Boondock Ramblings

Fiction Friday: The Farmers’ Sons Chapter 1 (restart)

So, I have restarted The Farmers Sons (name subject to change). I mean trashed the other chapters and started all over. I have not, however, trashed the prologue. Not yet anyhow. I will most likely try to figure out how to add it to later to the story, but probably will not have Jason be a volunteer fire fighter. He won’t have time for that with trying to run the farm with his family, while Robert is recovering.

The previous draft was steering the story in a direction far away from how I imagined Jason and Ellie’s story going and it also needed tighter writing. This next draft will still include some of the elements of the previous versions.

For anyone who is new here, I share a chapter from the (almost) first draft of a novel I am working on each Friday. The chapter will most likely have typos, grammatical errors, missing comas, and even plot holes and it’s not the final version of the novel that I release at a later date.

I share the stories and publish the novels for fun so feel free to comment. The first book in this series is also available for sale on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and various other sites. You can find more info about that HERE.


The sun cut across the barren field, slicing it in half, leaving one side to the darkness, the other to the light. A similar scene played out inside Jason Tanner. A metaphorical sun worked hard to push back the darkness, leaving him split in the middle, one part dark, one part light; one part hope, the other part hopeless.

Bitter coffee burned at the edges of his exhaustion but did nothing to clear the fog in his mind. How many days had it been? Nine? Maybe ten since he’d slept more than five hours a night, waking before dawn, stumbling to his pickup, driving to the barn, fingers numb from cold, watching his breath puff misty white around him.

This morning was no different, other than he’d actually remembered to brew himself a pot of coffee. He had poured half into his thermos and left the other half for Alex. They’d both need a few more pots to get through this week, this day even.

Alex stepped next to him on the farmhouse front porch, mug in hand. “This coffee is awful.”

Jason winced, not from the insult but in agreement as the sludge slid down his throat. “The worse it is, the more it will wake us up.”

Alex sipped coffee from his mug, scowling at Jason over the edge. “Is that like ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?’”

If there was any consolation to where Jason found himself it was that he wasn’t alone in the weariness that had seeped into his marrow in the last five months.

He looked at it in the eyes of each of them — his sister, his best friend, his mother, his uncle, and most of all his father, sitting helpless in a chair on the porch each morning, his eyes completing tasks his body couldn’t, not yet anyway.

He tightened the lid to the thermos, jerked his head behind him toward the kitchen. “Fill the other thermos and let’s get going. The cows don’t care how tired we are.”

Alex grunted. “I’m not sure I want to drink anymore of this. Maybe I can use it to clean the rust off that old tractor behind the barn instead.”

They climbed into separate pickups, pulling up to the barn, one behind the other. Molly stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame, waiting for one of them more than the other. She looked through Jason and he had a feeling she wouldn’t have even noticed if he hadn’t been there.

Alex’s arms slid around her waist and pulled her close, a sight Jason still wasn’t comfortable with. He wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to his little sister and his best friend dating each other, but he’d been too tired since his father’s accident to let it bother him much more than sending a shudder of disgust through him from time to time.

“Save that for later.” His tone denoted a touch of teasing, spun together with genuine aggravation. “We’re behind schedule.”

They locked eyes, small smiles playing at the corners of their lips. It was obvious they were ignoring him. He’d have to start the milking without them. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Alex pull Molly closer and lower his mouth to hers. Revulsion tinged with jealousy swirled in his stomach. Revulsion over Alex kissing his little sister right there, outside the barn door where Jason had to see it; jealousy because he wished he was holding Ellie the same way. He didn’t know if she’d ever let him hold her that way again.

Several agonizing moments of listening to smooches and laughter later, Alex playfully bumped him in the arm on his way to gather the feed. “It’s never too late for a sweet kiss from your sister, buddy.”

His teasing did nothing to make Jason feel less uncomfortable. “Dude, seriously. Stop that. I don’t even want to know.”

There were moments he regretted convincing Alex to move up to the farm, like right now, bogged down with thoughts of Alex kissing Molly. Most days, though, Alex was like family, as much as a brother as he was a best friend.

His dad’s voice came from behind him. “Are we ready for the big release?”

He’d never get used to seeing his dad leaning on that cane and hoped soon he wouldn’t need it.

“Yep. Just finished up.”

It was an annual tradition for the family to release the cows into the pasture from the barn where they’d been sheltered from the cold weather of winter. It was also a tradition for them to do it together. Jason wasn’t surprised his dad didn’t plan to miss it, making his way to the barn with Jason’s mom beside him.  

Robert Tanner tipped his head toward his daughter. “Molly, do the honors.”

The cows were already standing at the gate, anxiously sniffing the cool spring air. They surged forward within seconds after Molly pulled back the gate and stepped aside.

She affectionally patted a couple on their rumps as they passed. “Get on out there, girls.”

Jason propped his arms across the top bar of the fence, watching the young heifers kicking up their legs, bumping into each other, mouths open, stretched into almost human looking smiles. It was his favorite time of year, letting them loose from their six months inside the barns, six months of being protected from wind and rain, cold and snow.

Robert leaned on the cane with both hands. “Now, that’s a sight I like to see.”

Jason nodded in silent agreement. “It was always Grandpa’s favorite time of year too, other than harvesting the sweet corn.”

Robert laughed softly. “Yeah, he did like his sweet corn.”

Annie Tanner propped a hand on her husband’s shoulder, watching the cows spread out across the hillside. “More like addicted to it.”

Jason pulled his eyes from the joyful scene in the pasture, leaning back against the fence, gesturing at his dad’s leg. “So, two weeks and that cast will be all the way off, huh, old man?”

Robert cocked an eyebrow, folding his arms across his chest. “What’s with you and Alex calling me old man? You both know I could kick your rear ends across this pasture even with a broken leg.”

A broken leg? More like a shattered leg when a tractor had tipped on it four months ago.

“We rarely have survivors when a tractor falls on a farmer.”

The words from the doctor had been chilling but accurate. Eerily accurate. Somehow Robert Tanner survived what so many other farmers hadn’t, thanks to the stump of an old maple tree left from when Ned Tanner cut it down five years before. Jason was grateful time had gotten away from them and they had never got around to pulling the stump from the ground.

Besides the shattered femur, Robert had also had a cracked pelvis, a puncture wound to his back, a collapsed lung, and internal bleeding. It was the bleeding that had led to a minor stroke during surgery and a six-week coma. The cracked pelvis was proving the most difficult to heal physically. Robert’s loss of independence had been the hardest to heal emotionally.

Jason grinned at his dad. “Looking forward to you pulling your weight around here again.” The smile broadened. “Old man.”

Robert lifted a hand from the cane and playfully punched his son in a muscular bicep. “Go clean those stalls out, little boy. Do it right or this old man will show you a thing or two about what it means to be a real man.”

Jason laughed and tapped his dad gently on the shoulder as he walked by.

You’ve already shown me what it means to be a real man, he wanted to say, but didn’t. He didn’t have time for sentimental pauses in his day. There was too much work to do, too many stalls to clean out, too many hours to spend distracting himself from the hole Ellie had carved in his heart two days earlier outside the church.

***

The sight of her standing outside the sanctuary talking to her friend Lucy had taken his breath away. She’d cut her hair short. Gone were the dark, straight strands that had fallen down her back in a long braid since he had known her. Her hair was still straight but hit just below her ears now. curved along the smooth, delicate line of her jaw..

He ached to reach out, trace that line with his fingertips, slide his hand behind her head and kiss away the distance between them.

The open laughter she’d been sharing with Lucy a few seconds earlier faded the moment her eyes met his. She looked away immediately, but in that brief moment he’d watched her face transform from cautious joy to closed down indifference.

He should have taken it as a sign to continue into the sanctuary and leave her alone. Unfortunately, he’d never been good at listening to others, or to his own intuition.

He slid his eyes from her to Lucy, now standing in awkward silence, her head tipped toward the floor. “Good morning, Lucy. Having a nice weekend?”

Lucy glanced up, flashed a tight smile. “Yes. I am. You?”

“It’s been okay.”

What was he going to say? It’s been torture, miserable, like being stranded in the middle of a raging sea during a storm without a lifeboat? It was true, but it wasn’t exactly the pre-church banter most people engaged in. Not to mention it was none of Lucy’s business how his weekend had really been. He had a feeling she was part of the problem, part of the reason Ellie had been ignoring his calls.

Lucy’s hazel eyes darted to Ellie, then back to Jason. She let out a quick, quiet breath, chasing it with, “Well, I’m going to go find a seat, so . . . yeah.” She leaned her head close to Ellie, her hand on her forearm, as if they were sharing a secret. It was futile. Jason still heard her, her whisper echoing in the now empty lobby. “You going to be okay?”

Ellie nodded, flashed a quick, obviously tense smile. “I’ll meet you inside.”

Lucy nodded back, looked at Jason, opened her mouth to say something, then closed it again. She looked away, turning her attention to Frank Troutman standing in the entryway with the bulletins. Frank smiled, handed Lucy a bulletin, and she cast one more look at Ellie over her shoulder before going inside.

Ellie bent her ankle back and forth, looked past him out into the parking lot, both hands hugging her Bible to her chest like a shield against him.

“I miss you.”

The words flew out of him before he even realized he was saying them out loud.

Something flashed in her eyes.

An emotion he couldn’t read.

He couldn’t read her. At all. He wasn’t used to that, to her closing herself off to him.

Her hands hugged the Bible closer against her.

“I miss you too.”

The words were what he’d wanted to hear, but not in the monotone, emotionless way she said it. Her voice was detached, a thousand miles away from meaning anything. Her gaze moved from side to side, focusing anywhere but on him.

She’d never talked to him in that tone, at least not before the afternoon she’d overheard him talking to Alex.

The memory of that moment had sent a chill straight through him. He felt the same heaviness as that day, the same all-consuming desire to pull her close; to tell her again how sorry he was, how wrong he was to wait so long to tell her the truth.

“The service is about to start.” Her voice silenced his internal dialogue. “We’ll talk later, okay?”

He grabbed on to her words. “When will we talk? I’ve been trying to talk to you for almost four months.”

A muscle in her jaw jumped. Her eyes met his, darkened emotion smoldering there. “I said I needed time, Jason.”

“I know what you said but — “

“We need a break, Jason, okay?”

“We’ve been taking a break.”

I need a break. A long break.”

He could hear the strain in her voice, the struggle to keep her tone low and even. The doors to the sanctuary closed as the worship team started the music. She gestured curtly toward the glass doors leading outside and darted past him, shoving the front doors open. He followed, taking a step back when she swiveled to face him, eyes flashing. There was no mistaking her emotion now.

It was pure rage.

Let her be angry. 

He wanted answers, and he wasn’t waiting anymore to get them.

“How long of a break? A few days? A couple of weeks? Months? Permanently?”

She raised her hand, palm out, against the assault of questions, peppering at her like bullets out of a howitzer.

“I don’t know. Stop asking me.” Each word snapped out of her like sharped-edge glass cutting at his skin.

 She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and let it out again. Her expression had softened when she met his gaze again.

“I don’t know who I am anymore, Jason. Who I ever was, really. I built my identity around you, around us, for so long and now . . .”

The wall was up again. Her tone flat as she lowered her gaze to the asphalt of the parking lot. “You’re not who I thought I was. Nothing feels the same. I don’t feel the same. I need to see what life is like without you for a while, decide if —”

He didn’t even try to hide his anger. “Decide what? Is this like college again? When you wanted a break? Whatever that meant.”

“I didn’t want a break. You wanted the break, Jason.”

Her recollection skills were clearly lacking. He scoffed, pointed his finger at her accusingly. “No. You said we should take a break and figure out if we were supposed to be together. That if we missed each other, that would tell us what we needed to know. I didn’t want a break, Ellie. You did. You were the one who couldn’t make up you mind. And now you can’t again. Apparently, I’m the only one of us that doesn’t have to ask if we’re meant to be together. I know we’re supposed to be together.”

Her cheeks flushed. “I only suggested the break, Jason.” She folded her arms tight across her chest. “You were the one who seemed thrilled with the idea. Obviously you didn’t miss me that much or you wouldn’t have — ”

“No.” The rumbling timbre of his protest echoed across the parking lot. “No way. That is not fair. I told you what happened. I told you how I thought you didn’t want me. How lonely and messed up I was in college. I told you how upset I was after that night, how I — .”

Her words spilled over his, drowning them out. She tossed her arms to the side. “You told me all that seven years after the fact. Seven years, Jason. I mean, if you hid that from me, what else did you hide from me? What else are you hiding from me now?”

Jason shook his head, hands on hips, looked at the black surface under his feet to calm the storm raging inside him. An ant climbed toward a crack in the asphalt, running along an uneven line of tar. He focused on it, on the freedom it had, and for a split second considered stomping the life out of it to keep it from having the freedom he couldn’t. He lifted his eyes back to hers, releasing the ant from his judgment, killing his own peace with what he said next.

“There’s nothing else, Ellie, but if you don’t feel you can trust me then fine.” His voice trembled under the effort to rein in the rage. “Take your break or whatever it is you’re calling it. Throw away everything we’ve had together for the last ten years. Walk away. If that’s what you want, do it.”

A breeze caught her hair, whipped a few strands across her face. She didn’t push them away. “Jason, don’t be a jerk. How did you think I was going to take all this? Finding out the man I thought saved himself for me was sleeping around in college behind my back?”

He tossed his arms up, slammed them down against his legs. “I wasn’t doing anything behind your back. You’d broke up with me. And I wasn’t sleeping around!” His voice thundered. He took two steps toward her and held up a shaking finger a few inches from her face. “It was one mistake. One stupid mistake. I told you that.”

She met his rage, gaze for gaze, harsh words for harsh words, slapping his hand away from her. “If it was so stupid, why didn’t you tell me when we started dating again? Why did you wait?”

He stepped back, laughed darkly. “What like how you told me about going out with my cousin? Oh wait. You didn’t tell me about that. I found that out from Brad.”

He didn’t miss the fleeting flash of surprise in her eyes before a facade of calm concealed it. She regarded him with a well-practiced poker face, saying nothing.

He didn’t back down. “Yeah. That’s right. You had secrets too, so maybe I should be worried about what you’re not telling me.”

She suddenly gulped back a sob, tears filling her eyes. When she stepped back from him she raised her arm in front of her face, as if to protect herself, as if he’d physically slapped her. In one quick move she pivoted, her back to him, walking swiftly across the parking lot toward her car. He chased after her, reached out, grasped her around her upper arm.

The growl in her voice when she wrenched free stunned him. “Don’t touch me.”

She sucked in a ragged breath, swiped the back of her hand across her tear soaked face, and worked at the key in the door of her car, her entire body trembling.

Panic curled up into his throat, threatening to choke the air out of him. His head felt like a hot-air balloon and the earth intangible around him. “Ellie, we can work this out. Don’t do this.”

She wouldn’t look at him. The lock clicked open, and she slid the key out, flung the door open. Her grief-stricken expression as she looked at him from the driver’s seat dissolved his anger into desolation.

“I don’t think we can, Jason. I really don’t. It’s like I don’t even know you, like everything you are, that we were, was a lie.”

The slam of the door reverberated in his ears long after she closed the door and sped away. He didn’t know how long he stood there, his mind numb from a conversation that had reeled out control.

When he turned toward the church, he saw Molly ashen faced, arms hugged around her as if to protect her from the truth she’d overheard, the truth of who her older brother really was.



Educationally Speaking: Homeschooling Updates

For those who might be new to my blog, I started homeschooling my children a couple of years ago, so our homeschooling journey is unrelated to the reason others are homeschooling these days. That isn’t to say our experience is more valid than others, this is simply an explanation of our homeschooling journey.

My situation may be unique to some homeschooling parent since I am teaching a Kindergartner and eighth grader, but I also know many parents teaching ages from preschool up to 12th depending on how many children they have. So, really, it’s not that unique, I suppose, but it is a challenge for me at times.

What is interesting about teaching these two age groups is that we can overlap some of our lessons, especially for the Kindergartner who can often learn from her brother’s science and history lessons, as long as the history isn’t about wars or genocide, which is obviously a little too heavy for her young brain.

What we learned last month or are doing this month. The Boy:

History

We are continuing to use Notgrass History’s From Adam to Us for history.


This past month we mainly focused on Rome and its rulers, including Julius Caesar. I’m sure I studied Julius Caesar at some point during high school or college, but I don’t remember a lot about it (I’ve mentioned before that my schools seemed to only discuss the landing of the Mayflower, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War and then start back over at the beginning of the next school year and review those same topics again. I swear we never even learned about the World Wars or Korea or Vietnam.). It was very interesting to me to learn how Julius Caesar came to power and that he was a general before he was declared “dictator for life” by the Roman Senate.

I found an interesting video on Caesar and this part of history, but my son spent the time watching it criticizing how they portrayed Roman weaponry and battles (not bloody enough for him apparently).

In February we also learned about Alexander the Great, the Great Wall of China and Judas Maccabeus.

I have started creating my own quizzes for The Boy’s history lessons, which is fun for me because I am able to read over the chapters and learn along with him. Notgrass may offer quizzes for this unit, but I didn’t see one so creating my own allows me to make the quiz as difficult or easy as I like. Plus it means I am reading the chapters along with him and learning more myself.

English

The Boy and I finished reading  Lord of The Flies for English and we used a supplemental curriculum I ordered off of Christianbook to focus on vocabulary and specific plot points and literary analysis. The curriculum was ordered from Christanbook, but it is not strictly Christian curriculum, for anyone who is curious. It provides quizzes for every two chapters and an exam for when the book is finished.

The Boy did not enjoy discussing the symbolism of the book. He said something along the lines of it being a depressing book and he didn’t want to analyze all the reasons why. I’m summarizing his complaints, so I may not have quoted him accurately (in case he one day reads this and says, “I never said that!!!” Which he often does when I repeat things he has said.)

I plan to take a week break and focus on some Mark Twain short stories or excerpts, and then move on to To Kill A Mockingbird for April and May. I had considered reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn but I think The Boy might appreciate a break from the challenging language for the rest of the school year since we read Silas Marner in the beginning of the school year. One of the most fun aspects of homeschooling has been able to read classic books I either read in school or wanted to and books that public schools are trying to ban because many have lost the critical thinking needed to understand we can learn from books even if they have words or ideas in them we don’t agree with.

The Boy is also completing assignments from Wordly Wise for English, which focuses on vocabulary. We started grammar lessons from Saxon again this week. Don’t get me started on Grammar. I know that some grammar obsessed people are thinking, “we won’t because your grammar is atrocious”, but good grief some is the terms that are in this grammar book are insane and I have never heard of them and could not identify them in a sentence to save my life. Apparently I never needed to know all that for my 14-years writing as a reporter or my 43 years of life. I am convinced that grammar teachers teach children grammar so those children can become future grammar teachers and they just repeat the cycle over and over. People don’t even use half that stuff as adults and could care less what an adaptive phrase is. Oops. I guess I got myself started on grammar. (Also, do note that I  understand the importance of grammar. I also understand the importance of not over doing it and going so in depth your brain explodes.)

Math

For Math he is continuing CTC Math and we have discovered additional testing and worksheets that I hadn’t noticed before. He is not appreciative of this latest development because it means more work for him. One issue with this online program is that if he misses one question it brings his grade down and if he misses two he can end up with an “F”. He can make these mistakes by hitting a number by accident. So far, doing the test again doesn’t seem to improve the grade but I am going to contact the site administrators and see if there is a glitch with that.

Economics

We are using Notgrass’ Exploring Economics for Economics and they include history and some Bible along with all the economic terms and history and analyzing. So far it is one of my son’s favorite subjects.

It isn’t his favorite subject this week because I am making him study five units for a unit exam at the end of the week. He is used to me allowing open book tests but I told him we are going to try studying the old fashioned way and doing tests that way too. He is not a fan of the old fashioned way.

Little Miss (Kindergarten)

History

Little Miss has her own history lessons about the time around The Revolutionary War and early American history. We use old episodes of Liberty Kids from YouTube to supplement her lessons. I do not have a specific history curriculum for her this year, but will next year. She also watches some of the videos we watch for her brother’s history lessons, if they are not too violent, or she listens along with Notgrass.

Science: We are doing a unit on deserts for the next couple of weeks and will be doing separate little lessons on some of the animals of the desert. This is a plan I am putting together on my own, but will include some reading, math, coloring, comprehension, and simply learning about the different kinds of deserts (colder and warmer ones).

English:

Little Miss is working her way through language arts curriculum from The Good and The Beautiful. I would say English is the most difficult for her in many ways because she seems to forget her letters and how to sound out words one day and remember it all again the next. I don’t know if it is she really doesn’t remember how to do it all or if she is just showing her stubborn streak (which she totally gets from her father’s side of the family) and pretending she doesn’t remember how to do any of it. Either way, it makes me want to scream some days so teaching her is also teaching me patience. Every day. All week long.



Math

Math is Little Miss’s thing. She loves it. She does not, however, always love doing it the way she is asked to do it. We are currently working with a curriculum from The Good and the Beautiful which utilizes manipulatives so the child can use some hands on activities to solidify not only numbers and how to count, but also how to recognize patterns and follow directions. The other day I asked her to use the wooden blocks the curriculum came with to build a stack of blocks the same way it was built in the photo. She did it differently and when I corrected her she flopped her hands at her side, flounced a small amount, and rolled her eyes up to the ceiling.

“Well, that’s not how I do it,” she huffed.

I told her it wasn’t about how she does it this time. The assignment was to follow the directions. She responded with another eye roll and arm flop so I finally completed the build for her and told her why it was right and hers had been wrong.

“That way is boooring,” she informed me.

A lot of what we do is “boooring” to her right now so I have skipped ahead in math to give her more of a challenge. That will only work if she does it the way she is asked to, but then again, letting her change things up can help her as well, as long as she comes up with the right answer.

The other day I skipped ahead to look for challenges and we stumbled on “odds and evens.” I asked her to wait to do the activity until I could figure out the right way to explain odd and evens to her. She barely listened when I did explain, interrupted me and started completing the activity on her own so apparently she didn’t even need me to explain what it meant. Her brain moves quit fast when it comes to mathematical concepts, which means she is absolutely nothing like her mother and a lot like her father, which is not a bad thing.

Science

Little Miss and The Boy both use The Good and the Beautiful’s Energy Unit. I teach them at the same time twice a week and we may increase that to three times a week for the remainder of our school year.

Art

We do art whenever and wherever but I try to encourage the youngest, at least, to do some form of art through painting, drawing, or crafts throughout the week.

This week I set up a meeting with our homeschool evaluator for the end of our school year. In our state we file an intent to homeschool letter with the school district we live in at the beginning of the school year. We also file an affidavit attesting to what we will teach our children throughout the year. Our state recently lowered the compulsory age for children to attend school to six, when it was previously eight. I think I have that last age correct.

Anyhow, because Little Miss turned 6-years old after the Sept. 1 deadline we did not have to file an intent to homeschool for her this year. Technically I didn’t even have to teach her this year because I don’t have to file an evaluation for her at the end of the school year (prior to July 1). Regardless I taught her last year and I am again teaching her this year. Last year we focused on preschool and kindergarten and this year we are focusing on kindergarten and branching into first grade.

I do have to file an evaluation for The Boy and he also has to take a standardized test, which he can do on the computer. I know the children are anxious for the school year to be over, but, alas, they still have about three months left so they will have to hang in there. Luckily our weather is warming up so at least they can do some of their work outside on the porch or even scrap part of that work for a couple of field trips.

Sunday Bookends: Her last Name Is Really Raisin? And Let’s See How Reading Non-Fiction Goes

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

What I’m Reading

Non-fiction has been the theme this week, to a point. I can only take small doses of non-fiction anymore and if I get too much by my two to three minutes of news viewing a day, then I don’t open the non-fiction books I have on my Kindle or in my hands. Speaking of Kindle, I’ll be buying a lot more of my non-fiction books as hardcopies in case Amazon decides they want to delete my books from my Kindle or cloud. A monopoly book company isn’t going to tell me what I can and can not read, thank you very much.

So, anyhow, in non-fiction, I started Jordan Peterson’s new book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life this week. It was released Tuesday.

I wouldn’t call myself a Peterson follower, but his intellect and ideas intrigue me. He’s not a Christian writer, though he references the Bible often, so I wouldn’t base my life strictly on all that he says. Still, he has some good points.

This book presents some challenges for the intellectual giant who faced some serious health issues with his wife and himself in 2019 and almost all of 2020. During a time when his daughter needed surgery outside of his country of Canada and his wife faced cancer, Peterson was already starting to suffer from the effects of an autoimmune issue he developed in 2017 from food and benzodiazepine his doctor prescribed to help with anxiety from the autoimmune condition. He’d also continued the benzodiazepine to help with the stress he was under from becoming a public figure when he stood up against a Canadian law aiming to force people to call people by the pronoun they said they wanted to be called by. Peterson felt personal freedoms were being stripped from people by laws being passed to say they had to refer to people by whatever pronoun they wanted. Students and others tried to get him fired and bam — his notoriety was off and running.

The side effects of the drugs, coupled with the rest of the stress Peterson was under caused his body, essentially, to fall apart and also threatened a mind that even his critics have called brilliant. Only in the last few months has Peterson been able to get back to writing, speaking, and presenting his ideas (which are not all political and not as extreme as some of his critics would like you to believe), mainly through finishing this book (the sequel to 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos) and starting a podcast. He has been unable to return to teaching or to treating patients. He was a clinical psychologist before all his health issues hit and while being a professor at the University of Toronto.

The second non-fiction book I am reading is by Ben Shapiro, a conservative commentator who I sometimes enjoy and who sometimes grates on me, depending on what topic he is rambling about.

Ben’s book, How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps, was written last year and focuses on the idea that the ability to hold civil disagreements, especially when it comes to politics, is disintegrating and that many want that disintegration to happen so that we never have actual discussions about what we disagree with, we simply pick sides, stand on our sides, and scream at each other. While we are screaming at each other we also try to “cancel” each other and tell anyone who doesn’t follow politics what they can and can not read, see, listen to, watch, or talk about. In other words, the world is out of control and Ben doesn’t like that and believes the rest of us shouldn’t either.

The book’s main point is that many of us have preconceived notions about each other based on politics and that’s not a good thing.

I’ll be reading more of the book this week to see what all Ben has to say.

I also hope to start a book by Steven Furtick that I’ve had in my Kindle for a while and didn’t realize it: Seven Mile Miracle.

I will, however, need to break up my non-fiction reading with some fiction so I am continuing Death Without Company by Craig Johnson and also started a light romance by Tari Farris called You Belong With Me.

Little Miss and I finished Stormy: Misty’s Foal this past week and started Sea Star by the same author (Marguerite Henry).

I also finished Lord of the Flies, which I was reading with The Boy for his English. He will probably finish it next week. His progress is broken up by me asking him to do various questions and chapter quizzes in the middle of his reading assignments.

I rambled about my feelings about the book and how different it was for me to read it as an adult than a 10th grader, last week on the blog.

 What I’m Watching

I was unnecessarily excited when I saw The Mallorca Files Season 2 pop up on Britbox last week. The excitement I felt either shows how sad my life is or how necessary it is for me to have something to drown out my depression. Actually, it demonstrates both. Either way, it turns out my husband must also have a sad life and the need to drown out depression because he was also excited and we watched two episodes of the six-episode series in one night. They usually offer more episodes, but filming was cut short because of You Know What.

I also continued to watch Agatha Raisin, a series about a woman in public relations who becomes an amateur detective in the small town she lives in. There was a movie before the series, which I discovered this week and now helps me understand why the first episode of the series simply seemed to start in the middle and not explain what other cases Agatha had helped the town and their bumbling police department with.

The show is okay but mainly features an annoying, pushy woman with no filter, wearing an annoying hair cut that resembles what some historians say Cleopatra wore, nosing around town, pushing her way into people’s business, and accusing everyone in the town of murder until she accidentally stumbles on the actual criminal.

My son and I joked that when new people move into town and Agatha accuses them of murder the rest of the people in town laugh. Then they assure the newcomer, “Oh, that’s Agatha. Don’t worry. You’re not a part of the town until she accuses you of murder.”

Despite our making fun of the show, I will most likely continue to watch it to give my brain a break from actually having to think too much. I finally paid attention to the beginning credits of the show and saw right before I published this that the show is based on a series of books with the same character, and in some instances by the same name of the episodes, by M.C. Beaton. I glanced at the beginning of one on Amazon and plan to buy one in the future.

On Sunday of last week, I took a DVD of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, a movie from 1948 with Cary Grant and Myrna Lloyd. Even The Boy laughed at it. It is a very funny movie for anyone who is looking for a laugh these days. It ages well because what Mr. and Mrs. Blandings go through to build a new house is spot on with what still happens today. The social commentary from the oldest daughter about the world is also hilarious because, again, it sounds so much like conversations many of us are having today.

I was surprised by the daughters talking back to their parents and jokingly asked my parents, who would have been 4 when this movie came out if they ever talked to their parents that way. I knew, the answer already, of course, but my mom’s wide eyes and head tilt, as if to say, “Are you serious right now?” was totally hilarious. Less hilarious was the fact my grandfather was abusive, which I was reminded of when my mom said, “Am I alive right now?” That obviously meant that if she had ever spoken to her father the way those children did, he would have whipped her into Sunday.

My dad never answered, but I am pretty sure his father would have smacked him pretty good if he had spoken back to him, based on the stories I heard about him. He was not, however, abusive like my other grandfather. A quick clarification: my maternal grandfather was abusive, but he later knew admitted he was wrong and did offer an apology to my grandmother, mother, and aunts before he passed from cancer in the late 1980s.

What I’m Listening To

This week I have been listening to a lot of Christian worship or Christian contemporary, including Cory Asbury and Danny Gokey. I also listened to some Brandon Lake, Needtobreathe and threw in some The Dead South just be eclectic and weird.

What’s Been Occurring

I love the weekly post idea that Erin at Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs, stole from Bella at Over the Tea Cups.

 Erin writes about her week as if we are all sitting around having a cup of tea (I’ll take herbal, please, Erin. I have a caffeine allergy, sadly. Don’t be afraid to slide a cookie over to me too.). 

I may adopt this idea as well and post it on Saturdays, but for now, I’ll keep my ramblings about my week to one post. I mean, how many posts about my boring life do you need to read a week? Well, a couple I suppose since I only write about my boring life on my blog. Ha!

Anyhow, on the subject of boring, our week was boring. We did school work, I went to the store once, we picked up some Subway, and I messed around with figuring out book promotion and reading up on improving my writing skills for fiction (and everything else). I publish my books for fun but if it brought in a little money on the side to support our family, that would be helpful. My husband says I will get better with each book I write. I hope he is correct on that front.

What I’ve Been Writing

Writing about book promotion is a good way to move into what I have been writing lately. I’ve already mentioned a couple of times on the blog that I published The Farmer’s Daughter last week. I don’t like to keep mentioning it because this blog isn’t about advertising or marketing. I do know some of you followed it, however, so I will mention that the final version of it is on sale on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Apple iBooks, Scribd, and Kobo.

If you have read the book and liked it, please feel free to leave a review on whatever source you read it from. Reviews help indie authors immensely.

I have been posting excerpts of The Farmers’ Sons on Fridays and this week I posted on Friday and another excerpt on Saturday.

Earlier in the week I:

 reviewed Sweeter by Jere Steele;

wrote about how God can fill in the gaps between our creativity and how it can benefit others;

wrote a parallel between how our world has gone mad and Lord of the Flies

So that is my week in review. How about you? Reading any good books? Watching anything good? Do anything exciting? Let me know in the comments.

Seeing the Reflection of A World Gone Mad in the Pages of Lord Of the Flies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you miss it yet?

Creatively and Faithfully Thinking: God Can Fill In the Gaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book review: Sweeter by Jere Steele

Description:

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

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

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

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

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

Some Good Reading And Listening For Your Week

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

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

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

Sharing a Lenten Prompt by Bettie G

Texas on Ice by Fuel For The Race

Breaking Free by Big Sky Buckeye

The Voyage of Bygone Days by Creative Wending

Scribble Pad by Alethea’s Mind

Living the Life by Mama’s Empty Nest

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

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

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

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

What’s been occurring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m Reading

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m Watching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



February recap in photos

I could write about my February but since we were snowed or iced in for almost the entirety of it, it would be pretty boring so I thought I would recap the month in photos instead.