Book Review: Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson

Book Review: Heaven is Here by Stephanie NielsonHeaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy by Stephanie Nielson
Published: April 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover (320 pages)
Genres: Memoir
Source: Library

 
Stephanie Nielson began sharing her life in 2005 on nieniedialogues.com, drawing readers in with her warmth and candor. She quickly attracted a loyal following that was captivated by the upbeat mother happily raising her young children, madly in love with her husband, Christian (Mr. Nielson to her readers), and filled with gratitude for her blessed life.

However, everything changed in an instant on a sunny day in August 2008, when Stephanie and Christian were in a horrific plane crash. Christian was burned over 40 percent of his body, and Stephanie was on the brink of death, with burns over 80 percent of her body. She would remain in a coma for four months.

What emerges from the wreckage of a tragic accident is a unique perspective on joy, beauty, and overcoming adversity that is as gripping as it is inspirational. Heaven Is Here is a poignant reminder of how faith and family, love and community can bolster us, sustain us, and quite literally, in some cases, save us.
4 Stars

Surprisingly, her emotional trials of mending her family relationships got to me more than her physical trials did.  On some levels Stephanie is not very relatable with her Leave it to Beaver life, but I found myself relating to her a lot when she was going through this trial of surviving burns on 80% of her body because I connected with her honesty, selfishness, guilt, and her eventual resolve to work hard and overcome.

beware-spoilers

Stephanie Nielson’s life sounds like a 50’s sitcom.  I think it was the freckles and apron that tipped me off.  I didn’t think it was a bad thing necessarily.  Maybe she’s not the most relatable person to read about, but she was certainly interesting to read about since her life was very different from mine.  Still, she has a simple love for simple things that was very catching.

I had learned that those doses of quiet joy like that can be brief, but their effects are long lasting and often carried me through the busy and challenging times of running our household.

 – Stephanie Nielson, Heaven is Here pg 10

She had a humor and honesty about the small annoyances in life that was fun to read about.  My favorite example of this was when she moved into a house and the previous owner said she left some things for her that she thought she would want.

What I believe she meant was that she decided to save time packing only half of her stuff, and leaving the rest for me to worry about.  In the bathroom we found an old bar of soap, a razor, toilet paper, women’s personals, and even her deodorant.

 – Stephanie Nielson, Heaven is Here pg 60

After reading about her perfect life (which honestly sounded to me more like a nostalgic look back on her lost life instead of bragging), it goes into the tragic plane crash that she survived.  Stephanie put this quote in the book as an introduction to part 2 which is all about her surviving and recovering.  I love this quote.

“There is in every true woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.”

– Washington Irving

I don’t know why, but the part where they scrape away the skin on her face makes me so sad.  Stephanie suffered burns on 80% of her body – including her face.  It’s so hard for me to imagine losing what I look like.

The doctors scraped away my skin to save my life.  It was a moment’s consolation to learn that they had paused before they took the knife to my face, before they carved away the tissued that had defined my facial features, before they scraped my beauty away.

– Stephanie Nielson, Heaven is Here pg 104

As hard as it was to live through her physical trials with her, I thought her emotional and family trials were much more difficult and it was those that really got to me.  Her fragile hope was heartbreaking.  All she wanted was to be a mother and her children were scared of her.  One child easily accepted her, one child didn’t recognize her and one child couldn’t be in the same room as her.  The parts that made me cry the most were her struggles reconnecting with her kids.  The saddest part was hearing her youngest, barely a toddler, pound on the front door and crying for mommy.  His aunt had taken care of him for so long that he called her mommy instead of his mom whom he didn’t recognize.  I can’t imagine what that would feel like as a mom to hear that.  Those moments and others like it yanked on my mommy heart strings.

She went through a near death experience.  I’m not usually a fan of those, but it was interesting reading about hers.  It’s brief in the book and it helped me see what she was going through and how close she was to dying more than once.

Her guilt was so raw and real.  Every mom experiences guilt and I could relate to her feeling guilty even though it wasn’t her fault.  She says that “I had done something awful–unforgiveable–to my sweet and innocent children (pg. 122).”  It seems ridiculous to feel that way, but as a parent I know my kids need me all the time for everything and being gone from my kids for 3 months, no matter the reason, would feel like an awful betrayal.

She was brutally honest about her feelings of selfishness and I admired that honesty.  Selfishness is definitely not accepted in our society but this experience made me wonder if maybe she needed to be that way to heal emotionally and physically.  Is there a right amount of selfishness?

On some level I realized how selfish it was to keep him out of my room.  I knew I was ignoring his needs and his emotional pain.  I was sorry for that, but not sorry enough to change my mind.

– Stephanie Nielson, Heaven is Here pg 125

Stephanie and her husband, who was also burned, seemed to have a magical love story.  When she was in a coma, her heart kept racing when her husband came in the room.  It was something straight out of a fairy tale.  Then later, when she is crying about going home because she literally can’t do anything and was worrying about who would cook dinner and fold the clothes, her husband says that he will do it.  He seems happy about it, too.  Just as long as they’re together it doesn’t matter who is doing what.  What a Prince Charming.

I was touched by the story of her husband being haunted by nightmares so their three-year-old son would come sleep in the room with his dad and the nightmares would go away.  It was such a bittersweet role reversal.  I loved her son Ollie’s forwardness, openness, and acceptance.  He’s the child that accepted her right away and I found him very endearing.  One of my favorite stories is of Ollie loudly telling people in the restaurant to stop staring at his mommy.

One of the inspiring things about Stephanie was when she realized that even though she had hit rock bottom and couldn’t even control her own body, she could control how hard she worked.  Hard work was all she had left.  Instead of refusing to do things, she didn’t give up.  Reading her blog now is inspiring in little ways to me.  I came across a post where she was doing a craft for Easter and you could see pictures of her burned hands.  It looked like it was difficult and painful for her to do the small details of it.  The thing that inspires me is not Easter crafts (I loathe crafting) but the fact that she decided to go back to doing the things she loved doing before her accident despite the fact that it was now much harder.  

When she wants to have another baby, I couldn’t help but think “Hasn’t your body been through enough?!” But I went to her blog and saw posts of her baby daughter’s 3rd birthday and how grateful they were to have her, I couldn’t help but be impressed that she continued to not just survive but to work hard for the things that she wanted.  I would like to hope that I would be that way, too.

I went back and read her blog posts about her pregnancy and the unique challenges she faced because of her burns.  At the end when she expereienced swelling, her skin on her legs couldn’t stretch and so the swelling went inwards and she said it felt like “like thousands of needles poking my skin all day“.  Reading honesty like that makes me feel grateful for things I had never thought to be grateful for.  I am so grateful right now for skin that can stretch on my body.

Content Rating: Everyone, clean read.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Stephanie Nielson

Stephanie Nielson

Stephanie Nielson was born and raised in Provo, Utah. She is the author of nieniedialogues.com, a popular blog about her life as a wife, mother, and Mormon. Stephanie lives in Provo with her husband and children.

 

Contest! Enter to Be A Character In A Book

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I’ve been helping Bree Despain market her new book over the past few weeks so book 3 in her new series would happen.  Good news! There will be a book 3 and I’m so excited!!  To celebrate, Bree has a contest going on at her blog.  Check out this message from Bree:

My big news: Yes, there will be a third book in the Into The Dark series! Carolrhoda Lab, an imprint of Lerner Books, will be publishing Book 3 (most likely in Fall 2016). That means Haden and Daphne will get the ending to their story that I always envisioned!

I cannot tell you how excited I am!!! So to show you, I am celebrating with a contest . . .
One lucky winner will receive the Grand Prize:

  • Have a character named after you in Into The Dark Book 3.
  • A Cupid’s Arrow Ring.
  • And because Daphne and Haden love music so much: a $25 iTunes giftcard.

Three runners up will win:

  • A Cupid’s Arrow Ring and an Into The Dark swag pack.

All you have to do to enter is solve the following anagram and then use the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

A SHARE UNTOLD

Hints:

  • 3 words
  • Reading THE ETERNITY KEY will help you solve the puzzle.
  • Daphne’s gifts.

Rules:

U.S. Residents only.

The contest is open for two weeks (so if you need a little help solving the puzzle, you have enough time to read THE ETERNITY KEY).

The winners names will be posted here on the blog on May 28th. Winners will have 30 days to claim their prize or else their prize will be forfeit.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

Book Review: Seedfolks by Paul FleischmanSeedfolks by Paul Fleischman
Published: 1997
Format: Paperback (102 pages)
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Source: Library

 
A vacant lot, rat-infested and filled with garbage, looked like no place for a garden. Especially to a neighborhood of strangers where no one seems to care. Until one day, a young girl clears a small space and digs into the hard-packed soil to plant her precious bean seeds. Suddenly, the soil holds promise: To Curtis, who believes he can win back Lateesha's heart with a harvest of tomatoes; to Virgil's dad, who sees a fortune to be made from growing lettuce; and even to Maricela, sixteen and pregnant, wishing she were dead.

Thirteen very different voices and perspectives—old, young, Haitian, Hispanic, tough, haunted, and hopeful—tell one amazing story about a garden that transforms a neighborhood.
3 Stars

This very short novel is a beautiful story about what it means to be a community and how a community comes from having something in common – even if it’s as small as a garden.  Each chapter has a different character and a different point of view about this community garden which made it feel more like a short story collection instead of a novel.  I enjoyed reading it in that format since it gave me a chance to see the garden in so many unique and interesting ways.  The cast of diverse and interesting characters was delightful.  One of my favorite characters was the old lady who kept drinking a tea made from flowers and her doctors told her not to.  She outlived all those doctors and would say their names like a “chapter in Genesis.”  I just love that!

When we discussed this book in book club, we wondered who the main character was since it was told from so many points of view.  I liked my friends idea that the garden was the main character since it changed and grew the most.  I also liked where the term “seedfolks” came from.  One of the characters talks about her ancestors who were the first black family in Colorado and she thought of them as her “seedfolk” since they planted their roots there for her.  This was a cute story about community and how we have more in common than we think.

Content Rating: Mild. It was a clean read and appropriate for a young middle grade audience.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 

About Paul Fleischman

Paul Fleischman

Paul Fleischman grew up in Santa Monica, California. The son of well-known children's novelist Sid Fleischman, Paul was in the unique position of having his famous father's books read out loud to him by the author as they were being written. This experience continued throughout his childhood.
Paul followed in his father's footsteps as an author of books for young readers, and in 1982 he released the book "Graven Images", which was awarded a Newbery Honor citation.
In 1988, Paul Fleischman came out with "Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices", an unusually unique collection of poetry from the perspective of insects. This book was awarded the 1989 John Newbery Medal. Factoring in Sid Fleischman's win of the John Newbery Medal in 1987 for his book "The Whipping Boy", Paul and Sid Fleischman became to this day the only father and son authors to both win the John Newbery Medal.

My Mailbox (59)

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My Mailbox is where I show all the books I’ve gotten by various means throughout the past four months.  The last time I did one of theses posts was January! I can’t believe it’s been that long.  As you can see, for four months worth of books I haven’t actually got that many. Hope you enjoy :)

I will be linking up with Mailbox Monday and Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.

Since I LOVE book cover art on my kindle, I took my own pictures of the covers of my ebooks.

This post contains affiliate links and I receive a small percentage of sales made through these links. 


I just have to comment on my new reading light. I love it!  It’s bendable and thin so it stays in place really well.  It has LED bulbs so the only thing I need to worry about is charging it and it charges with any USB outlet with that middle arm that has the two silver things on it.  It doesn’t have an indicator light to tell you when it’s fully charged and I really wish it did.  I usually leave it in for about an hour and call it good.  It also seems to have a shorter battery life than my reading light that is powered by an AA battery.  Still, it does last me about 5-6 hours before it needs to be charged again.   I’m really happy with it.  The best thing about it is how well it stays in place and how evenly it lights my book.

For our book club, we had a “spring cleaning” event where everyone brought books they didn’t want anymore.  The group picked through the ones that others had donated and took home the books they wanted to read.  The rest went to charity.  It was a lot of fun and I can’t believe how many awesome books I got!

My husband went on a trip to Atlanta and brought me back all kinds of Gone with the Wind goodies!

What books did you get recently?

Bree Despain’s Mythology Home Movie

Eternity Key Bree Despain

Bree Despain’s Into The Dark series is based on two of her favorite Greek myths: Persephone & Hades, and Orpheus & Eurydice. Both are stories about people who ventured into the dark (or the unknown) for the sake of love. Most people are more familiar with the Persephone myth than they are with the story of Orpheus and Eurydice so Bree decided to to make a little 4 minute movie version of the myth for anyone who might want a little refresher course on this tragic tale. The movie was written and directed by Bree’s 12 year old son and stars the members of her family–including Bree and all of her messy hair + no makeup glory. Enjoy!