Boondock Ramblings

Sunday Bookends:

Welcome to Sunday Bookends where I talk about what I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, doing, and sometimes what I’ve been writing.

What I’m Reading

I finished two books this week but I was almost done with both of them.

I finished The Rhise of Light by Max Sternberg (a Christian fantasy book) and my first Terri Blackstock book, Double Minds.

Double Minds was a raw look at the not-always-perfect world of Contemporary Christian Music and how even Christians fall into the trap of fame and power. That trap can lead to lies and murder, or at least it did in this fiction book. While I have had heard a couple stories about the lies and power traps within the Christian music community, I luckily have never heard of a murder case.

I am sure there are also many women in the industry who have struggled with the body issues that one of the characters in this book did. I’ve heard about Blackstock’s books before and how they are clean but also very honest and raw, not afraid to pull aside the curtain and show that Christians struggle like everyone else.

The Rhise of Light held my attention all the way through, even though I’m not usually a fan of fantasy books or movies. I posted a review of it yesterday.

This week I am continuing The Love Coward by Naomi Musch and am determined to finish Another Man’s Moccasins by Craig Johnson, since I have been interrupted by other books since I started it some three or four months ago.

After that I have a small list of books I need to read for book tours or reviews by mid-November or early December.

Those books include:

Saving Mrs. Roosevelt by Candace Sue Patterson;

A Convenient Risk by Sara R. Turnquist;

Heart of Stone by David James Warren (the last book in the Rembrandt Stone Series and oh my gosh I am sooooo excited I get to read it early!);

The Inn on Hanging Hill: The Beach House by Christy Barritt;

and Songs in the Storm: Wind River Chronicles by Kathy Geary Anderson (written by a woman in my writing critique group so I have actually already read this and I really enjoyed it. I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction, but I got caught up in the lives of these characters.).

What’s Been Occurring

This past week was a fairly relaxed week other than the cat drama I wrote about earlier in the week.

From Thursday to Friday our temperature dropped about 20 degrees and Little Miss ended up with her normal weather change sickness. She always develops a fever of about 101 when the weather changes, it lasts about a day, and it’s done.

About three weeks ago this happened but she had a legit cold because my son got it as well.

We went to a trunk-or-treat event in the town where my husband works yesterday and I only allowed Little Miss to go if she wore her mask, which she was fine with since it was part of her costume (Spider Gwen from a parallel universe). She was pretty tired from not sleeping well the night before but didn’t want to miss seeing her friends and getting candy. She immediately told her friends to “social distance!” in case she could get them sick.

What I’ve Been Writing

I’m working on The Next Chapter, but am taking a different approach than my last books. I am actually trying to develop lists for my characters so I know exactly where they are going in the story and why. The main reason for doing this with this book is that I have three point of views and therefore three character arcs I need to make sure develop, but also interconnect at some point in the book.

I am also trying my hand at a little bit of plotting, versus writing by the seat of my pants. I still don’t like strict plotting before I start writing, but with three POVs, I will need to have some idea of where the story is going to go as I write.

I’ve always been a bit of a hybrid writer, or at least since book three that is. I write my books mainly by the seat of my pants, but I also plan out chapters as I get going, writing down a few thoughts about what I want to happen in future chapters.

Last week, I didn’t share a ton on the blog. I wrote a post about our tree climbing cat and shared a chapter from The Next Chapter. I’m sure most of the chapters I am sharing will change  a ton before the book is finally published sometime in the spring.

What I’m Watching

I did not watch a ton this week. My husband and I started season four of Lovejoy (which I talked about last week).

What I’m Listening To

I listened more to Crowder’s new album Milk and Honey this week and love it.

So that’s my week in review. How about all of you? Reading anything good? Watching anything interesting? Let me know in the comments.

Book Review The Rhise of Light by Max Sternberg

Book: The Rhise of Light

Author: Max Sternberg

Genre: Christian Fantasy

Description: This is not your typical Christian Fiction story…

The entirety of living civilization stands on the very brink of death. Undead hordes have rampaged across the world. Determined to do his part, Leon Rhise left his wealthy father’s estate and chose to defend the last living kingdom by joining the military. It had seemed to be a good idea at the time.

After his career in the airship navy came to an abrupt end Leon arrived home, hoping for a warm reception. Instead, he was abruptly tossed out. Disowned, unemployed, and friendless. All hope seems lost. Then Leon discovers a mysterious relic, which opens up the possibility of him becoming a Judge: a hero of legend. One that has not been seen for centuries.

As Leon travels the road less taken his destiny converges with newfound companions, each one surrounded by mystery. Advised by strange beings in dreams and visions, Leon learns that the undead onslaught the world has suffered is part of a much larger problem. A solution can be found by learning about the forgotten being known as Adonai. But the world is ending, and time is running out.

Delve into a world that brings a unique twist and interpretation to faith-based high fantasy. With emotional highs and lows, certain peril, dysfunction, and humor; tough questions are asked, and answers will come to light.

My Review

Let me get this out of the way first: I don’t read fantasy, Christian or not. I just don’t do it. But I’d met the author of this book in an online writing group, and he seemed nice so I thought I should read it to support him. I dragged my feet on it. I did. I cannot lie. I was like a little child. I folded my arms across my chest, slouched down on the couch and pulled my hood down over my face.

I pushed my lower lip out. “I don’t like fantasy books. All those ridiculous names and magic and sword battles with fantastical creatures.”

I huffed out a breath and grabbed my Kindle. “Fine. I’ll try it, but only because Max is a nice guy.”

Now, after reading The Rhise of Light, I can’t say that I will keep reading fantasy, but I can say I will read more fantasy written by Max Sternberg.

The Rhise of Light is not only full of well-written prose and dialogue and good, smart fun. It is also deeply theological, thought-provoking, and spiritually moving.

I fell in love with the main characters, Leon, Miala, Duame, and Kelleren but then there were even more characters to fall in love with as the book went on.

Creative well-developed characters and his descriptions make you feel like you are right there and all the characters are alive and real – whether they are human, elf, dwarf, dog, or an undead zombie.

Sternberg paints a vivid image of the world Leon and his friends live in, so vivid that sometimes it is a bit scary, considering that when people die they immediately become undead zombies who want to kill everyone else, no matter how nice they were in life or how they died. The only way to kill them for good is to dispatch them a second time and often in a grisly way.

Sternberg doesn’t pull any punches in fight scenes, but he also isn’t overly graphic. He weaves humor in the midst of heavy and serious and touching in the midst of heartbreaking.

Perhaps you’re not a fan of fantasy either. Don’t overlook this one because of your preconceived notions. You might just be as surprised and as enchanted as I was with Sternberg’s debut novel.

Fiction Friday: The Next Chapter, Chapter 7 Part I

To catch up with the rest of the story, click HERE.

“I’m thinking of taking an art class at the community center,” Ginny said to Stan as she poured a glass of orange juice and set it next to his uneaten breakfast.

Or rather, she said it to the newspaper in front of his face.

Ginny had been thinking about what Sarah had said about her needing a new hobby when she’d hung a flyer on the announcement board the day before.

Sketching class. All ages. $35 for three classes, $15 per class afterwards. Wednesdays 7-9. Spencer Valley Community Hall.

Sarah was right. She did need a hobby. Something for herself. She’d attended a couple of the general art classes, but this was a class specifically about sketching. A more focused medium that she could focus on instead of focusing on how drab her life had become.

The art teacher, Alexandra Dupre, a name Ginny was convinced was fake, had handed the flyer to Ginny as she left the sewing class, asking if she would hang it in the library.

Ginny had taken a few art classes in college, but of course that had been decades ago now. It would be nice to try something new, get out of the house on those days when Stan was working late, which was almost every day lately. It would also be nice to have a normal conversation with other adults – adults that listened, unlike Stan.

She set a glass of juice next to her own plate and sat down. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s silly but I think I should pick up a new hobby, meet some new people.”

Stan reached around the paper, picked up his glass of orange juice and slurped it.

He slurped orange juice. He slurped soup. He slurped any liquid and sometimes he even slurped ice cream. Why did he do that? It drove Ginny crazy.

“Umm…yeah,” Stan mumbled. “Nice. Did you know that they are predicting a rise in prices for homes in this area in the next year thanks to the natural gas industry?”

 “I used to paint in college,” Ginny said, spreading grape jam on her toast.” Do you remember that?”

“Of course, the hard thing right now is trying to find a way to sell all that land the farmers are leaving behind,” Stan said. “The local farms are dropping like flies anymore. It’s sad.”

Ginny added creamer to her coffee and stirred it slowly, looking out the kitchen window at the neighbor’s bird feeder. “I think it will be good for me to try something different so I’m asking Sarah to close that night. She is the one who suggested it anyhow.”

 “I got a call about another farm up on Henderson Road. About 250 acres. Pretty sure we’ll have to break those acres up to sell them off.”

Ginny leaned against the counter. A blue jay landed on the bird feeder and flapped its wings at a chickadee. “I wonder if I’ll need to buy some extra supplies.”

Stan folded the paper, laid it down, and buttered his already cold toast. He crunched into it as he stirred creamer into his coffee. “I might can market it commercial, but that’s going to be a really hard sale. It isn’t on a major highway like the Drake’s farm out on 220 was. Still can’t believe they’re going to put another Dollar General there. Those things are popping up everywhere. They multiply like baby rabbits.”

Ginny dropped three drops of liquid Stevia into her coffee. “I think I might have some old paint brushes in the closet. Or maybe it’s the shed. Oh wait, I think I put them in the attic.”

Stan slurped his coffee again. “The farmhouse won’t be hard to sell at least. It’s beautiful. Who knows, maybe someone will have an idea how to farm the property again and it will sell as is. Maybe they could put some organic stuff out there. Organic food is popular with the younger generation these days.”

“I bet there are some canvases up there too,” Ginny said, sipping her coffee.

Stan took another bite of toast and made a face. “Welp, off to show that property out on 187.”

He snatched a piece of bacon off his plate, stuffed it in his mouth, and grabbed his briefcase from the chair next to the back door. “See you later tonight.”

He brushed his lips against Ginny’s cheek in a quick movement on his way toward the back door.

Ginny rolled her eyes as the door closed behind him. “So glad we had this talk.”

She had the morning off of work, but sadly she couldn’t enjoy a nice day of sitting on the back porch reading a book this time.

She made a face as she reached for the grocery list she’d tacked to the fridge. Grocery shopping. The activity she hated almost as much as washing dishes. She looked down at her stained shirt, realizing she’d dripped strawberry jam on it, and decided she’d better change.

Ten minutes later she looked at herself in the full-length mirror on the back of her bedroom door ten minutes later and winced. She was getting quite a belly. She turned to the side and grimaced. Her pants were hugging that belly like cellophane over a watermelon. She turned again, groaning. Just look at that. Her butt was the other side of the watermelon.

Maybe that’s why Stanley was so busy these days. Who would want to look at this all day if he didn’t have to? She couldn’t say she blamed him. Straightening her shoulders, she tried to suck in her belly and push out her chest.

Oh my.

Her chest was rushing toward her knees. Getting old was not for the faint of heart. Maybe she should take Hannah McGee up on that spinning class she’d invited her to. Ginny wasn’t exactly sure what spinning really meant but she hoped it was the spinning of stationary bike pedals and not some New Age activity involving spinning in place in the middle of the room. She hadn’t been able to spin in place for years; it always made her dizzy.

Of course, everything made her dizzy anymore.

Down in the kitchen Ginny reached for the grocery list she’d made after reading about a new diet in the Good Housekeeping. Surely eating more fruits and vegetables and less bread would help her lose some of those pounds she’d put on over the years. She touched the skin under her chin and sighed. Maybe it would also help her get rid of the gooseflesh she’d developed in various areas of her body as well.

Ginny couldn’t remember worrying about her weight much over the years, except after the birth of her children and once in college when she had gained the so-called “freshman ten,” which had been more like the freshman “twenty”. Before she hit middle-age she had lost the weight quickly, simply by walking more laps around the track at the high school and cutting out sweets. Now none of those tricks were working. She knew she’d have to step up her game if she wanted to see results.

Avocado

Fat free milk

Green leaf lettuce

Almonds

Salmon

Kale

B-vitamins

Grass-fed butter

Grass-fed beef

Coconut oil

Olive oil

Lean, organic chicken breasts

She looked at the start of her shopping list and sighed. It looked like eating healthy was going to be an expensive endeavor, but if Stanley could spend money on golf outings and an extra sports channel to watch the Cubs then she could spend money on getting healthy.

She finished the list and snatched up her purse, deciding now was a good of a time as any to do the shopping. Stanley was at work, and this was her one morning a week off from the library. She chose the larger, chain supermarket in town for her shopping, hoping they’d have some of the more eclectic items on her list. Inside the store she squinted in the bright fluorescent light, silently lamenting her ever-changing eyesight, including developing light sensitivity.

“Excuse me,” she said to the bored looking, 20-something year old blonde girl stacking apples in bins. “Can you tell me if this store carries —” she looked at her list, adjusted her glasses to the tip of her nose, and squinted again.  “Organic cassava flour?”

The girl turned, an apple in her hand, and wrinkled her nose. “Sounds foreign to me. Is it foreign? Because we have a foreign food section. Aisle 10.”

“I don’t know.” Ginny looked at her list again. “I suppose it could be foreign. I’ll look in that aisle.”

The girl turned back to filling the bin of apples, tossing them with a swift flick of the hand like she was in some kind of competition to see which move could bruise the fruit faster.

In aisle ten Ginny looked for the cassava flour but only found coconut milk from Thailand, which she decided to try, and corn tortillas that were supposed to be from Mexico but were actually made in Cleveland. She dropped both in her cart and when she looked up Liz was walking towards her, pushing a cart with a baby seat sitting snug on top.

“Escaped the library again, huh?”

Ginny smiled as Liz’s cart stopped next to hers. She leaned over to get a closer look at Isabella. “Only for a little while. It’s my morning off.” She kept her eyes on the soft features of the sleeping newborn for a few moments longer before looking at Liz. “You look a little more rested since I last saw you. Are you?”

Liz pushed a straight strand of dark hair behind her ear. “A little more yes. We managed to catch a couple three hour stretches last night. She woke up once to nurse and then we were both back to sleep. We didn’t even wake Molly this time. It was heavenly.”

Ginny remembered well the euphoria of experiencing long stretches of sleep after weeks of waking up once an hour, even though it had been 22 years since she’d last cared for a newborn full time.

“It must be nice to get out a little bit, even if it’s just to the store.”

Liz agreed and for a few minutes the women compared items in their cart, with Liz making a face at a few of the items, most of which she’d been exposed to at her job at the local health store.

“Linda carries the cassava flour in three-pound bags,” Liz said, tilting her head to look at Ginny’s list. “She also has coconut flour but that is much more fine and has a sweeter flavor.”

Linda was Liz’s boss at the health food store, which Ginny had stopped visiting the year before when Linda had suggested she purchase a pack of tarot cards along with her apple cider vinegar and gluten free bread.

Ginny slid her bifocals to the tip of her nose again to see the list better and was about to ask which flour Liz thought might spur on some weight loss, when a man’s voice filled the brief silence.

“Ginny? Is that you?”

Ginny looked up in surprise, her glasses still on the tip of her nose, and found herself starring into a pair of intensely green eyes. Her gaze drifted from the eyes to a charming smile and back to the eyes again. Was she supposed to know this good-looking man? More importantly, how did he know her?

“Um . . .yes?”

The man ran a hand across his rugged jawline and a dimple appeared at the corner of his mouth as he smiled.

“Ginny, it’s me,” he said with a small laugh. “Keith.” He raised a hand in Liz’s direction. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny caught a small smile from Liz.

“No problem,” Liz responded. “We were just discussing the price of tea in China.”

Keith grinned. “It depends on what kind of tea you want. Right now, it’s about $40 American for 500 grams of oolong. It’s a little less for black tea.”

Liz snorted a laugh, but Ginny simply stared. Her mind raced, trying to figure out how this attractive man knew her. He turned his attention back to her and an anxious buzz skittered across the skin along her arms as it hit her.

Keith? No. It couldn’t be. This couldn’t be Keith Sta —

“Stafford,” he said as if reading her mind. “Tell me I haven’t gotten so old you didn’t even recognize me, Ginny.”

It wasn’t age that had left her in the dark. It was placement. She’d never expected to run into Keith in a supermarket some 35 years after she’d last seen him. She knew exactly where she’d last seen him too. Standing on her parents’ front porch, his hands in his pockets, speaking to her through the screen door, begging her to come outside and speak to him.

 “Keith. I’m so sorry. It’s just, it’s —”

“Been such a long time. I know.” Keith laughed and her heart lurched at the familiar throaty timbre. “About 30 years since we last saw each other, isn’t it? And I’m sure I don’t look the same.” He shrugged a shoulder, grinning. “I’ve changed and probably not for the better.”

Ginny disagreed but felt it would be inappropriate to remark that his looks had only improved with age. “Now, Keith. That’s not true.”

He grinned and when he folded his arms across his chest Ginny noticed muscles rippling along his forearms. Apparently, he’d been working out. “You haven’t changed at all, Ginny Lynn.” Her face flushed warm as his gaze traveled the length of her, all the way down to her simple black flats, and back to her face again.  “You are as beautiful as ever.”

She laughed softly and shook her head, pulling her gaze from his and focusing on the handle of the cart instead. His appearance might have changed, but his ability to flirt certainly hadn’t. “Well, I don’t know about that, but it’s nice of you to say.” 

“I mean it. You look amazing. Truly.”

Ginny smiled. “Thank you, Keith.” She reached for another can of coconut milk to avoid making eye contact, completely forgetting Liz was still there until she heard the younger woman cough softly and say, her voice dripping with amusement, “Well, I should probably finish my shopping and let you two catch up.”

Ginny glanced at Liz, trying to catch her eye. Don’t you dare leave me, Liz. Not now.

“Oh, no need to leave on my account,” Keith said with a furrowed brow.

Yes, see, Liz, no need to leave on his —

“Actually, it’s almost feeding time for the little one so I really should finish up and head home before I have a screaming newborn, but thank you. It was nice to meet you.”

Keith flashed one of his charming smiles at Liz and held his hand out.

Liz took it, smiling away, clearly not sensing Ginny’s inner panic. “You too, Keith.”

Keith stepped aside as Liz pushed her cart past him and glanced into the car seat. “Oh my. Beautiful baby you have there.”

Liz threw a smile over her shoulder and thanked him while Ginny frantically searched her brain for a way to convince Liz to stay. When no ideas came, she turned her attention to Keith who was obviously interested in small talk by how he said, “So, how’s life been treating you all these years?”

Ginny loaded two more cans of coconut milk into her cart. “Good. It’s been good.” She wished she’d had a more exciting life story to share with him. “Taught middle school for 20 years and now I’m the town librarian.”

“That’s great.” His eyes were intently focused on her, sending warmth spreading up the back of her neck. “Married, I’m guessing?”

“Of course.” Ginny raised her left hand to show her wedding ring, then remembered she’d removed it the other day because it was digging into her swollen finger. “Oh. Well, the ring is usually there, but . . .well, I had to take it off to — uh —”

Keith grinned. “It’s okay, I believe you. So, who’s the lucky guy?”

“Stanley Jefferies.”

Keith’s eyebrows raised. “Ah, so you two did end up together after all.”

“Yes.” She nervously fingered her necklace.

“Glad to hear you two made it,” Keith said. “I married a woman I met in college, but, well, as things go sometimes, we divorced last year.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“I’m not.” Keith laughed, shifting his basket from one hand to the other. “Divorcing her was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve never felt so free. I decided to move back here to my hometown, buy a cabin, and run my business from there.”

“Oh, what business are you in?”

“Software development. My partner and I started it about ten years ago. Before that I worked for Microsoft. I fly out to L.A. once a month to touch base, more if I’m needed.”

Ginny tightened her grip on the shopping cart, feeling suddenly even more fat, old, and boring next to Keith, who was as handsome and charming as he’d always been, definitely led a more successful life, and had obviously been keeping in better shape than her. His T-shirt pulled against a firm, flat stomach, short sleeves revealing well-formed upper arms as he reached up on a shelf for a carton of organic chicken broth.

“You ever use this? It’s great for flavoring chicken dishes.”

“Oh yes. I have.” Had she? She really couldn’t remember. Why had she said she had? She looked away, cleared her throat. “Well, I should get going. I’m buying so-called healthy food so I should probably head home and figure out how to cook it.”

Keith nodded, flashing that captivating smile again. My goodness his teeth were straight.

“I understand that. I’m trying to eat healthier too.” He patted his stomach, as if there was something there to pat other than a clear six pack. “Let me know if you need help on figuring out some recipes. I’d be glad to help. My ex was a horrible cook, so I did most of the cooking. Hey, here.” He reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out his cellphone. “Give me your number. I’ll text you so you’ll have my number if you need it.”

Ginny felt uneasy, yet flattered, that Keith was asking for her number. She gave it to him and watched as he typed it in his phone then sent her a quick text. “There. Now you have my number too. I hope to hear from you sometime. It would be great to get together with you and Stan for dinner one night. I’d be glad to do the cooking.”

Ginny moved a strand of hair that had fallen from her ponytail from her forehead to behind her ear. “Sounds good.”

After they’d said a goodbye and Keith left, she mentally chided herself for being so awkward.

Sounds like a plan? What sounds like a plan? Does anyone even say that anymore? Oh, my word I’m such a loser.

She tried to finish the rest of her shopping trip without remembering how Keith’s muscles had rippled under his shirt or how confident and laid back he’d looked when he’d pushed his hand back through silver flecked brown hair, laughing easily as they talked.

Keith Stafford. The boy who stole her heart in the tenth grade and broke it in eleventh grade. She’d never forget how he’d made her feel, first elation with a pounding heart, then hurt with crushing rejection. It had been Stan who had rescued her the last half of her junior year, mainly by being her friend and simply asking her to walk with him, go to the movies, or visit the arcade.

She let out a quiet breath as she walked briskly toward the checkout line. Stan was different now, of course, but they all were. People change, including her. Changes were what life was all about, whether she liked it or not.

Her phone dinged as she waited in line. Sliding it out of her purse she smiled at Liz’s text.

Do I need to come rescue you? I just finished loading my groceries, but I can rush back in and chase that man away from you if you need me to.

Ginny laughed softly and quickly responded. Already rescued myself, but thanks anyhow.

Liz texted again. Not that you looked like you really wanted to be rescued  . . .

Oh, yes, Liz. Yes, I did want to be rescued, she thought, but didn’t text it back. Instead, she told Liz to have a good day and she’d stop by soon with an extra baby carrier she’d found in the garage.

Once upon a time the cat went up a tree and  . . . had to be rescued by the fire department

I’m sure I’ve written before on here about our young cat and her propensity to climb trees. She’s escaped the house and bolted up a tree probably 10 in the last year we’ve had her. Usually, she comes down on her own in an hour or so. We worry every time, but we’ve grown accustomed to worrying and having her come sauntering up to the house later in the day or evening.

Here she is in our small tree in our side yard a couple of weeks ago.

 We also usually know when she’s left the house. Monday, though, we realized something was amiss when none of us could find her in the evening. My son had two friends over and my son remembered the kitten (who is no longer a kitten technically), Scout, had run into the basement when his friend had come over. He went to look for her, but she wasn’t there. We looked in all her normal nap places and figured she’d come out eventually. After an hour or so, she didn’t, so I went outside and called for her. She didn’t come but I thought I heard her meow. I went back inside and tried again an hour later. Still, nothing.

Around 9 p.m., I tried again and this time I clearly heard her meowing. I knew then she’d got herself stuck up a tree. My husband, my son and his friends grabbed flashlights and worked on finding her. We found which tree, could hear her, but couldn’t see her at first. She wasn’t coming down and my husband had to go to bed because he had to work early the next morning. Everyone went inside but I went out another time to see if I could convince her to come down. When I went out, I turned the flashlight upward and saw green glowing eyes looking at me like a specter some 40 feet up. She’d made it all the way to the top of the tree somehow. Her eyes looked either like stars in the sky or something other worldly.

In that moment, I had a sinking feeling I might not see her alive on the ground again. She seemed unable to move to get down and I knew none of us could get up. I went to bed but couldn’t sleep. I kept looking out the window at the tree, hoping I would see her at the bottom, strolling toward the house, like she so often did. Instead, I found my son at 12:30, sitting under the tree, looking heartbroken. He was blaming himself for her getting out, even though he’d never opened the door from the basement to the outside.   I tried to sleep but woke up a couple of times to look out the window.

My son’s photo of her way up there in the tree. This is zoomed in.

After my husband got up, our neighbor, who is on the town council, saw him looking up the tree, knew what was going on (since he’s witnessed us looking up trees for this cat very often), and offered to have the fire department stop over.

My brother had said the night before that we should call the fire department, but the first time this happened with her, I’d searched online and learned that is a no-no these days. Fire departments, especially volunteer departments, don’t have time to be retrieving cats from trees. They’re too busy working their other jobs and only get called out for real emergencies. There have apparently also been a number of incidents of firefighters being injured rescuing cats and I certainly didn’t want that to happen in our case.

The guy from the borough (that’s what towns are called in Pennsylvania), a member of the fire department, my neighbor, and my husband and I were eventually all staring up the tree. The fire chief (I think he was the chief anyhow) shrugged a shoulder and said, “Eh, cats usually come down on their own after a while.” But he added, “If she doesn’t come down by this afternoon, let us know and we’ll bring the truck over.”

The borough man (I’m not giving his real name because I don’t have his permission) told me he’d swing by a couple of times during the day to see if she’d come done. I thanked him and headed back upstairs because I had slept wrong, bending my neck oddly, and had a horrific headache. Later in the morning, I went down to the tree and sat, eating some cereal, and talking to Scout, hoping it would coax her down. She came down a couple of limbs but panicked and scampered up again.

I didn’t feel like sitting out there with my neck feeling so awful, so I went back in, did a few things inside and made a salad. I headed back out and that’s when the guy from the borough drove up in his truck and said something along the lines of, “The ladder truck’s behind me.”

Oh man.

I was so embarrassed that they were bringing their big, expensive truck up to save our small cat, but there they were. It was in that moment, much like the moment on Labor Day when the town’s ambulance came to take my daughter to the emergency room, I was grateful for small towns and how kind the people in them can be. We have a town of 600 people and what they say about small towns taking care of their own really is true.

The entire time they were there, I kept worrying that someone would need the fire truck while they were up here rescuing our cat, but they assured me they would head out if they got a call. Luckily it was only the man from the borough and one volunteer fireman but then the ambulance pulled up. I was so nervous that they were there in case the fireman fell off the ladder. The ambulance crew did have to leave on a call, backing down our street to get there. I hope they got to the call in time.

The fireman had a heck of a time with Scout who swatted at him several times. He was wearing heavy gloves and his heavy fireman’s coat and I thought he would just reach out and grab her but I think he was afraid with the way she was squirming that he’d dropped her. Plus she has huge stinking paws since she is a polydactal.

So he and his fellow volunteer firefighter (the borough man I mentioned before) devised a plan to convince her to crawl down on her own.

He found a blanket and swatted at her repeatedly until she started to back down the trunk of the tree. This worked for about ten minutes and then she got pissed and ran right back up to the branch she felt safe on. So then he started shaking the top of the tree and using the blanket. He was trying these tactics and others for a good 40-minutes and I was more embarrassed with each minute that passed.

These men had other jobs they were taking their time away from. I tried to tell them to just leave her up there. I don’t think they wanted a small cat to defeat them, though. My son and his friends and my daughter were watching, as well, and I don’t think they wanted to disappoint them.

Either way, Scout finally started to scoot her way down the tree, hissing and yelling at the guy the whole time. We even got a broom handle for him to poke at her with. She started to fall a couple of times so I went to the bottom of the tree and had The Boy come with me. Once she was low enough to reach her with our ladder, The Boy climbed up and yanked her off the limb and into his arms.

I felt a mix of emotions. I felt relief and joy that she was alive, yes, but I also felt insanely annoyed at her for causing so much drama and I started contemplating giving her away, while simultaneously being unable to imagine our house without her.

I profusely thanked the firefighters while my son took her to her upstairs bathroom and locked her inside with food and water so she could recover. They told me it was no problem and that’s what they do as volunteers. Excuse me as I get a bit teared up at this because we often take our public servants for granted. They sacrifice a lot to be there for us and I am extremely grateful for their willingness to serve, either for no pay or for very little.

It’s true that each cat has their own personality and that they do become like members of the family. Our all-black cat, Pixel, can be super moody and smack or bite if you touch her wrong and she will tear up the backdoor if we don’t let her out when she’s ready. But, she’s also a cuddler when the weather gets colder – if only for about 5-10 minutes and she waits for us to turn the water on for her in the bathroom so she can take a drink from it, scowling at us if it isn’t set at the right velocity for her.

Scout, on the other hand, is like a 9-year-old child with occasional ADHD. I hope this doesn’t come out as rude because I know children and adults with ADHD, or have known them, and they are some of the coolest, smartest people. What is neat about them is that they can be super hyper one minute and then incredibly laid back with a “whatever” attitude the next. Scout is like that. One minute she’s chasing the dog or darting out the back door and the next she’s looking at us with half-open eyelids from the couch, bored out of her mind by us. I suppose some of that simply describes all cats, but it is also uniquely Scout.

Scout was still a stinker after her rescue. You think she would have learned her lesson or at least acted appreciative of all the effort to rescue her, but nope. She scowled at me when I went to check on her in the bathroom and then stood by the door and looked at it like, “Excuse me. Why am I not being allowed out to strut around my domain again?” I still had friends of my son to take home and I knew I couldn’t trust her not to try to run outside again.

This distrust was further proven to be correct the next day (yesterday) when she rushed to the backdoor to escape every time we opened it.

She must have learned a little something from spending an entire, 36-degree night, in a tree because she seemed much more affectionate that night and the next morning. I found her on top of my dresser the night after her rescue and she purred as soon as she saw me and gave my hand a good cleaning while I petted her. Sometime in the wee hours of yesterday morning I felt her nose against my nose.

I was too tired to open my eyes, but felt her rubbing her head against my face and mouth and heard the purr. I could tell she was trying to flop herself between my head and the pillow. I vaguely remember reaching up and petting her in the darkness and would have thought it was all a dream if I hadn’t woken up with her curled up in her favorite spot on the pillow opposite my head.

As for solutions for preventing all this from happening again, we are mulling our options. We could declaw her, but then she will be defenseless if she slips out again. Other solutions include at least trimming her claws, putting a collar with a bell on it so we hear her if she runs out and can hear the bell when we go to look for her, and placing chicken wire around the bottom of the two bigger trees around us so she can’t run up them as easily. If any of you have any other ideas, please feel free to let me know in the comments.  

For now we’ll just keep an eye on her because while we love her, we have a sinking feeling she might be possessed in some way. We may need to do an exorcism at some point.

Sunday Bookends: Do you listen to podcasts? Suspense novels and remembering when Doctor Who was a good show

Welcome to Sunday Bookends where I talk about what I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, doing, and sometimes what I’ve been writing.

What I’ve Been Reading

Up for reading this week is The Rhise of Light by Max Sternberg, which I will finish this week, Double Minds by Terri Blackstock in hardcover, and The Love Coward by Naomi Musch on Kindle. 

I also need to catch up on Blood Brothers, which I am supposed to be reading with my son. He is reading this book for his social studies/English. Here is a description of this important book, written in 1984:

As a child, Elias Chacour lived in a small Palestinian village in Galilee. When tens of thousands of Palestinians were killed and nearly one million forced into refugee camps in 1948, Elias began a long struggle with how to respond. In Blood Brothers, he blends his riveting life story with historical research to reveal a little-known side of the Arab-Israeli conflict, touching on questions such as: -What behind-the-scenes politics touched off the turmoil in the Middle East? -What does Bible prophecy really have to say? -Can bitter enemies ever be reconciled? Now updated with commentary on the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as a new foreword by Lynne Hybels and Gabe Lyons, this book offers hope and insight that can help each of us learn to live at peace in a world of tension and terror.’

Double Minds is a suspense book in the Christian genre and so far, it’s holding my attention, even though I’ve repeatedly been interrupted while reading it and even loaned it to my mom at one point while I was reading books for book tours. Yes, I do read suspense from time to time. The two genres I don’t read much of are Science Fiction and Fantasy. I can’t seem to keep up with the characters in most of these books since they often deal with aliens or fantastical creatures with strange names and histories.

Little Miss and I are reading These Golden Years, book eight of the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder at night. During the day we are reading Toliver’s Secret for social studies/English.

What I’m (We’re) Listening To

I was forced to buy a new phone since I share my Apple account with my son and he fills my phone with photos and memes. My phone had very little memory and was also starting to wig out when I wanted to make calls. My old phone became a “game phone” for Little Miss so now she can play her games on it and I can have my phone for things like listening to podcasts. I don’t listen to podcasts often, but I hope to more now. 

My husband listens to a lot of podcasts. A blogging friend and I were talking about her love for all things dark and mysterious (but not too gory) and I told her my husband likes a lot of podcasts that deal with murder mysteries or darkish things. I snagged a list for her and thought I’d share it here as well. His podcast list of mystery type podcasts: 

Death of A Starlet

The Burned Photo

Love Is A Crime

The Plot Thickens

Murder in Hollywoodland

The Black Dahlia Serial Killers

Murder Book by Michael Connelly 

You Must Remember This 

Roanoke Falls

As for me, my podcasts are much less exciting or suspenseful. My list is much different than my husband’s, though he listens to a couple of the same ones I do, including Unashamed with Phil and Jase Robertson. My other podcasts include The Andrew Klavan Show (only when I can handle political things and lately I haven’t watched, read, or listened to politics because my nerves are shot), Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram, Story Chats with InspyRomance, The Basically Bookish Podcast, The Matthew West Podcast, Novel Marketing Podcast, Marriage Today, Elevation Church, and Laugh More with the Skit Guys. 

What podcasts do you listen to? Let me know in the comments.

In addition to podcasts, I’ve also been listening to a new-to-be band called We The Kingdom.

What We’ve Been Watching

Last night I forced my son to watch Armageddon with me, not because I liked it, but because I hated it and I wanted him to hate it too. We had a blast making fun of it for about an hour but just couldn’t stomach it anymore after that. My son made some hilarious jokes during it but mainly was baffled by how some of the things that blew up did blow up. If you don’t know the movie, it is directed by Michael Bey. If you don’t know Michael Bey, he makes films where there are constant explosions and special effects. So many explosions, in fact, that, as my son said, they can’t afford writers for the movies he directs so the movies have no plot.

When my husband came home from a work assignment, we watched a couple of Lovejoy episodes, one of them a mystery that took place in Prague.

The show follows Lovejoy, an antique dealer who has a penchant for getting in trouble, his sidekicks Eric and Tinker, and Lady Felsham who is married but with whom he has sexual tension with for much of the series.

We just started series four so I’ll be anxious to see how that friendship goes or if they simply write her off like so many British shows do.

The Boy and I also watched several episodes of the 11th Doctor of Doctor Who over the last couple of weeks. Watching Matt Smith as The Doctor reminded me of the days when Doctor Who was good. Sadly, they made the show a feminist soap box when they made The Doctor a woman because we all know a woman can’t be a lead in a show without being a preachy woman who has a cause to fight against, especialy in science fiction or fantasy. God forbid she just be allowed to fight aliens, or have space adventures. No, she has to preach for women’s rights or make a statement against racism. In my humble opinion, the lastest series of Doctor Who is the worst I have ever seen and I have been watching it since the 80s. It’s also extremely sexist to me to make a female Doctor a champion of women’s rights instead of just a fun, interesting character. If how the female Doctor was written doesn’t show that the male writers of shows like Doctor Who aren’t sexist, then I don’t know what is. They couldn’t simply let her have fun — she had to be working to fight a cause and preach to viewers too. Gah. Drives me nuts.

So you can remember the “good ole’ days” of Doctor Who (of the modern era anyhow) here is a clip of Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor.

And here is when my two favorite Doctor incarnations met in the 50th anniversary special.

Please ignore Clara in this clip. This is about the time I was waiting for her to die.

And here is the Doctor I grew up on.


What’s Been Occurring

I took the youngest to a science camp this week, getting up at what felt like the crack of dawn since it was so foggy outside and for the entire 35-minute drive there.

With the fog . . .
When the fog lifted about an hour later . . .

She learned about building and how animals in the wild build homes to protect themselves. While she was learning, I wandered and took some photos of the changing leaves, but not a ton since our leaves never did turn pretty colors but instead turned mainly brown, died, and fell off around us. There were a few pretty oak leaves around us there so I took photos of them.

After the event, Little Miss surprised me by asking me to go home with a friend. She rarely does that since she’s a Mama’s Girl and likes to stay home with me. She spent the afternoon with them and we picked her up later in the evening. Her dad picked her up and when she came up to me she ran up, threw her arms around me, and declared she thought I had abandoned her because I hadn’t shown up at the exact time she thought I would. Apparently, she missed me after all.

It was very weird driving home without her. Weird and a little bit lonely. This is the road I used to travel every day for six years when I went to high school 20-minutes away from where I lived:

This doesn’t really show how windy and twisty it is but every day, for a good 90 minutes after I got to the school, I was car sick after the bus ride. You would think after that many years my body would have gotten used to it, but it never did. I still get sick on this stretch sometimes, or at least am left feeling dizzy.

I did not pass this property evey day on my way to school, but I have passed it hundreds of times over the years and always love the view.
These gorgeous wildflowers were along the road as I drove home all alone from the science class.

We have one more of these science classes in a couple of weeks and then we won’t have any more homeschool-related outings for much of the winter, since we are not part of any local co-ops. There isn’t a local co-op, other than one where we used to live, about 45 minutes away.

So that is my week in review.

How about all of you? Let me know what you are reading, listening to, watching, and have been doing in the comments, and if you want to join in some week, feel free to right-click on the graphic below and join in.

Sunny (The Weather Girls Book One). Book Review with Celebrate Lit

About the Book

Book: The Weather Girls: Sunny

Author: Jennifer Lynn Cary

Genre: Christian Historical Romance

Release date: September 6, 2021

TheWeatherGirls1 Sunny Cover

She got stood up on Valentine’s Day…

…Then she lost her job

Could the legend of the cardinal change her luck?

With a disposition as bright as her name, Sunny shakes it off the worst day of her life and makes a new start. She’s got the brains that it takes, but she’s more than a little scared. It’s not just her reputation on the line.

Would this cockeyed adventure be the thing her siblings need too?

Pat only wants peace in the family and never dreamed doing a favor for his sister could drop him into so much hot water. Torn between what he’s always wanted and what is staring him in the face, someone is bound to get hurt.

Odds are it will be him.

But then, only the cardinal knows for sure.

Return to 1970 Indiana with Sunny, the first book in The Weather Girls series—get into the miniskirts, bell-bottoms, and Christian family values.

You’ll love Sunny for the music, the fashions, and the hilarious antics, because who can resist a romantic trip down memory lane?

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

If you are looking for a light read with minimal conflict, then Sunny (The Weather Girls Book One) is the book for you. The story takes place in 1970 with Sunny Day as the main character. Yes, that’s right, her name is Sunny Day, much to her embarrassment. Her sisters are named Stormy and Windy Day and when Sunny ends up starting a new endeavor it isn’t long before she has help from family and a new handsome friend, Pat Whitcomb, of the very well-known Whitcomb family. 

I fell in love with the characters, which were well developed, and felt like people I might know myself. Sunny and her sisters supported each other through each trial, showing a close-knit family, but not one without flaws and heartache. There isn’t a large focus on the heartache, though, making this book mostly light-hearted and touching. Humor and romance are sprinkled throughout. I’m a sucker for a book with a meddling grandmother and this one definitely has one and Gramma is one of the brightest spots of the book, besides Sunny herself.

The only aspect of the book which left me a little confused was that there was very little to no mention of a relationship with Jesus throughout the book until it was thrust upon the reader suddenly and in a somewhat awkward way with what I felt was an abrupt “salvation scene.” I don’t disagree with the scene’s content in any way, I just felt it could be written in a little bit more of an organic way. I do not, however, feel that this took away from the book overall and I am looking forward to snatching up a copy of the next book, Stormy, which focuses on the story of Sunny’s sister and is already available on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited (at the time this review was written anyhow). 

I was given a complimentary copy of this book to review in exchange for an honest review. I give it a 4 out of 5.

About the Author

Jennifer Lynn Cary likes to say you can take the girl out of Indiana, but you can’t take the Hoosier out of the girl. Now transplanted to the Arizona desert, this direct descendant of Davy Crockett and her husband of forty years enjoy time with family where she shares tales of her small town heritage and family legacies with their grandchildren. She is the author of The Crockett Chronicles series and The Relentless series as well as the stand-alone novella Tales of the Hob Nob Annex Café and her recent split-time novel The Traveling Prayer Shawl.

More from Jennifer Lynn

I was born in the 50’s, grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, and married in 1980. I relate to K.T. Oslin’s song “80’s Ladies” a little too well. 😉

Though we moved from Kokomo, Indiana in 1972, it always will be my hometown.

A few years ago my sister headed up a plan to have an annual Cousin’s Reunion in Kokomo. Two cousins came from Ohio and my sister and I came from the west to converge on our family who still call Kokomo home. Each trip back reminded me of how much I loved growing up there.

One day Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” came on the Oldies station and caught my attention. Then I remembered the songs “Stormy” and “Windy” and wondered what it might be like for girls with that sort of name—especially if their surname was Day. Would their dispositions match their names? Why would their parents give them those names? The questions kept coming and I fell in love with the whole storyline.

The best part was putting the house I grew up in into the book(s). Yep, as you read the story, Hazel Day’s house is set up mostly like the one where I grew up only I added a den and an extra bedroom upstairs.

Ferguson House is based on the Seiberling Mansion—I love that place and tour it every chance I can when I get back to Kokomo. It’s amazing.

I also included favorite landmarks. Scotty’s Drive-In saw a lot of me in my early teen years. Great for grabbing a coke and not that far from either school or home.

The funny thing about memories is that they can blur and morph over time. Thankfully someone from my hometown has put together a Facebook page where I can ask questions and get more than enough answers.

Many locales I remember no longer exist, so writing about them helps them live on.

I hope you will check out Sunny and 1970 Kokomo and come back for the rest of The Weather Girls trilogy.

Abundant blessings!

Blog Stops

Blogging With Carol, October 6

CarpeDiem, October 6

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 7

By the Book, October 8

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, October 9

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 10

The Author Reads, October 10

Texas Book-aholic, October 11

Inklings and notions, October 12

Boondock Ramblings, October 12

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 13

Connie’s History Classroom, October 14

For Him and My Family, October 14

Batya’s Bits, October 15

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, October 16

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, October 16

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, October 17

deb’s Book Review, October 18

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, October 18

Vicky Sluiter, October 19

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, October 19

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Jennifer is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon card with signed copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/11fdc/the-weather-girls-sunny-celebration-tour-giveaway

Sunday Bookends: Movies about death, books about the undead, and dying leaves but still hope in Christ

Welcome to my weekly Sunday Bookends post where I rambling about what I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, writing and doing.

What I’ve Been Reading

I finished Sunny: The Weather Girls Book One this week. It was an okay book. Very simple and sweet with a totally out of place “conversion” scene tossed in at the end, as some Christian fiction books do. I will have a review up for it Tuesday, since it is part of a book tour.

I am in the middle of The Rhise of Light by Max Sternberg and enjoying it.

Last week I neglected to share the description for it and thought I would do so this week. It is a Christian fantasy novel.

The entirety of living civilization stands on the very brink of death. Undead hordes have rampaged across the world. Determined to do his part, Leon Rhise left his wealthy father’s estate and chose to defend the last living kingdom by joining the military. It had seemed to be a good idea at the time.

After his career in the airship navy came to an abrupt end Leon arrived home, hoping for a warm reception. Instead, he was abruptly tossed out. Disowned, unemployed, and friendless. All hope seems lost. Then Leon discovers a mysterious relic, which opens up the possibility of him becoming a Judge: a hero of legend. One that has not been seen for centuries.

As Leon travels the road less taken his destiny converges with newfound companions, each one surrounded by mystery. Advised by strange beings in dreams and visions, Leon learns that the undead onslaught the world has suffered is part of a much larger problem. A solution can be found by learning about the forgotten being known as Adonai. But the world is ending, and time is running out.

Delve into a world that brings a unique twist and interpretation to faith-based high fantasy. With emotional highs and lows, certain peril, dysfunction, and humor; tough questions are asked, and answers will come to light.

I am really enjoying the fourth book in the Craig Johnson Longmire series, despite having started it two or three months ago. I haven’t taken on any other books for the rest of the month, into November, so I should have plenty of time to finally finish it this week. Yes, the Longmire books are much different than what I write or usually read.

Little Miss and I are reading Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder at night and Toliver’s Secret by Esther Wood Brady for her school during the day. Now that we are on book seven of the Little House series, it is interesting to see how Wilder’s writing progressed from her first book. There is much more description in the later books, as well as a lot more introspection on the part of Laura.

I do have to wonder though, if the story about Laura’s future sister-in-law Eliza Jane being so mean to her when Eliza Jane was her teacher was true or not. After looking up some information about Eliza Jane, I found it interesting that she passed away before Laura finished her series. Maybe that was why Laura felt comfortable writing about how mean Eliza Jane was too her. Of course, a lot of Laura’s books were only based on fact, not completely factual, so maybe she elaborated that story for the sake of the fictional Laura’s story.

If the story was true and Laura had to see Eliza Jane at family gatherings, I would imagine that was a bit awkward, to say the least.

The Boy is reading Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour, which is a book about Palestine around the time that the nation of Israel was established, for school.

What We’ve Been Watching

I’ve been watching The Elliot Sisters, which is chocked full of drama every episode. I can’t seem to look away, even though the drama is a bit silly at times. The one sister seems always to fall for a man who is at risk of dying and the other sister is often overly, and illogically, dramatic and uptight about the simplest of things. But the acting is good, it is very clean, and it is a nice distraction from the craziness of the world.

Another nice distraction is the show Lovejoy, a British show about an antique dealer who seems to always get himself mixed up in some kind of trouble. I usually watch that with the Hubs.

The Boy and I finished up Paul, Apostle of Christ, a movie I encourage all Christians to watch. I assigned it to The Boy for his Bible lesson this past week. It stars Jim Caviezel as Luke from the Bible as he tries to record the words of Paul before he is executed in Rome.

The movie includes an underlying story of Christians being persecuted by Nero as well as the story of the jail keepers daughter dying from an illness. This a complex movie that is not your traditional “Christian” movie in other words.

The Boy and I were watching a scene when a woman comes in to the Christians in hiding, covered in blood. They ask her where she is hurt and she says, “This is not my blood. It is the blood of my baby.” The Romans had killed her husband and baby and only she was able to escape. My son looked at me and said, “Daaang. They aren’t pulling any punches in this one.”

And they do not. From Christians used as torches to light the streets of Rome to Paul being brutally beaten and whipped, this is real life at it’s most raw and horrific. Yet in the end you will find hope. A hope that does not come without trials, just as Paul told us in his letters.

What’s Been Occurring

Last week Little Miss had two days to celebrate her birthday. We took her to a fall event at a local camp on her actual birthday and then she had a party at our house on Sunday.

After that we had a very regular, routine week of school and life. We watched the majority of leaves around us turn brown and fall off, which was rather depressing. We did take one day to seek out some pretty leaves and found a few laying in our yard and a few on a couple of maple trees around us.

The large maple tree in front of our house that usually showcases lovely red leaves instead turned brown and looks awful. It’s a bit depressing, actually.

Our one adventure this week was when the kitten escaped and was gone for several hours. We had just decided that she had been eaten by a wild animal when she sauntered up the driveway toward me, running at first, then slowing down and flopping on her side to let me know she didn’t give a fig that she’d completely freaked us all out.

She’s now grounded.

We try to keep her inside anyhow, but she’s a quick little stinker and darts out our back door before we can stop her. She isn’t like our other cat who sneaks out and then wanders around close to the house. I have a feeling Scout, as we named our crazy kitten, tours the entire town before returning home, which is the main reason we aren’t letting her outside for a long while.

Saturday, we took Little Miss to a roller rink to try out the skates we and her grandparents gave her for her birthday. We met a friend there and she had a blast.

Later this week we have a science camp for her at a local Christian camp for homeschool.

What I’ve Been Writing/What’s Been on The Blog

I’ve been working on The Next Chapter in between writing book reviews and blog posts about homeschooling.

This week on the blog:

Creative Fusion: Book Review with Celebrate Lit

Yes, you can homeschool your children. No, you don’t need a teaching degree. Links for parents ready to step into the world of Homeschooling

Ten pieces of advice to make your homeschooling experience easier

Blood From a Stone Book Review with Just Read Blog Tours

Fiction Friday: The Next Chapter Chapter 6

Fiction Friday: The Next Chapter Chapter 6

On Hopes, Hearts and Heroes, a blog I contribute to, I shared a blog post from 2017 about planting a garden, taking a step away from rambling about writing and fiction.

What I’ve Been Listening To

I’m including this section because sadly I have not been listening to anything and I should be. I’m much more relaxed when I listen to music or podcasts and I have been failing on that lately. I hope to find some good podcasts to delve into this week. I started listening to Livin’ La Vida Gokey with singer Danny Gokey and his wife and enjoyed it so I hope to get back to it. I have also enjoyed Matthew West’s podcast and hope to get back to that as well. I seem to only find time for podcasts at the end of the day, so when I lay down to listen to them, I fall asleep.

So that is my week in review. How about yours? What are you reading, watching, writing, listening to or doing these days? Let me know in the comments or link up your own blog post if you want to take part.

Looking back at September

I’m a week late for this looking back at September but . . . oh well . . . it’s my blog, I can be late if I want to, right?

In some ways September was fairly routine and boring, but in other ways it was a weird month.

It started out weird with my daughter’s snake bite and a trip to the ER, even though said snake was not poisonous. We still don’t know what happened but she passed out after the snake bite or after she hit her head on the table and then passed out at least one more time when my husband picked her up.

All tests were fine and we brought her home and then there was some more minor weirdness in the month with a dog being sprayed with a skunk and a spider falling on Little Miss and then Little Miss and The Boy catching a cold that somehow skipped me and my husband.

Before the weird snake debacle, we visited the local fair and that was about the only exciting thing we did in September, other than visiting my 89-year-old aunt and celebrating my birthday.

The rest of the month was full of homeschooling and pretty routine events.

Fiction Friday: The Next Chapter Chapter 6

As regular readers continue to read you might remember than when I started this story, I had it beginning in the winter. That was an error because Harvesting Hope ended when it was still summer and this book will be picking up right after Harvesting Hope ended. In other words, I will be fixing the timeline errors in the final edition of the book, but for now, just pretend I did not suggest Olivia was coming home from college for her winter break in the second chapter I posted here. I will fix that in future chapters and the final book.

Also, here was another horrible discovery this week — my laptop is saving my stories in two different places when I hit save. I have no idea why it is doing this but now I know why the corrections I thought I had made on final versions of the books that I uploaded to Kindle weren’t showing up when the book printed. So I had very nice people letting me know about typos and erros and I was baffled. I had gone over the book a number of times, my family and other readers and an editor went over it and then I went back and made all the changes. Where were the changes? Apparently the changes were being saved in one place on my one drive but that wasn’t the version I was using when I uploaded it to the Kindle create software. AAARGH!

Now that I have noticed this, I will be much more careful in the future and hopefully will not have to deal with these typos and huge errors in the final book copies again. For those who had to weed through the errors, I sincerely apologize, but hopefully you know the corrections were made, they just apparently weren’t saved. Again…. AAARGH!

Now, I’m done rambling. Here is Chapter 6 of The Next Chapter, which has not gone through an editor so I am sure there are errors. Want to catch up on the rest of the story? Click HERE.

Chapter 6

Holding Liz’s baby against her chest sent joy and peace surging through Ginny within seconds. She’d breathed in deep the smell of lavender baby wash and closed her eyes, a song she used to sing her children coming to mind as Isabella began to whimper. A tiny hand curled into her shirt, gripping tight and Ginny had kissed it and rubbed her cheek against the soft head.

She hadn’t expected the singing to work. Her singing voice wasn’t something she’d call award winning, but it was apparently enough to calm the untrained ears of a newborn. That newborn was now swaddled tightly, fast asleep in the basinet. A little belly rub trick Ginny had picked up from late nights with Olivia hadn’t hurt either.

That reminded her; she should call Olivia and see if she’d changed her mind about staying in California again. First, she was coming home, now two weeks later, she was staying in California until the semester starting, and planning to get a job at a local juice bar. Ginny didn’t even know what a juice bar was. Did they serve juice instead of alcohol and did people really spend money to have someone make them juice when they could just buy a juicer and make it themselves at home?

Who even knew anymore. The world seemed to have gone mad and sometimes Ginny felt like she was the Mat Hatter, trailing along behind.

She checked her messages and noticed there was one from Stan. She wasn’t sure how she’d missed his call.

“Hey, hon’ I’ve got another late meeting today. I’m just going to grab some dinner from the diner and eat it here. Don’t wait up for me. This is with that developer from Jersey. It could take a while.”

She rolled her eyes. At least he’d called this time. That was something she guessed.

Half the time she sat at the dinner table alone, trying to decide if she should start eating or wait for him to come. Lately she’d begun eating without him and setting his food in the fridge for him to heat up later.

A sigh huffed out of her as she remembered the early days, when she’d been a teacher and how she’d have dinner on the table for him when he came home, and they’d sit down as a family and talk about their days. Eventually the children became involved in activities and those days of sitting down as a family became further and further between. Then the kids began moving out, one by one, until it was just her, Stan and Olivia. Two years ago, Olivia had left, and Ginny had been excited at the idea of her and Stan having more time alone. That was around the same time the real estate business had taken off, though, and Stan had added a partner and two more agents to the office. Those dinners happened occasionally for about a year and then rarely for the next six months and practically never now.

There were days Ginny wondered what the purpose of her was. The kids didn’t need her and neither did Stan. She supposed the library needed her, but they could get anyone do to her job if she finally decided to leave. She liked to joke that a trained monkey could do her job, but really? It was probably true.

She should make the most of the time she had and start that grocery list she would need at the end of the week. She’d been trying to eat healthier so she should write down healthy food. She made a face, remembering the avocado she’d tried earlier. There had to be healthy food that tasted good, right?

There had been a whole list of suggested healthy food for “women of a certain age” in that Good Housekeeping magazine she’d picked up at the doctor’s office. She’d have to look for it when she got home. She stood and stretched, the idea of making a list abandoned until she found the magazine.

The apartment was on the second floor of a former home. It was bigger than most in town, with two bedrooms and a spare room, a large living room and a small hallway that led to a small kitchen. The bathroom was at the end of the hallway with a bathtub and plenty of floor space. This was Ginny’s first official visit to the apartment, but she’d seen the photos on Stan’s website when he’d sold the building, which included space for a business below. That space was now vacant but had previously housed a clothing boutique. And before the boutique it had housed several rooms, including two parlors, a magnificent dining room and a kitchen. Ginny had admired old photos of the home in a history book the county historical society had published several years ago.

The apartment was sparsely decorated, yet cozy. The faded yellow walls coupled with the restored hardwood floors made Ginny feel like she’d walked into a modern coffee shop. A light gray couch sat against the back wall, a recliner next to it at an angle, and a blue papasan chair across from the recliner next to a floor to ceiling window — all of them facing a small TV and DVD player.

Ginny imagined herself curled up in that papasan chair with a good book and without a care in the world other than what to make for dinner that night and which friend to go out to a movie with. How lovely would it be to be young with a special group of friends again. She didn’t have that anymore. In fact, she didn’t even have one close friend these days. Her friends had drifted away over the years, wrapped up in their own families and lives. She couldn’t remember the last time a friend had actually messaged or called to ask how she was.

She supposed that how life was when you hit your 50s. Rather lonely and confusing, like a person lost at sea in some ways.  

There was part of her that envied Molly and Liz’s friendship, how they were able to live here together and experience life together. She was sure it wasn’t easy for Liz raising her daughter on her own, but at least she had her family and Molly to help her.

Sliding in to the papasan chair she curled her legs up under her and slid the hair tye out of her hair, releasing her usually ponytail and raking a hand through her dirty blond hair, grateful for the change of scenery. Normally on a day like this, when she left work early, she’d sit at home, reading a book in the on the enclosed back porch she’d thought would be lovely for afternoon teas with friends or Stan. Then the friends had faded away and Stan’s job had taken priority, so most of the time she sat alone on the porch, listening to the birds chirp until it was time to start dinner.

Sitting here, out of her normal, rather stale, environment, made her remember simpler days, when she and Stan were young and actually spoke to each other.

Her gaze roamed the room, flicking across Native American pottery, Vanilla scented candles, two cat figurines and a picture frame with the words “into the field I go to lose my mind and find my soul” and the image of a field of corn engraved on it.

Next she found a wall of photos, a mix of images of Liz with her family and Molly with hers.

She smiled, looking at a photo of Alex and Molly together, embracing each other next to a haybale on the Tanner’s farm. There was also one of Ellie and Jason, who would be officially married in two more days. They’d planned to hold the wedding two weeks ago, but heavy rains had made the pasture they’d wanted to hold it in unusable. Ginny hadn’t been invited to the wedding, but she didn’t mind. She didn’t know Ellie and Jason well. She only knew about their arrangements from chatting with Molly at the gym last week.

Yes, it was true. She and Stan were young once. Very young. He was a senior and she was a junior in high school when they’d started dating.

Ginny touched her fingers to her lips, thinking of secret kisses under the bleachers during football games. The kisses happened there to make sure her daddy didn’t catch them when Stan took her home at the end of the night. Her daddy had never liked Stan, at least not until Stan came back from college and proved what a hard worker he was. He was even more of a hard worker now than he had been then.

Her throat thickened with emotion, surprising her. She couldn’t even remember the last time Stan had kissed her other than a quick peck on the cheek.

The opening of the apartment door startled her out of her memories. The sight of Marge rushing in with a newspaper in her hand jerked her abruptly back to the present. Marge stopped short when she caught sight of Ginny.

“Oh. Ginny. Hello.” Marge’s cheeks flushed and her eyebrows shot up.  “I didn’t expect to see you here. What brings you by?”

Ginny stood and smoothed her hands down her slacks, feeling suddenly intimidated, a familiar feeling when she was around Marge, though she wasn’t sure why. Marge had never been rude to her. It was just that Marge was — what was the best way to say it? Bold. Marge was more bold, confident, and to-the-point than Ginny and for some reason that was intimidating.

“Liz was by the library today and looked exhausted, so I offered to watch the baby while she slept.” Her voice had sped up and she knew she was rambling, but the nerves had gripped her and wouldn’t let go. “She said you had a meeting with the business association and would probably be by later, but I really thought she needed some rest now so I popped by early. I didn’t mind at all.” Her smile felt tight and probably looked even tighter. “Hopefully you don’t mind.”

Why would she mind? Why did I even say that? Ginny thought, as her brain began firing thoughts wildly back and forth.

Marge frowned, looking puzzled, but luckily not angry. “Of course I don’t mind. I’m glad you were able to help out. It’s just — well, I did have the business association meeting, but it was postponed because Millie Baker has a cold.” She sighed. “I don’t know why she doesn’t think to ask her dad. I mean, he has a men’s meeting this evening, but he’s free this afternoon. ”

Ginny shrugged, trying to ignore the tension in Marge’s voice. “It was no problem, Marge. I know how busy you and Frank are. I really didn’t mind. I don’t get to hold my grandchildren very often, so I enjoyed holding yours.”

Marge smiled, her previously furrowed brow relaxing. “Well, thank you, that was really sweet of you. Of course, we will both get to hold our other grandchildren soon. Isn’t it exciting?”

 Ginny agreed and the women chatted a few minutes about when Clint and Tiffany might be arriving and how long they’d be staying with Marge and Frank.

“Well, anyhow —” Marge glanced at the closed bedroom door and bit her bottom lip. “I guess I’ll let Liz sleep. I can always come back later.”

Ginny wasn’t sure how to answer. Liz had been asleep for a couple of hours now, but Marge was her mother and seemed uneasy. Maybe something was wrong. She pulled her shirt down and smoothed it across her waistline nervously. “She’ll probably be awake soon.”

It wasn’t any of her business why Marge had barged into her daughter’s apartment looking panicked and she really didn’t want to be in the middle of their business. But, still, she heard herself ask, “Is something wrong?”

Marge let out a quick breath, looked at the paper in her hand for a brief second, and then held it out toward Ginny, who noticed it was folded to the birth announcements section.

Marge wrung her hands. “It’s just — well, Isabella’s birth announcement is wrong.”

Ginny’s brow furrowed as she looked at the paper, scanning the last names until she came to Liz’s.

Cranmer/McGee

Baby girl, Isabella Molly Cranmer, 7 pound 8 oz, 21 inches long, born August 26, to Liz Bailey Cranmer and Matthew Grant McGee.

Her eyebrows raised.

Oh. Well, this was certainly news to her. She’d never officially asked anyone who the father of Liz’s baby was, not even Tiffany. She didn’t feel it was her business, but as far as she’d gathered, Gabe Martin was the father.

“Do you see?” Marge pointed at the page. “It has Matt listed as the father of her baby.”

“Yes,” Ginny answered. “I see. But, I mean — are they even dating? Or were they?”

Marge shook her head. “Not that I know of. I’m sure you heard she gave birth in his truck and we never got the full story there, but  — I mean she told us Gabe is the father. Why would she —”

The door to the bedroom creaked open and both women watched a sleepy Liz shuffle her way out of the darkness wearing a faded blue T-shirt and pair of striped shorts.

She blinked in the bright sunlight, a hand sunk deep in the dark brown hair on the top of her head as she scratched her head and yawned. Her gaze drifted between the two women as the yawn widened. Ginny’s chest constricted. She kept her eyes on Liz, afraid to make eye contact with Marge. She knew she should excuse herself, let mom and daughter talk things out, yet she was afraid her departure might make the situation even more awkward.

Liz’s gaze darted to the basinet, scanned a sleeping Isabella then moved back to the women.

She found Ginny’s eyes first. “Is everything okay?”

Ginny nodded, glancing at Marge, wishing she could snap her fingers and disappear. “Isabella is fine. She’s been asleep almost the whole time you were napping.”

Liz smiled sleepily as she looked into the basinet. “You got her to sleep in the basinet? You must be some kind of baby whisperer.”

“Not at all.” Ginny laughed. “I haven’t a clue how I did that. Maybe she just finally gave out of energy.”

Liz stretched her arms over her head and spoke through a yawn. “I just wish I could figure out what is making her so uncomfortable.”

Ginny briefly forgot about Marge standing behind them, holding a newspaper with a scowl furrowing her eyebrows. “Are you exclusively breastfeeding?” Liz nodded and tugged at her hair tie, shaking loose her messy ponytail and letting her dark brown hair fall loose around her shoulders. Ginny rubbed the palm of her thumb along her bottom lip. “Maybe something you’re eating is giving her gas. Have you talked to her doctor?”

“More than once. He thinks it’s definitely gas and gave me some drops, but they don’t seem to be helping.”

Ginny nodded, looking thoughtfully at the sleeping baby. “Then maybe it is something you’re eating. You could try eliminating a few foods that are known to cause issues. Your sister had to cut dairy out when she nursed Wyatt. He was miserable until she did.”

Liz sat on the couch. “Yeah. That’s right and he’s lactose intolerant now so that could explain some things.” She shrugged a shoulder. “Who knows. Maybe it runs in the family.” Her eyes drifted away from Ginny toward her mother. “Well, if she’s fine then why do you two have such odd looks on your faces? Did someone die?”

Marge pursed her lips, tipped her head back, and looked down at her daughter, thrusting the newspaper toward her.

Ginny inwardly cringed. Oh boy. Here we go.

Liz’s gaze followed her mother’s pointing finger. Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open as she read under the birth announcements column. “What?!”

Marge frowned. “I’m guessing this is some kind of mistake? A misunderstanding? Because I thought you told me that Gabe was Isabella’s father.”

Ginny took that as her cue to exit, awkwardness or not. She took a step back from where she’d been standing in between the two women. “Listen, I really —”

Isabella’s cry drowned out her words. The three women looked at the baby but Ginny was closer, so she reached down, unwrapped Isabella from her swaddle and lifted the tiny baby against her shoulder.

Turning to look at the women she realized she was stuck. Her road to escape blocked by a crying child. Maybe she should hand the baby off to Liz. It was probably time for a nursing session anyhow.

At that moment, though, Liz closed her eyes and her jaw tightened, signaling she wasn’t ready to hold her baby. If anything, she looked ready to have a full-blown breakdown.

***

Liz closed her eyes and clenched her jaw against the urge to scream. McGee, what have you done? I told you to stop that nurse.

When she opened her eyes, Marge’s expression had darkened even more.

“Liz.” She pointed at the paper again. “What is this about?”

Liz drew in a deep breath, tipped back her head and let it out slowly. “Listen, Matt’s a good guy and I —” She swallowed hard. She could tell her the mom the truth, about how Gabe had been abusive, about the night she’d gotten pregnant, about how stupid she’d been, or she could let her mom believe the town’s golden child was the actual father of her child.

No. She closed her eyes, her head still tipped back. She was way too tired for this conversation, for one, but she was also not about to throw McGee under the bus simply to get herself out of being interrogated by Marge.

Marge huffed a breath out of her nose. “You what?” She hugged her arms across her chest, pursed her lips, and narrowed her eyes, making Liz feel like she was in high school again. “You didn’t want people to know you were living with one guy and sleeping with another?”

The words hit Liz full force in the chest.

Was her mother serious?

Her ears roared from what she could only imagine was her rising blood pressure. She stood, hands clenched at her side.

“What are you even trying to say, Mom? Do you really think I am the kind of person who would be dating one guy and sleeping with another? Really, Mom? That is what you think of your daughter?”

Marge held up her hand, “Now, Liz, that is not —”

“No.” Liz’s face flushed warm as she flung the folded paper on top of the coffee table. “Not ‘now Liz.’ That’s seriously who you think I am. You just accused me of being a slut.” Liz’s face crumpled as she sat back down on the couch. “I can’t even believe this.” She dragged in a ragged breath, a sob working its way into her throat. Clutching the edge of the couch, she looked at the floor and tried to stop the room from spinning. She started to speak, but no sound came.

“Liz, I didn’t say you were a slut. I shouldn’t have said it that way. All I wanted to know was —”

“I want you to leave.”

Marge scoffed. “Excuse me?”

Liz looked up slowly, her head feeling like it was stuffed with lead. “I said leave. Get out of my apartment. I don’t want you here.”

Marge tossed her hands up and slapped them down again. “Liz, you are completely overreacting. I misspoke.”

“You did not. You spoke exactly what you were thinking.” Liz pointed at the door, her jaw tight. “What you’ve thought of me for a very long time. I want you to leave. Get out.”

Marge’s mouth formed a thin line as she stepped back. “Fine. I’ll leave. But I’ll call later so we can talk this out.” She looked over her shoulder, clipping out her next words. “You put words in my mouth, Liz, and I don’t appreciate that one little bit.”

The door slammed with a reverberating echo. Out of the corner of her eye, Liz see Ginny visibly flinch.

Liz’s chest constricted with guilt. She should have let Ginny leave before the explosion.

Ginny’s hand rubbed across Isabella’s back in a circular motion as she smiled weakly at Liz. “You okay?”

Liz cleared her throat. “Yeah — not really. Sorry you had to see that. You came here to be nice and then I stuck you in the middle of our family drama.”

Ginny sat on the couch. “You think my family has never had drama? I raised two young girls remember?” Ginny paused for effect and winked. “And one of them was Olivia, so you know what I mean.”

Liz knew she shouldn’t laugh. She’d certainly heard about Olivia’s reputation for having a flare for the dramatic, but she hadn’t expected Ginny to admit it. She wiped her finger under her eye and apologized again as she reached out for Isabella and then leaned back to let the fussy newborn nurse.

Ginny laid her hand against Liz’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “Oh, Liz. I’m sure your mom didn’t mean —”

“You don’t know my mom.” Liz choked back a sob. “Not really. You only see the good side of her. She and dad have been angry at me since I moved in with Gabe. I know it was a mistake. I told them it was when I moved out, but now I know for sure what they think of me.”

Ginny shook her head. “I can’t imagine that, Liz. Your parents love —”

“Isabella.” Liz’s eyes filled with tears. “They love Isabella. And Tiffany. And Clint and my nieces and nephews. They see me as a disappointment.”

Ginny squeezed Liz’s hand in hers and drew in a breath. Liz braced herself for a gentle defense of her parents. Instead, Ginny simply shook her head and said, “I don’t think that’s true, but even if it is, you know in your heart that you did the right thing having Isabella, even if you feel how you got her was a mistake. God plans our days out Liz. None of what happened surprised Him and he meant for you to be this baby’s mother.”

The woman meant well, she did, and Liz understood what she was saying, but if God wasn’t surprised about Isabella’s conception, was he surprised about what happened with Gabe that night at his apartment. Why couldn’t God have intervened somehow? Stopped it all from happening the way it had? It was a question she wasn’t sure she’d ever have an answer to and one she didn’t want anyone in her life, including Ginny, to know she was even asking.

“Thank you, Ginny. Listen, you should really head home. I’ve taken up way too much of your time this afternoon. Won’t your husband be waiting for you?”

Ginny smiled but Liz sensed a sadness in her as she shook her head. “He has a late meeting tonight actually.” Her eyes drifted toward the window, the late afternoon sun casting shadows across the apartment floor. Her smile faded for a brief moment before it returned again when she looked at Liz, who recognized the attempt Ginny was making to create the illusion that all was well. “But that will give me time to read a book and maybe even watch a movie before bed.”

Liz tilted her head, narrowing her eyes. She couldn’t ignore the nagging feeling Ginny’s smile was all an act. Was there trouble in Jefferies paradise?

Maybe Liz wasn’t the only one who needed a break from family tonight.

“Eating alone doesn’t sound like fun to me.” She spoke the words before she changed her mind. “I was thinking of ordering a pizza to drown my sorrows. Want to stick around?” She winked. “I promise not to use you for your baby soothing skills. Or at least not only for your baby soothing skills.”

Ginny laughed and pushed a strand of hair that had fallen from her ponytail back from her face. She pulled her lower lip between her teeth for a few seconds, then nodded. “Yeah. Sure. That would be nice. How about I call and order the pizza while you finish nursing?”

Liz was grateful for a moment along to try to gather her emotions as Ginny stepped into the kitchen to dial Vinnie’s Pizza, the closest pizza place to the apartment.

She’d been so angry at her mother, she’d almost forgotten she needed to call Matt, warn him about the birth announcement. The birth announcement he was supposed to keep out of the paper.

 Of course, maybe he already knew. Maybe his family, friends, co-workers and church groupies were already peppering him with questions, or even worse, giving him the side-eye, thinking about how little they really knew about the perfect Boy Scout of Spencer Valley. Maybe they were silently, or not-so-silently judging him. The thought made her sick to her stomach.

She picked up her phone to text him, then stopped herself, her finger hovering over the screen. She couldn’t tell him about the announcement in a text. A phone call would be better. A soft sigh escaped her lips as she adjusted Isabella on her lap. He’d been stopping by or calling almost every day since she’d come home. Today most likely wouldn’t be any different. She could talk to him then, ask him why in the world he hadn’t stopped that nurse from sending the birth announcement to the paper. Had he forgotten to speak to her or was there something more going on?