Fiction Friday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 4

Welcome to Chapter 4 of Mercy’s Shore, which will probably be called Shores of Mercy by the time it is published due to possible copyright issues. To catch up on the store read HERE.

Chapter 4

Judi turned and looked over her shoulder at her reflection in the mirror of the church bathroom.

Black, calf-high, leather boots, a faded denim skirt that fell to her knees, and a red v neck, loose-fitting shirt.

Not too revealing, not too matronly. Hopefully, the people in the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting thought so too, not that she was there to impress them. She was there to try to get her life back, even if she wasn’t sure what her life really was right now or what it was meant to be.

She always felt in between these days. In every way.

She’d known who she was in the city. In the city, she was the girl who wore designer clothes, usually slightly revealing to attract attention and make her feel important. From high school until a year ago, she’d been the laid back, everything goes, fly by-the-seat of her pants type girl.

Now she was the girl who wasn’t sure how to act, dress, or think most of the time. Being footloose and fancy free hadn’t yielded the results she’d once hoped it would, but she didn’t want to be strait-laced and uptight like her older sister either.

She pushed a hand back through her hair, shaking it loose from the ponytail she’d had it in, smoothed her lipstick with an index finger, and took a deep breath.

So far, she’d been able to avoid sharing much of her story with the rest of the group. She hoped to do the same tonight. Especially if Brad actually showed up.

When she stepped into the hallway she gasped as she slammed into someone and stumbled backward into the bathroom again.

“Oh, excuse me, I —”

She looked up and met the amused grin of Ben Oliver. “Look at you. Can’t even handle looking both ways when you come out of the bathroom.”

Judi rolled her eyes. Could this week get any worse? Too bad Ben hadn’t hit the tree a little harder, then maybe he’d still be in the hospital and not here to harass her on a night she was already nervous.

“Ha. You’re so funny.”

Ben folded his arms across his chest and leaned back against the hallway wall. “Here to ask Pastor John for forgiveness for lying to Officer McGee?”

Judi couldn’t read Ben’s expression now, but he raised an eyebrow, apparently waiting for an answer.

“I didn’t lie,” she responded sharply. “I looked both ways and didn’t see you.” She looked at his foot with the cast and the bandage on his forehead. “Shouldn’t you still be recovering?”

He shrugged a shoulder. “I should be, yes, but I’m here to support a friend who’s attending the AA meeting here tonight. What are you here for?”

Judi took a deep breath and held it for a few seconds. No use trying to pretend. “I’m here for the AA meeting too.”

He raised both eyebrows. “Supporting a friend as well?”

“No.” She raised her chin, surprised he hadn’t heard any of the gossip about her yet. “I’m here for myself.”

He pushed himself off the wall and slid his hands into the front pockets of his khakis. “Oh.” He tipped back on his heels and nodded. The smile had faded. “Well, that’s good. Really good.” Judi imagined he must be thinking how pathetic she was and maybe even wondering if she’d been drinking the day of the accident. He gestured toward the open doorway down the hall. “Shall we head in?”

Inside the white-walled large room that was usually used for Sunday School classes, there was a circle of chairs set up. Along the walls, posters featured views of sunrises overlayed with well-known Bible verses. Blue hardcover Bibles were stacked in a bookcase on the other side of the room and next to it was a small table with a sign-in sheet, a coffee pot, cups, and a box of donuts.

Judi headed for the coffee, leaving Ben to find his friend. As she poured the coffee, she thought about darting out again. She’d promised Ellie and herself she’d stick with this AA stuff, though. Waking up with a hangover and not remembering what she’d done the night before wasn’t how she wanted to spend her whole life, even if cutting out drinking had made her life incredibly dull. It had also left her with the ability to feel emotions again, something she wasn’t enjoying in the least when it came to emotions like guilt, embarrassment, and sadness.

She hadn’t promised her parents she’d go to the AA meetings because she hadn’t even told them how addicted she’d become to alcohol. Ellie had been nice enough not to tell them either. She knew her parents would still love her, but she’d always been somewhat of a black sheep in the family. No reason to let her parents know she was even further out there than they thought.

One of the many awkward aspects of attending an AA meeting in your hometown was that you ended up knowing some of the other attendees. Turning with a coffee cup in hand, she scanned the room and counted two people she’d gone to high school with, other than Ben — Jessie Landry and Steve Jakes. The 60-something-year-old owner of the local supermarket had already taken a seat and was looking as uncomfortable and out of place as he had in the previous two meetings she’d attended with him.

Her gaze moved back to Jessie who was clearly hitting on Steve. Wearing a black leather mini-skirt and a hot pink tank top under a blue denim jacket, Jessie obviously hadn’t been concerned about looking too trashy.

Judi had partied with Jessie more than once on her visits back home over the years. She’d also had run into her once or twice at a bar before making the decision to drop alcohol altogether. Jessie might be serious about cutting out alcohol, but Judi was certain it would take a lot more to break Jessie of her addiction to dating a new man every few months.

Glancing around the room again, Judi’s gaze fell on Ben standing next to an unshaven elderly man in a pair of faded stained jeans and a flannel shirt. She hadn’t really paid much attention to how he looked when he’d been harassing her in the hallway.

Now she noticed his light brown hair was swept back off his forehead and he was wearing a blue, button-up dress shirt, the collar firmly buttoned at the top, and a pair of tan khakis. She wondered if he ever dressed in anything more casual. She’d be shocked if he ever kicked back in a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt.

The hand of the man standing next to him shook as he lifted a cup to his mouth. Ben laid a hand on his shoulder and said something to him Judi couldn’t hear. Whatever it was the man seemed to appreciate it and nodded slowly as he swallowed the liquid from the cup.

The group facilitator and Judi’s sponsor, Rachel Martin, clapped her hands twice to get everyone’s attention.

“Okay, everyone. Let’s get seated.”

Judi noticed as she sat in a metal chair with a blue cushion that Brad wasn’t in the room. She hadn’t actually expected to see him to show up, so his absence wasn’t a surprise. It was, however, a relief.

Rachel sat and smiled as she looked around the circle. “Good evening, everyone, my name is Rachel and I’ve been sober ten years now and I’m your group leader tonight.” She stopped her gaze briefly at each person and smiled. “I see a couple of new faces with us tonight. How was everyone’s week? Anyone do anything exciting?”

The adjusting and readjusting of bottoms on metal seats filled the silence but no one offered any tales of their past week.

Judi didn’t have anything exciting to share unless a near collision with a lawyer’s fancy car was exciting. Had Ben not been there, she might have shared the story to make sure her side was heard. She scanned the circle and counted twelve recovering alcoholics and Ben.

It was sad to think such a small town had so many people struggling with alcohol and addiction.

Rachel sat back in the chair, the smile still in place, dark curls falling away from her face as she pushed her hair back. “Okay, well, that’s fine. We all must have had a pretty routine week.”

A smattering of stiff laughter trickled around the circle. Judi knew that most of the group members’ routine week had most likely involved fighting back the overwhelming desire to open a bottle and pour alcohol down their throat to chase away the demons.

Demons whispered in Judi’s ear every day.

“You’re such a screwup.”

“Go ahead. Take just one drink to take the edge off. It won’t hurt.”

“You’ll never be as good as Ellie is.”

“You will never have a life like Ellie with a husband and a real job.”

“Your parents will always look at you with shame.”

“You deserved what Jeff did that night. You were dressed like a whore anyhow.”

Despite their whispers, she had, so far, been able to resist the temptation to silence them with booze.

The scrape of a chair pulled Judi from her thoughts, and she looked up to see Brad pulling a chair out and sitting in it. For the first time since she’d known him — which was since elementary school — he looked terrified.

Rachel waited for Brad to sit down completely and then suggested the usual moment of silence, which she said could be used for prayer or an introspective moment. After that minute, the group recited the serenity prayer with more than one member looking less than thrilled at having to say a prayer.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,” they recited. “Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.”

Rachel then asked the new members to introduce themselves.

A man with broad shoulders and a long beard, wearing a biker jacket with dark blue jeans and heavy, black biker boots stood and hooked his thumbs in his belt loops. Judi looked up at him and inwardly shivered. The man was easily 6 foot 5 inches and maybe 250 pounds. She’d hate to see him drunk, especially if he was an angry drunk.

“My name’s Jake and I’m here because I’m tired of waking up next to my smashed-up bike and not remembering what happened.”

“Welcome, Jake,” Rachel said as the rest of the group chuckled at Jake’s blunt introduction.

“Am I supposed to announce I’m an alcoholic like on TV?” Jake asked in his deep voice, his beard trembling with each word.

Rachel laughed softly. “Well, yes, the first step to helping yourself is admitting you have a problem.” 

Jake straightened his shoulders and pushed out his broad chest. “My name is Jake and I’m an alcoholic.”

He nodded his head definitively as if his statement explained everything and sat back down with an equally definitive thud.

“Thank you, Jake,” Rachel said. “Would the other new members please introduce themselves?”

Brad stood reluctantly, shoving his hands in the front pockets of his jeans and looking at his mud and manure-stained work boots. Judi took in the dirt on the jeans and shirt and guessed he must have come right from the barn. She’d wondered if he would keep working with the Tanners after the accident, but it looked like he either still was or was working on another farm instead.

Last Judi had known Jason Tanner, who had become her brother-in-law six months ago, had sworn he’d never work with his cousin again. Jason was a lot like Ellie, though – a good Christian who offered forgiveness to those who didn’t deserve it.  That willingness to forgive was the main reason he and Ellie still talked to Judi, a fact she knew and appreciated even if she struggled to be the same way.

 “I’m Brad Tanner and I’ve been drinking too much for a few years and need to get back on my feet so,” he shrugged a shoulder. “I’m here.”

He sat back down, his hands still in his pockets.

“He didn’t say he was an alcoholic,” Judi mumbled, picking at a string on the hem of her skirt.

She didn’t have to look up to know Brad was scowling when he said, “Shut up, Judi.”

Judi opened her mouth to respond but Rachel cleared her throat.  “Let’s try to be polite, everyone, okay? Brad, we’re glad you’re here. Anyone else?”

The man sitting next to Ben stood slowly, trembling slightly.

“Hey, uh, my name’s Floyd Miller and I’m an alcoholic.” He tipped his head toward Rachel as if for approval. She nodded back in encouragement. “I’m grateful for my lawyer offering to come here with me tonight.” He glanced at Ben who was still sitting. “I was pulled over for my second DUI recently and Ben here got me a lighter sentence if I agreed to come to these meetings. I didn’t want to come at first but Ben told me he’d been to a few himself and it was the first step to getting my life back on track so …” Floyd held hands out to his side and shrugged his shoulders. “Here I am. I’m not sure I can do this but I’ve got to try if I want to make my kids proud of me instead of ashamed.”

Rachel thanked Floyd for coming and then started to lay out the goals of the group to the new members. Judi’s mind, though, was focused on what Floyd had said about Ben being to one of these meetings himself. Had he meant he’d supported other people at the meetings or had he actually been to an AA meeting for himself?  Judi was beginning to wonder if she’d read him all wrong all these years. He’d come here to support this man who had been his client, and he was familiar with AA meetings. There was a lot more to Ben than she’d thought.

She studied Ben for a few minutes across the circle. His focus was on Rachel, and he winced when he tried to cross his leg with the cumbersome cast. As he rubbed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, Judi could tell his head was bothering him. She wondered why he’d even tried to come out tonight, only a few days after the accident. He didn’t seem the type to put his own comfort at risk to support someone, but that might actually be the case this time.

“Anyone else want to share this week?” Rachel asked, clasping her hands together in front of her.

She’d already gone over the steps of the program and the idea behind sponsors, as well as providing a contact source for anyone who felt like they might fall back to drinking during a stressful time.

Judi studied her fingernails as she pondered the real reason for Ben’s appearance at the meeting, and noticed a chip in the red polish she applied yesterday. She decided she should really get a stronger fingernail polish.

“I want to know how Judi’s doing working at a bar and grill.”

Judi’s head jerked up at the comment and her gaze met the eyes of Jerry Spencer who owned a computer repair shop a few miles outside of town. She immediately recognized his tone as mocking.

Bristling, she folded her arms across her chest, leveling her gaze at Jerry, who seemed to have had it in for her from the first meeting she’d attended five months ago. “It’s going fine, Jerry.” Her jaw tightened. “Thanks for asking.”

Jerry scoffed. “Yeah right. You can’t tell me there aren’t nights you don’t want to kick back one of those drinks you’re delivering. I know I would.”

“Well, that’s you. I can separate myself from that world any time I want.”

“Famous last words,” Jerry bit back.

Rachel held her hands up, “Jerry, let’s be a little more encouraging, okay?

Jerry tossed his hands out to his side. “This whole thing is stupid. What are we even doing here? We all know we’d rather be out at the bar.”

Rachel leaned forward, propping her elbows on her knees and propping her hands under her chin. “Why are you here, Jerry? There has to be a reason you walk in those doors every week.”

Jerry shrugged her shoulder as he leaned back and relaxed one arm over the back of the chair. “Yeah. My wife said I had to come, or it was over.”

Rachel raised a questioning eyebrow. “And you don’t want it to be over right?”

Jerry rolled his eyes and tipped his head back against the back of the chair, legs stretched out, one ankle propped over the other. “No. I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I want to be sitting here flapping my jaw about all my problems with a bunch of strangers either.”

“What do you have against me anyhow?”

Hearing what she had been thinking said out loud, startled Judi and she couldn’t believe she’d actually asked it.

“You’re naïve, Judi,” Jerry snapped. “That’s my problem with you. You’re a little girl who needs to grow up. You think you can be around alcohol and alcoholics and still stay clean. One day it’s going to get to you, get it? One day it’s all going to come crashing down and you’re going to have a weak moment and boom! It’s over. All that hard work you put in and all that progress you made will be gone.” He snapped his fingers, his gaze focused on hers. “In a blink of an eye.”

He stood, hands clenched into fists at his side. “And you’ll have no one to blame but your stupid, airhead, blond ditz self.”

“Jerry, that’s enough!” Rachel stood and pointed toward the door. “You need to leave. Now!”

Ben and Brad stood as well, eyes on Jerry who didn’t need to be told again to leave. He’d already shoved his chair aside roughly and was on his way through the doorway.

Judi gritted her teeth and reached down for the coffee cup she’d placed next to her chair. She sipped from it and kept her eyes down, too angry and shocked to look up and see the expressions of others in the room.

Ellie had told her she shouldn’t be working at a bar and grill too, but Lonny had been the only one who had called her back when she sent out resumes. Waiting on tables was all she knew how to do other than retail and there wasn’t exactly a lot of retail places in Spencer Valley looking for employees. Maybe in some ways, Jerry was right, but he didn’t need to be so mean. And the air headed comments? Seriously rude.

Rachel sat back down and reached over to squeeze Judi’s shoulder. “You okay?”

Judi nodded but didn’t look at her. “Yep.”

“We’ll talk after the meeting,” Rachel whispered.

Judi didn’t want to talk after the meeting or any time. At least not about Jerry. Warmth spread across her cheeks and down her chest as she kept her eyes on the coffee in her cup. Jerry had some nerve attacking her when he was obviously an even worse mess. She’d hurt herself and sometimes her family with her actions, but he had a wife and small children. He definitely had a lot more on the line than Judi did. What a loser.

Two more group members shared some struggles they had been having in the past week and then Rachel drew the meeting to a close with a brief prayer.

Judi snatched up her purse and the cup and briskly walked toward the doorway, dropping the cup into the trashcan. There was no way she was staying to talk to Rachel about Jerry, her week, or anything else. She wasn’t in the mood.

“Hey!” She ignored the shout of a male voice behind her as she opened the driver’s side door and slid inside.

The only thing she was in the mood for was a drink, but since that couldn’t happen, she was heading to her apartment, where she knew a pint of Rocky Road ice cream was waiting for her in her freezer.

Book review and giveaway: The Traveling Prayer Shawl by Jennifer Lynn Cary.

About the Book

Book: The Traveling Prayer Shawl

Author: Jennifer Lynn Cary

Genre: Christian Women’s Fiction/Split-time

Release date: March 17, 2021

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00059]

Her dream account just landed in her lap…

…So did the future of her family

And she’s got two months to save them both.

Cami Madison’s grandmother died, leaving her with a task she must complete or all the inheritance goes to charity. Plus her boss handed her the ad campaign that will win her the coveted vice presidency opening.

Both have the same time table.

When she realizes the projects are intertwined, things really start to unravel.

Kate Hanson raised her granddaughter after the child became an orphan in a car accident. But not all scars are on the outside.

Can Kate’s last request help Cami to heal?

Will Cami be able to step up to the job?

You will love this split-time women’s romance because when family is on the line, everyone knows the only way to survive is wrapped in prayer.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

Jennifer Lynn Cary is known for writing touching, sweet stories with plenty of tame drama mixed in and she’s done it again in The Traveling Prayer Shawl.

I enjoyed this sweet, well-told story about a woman named Cami and her cousin, Morgan, and watching them work through grief after the loss of their grandmother, but also through their own hurt feelings toward each other.

Cami is working at an advertising agency when her grandmother passes away, while Morgan is raising her two children after her husband left her to take a job out of state.

Each character had their own dramas going on beside the loss of their grandmother, which made their efforts to find peace with each other a challenge.

I enjoyed how Cary wove in the past point of view of their grandmother, Kate, to give us an insight into when the girls were younger and what caused them to become estranged.

Cary even manages to weave in some romance in the midst of a story that involves a health concern for Morgan and work challenges for Cami.

The book is a touching reminder of the importance of family, the connections we take for granted, and the forgiveness we can extend because God first extended it to us.

About the Author

Choice 4 (1)

Historical Christian Romance 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, The Relentless series, and The Weather Girls trilogy as well as the stand-alone novella Tales of the Hob Nob Annex Café and her split-time novel The Traveling Prayer Shawl.

More from Jennifer Lynn

The Traveling Prayer Shawl is actually a tribute to the wonderful women I’ve had the pleasure of making shawls with for the last ten plus years. We have a group that has remained faithful though some have had to leave, and new faces have joined. I thought this would be a book where there would be several points of view, sort of like how it is when we meet one Saturday per month. I even asked the girls when this idea began to churn if they could give me some character ideas.

Then one morning this scene came to me and wouldn’t leave. I wrote it out and sent it to my critique group. They thought I might be on to something.

Follow that with one of my prayer shawl girls asking if I was still interested in a character idea. Of course I said yes, and she handed me a fully fleshed out supporting character—Dericka.

I hadn’t planned on anything romantic but apparently my characters had other ideas. This story couldn’t get itself written fast enough.

The cherry on top was when another of my prayer shawl girls shared about a pattern her grandmother had designed that was published back in the 1960’s. With her permission, I include that pattern at the end of the book—an actual prayer shawl to crochet.

You will also see a prayer that is included with the shawl in the book. That is the same prayer that is given with each shawl from our Needles of Hope group. It was written by my dear friend, Pastor Lori Brown and used with her permission.

Crocheting is a relaxing craft for me and one I came to only a few years ago. My sweet grandmother tried to teach me to crochet, then gently suggested I stick with knitting. Ha! But my husband’s cousin came to visit and accepted the challenge, finally helping me to see what had been so elusive. Now I prefer it to knitting.

Though The Traveling Prayer Shawl is a stand-alone and not like my other books, I am currently working on another stand-alone split-time and have included the first chapter at the end of the book. Hope you will enjoy it and that you will try out my friend CeCe’s grandmother’s prayer shawl pattern.

Abundant blessings!

Blog Stops

An Author’s Take, May 24

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, May 25

lakesidelivingsite, May 25

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, May 26

Texas Book-aholic, May 27

Boondock Ramblings, May 27

Inklings and notions, May 28

For Him and My Family, May 29

Miriam Jacob, May 29

deb’s Book Review, May 30

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, May 31

Locks, Hooks and Books, May 31

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, June 1

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, June 2

Mary Hake, June 2

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, June 3

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, June 4 (Author Interview)

Vicarious Living , June 4

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, June 5

Blogging With Carol, June 6

Spoken from the Heart, June 6

Giveaway

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

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/1df1d/the-traveling-prayer-shawl-celebration-tour-giveaway

Some old fashioned humor to brighten your day

Whoo. need some sadness detox today and I bet a lot of you do too. I thought I’d share some of my favorite old time comedians or musicians today on the blog for those of us who need a distraction of something lighter.

I’ve also added in a couple of fun musical numbers.

Yes, that’s right. I look up all these fun things so you don’t have to. It’s a hard job going through all the entertaining clips of clean comedy on YouTube, but I am glad to do it. For you. Always…for….you, my beloved readers.

Book Review: Beauty From Ashes by Lisa R. Howeler — Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs..

Thank you to Erin for this lovely review of Beauty From Ashes!

Summary: After becoming pregnant by her abusive ex-boyfriend, 27-year-old Liz Cranmer feels trapped in a prison of shame. Now a single mother she feels like the whole town, especially her church-going parents, view her as a trashy woman with no morals. That’s not how she used to think of herself but — could they all […]

Book Review: Beauty From Ashes by Lisa R. Howeler — Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs..

Sunday Bookends: Warm weather, animal activity, and good books


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

What’s Been Occurring

We finally got our warmer weather this week, but I think Pennsylvania forgot spring and ran right into summer. That’s okay, as long as the trees have some green on them and the lilacs and other flowers are blooming.

No, I don’t have any photos of the lilacs yet, but hopefully next week. They are blooming, but I didn’t find time this week to photograph them.

Thursday, Little Miss had some friends over and they played hard all day, including sliding on a slip-n-slide for about 15 minutes, after which they decided the wind was too cold. They wouldn’t have been too cold yesterday (Saturday) because it was close to 87 during the day.  It is supposed to be as hot today, but the rest of the week is supposed to be a little cooler.

On our way back from picking them up, we saw a porcupine in the middle of the road, which is maybe only the second time in my life I have seen a porcupine in real life. I thought it was a racoon at first.

It was crossing the road in a bad spot, and I couldn’t drive around it so I honked at it, which I knew was a bad idea because freaked out porcupines can lead to quills flying and maybe putting out one of my tires. Luckily, he simply waddled off the road and his quills came up only after he was out of our way. I don’t know if he ever shot them or not.

Last week was apparently the week for wildlife to be seen and heard. Early in the week Little Miss and I heard something screaming. I thought it might be a fox because I’ve heard people say they sound like they are screaming when they bark but the neighbors thought a rabbit had gotten caught and was killed. *Shiver*. 

On our way to gymnastics for Little Miss, we saw a box turtle crossing the road and five minutes later two deer crossed the road as well.


The saddest sight, though, was when we saw a dead bear along one of our major highways on Friday. We think it was a young bear because it wasn’t very large. I have to say it is the first time in my life I have seen a bear hit along the road. I would imagine the car that hit it wasn’t in very good shape afterward.

We saw the dead bear when we drove 45 minutes north to where we used to live to drop The Boy off at a friend’s house for a sleepover. We spent some time at the local playground, The Boy rode his bike around his old neighborhood, I stopped at the health food store for a favorite natural soda of mine (which tasted horrible thanks to the lingering effects of Covid), and another store for some milk from one of the local farmers who now have their own farm store. After we dropped The Boy off, Little Miss wanted to go to the playground again, which meant a longer day than I planned. She had a ton of fun, though, and it was nice to see children playing together again.

Saturday afternoon I had a little bit of free time when The Husband and Little Miss went to pick up The Boy from a sleepover he’d been at. While sitting in my very quiet living room I heard something or someone wheezing. For a minute, my health anxiety-riddled brain thought it was me. Then I remembered I haven’t actually wheezed in a long time and that there is one other family member who wheezes when she sleeps. I looked up and sure enough — Pixel (aka Fat Cat) was asleep in the dog bed by the TV. Yes, it is a dog bed, but more often than not, the dog sleeps on the ottoman and the cat curls up in the bed that was meant for the dog.

Yes, we really should buy an extra bed so they can both have one.


What I/We’ve Been Reading

I’m almost finished with Walking in Tall Weeds by Robin W. Pearson and I’m really enjoying it. I wrote a little bit about the book in last week’s Sunday Bookends. It releases July 19.

I will probably finish it today or tomorrow because I can’t put it down.

I’m hoping to jump into another Miss Julia book by Ann B. Ross later this week and possibly balance that with either another CJ Box (Joe Pickett) or Craig Johnson (Longmire) book. I like to have two books to switch back and forth in case one gets too “heavy” for me.

The Boy is still reading Smoke and Mirrors.

Little Miss and I are finishing Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder. For the last two weeks of school, we will be reading The Years of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill as well.

The Husband is reading Shots Fired by CJ Box.

What We watched/are Watching

Last night we watched The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance with John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart.

It is streaming on Paramount. It was very good. Much better than I expected.

Earlier in the week, The Husband and I watched more of The Larkins. I have already watched the first (and only so far) season but am enjoying rewatching it. I’m catching things I didn’t before.

I also started a documentary series about Scotland. It was interesting but the man hosting it kept using the weirdest voice when he quoted women, which was very unnerving.


What I’m Writing

I found a bit of time this week to work on Mercy’s Shore, the fourth book in The Spencer Valley Chronicles and came up with several ideas for it, as well as a few scenes. I’m not totally sure, but I might be able to write this book a little faster than past books. I shared chapter 3 from it Friday here on the blog.

I also shared a Randomly Thinking post yesterday.

What I’m Listening To

This week I listened to CeCe Winans, Matthew West, and The Shires.

Your turn

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Randomly Thinking: Pot photos, horses in the street, and other craziness

When your husband works for a newspaper, it is not unusual to receive photographs or texts others might consider unusual. For example, a month or so ago I looked at my phone and there was a photo of pot (marijuana) in jars waiting for me.   Under it was a photo of bills of various amounts and a handgun spread out on a large table. No explanation was offered for either of them.

This was around the same time we were dealing with some financial strains so I shot back a text to my husband telling him the financial situation would work out, he didn’t need to turn to a life of crime.

Of course, I had a feeling there was something more to these photos, and indeed there was. They were from a press conference my husband was attending in his capacity as a reporter/editor where the police were talking about a group of college students who had been busted for running an illegal pot manufacturing business, as well as possibly some other illegal drugs.

After that press conference, he called me to assure me he had not turned to crime (although all that money spread out on the table was a bit tempting, he told me as a joke). We chatted for a bit because he was stuck in traffic. He thought traffic might be moving slowly because of an accident, but instead, he said to me, “What in the world are all these horses doing in the road?”

I can’t see what is going on obviously so I’m asking, “What’s going on? What do you mean?”

He tells me he’s going to hang up and let me know later and while I’m waiting my mind races through all the weird scenarios which could have occurred. There was an accident with a horse trailer and the horses escaped. There were a bunch of rednecks at a bar whose licenses had been taken away so they had to ride the horses home. I didn’t know.

Turns out the reason for horses riding down the road was much nicer. A local horse farrier had recently passed away and the horses were part of a funeral procession to escort his body to the cemetery. That photograph was much nicer than the one of the illicit drugs and weapons.

****

I was pouring honey into my tea the other day and the kids were watching.

“That’s too much honey,” my son informed me.

I looked at him in confusion. “I don’t know what those words mean. ‘Too much honey.’ I’m confused.”

I then poured some more honey in.  

***

My mom called on a Saturday night and asked if we wanted chicken for lunch the next day (we usually go over there on Sunday afternoons). I said chicken would be fine and she asked if we wanted, chicken breast, drumsticks, or thighs.

I told her any was fine but that our family liked chicken breast.

“We’re breast people,” I said with a mischievous snicker.

Mom holds the phone away from her mouth and says to my dad. “She says her family are breast people.”

She comes back on the phone and says, “Your dad says he’s a thigh man himself,” and then sighs.

Poor Mom. She has to put up with our weird humor.

***

One morning two weeks ago all three of our animals were crowded by the back door, waiting to be let out into the sunshine. I decided to take a photo of them all together so I made them wait. Bad idea because that’s when the older cat reached over and smacked the younger cat.

This resulted in me posting the photos to Instagram stories with some funny captions.

***

Our kitten (who isn’t technically a kitten anymore) has been a killing machine lately. She’s been carrying dead mice and moles to us for a while now. Last week she killed three moles but the week before that she came running up the sidewalk with something in her mouth and at first I thought it was a bird. As she got closer I realized it was a baby snake and about passed out.

She dropped the snake on the pavement and my dad scooped it up and laid it under the pine tree by our driveway to let it die in peace since it didn’t seem to be in very good shape.

I guess Scout wasn’t done with it because she wandered over there a few minutes later to try to finish it off. This resulted in my husband grabbing a shovel, scooping up the snake again (which was hard for him since he hates snakes so much), and tossing it over the bank across the road.

I also took a photo of the snake so we could decide if it was poisonous or not, even though we assumed it was a garter snake, which we have a lot of in this area. As far as we could tell it was a garter snake, thankfully.


***

I felt really nerved up the other day and my husband said, “Shut your laptop. Get off social media and I’m putting Dick VanDyke on for you.”

He knows what helps to calm me.

***

My dad was trying to be deep the other day at dinner and asked me who could hear a tear fall.

I said, “Hank Williams can hear a tear fall in his beer. That’s what he said in that song anyhow.”

Dad sighed. “I was going to say that only God can hear a tear fall but thanks for that.”

Oh. Oops.

***

The Boy and I were recently talking about how much we actually like the cooler weather and are not really looking forward to warmer weather. He likes being able to wear sweatshirts and I like being able to huddle under a blanket while reading a book or watching a good show. Of course I wanted some warmer weather and some green trees but I’m not a fan of sweltering temperatures and muggy days.

He decided that spring is his favorite time of the year while I decided that my favorite seasons are both spring and fall because they aren’t too cold or too hot.

***

So about you? Any random thoughts or events happening in your life? Let me know in the comments.

Fiction Friday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 3

Here we are to chapter 3 of Mercy’s Shore, the fourth book in The Spencer Valley Chronicles. If you’ve been here before you know how it works. This is a somewhat first draft so there might be typos and plot holes etc., which will be fixed before I finally publish it in ebook form later on.

Book three is now for sale on Amazon and other sites.

To read the previous two chapters in this current story click HERE.

Chapter 3

Ben opened one eye and squinted in the sunlight, expecting to see the bedroom at his apartment — clean, matching furniture and set up to fit his organized personality.

Instead, his gaze fell on a poster of Cal Ripkin Jr., golden trophies lining shelves above a small desk, and a collection of CDs in a bookcase where books should have been.

Oh right. His brother Luke’s room. He squeezed his eyes shut again and pulled the covers up over his head. It hadn’t been a bad dream after all. He really was staying at his parents while he recuperated from a concussion and a broken ankle.

He’d been placed in his younger brother’s room because his room had been transformed into his father’s office long ago and because Luke was away at college. His other brother, Travis, had moved out a year ago and was working for a construction company in the western part of the state. Travis’ room had become a library for his dad’s law books. The only sibling who wasn’t out of the house yet was —

“Hey, Binkie! Mom says breakfast is ready.”

He glared through the blanket at his younger sister Maggie. He was an adult, nearly 30. Why in the world was she still using his childhood nickname?

“Go away,” he mumbled.

Maggie giggled and something soft, which he figured was a pillow, slammed into him. “Just like the old days. You’re still not a morning person. Come on or I’m eating all the pancakes.”

The door slammed and he winced. Did she forget he had a concussion?

He flung the covers back and squinted at the Pittsburgh Steelers clock on the bedside stand. Any other day and he’d already be in the office, preparing for his day in court or for a meeting with a client. He still planned to go over a few briefs and hold a couple of video conference calls with clients, but Cindy had purposely set those meetings up for later in the morning, urging him to take his time and heal up.

He adored the woman, but it was a challenge working with a woman his mother’s age who sometimes acted like she was his mother.

Cindy was great at her job, though, and he couldn’t imagine anyone else working for him or with him. She’d been employed as a secretary for the lawyer who’d had the office before him for 25 years. He counted himself lucky that she’d agreed to stay on when he took over. Her experience was irreplaceable even if her maternal tone grated on his nerves at times.

He grimaced as he swung his legs over the bed. The air cast on his ankle was cumbersome but necessary if he wanted the break to heal. The doctor had told him if he’d hit the ankle any harder, he’d be in surgery receiving a pin in it. That would have put him out of work even longer. He took the stairs one at a time, gritting his teeth against the pain.

His mom set a plate filled with pancakes, eggs, bacon, and two pieces of toast on the table as he reached for the back of the chair to steady himself.

“Those painkillers still doing a number on you?” His mom asked.

He waited for the room to stop tilting before he tried to sit down. “Yeah. I’d like to stop taking them but when I do the pounding in my head is almost unbearable.”

He pressed his forehead into his hands and wished the food looked more appetizing to him at the moment. He knew his mom already made breakfast for his dad and sister every morning but adding an extra plate to her day didn’t seem fair to him, especially if he couldn’t eat it.

“Going stir crazy yet?” Maggie stuffed a bite of pancake in her mouth and quirked an eyebrow at him. She smirked as she chewed.

Ben watched her through half open eyes. “Shouldn’t you be at school already?”

Maggie giggled and took a sip of chocolate milk through a bright red straw. “You’re still a big grump in the mornings, huh?” She wiped the milk from her upper lip with a napkin. Don’t worry. I’ll be out of your hair soon. Jenny’s on her way over.”

He reached for the glass of milk his mom sat in front of him. “Whose Jenny?”

“Jenny Fitzgerald. You know her.”

“You don’t mean she’s driving over here, do you? She’s like 12.”

Maggie rolled her eyes. “She was 12 five years ago, Benny. She’s 17 and got her license two months ago.”

Emily Oliver placed a hand on her hip as she stood by the table. “And if Maggie wants her license, she needs to start studying that book I brought home.”

Maggie rolled her eyes while Ben rubbed a hand over the stubble along his jawline. How was his little sister old enough to be getting her license? He could have sworn she was eleven just yesterday.

Maggie was the surprise baby for the Olivers. After three sons they thought they were done, but six years after their youngest son was born, Maggie made her appearance.

“I thought you were menopause,” Emily was fond of telling her daughter jokingly.

Ben took a sip of the milk, the only thing which tasted good to him at the moment. “Where’d you get the milk? It’s good.”

“The Tanner’s. Their bottling their own milk and expanded the store.”

Oh right.

The Tanners.

Molly Tanner.

His girlfriend in high school. The sweet girl he’d dumped to go out with Angie because Angie was skinny, blond, and – well, more willing to do things Molly wasn’t.

His stomach clenched at the memory.

He’d apologized to Molly about a year ago, told her how stupid he’d been, how sorry for what he’d done to her. In true Molly fashion she had forgiven him, and it has eased some of his guilt, but not all of it.

In reality he’d been stupid in and after college too, only with Angie instead of Molly this time. Apparently messing up the lives of women was a talent of his.

His mom gestured at his plate as she sat across from him with a cup of tea. “Aren’t you going to eat? You need to keep your energy up.” She dropped two cubes of sugar into her cup. “
It will help your healing.”

Ben smiled. “Once a mom, always a mom, huh?”

“You know that.” Emily winked. “You’ll always be my baby.”

Maggie snorted a laugh as she shoved her last bite of bacon in her mouth. “Probably because he still acts like a baby half the time.”

Ben reached out and gently pinched his sister’s arm as she walked by to put her plate in the sink. A horn honked from outside. “Your book bag is over there. Get going, smart mouth.”

Maggie leaned over as she reached for her book bag and kissed his cheek. “I’m glad you’re okay, Benny.”

He leaned back in the chair and reached up to ruffle her hair. “Thanks, kid.”

“My hair!”

He chuckled at Maggie’s cry of despair as she walked toward the back door.

Emily stood and reached for a pile of envelops and folders on the island. “I hesitated giving all this to you now, but Cindy dropped your mail off this morning. I want you to rest your brain but maybe this will tide you over a little bit until you can get back into the office.”

Ben poked at a piece of pancake as he rifled through the mail. “Junk mail, a couple of signed documents I actually asked to be dropped off in person and not mailed, and a couple of bills. Looks like I haven’t missed much.”

A stack of the envelopes slipped off the table onto the floor and Emily stooped to grab them. Ben saw the envelope before she reached for it, but he couldn’t move fast enough. He hoped she wouldn’t see the return address.

 She held the envelope in front of her.  Too late.

“Oh. It’s from Adam and Leona.” She smiled and handed it to him. “I wonder what they sent you.”

He took the envelope, avoiding her gaze, and shoved it under the pile.

“Wouldn’t know,” he mumbled, drinking more milk.

Emily sat down and smoothed her hands across the red and white tablecloth. She cleared her throat and reached for her tea, holding the cup in both hands as she raised it to her mouth. “Don’t you want to know what they sent?” She sipped the tea, keeping her eyes on the tea in her cup.

He finished off the milk and started in on the pancakes. “I already know what it is.”

“Oh?”

He kept his eyes on the pancakes. “Angie left me a voicemail. She doesn’t want me there.”

The cup hit the table with a soft clink. “Oh.” It wasn’t a question anymore. He wasn’t sure what he heard in her voice. Disappointment? Resignation? Definitely not surprise.

He pushed his plate back and picked up the mail. “Anyhow, thanks for breakfast. I’m going to head up and see if I can get a few online meetings scheduled for this week and some briefs written.”

“Don’t you want to get to know her, Ben?”

The question stopped him as he started to shuffle back toward the stairs. He tipped his head back and let out a breath. He answered without turning around, the mail under his arm. “Angie doesn’t want me around, Mom.”

“That isn’t what I asked.”

Ben dropped his head and raked his free hand through his hair as he continued to walk toward the stairs. “My head is pounding, and I’ve got work to do. Maybe we can talk about this another time.”

Climbing the stairs, he was grateful his mom didn’t push the issue. He heard her placing dishes in the sink instead. It didn’t matter if he wanted to see his daughter or not. Angie didn’t want to see him or for him to see their daughter and he couldn’t blame her.

Most days he couldn’t even stand to see himself in the mirror.

He tossed the mail on the bed, picking up the envelope from Angie’s parents as it fell on the floor.

He held it in his hands few moments before finally ripping it open. A handwritten note and a small photo fell out with the card, an invitation with colorful writing and the number four on the front, surrounded by a bunch of red balloons. The party was the next weekend, four hours away where Angie and her parents now lived.

He reached down for the note, leaving the photo of a blond-haired little girl on the floor by the bedside table.

Ben:

We didn’t know if we should send this, but you are Amelia’s father, and we feel you should be a part of her life.

We hope you will at least consider attending her birthday party.

We know there has been hurt between you and Angie and that you have struggled to move past some personal issues, but you are welcome in our home anytime.

Below are the directions to our house.

Sincerely,

Leona and Adam

 

He had no idea how Angie’s parents could still be willing to extend an olive branch to him after what he’d done.

He crumbled the note and the invitation and tossed it in the trash can then reached for the photo. Tiny, bright blue eyes looked back at him above a cute nose that was definitely her mother’s. Her blond curls fell to her shoulder and her smile was also Angie’s — a mixture of sweet and sass.

Her eyes, though, except for the color, were his. They were shaped the same and held a stubbornness he clearly recognized. He hoped that stubbornness worked out better for her than it had for him and that she’d learn to use it for good versus the evil he’d used it for too many times.

He opened his brief case next to the bed and shoved the photo in the inside pocket. Pulling out a stack of manilla folders full of case information, he shut the briefcase again, and with it closed his thoughts about the woman and the little girl he’d walked away from four and a half years ago.

Author Interview: Lisa R. Howeler, author of Beauty From Ashes — on The Lily Cafe

Thank you to Kat at The Lily Cafe for interviewing me about Beauty From Ashes for her blog today!

The Lily Cafe is thrilled to welcome author and blogger Lisa R. Howeler, here to talk a bit about her Christian romance novel Beauty From Ashes. Lisa blogs at and shares early drafts of her novels on Boondock Ramblings. Even though I don’t identify as Christian, I love her novels as they’re clean, sweet romances […]

Author Interview: Lisa R. Howeler, author of Beauty From Ashes — The Lily Cafe

Sunday Bookends: finally some sun, a variety of books, and yummy cheesesteaks are back.

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


What I/we’ve Been Reading

This week I started a book I needed to read for a book tour and had a hard time enjoying it. I feel bad for that and for skipping through most of it so I’m going to go back this week and read it a little slower. The book is called The Prayer Shawl by Jenny Lynn Cary and it has a sweet premise of two cousins making amends, but I just couldn’t seem to enjoy the dueling storylines in it.

The book is about two cousins who do not get along well and are brought back together after their grandmother dies. Their grandmother raised the one cousin, Cami, after her parents died and now Grandma (Kate) has left directions for Cami to complete a task before she can receive her inheritance. This is not the first time I have either read a book with this plot point. I’ve also seen it in movies. My question is if it really ever happens in life and how a lawyer can actually ensure the person’s last request is met appropriately when these tasks are often so vague.

Elderly relatives leaving money only if the heir completes a task, is a very common plot point in Christian Fiction and romances these days, I have discovered. I feel it is becoming a little bit overused, but it does create some interesting storylines and characters, which is what happened in Cary’s book. I do like her writing style and the characters she creates so I want to give the book another chance this week.

It really wasn’t fair that I started Cary’s book at the same time I started an ARC by a favorite author of mine, Robin W. Pearson. I mentioned last week that I was reading the book which comes out at the end of July. The book flows so smoothly and the characters are so real that it is hard to put down. Robin’s books don’t have a lot of “action” per say and some readers might not like that, but I don’t mind at all because Robin’s action is in the way she makes the reader think. Plus, there is a bit of mystery to this one and I have to keep reading to find out secrets the dad and son are both holding on to.

So far, the book is tackling race issues, as well as family relationships. It’s a different take on race issues for me because I am used to reading books where the racist feelings are directed toward African Americans. That does happen some in this book, but it’s also directed toward the wife in the book who is mixed race with light skin and married to an African American. The book has some heavier topics than other books, but it isn’t so heavy you can’t stand up.

I’ve also started The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates for some lighter fare. This book was one of my Mother’s Day gifts from last week.

Little Miss and I were reading Paddington but we are back to Laura Ingalls Wilder. Please, someone send help. I am tired of reading the Little House books. I need to find something else to interest her.

The Husband (I feel weird calling him “The Husband” as if that is his title. I asked him as I wrote this, if he wanted me to use his real name or if he wants a blog nickname like the kids. He said he is fine with me simply calling him The Husband.) finished The Hundred Year Old Man Who Went Out the Window.

There is a sequel to the book, but my husband said it dives into politics and he gets enough of that at work these days so he’s decided not to read it. He is now reading Shots Fired by C.J. Box.

The Boy is still reading Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman.

What’s Been Occurring

I had a very nice Mother’s Day last week. I visited my parents for a little bit on the actual day but we had visited with them for dinner on Saturday because my dad had a minor procedure on Monday and couldn’t eat Sunday.

My husband and children bought me the book I mentioned above, a new journal, and a new purse. The Husband also made dinner for me on Mother’s Day on the grill and drew me a bath, which was wonderful.

The day ended with him and The Boy making me watch the latest Spider-man which was a bit depressing honestly and not my favorite. I’m over the whole comic book schtick requiring the hero to suffer and go through life alone. That’s all I’ll say about that.

The weather finally warmed up which helped my sinuses immensely. Aren’t you glad I won’t be lamenting every Sunday about how hard it has been for me to breathe? At least for a while anyhow.

During the week we spent as much time as we could outside, or at least Little Miss and I did. We chased each other in the yard in a game she simply calls “Zombie.” All the chasing showed me that my lungs are not totally healed from the crazy sinusitis-type thing I had all through April and the Dreaded Virus last year but they are way better than they were.

One day during the week we visited my parents and made pizza for dinner. Our oven is currently broken so this gave us a chance to use up the dough I’d purchased (forgetting about the oven issue) and to see my parents. Zooma The Wonder Dog enjoyed rolling in the dirt road, covering herself with dust, and I enjoyed watching the Canadian geese who have decided to take up residence in my parent’s pond. That pond has been there my entire life and I have never seen geese land there or stay there. I’m interested to see if they have lain eggs there or not.

On Friday we visited a restaurant we really enjoy but which isn’t open during the winter. It’s located pretty much in the middle of nowhere by a beautiful covered bridge. We chose to sit at the tables outside the building and then admired the creek and covered bridge during our meal and afterward. The restaurant makes amazing cheesesteaks.

They are so amazing they were named one of the top ten cheesesteaks in the state of Pennsylvania. It’s no surprise they are so good since the owners are originally from Philly. Ironically, no one ordered an actual cheesesteak. I had a cheesesteak salad, so that was close. The husband had a buffalo chicken cheesesteak, The Boy a chicken wrap, and Little Miss a chicken tenders basket.

The boys also ordered some Jersey Dirty Fries, which are French fries with cheese whiz, barbecue sauce, garlic sauce, and bacon on top.

When we came home, I sat on the back porch in silence and just enjoyed the beautiful weather and view, petting our dog and cat, and reading. I didn’t have my phone or computer near me and it was the most relaxed I’d been all week.

What We watched/are Watching

This week I start watching that old show J.A.G. — Do you remember it? Lt. Harmon Rabb. Swoon. I remember watching the show in high school. If I remember right, it got a little crazy at the end, but most shows do. I enjoyed it at the beginning at least. It was nice to be nostalgic this week and to see the show now that I’m older and understand a little more about, well, everything.

Enjoy the comments on this Youtube video, by the way. Most of them are slamming all the military errors on the show.

As I mentioned above, we also watched the latest Spider-Man and it wasn’t my favorite. There were aspects I enjoyed but there were also some heartbreaking aspects that simply brought me down into the dumps.

Friday, after our trip to the restaurant, we watched another Brokenwood Mysteries.


What I’m Writing

I worked on Mercy’s Shore this past week and shared Chapter 2 on Friday.

I did not share much on the blog but hope to this upcoming week. I am working on a Randomly Thinking and maybe a post about our last couple of weeks of homeschooling.

What I’m Listening To

I’ve been listening to CeCe Winan’s Believe For It.

I’ve also been listening to the Matthew West Podcast and a podcast by Life Church and Pastor Craig Groeschel.

The Husband found a new podcast by Phil Rosenthal (creator of Everybody Loves Raymond) and I hope to listen to that this week.

Now it’s your turn

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.