Special Saturday Fiction: The Farmers’ Sons Chapter 3 Part 2

I somehow skipped part 2 of Chapter 2 when sharing excerpts from my latest work in progress so I posted that part yesterday. Today I am posting the second part of Chapter 3.

For anyone new here, I post a piece of fiction or a serial story I am working on each Friday. The excerpt is a work in progress and will go through various drafts and rewrites before I publish it anywhere in the future.

To catch up with the rest of the story click HERE or find the link at the top of the page. You will also find a link to The Farmer’s Daughter under the “books for sale” tab. Or at least I hope you will because at the time of writing this, I was working on updating my blog header. On the page for The Farmer’s Daughter, you can read an excerpt and find out where to purchase a copy of the full novel.


6 a.m.

His dad had given him the morning off, telling him Troy would fill in for him, but Jason hadn’t been able to sleep. His mind was still racing over his “proposal” to Ellie. Which hadn’t been a proposal, but she thought it was a proposal so  . . . yeah. It was a proposal. And he was glad. He wanted to marry her, start a family with her, but they needed to start that life together off on the right foot and right now it was standing square on the wrong one.

He closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep, but visions of what might happen when he talked to Ellie swirled in his mind. He pushed those images away by trying to focus on his to-do list for the day but then his mind spun off into a hundred what-ifs about the future of the farm.

At 6:30, he gave up on sleep and headed to the gym in Spencer. After a 30-minute workout it was on to the local Agway in Spencer. He needed some new fencing for the chicken pen and his mom had also asked for some for her garden to keep the deer away from her lettuce and green beans. He’d grab some breakfast at Denny’s Diner on the way back and try to take his mind off on trying to figure out the right time to talk to Ellie.

He nodded at Daniel Stanton on his way out of the Agway. “Mornin’.”

“Hey, Jason. You’re in town early.”

“Yeah, had the morning off from the barn.”

“Troy filling in?”

“Yeah. Hopefully it will still be standing when I get back.”

Daniel laughed, pulling his green John Deere cap further down on his head. “Let’s hope so. Troy is a bit spacy at times. Hey, how’s Alex holding up this morning?”

Jason shrugged, reaching for the fencing from one of the employees, a teenager, probably about 16, but everyone was looking younger and younger to Jason these days. “I don’t know. Haven’t seen him yet today. Why?”

Daniel laughed. “Nothing. Just had his hands full last night when he left Marty’s.”

Jason cocked an eyebrow. “Hands full?”

“Yeah. With Jessie Landry.”

Jason cleared his throat as he lifted the fencing into his truck. “Oh. I don’t know.” He grinned, trying to hide how uncomfortable he was with the idea of Alex bringing someone like Jessie Landry back to their place. “I’ll have to ask him later when I see him.”

Daniel nudged Jason in the arm with his elbow. “He’s probably still trying to recover. She’s a firecracker. See you tomorrow at the gym?”

Jason loaded the last of the fencing. “Unless something more important comes up.”

Like if I have to slap some sense into Alex instead, he thought, slamming the tailgate closed.

When he pulled the truck into the driveway an hour later, after a stop the diner and his parents to drop off the fencing, Alex’s red and black pickup was still parked in front of the house.

Not a good sign.

In fact, it might be a sign he was back to his old ways.

The door to the old farmhouse needed to be painted. It creaked open.

It needs to be oiled too.

Jason didn’t close it quietly. It slammed hard behind him and he took the old wooden stairs beyond the living room two at a time.

He pounded on the bedroom door across from the bathroom with his fist “Alex! Yo! You gettin’ up today?”

A groggy groan emanated from behind the door.

“I’ve already been to the barn and back,” Jason said. “And the gym. And the hardware store. And Denny’s.”

Silence.

“Hello?”

He heard a thud and then . . . more silence.

Then finally, “Yeah. Comin’. Just . . .” Another groan. “I’ll be right down.”

Yep. Alex is definitely back to his old ways.

That meant late nights at the bar, strange women calling his cellphone, and hangovers in the barn that Jason tried to distract his dad from.

Jason made sure to slam cupboard doors and clank a spoon loudly into a bowl downstairs.

Footsteps on the stairs moved slow but steady until Alex slumped into a chair at the table.

Jason tried to remind himself what Alex did with his life wasn’t his business. Still, he hated to see him turn back to a path that had left him vulnerable to be hurt and hurt others. Plus, Jason’s family was personally invested in Alex now, not only as an employee but essentially another member of the family.

 “Cereal?”

Alex nodded. “Sure.”

Jason pushed the cereal toward him and reached for milk in the refrigerator.

“You go out last night?”

Alex poured milk on his cereal without looking up. “Yeah.”

“Daniel Stanton said you left the bar last night with Jessie Landry hanging all over you.”

Alex scowled at his bowl, still not looking up. “If Daniel Stanton already told you I was at the bar, then why did you ask if I went out?”

Jason shrugged, folding his arms across his chest. “So, you ended up back up here?”

“Yeah.”

“I didn’t see her this morning when I got up. Is she still asleep?”

“Yeah. I mean, no. I – sent her home. Or rather, she left. In a bit of a huff, really.”

“So, you didn’t sleep with her?”

Alex shook his head, shoving a spoonful of cereal into his mouth.

Jason leaned back, reaching for his coffee cup on the counter and sipping from it. He winced. It was cold, which wasn’t surprising since it was four hours old. “Really? Well, that’s new. What happened?”

Alex glared, milk dripping down his chin. He dragged the back of his hand across his mouth.

“What does that mean, Jase? You act like I’m some man-whore or something. It’s not like I’m bedding girls every night.”

Jason laughed and shook his head. “Not every night, no.”

“Actually, if you’ll remember, I haven’t brought a girl back here in almost two years. Maybe even longer.”

Jason rubbed his hand across the stubble on his chin. He probably shouldn’t push the issue any further, but with the way Alex had been acting around Molly, he needed to know if Alex was looking at her as another conquest.

“So, you’re not bringing them back to our place, maybe you’re — ”

“I’m not,” Alex snapped, shoving the last of the cereal into his mouth and gulping the remaining milk down.

“Okay. Okay.” Jason leaned back against the counter, crossed one leg over another. “Don’t be so touchy.”

The chair tipped back as Alex pushed himself back from the table and stood abruptly.

“I’m not the jerk you act like I am, Jason.” His jaw was tight. He turned and walked back toward the stairs. “I’m going to get a shower.

He knew he pushed Alex too far, but he also knew Alex had changed for the better over the last few years and he didn’t want to see all his hard work go down the drain. Alex had told him more than once over the years that he wanted to be a better man. He wanted to drink less and work harder and that’s what he’d been doing up until last night.

Jason rolled his eyes and shook his head, pouring the coffee down the drain. What was he even doing? Considering his own past history of lying he had no right to act like Alex’s moral guide.  He’d never developed the drinking the problem Alex had and he definitely hadn’t gone out with as many women as Alex, but he still wasn’t any better than Alex simply because he attended church and Alex didn’t.

He’d tried hard the last few years to forget that period of time in college, especially that one night, to redeem himself, and create a better version of himself by attending church, leading Bible studies, taking care of his family. The Bible said he didn’t need to work for his forgiveness, but he couldn’t shake the feeling he did.

It should matter more to him what God thought, but there was no denying that to him nothing mattered if Ellie didn’t forgive him for what he’d done.

What Ellie would think of him when she found out? Would she understand that Lauren Phillips had meant nothing to him? That his time with Lauren had been a distraction from his hurt, his loneliness, his confusion over why Ellie had wanted a break in their relationship?

He was going to have to find out soon what Ellie thought because he wanted that all on the table before they announced their engagement. There was a good chance when Ellie heard it all she would decide she didn’t want to be engaged anymore anyhow.

Fiction Friday: The Farmers’ Sons Chapter 2 Part 2

I can’t seem to find where I posted this section of Chapter 2. If it is a repeat, I apologize. If not, then you have a little more information here about Ellie’s background especially.

For anyone new here, I post a piece of fiction or a serial story I am working on each Friday. The excerpt is a work in progress and will go through various drafts and rewrites before I publish it anywhere in the future.

To follow along with The Farmers’ Sons click HERE, or find the link at the top of the page.




Chapter 2 Part 2

Hair pulled back. Check.

Slacks with no scuff marks and no wrinkles. Check.

New shirt, freshly ironed. Check.

Ellie sighed, looking at herself in the entryway mirror at the preschool. She had no idea why she felt the need to be so well dressed for a group of 4 and 5-year-olds. Maybe she really was uptight, like her sister always said. Uptight, snooty, too-perfect, or whatever negative term Judi could describe her to prove that Judi was the fun sister and Ellie was the boring one.

She sighed again, sliding a beret in place to hold back a stray strand of hair.

That wasn’t fair. It wasn’t likely Judi was trying to prove anything about their differences. She probably didn’t even care; the same way she didn’t care about most things.

 It was Ellie who was stuck on the fact that Judi had always been more carefree, while Ellie felt like she had been born a little old lady. A little old lady who made lists planning out her life, organized her books in alphabetical order, and who’s clothes were hung by style and color coordination in her closet.

She tightened her ponytail, cocking an eyebrow as she inspected her shirt again and touched up her lipstick. It was the same color of lipstick she’d worn the night Jason had proposed to her.

The night her life had gotten back on track and she’d been able to write, “marriage and children” back onto that list she’d written out in high school.

 “Hi, Miss Ellie!”

She looked down into bright green eyes under a shock of red hair. “Hey, there, Timmy.” She leaned forward on knees slightly bent to bring herself down more to Timmy Murray’s level. “How are you this morning?”

“Mommy says I’m constipated.”

“Oh.” Ellie made a face. “Well, that’s not very good. Is your belly hurting?”

Timmy shrugged. “Nope. Just can’t poop. What are we doing at playtime today?”

Ellie held a laugh back. She didn’t want Timmy to think it was funny he couldn’t “poop.”

“It’s a surprise. You’ll have to wait and see.”

Timmy rolled his eyes. “Why do big people always make us wait for everythin’?”

Once again Ellie marveled at the verbal capability of this particular 4-year-old as she took his hand and led him into the classroom.

“Timmy, there you are.”

Ellie’s friend and co-worker Lucy Allen patted the table in front of Timmy’s chair. “Remember, we don’t leave the room unless we’re given permission.”

“I saw Miss Ellie and thought I should say ‘hello’.”

Lucy winked at Ellie, flipping strands of red-blond hair over her shoulder.

“You still need to ask permission, bud. Okay, let’s all get into our good morning circle to share about our weekend and then Miss Ellie will read us a new book, ‘Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep.’”

Lucy sighed as the children filed from their chairs and gathered on the rug.

“Welcome back from the weekend, Miss Ellie.” She wore a weary smile as she leaned back against the edge of the desk. “Was it a good one?”

Ellie placed her bag on the desk and took a sip of the tea in her mug. A mix of honey and lemon hit her taste buds. She wished she could tell Lucy how good her weekend really had been.  “It was. Yours?”

Lucy rolled her eyes. “Long. My mother-in-law came to visit. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love Margaret, but everything is thrown off when she’s there. The kids don’t want to go to bed, she bakes all these cookies and they’re all on a sugar high . . .”

The kids.

Ellie’s chest constricted.

She’d gotten used to her friends talking about their children, but today it only seemed to highlight the fact she was the only one of her friends who didn’t have children to talk about. Well, there was Molly, of course, but she didn’t talk to Molly about children much, or her hope for them. Talking to her boyfriend’s sister about wanting to have babies with her brother would be awkward all around.

 “…but it was a nice weekend overall. Mary Anne went home this morning and I have to admit that it is a little lonely without her. The kids loved her bedtime stories. . . Hey, you okay?”

Ellie looked up, reaching across the desk for the book. Time to change the subject before Lucy asked too many questions about her weekend. “I am, but if I don’t start reading soon, those kids are going to get themselves into even more trouble.” She winked and gently nudged Lucy’s arm on her way to the center of the room.

“Brittany, hands to yourself. No, I don’t care if Matthew sat in your spot. Choose another spot.”

She sat herself in the chair in front of the kids and opened the book. “So, everyone, are we ready for a new book with a new character? A loveable bear I have a feeling is going to become a favorite.”

“Yeah!” All their little voices blended together.

“Okay, well, this story starts — ”

“Miss Ellie?”

A sigh. “Yes, Timmy?”

“How come you aren’t married?”

A catch in her chest. “Timmy, honey, it’s story time, not question-and-answer time.”

“My mommy says you’re old enough to be married, but you aren’t.”

A tightening jaw. “Well, Timmy, your mommy —“

Lucy cleared her throat and clapped her hands quickly. “Let’s focus on story time, Timmy, okay?”

Ellie shot Lucy a grateful smile. She really hadn’t been sure what was going to come out of her mouth. She looked at Timmy and winked again.

“I’m sure Timmy understands it’s time to use our ears for listening and not our mouth for talking now. Right, Timmy?”

Timmy nodded and stuck his thumb in his mouth, eyes wide.

Ellie took a deep breath and plunged forward with the book, hoping to make it through the day without verbally snapping any of these poor children’s heads off. It wasn’t their fault she was an almost 30-year-old woman who wasn’t married, didn’t have children, and hadn’t told her fiancé that they might never even have those children.

Lucy cornered her at lunchtime.

“That question from Timmy seemed to unsettle you a little. You okay?”

She nodded, tucking her shirt in, and brushing crumbs left over from her sandwich off the tabletop and into her hand.

“I am. Or will be.”

“Still no proposal?”

She hesitated, not wanting to lie to Lucy but also not wanting to break her agreement with Jason not to tell anyone until he gave her a ring.

Lucy leaned close. “Ellie Lambert, I can see it all over your face. Something happened this weekend. You’re not going to leave me in the dark, are you? Your very best friend in the whole wide world besides Trudy, who doesn’t count since she abandoned us.”

Ellie sipped her lemon water and laughed. “Trudy didn’t abandon us. She got married. It wasn’t her fault Brett got transferred to Detroit.”

Lucy rolled her eyes, popping the last bite of her carrot in her mouth. “It was more like she was sentenced to Detroit. Anyhow, what happened this weekend? Hurry.” She nodded toward the children giggling at their lunch table a few feet away. “The natives are getting restless.”

Ellie poured the crumbs into the waste basket behind her desk. “I never thought it would take Jason so long to propose and I thought I’d be so excited when it happened, but now — I don’t know. It was just  —”

“Wait. He proposed? This weekend!” Lucy leaned over and hugged her. “How did he do it? Did he get down on one knee?”

“No. We were in his truck. He was driving and —”

He proposed while he was driving?

“Well, sort of. He — well, I —”

Ellie’s face flushed. “I cornered him and asked him when he was going to marry me.”

Lucy snorted a laugh, almost spitting out her lemonade. “That’s one way to get the ring, I guess.”

Ellie lowered her voice even more. “The thing is, he didn’t even have a ring. I ambushed the poor guy.”

“But, he did propose right?”

“He said he was going to that night.”

“Then why didn’t he have a ring?”

Ellie sat back, pulled her bottom lip between her teeth, and released it again. “I — I don’t know. He said he hadn’t had a chance to get it yet, or something. I don’t remember. I was just so excited and he seemed happy so . . .”

Lucy loaded the remainder of her lunch in her bag. “He seemed happy or terrified?”

Ellie laughed softly and shook her head, placing her lunch bag by her purse. “Happy, Lucy. Really.”

“Miss Ellie, Brenda says her booger is bigger than mine. Make her stop.”

Without turning around Ellie pressed her hand against her eyes, the other hand on her hip. “Lucy, is Timmy holding a booger on his finger right now?”

The sharp intake of breath alerted Ellie to the answer before Lucy even said the words. “Unfortunately, yes.”

The rest of the conversation about the proposal would have to wait until later. Ellie reached for a handful of tissues and turned to address the Great Booger Debate, a smile tugging at her mouth.

***

Bright sunlight cut through the clouds, sending sparkles of light dancing across the dew blanketing the ground. Jason looked out over the field, sweat trickling down the back of his neck. His dad was already out, cutting a path through the field on the tractor, preparing the ground for another round of corn to be planted.

Tanner Enterprises was definitely a family-run business and the burden of keeping it running wasn’t all on his shoulders, but Jason still felt the weight of helping to run a 400-acre farm and an out branch of businesses which employed a staff of 50.

 Watching his dad, Jason knew Robert Tanner was tired. He’d been tired for a long time, but this was a different kind of tired. A tired that Jason could see was leaving the 49-year-old man physically and emotionally drained at the end of each day. Jason knew his dad was angry at himself for having taken a loan out against the family business without telling his family and even angrier that circumstances beyond his control had made it impossible to repay the loan by the deadline. The mere fact he’d had to take a loan at all was like a kick to the gut for Robert.

“I don’t know Jason. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to take out that loan if we hadn’t lost your grandfather.”

But Jason had a feeling the need for a loan would have come, even if Ned Tanner had lived longer. It had been a year since Jason’s grandfather had passed away. Really, though, the dementia had taken Ned Tanner away from his family several years before his soul actually left his body.

Jason could still see the faraway look in his grandfather’s eyes that one day five years ago when he’d asked him where the accounting books were. Robert and Walt had already taken over the business, but Ned had the financial records at his house and Robert had asked Jason to pick them up. The records had always been there, and the family had agreed when the brothers took over that Ned would continue to keep them in his filing cabinet in his office in the house. When Jason had asked for the books to take to the tax preparer, though, his grandfather had drawn a blank.

“Accounting books? Doesn’t Hannah have those?”

“No, Grandpa. We agreed you’d keep them in the filing cabinet.”

“I have a filing cabinet?”

Jason had laughed softly. “Very funny, Grandpa.”

He could tell from his grandfather’s expression, though, that he wasn’t joking. Ned looked genuinely confused.

“What books should I have again?”

Jason’s eyebrows had furrowed in concern. Did his grandfather really not remember where he’d always kept the books?

Within a few moments, though, it was as if the fog in Ned’s mind had lifted. “Oh. Yes. The accounting books. They’re in the third drawer of that green filing cabinet in the corner of the office upstairs. The key is in my sock drawer. I’ll get it for you this afternoon.”

Jason had felt some relief at the return of clarity, but a couple of months later Ned had forgotten other things, small at first, like where he’d left his keys or if he’d gassed up the tractor. Eventually, though, he’d sat longer on a hay bale in the barn or on a chair on Robert’s front porch, staring out at the fields, trying to remember what he’d been about to do. The day Robert drove him home, tired and near tears because he couldn’t remember which direction to turn his truck to get back to his house, it was clear something was seriously wrong.

“Alzheimer’s.”

The doctor’s diagnosis hit the family hard. Jason could still remember clearly the small gasp from his mother, the way her hand flew to her mouth, pressed there for several moments as tears rimmed her eyes when Robert had told her.

Robert had told Jason that Franny, Jason’s grandmother, had asked the doctor, “How long?”

“How long?” The doctor looked at her in confusion.

“How long before he’s completely lost to us?”

The doctor hadn’t felt the dementia would move fast, but it did. Faster than anyone expected. The worsening heart failure had moved even faster, and within three years of the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Ned had been gone.

If it hadn’t been for his desire to keep his father’s dream alive, Robert might have given up and walked away from farming altogether the day they’d buried Ned in the family plot in the small cemetery behind the now empty country church down the road. The fact Jason and Molly, Walt and his family still had a passion for the farm had helped keep him going, but the other day Jason had seen his father looking at the letter from the bank he’d stuffed in his back pocket. Jason had looked over his dad’s shoulder and Robert had shared the news with him about the danger the business was in.

Both of them had felt the heaviness of grief again–grief over the loss of Ned, but also the pending grief at failing at the only job either of them had ever had and ever wanted to do.

Jason watched his dad turn the tractor back toward the barn and then turned back toward the barn to complete his own morning work so he could take off to the gym, one of the few places where he could work out his stresses.

“Hey, Jase?” He looked up at the sound of his dad’s voice after the tractor had been parked. Robert was standing next to the tractor, one arm propped against it.

The pig nudged the bottom of the bucket in Jason’s hand and snorted in impatience. “Yeah?”

“You have a lot on your mind lately?”

Jason shrugged a shoulder and tilted the bucket, some of the slop landing on the pig’s head, the rest on in the trough. “Uh. No. Not really. I mean,” he slid his cap back, scratched his head, and pulled the cap back down again. “Why?”

“You were supposed to tighten the bolts on these tires the morning.”

 “Oh.” Jason made a face. “Yeah. Right.”

“Right. Luckily, I could feel they were loose before I got too far out this morning.”

Jason cleared his throat and rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry about that.”

Robert shrugged. “It’s no big deal. I’m not mad, but you’ve seemed a little distracted lately. Is there anything you need to talk about?

Jason shook his head. “Nope.” He rubbed dirt off his hand with a rag. “I guess my mind was on something else. I’ll be more careful in the future.”

Robert rubbed his chin, pondered his son for a moment, then nodded. “Okay, well, you let me know if you need to talk.”

Jason turned back to working on the feed machine. “Definitely.”

But no. He would not talk to his dad about what was on his mind.

It was bad enough he was going to have to tell Ellie at some point if he wanted to start their marriage on a path of honesty. The last thing he needed was having his dad, the man he’d looked up to his whole life, learn about his past mistakes as well.

When You See the Parallels of A World Gone Mad in the Pages of Lord Of the Flies

You know the craziness of the world has finally got to you when you read Lord of the Flies with your 14-year old son for his school and see so much of the world today in its pages that you literally break down. The theme of this book definitely made more sense as an adult than it ever did as a tenth grader.

Slogging through this book the last month has been tough, not because William Golding was a horrible writer, but because his book is so accurate to what happens when people are overcome by the savagery of power and forget to be civilized.

We are not stranded on an island, no, but our world, especially our country right now, is in the throws of two warring sides fighting for power and not caring who gets killed in the process. People with common sense who just want to live their lives without being accused of being racist, homophobic, transphobic, or Grandma killers simply based on the color of our skin or the way we worship are Piggy on the rocks with his head split open.

Everyday citizens who want to go to work, earn money, support their family, and spend time with that family are Simon bleeding on the beach and being washed out to sea while savages watch with wild eyes and blood-soaked chests, breathing heavy and ready for the next kill.

Politicians scream it at each other from across the aisle, across the hallways of our government buildings, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”

People who don’t want to hear a dissenting opinion, so they demand the removal of books, of entertainment, of people, “Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!”

No longer do we just want to tell someone they are wrong, we want them to die, and when they die we dance around their bodies chanting our joy at their demise.

“He was a conservative! I’m glad he’s dead!”

“He was a leftist and hell is now where he burns!”

“He killed babies in the womb and we should rejoice he is rotting in the ground!”

“She said she loved babies but really she hated women and didn’t want them to have freedoms! We will dance around this fire with her blood on our hands and laugh at her destruction!”

I read the last few chapters of Lord of the Flies, horrified, sick to my stomach, literally ready to run from the house and find somewhere to hide so the beast couldn’t get me. Only, in reality, the beast isn’t a dead parachuter who fell from the sky during battle.

The beast is the ugliness this world espouses at us every day now.

The beast is the darkness of the souls of men that we see every day on social media when someone says we should lock this person up and watch them die, or we need to remove this or that group from our world so they can do no harm.

The beast is wanting voices different from our own to be silenced.

The beast is using children as pawns in our ridiculous political fights – sacrificing their mental and physical well-being to gain political points.

The beast is “got-you” statements on social media that replace real compassion, real hope, real efforts to help those hurting and in need.

Headlines declare, “So-and-so blasts so-and-so” and the tribe cheers. “That’s right! You tell them! You grab the conch and give ‘em hell!”

All the while no one realizes that words mean nothing until eventually, they mean something when they stir the tribe into a frenzy and the tribe members lash out in violence, burning entire forests down to get to one person, not even caring who dies to flush out that one thing, that one belief, that one dissenting opinion the tribe wanted destroyed.

“And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.”

The saying is true. We don’t know what we had until it’s gone.

Do you miss it yet?

Creatively and Faithfully thinking: God Can Fill In the Gaps

What I like about writing is what I like about photography. In photography you create your vision through the lens, including composition and framing. After you create the image in the camera, you transfer it to your computer and in your computer you can use various programs to further transform the image and complete your vision, if you so choose.

In writing you start with a rough draft, and that rough draft is the basic foundation of what you want to write. It’s essentially the skeleton of your blog post or short story or novel or book. The second, third, fourth and final drafts are building around that initial frame until you have a final product that is well built, polished and pretty to look at. Well built, polished and pretty to look at it doesn’t mean what you photographed or wrote has any feeling to it, though, and here is where I run into problems as a creator.

When I was attempting to be a professional photographer, seeing my services to families, people wanted well-polished and pretty. They didn’t care so much about emotion, and that’s where the disconnect came for me. I cared more about emotion and storytelling than well-polished and pretty. I find I have this same issue in writing. I’m not always great at being technically perfect in my writing. I don’t always add the descriptions or flowery language that others do. I don’t always explain myself or my story well. It’s not always “technically perfect”. I’m more concerned about emotion and the story than nitty-gritty details.

I have to learn to slow down in writing and focus a little more on the description, though, because in writing, descriptions help the emotion and the storytelling. We all have areas to improve on in our creative endeavors and there are times I focus too much on what I’m not doing well instead of on what I hopefully will do better in the future.

Sometimes I worry, like so many of us do, that the shortcomings I possess when I create will affect how God uses my creation. The good thing is that God can use anyone no matter their shortcomings, or the shortcomings they perceive they have. Dallas Jenkins, writer and director of The Chosen series, talks often about how he is giving God his loaves and his fishes, and that God will multiply what he gives for God’s glory. He is, of course, referencing the story in the Bible where there were only five loaves of bread and two fix and Jesus multiplied that food so there was enough to feed a multitude of people.

What an amazing idea that God can take our offering, no matter how small, and multiply it so it touches someone else. When God gets ahold of what we create, even if it isn’t technically perfect and pretty, he makes it beautiful, powerful, and exactly what we need to convey his message of hope and love to a hurting world. If he can create beauty out of ashes, then he can create something outstanding out of what we perceive as barely standing.

Of course, we should always strive to improve, to learn more, to hone our craft, but while we do, we (I) have to remember that God will fill in the gaps and make our meager offerings even more than we could have ever hoped for.

Book review: Sweeter by Jere Steele

Description:

“Carole arrives in a community that hasn’t moved past the loss of one of its most beloved members. When she falls in love with Charlie, the man who was left behind, will her new friends be able to accept their relationship?”

Carole Allen is a widow who has moved to Davidson, Texas, to start a new life. Charlie North is a widower and long-time resident of Davidson who hasn’t moved past the death of his beloved wife, Honey, five years before. Honey was the children’s pastor at their church, and the church community hasn’t moved past her death either.
——
Jere Steele’s debut novel explores the implications of a contemporary May-December romance between two characters who both need healing, while also taking a nuanced approach to grief, community, and heritage from a Christian perspective.

Review: This is the story of Charlie and Carole who fall for each other even though some in their lives think they shouldn’t. It’s hard, considering how loved Charlie’s late wife Honey was. Then there is the age gap between Carole and Charlie. Is this relationship going to work? Both of them are bringing baggage to what starts as a friendship. Charlie is still carrying grief, five years after the loss of Honey. Carole is carrying grief and guilt after her own loss that led to an abrupt end to her abusive marriage. She’s now a single mom to a bright 6-year old son who has moved to another state to start life over. Charlie, though, hadn’t thought about starting over. Not until he met Carole and Cal at church.

To complicate things even more, Carole has befriended Amy, Honey’s best friend. In fact, Amy is the only friend Carole has in this new town — well, other than Charlie, of course. What will Amy think when she finds out that Carole has fallen for Amy’s good friend Charlie? Amy promised Honey she’d watch over Charlie and their two, now-grown daughters. She takes the job seriously and oversees it with her husband Ford.
Amy, Ford, Charlie, and Honey were a tight foursome from their college days. Is there room for someone else in the group, even though Honey has been gone. No one can replace Honey so the idea that someone might will one day has always rubbed Amy the wrong way. Carole knows this so if she tells her how she feels about Charlie, she worries Amy will be upset.

If you like easy-going stories with a bit of sweet romance and low-key tension thrown in then you will enjoy Sweeter. It is a nice, relaxing read, but it is also a wonderful reminder that beauty can come from ashes, that forgiveness is possible, and that friendship is a bond stronger than death.

Some Good Reading And Listening For Your Week

Today I wanted to share some uplifting, encouraging, or inspirational blog posts I’ve read or sermons I’ve listened to in the last few weeks. We read and hear so many depressing things these days, it’s nice to put all that aside and read or listen to something more uplifting.

Putting this collection together has also helped me focus on some more encouraging or positive thoughts so thank you to my followers who made me want to create this post.

Lessons from Grandpa Fred’s Early Turn Signal from For His Purpose

Sharing a Lenten Prompt by Bettie G

Texas on Ice by Fuel For The Race

Breaking Free by Big Sky Buckeye

The Voyage of Bygone Days by Creative Wending

Scribble Pad by Alethea’s Mind

Living the Life by Mama’s Empty Nest

Relying on God More Than Ever by Alicia at For His Purpose

Holding On To What We Know by Heather at Every Small Voice

Sunday Bookends: The Moonstone, Finally reading A Classic, Bookstore Bliss, and Warmer Temperatures Come Upon Us

Welcome to my weekly post where I recap my week by writing about what I’ve been reading, watching, writing, doing and sometimes what I’ve been listening to.

What’s been occurring

The weather has finally started to warm up and has helped to take the foot and a half of snow we had left on the ground to about 8 inches. I can see the corners of my garden boxes now and there is grass peeking out of the snow on a hill on the other side of town. We’re hopeful to see the grass in our yard for the first time in two months.

Our cats seem to have some sort of cabin fever. They’re so bored with looking at the snow they now come into the bathroom when I’m taking a bath and just stare at me, which is creepy. Pixel is getting used to Scout, the kitten we brought home in August. She still doesn’t love her, but she tolerates her and Pixel is either enjoying chasing Scout or is hoping to kill her. I’m not sure which.

My animals have teamed up now too. Pixel and Zooma did it before, but now Scout gets in on the action when she can. Pixel is very adept at opening doors and if Zooma wants to get in a room, Pixel finds a way to open the door for her. My daughter has a door that slides open and closed and in the morning, when I get up for my third trip to the bathroom, either I or my husband close it to keep the animals from waking Little Miss up too early. Pixel knows how to open the door so she slides her paw under it, moves the door and Zooma runs in and jumps on the bed for cuddles. Scout seems to be learning how to do the same thing from Pixel because my husband found her in my daughter’s room one morning after he’d already closed the door.

On Friday we took a family trip to a book store. Yes, we are that boring. We live in a rural area and there aren’t a lot of malls or bookstores around us so we took a 45-minute trip to eat at a Cracker Barrel and walk around a Books-A-Million at a small mall down the road from the restaurant. I had been wanting to go to this store since my husband visited it and sent me photos. So many books in one place! I haven’t been to a bookstore in years but my husband and I used to go to Barnes and Noble near our old home (near in this area means a 30 minute drive), walk around, look at books and sip coffee (coffee for him, milk and sugar with a splash of coffee for me) so this brought back memories.

When we walked in to this store I seriously almost cried to see so many books. I kept going, “Oh. Oh. Oh it’s amazing.” I don’t know if I am sheltered or what but the idea of so many worlds under so many roofs was exhiliarating to me, especially since I have gotten back into reading again in the last couple of years. The Boy was embarrassed by my exuberance and wandered into the fantasy section so no one would know we were together.

I couldn’t find a section for Christian fiction and thought they might have slid them into the regular fiction section, or removed them all together, but a half an hour into our exploration of the store (it was fairly large), I found an entire corner dedicated to “religion”, which was mainly Christian-based books.

There were four or five sets of shelves of journals, Bibles, devotionals, Christian living books and an entire wall of Christian fiction. Sadly, since I found the section so late, I didn’t have as long to peruse the books as I would have liked. Print books are so expensive anymore ( trust me, I know why — when I price mine on sites, you have to set them high or you will make next to nothing as the author from their sale), but I did find a used copy by a new-to-me author, Nancy Mehl.

I also grabbed a couple of bargain classic books. I originally had a larger pile, but we have bills so I put two back. I grabbed Emma by Jane Austen and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and I was going to buy Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but for financial reasons (like I was trying to spend too much on the week before we pay our mortgage) I put that one back, hoping I’ll still be able to buy them after all the ranting and raving some in our country are doing about what is racist and what isn’t. I want to make sure I have these books in print in case some try to ban them and in case Amazon decides to remove them from my Kindle, which I learned this week they are doing with books they have deemed “unacceptable.”

What I’m Reading

It seemed like a good transition to move from the bookstore visit to what I’ve been reading. This week I finished Sweeter, a book by an indie author, Jere Steele. It was a nice, easy-going and light read. I’ll have a review for it on the blog later this week.

I enjoyed Sweeter but decided to switch to Death Without Company: A Walt Longmire Mystery by Craig Johnson for a little more grit and suspense. I shouldn’t read Longmire books before bed, though, because then I have very intense dreams about being chased or trying to solve a murder in Wyoming.

I will probably start Emma this week as well to keep me to my plan to read more classics this year.

Little Miss and I are still reading Stormy: Misty’s Foal by Marguerite Henry. This book is a little tougher than some since it deals with the aftermath of a winter storm that wiped out more than half the pony population of Assateague Island. I’ve been skipping the many references to “airlifting dead ponies off the island” and instead reading “lifting debris off the island.” I don’t think the 6-year old needs to go to sleep picturing dead ponies being dragged onto the backs of trucks.

The Boy and I took a break from reading The Lord of the Flies this week, but will pick it back up on Monday.

What I’m Watching

We’ve been watching The Muppets and Friday we watched episodes with John Cleese, Peter Sellers, and Steve Martin. I loved all three but enjoyed Sellers the most. He was such a versatile talent.

We also went back to Doc Martin this week. We started season 4 and I don’t know if I will enjoy these later seasons as much as the first. I’m finding Louisa annoying and sort of want to throttle her and hug her all at the same time. Continuing on the British show theme, I started Agatha Raisin this week on Acorn TV and enjoyed the first episode. I will not, however, watch this series with my kids. It is not graphic so far but there are some adult themes featured that I’d rather not discuss with them.

What I’m Writing
Last week I shared some random thoughts, but not much else. I shared some photos from February as well. I have a few posts lined up for this upcoming week, however. I am also working on a couple of fiction stories, The Farmers’ Sons (notice the name change there. I had meant to change that before. It’s a book about at least three farmers’ sons, maybe a couple of more), and Lily. I may share the prologue of Lily sometime in March, but I’m not sure I’m ready to share this one yet. It’s going to be a tough one for me, dealing with some tough topics, but I still hope to have some joy in it.

As I mentioned Friay, The Farmer’s Daughter, is available now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple iBooks, Scribd, and Smashwords.

For blog readers, I am offering the first two chapters free HERE.

I shared photos of our week yesterday in the February recap post, but here are few from the past week.

The hills are bare but still pretty impressive from this overlook. Our area isn’t called the “Endless Mountains” for no reason.
My dad decided to take us up to the overlook on this road, covered completely in snow. The higher we got the more snow was on the road and I was starting to get nervous, but Dad has a 4-wheel drive truck so he seems to think he can go wherever he wants. Luckily we made it down the road safely.

So that is my week in review, how was yours? Let me know in the comments!



Fiction Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter Now For Sale. The book that is.

I don’t have an excerpt from The Farmer’s Son this week because I am working on a section and haven’t quite finished it yet. I do however, want to remind blog readers that The Farmer’s Daughter is available for sale on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Ebooks are available on Smashwords, Barnes&Noble and Amazon. A print version is currently only on Amazon until I figure out how to design the back cover for B&N.

I would like to send a couple of free copies to readers who supported me while writing it so if you are interested please let me know in the comments and then send me an email at lisahoweler@gmail.com and I will send an ebook copy to you.

The first two chapters of The Farmer’s Daughter is available here on the blog. Excerpts from A New Beginning and Rekindle are also available.

To catch up on what I’ve shared with The Farmer’s Son, click HERE.