Sunday Bookends: My husband is a speed reader, finally enjoying Fellowship of the Ring, a DNF for Anne, and working on Gladwynn’s book

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays, I ramble about what’s been going on, what the rest of the family and I have been reading and watching, and what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.

What I/we’ve been Reading

It took until around Chapter 9, but I finally got into Fellowship of the Ring. Or it finally picked up, whichever. I mean, I guess I liked it before then but a character I remember from the movies showed up around Chapter 9 and that’s when things started to really pick up. Now I’m moving through it much faster and would love to be able to finish it by the end of the week, but I’m not sure I will. I have enjoyed listening to it some of the time on Audible and reading it part of the time. Friday night I sat on the back porch and read a couple of chapters of it, which took quite a while since the chapters are so long.

I also started reading Death of a Poison Pen by M.C. Beaton. It’s a Hamish Macbeth Mystery and takes place in Scotland. It’s a much lighter read than Fellowship of the Ring so I’m using it to break up the old style of Tolkien’s writing but I will probably focus on FOTR this week because I do want to know what happens. Yes, I did watch the movie but I sort of glazed over after hour two and got a bit lost. I’d rather read it.

I finally gave up on Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery. It was terribly depressing and I once heard a reader say life was too short to read a book you don’t enjoy so I finally put it back on the shelf. I’ll try some of the other books in the series at another time.

Little Miss and I are reading On The Other Side of the Hill by Roger Lea MacBride. Some nights we are reading The Miss Piggle Wiggle Treasury.

The Boy is reading Fellowship of the Ring.

The Husband was on vacation this week and even with taking kids to appointments, washing dishes, mowing the lawn, and helping to take care of a sick dog he managed to read six books and start a seventh.

The books he read:

The Infernals by John Connelly

Out of Range by CJ Box

The Scared Stiff by Donald Westlake

Bye-Bye, Baby by Ace Atkins

Number One is Walking by Steve Martin

Standing by the Wall by Mick Herron

The one he is reading now: Don’t Ask by Donald Westlake

What’s Been Occurring

I wrote yesterday about our drama last week with Zooma the Wonder Dog. You can read about it in this post.

You can also see some of our photos from the week there but I will share a few here too.

What We watched/are Watching

Little Miss and I found two other Mary Berry series on Tubi on the Roku this week so we watched those episodes throughout the week.

I watched My Favorite Wife for my Spring of Cary feature with Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and decided it was not my favorite Cary movie.

An Affair to Remember is up for this week.

The Husband and I watched Oceans 11 this week. The original with the Rat Pack etc. That was some ending. Whew.

We also watched a super creepy episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents with Dick York from Bewitched. Yikes. He was a very good actor and very underrated.

We also started Carefree with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but both had to head to bed for some sleep so we will finish it later.

I also watched a few art videos and a couple of YouTubers this week but had to take a break from the YouTubers as some of them grate on me because after a bit they all start to sound the same. They talk about the same books and wear the same clothes and skip in the same fields and it is starting to get a bit weird. I’m sure I’ll still watch a few of them, including Forgotten Way Farms, which is different from all the other “Young Woman Reading Cottage Core Style Books and Filming Herself Wearing Old Clothes and Skipping through A Field of Flowers.”

What I’m Writing

I worked on finishing Gladwynn Grant Gets Her Footing every day this last week and hope to have it finished this upcoming week. You can pre-order it here:

It is coming out July 18th now instead of June 20th.

On the blog I shared:

What I’m Listening To

I am listening to an audiobook of Fellowship of the Ring and other times I am reading the book.

Blog Posts I Enjoyed This Past Week

Big Sky Buckeye, God’s quiet place:

Breath of Hallelujah: Pascha At Holy Trinity Cathedral Chicago

Now it’s your turn

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

Fiction Friday: Road to Bethlehem. Guest post, children’s author Lesley Barklay

Children’s author, or just author in general, Lesley Barklay provided me with a chapter of her book, Road to Bethlehem for today’s Fiction Friday.

Road to Bethlehem is part of the Bible Adventurers series for children.


‘Dear God’, Hannah prayed. ‘I wish I knew what it was like on that first Christmas morning . . .’

When Hannah goes to bed on Christmas Eve, the last thing she expects is to wake up in a dusty shed with her brother and a chicken. With no time to search for their parents, Joseph and Mary take the children with them on the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Will they reach the town in time? And how will Hannah and Joshua ever get home?

A delightful story about the first Christmas.

You can find more info about Lesley and her work on her social media sites: Instagram @authorlesleybarklay and Facebook:

Road to Bethlehem – Chapter 1

The first thing Hannah noticed was the strange smell. Had Mummy left the window open? Was there a sheep in the front yard? Then, she heard the noises.


     A rooster? She stirred sleepily. We dont have a rooster any more. When she rolled over, her hand touched something strange. Something scratchy. What? Her eyes opened. She froze as she took in the small, dark room. Where am I?

     “Mummy?” she called. “Mummy?”


     Hannah sat up and looked around to find Joshua sitting on the far side of the room, panic in his eyes. She ran to her brother, flinging her arms around his neck.

     “Where are we?” she whimpered. “Where’s Mummy?”

     “I don’t know.” Joshua sounded scared too.

     A shuffling noise made them cling to each other more tightly. Then a brown chicken jumped out of the shadows.

     “Argh!” Hannah shrieked. She clutched Joshua tightly.

     Everything was silent for a moment as the chicken regarded the intruders and then gave—almost—a little shrug and started pecking at the straw. Josh laughed. After a second, Hannah joined in. It was a little funny, being scared by a chicken.

     A low voice singing made them both jump to their feet. “Mummy!” they called as they ran out of the small door and straight into a young woman. They flung their arms around her, clinging frantically.

     “Mummy, we didn’t know where you were,” Hannah said.

     “We thought we were lost,” Josh said.

     It took a moment to notice the woman was not hugging them back. Another second, and they realised that this woman had a baby in her tummy. Hannah and Josh looked up, and suddenly saw that she was not their mother at all! She was short, like Mummy, and she had brown hair, but the similarities ended there. This young woman had dark skin, dark eyes, and dark hair covered by a brown veil. And she looked young, like a high school student.

     “Children?” she said with a strange accent. “I am sorry, but I am not your mother.”

     Hannah and Josh let go of the woman. Hannah’s eyes blurred as tears started to fall.

     Josh squeezed her hand so tightly it hurt, and made the face he always made when he was trying not to cry. He opened his eyes really wide, and pinched his lips together.

     “Oh children, do not cry. It will be all right. We will find your mother. Are you hungry? Have you eaten? Why don’t you come with me and I will get you some food?”

     Hannah looked at Josh, and he looked at her. Mummy and Daddy always said that they should never go with strangers, but they were lost and scared, and this woman seemed kind. Mummy did say that if they were ever lost, they should find a policeman, or a shopkeeper, or another mummy to help. Surely having a baby in your tummy counted?

     “I’m hungry,” Josh said slowly.

     “Me too,” Hannah said.

     The woman seemed to take this as consent, because she put down the bucket of grain for the chickens and waved for the children to follow her. Arriving at her house, they found it was like nothing they had ever seen before. It was small, and dark. The roof was very low. The floor was made out of dirt.

     “Come, children, sit,” the woman said, pointing to a low wooden table, with cushions on the ground around it. Still holding hands, Hannah and Joshua sat obediently.

     The girl put a strange-looking bread roll in front of them, and broke it in two with her hands. “I have a little olive oil, if you would like.”

     Hannah bit her lip, trying not to cry. This bread didn’t look like the bread that Mummy bought, and Mummy used olive oil in cooking, not for eating.

     “No thank you,” Joshua said.

     Hannah shook her head.

     Joshua looked at the bread for a moment. “Do you have any peanut butter?”

     “Or white bread?” Hannah added.

     The girl shook her head. “I don’t know what peanut butter is, and I have never seen white bread.”

     “That’s okay,” Hannah said, and bravely took a bite of the grainy bread. The texture scratched her throat. She coughed when she swallowed.

     “Here, let me get you some water.” The girl went to a clay jug and poured water into two brown mugs. Hannah’s finger caught on the rough edges as she traced the edge of the mug. It looked homemade.

     The girl sat down across from them. “Now, tell me why you were in my shed. Are you here for the census? Where are your parents? Where are you from? Your clothing is so strange.”

     Hannah blinked at all the questions. Her mind fixed on the one word she didn’t understand. “Census? What’s a census?”

     A shadow crossed the woman’s face. “The Emperor, Caesar Augustus, has called a census. Everyone must travel to their family’s birthplace to register and pay the tax. I imagine that is why your parents brought you here. They didn’t talk to you about it?”

     Joshua looked like he was thinking hard, so Hannah decided to ask the question that had been on her mind since they met the woman. “What’s your name?”

     “Oh, how rude of me,” the woman said. “My name is Mary. What are your names?”

     “I’m Hannah and this is Joshua.”

     “What beautiful names. Like Hannah and Joshua in the scriptures.”

     “Yes,” Hannah said excitedly. “Joshua is like Joshua who led Israel when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, and I’m Hannah like—” Here she stumbled. What was the story again? Mummy had told her, but it was so long ago that she didn’t remember.

     “Like the Hannah who prayed for a child?” Mary asked.

     “Yes, that’s right.”

     “And you’re like Mary, the mother of baby Jesus,” Joshua stared at Mary’s swollen stomach.

     Mary’s hands dropped to cradle her bump. Her mouth fell open. “What—what did you say?”

     In her excitement, Hannah didn’t notice her new friend’s dismay. “You know, in the Bible? The angel told Mary she was going to have a baby boy who would be the Son of God and save the world from their sins.”

     Mary’s face paled as she stood. “How could you know that?”

     Joshua looked curiously around the room, then back at Mary’s face, then around the room again.

     “Hannah,” he said quietly.

     “What, Josh?”

     “I think this might be the Mary,” Joshua said.

     “What do you mean?”

     “I think we’re in Nazareth. I think the baby in Mary’s tummy is Jesus,” Joshua said.

     Hannah’s eyes went huge. “Seriously? Are you the Mary in the Bible? Did you see an angel?”

     Mary hesitated, watching the children like they might be ghosts. “I don’t know this Bible you speak of,” she said finally. “But yes, I did see the angel Gabriel. He told me not to be frightened, that I had been chosen by God to bear his Son. When I told my family and my betrothed, no one believed me. Joseph nearly divorced me.”

     “Until he had that dream from God,” Joshua interrupted.

     “Yes,” Mary said. “Even though he married me to preserve my reputation, the other women still laugh at me when I go to the well. How is it possible that you know all this?” She stared at their clothing once again.

     Hannah squirmed self-consciously in her pink princess nightie. At least Joshua’s shark pyjamas had long sleeves.

     “Are you angels too?” Mary asked.

     “No!” Joshua said.

     Hannah stood up and did a little pirouette, almost falling over. “But I would make a good angel.”

     Mary laughed. “I’m sure you would, little one.”

     “Or a ballerina,” she added, but that made Mary look confused again so Hannah sat down, feeling the tears return. For a moment she had almost forgotten that she missed Mummy.

     Mary sat beside Hannah and placed an arm around her shoulder. “If you are not angels, and you are not here for the census, then why are you here?”

     “I don’t know,” said Josh. “But I think we have travelled here from the future.”

     “I asked God what the first Christmas would be like, and then we woke up here. Maybe he answered my prayer.”

     “Of course,” said Joshua. “Time machines aren’t real, so a miracle is the only explanation that makes sense.”

     “But how will we get home to Mummy?” Hannah asked. “We can’t stay here, and she’ll be so worried about us!”

     “I know,” Mary said. “I shall take you to the town gates to see the elders. They will know what to do.”

     “Wait,” said Josh. “If God brought us here, then no one else can really help us except God. Maybe we should pray that he will send us home.”

     “Good idea, Josh,” Hannah agreed.

     Hannah reached out for Joshua’s hand then closed her eyes.

     “Dear God,” Joshua said in a sweet, clear voice. “Please take us home to our Mummy and Daddy now. They will be worried about us, and we are a little bit scared. Amen.”

     Hannah cracked her eyes open. Nothing had changed. She added her voice to her brother’s prayers.

     “Dear God,” she said. “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t really want to see the first Christmas anymore. I just want to go home. Can you please send us back? Amen.”

     She waited a beat before opening her eyes. Her lower lip trembled when she saw they had not moved.

     “It’s all right.” Mary patted Hannah’s arm. “If, as you say, God has brought you here, then He will send you home when He is ready, and not before. You can stay with Joseph and me. We will look after you for as long as God keeps you here.”

     A sense of peace descended on Hannah’s heart. Mary was right. God must want them here for a reason. She still missed Mummy and Daddy, of course, but she was safe. Now that she thought about it, it was rather exciting. She might get to see the very first Christmas!

     “Okay,” Hannah said.

     “Thank you,” Josh added.

     “I can only act as God leads me,” Mary said. “And for some reason I feel that he has led me to you. Now, who wants to help me feed the chickens?”

     “Me!” they both said excitedly.

     “We have three chickens at home,” Hannah added. “Brownie, Book-Book, and Cranky. Brownie’s the brown one.”

     “You named your chickens?” Mary said.

     “Yes, of course. Don’t your chicken have names?”

     Mary gave them a confused look. “No, they don’t.”

     The children helped Mary with chores all day long. They fed the chickens, cleaned, and watched Mary prepare the meal. The food looked strange, but they did not complain about what she put in front of them. Hannah wrinkled her nose. The food here was different, but she preferred to eat than go hungry.

Fiction Friday: Guest post with author Chelsea Michelle – a free chapter of Hours We Regret

This week I don’t have anything to share for Fiction Friday so I invited some authors to help me out and A.M. Heath is one of them!

This week Anita is sharing a chapter of Hours We Regret by Chelsea Michelle, her pen name with fellow author Amanda Tero. This novella, which you can get for free (see the link after the excerpt) is a Watson Twins Mystery and is listed in Christian Fiction as a cozy mystery.

And just a heads up for those of you who know about my next book, Gladwynn Grant Gets Her Footing – I’ve pushed back the release date by a month so I will have time to send the book out to beta readers and editors and give them more time to help me polish up the book before I release it all to you.

You can pre-order it here:

Now, without further ado, a description of Hours We Regret.

Hours We Regret Description: 

A serial killer. A dangerous road. And a cell phone going straight to voicemail…

A string of murders happening just across the state line makes residents of idyllic Maple Springs nervous. While Michelle Watson is obsessed with finding the killer’s pattern, her twin Chelsea disagrees with her involvement.

Reading the victims’ stories makes Michelle face the decisions she’s been trying to ignore. Determined to live her life to the fullest, she makes an innocent choice that takes a life-threatening turn.

When Michelle stops answering her phone, Chelsea can’t ignore the feeling that something is wrong. Very wrong. With friends and family, Chelsea sets out to find her sister, all while questioning if her faith is strong enough to weather the trial. 

Time is running out and the last thing Chelsea wants to do is file a missing person’s report for her twin.

An excerpt

Chapter 1


“He’s getting closer,” I muttered, staring down at the new dot on the map. 

“Who is?” my sister asked, walking into the kitchen from behind me. 

I froze. 

Chelsea poured a glass of chocolate milk. “Michelle?” 

With a deep breath, I shoved the newspaper into her line of vision. 

“Not another one.” 

I tried to swallow past the lump in my throat. “Yep.” Lord be with her family. My heart yearned to say so much, but it too was clogged. 

Over my shoulder, Chelsea groaned. 

I closed my eyes and waited for her rebuke. 

“A map? You made a map of this man’s killings?” 

“I wanted to see if there was a pattern.” I turned to face her, staring back into a face identical to my own. 

She was getting ready for work, so she wore the cute striped blouse I ached to get my hands on and an understated knee-length pencil skirt. 

“What kind of pattern were you expecting to find?” 

I shrugged, staring back at the map. “I don’t know. It was just a hunch I wanted to trace out. There was an episode of Diagnosis Murder where the bomber was spelling his name across the town.” 

“That’s sick.” She took a long drink. 

“So far they have that much in common.” My eyes bounced from dot to dot, but there seemed to be no rhyme or reason for where the serial killer struck. 

His victims were all women he had run off the road, but I couldn’t dwell on the other known factors of what they had in common. 

“We need to put trackers on our phones,” I muttered under my breath. 


I angled away, reaching for a bagel to toast. “Yeah, and buy some mace.” I snapped my fingers, spinning around to Chelsea. “And code words. We need code words.” 

She stared at me blankly. “Michelle, we are not getting code words.” 

“Why not?” I split my bagel and dropped it into the toaster before leaning against the counter and crossing my arms. “They could come in handy someday. You never know.” 

She rolled her eyes. “One: Because I refuse to live in fear. Two: I refuse to entertain you as you live in fear. And three: I would know if something was off. Few people are as in sync as we are.” 

She had to bring up the innate twin connection as her argument. I chewed the inside of my lip as the toaster popped. “We can at least start with the trackers and the mace, and discuss the code words later.” 

Chelsea stared at me. I knew what was coming even as she opened her mouth and said, “Psalm 37 says, ‘Do not fret because of evildoers.’”

I wracked my mind for the rest of the passage. “It also says, ‘Trust in the Lord and do good.’” I made sure to emphasize the last part. 

Chelsea raised an eyebrow. “It also says ‘Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way… who brings wicked schemes to pass.’”

My mind scrambled. I was not going to let Chelsea win this argument. It wasn’t right to just turn a blind eye to wickedness. I grinned and paraphrased James 4:17, “To know to do good and not do it is sin.”

Chelsea opened, then closed her mouth.

I grinned in triumph.

“Look,” Chelsea said with a sigh. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t help to work against evil. I just don’t think we need to insert ourselves when it isn’t in our path—when in reality the only thing we’re doing is worrying, not actively helping.”

I waved toward the counter. “I have a map. I am actively helping.”

Chelsea picked up her purse and keys and gave me an incredulous look. “Do you even realize how that sounds?”

“Ummm … Like I’m brilliantly inserting myself.”

She rolled her eyes. 

“And before you tell me that it’s not my job, let me remind you that it’s the job of every citizen to help find him. They said, and I quote, ’If you know anything or see anything suspicious please call.’” I pointed again to the counter. “I’m looking for suspicious patterns … and trying to keep us from being victims in the process.”

She let out a sigh. “You know that’s not how it works. I’m gonna be late for work. Bye.” She started for the door. 

“You can’t be serious, Sea. You’re really going to leave without giving me a goodbye hug? This could be the last time you see me, you know.” 

That earned me another famous glare, the I’m-older-than-you, please-be-sensible type of glare that I was always getting from her. “I refuse to live in fear with you, Michelle.” She opened the door.

I yelled back, “I refuse to live in denial with you, Chelsea!” 

“Ha.” She shut the door. 

I scurried across the room and flung the door open, yelling for all the neighborhood to hear, “I love you!”

She turned around, her face a pretty shade of red and silent laughter bubbling out. 

I waved over my head at Ms. Rhonda, our neighbor, who paused her weeding to wave a dirty garden-gloved hand back at us both. “Morning girls.” 

“Morning, Ms. Rhonda,” we said together. 

“Your roses are still looking great,” I said. 

Chelsea walked closer to her car. 

I kept an eye on her as I smiled back at Ms. Rhonda. 

“Did you not hear me, Chelsea?” 

“I heard you,” she said. “I’m going to be late for work.” 

“Not until you say it back.” 

She pinched her lips together. 

I angled my chin in equal stubbornness. 

But time was on my side because Chelsea hated to be late. After only a moment’s stare off she caved. “I love you too.” 

“What? I can’t hear you.” 

“I love you too,” she said a little louder. 

“See? Was that so hard?” 

“Some days it is.” 

I stuck my tongue out at her. 

She laughed and got in her car. 

I went back inside, the trail of the serial killer mocking me from the kitchen counter. 

After spreading cream cheese on my bagel, I scooped up the paper and brought it with me to the table. 

The new victim was twenty-four, which remained in the twenty to thirty-five range he seemed to favor. 

A chill ran down my spine. We were twenty-six and well within that range. 

The article spelled out how beloved she had been to her community. She was saving up for a trip to France but never got the chance to take it. 

Tears burned behind my eyes. So much life was left for her to live, but he selfishly stole it from her. 

Too sick to finish my breakfast, I threw it away and took a shower. 

Author Bio and a Link to the novella:

Christian authors, Amanda Tero and A.M. Heath bring you faith-based, cozy mysteries under Chelsea Michelle. 

Amanda Tero grew up attending a one-room school with her eleven siblings—and loved it! She also fell in love with reading to the point her mom withheld her books to get her to do her chores. That love of reading turned into a love of writing YA fiction. Amanda is a music teacher by day and a literary guide by night, creating stories that whisk readers off to new eras and introduce them to heroic but flawed characters that live out their faith in astonishing ways.

Visit Amanda Tero at 

A.M. Heath is the author of the 2022 Selah Finalist, Painted Memories. She enjoys writing stories that entertain while feeding the soul in contemporary and historical settings. 

When away from her desk, she’s a faithful member of her local church where she teaches a ladies’ Sunday School class. She is happily married and raising four kids while embracing the small-town lifestyle and tightly woven family bonds. 

Visit A.M. Heath at

Read Hours We Regret for FREE!

Follow Chelsea Michelle on YouTube:

Or chat mysteries with them in their Facebook Group:

Sunday Bookends: Finding a YouTuber I thought I lost, finishing books (someday), still working on the book I’m writing

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays, I ramble about what’s been going on, what the rest of the family and I have been reading and watching, and what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.

What I/we’ve been reading

I am still reading Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie because I worked on my book a lot last week instead of reading it. I hope to finish the book this week.

I am also reading Meant to Bee by Storm Shultz, a short romance novel. I plan to have that finished today.

The Boy and I are reading Fellowship of the Ring and we are not reading it as quickly as I think we should so this week I am telling him we need to set aside an hour a day for each of us just to finish it. Not an hour straight but maybe half an hour here and half an hour there. I hope to finish this book before the end of the school year, which will be June 3 for us.

Little Miss and I have been slow readers lately but I really would like to finish The Place of the Big Read Apples by Roger Lea MacBride this week and move on to something else.

What’s Been Occurring

I wrote about what we did last week in yesterday’s post. I mentioned that our temperature was close to 70 yesterday and was going to drop into the 30s overnight and it did, sadly. Yesterday we went outside without coats and today I woke up to snow on the ground. This week is supposed to warm up some, but not yet too close to 70.

This coming week the kids have classes – gymnastics for Little Miss and bass lessons for The Boy.

Little Miss usually has gymnastics on Saturdays but this past week she had an Easter egg hunt instead so we are making up her class tomorrow.

The bass lesson will be The Boy’s first and it’s about a 45-minute drive north so I am enlisting the help of my dad to take either Little Miss to her class or The Boy to his.

What’s planned for your week this week?

What We watched/are Watching

I was so excited this week when my friend Erin from Still Life, With Cookie Crumbs, told me she was watching a Youtuber I like. I was excited because I had lost this YouTuber in my list of subscriptions and it was driving me crazy! Little Miss sometimes watches kids’ shows on YouTube and she will subscribe to anything she watches so I had hundreds of subscriptions, many of which I did not want, and I could not find Forgotten Way Farms or remember it’s name! When Erin reminded me of the name I was so happy. Why was I happy? Well, because my life is a little sad and sometimes I enjoy an escape in videos that are fairly light, mundane, and calming.

This vlogger records her everyday life and cooks and has a very soothing voice, so I enjoy watching her. I am fairly certain I shared her on the blog before but when I went back to find the video I had shared to remind me of her channel name, I couldn’t find it.

Now that I found it again, I have the notifications set that it will tell me every time she posts.

This week I also watched Darling Desi who has now moved from Utah to Connecticut but still vlogs about cottage core-type stuff and fluffy books she reads.

The Husband and I didn’t have as much time to watch things this week but we did watch the final episode of the first season of Miss Scarlet and The Duke. We are behind because there are three seasons of the show.

We also watched Yes, Minister which is a British sitcom from the 1970s and is very witty and funny. Sometimes it is too witty because I don’t even get it. It’s sort of an elite comedy with references to politics that go right over my head at times.

The man who stars in Yes, Minister played the vicar in a Miss Marple episode I watched once and started to rewatch recently. Luckily, I didn’t watch the end of it because it is now the book I am reading and I’m not sure if the show will keep to the book or not. The issue is that now when I think of the vicar, who is the narrator of the book, I picture and hear the actor from Yes, Minister.

This week I’ll be watching Houseboat with Cary Grant for my Spring of Cary feature and will write about it on Thursday. Go ahead and jump in if you want to.

What I’m Writing

I’ve been mentioning that I have been working on Gladwynn Grant Gets Her Footing, which I hope to release June 20th. This will be the first book in a new cozy mystery series.

I worked on the book a lot this past week, which gave me less time to write blog posts.

I have started to offer paid subscriptions to my newsletter and I will be offering the chapters for this book as I write them to paid subscribers on Substack.

However, I will be setting up subscriptions for longtime readers of my blogs that allows them access to this feature for free. If you are someone who has been following me for a long time and would like a sneak peek of this first book, send me your email through my contact form and I will add you to that exclusive subscriber group. I’ll start offering the chapters later this week.

I only wrote two blog posts this past week on the blog:

Saturday Afternoon Tea: Book sales, good food, and impatiently waiting for spring

The Spring of Cary Grant

Blog Posts I Enjoyed This Past Week

I Smell Like a Shamrock by Various Ramblings of a Nostalgic Italian

Tuesday Tour Oh Henry by Mama’s Empty Nest

Seeing and Believing by Welcome to My Hearts Cry

Books That Feel Like Spring by Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs

Now it’s your turn

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

Fiction Friday: A writing update. A new series and new projects on the horizon.

If you are a regular on this blog, you may have noticed that I haven’t been posting as many blog posts as I sometimes do.

Part of that has been due to a lot of stress in my life, but part of the reason for me writing less blog posts is that I am working on a new book series.

This series will be a cozy mystery series called The Gladwyn Grant Mysteries.

The first book in the series is called Gladwyn Grant Gets Her Footing.

I’ll tell you more about Gladwyn in the coming weeks but for now, I do have a description:

After being laid off from her job as a librarian at a small college, Gladwynn Grant isn’t sure what her next step in life is. When a job as a small-town newspaper reporter opens up in the town her grandmother Lucinda Grant lives in, she decides to take it to get away from a lot of things – Bennett for one.

Lucinda has been living alone since Gladwynn’s grandfather passed away six years ago and she isn’t a take-it-easy, rock-on-your-front-porch kind of grandma. She’s always on the go and lately, she’s been on the go with a man who Gladwynn doesn’t know.

Gladwynn thought Brookville was a small, quiet town, but within a few days of being there, she has to rethink that notion. Someone has cut the bank loan officer’s brakes, threatening letters are being sent, and memories of a bank robbery from the 1970s have everyone looking at the cold case again.

And what, if anything, will Gladwynn uncover about her new hometown and her grandmother’s new male friend?

Find out in Gladwynn Grant Gets Her Footing, the first in the Gladwynn Grant Mysteries.

Here is the planned cover:

I have not yet decided if I will share this story as a serial on the blog or not. I’ll let you know in the future if that is going to happen. For now I have set the tentative release date as June 20th.

I had hoped to release the first three books in the series about four months apart, but I’m not sure that will happen since I am also working on some other projects. The Gladwynn books will be shorter than my previous books. They will be clean, but not strictly Christian fiction. There will be a Christian overtone here and there since Gladwynn’s late grandfather was a Methodist minister.

A Biblical fiction story I am also working on will, of course, be Christian Fiction. I do not have a release date for that one.

If I didn’t have enough going on, I am also writing a book that will come out in August of 2024 and is entitled Cassie. It will also be in the Christian Fiction genre.

I am very excited for Cassie since it will be part of a multi-author project called The Apron Strings Book Series and it will follow twelve women and a recipe book that connects them all. Each book will focus on a different woman from a different era from 1920 to 2020.

My decade is the 1990s and my character, whose stage name is Cassie Starr, is a popstar who has hit her 30s and isn’t as popular as she once was. With no jobs coming her way and her record label dropping her, she heads up at the behest of her sister to help their mom with the family farm to table restaurant. While there Cassie will find out her mom’s health is not as good as she thought it was, that her feelings toward her father isn’t as resolved as she thought and that the owner of the local vegetable farm that supplies her mom’s business with food isn’t as annoying as she once thought.

I have not forgotten that I still have a fifth book I have promised and want to write to close out The Spencer Valley Chronicles and I will get there at some point. The final book will be the story of Alex Stone and his relationship with his father, as well as his continuing relationship with Molly Tanner. It doesn’t have a title yet.

So that is my writing update for now. I’m sure it will change in regard to timing and titles, etc. as the months go on.

Do any of the projects sound interesting to you? Let me know which one you are looking forward to.

Sunday Bookends: Dentists, snow, comedies, and other stuff

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays, I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, and what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.

What I/We’ve Been Reading

I am finishing up a book by Danielle Grandinetti this week. It’s called Confessions To A Stranger and it will be out on Tuesday. I will have a review up for it on Thursday on my Instagram and probably here. It’s quite good.

I am also still reading The Burning Issue of The Day by T.E. Kinsey and The Fellowship of the Ring, but I didn’t get any of The Fellowship of the Ring read last week. I hope to get more done this week as it would be nice if The Boy and I finished it by the end of the school year at this point. Sigh.

This week I’d love to finish the books I’ve started and then go back to Anne’s House of Dreams and start another Walt Longmire book.

I did have a family friend as me how I read more than one book at once and in case you’ve ever wondered – I switch between books and sometimes I’ll end up reading one more than the other ones, which is why you’ll read on here that I am STILL reading certain books. Ha! There are also times I am reading a chapter here and there of a book, especially the L.M. Montgomery books which are more like little stories in each chapter rather than a book that flows from plot point to plot point.

Little Miss and I are reading Emily’s Imagination by Beverly Cleary again at night and also listened to Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman (and narrated by him) several times this week, including on the way home from her procedure.

During the day for school, we are reading Spirit of the West.

The Husband is reading Upgrade by Blake Crouch

What’s Been Occurring

Friday and yesterday we received some more snow. Earlier in the week we were supposed to receive up to seven inches of snow in a surprise storm but we only ended up with two. Now, watch — tomorrow night we are supposed to get two to four but we will probably get much more because the area 30 miles above us in Upstate New York is supposed to get up to a foot of snow. If the storm slides down just a bit, we could get that amount too. We will just have to wait and see. You’ll have to read yesterday’s post if you want to know my children’s theory on why we are getting nailed by snow.

Also in yesterday’s post, I wrote about Little Miss’s dental procedure. That was our big ordeal of last week. It happened Friday but cast a cloud over our entire week in some ways. It went well, for the most part, but the aftermath of her not being able to eat well has not been fun. I did make her some potato soup with lots of milk and some cheese last night and that was a big hit. I think that’s something I’ll be making for myself from now on too.

I also made sweet potato soup the same way this morning.

I don’t know if I mentioned it yesterday or not, but she has developed a lisp after this and I’m upset by it. No, I don’t love her any less and yes, I am very ecstatic that she is still my same fun-loving kid (though a little more subdued and down with being unable to chew right now), but I was never told this could happen. In fact, I wasn’t told a lot of what would be happening and the fallout.

See that tiny speck of dust on the windowsill over there? (Oops…shouldn’t have mentioned it. The Husband has jumped up to take care of it). That tiny speck of dust is how much I trust dentists at this point in my life. To me they are scammers, liars, cheats, and backstabbing money-grubbing creeps. I’m pretty much over them and how they take advantage of people.

I feel like all some of them are about is money, money, and more money and how to cheat systems so they can get bigger payouts. That’s how I feel about them right now and it’s going to take a lot to change my mind. Sorry for any of you who have family members as dentists. I’m sure they are the exception to my personal rule and feelings about their profession.

People say they don’t know why dentists have the highest rates of suicide. I say it’s because they scam people and they know it and the guilt finally catches up to them.

Pray for me and my disgust with the profession and the people in it! It’s a real hang up for me. I’m serious. Pray for me about it. I know they aren’t all horrible people but we’ve had some really bad experiences of late and it’s left a bad taste in my mouth – in more ways than one.

What We Watched/Are Watching

This week I watched more Miss Scarlet & The Duke. I try to wait and watch certain shows with my husband, but he had a lot going on this week, so I did go ahead a bit with the show and now I’m dying to watch the next episode. I can’t promise I’ll wait for The Husband on this one. We are in season one.

Little Miss and I watched a lot of Bluey this week. A lot. A lot. A ….. loooot.

Hopefully we will take a break this week as I practically have the episodes of all two and a half seasons memorized.

Last night we watched a lot of Studio C, which is a comedy group out of Brigham Young University. We watched the original cast because we haven’t really liked the show since they left.

Friday night we watched the new Puss and Boots movie which is currently free with a subscription to Peacock. It was actually quite good, but I could have done without the bleeping of characters who were obviously saying very nasty swear words, something “kids” cartoons have started to do to try to entertain the parents who are watching with their kids.  Before long they’ll simply be saying the words. Mark my words. It will happen.

What I’m Writing

I wrote some 5,000 words on Gladwynn Grant Gets Her Footing this past week to try to keep my mind off all the stuff in my life. It was a lot of fun and I hope to do the same this week. I am doing a challenge with a group of other writers and I think I set a goal of 20,000 words for the month. Or maybe it was 15,000. I need to look at the sheet again. All I know is I wrote 10,000 words on the book in two weeks so I think I might make my goal. I’d love to have the book out by the summer.

On the blog I shared:

What I’m Listening To

This week Little Miss and I were comforted by listening to Matthew West a lot. We really needed his music.

Now it’s your turn

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

Sunday bookends: Losing books and cats, more Mary Berry, and snow days

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays, I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.

What I/we’ve been Reading

This week I am moving back and forth between Love and The Silver Lining by Tammy L. Gray and Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery. They are definitely two different styles of writing with one being contemporary fiction and the other classic literature.

I found Anne of Windy Poplars between my bed and wall yesterday morning after losing it for two weeks. I was so excited to find it and took it with me when I took Little Miss to gymnastics. Later in the day I sat down and looked in my bag for it and it was gone. All I can figure out is that I left it at the gymnastics studio. So aggravating. I really wanted to finish that one.

The Anne books are a little drawn out and rambly, but I still like them. They are a total distraction from real life. I like to read books in a series in order if I can so it irks me that I can’t read Windy Poplars before Anne’s House of Dreams. It’s definitely a “first world problem,” of course.

I abandoned The Jane Austen Society. First, I haven’t read Jane Austen, so I was bored with all the characters gushing over her like she’s the only author who has ever existed. It’s similar to how I feel about many of the “bookstagrammers” on Instagram who act like she’s the only author in existence.

The other issue I had with the book was it was taking for. It took forever to get to the point and the characters weren’t really very likable at all to me. Once a “gd” got dropped, I was out. I had a feeling the swearing would only pick up and while I am not completely opposed to swearing, it just felt totally out of place in a book about Jane Austen.

Love and the Silver Lining is a romance of sorts but it has a lot more to the plot than the romance so I am enjoying it. I still don’t know if I buy the whole idea that two adults of the opposite sex can just be friends, but, hey, we’ll go with it for the sake of the book since it is well-written.

Once again, like Tammy’s first book in this series, Love and A Little White Lie, I can’t stand the one character. Here he is again in this book, and I still want to smack him for being a bit of a whiner. Ha. I think that Tammy wrote him this way on purpose, of course. He’s going through some growing pains, so it makes a lot of sense that he’s the way he is.

After I finish Tammy’s book, I’ll be jumping into something a bit darker, if my mood allows for it. I’ll probably get back into the next Longmire book or Midwinter Murder: Fireside Tales from the Queen of Mystery by Agatha Christie.

Little Miss and I read Paddington at night every night this week. During the day we are re-reading Children of the Longhouse by Joseph Bruchac. Next week, though, I hope to start The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz.

What’s Been Occurring

I shared in yesterday’s post that we had some snow last week.

You can catch up with what’s been going on in our world in that post. Spoiler: it’s not a lot.

Yesterday, Little Miss had a friend over and they climbed up on the hill in our neighbor’s yard and made a snowman. Little Miss’s little friend actually did most of the rolling and I was very impressed with the way she shoved that huge ball of snow up the hill with little effort.

They used frozen blueberries for the eyes and mouth, which attracted the deer later in the day, much to the girls’ delight. The temperature got up to almost 50 degrees yesterday, so the snow was melting fairly fast. The sun was out too, which was nice to see since it seems like we’ve had way more cloudy days than sunny days this winter, which is, obviously, normal.

I didn’t have a chance to get a photo of the snowman because I was inside the house cooking some fried chicken that Little Miss had asked me to cook for her. I’d made the same recipe earlier in the week by simply sprinkling season salt in a bag of almond flour, putting the chicken in and shaking it up, then frying it in canola oil. Little Miss was so thrilled with the chicken she asked for it again this weekend.

After the girls came in, I began looking for Scout, our younger cat, thinking I had let her out again. I went out back and called for her several times and even braved the dark between the house and garage, to go and see if I locked her in there. I prayed that a bear wouldn’t eat me since Little Miss and I were alone last night (The Husband was at an assignment for a freelance job and The Boy was spending the night at a friend’s.)

Lately, she’s been sneaking upstairs and curling up on top of Little Miss’s dresser and I started to wonder if that might be where she was, so finally, I went and looked and that was where she was the entire four hours I looked. I didn’t look the entire four hours, actually. I looked and called for her off and on during that time.

What We watched/are Watching

The Husband and I finished Brokenwood Mysteries, which was a bit sad. We are hopeful there will be a ninth season at some point. From what I read online, a ninth series is being planned. One of the actresses let that slip on her Instagram.

We also watched a couple episodes of Miss Scarlet and The Duke, the new Night Court, and The Rockford Files.

Little Miss and I watched a lot of Mary Berry, including Mary Berry’s Favorites. Little Miss says Mary is her favorite cook beside her own grandmother.

“Oh, and you,” she added.

Hmmm….well, thank you, kid. Honestly, though,, I’d love to taste Mary’s food and I think I’d choose her as my favorite behind my mom as well.

We are always fascinated with Mary’s kitchen hacks. Last night I was fascinated by how she used a melon baller to take the seeds out of a cucumber. I told Little Miss to watch and she said, “I’ve seen people do that.”

I said, “I’ve never seen anyone do that.”

She scoffed, stood up to head to the bathroom, looked over her shoulder, and said in a light tone, “Hmmm, where have you been?”

What I’m Writing

I planned to add some words to Fully Alive, my Biblical fiction story, last week but never got around to it. Honestly, I got too wrapped up with making reels and marketing material for the release of Shores of Mercy this week.

This coming week I hope to actually write, including a few blog posts I started last week, but haven’t finished.

What I’m Listening To

This past week I listened to some Mercy Me and Matthew West.

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

My books are on Kindle Unlimited and Shores of Mercy releases January 31

My blog is mainly for rambling (hence the title Boondock Ramblings) and not for promoting myself, but I decided to share today that all three books in the Spencer Valley Chronicles are on Kindle Unlimited or are available for purchase on Amazon (in ebook and paperback form).

Also, Shores of Mercy will be on sale on January 31, but you can pre-order it today, HERE for $1.99. Read below for descriptions of each book.

In addition, I am developing some paperback journals to sell and you can find links to them below:

Book Tracker and Book Reviews:

Sermon Notes:

Sketchnotes Sermon Notes:

Reading journal for tracking what you are reading:

Gratitude journal:

A simple journal to list what books you’ve read:

Upcoming will be a quote journal and a praise and prayer journal. I’m really having a lot of fun designing these.

If you have not read my fiction books or know what they are about, here are the descriptions of each of them and a link to them:

A Story to Tell

Can she find a new life of her own, without losing all that she already has?

Blanche Robbins is 17 in 1957 and feels like her life is going nowhere. It’s certainly nothing like the exciting lives of the characters in the books she reads.

When Hank Hakes begins paying attention to her and asks her to run away with him, she sees the offer as a ticket to a new, more exciting life away from her rural upbringing.

The decision sets into motion a life Blanche never expected or wanted.


A New Beginning

Can Blanche open her heart again after it failed her once before?

Five years later Blanche Robbins could still vividly remember the moment she broke Hank Hakes’ nose with her foot after he broke hers’ with his fist. She could still hear the sick crunch of bones under her heel and still clearly see in her mind his glazed eyes before they closed.

Blanche knew if she didn’t remember how Hank had beat her, she might let her walls down, leaving her son and her vulnerable again. She wasn’t about to let that happen.
That’s why she didn’t like the idea that her best friend might be trying to set her up with J.T. Wainwright.
Blanche wasn’t about to let anyone break down the walls she had built around her life and heart, walls to protect her — but more importantly – her son.


Where the Wildflowers Grow

Two books in one. The story of a young girl and her tumultuous journey into adulthood. A journey mixed with heartache, hard lessons, but also faith and joy.

A Story to Tell

Blanche Robbins is 17 in 1957 and feels like her life is going nowhere. It’s certainly nothing like the exciting lives of the characters in the books she reads.

When Hank Hakes begins paying attention to her and asks her to run away with him, she sees the offer as a ticket to a new, more exciting life away from her rural upbringing.

The decision sets into motion a life Blanche never expected or wanted.

A New Beginning

Blanche doesn’t know how to let down the walls she built up during the mistakes of her past. As she forges a new life and looks back on heartache, now with her son, she bristles when her best friend, Emmy, suggests Blanche meet Emmy’s cousin J.T. Wainwright.

She isn’t interested in a romantic relationship, not after her last experience. She built walls around her heart for a reason. To protect herself and, more importantly, her son.


The Farmer’s Daughter

Will the desire to change their lives bring two people together and will the Tanner family be able to save their family farm?

Molly Tanner thought she’d be further in life by now, but, no. At the age of 26, still living on her parent’s dairy farm in rural Pennsylvania, wondering if there is a life for her somewhere other than little Spencer Valley. While wondering, though, her family faces financial struggles, her best friend falls into a deep depression, and her brother’s best friend starts acting weird around her. Weird as in — is attractive Alex Stone flirting with her?

Alex has his own challenges to face, mainly facing past demons that make him feel like he’s not worthy of the love the Tanner family has already shown him, let alone the love of the woman he’s fallen for while working side-by-side with her in the barn each day.


Harvesting Hope

Can she forgive him for what he can’t forget?
The last year has been a whirlwind of trials and triumphs for the Tanner family.

With injuries, near foreclosures, and a family tragedy behind them, Jason Tanner, the oldest of the Tanner children is facing his own struggle after his longtime girlfriend, Ellie Lambert, overhears the secret he’d planned to tell her himself.
Now, in addition to trying to keep his family’s dairy farm sustainable during a hard economic season, Jason is dealing with the heartbreak of Ellie’s decision to end an almost 10-year relationship.

In an effort to bury his feelings, he throws himself into his work on the farm and into volunteering with Spencer Valley’s small volunteer fire company, where tragedy strikes the foundation of his faith during an already vulnerable time.

Ellie has her own challenges to face as she tries to navigate a time of life where her expectations have been turned upside down and shaken out. As she copes with the decision to walk away from her relationship with the man she saw as her best friend, her flighty, less responsible younger sister shows up to further complicate an already complicated situation.


Beauty From Ashes

Can two women figure out their chaotic, confusing lives together? And how will the men in their lives fit in their journey?

Liz Cranmer feels trapped in a prison of shame. Now a single mother at 27 she feels like the whole town, especially her church-going parents, view her as a trashy woman with no morals. That’s not how she used to think of herself but — could they be right? And if they think that, then what does God think of her?

Ginny Jefferies, 53, has hit a few snags of her own in life. Her husband, Stan, barely acknowledges her, her job as the town’s library director has become mundane and stagnant, and her youngest daughter is having some kind of identity crisis. Pile on the return of a former boyfriend and you have the makings of a potential midlife crisis.


Shores of Mercy

There was a time in Ben Oliver’s life when his career was more important than anything — including his girlfriend, Angie, who he walked away from when she told him she was pregnant. Even before that night, he’d been drinking too much, but after that night, the drinking got worse.

That was four years ago. Now he’s sober and opened a law office half an hour from where he grew up. He’s stayed away from Angie and the little girl he never met because he believes their life will be better without him, but when her family moves back to the area and her parents ask him to be involved in his little girl’s life, his past catches up with him.

Judi Lambert has battled her own demons and is now fighting for her sobriety. She wants to kick her party-girl lifestyle to the curb and she’s well on her way. Not far into the journey to get her life back on track, though, she’s forced to relive a traumatic experience with a man she’d once thought was simply her ticket to a good time.

When Judi and Ben’s worlds collide, can they work together to get their lives back on track? And can Judi work to help Ben get Angie and his daughter back again?


I also sell stock photography at Alamy and Lightstock. Links to my accounts on those sites, here:

Lightstock () and Alamy .

A Christmas in Spencer: Beyond the Season Chapter 11

We are almost to the final day of this story! Isn’t that crazy?! That means we are almost to Christmas too! So exciting. What do you think will happen in the last chapter? Let me know in the comments!

Welcome to the eleventh chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but it will be fully edited once it is complete.

You can catch up on chapters HERE.

If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,

The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.

Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.

Chapter 11

Chaos reigned in the Tanner household the day before Christmas and Robert couldn’t wait to escape it. Six women were laughing, mixing, baking, bumping into each other and when he’d come into the house for lunch, they’d asked him to taste test three different kinds of cookies, which wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t needed to get back to the shed to finish the swing.

“Which one, Dad? The gingerbread or the molasses?”

“Um.” He spoke with a mouthful of cookie. “They’re both really good. I think we should have both.”

Liz laughed. “We’re going to cook both. Molly and I just want to know which one you liked better.”

He raised an eyebrow and looked between the two young women. “Is this some kind of competition? Because I don’t want to be the judge of some kind of competition between you two.”

Liz looked at him with wide, innocent eyes. “Robert, of course, this isn’t some kind of compe—”

“It’s totally a competition,” Molly said quickly. “And I’m your daughter so you’d better pick my cookie.”

The other women, which included his mother, his wife, Annie’s mother, Ellie, and his sister all laughed and gathered behind Molly and Liz, pausing in their work.

Robert’s gaze slid to the women, then back to Molly who had leveled a steady gaze on him, a small smile pulling at her mouth. He swallowed the bite of cookie. “I like them both. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

He quickly excused himself to the sound of laughter before any of the women could stop him, snatched his coat off the hanger by the back door, and headed out the door.

Alex was on his way to the house from the barn. Robert grabbed his arm gently. “You don’t want to go in there. It’s a madhouse.”

Alex’s brow dipped in concern as he looked from Robert to the backdoor. “What do  you mean?”

“There are a lot of women in there and they’ll try to make you taste test their food and then make you choose sides by saying which recipe is better.”

Alex grinned and gently removed Robert’s hand from his arm. “That sounds like heaven. See you in an hour.”

Robert shook his head and turned back to the barn. That young man would change his mind when two women watched him intently and waited for an answer. No man wanted to tell a woman that their recipe wasn’t as good as someone else’s.  Not if they knew what was good for them.

Brad had pulled through much to his and Alex’s relief, despite a two-day snowstorm that had delayed his trip until two days before Christmas.

Robert had put the bolts on the swing early that morning and Bert was finishing up the engine. Alex had finished the paint job and planned to pick up the truck the next morning.

 After Robert hooked on the chains, he and Jason would load the swing onto the back of the truck and drive it down to the house covered with a tarp so he could install the swing early Christmas morning. He’d enlisted Molly to keep Annie busy in the kitchen while he installed it.

After chores were completed in the barn and dinner was eaten in a kitchen now emptied of the fairer sex, Robert and Annie showered and dressed and drove to town for the Christmas Eve service. Alex, Molly, Jason, Ellie, Liz, Isabella, and Matt met them there, along with Matt’s mother, brother and sister, and Liz’s parents. Liz’s sister and family also attended, which marked the first time since they’d moved back to Spencer that they’d been able to attend a service as a family.

Robert slid his hand over Annie’s as the music began. The church was lit with candles lining the aisles and spread across the stage and altar up front. Wreathes of pine decorated the wall along the stage and behind the choir and the pastor.

Rush had been the word of the day for the last few weeks and now the entire family seemed to be taking a collective breath and letting the peace of the season seep into their souls, soothe aching muscles physically and worried hearts spiritually.

When the music started to signal that the cantata would begin soon, Robert’s shoulders relaxed, he sat back in the pew, and he closed his eyes. He let the music wash over him and push away any thoughts about what needed to be done tomorrow — for Christmas day’s celebration and on the farm. Farmers never had holidays which meant the cows would still need to be milked and fed and stalls cleaned. Most of the day would be set aside for family time, though. Any repair projects could wait.

Muffled laughter caused him to open his eyes and look around for the source of amusement. Soon the laughing spread and he turned slightly in his pew just in time to see a black and white cat stroll nonchalantly down the center aisle toward the stage. He watched it, eyes narrowing.

Without looking away from the cat he reached over and tapped Annie’s arm.

“Hey, is that —“

“Yes, it is. Whose truck did she climb in the back of this time?”

Scout, one of their barn cats, had climbed in the back of a pickup at least twice before at the farm, once hitching a ride to Walt’s farm and another time to the farm store. This was the first time she’d made it to town, though.

The cat walked up the steps, stretched her long body out, and lay down on the top step as the congregation watched with smiles.

“I’d better go get her,” Robert whispered as the pastor stepped out on the stage.

Annie pulled her lower lip between her teeth briefly, then released it. “Yeah. Maybe you’d better.”

z“Well, I see even the domesticated pets are here tonight to worship the birth of our savior,” Pastor Joe said with a smile. “In Psalm 148 it says, ‘Wild animals and all cattle, small creatures, and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”

Scout had curled up into a ball now, ready for a nap. “I think we’ll just let this visitor stay for now. There must be something comforting to him or her about our church and that, to me, is a very high compliment indeed.”

Robert sat back in the pew again, shaking his head and laughing. For the next hour and a half, the cat napped, waking up only when Robert scooped her up after the cantata was over. He placed her in the cab of the truck with him and Annie, both of them unable to stop laughing over her sudden appearance.

They’d been taught that God had a sense of humor, Robert thought as he drove home, the cat in Annie’s lap. Hopefully, he’d found the humor in Scout’s attendance at a service to honor him


The sun had just started to rise over the horizon when Alex left the barn after the morning chores to head for town.

“Hey! Where are you off to?” Molly called after him. “We’re going to have a full family breakfast soon.”

He glanced over his shoulder. “I’ll be back soon, don’t worry. I have something I need to grab in town.”

He left her standing outside the barn with confusion etched on her face. It couldn’t be helped, though. He’d agreed to meet Bert at the shop and pick up the truck and then they’d both drive back for breakfast and lunch at the Tanner’s for the day.

When he reached the shop Bert had already pulled the truck outside. The men stood and admired the new paint job on the truck, the shine on the bumpers, and even the new tires.

“It looks good, Alex it really does.” Bert smiled, eyes glistening. “My father-in-law would have been really proud to see it in such good shape.”

Alex stepped around to the front of the truck, hands at his waist as he admired the final product. “You had a lot to do with it, more than me even.”

“You did the paint job, shined it up. Reminds me of when I first saw Ned with it. Hannah was in the passenger seat next to him. She was the most beautiful creature I’d ever laid eyes on. I never thought she’d give me the time of day that day let alone let me marry her a decade later when we were both old enough to get married.” He winked. “We were only 15 when we first met.” He laughed, touching the back of a finger across the bottom of his eye, and turned away. He pulled a handkerchief from his coverall pocket. “Sorry, I got so emotional there. Didn’t expect that.”

Alex patted his shoulder. “Hey, no problem. Memories are powerful, especially when they are good ones.”

Bert blew his nose and wadded the handkerchief up, shoving it back in his pocket. “My marriage has been a good one, kid. I guess that’s why I keep pushing you to propose to Molly. I want you two to experience the happiness we have. Being married, making that commitment to be there for each other no matter what, in front of all your friends and family – I don’t know. There’s something fulfilling about it.”

Alex pulled his cowboy hat down low on his head and nodded. “I know, Bert, I appreciate it.”

Bert sniffed and tossed a set of keys to him. “Anyhow, here are the keys. I’ll follow you in your truck and meet you at the house.”

Alex slid behind the steering wheel of the 1976 Chevy, cranked the window down, and closed the door. “I have to take a detour, so I’ll meet you there.”

Bert grinned. “Another gift to pick up?”

Alex touched a finger to his hat. “I’m keeping that under my hat, but I’ll see you at Robert and Annie’s for breakfast. Don’t eat all the bacon on me.”

Alex started the truck and listened to it rumble for a few minutes, then slid his hand across the surface of the new red upholstery on the truck seat. He hadn’t thought they’d be able to replace that too, but in the end, Jason had helped and they’d pulled it off.

He took a deep breath and shifted the truck into gear, nodding to Bert again as he pulled the truck out of the parking lot. Turning the radio on, a favorite song came on and he hummed along, turning the truck toward the road that would lead him to Molly, but first her grandmother.