Boondock Ramblings

Sunday Bookends: weird days, another birthday,

Welcome to my Sunday Bookends, where I share what I’ve been doing, reading, watching, writing, and blah, blah, blah.

What’s Been Occurring

The past month has brought a lot of odd occurrences in our family.

It all started with Little Miss’s snake bite that ended with her receiving an ambulance ride to the local emergency room (about 20 minutes from my parents) on Labor Day. The snake wasn’t venomous that any of us know of, but Little Miss passed out and hit the kitchen table and then passed out again and well, after that, we were off to the ER.

After that incident, things were fairly calm until Little Miss and The Boy came down with a cold last week and then a spider dropped on Little Miss in her bed one night while we were getting ready to lay down. Later in the week Zooma the Wonder Dog broke her lead and went head to head with a skunk, which resulted in, yes, of course, her being sprayed in the face by the offended creature.

That old saying “when it rains it pours” has held true for us this past month, but luckily in smaller ways that it does for many.

We washed Zooma twice, but we are still unable to get too close to her without getting a whiff of the skunk’s perfume. We will most likely have to wash her again in a couple of days, but the smell isn’t as overwhelming as I thought it would be. I knew this was going to happen at some point, since I had seen the skunk wandering in our yard on at least one occasion and smelled it on many others.

Yesterday and today we celebrated Little Miss’s seventh birthday by visiting a local Christian camp for children during their fall roundup (as they called it) and then we will have a small family gathering here at our house later today. We also invited a couple of neighbors to stop by.

Little Miss had a hayride and a pony ride yesterday, along with playtime in the woods and some s’mores and then hung out with her little friends the rest of the day at our house.

This week we have nothing exciting planned and will be getting back into the swing of homeschool since it was interrupted this week by sickness.

What I’m Reading

I am reading a lot this week for book tours. I am determined to finish the Walt Longmire book I’ve been reading for a month (oh wait..I think it’s been two months!), but I still have to finish The Weather Girls: Sunny for a review in a couple of weeks.

I am also reading The Rhise of Light by new author Max Sternberg. It is a Christian fantasy novel and it is extremely well written. I’m enjoying it and hope to have a review up soon on the blog.


I have so many books on my shelves (both real and digital) that I want to read, but I feel like there is only so much time. Of course, I would have had more time this week if I hadn’t been so obsessed with that Gabby Petito murder case. I really hope they find out what happened to her boyfriend this week because it’s driving me crazy. In addition, the images and videos of Gabby have left me in tears too many times and it’s starting to worry my family. They believe, rightly so, that watching coverage on it all is traumatizing me, so this week I will be reading more fiction and reading less of the real-life tragedy that is unfolding.

What the family is reading

I’m not sure what my husband is reading right now , but the kids are either being read to or are reading books for school. Little Miss and I just finished Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry for school. I am also reading Little Town on the Prairie to her before bed each night.

The Boy is reading a selection from Frederick Douglass’ autobiography in his lit book. This week we will start Blood Brothers, a book about Palestine at the time the state of Israel was established.

What I’m Watching

I did not watch a lot this week at all. Hubby and I watched a McDonald and Dodds episode and thoroughly enjoyed it. The episodes of the show are about 90 minutes long. There were only two episodes, or mini-movies, for the first “season”. I believe there is another season up on Amazon now so we will probably start that season soon.

What I’m Writing

I worked more on The Next Chapter this week and shared another chapter for Fiction Friday.

What I’m Listening To

My son introduced me to a new band Saturday, The Crane Wives, so I am trying them out:

So that is my rather short week in review. Share with me what you’ve been reading, watching, writing, doing, etc. in the comments.

Fiction Friday: The Next Chapter Chapter 5

After posting last week’s chapter, I noticed a bunch of errors and things I need to fill in, but I know that my readers know this is a book in progress and there will be changes before the final version comes out. Anyhow, this next chapter will be changed in the final version, I am sure, but it is a start. I do like the direction this story is going with Ginny and Liz so far. I have so many ideas of this book I am afraid it might get overwhelming, so I am sure I will have to cut many of those ideas back.

As usual, leave your ideas or thoughts about what you read or hope to read in the comments.

To catch up with the story go HERE. This book will be released in full sometime in the spring of 2022, if you prefer to wait. *wink*.

Chapter 5

Sitting at her desk at the library Ginny looked at the bright greenish, yellow substance in her bowl suspiciously. It looked like the slime she’d in the bottom of her kitchen sink a couple of months ago.

She dipped a baby carrot into the green goo and stared at it for a few moments before taking a bite. She gagged as it hit the back of her throat.

Good grief. The texture on her tongue was as slimy as it looked, and the taste was shockingly bland.

She looked at the green mush, scrunched up her face, and shook her head, bewildered with the idea that avocado was such a health food craze these days.

“It’s better when you make it into guacamole,” Sarah said, looking over Ginny’s shoulder. “You add onion, garlic, and other spices to it.”

“Oh, well, that makes sense. I just thought you mashed it up and ate it plain.”

“You can, but I wouldn’t recommend it,” Nancy Connelly said as she approached the desk with a stack of mysteries in her arms. “I’ve seen people eat it on their salads. but I don’t understand it. I mean, why can’t a salad just be normal? Lettuce, some tomatoes and a cucumber or two and some dressing. Everything is so complicated these days. Now it has to be a salad with avocado, green leaf lettuce, arugula, baby spinach, shredded cheese, cucumbers, red peppers, sunflower seeds, sprouts and humus and all of it has to be organic. It’s gotten completely out of hand.”

Ginny smiled and nodded, glad she hadn’t yet pulled out the salad she’d packed for lunch, a salad that included much of what Nancy had mentioned.

Nancy was apparently stocking up on books again, preparing for what forecasters were saying would be a rainy, gloomy week.

“Did you hear that Les and Alice Spencer’s cat got hit by a car?”

Ginny shook her head. Not only hadn’t she heard the news about the cat, but she didn’t even know who Les and Alice were.

“Well, I know everyone else will say it was an accident, but I’ve started to wonder if it was really an accident.”

After three years of signing out books mainly from the mystery section, Ginny had noticed Nancy was starting to see a mystery or foul play around every corner.

Nancy continued. “The Bradley’s across the street always hated that cat. Said he kept digging up her geraniums. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mrs. Bradley lured that poor kitty across the street with some salmon right when Jerry Kipp was driving down the street to work yesterday morning. Fluffypants just loved salmon. You should have seen poor Jerry’s face when he realized he’d hit that cat. What an awful thing for Mrs. Bradley to do, pulling him into her scheme to murder poor Fluffypants.”

Ginny paused scanning the books into the computer and raised an eyebrow. “Fluffypants?”

Nancy nodded affirmatively. “He had fluffy legs and paws, especially the back ones. It made him look like he was wearing fluffy pants.”

“Ah.”  Ginny tried not to giggle as she pictured the fluffy backend of a cat. It was important to respect the dead, after all.

“Ready for the rain?” she asked to chase away the giggle threatening to burst forth.

Nancy nodded. “I’m not planning on going anywhere until it’s all over. Do you know the weatherman said we could get up to an inch an hour tomorrow, then more heavy rain every day this week.” She took the bag Ginny handed her and smiled. “These should keep me occupied until the weather lets up. Keep dry!”

Nancy scooped her pile of books into her knitted bag and swung it onto her shoulder. Ginny watched her leave and wondered, like she always did, how sore Nancy’s shoulder would be that night from carrying all those books. Also, like she did each time she had that thought, she reminded herself it could be worse. Nancy could be carrying home a bag full of drugs or alcohol. There were worse addictions than reading mysteries.

Nancy was different than most of the patrons who stopped in. She mainly kept the conversation surface level. She rarely offered up personal details of her life, unlike the majority of other patrons who seemed to look at Ginny as someone to either share their entire life stories with or confess their darkest secrets to. They usually did so by sharing why they had chosen a particular book.

There were days Ginny felt like a cross between a social worker and a priest.

Connie Lawson limped to the counter with two books on knitting and another one entitled “Natural Remedies For Common (And Not-so Common) Ailments.”

“I figured I needed this one,” Connie said, even though Ginny hadn’t asked. “Ever since I had my knee replaced last year, I feel like I’m falling apart all over. I’ve got a constant ache in my right shoulder and a shooting pain in my lower back when I stand. Then this rash popped up on my – “

“Do you have the latest in the Jack Reacher series?” Harry Becker asked, abruptly appearing next to Marge.

Ginny had never been happier to have someone interrupt a conversation

“Yes, but it was checked out this morning,” Ginny said.

“Of course it was,” Harry said grumpily. “Just my luck. If I could figure out that blasted ebook device my kids gave me, I wouldn’t even have to use the library.”

Ginny forced a smile, no longer surprised by someone reminding her that her job was practically obsolete thanks to the increased popularity of digital books.

“Well, thanks anyhow,” Harry sighed. “I’ll check back later in the week and see if it’s here yet.”

Ginny finished checking out Connie’s book, told her to ‘have a nice day’ and turned back to her lunch, opening her salad, wishing it was a bucket of fried chicken instead.

Out of the corner of her eye she noticed a hooded figure enter the front door and slunk toward the first row of bookshelves. She turned and followed the figure as they stopped at a bookshelf and began to scan the titles.

On closer examination, Ginny noticed the figure was a young woman, hair tucked under the hood, hands shoved firmly in the pockets.

The way she was standing was familiar, reminded her of someone, but . . . who?

Ginny’s eyes narrowed as she took a bite of her salad and watched the young woman who tipped her head to look at titles.

She was beginning to feel like a spy.

And a creeper.

She should stop starring.

She started to turn away when the woman pushed back a strand of hair, bumping the hood back a few inches and revealing her face.

Oh.

It was Liz.

Her daughter-in-law’s sister.

Ginny narrowed her eyes. Liz looked exhausted and flustered. No surprise considering she’d given birth only two weeks ago.

She set her salad down and walked from behind the desk to the row of shelves.

“Liz?” The girl practically jumped out her hooded jacket. Ginny winced. “Oh gosh. I’m so sorry, hon’. I didn’t mean to frighten you. I just wanted to see if I could help you.”

Liz yawned and shook her head. “Sorry, Ginny. I just — I’m tired. I didn’t hear you walk up.”

Ginny smiled. “I can tell you’re tired and I don’t know how you wouldn’t be. How old is the baby now?”

The sigh that came from Liz sounded both wistful and draining. “Two weeks tomorrow.”

“Oh my. That means, of course, she is not sleeping through the night.”

Liz scoffed. “Of course not. I am just trying to snatch cat naps whenever I can. I should be sleeping now but Molly said she’d watch her on her lunch break so I could come down here.”

Being a single mom couldn’t be easy. Ginny couldn’t imagine raising a baby alone. Stan had been a wonderful support when she’d had the kids, each and every time, though maybe a little less with Olivia since the real estate business had started picking up then.

“Is there a particular book you’re looking for?” she asked Liz. “A fiction book to distract yourself from the exhaustion maybe?”

Liz laughed. “No, but that would be nice. I’m looking for some baby book my mom said Tiffany used for everything when Wyatt was born. Something written by a Dr. Stars or something. The Baby Book.”

“Ah, yes.” Ginny turned and gestured to the second floor. “Dr. Sears. Tiffany did love that book. I remember her gushing about it. We have a copy in our baby section.” Liz’s shoulders slumped and Ginny had a feeling the idea of climbing that flight of stairs to find the book was sending another wave of exhaustion washing over the new mother. “I’d be glad to go pull it out for you and anything else I find up there that might help. Anything specific you need help with?”

Liz’s eyes glistened as she looked at Ginny. “Everything really but right now how to stop her crying. She’s been crying almost constantly for about six hours each day for the last week. I’ve tried everything. Feeding, changing, burping, swaddling, not swaddled. She screams every time I lay her down in the crib and Molly has to get up early for work so I can’t leave her there screaming. And all those other books I read when I was pregnant said I can’t lay her down next to me because I’ll roll on her and kill her, but I’ve had to because it’s the only way she’ll sleep at all and therefore the only way I’ll get any sleep. I’m just out of options.” Liz’s lower lip quivered, but she managed to hold the tears back.

Ginny certainly remembered those days. She also remembered talking to Clint when Tiffany was at her wits end with her first baby and at a loss how to handle the inconsolable crying.

Ginny gestured to a plush green chair a few steps to her right. “Why don’t you sit here in this lovely plush chair the money from the local women’s business association helped us buy while I go get them?”

Liz looked relieved and flopped into the chair, shoving her hands deep in her jacket pockets again. Her head slumped forward, and Ginny wondered if she would even be awake when she came back with the books. She didn’t have to wonder long. Ten minutes later a soft snore was coming from the hood and Ginny opted not to wake her. It was clear she needed the sleep.

Sarah peered over the book she was reading.

“That woman is asleep.”

Ah, the youth of today. So perceptive.

“Yes, Sarah. She is.”

“Shouldn’t we wake her?”

Ginny shook her head as she placed the three books she’d found on the counter. “That’s my daughter-in-law’s sister. She just had a baby. Poor thing is exhausted. I’ll give her a little bit before I wake her.” She laughed softly as she sat back down to finish her salad. “Well, unless she starts snoring like a chainsaw.”

Sarah shrugged. “Okay. Well, I’m going to go start putting books back then. I’ll let you handle that. You have more experience in that area anyhow.”

The 20-something-year-old giggled and skipped toward the stairs for the bottom floor. Ginny sighed.

 Yes, she did have more experience than Sarah. In motherhood and just about everything else. Because Sarah was young and she was — she sighed again — old.

She was part way through categorizing a pile of new books when Liz woke with a start and looked around, obviously confused.

“Oh my gosh. Where — what time is it? I’ve got to get out of here. Molly has to get back to the store.”

She stood quickly then sat back down again, gripping the arms of the chair.

“Slow down,” Ginny said standing and holding her hand out. “Take your time getting up.”

Liz nodded slowly and let out a breath before slowly standing and walking toward the desk.

Ginny started to scan the books she’d picked out for her. “Liz, you are clearly exhausted. Do you want me to come over after work and take the baby for a bit so you can rest?”

Liz shook her head. “No, it’s okay. I’ll be fine. Molly will be home later tonight, and Mom said her ladies meeting for the women’s business association should be over by 8. I’m sure she will swing by before she heads home.”

Ginny slid the books into a bag. “It’s noon, Liz. That’s a long time to wait to get a nap. Listen, I  really don’t mind. One of the volunteers is coming in at 1 and I was going to slip out around then anyhow. I can come by and watch Isabella so you can take a nap. It’s no big deal, really.”

It’s not like I’ll have anyone waiting for me when I go home anyhow, Ginny thought with a heavy ache in her chest.

Liz pulled her lower lip between her teeth and focused on the surface of the desk. Ginny knew the battle going on in her mind. Say ‘yes’ and look like she couldn’t handle being a mom. Say ‘no’ and risk offending.

Ginny decided to put her out of her misery. “I’m sorry. I’m being pushy.” She reached over and laid her hand against Liz’s arm. “Just know I’m here if you need some extra help.”

Liz took the bag of books and hugged it to her chest. A small smile tugged at her mouth. “Thank you, Ginny. Actually, I think I will take you up on that offer. I really could use a nap.”

The tension slid out of Ginny’s muscles. “See you in about an hour?”

Liz’s shoulders visibly relaxed as well. “Sure. That would be great. Thank you.”

Watching Liz walk through the front door, Ginny propped her hands together in a triangle shape and pressed the tips of her index fingers against her bottom lip. Had she ever been that young? She closed her eyes, picturing a sunny day on her back porch, holding a sleeping baby while she swayed in place. Yes, she had been that young, that scared and overwhelmed.

Her own mom hadn’t been around then. It had only been her and Stan. She’d been 21, Stan 23.

She didn’t have friends who could help either back then. They were all taking care of children of their own.

She was very much alone at the time, until an elderly neighbor woman stepped over one afternoon, knocked on the door, and offered a helping hand. It was different back then. Everyone helped everyone else. Of course, why did it have to be different now? They were still living a small town and reaching out to help others was still a part of human nature.

Plus, Liz wasn’t a stranger. She was practically family. Liz’s sister became like another daughter to Ginny when she’d married Clint. The least she could do was lend a helping hand.

Halfway through her salad and a new book she was considering for next month’s book discussion she felt eyes on her and looked up to see no one at the front desk. She started to look back at her salad when she caught a pair of brown eyes watching her intently over the edge of her desk.

“Oh. Um. May I help you?”

“Do you have books about boogers?” a small voice asked.

“Boogers?”

“Yes. The things you pull out of your nose. Boogers.”

“Well, I don’t know,” Ginny said with a perplexed look on her face. “Let me look. I don’t think anyone has ever asked for a book on boogers.”

She swiveled her chair toward she computer and typed “boogers” into the search bar. It was a weird request, yes, but she’d searched for weirder things over the years. She tried not to think about the other topics.

“Huh. There is a book on boogers. Go figure. I guess I forgot about that one.”

The book on boogers retrieved, Ginny sat back at her desk to finish her lunch. As she shoved a bite of lettuce in mouth, Mary Ellis shuffled forward with a child wrapped around her leg and a stack of books in her hands. Children’s books and romances rounded out her pile.

“First, I owe you money for ‘Cooking with Pooh,’” she said, thumping her purse down next to the pile of books and digging through it. “Mason spilled pudding on it and then painted it with the pudding.”

“Oh, well, maybe he’ll be a future artist,” Ginny said.

Mary made a face. “I hope not. Artists are poor, and I need him to get a job that pays so he can put me and his father in a nice home to make up for the hell he’s put us through these last five years.”

Oh my. Ginny looked at her with wide eyes.

Mary handed a crumpled pile of bills to Ginny. A small blond-haired child’s appeared above the counter and then disappeared again as 3-year old Brynn Ellis jumped up and down.

“Count that, I think it’s right,” Mary said. “Brynn! Stop jumping! Mason! Put down that book. We are not getting it. No. Don’t argue with me. You do not need to learn how to make a bomb.”

Ginny smiled wearily as she checked out the books. Watching Mary with her five children was one of the few times she found herself happy her children were now grown and living outside the home.

As she placed the books in a bag for Mary, Ginny looked up to see 7-year-old Justine looking at her with wide eyes.

“Those are a lot of wrinkles,” Justine informed her. “My mommy doesn’t have that many wrinkles.”

Ginny forced her smile to stay in place as she lifted the bag across to Mary.

“Well, that’s nice,” she told Justine.

“She says we are giving her gray hair, though” Justine said. “And she prays a lot. She asks God to give her strength.” Justine pressed her hand against her own forehead and dragged it slowly across the skin. “She holds her head just like this and clenches her teeth like this when she says it.” Justine hissed out the words, “Lord, give me strength-th-th.”

Ginny glanced at the haggard looking Mary who was trying to pry 2-year-old Ethan off her leg.

“And I hope he will continue to do so,” Ginny said, truly hoping Mary could find a break soon. “Enjoy your books.”

Mary lifted a crying Ethan on to her hip, clutched the bag to her chest and blew a strand of hair away from her face. “Thank you. Kids, come on. Let’s get home and make some lunch.”

Ginny watched as Mary shuffled toward the door and then paused and leaned over the counter, lowering her voice.

“Oh. I almost forgot. Little Tony puked in the heating grate in the children’s section. You might want to clean that up soon because he had hot dogs for lunch.”

***

Ginny had stopped by at 1 and now Liz was in her room, under her covers, starring at the ceiling instead of sleeping.

Why am I not sleeping?! Liz clenched her jaw and growled under her breath.

Isabella had cried for about fifteen minutes then mysteriously grew quiet shortly after Liz heard a soft voice singing. Somehow Ginny had been able to figure out how to soothe Isabella when Liz couldn’t. Maybe it was because she was likely tone deaf and Ginny wasn’t. Maybe it was because Isabella sensed Ginny knew what she was doing and Liz didn’t.

 She should be happy about Ginny had found the magic combination to calm her newborn, but instead jealousy pricked at her. Hadn’t she’d read enough books, researched enough articles, and taken enough notes in her Lamaze class — the class she barely needed in the end — to know how to handle the crying jags? Apparently not.

Obviously, she also hadn’t retained any of the information she’d read before giving birth, or at least not enough to be a good enough mother.

She’d hoped good ole’ Marge would have ideas would have ideas she might share with Liz, since she’d raised two children and taken care of Tiffany’s brood on and off over the years. Marge had had a couple ideas, but just when Liz would think they’d found a solution, Isabella would start wailing again and Marge would rush off to her ladies group, or to prepare the house for Tiffany and Clint’s homecoming. Liz wondered if Marge and Frank were going to rent out the social hall for a full-on welcome home event for the couple. Maybe Ginny and Dan would chip in too. Or was his name Stan? She never could remember Ginny’s husband’s name. They’d only met twice, once at Clint and Tiffany’s wedding and once at Tiffany’s first baby shower.

Honestly, she didn’t know much about Ginny at all, other than she used to be a teacher and she was now the director of the library. She’d attended a few art classes with Molly that Ginny had also been at and of course they’d also been at the gym the same time a few times.

 She seemed nice enough and had a great sense of humor. Liz remembered her telling Molly last year that Alex had a crush on her when Molly was clueless the man was flirting with her. They’d been working out at the gym and Alex had told Molly how good she looked even without working out, and Molly had brushed it off.

“He’s totally flirting with you, Molly,” Ginny had informed Molly as she walked away from the bike she’d been exercising on.

Liz remembered Molly trying to change the subject about her and Alex by asking Liz what she knew about Ginny.

“She looks sad,” Molly had said.

Liz hadn’t remembered her looking sad, necessarily, but she had noticed how determined and fierce she looked pumping away on that stationary bike. Like the faster she pedaled, the faster she could forget about something.

Or someone.

Liz rolled over and squeezed her eyes shut.

She was exhausted. Why couldn’t she just fall asleep?

She needed her mind to stop racing.

She reached for her phone and scrolled through her messages.

Marge: Hey, honey. I’ll be by later to see how you girls are doing. I’ve almost got all the rooms ready for Tiffany and Clint’s arrival next week. So excited! Aren’t you?!

Liz rolled her eyes and kept scrolling.

Yeah. So excited. As excited as getting a root canal.

 She winced. That wasn’t fair. She was excited, in a way. She wanted to see her sister and brother-in-law and her nieces and nephews. She simply wasn’t looking forward to watching her parents fawn all over Tiffany like she was special simply because she was super fertile. Well, that and she’d done everything the right order. Marriage, then children. Unlike Liz who was single with a baby.

She scrolled to the next message. It had been sent that morning. 8 a.m. After she’d had three hours of sleep, so she hadn’t yet responded.

Matt: Just thought I’d say good morning. Hope you and Isabella are doing well. Hope to stop by with a gift later today.

A small smile titled her mouth upward but then she frowned. She really hoped Matt didn’t stop by. She looked awful.

Wait. Why did she care if she looked awful when Matt stopped by? It wasn’t like they were dating.

They were just friends.

As far as she knew.

And as far as she knew, he only wanted to be friends.

Yes, they’d gone out on a couple of dates, three if she counted the one where her water had broken while he showed her how to fish, but she didn’t count that day as a date. She also didn’t count the day when he’d driven her an hour to pick out a crib so he could slide it in the back of his truck as a date. Or the four times he’d taken her to her doctor’s appointments as dates.

Or the time he had brought her food after work when she was eight months pregnant because he’d seen her at work and thought she’d be too tired to cook when she got home.

The dates had happened before she’d gotten pregnant.

When she’d been broken up with Gabe.

Before she’d made one of the worst mistakes of her life. You know, other than the whole dating and moving in with Gabe in the first place mistake.

She had been frustrated and tired the day Matt had taken her to his favorite fishing spot on Cullen Pond. He’d known that. It’s why he had taken her, he said. To try to cheer her up.

Neither of them had known that her water would break on his boots while he stood behind her and brought her arm back to throw the fishing line out. Her face flushed warm at the memory of how she’d had to scream for him to pull over, how she’d told him, “This baby is coming now!” and how he’d positioned himself where her midwife was supposed to be.

Ugh. The absolute humiliation of it all.

He’d gone into police officer mode, though, clearly trained for such an emergency. He’d never spoken a word about all that he’d seen that he shouldn’t have and neither had she. It was all too embarrassing to think about, let alone talk about.

She huffed out a breath and rolled to her other side, yanking the covers up over her shoulder. She needed to stop thinking and instead be trying to sleep. Ginny had offered to watch Isabella to give her time to nap, so she needed to nap already.

She closed her eyes and did what she always did when she couldn’t sleep. Counted sheep. When that didn’t work, she started using the alphabet to list old 80s bands, starting with the letter A and working her way down, drifting to sleep when she hit the letter M.

Two books free on Amazon this week (I know. I hate advertising too!)

I hate advertising on my blog. I just like rambling and sharing and connecting with my blogging friends, but I guess I will mention that you can get my books, The Farmer’s Daughter and Harvesting Hope, free through Kindle on Amazon (so ebooks) today and tomorrow.

If you have read the books and enjoyed them (even a little) and would like to leave a review that would be great, as it helps with sales. I do NOT make a fortune off these books but every little bit helps put money toward feeding my kids and paying for things like heating oil. Reviews don’t have to be indepth. A short little “Hey, I liked it” and a rating are just fine. For those who have read the books, reviewed them, and pointed out improvements I can make for later, thank you so much! I appreciate it more than you could ever know. Truly.

Book review of The Farmer’s Daughter

Thank you Kelly for this review of The Farmer’s Daughter, which was nice timing since it and Harvesting Hope are free this week on Amazon. Find a link to buy them HERE (The Farmer’s Daughter) and HERE (Harvesting Hope)

Kelly F Barr

The Farmer's Daughter: Book One in The Spencer Valley Chronicles by [Lisa R. Howeler]

As a Book Reviewer I received a free ebook copy of The Farmer’s Daughter by Lisa R. Howeler and this is my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor any review of this book.

The Farmer’s Daughter by Lisa R. Howeler is Ms. Howeler’s debut novel as well as the first novel in her “A Spencer Valley Chronicles” series. It is the story of the Tanner family with the main focus on Molly Tanner. The story takes place in a small town and on the Tanner family’s dairy farm in rural Pennsylvania.

Times are tough and many of the local farmers are struggling to continue their farming business, and as Molly watches several family friends sell their farms and move on to something else, she begins to grow restless, wondering if farming is all she will ever know. Then Alex, Molly’s brother’s friend and her…

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Sunday Bookends: Too much depressing news, but also fun on birthday

Welcome to my Sunday Bookends post where I ramble about what I’ve been doing, reading, watching, listening to, writing, etc. each Sunday.

 What’s Been Occurring

Last Sunday was my birthday and we spent it with my parents. They bought steaks to cook on the grill and then my dad built a fire in the side yard and the kids made s’mores.

I ate some of the chocolate but can’t do full s’mores because of my weird food allergies (I know. I’m so weird. I swear I only mention it because my weird food issues just crack me up sometimes, not to try to paint myself as a victim. It is not the end of the world I can’t eat s’mores. Really. I can eat plenty of other things that are bad for me, including chocolate. . . as long as said chocolate doesn’t have corn syrup).

The rest of the week was very tame, other than the fact cold, wet weather moved in and as it always seems to happen when that happens, Little Miss got sick. As of last night she was running a 102-degree fever off and on, pretty run down, but still insisting she was getting better. She might be right because each year when the weather changes from warm to cold, this happens to her, including the fever. It lasts about a day and then it’s gone. I am hoping this keeps the same trend.

If she is feeling better by Thursday, and no one else comes down with anything, we will be going to a science class at a local Christian camp and then next Saturday we will go back to the camp for their fall open house, which will also be on her seventh (hold me!) birthday. Next Sunday we will celebrate her birthday with my parents.

 What I’m Reading

 I finished the fifth book in the Rembrandt Stone series and am now impatiently waiting for book six, which is supposed to be the last. Boy, I hope they clean up this guy’s timeline mess-ups in the last book or my head is going to explode!

It’s a good series. Easy to read and captivating. I recommend it to anyone. It is clean but does mention some crimes that are hard to read about.

It is written by two Christian fiction writers and one of the writer’s sons, but it is not Christian fiction.

I am planning to exclusively read The Weather Girls Book One: Sunny this week, but also finish up Creative Fusion, a book about how creativity is given to us by God. Both of these books are for book tours for Celebrate Lit and I will provide reviews for them, and the Rembrandt Stone books, in October.

So far, The Weather Girls is a good book and capturing my attention more than Creative Fusion. I think that’s because Creative Fusion has some very deep thoughts and I am having issues focusing on anything too deep these days. It is extremely well written, and it is a book I will most likely go back to from time to time in my writing/creating journey.

I really hope to finish the Longmire book next week, but I will probably take a break this week because it has a heavy subject matter and after reading way too much about the Gabby Petito murder case, I can’t really handle a book about the murder of a young girl. It makes me extremely down, depressed, and anxious, so I will take a break and pick it back up next week. I really do want to find out what happens and I enjoy Craig Johnson’s writing.

What I’ve Been Watching

I’ve been watching way too much on the Gabby Petito murder case this week, but then I started to break it up with The House of Eliot because that show has a much lighter subject matter.

Hubby and I also watched more of Upstart Crow, a British sitcom about the life of William Shakespeare. It’s ridiculous and I need that right now with all the craziness of the world.

I barely check the news anymore. Just can’t stomach it and I have no idea who is telling the truth any longer.

What I’m Writing

I’m working on The Next Chapter and shared a chapter this week that I found a ton of typos in after I posted it. Argh! I will probably replace what I posted with a corrected version later this week. Oh well, my fiction is a work in progress, as I often explain. And it is just fiction I am posting for fun on my blog, so I am not going to stress too much.

On the blog this week:

Comfort reading with The Cat Who . . . book series

Randomly Thinking: Florida men stories, murder case obsessions, behind on blog reading and other random thoughts

Fiction Friday: The Next Chapter Chapter 4

Blog Posts I Enjoyed This Week

I mentioned in my Randomly Thinking post this week that I am very behind on reading blogs. I did, however, read a few good ones this week as I caught up on my favorite bloggers and thought I’d share a few of those posts with you.

Erin’s After Dark Musings hit a nerve with me because it sounded a lot like how I have been feeling lately.

I also enjoyed this post from Words From Annelli about entire houses being moved.

Our Little Red House wrote about her adventures going to five stores in one day. She always makes shopping sound fun.

Mama’s Empty Nest wrote about her love for lighthouses and one she visited in Rochester, N.Y.

So that is my week in review. How about you? Let me know how and what you have been doing in the comments.

Fiction Friday: The Next Chapter Chapter 4

Welcome to Chapter 4 of The Next Chapter. If you want to catch up with other chapters, you can go HERE, or you can wait until all the chapters are together in one book in the Spring of 2022.

To read my other books, visit my Amazon Author Page.

Chapter 4

“I still think you should have come to stay with us a few days, Liz. Climbing up and down these stairs while you are recovering really isn’t a good idea.”

Marge Cranmer was a blur of activity, placing food on Molly and Liz’s small kitchen table, pouring drinks, pausing every few minutes to smile and coo at her sixth grandchild.

Liz shrugged. “It’s really not a big deal. I won’t have anywhere to go for a few days. My follow-up appointment isn’t until next week and Molly’s been nice enough to offer to get me supplies and groceries while she’s out.”

Marge scooped rice onto her daughter’s plate. “Well, that’s nice, but the offer still stands if you change your mind. Of course, I will be over here to help watch Isabella while you rest. Isabella. I love that you chose that name. Your grandmother would have been tickled pink. Really. It was sweet of you.” Marge reached over and pushed a strand of hair back from Liz’s face. “You look so tired. Did you rest at all in the hospital? I bet you didn’t. Hospitals are so hard to sleep in, plus I’m sure you were watching the baby. Did the nurses take the baby? They should have so you could sleep.”

Liz took a deep breath, waiting to see if her mother was done talking yet. She wasn’t.

“This is the rice recipe I got from Ginny at Tiffany’s last baby shower and the chicken you said you liked that time you came over for dinner a couple of months ago. Oh, and so sorry your dad couldn’t stay after he set the crib up. He had a meeting at the church with the building committee. I told you they’re building on right?” She sat abruptly and reached one hand toward Molly and the other toward Liz. “Let’s say a quick prayer of thanks.”

Liz glanced at Molly, trying to catch her attention, but her eyes were glued to Marge, her brow furrowed and her mouth slightly open. She was probably thinking what Liz was. How much sugar has Marge consumed today?

“Lord, bless us this food to our bodies and thank you for this wonderful day and for my little granddaughter. In your name, amen.”

“Amen,” Liz and Molly chorused.

Liz picked up her fork. “This looks great, Mom. Thank you for making lunch of us. You really didn’t have to.”

Marge set a glass of lemonade on the table. “Of course, I did. It isn’t every day your youngest brings home her first little bundle of joy.” She smiled down at the baby asleep in the car seat next to the table.

Looking at her mother, cheeks flushed from rushing, Liz couldn’t decide if she liked this new version of Marge — the one who seemed delighted Liz had given birth to a baby instead of the one whose eyes had filled with tears the night Liz told her she was pregnant, or the one who had barely spoke to her the entire two years she’d lived with Gabe.

“Is Gabe the father?” she’d asked the night Liz had told her. “Does he know he’s going to be a father even?”

And now she was back to Gabe as she sat down across from Liz. “So, did you let Gabe know that —”

“That what? That I gave birth to the baby he told me he wanted nothing to do with?”

Marge raised an eyebrow. “Well, I thought maybe his mind might change if he knew — or if he saw the baby.”

Liz swallowed the retort she wanted to give. Her mom had been trying so hard to be kind and understanding the last few months, something she’d once been fairly poor at. She didn’t want her mom to think the retort was aimed at her. She decided a softened tone was in order instead.

“I don’t think his mind would change, no. I’m sorry. I know you don’t like the idea of your granddaughter not having a father, but Gabe isn’t father material. He wasn’t even boyfriend material.”

Marge set her glass down on the table and nodded. “Okay, hon’ . We don’t have to talk about it right now.”

She reached her hand out and covered Liz’s briefly, a move that startled Liz since her mother hadn’t necessarily been affectionate in the last few years. Not that Liz could necessarily blame her. She hadn’t been the best daughter, or really a daughter at all.

She’d been selfish, self-centered and a first-class know-it-all, which is why she was now a single mother of a child fathered by a emotionally and physically abusive man. Her mom didn’t know about Gabe’s abuse though. She knew he hadn’t always been kind or attentive but there was only so much Liz could handle her parents knowing about how far she’d fallen. They already knew she’d moved in with a man she wasn’t married to, drank too much while with him and, obviously, gotten pregnant from him. How could she also tell them that she’d been stupid enough to stay with him even when he yelled at her, pushed her against a wall once, slapped her another time, and cheated on her at least once, if not more? She was humiliated enough.

A knock on the door broke the tension.

Liz stood quickly. “I’ll get it.”

When the room blurred into a mesh of colors, she clutched the edge of the table and gasped.

Molly was at her side immediately, her hand under her elbow. “Sit down. You just had a baby. You can’t rush around like your used to.”

Liz nodded, the dizziness fading as she slowly sat. “Thanks for the reminder.”

“I’ll get the door,” Molly said. “You going to be okay?”

Liz nodded slowly, trying to shake the left over weakness in her legs.

“Sip your lemonade,” her mother instructed. “It’s probably low blood pressure. Maybe you should go lay down.”

Liz shook her head. “No. I’m fine now. Really. I think I probably need food more than anything.”

“You’re eating for two for real now by breastfeeding.” Marge sighed. “Really I don’t think you should be breastfeeding at all. That’s a huge time commitment. You have a job you’ll be going back to and that won’t leave much time for nursing sessions.”

Ah, here was the old Marge Cranmer, creeping back in.

“Linda is completely supportive of my decision to breastfeed. She’s already told me I can pump in the back office anytime I need to.”

“It’s not the logistics that concerns me but the exhaustion it’s bound to bring,” Marge said, spearing a piece of chicken with her fork. “You’ve never been as hearty as Tiffany.”

Liz laid her fork down and groaned. “Really, Mom?”

“It’s not an insult, honey. It’s just the truth. You’ve always been a little more . . . sensitive I guess I’d say. That’s just how you are made.”

Liz folded her arms across her chest. Here we go again, she thought, a burning in her chest spreading up into her throat. “Yes. I get it. I am made of less sturdy stock than perfect Tiffany.”

Marge tipped her head and pursed her lips. “Liz, hon’, you have got to get over this whole competition thing with your sister. I’ve told you that before. And that is not what I said. Don’t place your insecurities in my words.”

Liz pushed her plate back and stood abruptly. “You know what? I’m not hungry anymore. I think you were right. I should lie down for a while.”

Marge stood as well. “I wasn’t trying to start an argument.” Her tone denoted the annoyance she felt but Liz could also see by the jumping muscle in her jaw that Marge was trying to keep her temper in check. “I was simply expressing concern for you.”

“Right.” Liz tossed the napkin she’d been clutching onto her plate of half-eaten food. “Because I can’t handle it. I got it, Mom.”

Turning on her heel, she winced as the room tilted again. She closed her eyes against her swirling surroundings, a static buzz filling her ears. She felt herself falling and reached out into the darkness, her hand colliding with something firm, yet soft before darkness overtook her.

When she came to, Matt was standing over her, brow furrowed, his face etched with concern.

She was on the couch and Molly was kneeling next to her, pressing a cold cloth to her forehead. A coldness touched her lips as Molly lifted her head. “Drink this. I haven’t seen you drink anything all day.”

Matt set his hands on his hips. “Maybe it’s low iron. Did they test her iron before they sent her home?”

Her mom was over her next, smoothing her hair back from her forehead. “Maybe we should take her back over. They could have missed something.”

Liz sipped the water and after pushing the glass away propped herself up on her elbows. “I think I’ve just pushed myself too much today, guys. How about I rest a little and if I’m still not feeling better, we can discuss me going back to the hospital.”

Molly stood and sat back on the chair across from the couch. “I think that sounds like a plan. I’m going to call the store and let them know I won’t be in for the afternoon shift.”

A small cry came from the kitchen and Marge turned and started walking toward the car seat. “No need, Molly. I’ll stay here with her.”

“Don’t you have your ladies group?” Molly asked.

Marge kneeled by the car seat and uncovered her squirming granddaughter. She lifted Isabella out gently and placed her against her shoulder. “Nope. I told them I needed to postpone it until Monday because Liz was coming home today.” She patted the baby’s back, the small whimper now becoming a full-on wail.

Liz laid her head back against the couch pillow. She hated the idea of her mother seeing her in such a weak state, having another excuse to call her weaker than her older sister.

At the same time, her entire body was actually weak not to mention aching and her head was still spinning. Maybe her mom was right. Maybe Tiffany really was made of sturdier stuff.

“I’m going to head out and let you rest.”

Matt’s voice startled her. She’d briefly forgotten he was there and now that she remembered, the familiar flush of humiliation spread from her chest to her cheeks. Yet again he was seeing her in a vulnerable position.

“Did you need something?” She flinched when her voice squeaked out the last word like a boy going through puberty.

Matt shook his head, his eyes still clouded with concern. “Just stopped by to see if you and Molly needed anything before I headed to work.” His gaze slid to Marge. “Luckily Mrs. Cranmer is here.”

Marge waved a hand. “Matthew McGee, there is no need to call me Mrs. Cranmer. It makes me feel so old. Please. Call me Marge.”

Matt nodded, grinning. “Old habits die hard.”

“You haven’t been in my Sunday School class in over 20-years.” Marge laughed and winked. “Kill the habit, young man.”

Liz’s eyes narrowed. Since when did her mom wink? Maybe she had an eyelash in her eye. Of course, this was Matt McGee, Encounter Church and Spencer Valley’s golden boy, she was talking to. The man who felled criminals all day as an officer with the Spencer Tri-Township Police Department and led Bible studies when he was done. He was also a Little League coach, a volunteer with the county boys and girls club, volunteered with the soup kitchen and the local pregnancy care center, and last year the town council had tried to convince him to run for mayor. At this point she couldn’t decide if she should be jealous of him or submit his name for sainthood.

If any of the women in town were turned off by the fact Matt wasn’t as built or muscular as one might expect of a police officer, they didn’t show it. His bright hazel eyes and charming smile and personality more than made up for what he might be lacking in physique.  Liz’s eyes drifted across broad shoulders and down the length of this arms. Then again . . . had he been working out?

“No problem, Marge.” Matt said the words, but Liz heard the strain when he said her mom’s first name. “Looks like Liz is in good hands so I’m going to head out. Reggie doesn’t like it if we’re late for  staff meetings.”

Liz knew she shouldn’t laugh but she couldn’t help it. “Reggie Stoddard holds actual staff meetings?”

Matt mocked gasped. “Now, Liz, don’t pick on Reggie.” He teasingly wagged his finger at her. “Yes, he is one of the laziest people I have ever worked for, but he’s also a good man and he loves the people in this community. We’re lucky to have him.”

Lazy was an understatement, but she supposed Matt was right. Reggie, the department’s chief, did care about the community, even if he did make his officers and everyone else do most of his work for him.

“I’ll check on you tomorrow, okay?” Matt smiled and she swallowed hard. It wasn’t fair he had such a nice smile when he was totally out of her league. “Get some rest.”

Molly was the next to leave, on her way to the farm store. After nursing Isabella, Liz pulled the covers up over her shoulder and decided she’d take a nap on the couch instead of finding her way to the bedroom.

Her mother began swaddling Isabella in the bassinet she’d brought over the week before. “That was nice of Matt to stop by. I didn’t realize you two were friends.”

Liz closed her eyes. If she laid here long enough maybe her mom would think she’d fallen asleep. In fact, she was almost there so  —

“Not that it is a bad thing you are friends. Matt is a wonderful man. He leads the singles Bible study at church, coaches the local Little League and everyone in town just adores him. I just didn’t realize you two knew each other that well. I mean, well enough for you to give birth in the front of his pickup truck that is.” Marge cleared her throat. “Which is something I’ve been meaning to ask you about. How did that all come about anyhow?”

Liz attempted a realistic sounding snore.

Marge sighed. “I know that tactic, Liz. You’ve been doing that since you were three, but okay. If you don’t want to talk about it right now, that’s fine. I know you’re exhausted. Get some sleep while you can. Isabella will need to be fed again soon and you still have to establish that milk supply.”

Yes, mother. I know. Despite what you think, I do know something about taking care of a newborn.

Liz thought the retort, instead of saying it, glad she was too tired to open her mouth and speak the words out loud.

“You know, I should get you a copy of that book Tiffany got when she had Evan.”

Why was her mother still talking?

“The Baby Book by some doctor. It was like her own personal baby bible for the first 18 months of Evan’s life. I’ll ask Elaina at the bookstore if she has it or can order me a copy, but in the meantime, I bet you could find a copy at the library. Just ask Ginny to look it up for you. I’m sure she’d be happy to.”

Oh, yes. Of course. How wonderful.

Now not only would her entire family, her best friend, and Matt McGee know how inept she was at motherhood, but now her sister’s mother-in-law would know too.

She was grateful when sleep washed over her, so she didn’t have to think about how bad she was going to be at this whole motherhood.

***

Matt shook his head as he drove toward the police station.

What had he even been thinking stopping to see Liz like that?

They weren’t dating. They were barely friends.

For goodness’ sake she’d just given birth to another man’s baby in his truck three days ago. If that wasn’t a sign there wasn’t anything between them, he didn’t know what was.

Of course, that man wasn’t in the picture anymore and never should have been in it in the first place.

Liz had plenty of people to take care of her, though. What did he think he was going to do? The only good thing about him stopping was that he’d been there to catch her when she’d blacked out. His mind had been racing as he carried her to the couch.

He’d been ready to call an ambulance until her mom assured him she was probably just weak from needing to eat. Still, he’d kneeled next to her, taken her pulse, checked her breathing and even laid a hand against her forehead to see if she was feverish. He’d heard of women having infections after giving birth.

Ridiculous.

That’s what this was.

Thinking and worrying about a woman he wasn’t in a relationship with. It wasn’t that Liz was rude to him, but the walls she flung up whenever they were alone should be sign enough of a sign she didn’t want him around.

Inviting her to go fishing with him at his favorite spot on the lake had probably been one of the stupidest ideas he’d had, especially she was nine months pregnant at the time.

He’d been tired of her talking about how fat and unattractive she was when they were hanging out with Alex and Molly. No matter how many times he told her she was beautiful and glowing, how pregnancy made her even more beautiful, she wouldn’t listen. Plus, she was stressed that the baby hadn’t been born yet, so he thought a trip to the lake would take her mind off things.

They’d been standing on the edge of the pond when her water broke.

He’d just brought her arm back to show her how to cast when she screamed. He looked over at her saw her looking down in horror and followed her gaze to the puddle on and around his favorite pair of hiking boots. He missed those boots. They were in the trash out back, waiting for his next trip to the landfill.

Basing his experience on his sister and sister-in-law’s labors he’d thought they had plenty of time to get to the hospital. That assumption had turned out to be completely wrong halfway to the hospital, making him wish he had even more experience of women in labor.

“I’m not going to make it,” Liz had told him with wide eyes.

Thinking she’d meant she wasn’t going to make it through labor, he tried to encourage her. “You’ve got this, Liz. You can totally get through this. Millions of women do every —”

“I’m not going to make it to the hospital, McGee! This baby is coming NOW!”

McGee. What was with that anyhow? She’d been calling him McGee since high school, but he thought by now, a decade later, she could manage to say his first name.

She hadn’t made it to the hospital either. He’d pulled the truck over, silently rehearsing what he’d learned in his first aid classes about delivering a baby as he walked around to her side of the truck.

Thankfully his brain had switched to police offer mode during the delivery. He’d focused on the task at hand, acting as if Liz wasn’t the woman he’d wanted to kiss at the lake an hour earlier, and instead pretending she was a stranger he’d come upon during his shift.

He realized with a start he’d been sitting in his truck outside the police station for ten minutes while he remembered Isabella’s birth. He looked at the clock on the dashboard. That meant he was now 15 minutes late to work instead of five.

“McGee!” Reggie’s voice from the back of the building was sharp, but Matt knew there was little bite behind it. “Get in here!”

Matt tossed his jacket on to the back of his chair and headed toward Reggie’s office. The portly police chief was standing, pushing a drawer of a green metal filing cabinet closed

“Sorry, I’m late chief, I —”

Reggie scowled as he walked back to his desk, but Matt could already see the smile trying to tug at the corners of his mouth. “I have you for two more months McGee, don’t start checking out now. I’m not going to have you acting like a space cadet until you leave for the academy.”

 Reggie reminded Matt of a roly-poly toy he’d seen last year at an antique store while he was on a hunting trip with his uncle. The buttons of his uniform trained against a round belly, short, stumpy legs stuck out from the bottom and wild tufts of graying brown hair stuck out from the top of his head. He was rarely clean shaven and today was no exception.

“Sorry, chief. Really.” Time to be open. “I stopped by to check on Liz and she passed out. I stayed until I was sure she was okay.”

Reggie huffed into a ripped black desk chair and slapped a file onto his desk. “Passed out, huh? She low on iron?”

Matt shrugged a shoulder. “Thought the same thing. She’s not sure, but her mom was with her so I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

Reggie leaned toward the desk and tipped his head down to look over a pair of cheater glasses he’d picked up last week at Bert’s Drugstore. “What’s the deal with you two anyhow? Somethin’ you ain’t tellin’ me, McGee? You the father of that baby of hers or what?”

Anyone else might have taken offense to Reggie’s straight forward questions, but Matt never did. He knew Reggie meant well. He simply lacked tact.

“No sir. We’re just good friends. I’ve known her since high school.”

After a couple of seconds of watching Matt with narrowed eyes, Reggie seemed to accept that answer and leaned back in his chair, flipping the folder open. “Alright then. That topic is closed. Now. I’ve got a case here I’d like your help with since you’re the brains in this outfit.” He pushed the file across the desk. “Bernie Denton. Know him?”

Matt nodded as he looked at the mug shut attached to the file. “Yes, sir. He was in my class at school. We didn’t graduate together. He dropped out in tenth grade. Been in trouble ever since. I picked him up for drug possession my first year here. He moved to Clarkson a few years back, so he’s been someone else’s problem, but I’ve seen his name in the paper more than once for several different offenses.”

Reggie folded his fingers against his palms and tapped the top of the desk. “Yep. That’s him. Well, guess what? He’s our problem again. Not directly our problem, exactly. He’s living somewhere in the area. As far as I know, he’s not in our jurisdiction, but the state police are looking for him and they’ve asked for our help. He’s up on some bigger charges this time. Meth manufacturing and trafficking.”

Matt sat in the chair across from Reggie’s desk, flipping through the file. “And here we thought the heroine epidemic would push meth out the door. Guess not.” He laid the file down and leaned back in the chair. “What help are the state police looking for?”

The sigh that came out of Reggie triggered a brief coughing spell. He sipped his coffee and cleared his throat. “Dang allergies. Ragweed must be blooming out back the house again.” He took another sip of coffee. Matt knew it was mostly black with a drop of creamer. He’d poured it enough for him. “Anyhow, they want us to keep an eye out and let them know if we see Bernie. If we do, they want us to contact them, but they also might want one of our guys to make first contact, break the ice, so to speak, and help them get their foot in the door with him. They don’t think he knows they know about the meth factory he’s got up at his junkyard, if you know what I mean.”

Matt laughed. “Yeah. I get your drift, but if you think I’m the guy for this job, you’re wrong. Bernie and I never hit it off in school and he knows I’m a cop. He’s not going to open up to me.”

“Probably not, but you’re a familiar face. He might trust you more than a statie from out of the area. Maybe we can bring him in without too much fanfare.” Reggie dragged the folder back across the desk and slapped it closed. “Of course, all of this will be moot if we don’t happen upon him in the next couple of months. After that you’ll be lost to me. Down state being brainwashed by them gray gods.”

Matt snorted a laugh. “Now come on, Chief. Not all state police are like that.”

Reggie looked at Matt over his mug of coffee and rolled his eyes. “Just the majority of them.” He gulped the last of the coffee and set the mug down hard on the top of the desk. “Promise me you won’t let them change you, make you one of the elite who look down their noses at us small towners.”

“I promise,” Matt said, raising a hand and plastering a solemn expression on his face.

Reggie scowled at him, but a faint smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.

“Get out of here, McGee. I’m tired of looking at your handsome face. Go do some actual work for once. Start with training that rookie out there. He’s driving me nuts, following me around and reciting what he learned in the academy like he’s some big shot.”

Randomly Thinking: Florida men stories, murder case obsessions, behind on blog reading and other random thoughts


You just know it’s going to be a weird day when the tabs of your computer are opened up to “Man Found Naked In Chicken Coup After Manhunt”, a search bar for “what are the names of those round people toys, and a tab with the headline “Sean Connery’s James Bond was Basically A Rapist, New 007 Director Says.”

***

A couple of weeks ago my family picked up some Chinese food at the local Weis. It included spring rolls, but my husband said they were mini egg rolls. I informed him that they were indeed spring rolls, but I couldn’t explain the difference so when we got home, I searched for the difference online. I thought I’d share that information here in case any of you need to win a pointless argument as well in the future.

The differences between spring rolls and egg rolls:

Wrapper. Spring rolls are wrapped in thin flour wrappers or rice wrappers, while egg rolls are wrapped in a thicker, noticeably crispier wrapper that’s been dipped in egg for richness.

Preparation. Egg rolls are fried, which accounts for their bubbly, crispy exteriors. Meanwhile, spring rolls may be baked or fried, and are sometimes not cooked at all apart from the filling.

Filling. Spring rolls are usually filled with a fresh vegetables, whereas egg rolls are filled with a combination of savory meat and vegetables.

If you would like even more information on this two different Chinese foods, you can click over to the article HERE.

***

I don’t know about any of you, but I have been both horrified and enraptured with this terrible case of the missing and then found murdered girl, Gabby Petito. My son has called me obsessed, but I promise I have done more than poor over the internet for more information on the case this week, opening up my internet browser every morning and hoping they have caught her boyfriend, who I suspect killed her. I have. Truly. I have written several hundred words in book four of the Spencer Valley Chronicles, taught homeschool lessons, finished a book, continued to read on two more, cooked meals, and let a dog and a cat in and out a few times a day.

Unlike many following this case, I do not see myself as an internet sleuth of any kind. I’m simply curious of the final outcome. That’s why I joined a discussion group about the case on Facebook. The case itself is very serious, heartbreaking, and solemn, but some of the posts in the group have kept me laughing while also making me question the sanity of a great deal of people in this country.

I was glad to see there are many in the group who can laugh at themselves for thinking they know more than the FBI, which is investigating the case, and that there are others who can laugh at the sad state of their lives where they have found themselves with way too much time on their hands.

I thought I’d share a few of the funnier screenshots I took from the group, as well as some hilarious comments that I could relate to, as well as my own responses to some of the comments.

Comment: I think all of the 23 year-old, semi-bald guys with brown hair, flip flops, and a backpack probably better just stay home for the next few weeks.

Comment: Now I know why Brian Laundrie looks familiar. He looks like just about every other average guy in this country.

Comment: Anybody else in this group discover a new toxic trait about themselves during this case that has manifested itself in the form of a pretentious pseudo-investigator? I find that when friends and family, that are just casually following the case, send me some piece of information that I dissected 3 days ago I can’t help but scoff and hurriedly explain to them why it is irrelevant so I can get back to business. Sometimes I have to be brought back to reality and remember while I did major in social media sleuthing my cheating exes, I am not in fact, lead detective on this case. 😩

My response to her: Yeah, but come on — I have watched sooooo many mystery and cop shows and I’m on the fourth book of the Walt Longmire mystery series so I am totally an expert. That’s all the training I need, right?!

Showing how some in the group really do feel like they are all working together:

There have also been several posts in the group about bodies being found or people barricading themselves in apartments or hotel rooms. This made a lot of us in the group realize that all those Florida man memes are totally true. Surely you have heard of them. Florida man . .. followed by something crazy that a Florida man did. Let me explain this in my next random thought.

***


A couple of years ago my son was showing me memes and told me about all these crazy news stories that have the headline: “Florida man . . .” followed by something crazy a man from Florida did.

There are also Florida woman stories, I should add.

It didn’t take me long to realize he was right. I started seeing all these crazy stories and every time it would be someone from Florida that something crazy.

Then one day I came across this headline: Man Found Naked In Chicken Coop After Manhunt.

I snorted a laugh and said to my son, “Oh my gosh. Sounds like something that would happen in our area, or would involve a Florida man.”

I proceeded to read the story and it turns out it involved both a Florida man and our area. The man was being sought because he had been driving the wrong way on a local interstate. After he crashed his car, which he drove all the way from Florida, he jumped on the back of pickup (while on the highway) and rode a mile before jumping off and running into the woods.

Police searched for this guy for seven hours, only to find him after he was found naked in a chicken cop by the coop’s owner. It was apparently not the first chicken coop he had run into while naked and on the run. He also threatened the one homeowner with an ax.

He killed a dog and injured two chickens during his run. The article doesn’t say it, but I suspect he was found to be under the influence of a controlled substance — most likely  meth.

By the way, I went to search for this story again to confirm the headline and there was actually another similar story in Lousiana. I guess there is something that happens to meth heads when they get high that makes them want to run naked into chicken coops.



***

Earlier this week I decided I had better catch up on posts from my favorite bloggers. I am very behind due to school starting (and the aforementioned obsession I’ve developed). I logged on to the WordPress reader and clicked over to my friend Erin’s blog (link) and gasped. There was a huge list of posts from her that I had missed. I immediately sent her a private message, telling her the thoughts that rushed thro ugh my mind at this discovery, because obviously she needs to know every thought that rushes through my mind on a daily basis.

What I wrote to her, word for word, (sadly): I was like: “Where did all these posts come from!??? I can’t be this far behind?? What am I doing with my life? where have my days gone? What hours have I wasted doing things when I could have been reading Erin’s posts???!”

Anyhow, after my obvious failure at being a good blog follower, I read and commented on many of Erin’s posts and then jumped over to some of other favorite bloggers to read and leave comments and likes there. I’m still weeding through the list, though, so don’t feel left out if I haven’t stopped at your blog yet.

***

Little Miss and I were coming home from an Awana meeting the other night (it’s a church group for kids) and I was telling her why we say The Pledge of Allegiance.

“It’s to remember the freedom we have in this country,” I told her.

“What freedom? I don’t have freedom,” she told me.

“You don’t?”

“No. You keep me in the house and tell me what to do all the time.”

“You mean like when I make you do schoolwork?”

“Yeah. I don’t have freedom to whatever I want.”

“Really? How long did you talk to your friends the other day compared to how long I made you do schoolwork?”

“Yeah, well —”

“When you want a snack you get it, right?”

“Yeah, but —”

“When you want a toy we often get it, don’t we?”

“Yeah, but —”

“And the mere fact you are allowed to have an education when little girls in other countries aren’t even allowed to learn or expand their education simply because they are women shows what freedom you have. You may not think so now, but the fact you are being educated is a gift to you. A gift other young girls your age don’t have.”

The rest of the ride home (all four minutes of it) was pretty quiet after that, though I’m still not sure she agreed with me.

***

I’m starting to wonder why I even bother teaching my daughter science. Most of the time she teaches me. Yesterday we were doing a lesson on the different layers of the ocean (Sunlight, Twilight and Midnight) and while she didn’t know about those layers, she could tell me a bunch of stuff about the creatures who live in each of them. I figure I should just record her and sell the classes for some extra money at this point.

***

Earlier today my husband was like, “I want to take you to the new James Bond movie” and I was like, “No. No. Don’t make me stare at Daniel Craig for two hours. How cruel.” Ha. Ha.

Honestly, though, I always think he looks like a pretentious jerk with the way his lips are always pursed like that and his jaw is all tight. I also don’t understand the phone prop. Who is he calling? Someone in 1986?


***

A couple of memes that hit the nail on the head for me recently:

(My husband recently remarked on how long it is taking to build the Aldi’s in the town near us and suggested they hire the people who build all the Dollar General’s around here to do it. Seriously, every time I turn around there is another one in a town I’m driving through where there wasnt one before. Also, we live near Seneca Lake so this pretty funny.)

***

Those are my random thoughts for this time around. How about you? What random thoughts or events do you have to share? Share them with me in the comments.

Comfort reading with The Cat Who . . . book series

I’m a stickler for books set in smaller towns with a large cast of fun and quirky characters, if you couldn’t tell by the stories I share on here for Fiction Friday.

I mention The Cat Who books by Lilian Jackson Braun from time to time and when I do I write that I am reading one as “comfort reading.” I consider them comfort reading because I used to read them when I was a teenager. For me, reading about James Mackintosh Qwilleran and his Siamese cats, Koko and Yum-Yum, and the cast of characters around them, feels oddly like coming home.

I call them The Cat Who . . . books because all of the book titles start with The Cat Who . . . followed by something the cat did.

Examples include The Cat Who Played Brahms, The Cat Who Sang for the Birds, The Cat Who Lived High, and The Cat Who Sniffed Glue. There were 29 books written between 1966 and 2007. There were 18 years between the third and fourth book and after reading that in an article while researching for this post, I started to wonder what the delay was all about. What did Braun do in between and what made her pick up the series again? I did some digging and learned there were a few reasons for the break, including the death of her husband and the fact that she was working at The Detroit Free Press as the “Good Living” editor during that time, and for 30-years, retiring in the late 70s. The other, bigger, reason for the break, though, was that when she turned in the manuscript for the fourth book, the publisher said they were interested in books with more sex and violence.

Luckily Braun was able to find a publisher in the future who recognized that not every reader wants books full of sex and violence.

As a writer who has started writing fiction fairly “late in life,” I found it interesting that Braun published her first fiction book at the age of 53. She was 97 when she passed away and her husband told a newspaper that her biggest regret was dying before she could finish her 30th book, The Cat Who Smelled Smoke.

When she did release a new book in 1986, after that 18 year break, it was called The Cat Who Saw Red. It was published under a new publisher and nominated for an Anthony Award and an Edgar Award in the best original paperback category. The new publisher also re-released her other three books.

The original cover of the first The Cat Who book.
The second book with the original cover.
The third book with the original cover.

The books always offer a mystery, of course, usually in the form of a murder or two, but woven within the mystery are hilarious anecdotes about the people of Pixax, the town James Qwilleran, a retired crime beat journalist and columnist, has settled into.

The series started out with Qwilleran working “Down Below”, as the country folk call the city of Chicago. After inheriting some money from an eccentric distant relative (who, if I remember correctly he wasn’t even biologically related to), he ends up moving to the tiny town where many of his mysteries occur, which makes me ask, “how many criminals live in this one tiny town?” That thought always makes me a bit paranoid, since I also live in a small town. After reading one of these books (or watching an episode of Murder She Wrote) I start looking at my neighbors in a different light.

“Do you think Mrs. Smith down the road is capable of murder?” I might ask my husband, but I don’t actually since there isn’t a Mrs. Smith down the road.
Or sometimes I think, “What does Mr. So-and-So have in those containers in his back yard? Compost or . . . bodies?!”

Anyhow, back to the books. Not all of them aren’t all winners, a couple of them are stinkers, only saved by the cats and quirky characters. Still, I keep reading them, enjoying the feeling of coming home, in a way, much like I do when I read and re-read the Mitford books.

It isn’t only the quirky characters and pets that captures my interest in the books. Being a veteran of the journalism world, I also find myself drawn to the parts of the stories that involve reporting and the newspaper office. The characters of the small town newspaper are about as odd as some of the people I used to work with, but not quite.

When the subject of reporters and journalists come up in a conversation, I often comment that a newspaper’s newsroom is full of people who are two clicks away from being certifiably crazy. Then I remember I was once one of those people and wonder what that means about me. I guess it means I was the only sane person in the four newsrooms I worked in over my 15-year career.

Braun’s own career in journalism helped her to become a prolific novelist, releasing one or two books a year. She said she was used to continously writing after doing it for 50 years. I can relate to the idea of being used to writing often and a lot, since that’s what I did when I worked at newspapers, but of course I only did it for 15 years, not 50!

When I picture Qwill in my mind he’s a cross between Sam Elliott and a former boss of mine (who incidentally no longer has the mustache he used to have). Qwill is an old school newshound with a passion for digging up the answers to mysteries, even after he stops working as an investigative reporter and knows it isn’t his place.

How I picture Qwill but without the long hair.

Getting to the bottom of something was my favorite part of being a reporter. I loved to dig for the news, but I was nowhere near as good at is as my husband is. He’s like a dog with a bone. When he gets a tip, he’ll dig that thing out of the ground and bring it in the light no matter who tries to stop him.

He isn’t as obsessed with it as I am, though. I remember laying awake at night wondering what the local school board or district attorney was hiding from me while he comes home, drops the mystery at the door, picks up a book and doesn’t pick up work things again until the next morning. Usually anyhow. Some nights he does lay there worrying about work things, but not necessarily a story he is working on.

Throughout the books, Qwill ages from his late 40s to his mid-50s. He is a divorced, slightly overweight, former alocholic who now declines offers to drink any alcohol when the books first start. He loses the extra pounds as the series progresses.

Women find him irrestible, Braun writes, and one reason they do is because of his “luxurious mustache.” He also has salt-and-pepper hair, but it is the mustache that is the most intriguing, not only because of it’s appearance.

An excerpt from an article on Wikipedia describes the role of the mustache perfectly.

Whenever Qwilleran gets a suspicion that something is wrong or his instincts are right, he will get “a tingling sensation on his upper lip.” Depending upon the strength of the sensation, he may be seen “stroking it with his fingertips” to “pounding [his mustache] with his knuckles”.

Characters in the books (especially women) are also drawn to Qwill because of his willingness to listen, a skill he picked up in his job as a reporter. It’s a skill I picked up as well. I found that the more I let a person talk, the more they would tell me, without even realizing they were telling me it. Idle chitchat also helped relax the subject of a story or the person I was interviewing. I never felt like I was manipulating the person. I was simply reminding them that I was human too and helping them to feel comfortable with talking to me.

Qwill uses this tactic in his reporting, but also in his sleuthing. It may appear to the reader that the character is simply telling Qwilleran about the new decor in their homes, but Qwilleran might hear something quite different, including the fact that the person who designed the new look for their home new the victim in a recent crime.

Now, I would be very remiss if I did not mention that Q’s cat Koko helps him solve his crimes in unusual and distinct ways. Koko sometimes yowls at the guilty person, flips a book to a page that offers a clue, or leads Q to a clue when they go on their walks, with Koko on a harness and leash.

Koko’s full name is Kao K’o-Kung and he is named after a 13th-century Chinese artist of the same name. He was once owned by an art critic who Qwill used to work with at the Fluxion, a newspaper Down Under. His first owner fed Koko a gourmet diet of lobster, chicken, and other fancy meals, which means he won’t eat normal cat food.

Qwilleran later adopts Yum-Yum, another Siamese, and ends up having to feed both cats expensive food on his sometimes meager salary, which of course expands when he inherhits a fortune and mansion later in the series.

While locals often credit Qwill when he solves a crime, there are some who know Koko is the real brains in the operation, as shown by this exerpt from The Cat Who Played Brahms:

“Qwilleran’s Siamese cat was a celebrity at the Press Club. Koko’s portrait hung in the lobby along with Pulitzer Prize winners, and he was probably the only cat in the history of journalism who had his own press card signed by the chief of police. Although Qwilleran’s suspicious nature and inquisitive mind had brought a few criminals to justice, it was commonly understood at the Press Club that the brains behind his success belonged to a feline of outstanding intelligence and sensory perception. Koko always seemed to sniff or scratch in the right place at the right time.”

In addition to the newspaper angle, I, of course, like the way the books nail the personality of cats, especially Siamese, right on the head. I had a cat that our vet said was part Siamese and he was a very interesting cat, so I relate to the way Braun writes about cats as well as the mysteries.

Being a cat lover, and the owner of two Siamese herself, Braun certainly had first-hand experience about the behavior of cats.

Braun with the Siamese she named after her literary cats.

The good thing about these books is that they are fairly simple and straight forward. They aren’t raunchy, have very little to no swearing, and don’t feature grotesque or detailed descriptions of violence. They are almost completely void of romance, other than a very tame, chaste storyline involving Qwill and town librarian Polly Duncan.

I have been having fun snatching books from the series up at book sales but have also purchased a few through my Kindle. I don’t know why, but I prefer reading The Cat Who books as hard copies, maybe because that’s how I started reading them when I would sign them out at the local library.

So, how about you? Do you have a series of books that are like “comfort reading” to you? I would love to hear about the series.

Sunday Bookends: My birthday ice cream, Addicted to Rembrandt Stone, and I’m not leaving my house this week

What’s Been Occurring 

Today is my birthday and I’m old. 

That’s all I’ll say about that.

Along a similar line of thought, I am a very introverted person. Even when I worked for newspapers, I had to force myself to talk to people and do the interviews necessary to get the story. I essentially became another person for as long as it took me to talk to the person and then I withdrew back into my shell. I have no idea how I did it for 14 years and it is no wonder I almost mentally cracked at the end. Or maybe I actually did crack, which may explain my mental status some days. *wink*

Now, ten years or so after leaving the paper, I am even more introverted than before.

If I am forced to attend something in public, it can take me three days to recover from the mental stimulation. I am not kidding. I am mentally, emotionally, and physically drained after events where I have to speak to or interact in some way with people. Therefore, I only plan one outing a week, if that, any more. We have not been attending a physical church, which has lifted one interaction from my shoulders. All that smiling and saying “I’m fine. I’m great. Things have been so good,” for an hour or more is exhausting.

I had one event planned with my daughter. A science camp 35 minutes away at a local Christian camp. We went, we met up with some of our friends we hadn’t seen in a while, we came home. I breathed a sigh of relief because I had a day in between when my husband wanted to take me out to dinner for my birthday.

I wouldn’t have minded mind if we’d had dinner at home and just hung out and did nothing, but my husband was brought up that when there is a birthday, there is a trip to a restaurant to celebrate, so we went to a restaurant. Once I get to the restaurant, I usually have fun, but leading up to it I’m always stressed the entire time drive, thinking I am going to do something stupid in public like pass out, trip over something, get sick and shaky or have a full-blown panic attack.

That’s normal right? 

I know. 

I didn’t think so either.

So, I’m mentally preparing for the Saturday event with my husband (we also had to go to a wine festival he had to cover for the paper. Wine might have helped relax me, but I don’t drink alcohol. I know. I’m such a weirdo.), when my dad calls and wants me to take my children to an event at a church 45 minutes from our house on Friday night. I’m thinking, “No. Sorry, my human interaction quota has been reached. My tank in that area is full while my emotional and mental tank is drained.”

But how do you say ‘no’ to a very persistent man in his late-70s? You don’t, sadly.

And just for the record, I did have fun at the restaurant, but I am still going to do everything I can to not interact with any humans outside my own house this next week. Okay, I probably will have some interaction, but not on a big scale, because my brain and heart really can’t take it. Give me a cup of tea, a good book, and my computer to write my silly little stories on and I am happy. Thank you very much.

My biggest excitement for my birthday weekend besides my dinner out with my husband wasn’t any gift — it was ice cream. Häagen-Dazs ice cream to be specific. I haven’t been able to find Häagen-Dazs locally for almost 18 months. In a way that has been a good thing. I try not to eat too many high sugar items and Haagen-Dazs is a weakness of mine. The tiny stores in our tiny town don’t carry it and I never think of it when I am in a bigger store.

But this past week, I knew what I wanted for my birthday. A pint of chocolate Haagen-Dazs. This is sad to say but when I took a bite of it, I actually teared up. I’d forgotten how amazing it is. An ice cream with only a handful of ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup, or anything else I can’t eat. Plus, I used to eat Haagen-Dazs when I was pregnant with my son and he’s about to be 14 in another month and a half so . . . my emotions are high right now. 

I rarely treat myself to anything so decadent. I always feel guilty but yesterday I managed to feel guilty for only a few minutes before devouring half a carton on the 40-minute drive home by taking tiny little bites and savoring every single bite.

It had been so long since I’ve had it, they had actually changed the design of the cartons. I also almost panicked because when we were looking for it, all I could find were a bunch of weird concoctions. I just wanted plain chocolate, not cookie dough, caramel and chocolate, etc. I was afraid I’d have to go home with plain vanilla, which is okay, but not chocolate. 

Anyhow, enough about my favorite ice cream . . .                                                       

What I’m Reading

I am ripping through the fifth book in the Rembrandt Stone series by David James Warren, Blood From A Stone. I’m sure I’ll finish it this week and probably cry a lot while I wait for book six, the final book in the series.

I wrote a review of the fourth book in the series last month. To give you a little background, the books are from a time traveler series and focus on detective Rembrand Stone who goes back in time to solve a series of cold cases and in the process messes up his life. I find myself chewing my nails and yelling at the book often. “No, Rem! Stop!” The book includes some romance with Rem’s wife as he fights to keep his life with her, but also keeps messing it up with the changes he makes in the past. Mixed in it all is an unsolved mystery by a serial killer.

I will probably continue and finish The Weather Girls, Book 1: Sunny, as well as it seems an easy read.

I would love to finish Craig Johnson’s Another Man’s Moccasins as well because I want to know what happens! I am reading the other books for a book tour so I need to finish them first.

Little Miss and I are reading Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder at night and during the week we are reading Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry.

 What I’m Watching

This weekend we watched a couple more episodes of Season 1 of Yellowstone (which we can’t watch when the kids are around) and earlier in the week I watched more of The House of Eliot.

What I’m Writing

 I didn’t share much on the blog this week because I either had events with the kids, had homeschool to do, or was working on The Next Chapter (the third book in the Spencer Valley Chronicles). 

I did share Chapter 3 of The Next Chapter on Friday.

 What I’m Listening To

I’m discovering music by accident these days when I leave Youtube on while writing and it skips to a new artist like Jimmy Allen singing with Abby Anderson.