Some favorite blog posts from around the blog world

I’ve been very behind on blog posts recently but as I get caught up I am astounded with the writing talent out there in the blog world. I just love getting to know other bloggers and seeing the world through their eyes.

I started a list of some of my recent favorite blog posts about two months ago, before Covid hit us, and decided to simply add others I’ve found since then to the list, picking up where I’d left off.

Here are a few of my favorite blog posts from the past couple of months:

Heidi Gray McGill had me hooked on this post entitled PEBKAC can’t be fixed.

I liked this part: “Even when I haven’t invited God into my life’s decisions and plans, He is still working remotely, keeping me from utter destruction. Even when I feel like I’m having a one-way conversation and He isn’t holding up His end, I see things changing before my eyes.”

Fuel for the Race: Ornament of You

For His Purpose: A Cord of Three Strands

C.S. Wachter on Hopes, Hearts, and Heroes with The Speed of a Thought (about not letting anyone pressure a writer into writing faster than they need or want to).

Ways to Fight Or Flight Response by Brainless Blogger

Thrills for Hope by Mama’s Empty Nest

Every Small Voice with Five Pieces of Trash

Houses (a short story for Christmas) by Manitoba Mom

Our Little Red House: A Little Break Now And Then Is Okay . . .some fun Christmas shows to watch

Golden Critical Care: Omicron and My Best Imperfect Understanding of Where We Sit with Vaccine Efficiency

Do you have any good posts you’ve read lately? Let me know in the comments.

Fiction Friday: A New Chapter Chapter 15

Welcome to Chapter 15 of A New Chapter. I have a lot of work to do on this one later and hesitated sharing it today, but since I don’t have a ton of people who follow the story, I think it will be fine. It will be rewritten before I publish it anywhere. I like where the story is going at least. If you want to catch up on the rest of the story click HERE.

Chapter 15

Ginny looked at the post office front door through the rain-speckled windshield of her car. She needed to just get out of the car already and go mail this package. Instead, she’d been sitting in the car for ten minutes with no motivation to do anything. Even walking the few feet into the post office seemed too much. She didn’t look forward to possibly running into anyone she knew today, not with the way she felt — depressed, stuck in a deep, boring, frustrating rut.

Unfortunately, she needed to mail a package and she had also promised Liz she’d attend an art class with her. Liz definitely needed cheering up right now. They both needed cheering up, actually. Maybe this class would help do that. They were sketching a live person in this class. Hopefully, it would take her mind off the fact that Stan was at the golf course to celebrate his win with his fellow agents and Liz’s mind off the fact she was out of a job.

It was official. Stan was Real Estate Agent of the Year. Again. Sixth time in the last 15 years. Only this time Ginny hadn’t been there with him to celebrate. Instead, she’d taken off her nice dress, wiped the make-up off her face, changed into a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt, and watched a Hallmark movie while sitting on the couch alone, eating a pint of chocolate ice cream.

Stan had arrived at the end of the movie, presented her his award, kissed her cheek, and announced he was bushed and heading to bed. He’d woke up early the next day, dressed for the course, kissed her cheek again, and marched out to his car for a morning and probably afternoon of golf.

She was left home to answer Olivia’s tearful call at 8 a.m., a call full of doubts about her major, her relationship with Vernon, her relationship with Brent, and how maybe she shouldn’t have ended it simply because “he was an uncultured country boy”, and then, last of all, her sincere doubts if California was really where she belonged after all.

The conversation had ended with Olivia announcing she was late to her philosophy class, and she’d call back later that evening. That call was followed from one by Clint letting her know their arrival date had been moved up by a couple of weeks and they would be there at the end of the month. Well, not there at her home. They’d be at Frank and Marge’s and Clint would commute to his job two hours away each day until they found a home to move into.

She sighed. Time to get over herself.

She was the mother of three wonderful, grown children, the grandmother of four, and the library director of a small-town library with a good board that supported her and sometimes even praised her. Her life really wasn’t so bad.

She took a deep breath and opened the car door. Time to mail this package, go to the art class, and find joy even if she didn’t feel it at the moment.

Walking inside the post office she lost the motivation she’d tried to stir up when she saw Floyd Simpson behind the front counter. Trying to buy a book of stamps from Floyd, especially now that he was almost deaf and refused to wear his hearing aid, would be difficult enough, but shipping a package? She internally groaned. Maybe she’d just come back another —

“Ginny! What can I do for you today?”

Shoulders back. Smile on.

“Floyd! My goodness! Still here, huh? Not ready to retire yet?”

“Fire? Was there a fire?”

She raised her voice. “I said retire. I was surprised you haven’t retired yet.”

Floyd made a face. “Why’d I want to do that? The only people who want to retire are the people who are ready to lay down and die, that’s what I say.” He shuffled closer to the counter. “What can I do you for today?”

Ginny pushed the package onto the counter. “Well, I need to mail this to my sister in New Jersey and then I need a book of stamps.”

Floyd scowled at the package like it was contaminated. “New Jersey, ya’ say? Too bad your lovely sister moved there. That governor of theirs? What a buffoon he is.” He shook his head and looked at the keyboard, pondering it before poking at the keys with his index finger, the tip of his tongue appearing between his lips. He poked at a few more keys, slipped his glasses to the end of his nose, and looked up at the screen. “Yep. Sad thing your sister is there.”

Ginny wasn’t sure if she should guilty for letting her sister move to the offensive state, or not.

“Yes, well, she loves the area she lives in. It’s a rural area similar to ours, but —“

Floyd chuckled and glanced at her, his glasses still on the tip of his nose. “But it’s still New Jersey.” He chuckled again. “You ever hear about how Pennsylvania was looking for new slogans and one of the suggestions was ‘At least we’re not New Jersey.’” The elderly man tipped his head back and laughed loudly. “At least we’re not New Jersey. Gotta love it.”

He continued to chuckle softly as he entered the address into the computer. Ginny tapped her hand gently on her side in rhythm to the faint country music drifting from the speakers overhead. The click of the keys seemed to follow the rhythm as well until finally, after five long minutes, Floyd looked up again.

“Okay, young lady, I can ship that out for you at $14.50 media mail and lovely Lavina will get her package Wednesday. Does that work for you? If you want it to go faster, it will be about $22.50.”

“Media mail is fine.”

Floyd cupped a hand around his wrinkled ear. “What’s that now?”

“Media mail is fine!”

Floyd nodded, pecked some more at the keyboard, and waited for the label to print out from the printer next to the computer. He stared at the printer for several seconds then start drumming his fingers on the counter.

Several more seconds passed as the printer began printing, slowly. Very, very slowly.

Ginny glanced at her watch. She should have left the house earlier and she would have if she’d known Floyd was going to be behind the counter.

“So, business good over at the library?”

She nodded. “It is. The weather is getting colder which often brings us more patrons, of course.”

Floyd smiled and chuckled. “Yeah, those pigeons are always looking for somewhere warm to roost this time of year.”

Ginny furrowed her eyebrows. “Oh. Well, yes, I suppose.”

The printer groaned as the paper slowly inched out. Floyd folded his arms across his chest and glared at it.

Ginny cleared her throat. “So, um, has business been good at the post office?”

Floyd kept his glare focused on the machine. “Yep. The missus is good. Got a touch of arthritis in her right knee but still manages to play the organ down at the Methodist Church.”

“No. I said —” Oh, never mind. She raised her voice again. “That’s good to hear about Martha. I hope she feels better soon.”

“Nope. Can’t eat butter anymore. Doctor says it’s bad for my cholesterol.”

Ginny sighed. “JUST TELL MARTHA I SAID HELLO!”

Floyd aimed his scow at her. “No need to shout, young lady. I’m not deaf!”

He turned back to the printer and pulled the label off, then looked over his shoulder and winked. “But I may not hear as well as I used to.”

Guilt hit Ginny as she watched the man reach for the label.

Here she was annoyed at how he couldn’t hear and how slow he was, yet he’d been a staple of this community for some 60 years. He’d served his neighbors faithfully all that time, coming in no matter how bad the weather was and staying late if another employee couldn’t make in.

Sure, maybe he complained from time to time and grumbled about governors or politics and maybe once or twice he’d mumbled a not-so-nice word, or had less than friendly customer service, but he’d still cared enough to greet each person who came in, chat with them, and help them the best way he knew how.

He might not always be amendable, but he was dependable.

Ripping the label off, he fumbled with the glue on the back for several seconds, unable to peel the backing away. Ginny held her hand out.

“Those things can be a real pain, can’t they? You have to have nails to get them loose sometimes. Let me help.”

She thought he might reject her offer but instead he smiled a partially toothless grin and handed the label over.

She smoothed the label in place and slid the package toward him.

“Not too shabby, Mrs. Jefferies. I mean, it’s not as good as I would have done it, but ya’ know.” He winked at her. “It works.”

“Thank you, Floyd.” A smile tugged at her mouth. “That means a lot coming from you.”

Walking outside the post office a few minutes later she realized she felt less on edge than she had before. On the drive to the community center, she sang along to a song on the Christian radio station and noticed the tension in her muscles had disappeared. She’d needed that distraction from her situation and now she hoped the art class she was attending with Liz would be even more of a distraction.

***

Liz tucked Bella into her car seat before lifting it and walking toward the community center. She hoped Ginny was on her way. She really didn’t want to attend this art class by herself. Molly was supposed to come but one of the girls at the store had called in sick, so she was filling in for her.

She paused near the front door, glad that the temperature hadn’t dropped as low as forecasters had originally said it would. Little girls in dance shoes skipped past her, their hands being tightly held by attentive mothers and fathers. A little girl with dark skin and pigtails stopped, tugging at her father’s hand. She looked up at Liz and smiled.

“I’m going to dance class!” Her dark eyes sparkled in the afternoon sunlight.

“Are you now?” Liz leaned forward slightly, propping her hands on her knees. “I’m guessing by that smile you have fun at dance class.”

“My teacher says I’m very towelented!”

The little girl’s father laughed against his hand. “Honey, I think the word is talented.”

Liz grinned at him then turned her attention back to the little girl. “You have fun tonight, sweetie. Dance your heart out.”

When she straightened and watched the little girl and her father walk into the community center lobby, she wondered if she would be doing the same with Bella one day.

What would Bella be like at 6 or 7-years old? Would she be a girly-girl, which Liz had somewhat been for much of her life or would she a bit more of what some people called a tom-boy, like Molly? And would it only be Liz leading her into a dance class if she chose to attend one? Or would she have a father figure to lead her inside like that little girl had?

Her throat thickened with emotion and weakness spread from her neck down through her arms. She closed her eyes, laid her hand on her stomach, and practiced the breathing exercises she’d looked up online the night before. She tried to remember the quote she’d read one time, probably on one of those inspirational posters at the health food store.

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” 

She opened her eyes at the sound of a car pulling in. Ginny smiled through the windshield as she shifted the car into park, but Liz saw the sadness in the smile. Liz still could not believe that Stan hadn’t taken Ginny with him to his banquet. After all their hard work picking out an outfit.

Ginny hooked her art bag over her shoulder. “Well, you’re bright and perky this afternoon.”

“I went to the gym this morning for the first time since Bella was born. It was so nice to be able to work out again.” Liz lifted the car seat and hooked the handle over her arm. “I mean I’m in total agony and when I get home I’m going to pass out on the couch, but, you know, I felt like a little more of my normal life is coming back again. Anyhow, tell me, did you ever talk to Stan about how him giving your ticket away made you feel?”

Ginny sighed and leaned her side against the door of her sedan. “No. I didn’t. I guess I should but he’s just so — well, clueless. He’s out at the golf course again this weekend celebrating his win.”

Liz’s mouth dropped open. “Are you serious?”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Sadly I am.” She pushed herself off the car and headed toward the front door.

Liz followed her. “Did he ever even notice your hair? Or your dress? Anything?”

Ginny shook her head. “He didn’t say a word about any of it. Not last weekend and not all week.”

Liz couldn’t believe it. That man! How could he have ignored Ginny after she’d had her hair cut and styled and put on a beautiful dress and — “Oooh. I could just slap him.”

Ginny laughed. “Liz!”

Pink blushed across Liz’s cheeks. “Sorry. Did I say that out loud?”

Ginny laughed again. “Well, I can’t lie. I thought about doing the same thing, but chocolate ice cream has been soothing the savage beast.”

Liz shrugged a shoulder. “Yeah, that’s been my go to comfort food too this week.”

Ginny raised a finger. “Oh. That reminds me. I have something I need to talk to you —”

“Ginny! Hey! I didn’t know you’d be here.”

Both women turned at the sound of a male voice. Liz glanced past Keith through the glass front doors and guessed that the Harley Davidson parked out front was his. It matched his sunglasses which he slid off as he smiled at Ginny. It was like a scene in a 50-somethings TV drama, the way he smiled at Ginny like she was the only one in the room. Ginny visibly gulped and stared at him with wide eyes and Liz wondered if she was captivated by his blue eyes or horrified that he was looking at her with such obvious interest.

“Keith, um, hey.” Ginny’s voice had a tremble in it that let Liz know that the woman might have been captivated by the man’s eyes and smile, but she was also insanely uncomfortable. “What brings you to the community center tonight?

Keith slipped the sunglasses into the front inside pocket of the jacket. “I saw a sign for tonight’s class when I was leaving the supermarket the other day. I thought it might be a nice way to relax after a full day of online meetings. What brings you here?”

Liz shifted the car seat to her other arm and watched the conversation like a tennis match.

“Well, I happen be coming to an art class myself actually.” Ginny’s tone was cheerful, showing she’d recovered from her shock of seeing Keith.

“Really?” There was Keith’s charming smile again. Was that a dimple on his left cheek? “Which one?”

“The sketch class. It’s the only art class tonight. The other classes tonight are a knitting class and a children’s dance class.”

Keith made a face. “Oh gosh. Glad I chose the sketching class then. I definitely haven’t got a clue how to knit.” He laughed. “Or to dance. Not that I really know how to draw either, but I think I can handle a pencil better than a knitting needle.” He turned his charming smile to Liz. “Good evening, Liz. We met the other day.”

Liz reached around the seat and took his outstretched hand. “Yes. We did. Nice to meet you again.”

“How’s the little one? Sleeping through the night yet?”

“I wish but I’m sure we will get there eventually.”

Liz had to admit that it was hard to look away from Keith when he was smiling.

“It will come soon enough,” he said. “I remember it took some time with our son, but eventually it happened. In fact, the first night it did, my wife and I were in his room every hour on the hour to check that he was still breathing.”

He moved his attention back to Ginny. “You’ve cut your hair.”

Ginny touched a hand to her hair. “Yes. I have.”

“It looks amazing.” Liz watched as his gaze moved over every inch of Ginny’s hair as he spoke.

Pink flushed across Ginny’s face, and she smiled, tipping her head down. “Well, thank you. That’s very nice of you.”

Liz’s attention was pulled from Keith to a woman with short, red hair wearing a flowing dress covered in flowers standing in the art room doorway.

“Are you three coming to my art class?” Alexandra Dupre asked, sweeping across the floor toward Keith. She’d moved to Spencer 20 years ago, from where Liz wasn’t sure, but she’d kept the slightly French accent all these years, an accent no one was sure was real or not. She kept her gaze focused on Keith. “I know Liz and Ginny, but I haven’t met you before. You must be new.”

Keith nodded and smiled. “New to the community center, yes, but old to Spencer.” Liz glared at his dimple. There was just too much charm in that man. Something was off.

If Keith had been a piece of chocolate, Liz had a feeling Alexandra would have gobbled him up in one bite. Maybe all the rumors she’d heard about the woman over the years were true.

Alexandra smile slyly, her eyelids heavy. “Well, I’d love to learn some history of Spencer someday if you’d like to share it.”

Keith’s smile faltered briefly as he appeared to have caught her drift. “Yes, well, I  — uh —”

“Isn’t it time for class to start?” Ginny asked and without waiting for Alexandra to answer she walked toward the classroom.

Liz and Keith followed Ginny. Alexandra slipped into the room a second later, her dress flowing behind her like the wisp of smoke off the end of one of those long cigarettes she smoked in the courtyard in between classes.

Keith gestured to the table Ginny lead them to. “Is it okay if I sit with you ladies?”

“If you don’t mind the small whimpers of inadequacy which eek out as we attempt to be artistic,” Ginny responded with a wink.

Liz mentally rolled her eyes as Keith smiled and said, “I can’t imagine there is anything inadequate in your work, Ginny.”

What was this guy’s deal anyhow? Didn’t he know Ginny was married? Give the heavy flirting a rest already.

A few moments later Alexandra stood at the front of the room and clapped her hands twice. “Okay, my artistic friends, I have a new challenge for you this week. Live model sketches. I think you’re going to love it, especially after I introduce you to our model.” She smiled with raised eyebrows and raised her hand, waving at the back of the room.

When Matt walked past Liz, heat rushed into her face and she immediately looked for the exit. What was he doing here? He was not going to be —

“Yes!” Alexandra’s expression showed her delight as she clapped her hands. “Officer Matt McGee, Spencer’s favorite police officer is our model today.”

  The room of mostly women clapped and one of them wolf-whistled from the back of the room. Matt raised his hand in greeting, his cheeks flushed, clearly embarrassed at the attention.

“Is he going to wear all those clothes the whole time?” Millie Baker called from the back of the room.

Liz’s eyebrows shot up. Millie was 76. Was she serious right now?

Alexandra tipped her head back, laid her hands against the base of her throat, and laughed loudly while Matt’s cheeks and ears turned an even deeper red than they had been.

“This is a family art class, Millie,” Alexandra said with a smile, as the laughter in the room dissipated. She raised an eyebrow, held a hand up to her cheek, and winked. “Maybe another time.”

Matt shot Liz a terrified look and though she wanted to laugh, she inwardly groaned.

No way. She was not going to sit and stare at Matt for the next half hour, even if it was for an art class.  She glanced at Bella peacefully sleeping in the car seat. If there was any time for her to wake up and have a fit, it was now.

Please, Bella. Come through for, Mama. Give me an excuse to —

“Well, now, isn’t this interesting?” Ginny looked at her with an amused smile, leaning her arm on the table, and propping her finger against her cheek. 

Liz scowled. “Hush.”

She turned her attention back to Matt who had taken a seated position on a stool at the front of the classroom.  What had possessed him to agree to this?

He looked at her, a small smile pulling at one corner of his mouth. She wanted to smile back but suddenly all she could think about was how he’d been at her apartment that night and never told her. She looked at the blank paper in front of her instead.

“Are you going to use charcoal or pencil?”

It took a few seconds for her to realize Ginny was talking to her. “Oh.” She looked at the tray of pencils and charcoal in front of her absentmindedly. “I don’t know. Which one are you using?”

“Charcoal.” Ginny raised an eyebrow. “You okay?”

Liz nodded and reached for the charcoal. “Yep. I’m good.”

Nope. I need the floor to swallow me up right now.

She didn’t want to draw the man who knew way too much about the worst moments of her life. Her hand trembled as she held the charcoal over the page.

She hadn’t heard a word Alexandra had said. Something about sketching shapes and then filling in details?

Blowing out a long breath she looked up at Matt and found him watching her, his brow furrowed.

“You okay?” He mouthed the words.

She nodded like she had with Ginny and looked away quickly, at her blank page. She chanced a look up at him again and this time he wasn’t looking at her. He’d fixed his gaze somewhere over her head, maybe on the exit sign. The sign that spelled freedom for her.

She found herself tracing the shape of his face with her eyes, hoping she could transfer it to paper so Ginny wouldn’t suspect how uncomfortable she was. Like she had when they’d dance at Jason and Ellie’s wedding, she noticed the small scar under his lower lip, his long eyelashes, the mouth he’d kissed her cheek with more than once over the years, usually before he left her apartment, or she climbed out of his truck.

Not for the first time she thought about what it would feel like if that mouth kissed her lips instead of her cheek, then willed the image from her mind. This was too weird, just too weird and way too intimate for her comfort.

Scanning the room, she thought about how it was also weird that the room was full of women sketching Matt too. Some of them were biting their lower lips and turning to the women next to them, winking and whispering.

Liz’s stomach burned. What was this feeling rumbling in her? Disgust? Anger?

Oh, good grief.

Not jealousy.

She was not jealous. Sure, she didn’t like these women ogling her — her what?

What was Matt to her?

Her friend. He was a friend at least.

“Enjoy him while you can ladies,” Alexandra called from the back of the room. “Our favorite police officer will be leaving us soon to become a state trooper.”

The collective “aw” from the women around her made Liz want to gag, but Alexandra’s announcement also reminded her that, yes, Matt knew a lot of intimate details about her life, but soon he’d be gone to the academy and out of her life. She wouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable and awkward around him for much longer now. She wished that thought comforted her more.

Keith leaned closer to Ginny, lowered his voice, but Liz could still hear the comment. “This guy’s a real ladies’ man, huh? Some of these women seem too distracted to finish their portraits.” He shook his head. “I don’t think sketching people is for me. The poor guy is starting to look like a jack-o-lantern on my page.”

The sound that came from Ginny could only be described as a giggle and it made Liz lean forward and look at her through narrowed eyes.

Ginny didn’t notice Liz’s scolding expression but instead had focused her attention on Keith’s sketch. “It’s not that bad. His nose is a little bigger than in real life, but that can be fixed.”

The end of class couldn’t come fast enough for Liz. When Alexandra announced it was time to clean up, Liz told Ginny she was going to the bathroom to wash her hands. Ginny reminded her there were sinks at the back of the room, but Liz’s heart was hammering, and she knew she needed a private place to bring it back into normal rhythm.

After she washed the charcoal from her hands, she slipped into a stall.

The sound of the door opening was followed by the sound of women’s voices chatting and laughing.

“Isn’t he just lovely?” one of the women said.

“He really is,” another one said.

“I still can’t believe he had a baby with Liz Cranmer.”

“He did?”

“Yes. Didn’t you see the birth announcement a couple of weeks ago? He was listed as the father. He’s out there now holding the baby.”

“No way. I’ve seen the two of them together a couple of times but I never would have guessed there was anything romantic between them.

“Poor Matt. I think she must have tricked him or something and now he’s just doing the right thing.”

“I don’t think Liz is like that —”

“Oh, I do. She’s not like the rest of her family, you know. She lived with that physical therapist for a couple of years. I hear he was heavily into drugs. Probably still is. It all about broke her mother’s heart the way she acted.”

“What a shame,” the other woman said, her voice merging with the sound of the door opening again. “Some people just don’t think about how their decisions are going to affect others.”

The door shut again, and Liz pressed her face in her hands.

Well, that was just great. Now she knew for sure that people in town thought she’d tainted poor Matt. She also knew what they thought of her.

She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this point, but she knew she couldn’t hide forever in the bathroom, no matter how much she wanted to.

Walking back toward the classroom she saw Matt through the doorway, holding a smiling Isabella who must have woken up.

Several women had gathered around him and Isabella, smiling and rambling along in their best baby talk.

“She’s just precious,” Mallory Benson said.

“She really is,” Alexis Vandermark agreed.

The women cooed over her baby like they hadn’t just been in the bathroom trashing Liz and practically calling her a manipulative hussy.

Liz walked through the group and reached for Bella. “Okay, now that everyone has admired her, it’s time to get this little one home and ready for bed.”

The gaggle of women broke apart with a few soft and good-natured protests. A few of the women wished Matt good luck and one of them even touched his shoulder, looking at him like a love sick puppy and told him how much she’d miss him patrolling the streets.

Matt reached out for the car seat after Liz buckled Isabella into it. “Here, let me take that for you.”

He scooped the seat up before Liz could tell him that she’d be fine and could carry the seat on her own. He walked toward the door and Liz followed, glancing over her shoulder to see Ginny chatting and laughing with Keith.

Outside a cool breeze rushed past her and she pulled her sweater around her, wondering where the warm sun had gone.

“Which side do I put her in?” Matt asked, standing next to the car.

“The base is on the left.”

Watching Matt place Isabella in the car, she almost forgot how frustrated she was with him and also how embarrassed she was at what the women in the class had said about her.

“Is this hooked right?”

Leaning in front of him, she inspected the way he’d hooked in the seat. “Yep. Looks good.” She leaned back again and noticed he hadn’t stepped back. She bumped his arm with hers and caught her foot on his boot. He reached for her arm as she started to fall and jerked her back toward him to keep her from hitting the ground. She braced herself with her hand against his chest and then, like a cheesy romance novel, their faces were inches apart.

She pulled back quickly, though, not letting the moment linger.

“Thank you for the help,” she said, stepping back toward the front of the car, averting her eyes from his.

“No problem. I’ll call you later?”

She slid quickly into the front seat, still avoiding his gaze. “Sure. That would be fine.”

Guilt needled her as she pulled out of the parking lot, but she couldn’t look at him, couldn’t see him smiling as she left, knowing what he knew about her, knowing at least part of the town thought she’d somehow led him astray.

Faithfully Thinking: Ought’n we be prepared for the best too?

A lot of people tend to think of the worst outcome for a situation they are in. We call those people pessimists and I am one of them.

I try not to be, really, but for some reason I always find my brain hopping to what could go wrong instead of what could go right.

I would imagine that even the most optimistic people frequently find their minds bouncing to the “worst what-if scenarios” even when they tell others not to do the same.

A quote from Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery reminded me that we humans often focus on the possible bad we may face, rather than the possible good.

Eliza shook her head. “Doctors always talk like that to keep people cheered up. I would have much hope if I was her. It’s best to be prepared for the worst.”

“But oughtn’t we to be prepared for the best too?” pleaded Anne. “It’s just as likely to happen as the worst.”

As most of you know (because I’ve posted about it several times) I was recently in the hospital with Covid (and, yes, I will eventually stop talking about it). In the days before I went to the hospital, my thoughts were filled with worst-case scenarios, but I kept trying to push those scenarios away. I truly did not think I would end up in the hospital and I thought if I did, I would be sent home quickly. Even when I imagined something bad happening, my brain would never allow me to go to the worst, worst-case scenario for Covid, which is one, being vented and two, dying.

I had a lot of negative what-ifs in my brain during that time, but I promise I was doing my best to replace them with some positive what-ifs. I was just too tired and sick to really conjure up the positives, I suppose. A pastor’s wife and my mom helped fill me with some of the positives, reciting or texting me verses from the Bible.

One of those verses, Philippians 4:8, helped me immensely.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

After that, I tried to focus on happier thoughts, including focusing on me getting out of the hospital.

On the day the nurse was about to turn my oxygen off, letting me know I no longer needed it, I panicked and started asking what if I couldn’t breathe or my oxygen dropped. Would they put the oxygen back on? The nurse said she would if any of that happened, but she didn’t believe it would. I apologized and told her I always worry about the worst.

She said she understood because she often does the same but has had to remind herself to focus on the positive what-if questions.

“What if everything goes fine? What if I don’t have any issues? What if I do better than expected?”

“We all need to focus a little more on the good that can happen than the bad,” she told me. “Me included.”

Fifteen years ago, I was pregnant with my son, and every time I went to the midwife, I would ask her about all the bad things that could happen.

During one appointment she looked at me and said, “Lisa, why don’t you start thinking about what good will come from this pregnancy instead of what bad can happen during it.”

Oh. Well, there was a new concept.

I worked on it, but here was, and is my problem, I feel like if I don’t learn and know about the bad things that can happen, I won’t be prepared for those bad events when they come.

This might be a valid argument for planning for the worst, but on the other hand, a person can know about the bad, but not focus on the negative so much that the negative possible outcomes overshadow the positive possible outcomes.

I’m sure that thinking the best instead of the worst will be a lifelong battle for me, but it’s something I want to work on. I want to change my negative thinking, dismissing those thoughts instead of claiming them. I want to think the best, not to be naïve enough to think every situation will come out with the best-case scenario but to be brave enough to believe that some situations will.

Tips for anyone who catches Covid this winter

After fighting COVID from mid-to-late November, I wanted to give some COVID survival tips to my blog readers who might face a similar battle at some point.



I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know a lot about COVID until I got it. I knew the politics of it, but not the actual physical effect of it on the body. Most people I knew who had it said it was physically draining and like a really bad flu, but I had no idea it could affect your breathing or oxygen levels without you even knowing it was until it was too late. I thought people could feel the tightness in their chest every time. I had never heard of silent hypoxia until I had it.



Silent hypoxia is when the oxygen level in the blood is very low, but you feel fine and the pulse ox machine isn’t even showing your oxygen as low as it actually is. You feel fine until it’s too late and you’re turning blue. I happened to notice a lower number on my pulse ox and that’s how I ended up at the emergency room at Memorial Hospital, diagnosed with silent hypoxia and Acute Respiratory Failure. Even the nurses said my color looked good and they felt I didn’t have silent hypoxia. I must have caught it just in time. Thank you, Jesus, literally.



Honestly, it wasn’t until I was out of the hospital that I realized how bad I had been and how if I hadn’t gotten to the hospital when I did, I wouldn’t be here right now writing this, hugging my kids, and husband and being with my family.



So here are a few tips for those facing Covid this winter (though this will hopefully change as the virus mutates and maybe doesn’t attack the lungs as easily):



The most important tip from my point of view is to buy a pulse oximeter and watch your oxygen levels – especially 5 to 10 days after you’ve tested positive. I took a turn for the worse on day ten. A pulse oximeter is a small device that can be purchased for anywhere from $20 to $50 and clips on your finger to measure your heart rate and the amount of oxygen in your blood.



Take slow deep breathes while measuring. Don’t be like me and hold your breath which messes up the reading for up to thirty seconds and might send you into a panic. Your levels should be between 95 and 100, though some nurses say 94 is okay.



A second tip: if you have a cough, but even if you don’t, lay on your stomach for at least an hour every four hours. Several articles I read, plus the nurses and doctors at the hospital, said they have found this opens up the lungs even more. You can prop yourself up with a pillow so you’re not mashed flat into the mattress or floor while you do it and you can sleep or watch tv, read a book, or whatever.



I tested this out my first night in the hospital when I was hooked up to a 24/7 pulse ox machine. My oxygen wasn’t dropping super low since I was on supplemental oxygen but when I laid on my stomach, even with the hospital bed propped up, the O2 number would rise.



Third, and about as important as monitoring the pulse ox, drink as much water and fluids with electrolytes that you can stand. If your stomach isn’t affected, try to eat as well, even if you have lost your sense of taste and smell. Your body needs energy to fight the virus off. I had a fever for eight days that Tylenol did nothing for and it ended up leaving me dehydrated more than I should have been.



Fourth, don’t base your experience with Covid on someone else’s, good or bad. If someone says Covid was a breeze for them, don’t expect it will be for you. If someone says they almost died with it, don’t expect the same will happen to you. Most people feel awful but don’t end up in the hospital with Covid as I did. Know that Covid can be serious but try not to panic (like I did). Also know that going in the hospital does not mean you’re going to be vented. Doctors do all they can now not to vent patients and many patients do not need that kind of intervention.



One other piece of advice is to not Google when you have Covid. In my case it was both good and bad. It was bad because I focused more on what Covid could do to me or the rest of my family than taking care of myself. It was good because I had never heard of silent hypoxia before reading about it on Google and therefore knew I might have it when my pulse oxygen began to drop into the low 90s. Also, stay away from the mainstream media, which almost exclusively focuses on the bad outcomes versus the good. Fear sells. Never forget that.



My hope is that Covid is mutating to the point now that most who catch it in this new year won’t have to worry about these tips or at least the ones related to the oxygen. I also hope doctors begin to focus less on eliminating the virus (because that isn’t going to happen) and more on how to treat it at home and in the hospital. How this world went two years without more efforts to treat this virus with therapeutics at home is beyond me.



Another thing, if you are unvaccinated for whatever reason, and do have to go to get an emergency room or hospital, don’t assume you will be treated worse because of your status. I think I was asked once about my status and never again. As far as I know, I was not treated any differently because of my vaccination status. I am unvaccinated for a personal, legit medical reason and If I am judged for that so be it, but I felt no judgment in the hospital beyond one doctor who was annoyed at a medication I had taken briefly. That’s another story for another day.



If the hospital staff wanted me to die as some on social media suggest are the attitudes of hospital staff when it comes to the unvaccinated, then they did a poor job of killing me off. They were kind, attentive in checking vitals, and did their best to alleviate any fears I had.



The final tip: don’t expect to just bounce right back from Covid. Some will but some might be exhausted, weak, and suffer from a cough for weeks or months after Covid leaves their system. I am very impatient. I want to feel better now but it’s not going to happen on my timetable. Give yourself some grace while your body heals. I’m trying to do the same.

Remembering Dianne and making sausage balls

2017 started with my 14-year-old dog Copper passing away. It ended with us losing my Aunt Dianne, three days before the end of the year. 2017 kicked my emotional butt in other words.

Dianne was my mom’s baby sister and lived with my parents for about eight years before she passed away. She was crazy, eccentric, fun, loving, and spent much of her life being told she wasn’t good enough or wanted.

Dianne and Little Miss.

She was diagnosed with diabetes when she was in her 20s and struggled with it for years. Near the end of her life, she also developed heart failure and COPD from years of smoking. She’d also had two heart attacks. We think a third one might be what took her on Dec. 29, 2017. She passed away in my parents’ dining room when she sat in a chair and then fell forward to the floor.

It was very traumatic for my mom and dad who were with her.

These days we try not to focus on the tragedy of Dianne’s life and death but on the good parts of her life, the way she made us laugh, the joy she had in giving to others, and the delight in the little things in life brought her. I wrote a little bit about her on the blog shortly after she passed and then again later on.

One thing Dianne enjoyed was cooking for others. She didn’t cook a ton but she did make a couple of things at Christmas. She used to make collard greens when she lived in North Carolina with my grandmother. When she came to Pennsylvania to live with my parents, she carried with her the tradition of making sausage balls each year for Christmas.

Sausage balls seem to be a Southern thing because I don’t see them much here in the North.

They are a very simple dish – sausage, Bisquick, and shredded cheese shaped into a ball and cooked in the oven.

The last few years my parents and I have made them in Dianne’s honor because my mom said it was one of the last things she was able to do before she passed.

“I just remember how delighted she was to be able to make those for all of you,” Mom told me shortly after Dianne died. “She sat at the table for the longest time making them. She was determined to make them.”

I didn’t get the ingredients I needed to make the sausage balls in time for Christmas, so I made them to celebrate the new year at my parents, which we didn’t actually do until Sunday. Sadly, my sausage balls did not taste as good as Dianne’s. Because I have a food allergy, I used gluten-free Bisquick mix. This mix cuts out the wheat and corn, but doesn’t mix as well and takes a lot more work. The sausage I used was very salty and I think the cheese I used was as well. Whatever happened, the sausage balls were okay but not up to Dianne’s standards. I may try to make some again this next week because they do make a nice snack any time of the year.

The sausage I used seem to have a bit too much grease in it. I will choose a different kind next time.

If any of you are interested in making them yourselves I have included the very simple recipe at the bottom of the post. As I have done in the past when sharing this recipe, I will give you a few pointers that Dianne gave me.

First, don’t use the cheese already shredded in bags from the store. Cellulose is added to this cheese to keep it from sticking together, which works fine for your tacos, salads, or pizza, but doesn’t work well when you are trying to blend it with sausage and pancake mix. Instead, Dianne always used a block of cheese and grated it herself so that it would blend better.

Dianne also took the sausage out of the fridge for an hour or maybe even a little earlier before mixing it. When the sausage is too cold it doesn’t always mix as well.

Finally, when you make the sausage balls, don’t make them too small because they will shrink and get too hard while cooking. Also, don’t make them too big or they will take longer to cook.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and if you make them and like them, let me know and send me photos!. Also, If you are down south, I believe I saw one time that they are for sale in the freezer section of some supermarkets, which would be easier but probably wouldn’t taste as good.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground pork sausage
  • 2 cups biscuit baking mix (we use Bisquick, but any kind will do)
  • 1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions

Instructions Checklist

  • Step 1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Step 2 In a large bowl, combine sausage, biscuit baking mix and cheese. Form into walnut size balls and place on baking sheets.
  • Step 3 Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown and sausage is cooked through.

Sunday Bookends: sleepovers, no word of the year, and starting back school this week

Welcome to my weekly post where I share what I’ve been doing, reading, watching, listening to and writing.

What’s Been Occurring

I looked back at my posts from last year in search of my “one word” for 2021, but apparently, I had no interest in a “word of the year” last year. Instead, I said I planned to “just survive.” I’d say that fit perfectly for my 2021 and that became even more clear in November when I caught COVID and ended up in the hospital. My year ended with a bang I guess you would say.

I haven’t picked a word for 2022 either and I think I might leave it that way and just see what happens. As I wrote last year:

Here we are in a new year and — yeah.

That’s all I got. No big goals for me this year.

No big plans.

My goal is simply to survive, while also having some fun.

If that sounds like I’m depressed, don’t worry. I’m not. I’m simply going to take it day by day this year, which is something positive that 2020 taught me.

And something that 2021 taught me too. I think I’ll do the same thing for 2022. Just take it day by day.

We had a very laid back, boring week last week in some ways.

My husband and I went out to dinner, which was my first outing since having Covid. It was a very nice time at a local restaurant we had never been to before. We had planned to travel about an hour from our house to visit a local bar and grill, but thick fog turned us around. We were glad to have found a little treasure of a bar and grill half an hour from us instead.

Earlier in the week, we ended up having an impromptu sleepover with three teenage boys when The Boy had a couple of friends over Tuesday and then we ended up with an ice storm and couldn’t drive the boys home.

That was an interesting experience which mainly involved them sitting on the couch with their phones, sharing bizarre memes, and punching each other. I’ve known all the boys since they were very young so it is a little surreal to see how much they’ve grown with the oldest now being 16.

On New Year’s Eve, we had another impromptu sleepover with one of Little Miss’s friends. It was the first sleepover for both of them, which may be why Little Miss’s friend woke up at 3 a.m. crying for mommy and would take no one else. My friend ended up driving over to meet my husband at 3:15 a.m. at our local high school so the little girl could go home.

 I wish I could have thought of an idea to help her work through her fear so she could stay until morning but it’s been eight years since my son had sleepovers (besides the teenage ones where the boys don’t normally cry for mom) so I’m rusty on all the tricks to help make little ones feel comfortable.

Tomorrow we start school again, which I am sure neither child is looking forward to. I’m somewhat looking forward to it, though, because it means we will be getting back into a routine.

What I’m Reading

I am currently reading Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery, part of the Anne of Green Gables series. I guess that will be my first book of the new year. I could read the book on my Kindle, but somehow I feel these books need to be read as an actual book I can hold.

At night in my Kindle, I am reading the fifth book in the Walt Longmire series by Craig Johnson, The Dark Horse.

Little Miss and I are reading the last book in the Little House on the Prairie series at night before she falls asleep.

The Boy is reading a Terry Pratchett book.

What I’m Watching

This past week I watched a lot of Would I Lie To You, a hilarious game show in the UK, where the contestants read a statement and the other team has to guess if the statement is a lie or not. It has been a fun distraction.

I also watched some of The Durrells in Corfu and my husband and I watched a lot of Lovejoy. We are now on the last season of Lovejoy. *sniff*

What I’m writing

I actually haven’t been writing but I hope to write more this week. I have so many issues with this latest book and pretty much want to toss it but I am trying to push through and at least finish the first draft.

What I’m Listening To

I haven’t been just sitting and listening to anything but I hope to this week because my husband bought me an awesome record player that is also a CD player, radio, cassette player, and has Bluetooth. He also brought all of our CDs down from the attic and we were shocked to see how many we had when they filled an entire bookcase.

So that’s my week in review, how about you? What are you reading, watching, or doing? Let me know in the comments.

A look back at 2021 in photos

Today I decided to look back at 2021 in photos. Our year started out with a great deal of snow. Right before Christmas we had over two feet and in January, about two weeks later, we were dumped on again. Throughout January snow just kept falling and then it fell again in February. It was a crazy winter.

January/February

March and April

I don’t remember what happened in March but I could hardly find any photos from that month on my computer. Maybe I moved them somewhere else, I don’t know. I do know I had a photography slump this year.

May and June

July and August

September and October

November and December

I barely took any photos in early November and then COVID hit. While trying to recover from COVID, I had no interest in the camera so there are not a ton of photos from either month. Honestly I feel like I lost two months of my life. I don’t remember much of either month.

Fiction Friday: A New Chapter Chapter 14 Part II

Catch up with the rest of this story HERE.

As always, this is a work in progress and it is bound to change before I publish it in the spring.

Chapter 14 Part II

“What do you mean you don’t need me anymore?” Warmth rushed up Liz’s throat and into her face.

Linda Bertoloni swept her silk scarf over her shoulder, around her neck, and floated on bare feet toward the back storage room.

“I’m sorry, Lizzie, but I’ve had my niece working for me since you’ve been on leave and she’s done a wonderful job.” Linda was shifting boxes on a shelf, her back to Liz. “Sales have been down this year and I’ve had to make cuts and I’m afraid you’re one of them. You know how it is. We just have to go with the flow in life. That’s what I always tell you and this flow is taking me to a less expensive employee and a smaller inventory.”

Liz couldn’t believe it. Was this woman for real? She’d been working here two years and Linda was firing her?

“Why didn’t you call and tell me this before I came in?”

Linda paused in her searching and turned looking up at a spot above Liz’s head, placing her thumb and forefinger at her chin. “Wait. Didn’t I call you last week?”

Liz shook her head slowly. “No, Linda. You did not call me. At all. I came in today expecting to work and expecting to have a job.”

You crazy, airheaded, pot-smoking, tree-hugging freak.

Linda smiled serenely and stepped forward, taking Liz’s hands in hers. “Liz, sweetie. I know this is hard. We’ve worked well together, but it really is time for you to move on, don’t you think? Don’t you want to do something more exciting with your life than work in my little health food store?”

Liz thought her head might explode.

“Linda. Listen to me. I just had a baby. A baby I have to support.”

Why did the woman have to be such a free spirit now? A free spirit who apparently did things so much on a whim she didn’t care who got left behind or walked all over.

Linda smiled and squeezed Liz’s hands tighter, leaning close to her face until Liz could see the lines at the corners of her eyes and the pores in her skin. “I know and that’s why you need a job that will pay you more than I can right now. I will give you a wonderful reference. I am sure there are tons of places around here who would hire you in a second. There’s no way someone won’t snatch you up.”

Linda turned abruptly and her scarf fluttered, brushing across Liz’s face. It fluttered again across Liz’s face as she turned back around from her desk with an envelope in her hand. “Now before you go, I have given you a final two weeks pay to help you along until you find a new job.”

Liz took it, her mouth dropping open in disbelief.

Linda clasped Liz’s hands in her. “Now don’t thank me, hon’. I know you appreciate it. You give that baby a hug for me when you get home.”

And with that Linda walked briskly past her toward the front counter to wait on a customer.

Liz walked slowly toward the back door, dumbfounded.

Jobless? How was she going to pay rent? Buy diapers? Go back to school?

“Lizzie! Hi!” Linda’s niece Brittany bounced through the back door and toward her, blond ponytail bouncing behind her. She beamed as she grabbed Liz by the shoulders and yanked her into a hug. Pulling back she smiled even broader. “Oh my gosh! So good to see you! How is the baby?”

Liz tensed. “She’s good.”

“Oh wow! Did you bring her with you?”

“No, Brittany. I did not. I thought I was coming to work today.”

Brittany pushed her lower lip out, frowning, and tipped her head. “Aw. I’m sorry. Didn’t Aunt Linda call you a couple weeks ago?”

Liz narrowed her eyes. “No. She didn’t call me.”

Brittany tipped her head back and giggled. “Well, you know how she is. Her head is in the clouds all the time.”

Liz stepped around Brittany, heat rushing into her face as she bit her lower lip to hold in the retort she really wanted to shoot at Brittany. “Yeah. It’s somewhere alright. Have a good day, Brittany.”

Brittany’s voice as sickly sweet, clueless as always. “You too, Lizzie!”

Lizzie.

Liz growled as she flung her door open. No one but Linda and Brittany called her Lizzie, and she was willing to put up with it because she knew it meant a paycheck. Now that she wasn’t getting a paycheck she wouldn’t be putting up with it.

She slammed her car door hard behind her and pressed her forehead against the steering wheel.

It wasn’t like she was making much money at the health food store, but it was something and it was enough to — well, barely survive on, honestly.

Now she had to drive back to her apartment and face her mother who would shake her head and ask how she was going to support herself and Bella now.

What was worse than knowing her mother would ask the question was that she was asking herself the same question and she had no answer.