doing what she loved, she spread magic and joy throughout her region.

Tea and Tiaras now serves hundreds of clients and does about 150 gigs a year. She has entertained people of all different backgrounds. From your average family, to Hollywood stars, Tea and Tiaras has provided magic and joy.

Not every day is magical for Karrinne.

 

princesses bring magic

There are some days when she wants to quit. There are days when clients are unhappy because they had expectations that Karrinne was unaware of. There are days when she looks at her profit margin after taxes and other expenses and wonders if it is all worth it.

There are days when she sees the stress and toll that it is taking on her family. Being away from her husband and children on the weekends is not always easy.

But Karrinne refuses to give up.

“I have worked very hard to build this business and my reputation up. I love what I do. I love providing a forum for artists. I love bringing joy to children. And I DO bring in an income that allows our family to now enjoy life more. I also have a lot of flexibility with my schedule to be there for the kids when needed.”

 

Karrinne spreads magic and joy.

She finds her joy when a child’s face lights up.

She finds her joy knowing she gives her performers a platform to do what they love and make money at it.

She finds her joy in the arts. Whether through crafting, making favors, decorating, face painting, costuming or anything else her job demands.

She finds her joy in providing entertainment so parents can enjoy special moments with their children and other guests.

She finds her joy in providing and creating magic.

 

Tea in Tiaras is a mobile children’s entertainment business in Central and Southern California, the Phoenix Arizona area, and soon in Sacramento, California. They can provide costumes, accessories, party favors, decorations, party planning, makeovers, nail painting, obstacle courses, crafts and fun activities!

They offer Costumed Characters and specialize in Princess Parties, Tea Parties, Fairy Parties, Glamour Girl Parties, Rock Star Parties, Pajama Spa Parties, Super Hero Parties and Jedi Knight Parties. They also offer Face Painting, Magic Shows, Balloon Twisting, Skin Jewelry, Glitter Tattoos and Singing Telegrams!

If you are interested in Tea in Tiaras, please check out their facebook page or website.

 

~Crystal

 

Every Thursday I share someone’s story. Karrinne created her own happiness and contentment, her own patch of Green Grass. She needed to find a way to supplement her family’s income and founded a business doing what she loves. That is why she is Living in Green Grass. If you know of someone who also Lives in Green Grass, please contact me using the “Green Grass Award” tab above or by clicking here.

 

All photos used by permission courtesy of Tea in Tiaras.

My Job Doesn’t Matter

mom job

geralt / Pixabay

 

When The Husband changed jobs, we had to make some huge cuts in our budget. We still came up a little short.

We have some money left over from our tax return but that is running out very quickly. We decided that we need some temporary assistance.

 

Last week I applied for food stamps for our family.

It was a very difficult thing to do. I know we need them but I’m not looking forward to the social judgement that comes along with the card.

I know there are those out there that are going to judge me for being a stay at home mom and putting my family on food stamps. I disagree and I never quite understood where the anger and hatred came from.

 

It didn’t take long until I found the root of the judgement.

My job raising my family and taking care of my children doesn’t count as work according to the Department of Health and Welfare.

My job being a learning coach to the girls during the school year as they attend a virtual charter school at home doesn’t count.

Instead, I was told I have to go to a work training program for five hours a week, apply, and try to find a ‘real job’.

I have 3 legal options at this point:

  1. Find childcare for the girls and attend the program, pretending I am interested in finding a job including putting in regular applications. I could play their game.
  2. Get pregnant. If my children were 6 and under I would qualify and my job as a stay at home parent would count.
  3. Apply, don’t work or attend training programs, get sanctioned within the program, and then be disqualified.

 

It stings and hurts in ways that are hard to explain.

I know why the rules are there. People abuse the system but more often than not, people are trying to follow the rules.

I asked them to leave me off the case and simply provide benefits for The Husband and my children. They can’t do that.

I have to be counted because I am the mother and a member of this household. I have to be punished for not following the program in order to get assistance for my children.

So I have the option to attend two different orientations for the work program. When I don’t appear for those, I will be reported to the government as being non-compliant. That non-compliance will result in me getting sanctioned. I will have a record with Health and Welfare that will follow me until I find a ‘real job’.

 

My family of 4 will be considered a family of 3.

I don’t matter.

My job isn’t good enough.

 

To those that say I should get a paying job and try to produce income for our family, it isn’t that simple.

We looked at our options and considered this. We would need to purchase and finance a second car. There would be lots of other expenses included with me working. If I could find a full time job paying at least $10 per hour, we might net an extra 250-300 per month.

To us, it isn’t worth the trade so instead I choose to sacrifice a little more. I will give up any extra and every penny I have to raise my children as best as I can.

 

geralt / Pixabay

 

I struggle with this. I’m not one to get into the mommy wars but there is something wrong here. My job raising my children is not considered as valuable in society. It would count if I went to work and put my children in regular school and daycare.

If my children were 6 or under, I would matter. Something magical happens at the age of 6. Suddenly full time motherhood becomes less important.

Because I don’t produce income or work at least 30 hours per week for pay, I’m not good enough in the government’s eyes.

 

Today is a One Word Wednesday.

Every year I pick one word based on My One Word by Mike Ashcroft. I highly recommend the book.

This year my word is Whatever.

I can let this get me down, and it did for a few days.

But I look around at my family and I know I’m of value.

I see the smiles on my children’s faces when we make cookies together in the morning.

I know the school year is starting soon and I’ll be around to see each of their light bulb moments.

I know I’m planting seeds and helping my daughters grow into women of God.

 

In no way am I saying working mothers don’t do all this. Being a stay at home mom is something I feel called to do, it is where I feel I belong.

So to the government I say whatever. We will figure out a way to make this work. I will find a way to feed my family.

You do not assign my value.

My value is found through my husband, my children, and my God.

 

~Crystal

 

Being thankful for the very simple things today: feet-7861

  • I’m thankful that even though things are tight, I am still able to stay at home with my children like I feel led to.
  • The Husband fully supports me in this choice and decision and is willing to sacrifice too.
  • For my window AC unit. It was over 90 yesterday. It was nice to come into a cool house after our weekly walk to the library.

Survey Sites to Earn a Few Dollars

The last couple Tuesdays I have been talking about our family finances. I have talked about our budget and a few creative ways I stretch our dollar.

One way I get creative is by taking online surveys. There are so many survey companies out there it is easy to get overwhelmed. Over the years I have tried over 20 different survey sites and panels. Some are very good and some are bad.

Before registering with a survey company I recommend creating a unique email. Some sites send lots of emails. This also makes it easy to see what surveys are being sent to you.

OpenClips / Pixabay

 

When looking for a survey company, I always look for 3 basic things:

  1. They pay in dollars–not points. There are a couple exceptions to this rule that I explain below.
  2. They let you cash out via check, paypal, or gift card. I have found that when you redeem for items it costs more than if you cash out and buy the item yourself.
  3. They have a unique survey panel. There are many survey sites that run through the same routers. If you are trying to access the same survey from multiple companies this can cause redemption and credit issues.

 

My favorite sites:

 

JD power panel survey

JD Power Panel is one of my favorite sites. They have a large variety of surveys that post throughout the day. They do use a couple different routers but they don’t conflict with the other companies.

They are very accurate as far as how long it will take to complete the survey. Often it takes less time than they estimate.

A unique feature is that they usually pay 10 cents per survey that you attempt but don’t qualify for. They payout to giftcards ($10 minimum, most at $25) and PayPal ($50 minimum with a 3% transaction fee taken off your payout amount).

Through experience, I have learned most their surveys post just after the top of each hour.

Once you request a payout, it can take a few weeks before it is redeemed and you get the money. It isn’t quick but it is one of the best paying sites around.

 

 

QuickRewards survey link 

QuickRewards is my other favorite site. They are a more traditional survey panel. They do targeted surveys based on your profile as well as offering you different routers.

There are so many options that I don’t have time to do them all. I generally attempt the surveys on my home page. I also have found great success with the QuickReward targeted and virtual panel surveys. When I have extra time, I attempt to access surveys through their daily routers.

QuickRewards pays in both dollars and points. Most of their surveys are paid in real money. Many of their surveys are worth between 50 cents and a dollar.

They also use QuickPoints to pay a few surveys. I don’t mind this because it is easy to figure out their value. There are 100 QuickPoints per penny. Don’t be fooled by a survey that pays 1,313 QuickPoints. It is only worth 13 cents.

The neat thing about QuickRewards is that there are other ways to earn money besides simply taking surveys. You can earn money shopping online, printing and using coupons, visiting websites or doing simple tasks, playing games and many other ways.

A bonus with QuickRewards is that they are quick on their payouts. Gift cards are mailed weekly and PayPal is processed daily. There is no minimum on PayPal so if you need it now, you can get it within a day.

 

MintVine survey link

MintVine is the latest survey site I use. They are a newer company but they appear to have lots of potential. I don’t get as many surveys through them but they have some unique features that I like.

MintVine emails you a notification for every survey you can attempt. This way you don’t have to log their system constantly to see if something is available.

They pay per points but it is easy to figure out their points system. It is 100 points per dollar. They also pay 5 points (or 5 cents) per survey you don’t qualify for.

They have offers and local deals that you can also complete to gain more points. Most of them are free although some do require a credit card or to sign up for a trial.

They payout in cash via PayPal or Dwolla every time you reach $10.

 

Pinecone Research survey link

Pinecone Research is an invitation only survey panel.

They pay 300 points per survey. Their system is very straightforward like MintVine. 100 points per dollar. $3.00 per survey is very high paying for an online survey company.

Plus, many of their surveys include product testing. That means they ship you the product for free to test and then provide feedback on. Most of the time you get to keep the product. If you have to mail it back, they also pay for return shipping.

They offer both cash and item redemption. I always choose the cash option. There is no minimum cash out and they either mail you a check or use PayPal.

Because they are invitation only, it is hard to find a way in. QuickRewards is currently extending an invitation for PineCone Research. If you sign up for QuickRewards, there should be a link to Pinecone Research on your home page.

 

 

You will not get rich taking surveys. You won’t even make minimum wage however I find them very valuable. It allows me to supplement my income on my time and is entirely flexible. If the girls interrupt me it isn’t a problem, I just resume the survey when I can.

I have paid for birthdays and Christmas in years past using survey money. When every dollar counts this is one way to add a few to your bottom line.

If you take online surveys, what are your favorite sites?

 

~Crystal

 

In full disclosure: I do get a referral credit for both QuickRewards and MintVine. Please consider using my links if you decide to join either of these panels. I won’t get rich but every penny helps.

 

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