inspirational, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Ruotsala-Aaron Dean

#864 Cole I love you to the Moon and Back by Aaron Dean Ruotsala

Cole I love you to the Moon and Back by Aaron Dean RuotsalaCole I love you to the Moon and Back by Aaron Dean Ruotsala

Aaron and his wife had been on a fishing trip with their two children. That night, Cole, the oldest, complained of a stomach ache. The parents deliberated on whether or not to take him to the doctor, but when Cole asked, they took him to the hospital. What they found out would change their lives forever. Cole had a tumor in his abdomen and it was very large. There were tests and more tests before the diagnosis came back. Cole had cancer, a fast-growing cancer. Every measure was taken to save his life.

During this, Aaron started a webpage about Cole and his progress. People began to read it and offer prayers and hope to the family. Cole’s story inspired many others to be prayerful and think about what their mortality meant. Ultimately, Cole lost his battle with cancer, changing the family forever, but he did inspire many people.

What I liked

I liked that Cole’s situation gave people the desire to be more spiritual, whatever that means to them. I think sometimes, if we are spiritual people, we need to be reminded about why we are spiritual.

What I didn’t like

It’s awful that Cole got cancer. From the sound of it, there was nothing that could have been done to prevent this. It just happened and the family had to deal with it.

I don’t think Cole was particularly special. Sure, his parents think he’s great, but is he more special than any other kid? No, he’s not. It’s unfortunate that he had cancer and died from that cancer, but I don’t believe it was determined by God that Cole should get cancer and die just so other people could be a little more spiritual. I think this was an unfortunate circumstance, but if people were able to find comfort in Cole’s attitude, that’s great.


I hope Cole’s family is doing well.

Weigh In

Do you believe God makes bad things happen to innocent people so other people can learn lessons?

If you found yourself in this situation, do you think you would have enough mental clarity to write a book about it?

#864 Cole I love you to the Moon and Back by Aaron Dean Ruotsala was originally published on One-elevenbooks

Cleveland-Ashley, inspirational, Memoir, Non-Fiction

#858 Little Black Sheep by Ashley Cleveland

 Little Black Sheep by Ashley Cleveland Little Black Sheep by Ashley Cleveland

Ashley spend the majority of her growing up years thinking that she was too fat. Her parents told her so. They were concerned about her appearance rather than her happiness. At a young age, Ashley turned to drugs and alcohol. She also discovered that she was a talented musician and songwriter. She made money here and there playing at various events, but most of it went towards drugs and alcohol. She went into rehab and came back out again, only to go back to drugs and alcohol.

She had a baby, but that didn’t stop her from chasing things that would dull her feelings about life. She started writing more songs. She went back to rehab. She met a wonderful man and eventually had a family, but drugs and alcohol were never far behind. These days Ashley is an award-winning country musician and songwriter with a personal relationship with God.

What I liked

I’ve never heard of Ashley Cleveland. She seems like an interesting person. It’s unfortunate that so much of her life has been dictated by substance abuse and mental abuse from her family. There are worse things than being overweight, like being a stuck-up, holier-than-thou jerk, who thinks that everyone should be so thin that they can fit between deck slats and use their body in spread-eagle position as the frame-work for a kite on windy days, with only the help of a sheet.

I like that Ashley found herself. I like that she found a religion, which does help her in life. She has a lot of talent and shouldn’t be wasting it, by dulling it with drugs and tons of alcohol.

What I didn’t like

When parents condone the mental abuse of a child and even participate in it, that’s not cool. It’s one thing to worry that your kid might need to lose some weight; it’s another to make it the soul focus of your opinion about that child. Seriously, there are worse things your kid could be than fat. They could be one of those kids that goes and shoots up their classmates at school. I feel for Ashley, I really do. Her parents weren’t a ton of help to her when she needed them most.


I’ll keep an ear out for Ashley Cleveland.

Weigh In

Do you know someone whose parents put an extreme emphasis on their appearance?

If you did know someone like that, did it affect them negatively?

#858 Little Black Sheep by Ashley Cleveland was originally published on One-elevenbooks

Christie-Katrell, inspirational, McCaffrey-Shannon, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Social Commentary

#853 Tiger Heart by Katrell Christie

Tiger Heart by Katrell ChristieTiger Heart by Katrell Christie

Katrell grew up in Atlanta and she opened a tea shop. It had a strange name, Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party. She soon got a few loyal customers. One day, she decided to go to India. While in India, she discovered an orphanage run by monks. When the girls there turned seventeen, they were put out on the street. Katrell thought this was awful and decided to do something about it.

She rented an apartment and set three girls up there. They were enrolled in school and given money for clothes and food. Katrell said she would come back in six months, which she did. Soon Katrell’s program expanded. She found more girls to take care of. She started selling tea in her tea shop to help fund her project.

People became interested in Katrell’s project and she started taking people to India. There was an unfortunate incident with a toilet in a hotel, but other than that, Katrell has had many positive experiences and has helped many young women go to college when they wouldn’t have been able to before.

What I liked

Katrell is a very admirable person. I kind of want to meet her. She sounds awesome. She named a tea shop Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party. How neat is that? She just kicks butt. Not only does she have her own business, but she has also done a ton of charity work. She has given lives to young women who wouldn’t have been able to have those lives before. She cares about them and their well-being. Hurrah for Katrell.

Katrell is the kind of person that people want to be. She’s got guts and she has determination. She has the know-how, or at the very least, the persistence, to get things done and make the world a better place.

She’s also hilarious. The bathroom incident was unfortunate, but also kind of fated.

Maybe the next time I’m in Atlanta I’ll see if I can check out Katrell’s tea shop.

What I didn’t like

I liked this book. I didn’t expect it to be that impressive, but it really is.


Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Shop just sounds like an awesome party.

The Learning Tea webpage

Weigh In

Would you go to India and start a charity?

What do you think of people like Katrell?

#853 Tiger Heart by Katrell Christie was originally published on One-elevenbooks

Burnham-Gracia, inspirational, Memoir, Merril-Dean, Non-Fiction

#817 In The Presence of my Enemies by Gracia Burnham

In The Presence of my Enemies by Gracia BurnhamIn The Presence of my Enemies by Gracia Burnham

Many of us probably don’t remember a lot that happened in 2011, besides the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, but more did happen that year. In that same year, Muslim extremists also kidnapped a large group of people from a resort in the Philippines. In that group was a married missionary couple, Martin and Gracia Burnham.

The Burnhams had lived in the Philipines for many years serving as missionaries. Martin was a pilot who would fly supplies and people from mission to mission and Gracia raised their children and manned the communications to Martin while he was in flight. They had decided to go on a trip for their honeymoon to a resort, but the resort did not end up being a relaxing get away that the Burnhams had planned.

They were rounded up from sleep and held at gunpoint. Martin didn’t even have a shirt. They were put on a boat, then another boat. They finally made it to land, but were marched, mercilessly, and fed little. They would move locations very frequently. Illness was a common thing for the Burnhams. The captors, who identified with a Muslim extremist group, wanted ransom from all their captives. They went down the list of captives asking who could come up with what money. When the Burnhams told their captors they were American missionaries, who were rather poor, the captors told them that they would be last. They would be political prisoners.

The months went on and on. Some people were ransomed, but not Gracia and Martin. They were fed poorly. Martin was without his glasses and often saw everything blurry. Fellow captives were beheaded, some of the girls were taken as mistresses to the captors.

Over a year after the Burnhams were kidnapped, one other woman and the couple remained. Ultimately, Gracia got out alive, but without her beloved Martin.

What I liked

Gracia’s story is harrowing. I cannot imagine being taken captive like that and then having to live like an animal for over a year. They were treated poorly and their captors believed what they did was right according to Islam. It just goes to show you that not everyone interprets religion correctly.

Gracia is much stronger in the situation than I would have been, I think. I’m stubborn, but I don’t know if I would have made it out alive. It’s so silly that someone would take another person.

What I didn’t like

I tried to find out more information about what happened to Gracia afterwards. I know she does some speaking events and there is a mission set up in honor of Gracia and her husband, Martin, but I don’t know a lot more than that. I really wanted to know how Gracia fared after all of this. The book seems to end rather abruptly. In biographies and memoirs, I like to have a little bit of a follow-up.


Gracia is certainly an admirable woman.

Weigh In

Would you have survived being captive for over a year in the jungle?

What do you think about groups who interpret religion to the detriment of anyone who isn’t as “devout” as they are?

#817 In The Presence of my Enemies by Gracia Burnham was originally published on One-elevenbooks

Gire-Ken, inspirational, Memoir, Non-Fiction

#815 Answering the Call by Ken Gire

Answering the Call by Ken GireAnswering the Call by Ken Gire

Most of us have probably never heard of Albert Schweitzer, including me. So who was Albert? Well, Albert was a doctor who spent most of his life in Africa doctoring people. He was also an accomplished organist. In addition to all of this, he also gave lectures.

When Albert and his wife married, they were off to Africa pretty soon. Albert had been told that there would be a hospital in the small African village he was going to, but there wasn’t. There was nothing. There was Albert’s house and a chicken coop that someone had abandoned. These were his only spaces to treat patients. He did just that. He saw patients on the porch.

He soon found out many quirks of natives. They wouldn’t eat food provided by Albert and his wife because they were afraid of poisoning. They also considered certain things fetishes. The cardboard name tags that they had to carry around as patients were never lost, because the people looked upon them as a fetish.

Eventually a hospital was built. Albert even helped design it. Albert and his wife were back and forth between Europe and Africa. They had a daughters. Life was okay, until the war came. The war brought short supplies to the hospital. At one point, Albert and his wife were even prisoners of war for some time.

Even after Albert’s wife died, Albert went right on doctoring people up. He received a Nobel Peace Prize for some of his work.

What I liked

I never knew Albert existed. So it’s nice to learn about someone like Albert. He was a man who devoted most of his life to other people. He was  good guy. It’s refreshing to hear about people with such dedication. He lived away from his family for years and years, in order to provide healthcare to people who really needed it. He saved all kinds of lives.

What I didn’t like

I liked the book, although, I do feel like I breezed through it much too fast.


Here’s to Albert, being a doctor, where doctors are needed.

Weigh In

Could you go live away from your family solely to help others?

Could you live helping others, and without the normal things we have in life–money, house, etc.?

#815 Answering the Call by Ken Gire was originally published on One-elevenbooks

Hollingsworth-Amy, inspirational, Non-Fiction, ponder provoking, Social Commentary

#802 The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Any Hollingsworth

The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Any HollingsworthThe Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Any Hollingsworth

Mister Rogers didn’t generally do interviews, but he decided to grant Any one. Maybe Amy expected a personality that differed from Mister Rogers’ television personality, but what she got was the same Mister Rogers everyone grew up with. A friendship continued after the interview and Amy learned how great Mister Rogers really was.

Letters followed and so did stories. Mister Rogers never wrote a memoir himself, so Amy hopes that this book will serve as something of a biography for him.

Mister Rogers was always a spiritual and sensitive man. He wanted children to know it was ok to feel emotions. He wanted kids to know they were worth something. He took the time to take each child’s request seriously. When a blind girl asked if he fed the fish everyday, because he didn’t always say he fed the fish, he started saying he was going to feed the fish.

He created a world of himself inside The Land of Make-believe. Each puppet seemed to be a different facet of himself.

He taught the author that it was ok to be sad and that it was ok to be quiet. Some of the best things can come from silence.

Ultimately, Mister Rogers had to quit his show and he did for, but several decades of children grew up to his even-toned voice. They learned about emotions and they learned to be better people.

What I liked

I, like seemingly everyone else who got PBS on their bunny ears, admire Mister Rogers. He was a great man. He made an impact on the world in a way that so many people can’t. There are preachers and ministers galore, but it was Mister Rogers, who spoke with a gentle voice, that made an impression on children. Children learned that their feelings mattered. It was ok to be sad. It was ok to be angry. This might be a lesson some people could take to heart these days. We are not ever-cheerful automatons.

This man brought a voice of reason and sanity to more than one generation of children. When crazy was all they knew otherwise, Mister Rogers was a constant. He always put on those shoes and that sweater. He always fed those fish.

What I didn’t like

I really would have liked if this book had been more strictly a biography. I like Any, but it would have been nice to know even more about his life.


Won’t you be my neighbor?

Weigh in

What impact, if any, has Mister Rogers had in your life?

Is Mister Rogers an example of how television can impact our lives positively, in your opinion?

#802 The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers by Any Hollingsworth was originally published on One-elevenbooks

Health, inspirational, Meyer-Joyce, Non-Fiction, Self-help

#754 Good Health Good Life by Joyce Meyer

Good Health Good Life by Joyce MeyerGood Health Good Life by Joyce Meyer

In this book Joyce Meyer outlines 12 keys for being a healthier person. She advises to start small and always remember that God can help you through any changes you’re trying to make in your life. She also outlines good goals procedures. It’s better to make easily definable goals and build on them.

What I liked

Unfortunately, I can’t get into a huge summary without really going into Joyce’s keys. Ultimately, it’s pretty simple, make a choice to be healthier and make small manageable goals remembering that God is on your side.

Joyce is religious and it definitely comes across in this book, but it’s not annoying. Joyce is able to be religious in a book without sounding patronizing or “holier than thou.” I haven’t read anything of Joyce’s before, and, yes, I do know who she is, and I was pleasantly surprised with her book. I even had to get up and go fill up my water bottle during the part of the book about drinking water. I feel like Joyce is a good motivational person, one that doesn’t make a person feel bad for themselves. I feel like Joyce has an eye on improvement that builds on a person, rather than trying to guilt a person into changing.

I feel like Joyce is more of an encouraging grandmother and that’s not a bad thing.

What I didn’t like

Joyce says never to get fries when you’re eating out in order to reduce refined carbohydrates. As if, Joyce. I mean, I try to eat healthy, but if I’m out, I’ll get fries. Fries are my favorite fast food. Wendy’s and McDonald’s have the best fries. I will almost always get fries when I’m out, unless I’m just particularly feeling a salad, actually, there are lots of times when I pick a steamed vegetable, or coleslaw, or green beans. There is only so much bland steamed broccoli a person can take though, at least season the stuff. Sometimes I’ll get a fry and a side salad at a restaurant and that will be my meal. In all honesty, if you do eat out a lot, it’s probably better to get something other than fries when you’re out. Get the dollar burger and the side salad, whatever.

You’re not going to find anything revelatory in this book. If you’ve read any self-help health improvement books, you will have heard many things like Joyce’s advice, but like I said, I do think Joyce is a little more encouraging in the manner that she presents her ideas.


Let’s all go eat an apple and drink more water.

Weigh In

Do you like Joyce Meyer?

Would you skip the fries?