Sunday Bookends: My Kindle returns home, Christmas in review, and novel breakthrough

Christmas is behind us and a new year awaits its start in only a few days, which seems completely impossible to me.

What a relief it was when my Kindle was back in my arms this week after we gave my mom her new Kindle. I, being the wonderful daughter I am, gave my mom my Kindle when hers died about a month ago, knowing we (our family, my brother and his wife, and my dad) could buy her a new one for Christmas. I’d had the Kindle since Black Friday so it was hard not to give it to her ahead of time, but my husband insisted, “It’s a Christmas gift so we will give it to her on Christmas.” So, I downloaded the app on my phone instead and squinted to read my books for a month.

Now, my Kindle is home, my mom’s new Kindle is set up, and all is right with the world. Or it was. For a day anyhow. Then I started a book that killed off yet another parent and in a car accident, so, yeah, the anxiety part of me will now worry about that happening to me while my kids are in the car.

The book Lead Me Home by Amy K. Sorrell is very well written but a bit hard to slog through the beginning part of, only because I don’t like tough subjects in books sometimes. The writing is so well done I was carried along through the character’s stories, despite my anxiety-ridden thoughts.

The story is about a minister who has lost his wife and is trying to navigate life raising his teenage daughter and keeping his church operational. I’m going to keep reading it, simply because I enjoy how she is developing the characters in a slow, methodical way, through short, yet still dense, chapters.

I’m also reading another Paddington book with my 5-year old and I laugh at the stories more than she does because the humor is a little subtle and also because, as I’ve mentioned before, she usually passes out five minutes into me reading it to her. We start a lot of the chapters over, but I don’t mind. The stories are cute and light, something I need these days.

As for what I’m watching, I watched a movie called The Way, Way Back with Steve Correll, Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, and Allison Janney. It was much better than I expected. It’s about an awkward 14-year old who goes on summer vacation to the beach with his mom and her boyfriend and his daughter. To avoid the overbearing boyfriend (Carrell) the boy visits a waterpark where he befriends Rockwell’s character and starts to climb out of his shell and learn how to stand up to the jerk boyfriend but also how to simply live and have fun.

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It was a subtle film, without the over the top drama, language or sex other films provide and I liked that. I also liked that the teen was portrayed as an actual teen, not the caricature of one. He left sentences unfinished, had no idea how to hold conversations and simply scowled in scenes where other movies would have thrown in unnecessary dialogue. I also liked that the characters were portrayed as flawed and broken but not crazy dysfunctional like in some movies. It’s a fairly clean movie, other than some odd sexual innuendos from Rockwell’s character and the occasional “b.s.”. I found it streaming on Amazon, but I’m sure it is streaming other places as well.

Our Christmas was quiet with a small gathering of my immediate family at my parents. My husband’s family doesn’t talk to us and my brother and his wife stayed home because my sister-in-law had to work so it was a quiet Christmas. We made cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve at the request of my daughter.

This was our second year of not having my Aunt Dianne at Christmas after she passed away four days after Christmas 2017. In fact, today is the anniversary of the day she passed away from a heart attack (we suspect anyhow) in my parent’s dining room. She was living with my parents at the time and had previously suffered two heart attacks, was on oxygen and had heart failure. It’s odd not having her around to laugh with and watch her enjoy Christmas so fully, which she did, every year. A few years before she passed away she had started making sausage balls for Christmas, which was something she used to make when she lived in North Carolina. Her final Christmas she could barely stand without gasping for breath and getting dizzy but she made sausage balls for the entire family, excited to do so.

Last year I made them in honor of her and they didn’t come out too bad. I tried it again this year and overcooked them, but my parents also made some which came out a little better and everyone was able to enjoy. I may try another couple of batches for New Years but I already know I won’t be able to make them as well as Aunt Dianne always did.

In case you’re wondering what sausage balls are, here is a simple recipe. The only difference for me is I substitute the regular Bisquick for gluten free Bisquick, since I have a corn allergy. (No. I’m serious. Don’t laugh. I’m actually allergic to .. sigh…corn. I’m a freak of nature.)

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Every year my dad hangs a star on a tree on his hillside, which can be seen from the main highway. It’s been something neighbors and friends look for but this year Dad wasn’t in the mood to lug the thing up the hill and weather and preparations to sell our house kept us from helping him, so it looked like the star wouldn’t be erected. But one day last week a family friend tagged me on Facebook (which I checked during the holiday season prior to my planned 30-day detox) and announced that the star was on the hillside.

It turned out my dad hadn’t climbed up the 12 feet he usually does with my husband’s help to nail it to the three (thankfully) but had propped it up instead.

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The star doesn’t look as big in the photo as it actually is. It’s probably five feet wide and 10 feet tall. The tree he usually hangs it on is dying, which means it can’t be nailed there anyhow. The tree is an Ash tree and our state has been overrun with Ash bores, a nasty little bug to take out the population of another nasty bug that was brought in to get rid of another nasty bug and … well, you get the idea. It’s a never-ending cycle that our federal and state environmental agencies don’t seem to learn from.

I wrote about the star in a blog post last year  and the year before as well.

I pushed through a wall in my novel this past week and that has opened up a lot of the story for me, which is coming at a good time because I’ve officially started a 30-day social media detox and finishing the novel will be something that will fill the days I feel the urge to use social media to check up on friends or family who no longer talk to me.

Yes, I know, leave the past behind and never look back. And, yes, I know, I’m pathetic.

I did well at not looking back last year when I did a detox but fell off the wagon this year so I’m climbing back on.  Wish me luck and feel free to follow my novel here on the blog or wait for it to come out as an ebook in the spring of 2019.

I’m also hoping to continue work on another novel and a Biblical-fiction novella I started more than six months ago. Wish me luck for finishing those as well.

So how did your Christmas or holiday time go? And what are you reading or watching? Let me know in the comments!

Some books to read, a lake to visit. The Week in Review.

Last weekend our family finally made it to Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen after months of saying we were going to do so, but one thing or another delaying us. We made it just at the colors are starting to come out on the leaves on the tree, which meant there was no swimming for the children at Klute Park but there were pretty views to see, as usual. There was also good food to eat at the Stonecat Cafe, overlooking the lake on the hill in Hector, N.Y.

I had a grassfed burger (didn’t eat the bun), with melted smoked cheese and bacon to top and homemade fries on the side. My husband had roasted potatoes and french toast with peach preserves spread over the top. Our daughter was supposed to have scrambled eggs and roasted potatoes, but she ate more of my fries than anything else. Our son had fish fingers (fried catfish) and also ate a large helping of my fries. When I asked if the fish was good, he said: “It’s okay, but it’s not as good as grandpa’s fish.” My dad bakes haddock in the oven with butter and lemon pepper from time to time. It is quite good. It’s so good, though, that I won’t even try it at home so I don’t hear the same type of comments.

Down at the lake, we walked to the end of an area of land that protrudes out and is covered with large boulders to take some photos and I ended up running into a man who was fishing, visiting the area from Bethlehem, Pa. He may, or may not, have been a little drunk and rambled on and on about his various travels and places he likes to visit and fish. I feel bad saying it but I was glad to finally pull away from him and head back with my family because his slightly tippy chattiness was making me nervous. Before I left him I did recommend another area of land along the lake near the pier and marina that might be better for fishing. He seemed to take me up on the offer as I watched him leave later, with his fishing gear in hand.

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IMG_0471IMG_6547IMG_6539After lunch and the visit to the lake, we headed to an apple orchard, where we intended to pick apples. I don’t know if it was the weather, the big meal, the slightly chilled breeze, or the relaxing view of the lake, but none of us were interested in walking among the trees to pick apples so we took the easy way out and bought some apples, pears, peach jam and seven homemade donuts at the orchard store instead. We also bought the children a caramel apple, since I think my son has had one in his entire 13 years and my daughter has never had one.

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My son said this was the Donald Trump caramel apple.

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When we got home there was a delivery from Christianbook on our porch and it was a stack of books I’d ordered during a “slightly imperfect” sale they’d had the week before. It was so fun to pull them all out and then pile them all around me and look through them while we watched The African Queen for our family movie night. Being able to hug so many books at one time was a very weird, thrilling feeling for me. I may need therapy. Among the books I bought were a couple of devotionals for children, a book of essays on writing by C.S. Lewis, a collection of essays by AW Tozer, two Christian fiction novels, a couple of children’s books for my youngest, and some educational books for her as well.

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I’ve been reading books slowly lately but managed to finally finish The Runaway Pastor’s Wife by Diane Moody and start another book by her, Memphis & Me. I started another Cat Who book, but this particular book in the series was written in the first person and I could tell by the first few paragraphs I wasn’t going to like it, not because I don’t like first-person stories (Memphis & Me is written in the first person and I’m loving it) but because Braun usually writes in third person and this threw me off. I don’t enjoy when an author changes the point of view in the middle of a series, even though it’s their prerogative to do so. As a writer, I’ve also learned I’m not a huge fan of writing in first-person, even though my first novel is in the first-person and I’m continuing the sequel in the same tense. What I like about third-person is being able to switch from the perspective of different characters throughout the book. With first-person everything has to be seen through the eyes of the main character, which can make it more challenging in some ways, but that challenge can also make writing it more fun.

Books I am planning to finish or start this week:

  • The Hobbit (I swear, I will finish this book!)
  • Of Windmills and War by Diane Moody
  • Murder at Cherry Hills by Paige Sleuth
  • Memphis & Me by Diane Moody

Ramblings from the blog for the last couple of weeks included:

So, how about you? What have you been up to? What good (or even bad) books are you reading? Share with me in the comments!
This post is part of the Sunday Salon. Check out more weekly posts (centered mainly around books that bloggers are reading) at Readerbuzz’s blog.

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