Fiction Friday: A New Chapter Chapter 17 Part I

This chapter will need a lot of work before the final publication. It could be cut altogether in the end too. This book is giving me a lot of trouble, to be honest.

As always, this is a work in progress and there may be typos, plot holes, etc. and the final story is always subject to change before I later publish the final version. To catch up with the rest of the story click HERE.

Chapter 17

Stan was sitting in his car outside the abandoned building when Matt pulled up in his truck.

He climbed out of his sedan and stuck a hand toward Matt as he walked toward him. “I appreciate you coming, Matt. I know it’s not in your jurisdiction, but I didn’t think the staties would come out this far to check it out.”

Matt’s eyes darted around as he shook Stan’s hand, taking in the dilapidated building, the vines stretching up the side, the broken windows, a partially caved in roof. “No, problem. I figured I’d do it off duty just to eliminate the appearance of the Spencer police stepping into the state’s territory.”

He wasn’t sure how much poking around he could do since Stan wasn’t sure who the property belonged to. He didn’t have a warrant, but Stan had expressed concern about the back door looking like it had been broken into. He could at least take a look and decide then if a search warrant was needed.

“We’re hoping to find the owner and sell this property.” Stan talked as he followed Matt. “We have a commercial company interested in this whole area. The owners of the properties adjacent have already signed. I’ve got my secretary combing through deeds records at the courthouse.”

Matt pushed a branch out of his way as he walked through the high brush toward the back of the building. “Oh yeah? What do they want to put in?”

“Distribution center of some kind.” Stan ducked under a tree limb. “It could bring a lot of jobs to the area if it works out.”

Matt stepped into a clearing and looked up at a small flight of stairs leading to a metal door, a bolted lock on a chain hanging from it, leaving the door slightly ajar. The sight of the open door placed him on edge and he hoped it was only from all those horror movies he watched as a teenager.

He wasn’t sure how much further he should go, since entering the building might be considered trespassing. He took in the outside of the building again. The place had clearly been abandoned years ago, maybe even a couple of decades ago. There was a good possibility someone was squatting or the door had simply been jammed open by some teenagers look for a place to smoke and drink.

Stepping up the stairs he peered through the gap in the doorway. From what he could see the building looked empty other than some old tables and chairs, and a few pieces of old machinery, maybe from whatever business used to be here. On the far side of the room there was a longer table, maybe the remnants of a conveyor belt. The tarp covering it drew Matt’s attention and he hoped it was only covering more equipment or machinery.

“I probably shouldn’t go any further until we find out who owns this.”

Still, that tarp drew his eye, and he had a sudden urge to look under it, even as a larger part of him wanted to take off back to his truck and alert the state police to it instead.

“Stay here, I want to check something out.”

Stan nodded, clearly uneasy as he slid his hands in his dress pant pockets and stepped a couple of steps down from the door.

The concrete floor was still in good shape, even under several thick inches of dust. A bird flew out of the metal rafters and Matt flinched but kept walking toward the tarp.

“This is stupid, Matt,” he said outoud as he walked. “No one is going to leave something like drugs under a tarp in an unsecure building.” His arm bumped a large board sticking out of one of the tables and knocked it to the ground. The clatter of it hitting the concrete floor bounced off the walls and ceiling.

“You okay?” Stan called from the stairs.

“Yeah. Just a board. All good.”

It would be stupid for there to be anything criminal under the tarp, but the building was several miles outside of town and in the middle of nowhere. He needed to at least double check and if he found anything his first call would be to the state police. He’d have to explain why he was trespassing on someone else’s property while off duty, but he had a feeling the troopers would simply be happy to bust one of the many drug rings that had cropped up in the area recently.

Lifting the tarp, he found himself praying this wasn’t really like a moment in a horror movie, that there wasn’t a dead body underneath, even a dead animal.

“Be a man, McGee,” he told himself. “Lift the tarp. Also, stop talking to yourself. This is getting weird.”

He lifted the tarp gingerly and peeked under. It only took one look to know he had to pull the tarp all the way off while reaching in his pocket for his phone.

“State Police Barracks, Benford County, Trooper Banfield speaking.”

“Hey, Officer Matt McGee from the Spencer Police Department here. I need to be transferred to Trooper McCallister, drug unit.”

 

***

Olivia had been home a week now and Ginny still hadn’t been able to pin her down and get a straight answer about whether she’d dropped out of college or not. Every time she tried to ask Olivia waved and said, “Going to meet up with Melody” or Avery, or Trish, or one of her other many friends who were still living in Spencer. Ginny was determined to corner her daughter today.

She heard footsteps on the stairs as she placed two plates on the table, one with vegan pancakes and some kind of vegan sausage, the other with bacon, eggs, and a waffle.

“Hey, Liv. I made you breakfast.” She called the words out before her daughter could slip out the door.

Olivia peeked into the kitchen. “Thanks, Mom, but I —”

“Sit down, Olivia.” Ginny pointed at the chair opposite hers. “You’ve been avoiding me all week. It’s time we talked. I even made vegan food for you. It took me 20 minutes to figure out which fake sausage to get so you’re going to at least sit down long enough to eat it.”

Oliva sighed as she entered the kitchen and sat. Her gestures as she begrudgingly picked up a fork reminded Ginny of when her daughters had been teenagers and had tried to skip breakfast so they could slip out early and meet up with the boys they liked. Oliva had used to meet up with Brent, before she decided he was “too small town” for her.

Ginny stirred creamer into her coffee. She usually didn’t have coffee but this morning she decided she needed the extra pick me up. She’d made sure to add only half a cup of coffee so she could fill the rest with creamer and sugar. “Time for some tough talk. Did you drop out of college or are you on an extended break?”

Oliva kept her eyes on her plate. She pushed the pancakes around her plate, soaking up the syrup.

“You need to tell me the truth.” Ginny prodded her daughter, knowing she needed an answer so she could decide how they would break the news to Stan without him having an aneurysm.

“Fine.” Oliva rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “I dropped out.”

Ginny took a deep breath to keep herself calm. “Why?”

“I told you. California just isn’t for me anymore. I don’t even know what I’m doing there. I’m wasting your money by working toward a degree that I don’t even know if I’m going to use anymore.”

“If you’re not going to get a degree then what are you going to do?”

Olivia shrugged. “I don’t know yet.”

“Olivia. Seriously?” Ginny tried to keep the anger she felt gnawing at her insides outside of her voice. “You can’t just drop out of school and —”

“How come you cut Liz Cranmer slack but not me?”

Ginny’s eyebrows raised. “Excuse me?”

“Dad says you’ve been hanging out with her for months now. What’s so great about her? She got knocked up by some jerk and everyone knows she was a total alchey and pill popper.”

“Olivia!” Ginny stared at her daughter in disbelief. “When did you become so judgmental? Is this how you learned to act out there? Liz has worked hard to get back on her feet. She’s a wonderful mother, she’s working toward a degree in social work through online courses, and she just took a job as the children’s librarian. Just because she made some mistakes in her past doesn’t mean she’s a horrible person.”

Oliva slid down in her seat and closed her eyes, wincing softly. “Yeah. I know. Sorry.” She let out a breath and looked up at her mom. “I don’t know where that came from.” She shrugged a shoulder. “I guess I’m jealous.”

“Of Liz?”

“Yeah. I mean, she’s had all your attention lately. You two have fun together. It’s like you replaced Liv with Liz. Dad said you watch movies together, go to lunch, attend art classes.” Oliva picked at the fringes on the cloth placemat under her plate. “You never did that stuff with me.”

Ginny set her fork down and set her hands under her chin. “I tried, Olivia. Maybe you’ve forgotten but you never wanted to be around me as a teenager. I embarrassed you. I would gladly have done all those things with you and would do them with you now if you wanted to. Liz needed some extra support. Things have been tense with her parents, she was trying to figure out how to be a new mom. I just wanted to help and, well, we do have fun together. She makes me forget that I’m a dried up old lady with a very dull life.”

Olivia scoffed. “Mom, you’re not a dried up old lady.” She reached across the table and covered her mom’s hand with hers. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Ginny waved a hand dismissively. “It’s probably just some midlife crisis thing. I’ll get over it eventually. In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed my time with Liz. If you’re going to be home for a while I’d love to have you join us when we go out or get together for a movie night.”

Olivia’s tone softened even more. “I’d love to, Mom.” For the first time in a long time Ginny heard sincerity in her voice.

“Don’t think that this conversation about you dropping out of school is over, though. You know how upset your dad is going to be. There will be conversations about what you’re going to do for a job, where you’re going to live.”

“Can’t I live here for now?”

“For now, but do you really want to be almost 21 and living at home with your parents?”

Olivia made a face. “Yeah. I didn’t think about that. Guess I better start making some real plans.”

The back door opened as the women finished their breakfast. Ginny noticed a flush to Stan’s cheeks as he strode across the kitchen and reached for the coffee pot. She raised an eyebrow as she and Oliva exchanged a look.

“Uh-oh.” Ginny mouthed the words.

“Hey, Dad. Busy morning already?”

“Hmm?” Stan reached for the creamer on the table. Ginny could tell he was distracted again. Probably thinking of another real estate deal. “Oh yeah. Busy.”

He sipped the coffee and cleared his throat. “Listen, I need to talk to you two and I don’t want you to go all crazy on me.”

Ginny’s muscles tensed around her neck like they usually did when Stan said he needed to talk. It was usually about a big property he was working selling or telling her he wouldn’t be able to attend this or that.

Stan sat at the table, the coffee mug cupped in his hands. “I wasn’t going to tell either of you about this, but then I thought about how you’d probably find out from someone else.” Ginny rubbed a hand against the back of her neck, trying to loosen the tightness and distract herself from the thoughts racing through her mind. “Last week when Matt and I went to that property, Matt discovered a stash of heroin.”

Olivia sat back in her chair, her eyebrows raised. “Whoa. Seriously? In Spencer Valley”

“Yes.” Stan stirred the creamer in the coffee and took another sip. “Matt says heroin has been big around here lately. It’s replaced meth as the dominant drug industry. He called the state police and I had to stay for questioning.” Stan starred into the cup of coffee for a few silent seconds as if waiting for a word of wisdom. “They called me in again this morning. I couldn’t offer them any information beyond what Matt and I saw, unfortunately. None of this has hit the papers yet, but I have a feeling it will soon. I just hope my name will be kept out of it.”

Ginny swallowed hard, her muscles even tighter now. “I’d never really thought about real estate being a dangerous job before.”

Stan grunted and stood. “It’s not. This is the first time I’ve ever encountered anything criminal in the 25 years I’ve been doing this job.”

Apparently, she wasn’t even permitted to worry about him now.

He opened a cupboard and reached for a travel mug to pour the rest of the coffee in. “I’ve got to head back to the office. I have two potential clients coming in.”

A small smile tugged at Olivia’s lips. “Dad, aren’t you worried the drug dealers will come after you?” Her voice quivered with a stifled laugh.

Ginny shot her a scowl. “This isn’t funny, Olivia. This could be really serious.”

Stan laughed. “Not that serious. They left the door to the building open and a tarp loosely covering them. Whoever is running this stuff obviously isn’t a criminal mastermain..” He pressed the lid down on the mug. “So, no. I’m not worried.” He headed toward the back door again. “I won’t be home for dinner but if you could make me a plate, that’d be great. See you both later.” He pointed at Olivia. “Especially you. We need to talk.”

Olivia slumped back against her seat. “Yeah, I knew that was coming.”

Ginny raised her hand. “Stan, wait. Keith is back in town and wants to know if we’d like to go out to dinner with him.”

Stan paused in the backdoor doorway, stepped back, and peered around the door. “Keith?” His eyebrow quirked questioningly. “Your old boyfriend Keith?”

“Yes. He’s moved back and running his business from a cabin a few miles out of town. He invited us to dinner on Thursday.”

Stan stepped back into the kitchen, brow furrowed. “When did you run into him?”

At the grocery store, at an art class, and outside the library.

She decided to pick just one. “At the grocery store a few weeks ago. So, what should I tell him?”

Stan looked above her head for a moment, frowned, and then nodded. “Yeah. I should be able to make that. Where at?”

“Antonio’s in Clarkston.”

“Yeah. I’ve heard that place is great. Sure. I’ll probably have to meet you two there. I have a meeting at six. Shouldn’t take more than a half an hour.”

“He suggested 6:30. I can ask him if 6:45 is okay.”

Stan shifted the travel mug to his other hand, a stack of papers under his arm. “Sounds great. I’m looking forward to it.”

Ginny cocked an eyebrow as he walked through the doorway, then narrowed her eyes. Well, that was interesting. He’d been saying he was too busy for anything she suggested for months now. One mention of dinner with Keith and he could make it? What was that all about?

Sunday Bookends: Cold weather, saying goodbye to a kitty friend, and a little too much TV

Welcome to my Sunday Bookends where I look back at the previous week and share what I’ve been reading, watching, writing, and listening to.

What’s Been Occurring

It has been very, very cold here in Pennsylvania so we did not leave our house much at all this past week.

In other words, I have very little to report and nothing exciting to write about as far as what’s been going on.

The cold weather will continue this week with a snowstorm tonight into tomorrow. We’ve heard every amount from four to 18 inches so I don’t know what we will get in the end.

One thing that did happen this week isn’t something I really want to write about. My brother and sister-in-law said goodbye to their 15-year-old cat Seamus because his health had deteriorated to the point he was suffering. It placed a cloud of sadness over the whole family because Seamus really was a part of our family.

We will miss him very much. He was such a character. He snuggled with my sister-in-law every morning and also climbed up for naps with both of them. He could be a little stinker when he wanted his treats, smacking at my brother’s ankles or feet, or knocking things over to get attention, but most of the time he was a sweetheart (plus I found it funny that he harassed my brother).

What I’m Reading

I am setting Anne of Avonlea aside for a bit, but will probably read a couple of chapters a day. It’s a very simple, everyday story and I just like to escape inside its pages as a little bit of a respite.

I’m still reading the fifth book in the Longmire series and finished a novella by Jenn Knipfer called Holly’s Homecoming.

Upcoming are a couple of romance books as I try to figure out if I should write a couple of romances for Kindle Vella to try to earn some extra money.

I wish I had more time to read, honestly. My mom keeps borrowing really good books from Kindle Unlimited (which by the way, you can now borrow 20 books at a time) but she breezes through them before I even finish one.


What We’re Watching

Because of the cold weather, we’ve been watching a lot more TV.

My husband and I have been watching The Café, a sweet, quirky British show on BritBox (Amazon) in the last couple of weeks. It’s about a woman who owns a café, her daughter who is trying to make it as a writer and all the quirky characters that surround them.

It has been a nice escape.

We also started Brokenwood Mysteries, which we really liked.



We tried one episode of The Cleaner, which was super weird but somehow endearing. It’s about a man who cleans up crime scenes. I’m hoping we can watch more but we also have to finish up Lovejoy, which we are on the last (sixth) season of.

I also watched a couple episodes of Know Your Roots on the PBS Living Channel on Amazon. It’s a show where they follow the roots of famous people because, you know, we need to know even more about famous people. I watched an episode with Rosanne Cash and Clint Black and another one with George R.R. Martin and Andy Samberg. They were both very interesting.

I think this was the most TV I’ve watched in a long time. It’s supposed to be cold again all this week, but I hopefully will be reading and writing more than watching TV.

What I’m Writing

I’ve been writing blog posts and working on A New Chapter, which I hope to release in late April/early May.

On the blog I shared:

Faithfully Thinking: The need for us all to show more grace and less judgment

Randomly Thinking: Honest homeschoolers, friendly only in winter, overused book tropes

God Is My Hiding Place. Book review and giveaway with JustRead Book Tours

Fiction Friday: A New Chapter Chapter 16

Educationally Speaking

So that’s my week in review. What have all of you been up to, reading or watching? Let me know in the comments.

Our flag is still there

Many times in music it is not about how well the note was hit or how high it went but the inflection on a word or line. When Natalie Grant hits the line in the Star Bangled Banner about our flag still being there it is the way she says it, not the way she hits the note so perfectly. She reminds us in that one line by singing it like it is a gospel song that no matter what hits our country, no matter the division, confusion, bitterness, and hate, our flag and what it represents is still there. It represents freedom and unity among all people and even when we fail to reach those goals we keep fighting, we keep trying and we reach it more times than we realize.

The media’s version of our country right now is dark, nasty, stinky, and full of hatred, but at the foundation of our country are its’ people who look beyond what we are being told we are and instead show time after time that we are a country founded on the principals of our Heavenly Father, on love for all people of all ethnicities, on free will like that which God gave us.

Our country falls short often but what is never lost is the fight to keep working to improve ourselves, the fight to remember and strive toward what the founding fathers always hoped it would be. Each time I hear Natalie sing that line I break down because no matter what tries to hide the good that is in this country, our flag rises above, still waving, still reminding us that we are better together, better when we remember that the one thing that unites is that we are all Americans, living in one of the greatest countries of the world. May we never forget the good, even when the bad swirls all around us.

Fiction Friday: A New Chapter Chapter 16

Welcome to Fiction Friday where I post a chapter from my current work in progress. There are often typos, plot holes, etc. in these chapters that I will fix in the future before I self-publish the book.

To catch up with the story, click HERE.

Chapter 16

Keith slid his sunglasses back on as they stepped outside the community hall.  “Well, that was fun. I’ll have to try this again sometime.”

Ginny tossed her art bag into the passenger side of her car. “It was. I haven’t sketched a live model since college.”

Ginny looked across the parking lot for Liz as she closed the car door. She saw her driving out of the parking lot and raised her hand in a quick wave. Her brow furrowed when Liz kept driving, looking straight ahead.

“I hope everything is okay with Liz,” she said, watching the car turn out of the parking lot. She turned and watched Matt climb into his truck. Had something happened between them? She’d have to ask Liz later.

Keith straddled his motorcycle and zipped up the leather jacket. “Ginny, I’d love to get together with you and Stan for dinner sometime.”

Ginny turned away from watching Liz’s car to look at Keith, trying to picture him and Stan sitting next to each other at a table. The thought made her a little woozy. “Oh, that would be nice.”

Keith winked before he slid his helmet on. “I’ll give you a call and we can find a day that will work for all of us. Tell ole’ Stan I said, ‘hey’.”

Ginny nodded then watched him drive away before sliding behind the steering wheel and letting out the breath she realized she’d been holding. How would that go down? Telling Stan her ex-boyfriend sent his greetings? She hadn’t even told Stan that Keith was back in town. Then again, Stan didn’t seem to hear much she said these days so it probably wouldn’t matter.

It had been nice to see Keith and even nicer how he’d noticed her haircut and complimented her. She knew she shouldn’t have enjoyed the dimple in his cheek when he smiled at her or the jokes they’d shared during the class, but she had. It was the most — how could she explain it?

Noticed. That was the word.

It was the most noticed she’d felt in years.

Her phone rang as she pushed the key in the ignition.

“Sorry I didn’t say goodbye before I left.” Liz sounded tired. “I guess I was preoccupied.”

“I wondered what was going on. Everything okay?”

“Yeah, just — yeah. It’s fine really.”

“Well, I tried to catch you before you left. I was wondering if you have time to stop by the house before you head home. I wanted to talk to you about a job idea.”

“Sure.” Liz sounded a little more cheerful now. “I have time.”

Ginny’s phone rang again as she pulled out onto the road. She tapped the speaker button.

“Hey, hon’. Just letting you know I won’t be home for dinner. I’m meeting Matt out at that property the commercial company is interested in.”

Ginny bit her tongue. How was this any different than any other day lately? “Okay.” She clipped the word out. She didn’t feel like saying much else.

“Talk later. I’m running into a dead zo—”

Ginny scowled at the phone and tossed it on to the seat next to her. Pulling into her drive a few moments later, she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She really needed to pray about her attitude toward Stan. Having this much anger for one’s spouse wasn’t healthy or what God would want.

“Lord, help me calm down,” she whispered as she shut off the engine. “Or I might just smack him.”

She noticed the inside screen door was open as she walked up the front sidewalk and she knew she hadn’t left it open. Maybe it had been Stan.

Walking inside she glanced around the living room for anything out of the ordinary and all appeared well until she spotted a suitcase on the floor by the doorway leading to the dining room.

She recognized the black and brown case as the one they’d given Olivia when she’d left for college the year before.

Before she could call her daughter’s name, she heard the clink of glass against a countertop. She found Olivia in the kitchen pouring lemonade over ice in a tall glass.

“Olivia! What are you doing here?”

Olivia raised an eyebrow as she listed the glass. “Well, thanks, Mom. What a nice way to greet your daughter.”

Ginny embraced her youngest and stepped back. “Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie.” She took in Olivia’s blond hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, her heavy eyelids and make up free face. “I just wasn’t expecting you for a few more weeks. Is something wrong?” She didn’t need to ask really. She knew the answer.

Olivia sighed, sipping the lemonade. She shrugged a shoulder. “I just don’t fit in in California anymore, Mom.”

Ginny tipped her head slightly and looked at her daughter quizzically. “But you love California.”

Olivia shrugged her shoulder again. “Maybe not as much as I thought.”

Ginny tossed her bag onto the kitchen island and slipped easily into mom-mode, without realizing what she was doing. “Livvie, have you dropped out of school?”

Olivia opened her mouth to speak at the same moment Liz called from the front of the house.

“Ginny, are you here?”

Ginny kept her gaze on Olivia as she answered. “In the kitchen, hon’”

She didn’t miss the quirk of her daughter’s brow when she called Liz hon’.

Liz stepped into the kitchen with the car seat looped over one arm. Ginny took it from her and set it on the island in front of her. “Hello, little Bella. Did you have a good nap at our art class?”

She began unhooking the safety harness, anxious to hold the little one she’d come to love. “We were just at an art class. Bella’s mama and I have been taking art classes and today we had to sketch a live model.” She cradled Bella in her arms and smiled, delighted to see Bella trying to smile back. “Olivia, you know Liz.”

Oliva nodded. “Yeah. Hey, Liz. Nice to see you. I heard you had a baby. She’s beautiful.”

Ginny thought she heard slight tension in her daughter’s words, but she didn’t have the mentally energy to deduce the reason.

“How has California been?” Liz asked sliding onto a stool. “Your mom says you love it.”

Oliva sighed and reached for a cracker from a box open on the counter. “I think love is in past tense now. Honestly, I think I made the wrong decision.”

Liz winced. “Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.”

A brief silence settled over the room as Ginny continued to talk to Bella. Olivia munched on a cracker and Liz pretended to straighten the books sitting on the edge of the island.

Olivia cleared her throat. “Well, I don’t want to interrupt you two. I’m bushed from the trip anyhow. I’m going to head up and crash for a bit.”

“You don’t have to leave.” Ginny turned her attention away from the baby to Olivia. “I just wanted to talk to Liz about a job opportunity at the library.” She stretched one arm out to hug her daughter. “I’m so glad you’re home, Olivia. We can talk about everything else later, okay?”

Olivia nodded and walked toward the stairs, carrying her glass of lemonade. “I’m sure we will. I’d better rest up for this one. Where’s Dad?”

The muscles in Ginny’s face and neck tightened at the question and she hoped neither of the women noticed. “He’s looking at a property and then I’m sure he’ll be home.”

Oliva snorted on her way up the stairs. “Some things never change. That man is a workaholic.”

Ginny let out a slow breath and sat on a stool next to Liz. “That was certainly a surprise. I had no idea she was coming home. I’m happy to see her, but . . . Well, anyhow, you don’t need to hear about all that.” She winked at Liz. “I wanted to talk to you about a possible job at the library. It would only be part time for now, but we need someone for the childrens’ story hour. You’d help create programs for the story hour and other special events during the month and then fill in on Sara’s day off. What do you think?”

Liz made a face. “Oh gosh. I don’t know. I’m not good with children.”

Ginny laughed. “You’d better start practicing. You have one, you know.”

“Yeah, but she’s mine.” Liz laughed. “I just don’t like other people’s children.”

Ginny sat Bella back in the seat and walked to the cupboard for some tea. “At least think about it. It probably won’t be enough to support you and Bella, but it could help until you can find a full-time position.”

“I’ll definitely think about it. I really appreciate the offer.”

Ginny pulled out a box of tea and two mugs. “It will have to be approved by the board, of course, but they had already asked me to start putting out my feelers for someone. They asked about a month ago, but I got distracted with planning the fundraiser. That’s next weekend, if you want to come. It’s an afternoon tea and silent auction. Not the most adventurous event I’ve ever planned but I am still resisting the wine tastings they want me to do.”

She dropped tea bags into the mugs and filled the kettle. “The board thinks a wine tasting is a hip and progressive fundraiser, but they haven’t thought ahead to what can happen when some of the members of the community decide to do a little too much tasting, if you know what I mean.”

Liz sighed. “I definitely know what you mean.”

Ginny bit her lower lip, mentally chiding herself for bringing up the topic of drinking. Liz had already mentioned to her that alcohol had been a vice for her when she’d been living with Gabe. Time to change the subject. “So, everything okay with you and Matt?”

Her back was to Liz, but she desperately wanted to turn around and gauge Liz’s expression when she asked that question.

“Yeah. It’s fine.”

Ginny knew that defensive tactic well.

It’s fine. Code words for, “Things are not fine.”

She turned and slid a plate of cookies toward Liz. “You seemed upset when you left today. Are you sure things are fine?”

Liz took a bite out of a cookie and chewed slowly, her gaze focused on the window over the kitchen sink. It took a few seconds for her to answer. “Matt’s as nice as can be and I guess that’s the problem right now. He seems nice but he lied to me about something, and it’s really been bothering me. I just haven’t had a lot of time to figure out how to address it since I started classes.”

Ginny sat back on the stool while she waited for the water to boil. “What did he lie about?”

Liz glanced at her then at the stack of books in front of her. She hesitated a few seconds before speaking. “He never told me he was the responding officer that night in my apartment.”

Ginny’s eyes widened as she realized she was the one who had spilled those beans. “Oh, Liz. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“I would have found out eventually. What bothers me is that Matt never told me. He let me believe another officer had responded. I mean, I should have guessed. Spencer only has six officers and Matt works the night shift a lot. The odds that he would be there were pretty good.”

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, watching Bella kick her feet and smile. “I didn’t have just have a fall that night. I know it’s what a lot of people think, but it wasn’t a normal medical emergency.”

She bit her lower lip, her eyes glistening. Ginny’s chest constricted. She’d known there was more to Liz’s story, but she’d never wanted to ask. The pain etched on Liz’s face was evident and while Ginny felt honored that Liz wanted to share the truth with her, she also wanted to blurt out that Liz shouldn’t feel the need to confess anything, that whatever happened that night wasn’t as important as how Liz was trying to live her life now.

“I tried to kill myself.”

Even though Ginny had already started to fill in the blanks, it didn’t make hearing the words any easier. She decided to not be a mother and pepper Liz with questions or pull her into an embrace, instead letting her share as much or as little as she wanted.

“I took five pregnancy tests. I couldn’t believe it. I thought about all I had done in the last year and a half that had gone against who I was, how disgusted in me that my parents already were, how disgusted I was in myself. I panicked.” Tears slipped from the corners of Liz’s eyes, rolling down her cheeks. “I just wanted to make it all stop. The shame. The voices in my head telling me I was horrible, and I’d always be horrible. I knew I couldn’t have a baby. I wasn’t thinking clearly. I took a handful of the painkillers I’d had left over from my knee surgery and waited to fall asleep, but within seconds of swallowing them I was panicking again.”

She let out a shaky breath and looked at Ginny. “I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want the innocent life inside of me destroyed. I tried to throw the pills up while I called 911. I threw up some but not enough and I was already blacking out when I heard pounding on the door.”

She closed her eyes and gasped in a breath. “I’m so ashamed Ginny. I’ve never told anyone else what happened that night. I lied to my parents, to Molly and to Matt and after awhile I even started to believe the lie myself. I’ve tried to pretend that I didn’t do any of that, but I can’t pretend anymore. It’s all unraveling and what I don’t understand is why Matt keeps sticking around. I’m messed up. He knows that. Maybe he just pities me.”

Ginny shook her head. “No. I don’t believe that. He cares about you, Liz. We all do. I’m so sorry you’ve held on to this for so long.”

Liz wiped at the tears on her cheeks and then accepted the tissue Ginny handed her and blew her nose.

The whistle of the kettle brought Ginny back to her feet. She pulled the kettle from the burner and poured the water in the waiting mugs. “The way you need to think about it is that Matt knows all these things about you, yet he still cares for you. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? It’s kind of like how God cares about us despite our failings.”

Liz narrowed her eyes, a small smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. “Ginny Jefferies, did you just compare Matt McGee to God? Seriously?” She laughed through her tears. “I mean, I know half the town thinks he’s a saint, but come on. Let’s not push it.”

Ginny laughed loudly, her hand against her chest. “Oh no. I didn’t even realize how that sounded. No, of course I am not comparing Matt to God. Matt is a man. He’s not perfect and he was wrong to lie to you about that night, but Liz.” She leaned forward and covered Liz’s hand with hers. “You need to talk to him about it. I’m sure he had a good reason. He loves you. You may not believe it, but I can see it. He loves you and if he doesn’t tell you soon, I’m going to kick him in his behind as motivation.”

Liz mocked gasped. “Ginny! I thought you were a sweet Christian woman and here you are talking about kicking people in the butt.”

Ginny winked. “Well, sometimes even sweet Christian women reach their limits.”

Liz shook her head and laughed softly. “Matt and I are friends, Ginny. That’s all. He’s a good friend. He’s been there for me when I’ve needed him the most and that’s why it bothers me so much that he was there that night and didn’t say anything. It’s just yet another humiliating experience of mine he’s witnessed.”

Ginny smiled as she watched Liz blow her nose again and accept another tissue to wipe the tears from her cheeks. Someday this young lady was going to wake up and realize what she had right in front of her and Ginny hoped it didn’t take years for it to happen.

Dropping a spoonful of honey in her tea, Ginny stirred it slowly and thought about how she’d reached her limit with more than just Matt McGee not admitting his feelings for Liz. She knew she should practice what she’d preached to Liz and tell Stan how she was feeling. Unfortunately, Stan hadn’t been very open to conversations lately and telling him how she felt might have to be done during a full-on blow-out argument at this point.

God Is My Hiding Place. Book review and giveaway with JustRead Book Tours

Welcome to the Blog Tour for God Is My Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: God Is My Hiding Place

Author: Corrie ten Boom

Publisher: Chosen

Release Date: October 19, 2021

Genre: Devotional, Christian

“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.”–Corrie ten Boom

Dutch watchmaker Corrie ten Boom, with her courageous, God-fearing family, sheltered Jews from the Nazis during World War II. This led to her arrest and suffering in prison and concentration camps–as told in her bestselling book The Hiding Place. Her dramatic life story and her more than 40 other books have prepared millions to face their own future with courage–relying on God’s love to forgive, overcome, heal and restore.

Through this 40-day devotional based on Corrie’s writings, you will find inspiration to strengthen your faith, re-root your soul in Christ and increase your experience of God’s peace.

Receive the courage and comfort of the Holy Spirit, and remind yourself of what Corrie ten Boom knew and lived: God is your hiding place.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound | Christianbook | BookBub


MY REVIEW

Corrie Ten Boom very easily could have spent her life full of bitterness and revenge, but she didn’t.  Because she didn’t, we can all benefit from the lessons she learned and then shared with us in her memoir, The Hiding Place, and other books.  Corrie and her sister Betsie spent a year in two different concentration camps for hiding Jews in their home in the Netherlands.

God is My Hiding Place is a devotional created with a selection of Ten Boom’s writings. It breaks down her thoughts into thought-provoking excerpts that are followed by a prayer that can be personalized for any reader.

Ten Boom takes hurt, unforgiveness, bitterness, and heartbreak and turns it all on its head. She urges Christians to look beyond the incident that hurt them, beyond the outward appearances of situations and people. She asks them to look deeper, to understand more fully why a person acts the way they have, why a situation unfolded the way it did, and in everything how God can use the good and the bad.

There is only a small selection of very special people who can touch the world with their message and Ten Boom is one of them. Personally, I first heard of her as a child when I read a comic book version of The Hiding Place. Her story affected me deeply then and it continues to affect me in the same, deep and visceral way. I would recommend this devotional to anyone as much as I would recommend The Hiding Place.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Corrie ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) was born in Haarlem, The Netherlands. After being arrested in 1944 for helping Jews escape the Nazi regime, Corrie spent a year during World War II in prison camps. After the war, she was invited to share her experiences in more than sixty countries and was honored by the state of Israel for her work during the war. Her life story, The Hiding Place, was originally released in 1971. In 1977, she settled in California, where she died in 1983, on her 91st birthday.

CONNECT WITH CHOSEN: Website


TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive a print copy of The Hiding Place and One Word for Today!

God Is My Hiding Place JustRead Giveaway

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight January 11, 2021 and lasts through 11:59 PM EST on January 18, 2021. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.




I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

Randomly Thinking: Honest homeschoolers, friendly only in winter, overused book tropes

Welcome to my random thoughts. Read on at your own risk.

***

As many of you know,  I am a homeschooler and shortly after becoming one, I figured out there is an entire homeschooling community, a good portion of it on social media. Many of those on social media, sharing their journey, are simply sharing their journey to connect with other homeschoolers so they can learn from each other. There is another segment, however, that has made a business out of homeschooling. They are homeschool influencers, I guess you would say, many of them posting photos on Instagram of pristine areas of the home where they conduct their learning, homemade school desks carved from wood by their father/grandfather/amazingly talented uncle; elaborate field trips, children wearing perfectly matched clothes, perfectly organized shelves, and large, almost mansion-like homes.

I was telling a friend this week that I’d love to see some more honest posts from these types of homeschoolers. Something like kids with their hair uncombed and their faces dirty. Photos of children in cute little matching outfits covered in mud, chocolate, or poop while the mother — her hair sticking out in all different directions  — drags them to their cute, little homemade desk. Maybe a photo of Mom trying to teach the 15-year-old math while in the background the 7-year-old spills a container of Legos all over the original hardwood floor and the 3-year-old drags a screaming cat by its tail across the kitchen linoleum.

***

My 7-year olds favorite word right now is “ineffective” and I don’t know where she heard it. Last week she told me that my tricks to get her to take her allergy medicine would be ineffective on her.

No idea.

I don’t use that word often and I don’t even know where she heard it. I’m glad she’s reading and learning more words, but I do wish she’d stop using them correctly and against me.

***

Here is a character attribute I am tired of seeing in books: A female main character who absolutely loves to read and spends three paragraphs telling the reader of the book she is in why she loves to read. Yes, I get it, writers like to read so they think their characters should too. Yes, I did this in my first book, but no, I don’t want to keep reading about main characters who love to read and hide themselves in corners to read and ignore other people so they can read.

It’s cliché and completely over done and I will most likely do it myself in a future book. Also, I like to read, but I don’t fall in love with the characters to the point I am completely out of touch with reality so if the author is trying to help me relate to his/her characters, it’s not going to work.

***

Our older cat Pixel is very aloof in the warmer months. She comes in from outside for a pet, eats some food, and heads back outside to hunt then repeats the process every couple of hours. In the winter, she goes outside for a much shorter time and when she returns, she often crawls up on my lap for a pet and a brief kneading session on my chest. Then she curls up in a chair the rest of the day and at night she’s back on my chest for a cuddle. It is for this reason that I sometimes favor winter more than the warmer months.

Our kitten (Scout), on the other hand, is affectionate at the most inopportune times, like at 5 in the morning when she walks up onto my chest and lays down under my chin, cutting off my air.

The kitten has also spent much of the last couple of weeks finding the best sprawl pose near our woodstove.

***

The other night my husband turned on Knight Rider for old time’s sake. I have to admit that I watched it very little as a kid and hadn’t seen it in years but it brought back a memory for me of a poster of David Hasselhoff I saw at a yard sale near our house and bought after begging my mom for it.

My mom finally agreed with a big eye roll, asking me, “Are you sure you want that?”

When I insisted I did, she let me buy it, and then there he was — David Hasselhoff with his shirt unbuttoned several buttons, wearing a leather jacket and leaning on Kit. I hung him on the wall right next to my bed. The poster looked a little like this:



My brother says he doesn’t remember this at all, but I swear he came into my room after it was hung and said, “What the heck?! Why do you have a poster of a grown man on your wall? MOM! WHY DOES LISA HAVE A POSTER OF A GROWN MAN ON HER WALL?!”

My brother says this never happened, but he is getting old so he probably forgot. *wink*



***

A former friend once bragged about how much better Australia was than the U.S. Lately I wonder if she thinks the same thing now that they have no freedom left to speak of.

***

Last Sunday an ice storm moved into our area so we decided not to drive the five miles to my parents for lunch like we usually do on Sundays. I didn’t want my mom to think we didn’t want to come, but I wanted us to be safe so I called her and she said if we did come she’d be worried about us driving back in the dark.

We finally agreed we would stay home. She said, “okay, good. I just didn’t want you to think I was rejecting you.” Then I said, “I didn’t want you to think I was rejecting you.”

And that’s when I realized, yet again actually, that this family needs to see a therapist. We worry way too much about offending each other and other people.



***

I thought I’d share a couple of humorous memes I came across recently. I find them humorous but my son says they are “so 2016.”

***

So those are my random thoughts. How about you? Share your random thoughts in the comments.

Faithfully Thinking: The need for us all to show more grace and less judgment

Do you know what it means to judge not lest you be judged?

In my simplistic explanation, it means that you shouldn’t judge someone when you don’t know all the facts about their life because eventually, someone will do the same thing to you.

Is that fair? To be judged on the assumptions of others instead of facts?

Two weeks ago, someone my dad knew passed away from Covid. Then her son-in-law died from it as well. You would think that in a time of grieving, there would have been more compassion and less judging. Yes, there was compassion, there were condolences offered, there was comfort without judgment even offered. But there were also comments, on a Facebook post announcing the death, where the family could see the comments, about how the people should have been vaccinated.

Were they vaccinated? I haven’t got a clue and the people making the comments probably don’t know either. They were assuming.

If they were unvaccinated maybe they had a legit concern, whether medical or otherwise, about the vaccine, but the people commenting didn’t care. They wanted to sound superior. They wanted it to sound like they made the right decision, and the other person made the wrong decision and therefore deserved to die.

Well, if we are going to go that route then maybe the people who made those comments will die one day and someone will say to their family “well, should have stopped smoking,” instead of “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Maybe someone will say, “Welp, they deserved to die, they drank too many beers a week.”

Is this where we are right now? Where we judge and assume when someone dies? Where we judge their whole lives based on decisions they made that we don’t agree with?

I can answer these questions by saying yes, that is where we are at.

As a society, we have lost compassion.

We have lost understanding.

We have lost the ability to extend grace.

We have lost the ability to see a situation and not project our personal experiences on it.

We have lost the ability to see in anything other than black and white.

We don’t know what truth is anymore, but we decide to adopt one for ourselves and then try to force our truth on others.

As Christians, we believe Christ is the truth. We believe the Bible is the truth, but I do not believe God wants us to force that on anyone. If someone does not accept that our faith is true, do we look at them in judgment? Do we ostracize them and believe we are better than them? Some of us do, but we shouldn’t. God gave us free will and part of that free will is being able to decide for ourselves how we feel about him and what we believe.

If someone doesn’t believe the same as us politically, should we believe we are better than that person?

What about if they make medical decisions differently than us? We can express our concern for them, but once we’ve done that, it’s time to step away and let them live their lives.

I know people who read my blog know that I am unvaccinated for a legit medical reason, but I want you to know that even if I was vaccinated, I would disagree with judging the unvaccinated. I may be vaccinated in the future and if I am, I absolutely refuse to sit and judge those who don’t vaccinate, the same way I vow right now to not judge those who have chosen to vaccinate themselves.

I am not impressed with those who get vaccinations and brag about them or try to shame those who made a different decision. I am more impressed with those who get vaccinated and move on with their life. No matter who I am “impressed” with, I don’t want to be the person who judges a person based on their personal decisions, including their decision to brag about getting a vaccine, or whatever I think is a little strange simply because I wouldn’t do it.

Some people make decisions I think are poor, and if there are drugs or alcohol or abuse involved, the decisions are poor, but I need to do my best to understand why the person has made the decision they have. It’s not always because they are being purposely selfish. Sometimes people are being selfish in their decisions, but many times they are making a decision because they feel it is right, not because they are trying to hurt someone.

My wish for this next year is that we extend more compassion, that we judge less, that we hate less, that we stop bullying people who don’t believe like we do, especially when a person is deep in grief and hurt. You have heard the saying “Don’t kick a person when they are down,” but that is what is happening these days. When a person is grieving, they are being told they deserve to grief. When a person is frightened, they are being told they are stupid for being frightened. When they are hurting, so many people are standing on their wound.

I really hope that we will start showing more compassion this year and try to understand others just as we would want to be shown compassion and understood. Instead of judging someone, I urge us all to talk to them, understand them, or at least say to ourselves, “That’s their decision, not mine and they have their own reasons for making that decision. I will not assume what their reasons are based on their political party, their faith, their social media statements, or anything else.”

I hope you know that I am preaching to myself with this post as well. I need to have more compassion and understanding and it’s something I truly want to work on in 2022.

How about you? Will you join me in this effort?

Educationally Speaking: New reading course, Biology is like hard, and less arguments after winter break

The kids and I started back to homeschool last week after being sick and our Christmas break. I don’t know if they felt this way, but for me, it was nice to get back into a routine after being sick for almost a month and a half.

We got back into the swing of things and oddly Little Miss didn’t argue at all about her lessons. She actually seemed interested and excited some days. That was very refreshing. I don’t know how long it will last, but I am going to enjoy it while I can.

She and I started a new unit for reading, also from The Good and the Beautiful. The lessons are longer but she’s breezing right through them. The book features  four or five pages words for her to study the entire unit but she breezed through all of the words on day one. I have a feeling we might jump into the next level before the year is out.

We are finishing her math unit from Kindergarten and will start first grade math the week after next, I think. She catches on to math quickly so I have a feeling we might move through the first grade math faster than we did kindergarten. We got a late start last year on this particular curriculum and also broke it up with CTC Math, which is an online program.

Science is our biggest issue because I can’t seem to find a science curriculum I like. We are doing some very simple science books for now.

History is a little bit of a challenge as well because she really can’t remember everything I read to her at her age, but we do our best and at least she’s learning something about the founding of our country.

The curriculum we have (Our Star Spangled Story from Notgrass) also includes literature so it allows me to cross off history and English/Literature in one shot.

We are currently reading Freedom Crossing about a pair of siblings who are hiding a runaway slave sometime in the mid-1800s.

The Boy is making his way through Geography (Social Studies) and Economics and barely through Biology. Biology is going over both our heads and I’m beginning to wonder if the curriculum I have is for college level. It claims it is for tenth grade so I thought The Boy would be okay since he is in ninth grade but, wow, the definitions and concepts that are taught are extremely complex and a bit overwhelming. Hopefully we will survive the next few months.

We just finished Blood Brothers, which is a selection from the literature part of his Social Studies course. There was another book that we were supposed to read but I didn’t feel he would really enjoy it so I decided we will wait until the next until when a new book is assigned.

I’m considering introducing him to poetry this week which should induce some mocking from him but that’s okay. That’s what kids at this age do but hopefully they will come to appreciate it later on.

He is still continuing CTC Math for his math and he’s also doing a grammar course through Fix It Grammar.

The kids had a lighter day on Friday of last week when it snowed. I let them play in the snow, or in The Boy’s case shovel the driveway. He still had to do school work but I think the break for some time outside was welcomed.



I don’t have any major outings or projects planned for January, but I hope to get us out of the house more in February and March. So far this year I am glad we stuck to homeschooling. The schedule is flexible and allows us to have more time with my parents, including my son working with my dad on various projects around the house and community. In addition to a flexible schedule, we don’t have to worry about masks, the kids being pulled in and out of school for closures because of You Know What, and other issues facing public schools at this time. This is not a slam on public schools at all. These are just some challenges that they are facing right now and we are glad we currently don’t have to face them.

If you are homeschooling, how is it going for you this year? If you aren’t homeschooling, how is school going for your children or grandchildren this year? If you don’t have children or grandchildren, then how are YOU doing? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday Bookends: brain fog lifting, still a slow reader, and snowfall

Welcome to my weekly wrap-up where I share what I am reading, watching, writing, and doing.

What I’m Reading

I am reading so slow as usual, so I am still reading Anne of Avonlea in paperback and the fifth book in the Longmire series on Kindle.

I am also reading a daily devotional based on the writings of Corrie Tenboom and trying to toss a book by a friend, Max Sternberg, Rhise of Hope, the second book in his Darkness Overcome Series in there too.

Little Miss and I are reading Paddington, Here and Now at bedtime. For school, she and I are reading Freedom Crossing, a story about a young girl and her brother who are hiding a runaway slave boy during the mid-1800s.

The Boy finished Blood Brothers early last week and I still have to finish it. We will start a new book soon.

What’s Been Occurring

My recovery from Covid took a turn for the better this week.

My head cleared much more and best of all the internal vibrations stopped with only a few episodes in the second half of the week. They were pretty intense a couple times during the week and seemed to coincide with when I took my thyroid medication.

I’m not sure what to do about that since my general practitioner isn’t very helpful with that or many other things. I especially enjoyed how she laughed at me when I almost passed out at her office during my follow-up check-up, a week after I left the hospital.

Instead of admitting I might be having some physical issues left over from the virus, she seemed to chalk it all up to mental and thought snorting a laugh at me would make it all better, I suppose. We live in a rural area so finding a new doctor will be hard but necessary.

I had to back off the CBD oil I had been taking a little because the brand I ordered was making me severely nauseous. One reason for this might be because I was taking more of the oil than I needed (maybe) and possibly because the carrier oil the CBD is mixed with might be the actual issue.

I was so excited Friday to get out and take some photos of Little Miss playing in the snow. It wasn’t the snow or horribly cold temperature (24 with a windchill of 11) that excited me, but the fact my brain seemed to want to do something creative.

 I feel like my brain is waking up again and it’s a very nice feeling.

I’ve been afraid to get behind the wheel because of the trembling but this past week I drove to my parents (about five miles down the road) and then took Little Miss to Awana (a Christian youth group of sorts) to my parents’ church about 15 miles down the road. Most people wouldn’t see this as an accomplishment but after a month and a half of mostly trembling internally and feeling like my brain was trapped in a deep fog, this was a big deal to me.

What I’m Watching/Watched

This week I watched more of The Durrells in Corfu and Would I Lie to You.

The Boy and I watched The Truman Show (now that he is older we can watch some more mature movies. Turns out he really liked this one.)

My husband and I watched Music Box: Jagged, a documentary on Alanis Morissette. I liked her music a little when I was a teen, but I was never a huge, huge fan. The documentary was still very interesting. I learned a lot more than I wanted to about how young girls are treated in the entertainment industry, and it made me resolved to not let Little Miss go into the entertainment industry.

What I’m Writing

I wrote a few blog posts this week, including:

Tips For Anyone Who Catches Covid This Winter

Faithfully Thinking: Ought’n We Be Prepared For The Best Too?

Writing As Therapy

Fiction Friday: A New Chapter Chapter 15

Some Favorite Blog Posts from Around the Blog World

I’m also continuing to write more chapters in A New Chapter and hope to finish the first draft sometime in February.

So that’s my week in review. How was your week? What are you reading, watching, listening to or doing?