Stop apologizing

Stop apologizing when you shouldn’t

I apologize for everything.

It’s a horrible curse.

There is a time to apologize and there is a time you shouldn’t and I often apologize when I shouldn’t.

Several years ago I had a very bad experience in my life and a family member informed me I was bringing them down and told me to stop contacting them as I went through this experience.

A few months later, I was the one who apologized.

A few months ago two grown women mocked me in front of another group of grown women and when I stepped back from that situation I was mocked again for not having thick enough skin.

And, yes, you guessed it, in the end, I apologized for having “thin” skin.

It is insane the number of times I have been mistreated in my life and apologized for what I must have done wrong.

A few times I may have done something wrong, but most of the time, I shouldn’t have apologized.

I have waited for apologies. I certainly expected apologies from Christians that never came and never will. That hurts and messes with my mind quite a bit, but we can’t sit around waiting for an apology by apologizing first ourselves. I apologized once to a family member, waiting for her to apologize as well, only to have her accept my apology and never mention how atrocious her behavior had been in the first place. In fact, this has now happened to me three times with all female members of my family. I have stopped apologizing for their behavior and I hope to make that a regular practice from now on.

As I said in the beginning, there is a time to apologize and if we have really been out of line, then, yes, by all means. Please apologize. But if a person has hurt you, been rude to you, has been passive-aggressive over and over to you, has mocked you in front of others, has talked behind your back, has come after your children as a way to hurt you — No. You don’t apologize when you either finally snap and tell them off or when you walk away and never look back.

I believe that apologizing can be a curse and it is a curse many of us need to break.

Sunday Bookends: Bear in the neighborhood, little girls everywhere, and a summer reading list


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

What I/we’ve been Reading

I have two or three more chapters to read of Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery and will probably finish it today.

I also hope to finish Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain later this week.

I am starting The Heat of the Mountains by Pepper Basham this week for a book tour, which isn’t until the end of July.

I hope to start the next book in the Anne series (Anne of the Island) as well.

I have a few books I would like to read during this summer including:

The sixth book in the Walt Longmire series, Junkyard Dogs;

The Hot Rock by Donald Westlake;

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz;

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie;

 A Ted Dekker book (haven’t decided which one yet);

At least one Jane Austen book

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

The Do Over by Bethany Turner.

The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray

Do I think I will get through all these books? I have no idea but we will see.

The Husband is reading Hooker by Lou Thesz (a book about a wrestler, not a prostitute.).

The Boy is taking a break from reading after reading so much for school this year.

I finally got Little Miss to let me read a book other than Laura Ingalls Wilder — Anne of Green Gables. She’s letting me read one chapter of Anne one night and a chapter of The Long Winter the other night.

What’s Been Occurring

Little Miss had a very busy, exciting week. She was able to see all of her friends, including the ones still visiting the area from Texas. They had moved there last year (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m too lazy to go back to my previous Sunday Bookend and look. *wink*). Her friends who live locally were visiting Thursday and then her friends from Texas were down the street at their great-grandmothers so they came up to visit too. For about three hours I had six crazy girls between the ages of 6 and 8 here and it was actually a lot of fun, more for Little Miss than anyone else.

I’d love to show the photos of them all together but I don’t have permission to share their photographs on the blog so I’ll just tell you that they were all crazy and had fun posing for a photograph that they could all remember when they go their separate ways.

Little Miss was able to see her friends from Texas the next day as well and then last night the neighbor’s daughter took her to our local dairy parade where she milked a cow and was able to ride on a fire truck.

On Friday we traveled 45 minutes one way and 45 minutes back to have the kid’s evaluations done with our homeschool evaluator. We didn’t visit the town where we used to live like we usually do when we go there, partially because we simply didn’t feel like and partially because they last time we went there some young men yelled nasty things at my son while he was riding his bike. The incident was a stark reminder of how much the town we lived in for about 18 years had changed, and not for the better.

With the evaluations done, we can now submit our paperwork to the district both for this past school year and for next. And that also means we are officially on summer break. No, we don’t have any concrete exciting plans for this summer. One of my plans is to start looking for curriculum for The Boy who is now a sophomore in high school (hold me!). Yes, I am a very exciting person.

In less interesting news for most people, my peonies and wild roses bloomed this week, which is just about one of the biggest highlights of the year for me. Yes, my life is that boring.

In unrelated news, I have been waiting to see a bear since we moved here and I might have seen one Monday if I had been outside my house because one visited my neighbor down the street — the great grandmother of Little Miss’ little friends. The bear was young and walked up her driveway and into her side yard (which is very small and leads to her patio doors) and visited her granddaughter’s dog and then kept going, I guess. We only found out about it when the local newspaper wrote about it. I told my neighbor to call me if a bear shows up in her yard again, but really, what am I going to do if it does? I’m certainly not going to walk down the street, but maybe I’d drive down there to check it out.

Now that I know there has been a bear on the street, I am trying to be very careful when I let the pets out and check on them while they are out there.  Bears aren’t known to kill dogs or cats in this area, but it still makes me nervous.

What We watched/are Watching

Last Sunday I started to rewatch Season 2 of The Chosen. Wow. I caught so many things I had missed when I watched it last year, especially during the episode with Jesus and John the Baptist. It is a seriously powerful show. If you have not watched it, I really encourage you to do so. Even if you aren’t a Christian. It’s very well put together and tells a wonderful story about people, in addition to God.

You can either watch it on The Chosen app, which is very easy to download on your smartphone or another device. You can cast the episodes to your TV and download the channel if you have a Roku.

I watched a couple more episodes of The Durrells, which is on Amazon, and based on a trilogy of books about a real life family called The Durrells. It’s an interesting show, with some odd moments, but nothing outlandishly inappropriate or violent.

I also watched a bunch of videos by homesteader YouTubers like Roots and Refuge Farm all week long. This gave me ideas for things I can do around my own home to create a garden or grow food without planting a full garden. I am behind on starting a garden this year (clearly) and I’ve been dragging my feet on it because it can be very time consuming and I sort of blew it last year. But these videos have inspired me to try it on a smaller scale, so I am producing at least something this year. As my neighbor said last week, this is definitely the year to be planting a garden considering how bad our economy is and how much worse it is going to get.

It is also inspiring to watch Roots and Refuge because they have built their farm and their YouTube channel up over the last several years to the point they are now making a full, supporting income from both.

The Husband and I also watched an episode (they are 90 minutes each) of Brokenwood Mysteries and on Saturday I watched the new Obi Wan Kenobi show with The Boy and then an episode of the third season of Star Trek Discovery with The Boy and The Husband.


What I’m Writing

 I worked more this week on The Shores of Mercy, which is what I’ll be calling the new book. It is called Mercy’s Shore for the blog.

I’ve decided to write one more book after this one and complete The Spencer Valley Chronicles with five books. The fifth book will be about Alex and his relationship with his father, as well as a little more about his relationship with Molly. I felt like that will bring the series full circle. Since it started with Molly, it will end with Molly.

In addition to working on the book, I also wrote several blog posts including:



Now it’s your turn

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

Fiction Friday: Mercy’s Shore (The Shores of Mercy) Chapter 6

This is a continuing/serial story. I share a chapter a week and at the end of the story, and after I edit and rewrite, I self-publish it. To catch up with the story click HERE. To read the rest of the books in this series click HERE.

Chapter 6

Judi turned the key in the ignition and pulled out of the parking space in front of her apartment abruptly, barely giving herself time to check the side mirrors.

She was late. As usual.

Her sister Ellie had invited her to supper at the farmhouse ten miles outside of town and that supper was set to start in ten minutes.

Judi glanced at the clock on her dashboard. Make that seven minutes.

Apparently, Judi was never going to become organized like Ellie, no matter how hard she tried. Was it her fault that her favorite Brad Pitt movie had come on while she was finishing straightening her hair? Or that her ice cream had melted on the coffee table, and she had rushed to clean it up before it dried?

Okay, yes. All those things were technically her fault, because if she’d been paying attention to the clock, she wouldn’t have been distracted by either of them. But Brad Pitt. Come on. She had such little excitement left in her life anymore. She had to have some enjoyment.

She appreciated her sister helping her work out a deal with the landlord for the apartment she now lived in, allowing Judi to take over the two-year lease Ellie had signed when she’d thought she and Jason weren’t getting married.

What a mess that engagement had been. Judi still couldn’t figure Ellie out sometimes. While she’d comforted Ellie before she and Jason worked things out, Judi still felt Ellie’s reason for being mad at Jason was dumb.

In high school Ellie and Jason had promised they’d be each other’s first. First as in first person they slept with. They’d taken a break in college, though, so Jason had been tempted and slept with a girl on campus. Yeah, so Jason waited almost nine years to tell Ellie about it and dragged his feet on proposing because he’d been dreading telling her, but still — Judi didn’t get it. It wasn’t like Jason slept with the girl when he and Ellie were a couple.

Judi shrugged at the memory of her sister’s dilemma as she watched the town setting fade into farmland and wide open spaces, trees slowly becoming green after a long winter and cornfields almost ready to be planted.

Ellie was much more old-fashioned than Judi. Way more old fashioned.

Okay, so it would be nice if she met a guy one day and they were both each other’s first but for Judi that ship had already sailed. There was no going back to redo that.

First there was that one time in high school and it almost set sail again that night with Jeff. The only difference with Jeff was it wouldn’t have been her choice. She winced at the memory of that night with Jeff and then at the memory of the high school interaction. The high school one had been seriously awkward, emotionally and physically uncomfortable, and definitely not what she thought it was going to be at all. It was something she had never told Ellie about, and she never wanted to.

There was a part of her that felt guilt about it all, but what good would it do to sit and feel guilt about something she couldn’t go back and change? It had happened, she had regretted it and wished she’d waited for someone more special, someone who hadn’t moved out of the area a month later, but such was life. Everyone had regrets but not everyone had to be like Ellie and let those regrets weigh them down for years on end.

There were a lot of people who were surprised when they found out she was related to Ellie and not only because they didn’t have the same hair color. Of course, Judi’s blond hair wasn’t natural. She’d started dying it in high school to be different from her sister. It had once been almost as dark brown as Ellie, but her hair had always featured a few more blond streaks.

People were surprised they were sisters because she and Ellie were so different in their personalities and how they looked at life. Judi didn’t dwell on past mistakes or worry about the future like Ellie, and she felt that was okay. Pushing back thoughts about her past helped her move toward the future and so far, that strategy was working well for her.

She pulled in front of Judi’s farmhouse fifteen minutes late and noticed there was already a black pickup parked next to Jason’s gray pickup and Ellie’s small blue sedan. That meant Alex Stone, Jason’s best friend, and Molly, Jason’s sister, had also been invited.  

Wonderful.

Always fun to be the fifth wheel.

Wherever Molly was, Alex wasn’t far behind, especially after the two had started dating more than a year ago.

The farmhouse was small, but attractive, especially after Jason and Alex had started fixing it up with new siding and shutters after the wedding. Winter had paused their renovations, but Judi was sure they’d be starting the improvements again as spring continued. Prior to Jason and Ellie moving in, the house had been a bachelor pad for Alex and Jason.

Glancing at her phone as she reached for it, she noticed Rachel had tried to reach her again. She knew it was to talk about the situation with Jerry the other night at the meeting, but she didn’t want to talk about it. Jerry was weird and that was all there was to it. She wasn’t going to drink herself into oblivion because some old guy who couldn’t get his life together didn’t like her.

“Nice ride!”

She looked up as she climbed out of the car and saw Alex sitting on the porch railing, jean clad legs hanging over it, a soda in one hand.

“Yep! It is.”

Alex pushed his familiar black cowboy hat back off his forehead and tipped his head up, revealing a rugged, unshaven jawline. Sunlight flickered across his blue eyes. “How much are the payments on it?”

Judi reached for her purse and shook her head, her back to Alex. Men and cars, so predictable.

“Too much,” she answered as shut the door of the small red compact sports car she’d purchased when she was still living in the city.

The payments were too much. She wasn’t just offering a smooth retort. If she didn’t find a more lucrative job soon the car was going to go the way of her fancy New York City apartment and designer clothes shopping habit — into the category of how life used to be.

She couldn’t help but notice Alex’s well-toned arms as she walked up the steps toward the front door. A black t shirt with an image of country singer Clint Black emblazoned on the front was stretched against his chest and biceps, which were nowhere near as large as Jason’s, but much larger than they had been when he’d first moved to Spencer Valley almost seven years ago to work with Jason on the farm.

There weren’t many men in this small, rural area who had muscles as large, or a body as toned as Jason’s, much to Judi’s disappointment. Not that she ogled Jason, since he was her brother-in-law and, in some ways, almost like a brother to her since she’d known him practically her entire life.

Alex jerked his head toward the front door. “You’re just in time. Ellie’s about to put the food on the table.”

“Oh good, then hopefully I’ll avoid a scolding about being late.” Judi smiled to let Alex know she was teasing.

She and Ellie had been at each other’s throats for a number of years, always bickering or verbal poking at each other, but last year that had all changed when Judi thought her sister had died in a car accident driving a drunk Brad Tanner back to his house.

It wasn’t that there weren’t still days the two snipped at each other, but it definitely wasn’t at the intensity it had once been. Judi couldn’t seem to put her sarcastic and biting remarks completely behind her, though, a habit she knew was left over from the days when her jealousy of Ellie had consumed her. That jealousy still remained but it floated on calmer waters now, speckled with a healthy dose of admiration for her older sister.

Inside the house, Ellie was being the perfect housewife. She wasn’t technically a house wife since she worked as a preschool teacher four days a week and the rest of the time either helped Jason on the farm or at the farm store.

“Hey!” Ellie set a bowl down on the table and reached out her arms as soon as she saw Judi enter the dining room, enveloping her in a quick, but firm hug. Judi had pulled away from hugs from her sister for years and was trying her best to get used to them now. She did her best to return the hug and not be as awkward as she used to be.

Ellie had pulled her chestnut brown hair back in a tight ponytail and she was dressed more casual than normal, sporting a pair of black capris and a light blue crew neck blouse. Judi was used to seeing her wearing a button up shirt or a sweater, khaki pants, and dress shoes for work. Ellie didn’t dress down very often, though she had relaxed considerably since getting married.

Ellie gestured toward the table as she turned to go back into the kitchen. “So glad you had a night off and could join us. Go ahead and grab a seat.”

Molly walked in from the kitchen with a salad and set it on the table. Her long, curly, reddish-brown hair was hanging loose and she was wearing loose fitting shirt and a pair of blue jean shorts.

Second to Ellie, Molly was someone Judi wished she could be like. Molly had always been sweet and cheerful, no matter what life threw at her. She’d struggled with her weight for years and Judi didn’t envy that, however. Looking good in a designer shirt and pair of jeans was more important to Judi than being sweet.

The table was full of fried chicken, sweet potatoes, salad, green beans, and homemade biscuits. All of it was food Judi knew she shouldn’t be eating, but it looked good, and she knew, based on her sister’s cooking talent, that it would taste good too.

After a prayer from Jason, they began passing food and Alex and Jason began talking about the farm, the continuing expansion of the Tanner’s farm store, and an upcoming inspection of the Tanner’s bottling plant.

Judi was fine with them talking amongst themselves. It meant she didn’t have to share about her week.

“Judi. You’ve been quite tonight. How was your week?”

Well, it was nice while it lasted.  Why did Ellie feel she had to include her in everything? Including the conversation.

“It was okay.” She shoved a bite of sweet potato in her mouth, hoping this would satisfy her sister, but knowing it wouldn’t.

“So, is it true you pulled out in front of Ben Oliver last week before he hit a tree?”

She glared over her glass of water at Alex as she took a drink. His good looks didn’t make up for that big mouth of his. She would have asked how he even knew about the accident, but then she remembered he was currently staying with Matt McGee, who’d obviously blabbed her personal business one morning over coffee.

Ellie looked up from her plate, eyes wide. “Did you have an accident? Are you okay? Why didn’t you call?”

Judi focused her scowl on Alex. “Thank you, Alex. So appreciative you blabbed that.” Thanks to him Ellie was peppering her with concerned questions and soon her phone would be blowing up with the same questions from her parents.

Alex grinned as he reached for the plate of chicken. “No problem. Always here to help.”

She looked at Ellie, purposely tipping her head away from Alex and wishing she hadn’t given up flipping people off in an effort to be a kinder, gentler Judi. She made sure to speak in a matter of fact one to deflect any deeper questions.

“I’m fine. The car’s fine. He swerved to miss me and hit the tree.”

She reached across the table for the plate of chicken sitting next to Alex, being sure to shoot him another annoyed scowl. His return smirk and wink was infuriating.

“Was he okay?” Ellie asked, concerning etching her brow.

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Judi said around a mouthful of chicken. “He has a concussion and a broken ankle. He’s out of the hospital, though. I saw him at the AA meeting last night.”

When her phone rang, she reached for her purse and pulling it out she checked the caller ID.  She didn’t recognize the number so she sent it to voicemail and dropped the phone back into the purse.

Molly reached for the pitcher of tea and poured a glass. “That’s great to know he was at an AA meeting. I know he’s been sober for a couple of years but it’s good to stay connected somewhere.”

Judi raised an eyebrow. “Ben’s a recovering alcoholic?”

The color from Molly’s face visibly drained. “Oh. I thought that he — I mean, I thought he must have shared that at the meeting.”

Judi shook her head slowly. “No. He didn’t. He was there to support a client. The guy with him said he’d had experience with AA meetings though. I didn’t know what he meant.”

She also hadn’t stayed to find out since she’d wanted to get as far away from discussions about Jerry’s blow up on her as possible.

She was surprised that Molly knew so much about the guy who had dumped her in high school to date Easy Angie. Apparently, they had talked since Ben moved back to the area.

Molly swallowed hard. “I probably shouldn’t have shared that.”

Judi shrugged and stabbed at a piece of lettuce with her fork. “Doesn’t matter to me. I’m not going to tell him you said anything. We didn’t exactly hit it off after the accident, so I don’t plan on interacting with him on a regular basis.”

Molly cleared her throat and managed a faint smile. “Thanks. I don’t know if all of that is common knowledge or not and I hate him to think I violated his privacy somehow.”

Judi snorted a laugh. “It’s nice of you to worry about him because it’s not like he worried too much about you when he dumped you in high school for that Angie Phillipi.”

“Judi!”

Ah, there it was. Ellie’s familiar scolding tone.

Judi didn’t even bother to look up from her plate and see Ellie’s raised eyebrows. “What? It’s true. He was a total jerk to Molly. Everyone knows it.”

Alex leaned back in his chair and slid an arm around Molly’s shoulder. “Good thing he was too, or I might have had to steal Molly away from him.” He winked as Judi looked up. Judi rolled her eyes and resisted the urge to gag.

“Besides, Ben and I had a good talk about that, and he did apologize,” Molly added. “It was high school. We all do stupid things in high school.”

Judi knew Molly didn’t know about all the stupid things she’d done in high school, but the comment felt like a small kick in the gut or at least a pinch in the arm. She wasn’t about to sit and dwell on why the comment bothered her, though. Life was too short to look in the rearview mirror.

“That’s good to hear,” she said instead, looking at Molly. “Really. I always thought that was totally crappy of him. You were way better than Angie ever was.”

Molly tipped her head to one side and smiled. “Thank you, Judi. That’s sweet. It did hurt but his apology helped a lot.”

“Whatever happened to Angie anyhow?” Jason asked standing with his empty plate and heading toward the kitchen.

“Last I heard her parents moved down to Lancaster,” Ellie said. “I’m not sure where Angie ended up though.”

Judi picked up her plate and carried it into the kitchen as Jason walked back toward the dining room. “You know who else was at the meeting?” She didn’t wait for an answer to her inquiry. “Brad.”

Jason scoffed on his way by her. “That’s a shock. Doubt he’ll stick with it.”

Judi placed her plate in the open dishwasher, tempted to set it in backward to drive her Obsessive Compulsive  sister crazy, but finally deciding against it. “Me too, honestly,” she called over her shoulder. “But no one thought I’d stick with it this long either.”

“I thought he’d move back to the city after the accident, actually,” Jason said as Judi walked back into the dining room. “Instead, I have to see him every day at work.”

Judi laughed as she sat back down. “Same here.”

“Is he a big of an idiot there as he is everywhere else?” Jason asked as Ellie sat a stack of small plates on the table.

“Of course, he is,” Judi responded with an eye roll.

Ellie placed a pie in the center of the table, which Judi knew was made from scratch by her sister, from the crust to the filling.

 Ellie began to cut the pie.  “Hey, who knows. Maybe he’s finally growing up. This could be a good thing. Instead of mocking him, we should be praying for him.”

Judi felt a familiar sarcastic retort on the tip of her tongue, one that would ridicule Ellie’s tendency to turn everything into a Bible lesson. She held the comment in, though, knowing Ellie was being her genuinely sweet self by offering the suggestion.

The rest of the evening was spent chatting about topics other than the lives of all the alcoholics the Lamberts and Tanners knew.

Judi didn’t look at her phone again until she was in the car, ready to drive home. She clicked on the play button from the voicemail left by the unfamiliar number as she pulled out onto the dirt road in front of the house.

“Hello, Miss Lambert. My name is Brent Decker and I’m an attorney from New York City. I’m hoping you can get back to me at your earliest convenience on a matter involving a Jeffery Brock.”

Judi pushed the off button on the phone before the man left his phone number.

She was not returning that phone call.

Jeff Brock was one of those regrets she didn’t intend to let weigh her down and what had happened with him was another incident she intended to leave in her rearview.

Randomly Thinking: My flowers are blooming, weird family stories, and my invisible son

First of all, our flowers are starting to bloom or are blooming. It’s so exciting to see our yard come alive each year. Prepare yourselves for way too many photos of wild roses and peonies over the next couple of weeks. Here are a few until then! (Also, my life is very sad. Watching my wild roses bloom is one of the highlights of my year. It’s close to watching grass grow.)

***

Just before we hung up one night last week my mom told me she’d been reading a book where a man didn’t like crowds because he had PTSD from something. His wife wanted him to go with her to a store so he did and while he waited he went to a bar and started drinking so he didn’t have to think about the crowds.

“Then he had more to drink and then he got home he shot his wife.”

I was like, “Mom! Why are you telling me this! What books are you reading?!”

She continues without answering, “So anyhow, I was thinking about my uncle. You remember me talking about him, right?”

At this point I am trying to figure out what this has to do with the awful book.

“Well, anyhow, I think he had PTSD. They always said he was dishonorably discharged from the Army, but I don’t know the story there. Anyhow, he used to go on these drinking binges and then he wouldn’t drink for a while and then he’d go on another binge. I wonder if that was what happened to him. Maybe he drank to forget what he had seen overseas. Maybe he had PTSD like that man in the book. Well, anyhow, everyone always said he married his niece but he didn’t really marry his niece because she actually was Uncle William’s daughter from another marriage so she wasn’t related by blood and —”

“Mom…seriously, how did we get here? How did this conversation even get here?”

“What? I was just saying that that book reminded me of my uncle and —”

“I appreciate the happy story Mom, but I should go now.”

There is only so much information about my extended family I can take in during one conversation.

***

A woman on Instagram commented a few weeks ago that she kills plants very easily. I left this comment for her: “You’re not alone. A flower threw itself off a shelf when I walked by it in a store one time because it figured it better just kill itself before I got a hold of it and slowly murdered it.”

***

My son says that people forget he is there all the time. He said someone will tell him a story and he’ll say, “I know. I was there. Don’t you remember?”

Or one of us will tell him something we heard and he’ll say, “I know, I’m the one who told you!”

Or a friend of his will say, “I was talking to some friends the other night on the phone and —”

“I know! I was there!!!”

He said his grandfather and dad are always telling him stories that he experienced with them, like he wasn’t there.

I’ve tried to assure him that it isn’t that he is forgettable, it’s just that we are all getting old and we forget a lot, like who was with us when we went somewhere, who we told what, and sometimes even where we are at the moment.

***


 Another day The Boy said to me, “Wait. Wait. This will be funny,” and then proceeded to do something dangerous and stupid.

I told him that are a couple of sentences people say right before the ambulance is called.

One is “watch this.”

The other is, “Wait. Wait. This will be funny.”

***

Here is a corny dad joke from my dad:

I told my dad I’m allergic to Tide laundry detergent a few years ago. If I remember right, he is too.

“My dad always washed in Tide, though,” he told me.

“Oh, did he?”

“Yeah, I mean, doesn’t everyone wash intide? It would be embarrassing to wash outtide.”

***

We were watching Shakespeare and Hathaway and the one actor said he was doing an American accent. “Yeah, it’s American. It’s from Nebraska.”

I said to The Husband, “Oh my gosh. Nebraska. Until he said that I completely forgot we had a state called Nebraska. Whatever happens there anyhow?”

My husband says they grow corn. I’ll have to take his word for it.

***

I was reading with Little Miss the other day and came across the word umbrage. I told her it was a very British word because I couldn’t seem to say it without a very British accent.

Try it. It’s true. You have to say it with a British accent.

***

I finally watched a couple episodes of The Office with my family recently and wow — as a resident of Pennsylvania, that show is creepily accurate about the people of Pennsylvania.

When they go out on sales, I swear I do a double-take and think the people they are talking to might be one of my neighbors or the boss at one of our local companies. I’m not very far from Scranton and have lived here my entire life, so trust me, people in PA really are that down to earth. Sometimes we are a little weird too. *wink*

***

So how about you? What random events have been going on in your life? Let me know in the comments.

Our pets and their many adventures and personalities

Our family’s pets certainly are characters and keep our lives interesting.

We somehow ended up with three black and white animals.

Zooma The Wonder Dog’s most well-known features in our family are her spotted paws, even though she has white on other areas of her fur as well. When we first met Zooma and decided we wanted to adopt her, 3-year-old Little Miss told everyone we met that we were going to buy the puppy with the spotted paws. We had planned not to tell my parents right away because we thought they might not think we should get a new dog since we’d recently had a negative experience with another puppy adoption. That plan fell apart when Little Miss ran into their house first thing and announced, “We’re getting the puppy with the spotted paws!”

The breeder had actually asked us if we would like to switch puppies because someone else was interested in Zooma, but I told her we couldn’t do it.

“My daughter has already announced to everyone we meet that we are getting the puppy with the spotted paws.”

So now we have our Zooma with her spotted paws. She has taken over this blog a few times and you can find those posts if you search “Zooma” in the search bar in the right sidebar.

The first year we had Zooma.

Scout, our almost-two-year-old cat, has huge, white paws, as well as other areas of white over the bottom part of her. She is a polydactyl, so she has extra toes.

You can see a bit of her big paws here.

Pixel, our veteran cat, appears to be all black but if you are unfortunate to be stuck under her underside you will see a small streak of white fur between her legs.

All three of our animals are allowed outside now. In the past, I tried to keep Scout inside because I didn’t want her to be an outside cat. Sadly, after she saw Pixel and Zooma going out each day, her curiosity was almost overwhelming. She became so desperate to go out she would continuously slip out past us, finding any way she could to escape. Stopping her became an exhausting undertaking and she was also severely hyper when she couldn’t go out — raring all over the house and being a general nuisance all of the time. Once she was able to go outside and explore, she would come back in a lot happier and a lot cuddlier.

As a kitten, Scout loved to curl up on my chest to sleep. In a few months, though, she was too big to do that anymore, so she found other places to curl up. Every once in a while she does still try to curl up on my chest and I have to sit slumped down, my arms folded across my chest in a circle for her to lay in. We don’t last very long in that position so now she wakes me up early in the morning by trying to curl up against my neck or chest while I’m still in bed. When she cuddles she bumps her nose against mine while purring and then “kisses” (licks) my chin or cheek a couple of times. When she curls up on me on the bed she eventually decides I move too much and gets up and moves to her favorite place to sleep in the house — Little Miss’s pillow, just above Little Miss’s head. Sometimes she even curls around Little Miss’s head.

Pixel has never been a huge cuddler, but she does occasionally climb up on my chest and kneed and try to curl up there. She’s much too large to cuddle on my chest so her body drapes down my stomach or her large rear crashes into my laptop. She often picks a time for cuddling when I am trying to write instead of when I am trying to read. I would have a lot more room for her while I am reading than when I am typing, but, well, she’s a cat and cats want attention at the most inopportune times, as cat owners know.

Zooma loves to cuddle but wants to be petted most of the time during the cuddle (pawing at your hand to let you know you must keep rubbing her head or belly) and like Scout, she seems to decide somewhere during a snuggle session that she needs more room to spread out and leaves to sprawl onto the floor or couch. The Boy is the champion Zooma cuddler and hugs her like a baby, especially when he is procrastinating on doing school work or any other work.

“I can’t do that. I’m cuddling the puppy,” he’ll say and then he and Zoom will look at me with pathetic “puppy eyes.”

It seems to be an unwritten rule that you can’t move a cat once they’ve curled up in a spot on the couch or bed and you can’t break up a boy and dog cuddle session.

Zooma also likes to cuddle with Little Miss first thing in the morning while Little Miss either plays her online games or chats with her friends before schoolwork.

When we go outside, the animals go with us and often follow us as we walk down the street. Zooma is, of course, on a leash when we go for a walk because even though this is a small town, and very close to the woods, it’s still a town.

Zooma is on a lead or leash when she is outside so she doesn’t take off on us, because she will. She will chase whatever critter she sees in the yard or on the street. When we first moved here, and if we took her off the lead, she would take off over the hill behind the house after deer and rabbits. She would also chase the neighborhood cats and more than once she yanked the lead out of the ground and wrapped herself around our one neighbor’s large tree trying to get to one of them. If she sees a cat while we are walking on the leash she tries to yank the leash out of our hands and get to them. The main cat we see on our walks is our neighbor’s cat Simba.

He was here before our pets so this is his territory, but our animals don’t seem to understand that.

Simba wanders freely like Pixel and Scout do. None of them seem to go very far from their houses and don’t seem to go to other streets. Scout and Pixel do go over the bank toward the old railcar on the street below ours but I have yet to have seen them actually on that street, which is a lot busier than ours, so I hope they never do.

Simba and Scout had a run in the other day after Simba chased Scout out from under the neighbor’s cars where they all like to hang out. Simba wasn’t done with her and even hissed at her while she was laying on the sidewalk in front of our house.

The next day I caught him stalking her in our yard. I guess he’s really not a fan of Scout. I don’t know if he has been doing this for the last several months we’ve been letting her out or if he just realized she is around or what. He and Pixel aren’t really fans of each other either so I’m sure they have some battles too. I know they did when we first moved here.

Another odd thing is that when we walk down the street, the cats follow us like we are taking them on the walk with us. They usually only make it halfway down the street, though, and decide they don’t want to follow us any further. Also, when we visit our neighbors, the cats will follow us onto their porches, like they are visiting too.

Our biggest issue with letting Scout out is that she doesn’t like to come back in so there are some nights we have to chase her down to get her back inside. Pixel wanders in and out all day, jumping up for a snack of food and a drink, and then meowing to be let back out. Scout occasionally comes back in, but usually, once she is out we don’t see her for the rest of the day or if we do see her she comes up for attention and then darts away when we try to pick her up to go inside.

Many an evening the family has watched me pace anxiously when she hasn’t returned from one of her excursions, sure that this time I shouldn’t have let her out and she’s finally got herself killed. Every time she’s come sauntering back in like there was nothing to worry about and clearly clueless, or not really caring, that I was worried sick over her.

We don’t want the animals outside at night because we do live close to the woods and a rural area and that means there could be any number of animals in our backyard at night, including raccoon, skunks, opossum, foxes, and bear.

Speaking of animals, our animals have had quite a few run-ins with animals, I’m sure even more than we are aware of. The main run-ins the cats have had have ended up in the deaths of the other animals since we often open our door to find dead mice or moles on our back porch. The mice were showing up before we let Scout out a lot and then they were showing up even more. Apparently, she had learned how to hunt, or maybe Pixel had shown her. My husband sent me a photo of her with a mouse in her mouth in our backyard one day and we finally knew Pixel wasn’t the only one leaving us presents.

Pixel is quite brutal with her prey. One day The Husband and The Boy were down by the bank across the road cleaning up from a failed yard sale we had and they heard what sounded like screaming. It was, in fact, screaming. It was one of Pixel’s victims trying to get away. My son testified that Pixel came out of the brush with it, tossed it on the ground and let it run a few feet away to give it the illusion that she was going to let it live, then pounced on it again, flung it in the air and repeated the process a few more times before finally killing it. The poor little mouse screamed the entire time and The Boy said it was completely unnerving. They both seemed traumatized when they came back in the house with The Husband only saying, “She’s brutal.”

Neither of them looked at her quite the same for a couple of weeks, trying to figure out how to balance the cat who seems so sweet when she bumps up against their legs for attention and the cat who is a homicidal predator.

Scout also shocked us one day when she came around the other side of the house with a small snake in her mouth. “What did you bring us this time?” I asked. “Is that another — oh my gosh! Snake! She’s got a snake!”

My dad was here so we all walked over to investigate the wounded reptile she dropped on the sidewalk and then rolled next to, clearly very proud of herself.

We all decided the snake wasn’t poisonous (probably a garter) so it hadn’t hurt her but we were still unnerved by the entire incident. We scooped the snake up in a shovel and pitched it over the bank in front of the house. I’m not sure if it made it or not but I did see a similar snake in our backyard last week and it was slithering along quite fast.

Zooma’s last animal run in, beside the rabbits she chases out of the backyard, and the deer she barks at, was the skunk who sprayed her at the end of last summer. That happened a couple of months before we caught Covid and lost our sense of smell and we joked that it would have been nice to have been able to smell when she got sprayed. It took a couple of weeks to get the smell off her even with two or three baths.

I rarely get a photo of all three animals together, even though they are all together at times. For example, the morning I am working on this post, I woke up to find all three of them on the bed with me, which is a rarity. Pixel is still not super fond of Scout and hisses and smacks at her when she gets up to snuggle with me before Pixel does.

We call Pixel our resident witch (we try to be nice and not use the b before the itch) because sometimes she just randomly smacks anyone who walks by her, including Zooma who is simply trying to get outside and use the bathroom. Sometimes even one of us gets smacked by her for no reason at all, but sometimes she wants us to stop and pay attention to her. Usually, the smacks are claw-free. Another funny thing about Pixel is that she snores when she sleeps. It’s this small little wheeze/whistle. I am curious if this is a trait with black cats since the black cat my husband had and I adopted when I married him also had sinus issues and sort of snored. She (Squeak) also sneezed horrible large boogers out of her nose and mainly when she was laying on my chest for snuggles.

Pixel was actually adopted because she reminded me so much of Squeak. The only difference is that Squeak was always skinny where we often call Pixel The Beast or Fat Cat.  Sometimes when I call her Fat Cat she glares at me through tiny slits as if to say, “You don’t have room to talk, lady.” Other times she seems to appreciate the nickname and rubs up against me despite me insulting her weight.

Pixel is fairly laid back and doesn’t get herself into trouble, unlike Scout and Zooma.

As I’ve mentioned in past blog posts, Scout’s little tree climbing adventures have kept us hopping, including the one night she got herself so stuck the fire company had to bring its ladder the next day to get her down.

The first time she climbed a tree was also one of the first times she escaped. That climb almost killed her because she didn’t land on her feet like Dad told me she would. She landed on her side and then laid there panting and I thought she was going to die. I even prepared for the kids to say goodbye to her. She jumped up and darted away a few seconds later, though, and it was clear she wasn’t going to die after all. Since then she’s had our hearts in our throats more than once with her antics, but I guess we are adapting to them more and don’t worry as much as we once did.

So, there you go.  You’ve not learned a little bit more about our crazy pets and their antics. Do you have pets? If so, what kind, how many and what are their names? Let me know in the comments.

I’ll leave you with some random photos of the pets. I’m surprised, yet not surprised, of how many photographs I have of them, actually.

Another social media break and looking to the rest of June

Yep. Here I go again. I’ve started another social media break, hopefully a month or so long. Every time I do one of these, I make it sound like I am addicted to social media and never off of it other than these breaks. That isn’t true, but I do sometimes find myself mindlessly scrolling way more often than I should on sites like Facebook and Instagram (I don’t do Twitter so I don’t appear to be a bigger twit than normal.). I also find myself mindlessly looking at news sites and becoming more and more anxious and sick to my stomach.

The bottom line of social media is that it gives most of our brains too much information, even if some of that information is good. We get overloaded and overwhelmed because our brains were never intended to process so much information at one time.

As Pastor Steven Furtick once said, “We were not meant to carry the entire world on our butt bone.” He was talking about our phones being in our back pockets and being constantly connected to the world through news sites and social media and other people.

God didn’t make us to process everything all at once. We were built to slow down, to contemplate, and to have times of rest and relaxation. Were meant for times of peace, not for constant chaos and voices in our minds, and not for being bombarded with ideas and opinions.

So, for the last week, I have been spending my days focusing on things other than social media and I hope I can start my days with a devotional this next week instead of picking up my phone to try to wake up. Since I have removed all apps that will tempt me to stumble down depression-inducing paths, I end up just checking my email, but it would still be better if I started with a verse, so I am trying to remember to open the YouVersion Bible app instead. I usually like to be a little more awake when I do a full devotional but I can at least read a verse or two.

Little Miss’s little friend visiting last week helped keep me away from social media because I mainly only had time to keep an eye on them and walk with them while they played on their scooters. This week we have a few homeschool lessons to finish and I also have to put together their portfolios to present to the homeschool evaluator so that will give me something to occupy my time.

June will be a month where I don’t have any school events planned, but I do hope to do some in July. What I will be doing in June is researching homeschool curriculum, as I do every year.

During June, I also hope to work more on Mercy’s Shore, finish Anne of Avonlea, decide if I am going to do a small garden or not, take photos of the peonies I expect to bloom this week (since it is my brother’s birthday and they usually bloom around or on his birthday), and maybe I’ll actually do some housework since I completely stink at that.

At the end of the month, The Husband is off work for a week and we are looking at the possibility of visiting a beach in New Jersey or taking a train ride on one of the trains near us. We will see how much the rising gas prices affect our plans. If worse comes to worse we will simply splash around in the little pool our neighbors gave us (and we still have to put up), read on the back porch and have a couple of cookouts at my parents to fill up his vacation week.

How about you? What are your plans for June? Is a social media break in there somewhere? If not, think about it, rest your mind, which in turn will help rest your soul.

Faithfully Thinking: Jesus said it had to go

Little Miss and I were watching The Chosen (a show that follows the life of Jesus) on Sunday and there is a scene where a demon-possessed man is attacking Simon. In the middle of the attack, Jesus arrives and shouts, “Out! Out of him!”

The man immediately spasms, then falls to the ground and is still. A few seconds later the man begins to cry as everyone looks on in horror mixed with relief.

“What happened?” Little Miss asked.

“The demon left because Jesus said it had to go,” I told her.

My own words stopped me.

Wow.

It left because Jesus said, “Out! Out of him!” or essentially, “Leave him!”

How many times every day should we be saying the same thing in our life? How many times should we be saying to our thoughts, our emotions, or worries: “No. You can’t be here. You have to leave.”

In TV, movies, and books, Satan is a caricature, a joking evil character who humans with common sense aren’t supposed to believe is real.

But if you’ve been around long enough, you know that there is evil in the world and that evil fits in well with the Bible’s description of Satan and his influence. You may deny in your mind that there is a real devil but deep down your spirit knows there is.  All day, every day, voices whisper around you and you may not hear them or see who are speaking them, but they see you and they want to hurt you for their cheap thrills.

That’s when we need to be like Jesus and tell those thoughts, those residents of the spiritual realm, which torture us, or try to, that they have no place here.

That spirit who speaks to you has no power, and it needs to leave.

Fear?

Jesus says it has to go.

Anxiety?

Jesus says it has to go.

Jealousy?

Jesus says it has to go.

Infirmity?

Jesus says it has to go.

Anger?

Jesus says it has to go.

Hurt?
Jesus says it has to go.

Doubt, depression, pride, arrogance.

All of it.

When Jesus says it has to go, then it has to go and it can go with one word from him.

One word.

But also one word from us because when Jesus rose to heaven he told us that the Holy Spirit would be with us to help us do as he had done here on earth. It is Jesus’ power through us, and we can demand that spirits, that demons, that all evil that goes against us leave.

Now.

“Out!” Jesus said.

We can do the same with the thoughts that come after us, with the spirits that come against us because don’t be fooled — there is spiritual warfare, there are battles going on around us in spiritual realms and we are fighting against more than flesh and blood.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. Ephesians 6:10-18

Sunday Bookends: Friend visits, old trees, old books, and nice weather

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

What’s Been Occurring

Every day this week was beautiful weather-wise, and it was a perfect time for the weather to finally get better because my daughter’s little friend who moved to Texas last year came to visit her grandmother (who lives down the street from us) for two weeks. She spent almost every day this past week with Little Miss and they filled their days mainly by being outside and riding their scooters.

Real scooters.

Without motors.

Ones they had to push with their feet and actually move.

It was glorious to see.

(Having Little Miss’s friend visit messed up my plans to finish up our schoolwork this week a little, but we were still able to finish most of the math I wanted to get through and progress on the book I hoped to finish. We will finish the rest of our math on Monday or Tuesday and then go to see our evaluator on Friday. It was more important for Little Miss could see her friend than finish her school work.)

The flowers along our street.

The little girl’s sister and her sister’s friend and the little girl’s brother came up one afternoon and the kids used the slip n’ slide.

When we went for scooter rides, our cats followed us. One day I took the dog with us as well and she promptly tried to rip my arm out of its socket when she wanted to chase the girls on their scooters.

Scout squaring off with our neighbor’s cat, Simba.

It was very busy on our street this week, with little girls riding scooters, neighbors working in their yards, and then two of the large maples on the street being cut down. It seems that all the maple trees which lined this street for over 100 years are slowly being cut down and it has been mentioned to us more than once that we need to consider to the do the same for the behemoth which towers above our house and our neighbors and has already lifted up the sidewalk in front of or house.

Since the tree cutters were already on the street (and also happen to live a few houses down from us) we finally decided to get an idea of how much that undertaking might take. It turns out I may need to sell a kidney to have the tree taken down because the estimate was about $5,400.

Personally, I hate to see large, beautiful trees like ours cut down, but I also would hate for it to come crashing down on either our house or our neighbors. Despite that large worry, I’ve found myself mourning the impending loss of the tree (you know, if we hit the lottery or sell a kidney), and Friday I took several photographs of it, as I have done many times before since we’ve lived here.

Still, I can’t blame the residents on this street of being concerned about these large trees in front of their houses. They are more hyperaware of what can happen in a windstorm than others might be, considering this town, particularly this street, in addition to a large part of the town below it, was actually struck by a rare Pennsylvania tornado four years ago (the year before we moved here). It shredded trees and left them a tangled mess all over the street, the bank, and the woods next to our other neighbors’ house, as well as yanking down powerlines and ripping the roof off the steeple of the town’s prominently displayed Catholic Church on the hill. This is the church that features the bells which sound each day at 6 a.m., 9 a.m., noon, 6 p.m., and 9 p.m.

The tree in front of our house is over 100 years old, based on photos of this street I have seen from around 1920, so at least of the top of it could come flying down with just the right amount of wind. I do not blame my neighbors for the concern and have it as well. We will see what we can do at some point about having it taken down (we could certainly use the wood from it for our woodstove this winter if we could afford to have it taken down) but for now, I will enjoy the view of it.

Yesterday, The Husband and I took advantage of the nice weather by going to a car show he needed to take photos of for work and then went to lunch at a local restaurant. We cut out our plans to travel another 20 minutes south for lunch due to the gas prices.

The Main Street of the little town where my husband works.

On the way back we stopped at the cemetery where part of my family and close friends of ours are buried, to pay our respects since we didn’t get there on Memorial Day.

My grandfather grew up on the farm across the road from the cemetery.

On a side (totally unrelated) note, last week my son told me my hair was starting to grow out again which I think he knew would be a comfort to me since I lost so much of it after I had Covid in November.

What I/We’ve Been Reading

At the same time all this beautiful weather hit us, I decided to take a social media break. That left me a lot more time for writing and reading. I hope no one is expecting me to say I read three books this week because I didn’t. Remember, I am a fairly slow reader. I am not The Husband, who speed reads sometimes. I spent most of my days supervising two little girls on scooters, but I was able to grab a seat on the back porch and crack open a book or two I’d been trying to finish a couple of times.

I had put Anne of Avonlea aside a couple of months ago but picked it back up again Friday afternoon when a cool breeze and a lovely day inspired me to want to read an actual physical book. Reading a book written in 1909 can take a little more time than reading one written this year, for example, but I love the sweet, thoughtful moments in the Anne of Green Gables books. I read Anne of Green Gables in full for the first time last year. A friend of mine was shocked I had never read the books and I think that’s because she thinks I am more literate than I am at times. I read a lot of books when I was in elementary and high school, but if I got the least bit bored with one it went to the side. I guess Anne of Green Gables was one of those. For years I thought I had read the book, but I think that’s because I had seen the movie so many times (for the first time with the aforementioned friend) that I thought I had read the book.

In addition to reading Anne of Avonlea, I also kept reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. I will probably continue that book this week, along with Anne. I also started an indie book by Josephine Strand called Misty Dreams, which is very well written, so far.

A description of Misty Dreams for those who might be interested in it:

As a child, she filled his void. As a woman, she completed him.
Clare has lived on St. Isabel Island all her life, except for a few months she can’t recall. A traumatic childhood experience has left a blank spot in her memory and a lingering feeling of having lost more than just a small, painful piece of her past. When the enigmatic Dr. Richard Kelly arrives on her island, she’s found that missing part. Yet she’s certain the man is a stranger to her, until she discovers he’s been hiding something from her, a secret that reawakens her childhood fears and threatens to upset her life again.

Richard Kelly’s hard-earned career as a world-renowned neurosurgeon has been derailed by his ex-wife’s unspeakable betrayal. His entire life is on a downward spiral. In a desperate attempt to outrun his demons, he sets off to a remote island in the South to trace the origins of an anonymous painting. He doesn’t expect to come face to face with a girl he once knew as Misty, and he’s instantly captivated by her genuine charm. But if the charismatic kindergarten teacher of the secret lagoon is the Misty of his past, why doesn’t she remember him? Misty Dreams is a heartwarming love story about second chances and the healing power of new beginnings.

Little Miss and I are still reading The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill during the day and at night we are reading The Long Winter by …slightly annoyed sigh…Laura Ingalls Wilder. This week I am going to try to convince her to read Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg.

The boy is completing Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman this week.

The Husband is reading The Big Bad City by Ed McBain.

What We watched/are Watching

We spent so much time outside this week we really didn’t have time to watch much of anything. I did watch a couple of episodes of As Time Goes By, a British sitcom, and last night we watched an episode of The Larkins.

I also watched a lifestyle vlogger, Darling Desi, who I sometimes mock but also still sort of enjoy. She’s a 20-something year old with no job (other than being on YouTube) who walks around with her husband recording her reading books, shopping for books, discussing Victorian life, swooning over all things Jane Austen and drinking rose tea. I don’t know what to make of that. I was working in my 20s and am considering going back to work at this point because of the economy. The idea I could spend my days reading and lounging on a big, Victorian-style bed and get paid blows my mind.

I don’t know if what she films is really how she spends every day, however. I am sure that what she films is mainly for entertainment purposes and just to give her viewers a respite from life. It is fun to watch her visit bookstores, etc. and I do often share her excitement in pretty books.

What I’m Writing

This week I worked quite a bit on Mercy’s Shore. So far, I haven’t planned a certain number of words to write each day, but I will probably try to do that this week since school is pretty much over for us.

On the blog I shared:

What I’m Listening To

This week I am listening to Needtobreathe (again) and the new song by TobyMac (which I don’t like as much as past songs of his, but still like):



Now it’s your turn

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

Fiction Friday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 5

To catch up on the other chapters, click HERE.

To read the other books in the series, click HERE.

Chapter 5

“How’d the meeting go?”

Maxwell eased his black sedan onto Main Street, heading toward his house two miles outside of town. He turned the music down on the radio, a song from the local Christian radio station fading into the background.

Ben winced as he tried to move his foot. “It went okay.

He hated the idea of his dad driving him to and from an AA meeting, or even knowing about his past. Having to tell his dad he’d lost his job at a high profile law firm three years ago had been beyond difficult, but telling him it was because he’d lost a case for the firm because he’d come into many times with a hangover had been like a kick to the gut.

“Okay, I guess, but it was weird. Judi was there, for one, and then Jerry Spencer verbally attacked her because she’s working at a bar and grill, which he seems to think is too much of a temptation for someone who is trying to kick alcohol.”

Maxwell shrugged a shoulder. “Well, it probably is, but what business is it of his?”

“Yeah, I don’t know.” Ben stretched back in the seat and rubbed his forehead, wishing the ache would go away. “I got the impression he’s got something against Judi, but I don’t know what. Or maybe it has nothing to do with her at all. Maybe she was just an innocent bystander to his explosion. He seemed pretty ticked off that he had to be there at all.”

Max grimaced. “He probably is. Remember you weren’t too happy about those meetings either. He’s probably sick of being in court for DUIs too but it’s his own fault. How did Judi take it?”

“She snapped back at him. They exchanged words and then the woman leading the group told Jerry to leave.”

Maxwell blew out a breath. “Whoo boy. Think he’d hurt Judi in any way?”

Ben’s brow furrowed. “I don’t know. I don’t think so. I tried to stop her after the meeting and ask her if she was okay, but she jumped into her car and took off.” He shrugged then spoke through a yawn. “Anyhow, I’ve got other things to think about right now. Cindy called me right before I left for the meeting. She’s going to need some time off work, and she isn’t sure how long. Rick’s been diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis is good but he’s going to need some radiation treatments and she wants to be home to take care of him.”

“Can’t blame her. What are you going to do?”

“Not sure yet. Thankfully she said his first treatment isn’t for another couple of weeks. I may just have to push through until she can come back. That’s not enough time to train someone and it would be hard to find a temp around here.”

“What about Judi?”

Ben made a face. “What about Judi?”

“Maybe she could fill in,” Maxwell responded. “You said that job at Lonny’s might not be right for her.”

“Dad, first of all I didn’t say that. Jerry did. Second of all no. Just no. Judi’s — well, she’s not qualified. She’s Judi and Judi’s always been, to put it bluntly, a mess. I mean, yeah, I feel kind of bad for Judi, but there is no way I want her filling in as my secretary.”

Maxwell glanced at his son. “Even people who are considered a mess deserve a chance, Ben.”

Ben wasn’t sure if his dad was taking a jab at him or not, but he chose to believe he wasn’t aware of how his comment had come off.  

“I know that Dad, and I believe that too, you know that. That’s why I was there with Floyd tonight, but Judi doesn’t know how to be a secretary at a law office.”

“How do you know?”

“Dad —”

“All she has to do is answer phones, file some paperwork, and take some notes. Anyone could handle at least that much. She couldn’t replace Cindy and all her law background, no, but she could do the basics.

Ben shook his head. “No. Just — No. I’ll ask around. I’m sure some other lawyers will have suggestions.”

Maxwell shrugged and nodded. “I understand, but it’s an option at least. Maybe the last option, but also maybe one worth considering.”

Ben focused his attention on the scene outside his window — the town of Spencer fading into trees and fields which he could have seen better if it hadn’t been so dark. His dad had purchased property about a mile outside of town when Ben was five or six. The two story home, set back off the road in the midst of grove of birch trees was considered a mansion by some in the area but for Maxwell and Emily it has simply been a home that was able to fit their family of six. Maxwell’s job as a small town attorney representing anyone and everyone who needed his help had proven to be more lucrative than the couple had imagined, but it was the inheritance from Maxwell’s father that had helped them build the home.

After Maxwell was elected district attorney the first time, when Ben was 16, a wall with a gate was erected around the property to provide privacy and protection. It was the same style gate Maxwell’s father, Maxwell Sr. had had installed at his home after serving as county judge for 40-years.

“No telling when some loony I sentenced might come to make me pay for the lengthy sentence they received due to their own incompetence,” Maxwell Sr. had said about the installation of a fence and gate around his house in town.

He’d died while Ben was away at law school and there wasn’t a day that went by that Ben didn’t miss him. At the same time, he was glad his grandfather hadn’t witnessed his spectacular personal and professional face plant right before and even after passing the bar.

Sure, Ben had his own law firm, something he’d always wanted, and his grandfather had wanted for him, but it wasn’t in a large city like Ben had hoped it would be. Still, it was something instead of the nothing he’d thought he’d be left with when he lost that job as a paralegal three years ago. He’d planned for that job to be temporary anyhow.

As soon as he passed the bar, he was going to be out of there and working on his own in the center of Philadelphia or New York City. Somewhere with big, rich clients. It was a shame an addiction he’d acquired to try to silence all the doubting voices in his head had ended his career at the firm before he’d had a chance to quit.

He wanted to say losing that paralegal job wasn’t a big loss, but really, on a career level, it had been. He’d been the assistant to one of the most sought-after defense lawyers in Philadelphia. The fact he’d blown it within the first nine months after so much promise only solidified for him the fact he would never be as successful as his dad, in career or in life overall.

“Your mom says you got a card from the Phillipis. Anything important?”

His dad’s question broke into his thoughts and once again he found himself wishing his father didn’t sometimes use his courtroom tone in every conversation. Being direct and to the point was something Maxwell Oliver was a master at in the courtroom and, sadly, that direct manner often spilled over into interactions with his family.

No sugar coating or easing into a conversation for him.

“Nope.”

“Anything unimportant then?”

Ben sighed and pushed a hand through his hair. Exhaustion tugged at his eyelids, pain shooting from the front to the back of his head. He’d wanted to argue when the doctor had said over the phone it could be another three weeks before the concussion was better, but now he was beginning to believe the man.

“It was a card.” Ben remained silent for a few moments but knew his dad wouldn’t stop asking questions. “An invitation to a party that Angie already told me she doesn’t want me to attend.”

His dad turned the car into the driveway and reached up to the visor, pushing a button there to open the front gate. “Angie called you?”

“She left me a voicemail. I got it the day of the accident.”

The gate clanked closed behind them after Maxwell drove through the opening. Pulling toward the four car garage, Maxwell pushed another button on the visor and the garage door rose slowly.

“She’s what, four this year?”

Ben’s chest tightened. This conversation needed to end. “Yeah.”

Maxwell turned the car off, but kept his hands on the steering wheel as the garage door closed behind them. “You know I haven’t wanted to get into your and Angie’s business, but it would be nice to meet my granddaughter someday.”

Ben reached for the car door, desperate to get inside and lay down. The pain in the ankle and head had given up battling for first place and had settled on a tie. “Not my decision, Dad. Angie doesn’t want me to be a part of her life.”

“Can you blame her?”

Ben climbed out of the car and slammed the door behind him. Metal against metal reverberated throughout the garage.

I’m not a hostile witness, Dad, back off.  It was what he wanted to say, but he was too tired, too dizzy, and in way too much pain to push this conversation into a full-blown argument.

“My head is killing me,” he said instead as Maxwell stepped out of the passenger side. “Can we talk about this more tomorrow? I don’t mean to be rude, but I didn’t take the painkiller before I left for the meeting and I’m regretting it now.”

Maxwell closed the door and walked around to Ben’s side. “Of course, we can. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought this up while you’re still recovering.” He placed a hand on Ben’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “I hope you can forgive me.”

Good grief, his dad even apologized better than he ever could.

“If you help me up to Luke’s room and put a glass of water on the bedside table for me, I definitely can.”

Maxwell’s laugh was deep and sincere. “I can absolutely do that. Come on, kid, let’s get you some rest. You’ve had a rough week.”

Once he was in bed with the lights off twenty minutes later, Ben squeezed his eyes shut against the pain, waiting for the pills to kick in. Once they did, images of a blond-haired little girl swam in and out of images of a beautiful blond woman who’d once looked at him with love but now looked at him with disgust and disappointment. By the time darkness overtook him he’d broken out in a sweat and thrashed enough to wrap the sheets around him like a straight jacket. In the morning he woke up trying to untangle himself from the covers while his mind tried to untangle the nightmares that had plagued him all night.