Sunday Bookends: Floods, Plagues, and A New Year of Reading

Here we are in a new year and — yeah.

That’s all I got.

No big goals for me this year.

No big plans.

My goal is simply to survive, while also having some fun.

If that sounds like I’m depressed, don’t worry. I’m not. I’m simply going to take it day by day this year, which is something positive that 2020 taught me.

This week I am recapping two weeks of what I’ve been reading, watching, listening to and doing. My heart really wasn’t in writing last week for many reasons, but partially because Christians can be mean, which I will leave for another day. They (we) can also be lovely, so don’t take the first statement as a broad-brush stroke declaration. Christians are human too, despite my belief to the contrary some days. (The previous sentence is a joke, in case you need me to tell you that.)

What I’m Reading

I have seen a lot of book bloggers and bookstagramers announcing their first read of the new year this year.I never get official about that stuff, since I’m not an actual book blogger. But I have just downloaded And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie into my kindle at the suggestion of my husband so that may be my first book of the new year. I’m also reading Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

I finished Home to Holly Springs this week. It wasn’t my favorite book from Jan Karon’s Mitford series, but it was a very interesting look into the past of her main character Father Timothy Kavenagh. Even though I liked the book, I was disappointed that Jan got stuck in some familiar tropes in this one; one of them a theme that seems to run throughout her books, but I won’t say which theme so I don’t ruin the secret Father Tim learns.

I actually already knew mostof what happened in this book, because I had read about it in subsequent books in the series. I did read some reviews on Amazon for Home to Holly Springs out of curiosity once I finished it and found that and a lot of Karon fans did not enjoy it because it strayed from the usually cheerful Mitford stories. There was much less humor in this book as it dealt with some tougher topics, including racism, rape, adultery, and Father Tim’s decades long anger toward his father.

The book dragged in a few parts. Those parts involved very long storytelling dialogue by side characters, which were fairly unncessary for the plot of the book. I “fast forwarded” through my Kindle to push through those parts. Those sections aside, the book was well written and kept me interested long enough to find out what happened. I think the pages and pages of dialogue between Father Tim and people he met during his return to his hometown of Holly Springs could have been eliminated. The characters weren’t integral to the story whatsoever and I didn’t need to know their backstories through long winded conversations.

The ending of the book was lot like the Lord of the Rings movies for me – it could have and should have ended a lot earlier than it did.

The thing about Jan’s books, though, is that you really do feel like you’re getting to know her characters even through the long and rambling conversations or mundane details. In other words, even though there are times you want to say “Okay..move along already, Jan,” you also find yourself feeling like you are sitting in a cozy living room listening to your elderly relatives chat after Christmas dinner. Or maybe I just feel that way because Jan’s characters are mainly from North Carolina and my mom’s family is from there as well so that is what Christmas’ were like in my childhood.

I put Maggie by Charles Martin on the back burner when I was reading Home to Holly Springs and Shepherd’s Abiding by Karon and A Christmas Carol by … well, you know who, I don’t have to tell you, (by the way, don’t ever Google his life story. Yikes.) in December. I hope to finish Maggie this week because I really am enjoying it, though I know some tough parts are coming up in it.

What I’m Watching

We finally watched Alfred Hitchcocks Rope last week and it stressed me out!

I was cringing and squirming even without any gore or violence. It was all psychological, as Hitchcock’s films are, and my psyche took a direct hit while watching it. I recommend it. Highly.

We’ve also been watching Murdoch Mysteries for the last couple of weeks and this past week we watched all three Christmas specials and enjoyed them. They are fairly light mysteries that are often easy to solve and that’s just fine with me and my husband. It’s about all our brains can handle at this point with all the other craziness in the world.

We also watched a couple episodes of Lovejoy, which I always seem unable to follow the plot of for some reason, but am still entertained by.

This past week we started Doc Martin which made my husband and I realize we watch a lot of British shows and movies because pretty much every British actor we’ve ever seen in any British show has been on this show at one point or another. We were hooked in the first episode, breezed through the first season and are now into the second.

What’s Been Occuring

My husband has a scanner app on his phone now to keep track of any emergencies he might have to cover for work in the evenings and on weekends. Hearing the tones drop sent waves of anxiety rolling through me, even though some of the situations weren’t even life threatening.

On Christmas Eve we had to listen to the scanner because our area was under a flood watch. After receiving 24 inches of snow the week before, it rained steady all day Christmas Eve, washing the snow into the rivers and streams around us, of which there are a lot. Rivers and streams continued to rise on Christmas Day and then temps dropped fast. It made for some interesting travel situations but also some interesting situations for people along the river who had to flee from their homes on Christmas. In the end, there was no major flooding.

Christmas Eve I kept an eye on the street down below our house, wondering if the pond in town would flood across it. It didn’t. Then we thought snow on the rain covered roadway might keep us from visiting my parents, but it didn’t. In the end, the calamity I expected to highjack our Christmas didn’t come.

We were able to spend the day with my parents, but did leave early as the temperatures dropped so we wouldn’t be driving the five miles to our house in the dark and possibly hit black ice.

My parents bought new bikes for both of the children, which was a total surprise for them. They will love riding the bikes as soon as their hands won’t freeze to the handle bars when they go outside. Winter had been mild to begin with but colder temps seem to be here to stay.

I think one of the more poignant moments of our Christmas break this year was when we listened to Linus’ speech on A Charlie Brown Christmas where he told everyone what Christmas is really about. In case you’ve forgotten, I found that clip on YouTube.

This past week we didn’t do much of anything at all other than a game night at my parents.

We will start school again tomorrow with some new curriculum for both kids, but especially Little Miss who will start a new Kindergarten curriculum. In some educational areas she is beyond Kindergarten curriculum and in others she almost beyond it or way beyond it. Verbally and cognitively she’s at a sixth grade level or beyond, so most days it’s like living with a 6-year old going on 16-year old.

She has some issues with her letters but over the break she seemed to be getting a lot better at recognizing her letters by typing out what she wanted to name things in Minecraft. Who says video games can’t be educational? But all of that school stuff is something I’ll have to ramble about in a future Homeschool update post, which I have already started drafting.

So that’s my weekly (but actually two week) review. What have you been up to lately? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday Bookends: Special Christmas Music, Christmas books, and More Snow

Welcome to another Sunday Bookends where I share what I’m reading, watching, writing, eating, seeing, smelling — no, wait. Only what I’m reading, watching, writing, sometimes what I’m listening to and a little about what we’ve been up to. Feel free to let me know what you’ve been up to in the comments.

What I’m Reading

I am reading A Christmas Carol with my son for school (we will be reading Lord of the Flies and To Kill A Mockingbird next semester and already read another classic – Silas Marner.)

I’m also enjoying a slow read through Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon and Maggie by Charles Martin, but will take a break from them this week to read A Shepherd’s Abiding by Jan Karon because it has a sweet Christmas theme.

What I’m Watching/Have Watched

I watched a really stupid, cringe-worthy movie on Amazon prime that I had to fast forward through part of because the acting was pretty bad but then also cried through – and not because the acting was bad.

It was called Holiday Switch and the whole premise was that this woman was unhappy with her life with her poor husband and kids and when she runs into her rich ex-boyfriend, she wonders what her life would have been like if she married him instead. She bumps her head and crawls in a — hang in here with me — a dryer and comes out in an alternate life where she would have been married to the ex-boyfriend instead of the current husband. Long story short, she discovers life with the boyfriend wouldn’t have turned out like she had hoped, even with all that extra money. While in the “other life” she runs into her real life husband and children and falls apart at the idea that the don’t know her and her real husband is married to another woman.

I’m sure my having a sinus headache and being very tired had nothing to do with me crying while this poor woman cried, thinking about how awful my life would be if I didn’t have my family (kids and husband) and holding my kids in vice grips while I sobbed into their hair. They were so bewildered, poor things.

“I love you too, Mom,” The Boy said, adding quickly to ruin the mood, as he always does, “The cat scratched my nipple last night.”

With that mood ruined, I sent him off to do the schoolwork he’d skipped doing when I gave the kids a snow day on Thursday (more about that later).

Sunday night we watched a livestream of The Chosen Christmas Special on Youtube. It’s still available on Youtube but it will also be shown on some Christian cable networks on Christmas and Christmas Eve. It will also be on TBN on Christmas at 8:00 PT/9pm MT/10pm CT/11pm ET and on UPtv: December 24th @ 4:30pm PT/5:30pm MT/6:30pm CT/ 7:30pm ET.

You can still watch the livestream on Youtube and I highly recommend it and staying until they show The Shepherd, which was a short film Dallas Jenkins (writer and director of The Chosen) made for his church, before he made the series. Season 2 of The Chosen is supposed to start airing sometime around Easter, I believe.

This upcoming week we will watch The Man Who Invented Christmas, which is a movie about Charles Dicken’s and how he created A Christmas Carol. It’s a fun movie that I am sure ‘takes liberties’ with the real story, but is more entertaining than seeing yet another retelling of the story. We are watching it because my son is reading A Christmas Carol for English and is scheduled to finish it this week. He’s cheating some by listening a reading of it and earlier in the week he tried to do that while playing a game on the Playstation. I have informed him that’s not how school works and he can play games after his work is done. Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart.

What’s Been Occurring

As I mentioned yesterday in my Photos of the Week post, we had 24 inches of snow dumped on us Wednesday into Thursday. We spent the rest of the week digging out. Or I should say, my husband spent the rest of the week digging out. I really didn’t help at all other than making a couple lunches and dinners and cheering him on. Towns about 40 minutes north of us ended up with between 3 and 4 feet of snow.

I shared the majority of the photos yesterday, but will share a few here as well .

One adventure I didn’t mention yesterday was that one of our neighbors actually tipped her car over the embankment leading to their house during the beginning of the storm. It was almost completely tipped on it’s side. My neighbors and I watched in horror as her car slid sideways, (slowly thankfully) and ended up on it’s side and she had to be lifted from the car through the passenger side door. My neighbors had been on their way to help her get unstuck from the snow next to the long driveway and I was looking out the window, getting ready to head out to see how I could help (which would have been very little, I imagine), which is how we watched it all unfold.

It was surreal to see a car of that size and weight move like a matchbox car and tip over. Thankfully she was fine, the car was able to be pulled upright about a half an hour later, and all ended well. I did not take photos of the incident, even though I was sorely tempted since I had never seen a car end up tipped like that without completely tipping over.

This is our first winter at our new house, but I grew up a few miles from the town we now live in so I’m used to the heavier snow the county we now live in can get. This area had not had two feet of snow dumped on it during one storm in quite a while, though, so the neighbors assured us this isn’t the norm for our little hill. I asked my neighbor, “Are you ready for the snow?”

He said he was but when I said, “This is our first snowstorm up here. I’m sure it will be fine,” he looked a little worried and said, “Well, two feet is a lot of snow.”

At that point the Weather Service was telling us we could get anywhere from 8 to 20 inches, so they didn’t even seem to know what to expect.

My neighbor’s apparent lack of confidence that the storm wouldn’t be so bad made me a little nervous, but we still tried to anticipate the storm with some sense of wonder and excitement. We had worried we would lose power (aka WiFi!) but somehow we didn’t. We live in a more rural area than we had for the last 18 years and while digging out of snow can be a downside, we still love our new house, our new neighbors, and are glad we made the move.

We’re even glad we made the move when we are chasing our six month old kitten out through two feet of snow (three foot snow drifts in some places) or digging our happy puppy out a spot in the backyard where she can use the bathroom.

This upcoming week we might get some more nasty weather on Christmas Eve and Christmas day but not 2 feet. That we know of anyhow.

We don’t have anything too exciting planned for the week. There will be three days of school for the kids before a week long break, making sausage balls with my mom one day (in memory of my aunt Dianne), making homemade pizzas on Christmas Eve, and then spending Christmas with my parents.

What I’m Writing

I will not be writing as many blog posts in the upcoming weeks as I have lately. Posting a blog post a day for a week was a personal challenge, but I don’t have as much to write about this next week (lucky for all of you, huh?!).

I’m still working on editing The Farmer’s Daughter and am starting a couple of other stories that are connected to The Tanner’s story.

On the blog last week I wrote a lot (too much), but couple of them I didn’t write myself:

Photos of the Week (our first little snowstorm)

Victorian Reading Challenge

Want A Way to Delete Your Facebook And Never Look Back?

My Grandfather’s Pipe (written by my husband) (By the way, he says ‘thank you’ to all those who commented on it. He doesn’t always hear feedback on his columns unless a reader disagrees with him and wants to complain.)

Fiction Friday: The Secrets We Hold

Photos of the Week: Now That’s a Lot of Snow ( I had two Photos of the Week because I am moving Photos of the Week to Saturday. I think. Maybe. We’ll see.)

So that was my week in review, what was your week like? Let me know in the comments and if I don’t talk to you again before the end of the week, have a Merry Christmas!

Sunday Bookends: Christmas displays, somewhat unrealsitic books, Maggie Cole

Sunday Bookends is my week in review, so to speak. It’s where I share what I’ve been up to, what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been watching, what I’ve been listening to, and what I’ve been writing. Feel free to share a link or comment about your week in the comments

What I’m Reading

I started one of those books that annoy me because part of the premise was stupid but the more I got into it, the more I was accepting of the dumb premise, probably because the characters were somewhat interesting and the writing well done. I don’t know that the premise itself was really stupid, but aspects of it were. I don’t want to say what I didn’t like about the story because it would be a spoiler for those who might read it in the future. Of course, now that I said I didn’t like part of the book, others will say they won’t want to read it, but I wouldn’t discourage you from reading it because even though aspects of it irritated me, I had a hard time putting it down. 

The storylines in Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren were actually very engaging. There are four main characters. Two major main characters and two minor main characters. Their stories intersect at times, but the main story is of Kasey and Ben, young lovers who grew apart when Ben left to become a Country Music star. The book sets up future storylines or at least future characters, including the story of billionaire Ian Shaw who spends this book look for his niece who has gone missing. I do enjoy how Susan May Warren writes, but I don’t know if I will buy the other books in this series or not. I am reading this first book in the series because it is on Kindle Unlimited and I usually only pay $9 for an ebook if it is from an author I really enjoy, which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy this author’s work. I’m just not sure I’m going to keep buying the ebooks for that price when I can get the paperbacks for about the same price. I’ll probably purchase paperbacks of hers in the future. 

I’ll probably finish that book in the next couple of days and then I plan to read a book by Ted Dekker, who I’ve heard a lot about recently, and one by James L. Rubart, who I’ve only just heard about. 

Dekker’s is called Water Walker, which is a book that combines four serial “episodes”. The description on Amazon is: “My name is Alice Ringwald, but the man who kidnapped me says that’s a lie.”

 Thirteen-year-old orphan Alice Ringwald has no memory beyond six months ago. The only life she knows is the new one she’s creating one day at a time with the loving couple that recently adopted her and gave her new hope. That hope, however, is shattered one night when she is abducted by a strange man. In a frantic FBI manhunt, the kidnapper vanished with Alice.”

Rubart’s book is Rooms. The Amazon description: What if you inherited a brand-new mansion on the Oregon coast—from a great uncle you never knew? Would you blow it off? Or head down there to check it out?

 Micah Taylor isn’t stupid. He’s made a fortune building a Seattle software empire. But he can’t figure out why he’s been given a 9,000 square foot home right on the beach.

 And not just any beach.  The one beach he loves more than any other.  The one beach he hates more than any other.  Both at the same time.  Micah drives down to check out the house. On the surface, everything seems legit. He instantly feels at home and then he meets a beautiful young woman at the local ice cream shop.  Now there’s two reasons to keep coming back to Cannon Beach. But the house still feels off. Things start happening that Micah can’t explain.  That Micah doesn’t want explained.  Because he’s slowly realizing the house isn’t just a house.  It’s a physical manifestation of his soul.

 He begins a journey into the most glorious rooms of his life, but also the darkest.  Rooms where terrible things happened.  Things that must not be remembered, but scream out to be heard.  Micah can’t run. Can’t hide.  Because the memories aren’t just memories.  They’re real.  Memories that can heal and set him free.  But that can also destroy him.  And there’s no way to know which side will win in the end.

What I’m Watching

My husband and I finished The Trouble with Maggie Cole this week, which we found on the PBS Masterpiece channel on Amazon. I mentioned this show in my post last week. It was six episodes and we really enjoyed it. We don’t see how they could have a season two but Dawn French, who stars in the show, says a second season is planned. I was so nervous that the show, which was fairly clean, was going to delve into this super dark place in the last couple of episodes, but it didn’t. Instead, it was a nice, but suspenseful story with redeeming characters. 

The show starts with Maggie Cole (French) being interviewed by a radio show host who gets her drunk so she will gossip about the people in town. She doesn’t remember or know the gossip part will be on the show when she sets up a party at her house for everyone in town to listen with her. She thinks the man is going to be doing a story on the 500-year celebration party she is organizing for the town, which is what they agreed on when they first met.

The show follows her efforts to make it up to the people she “outed” but also the stories of each person who she shared gossip about. Throughout the series, we learn what is true and what isn’t about the six victims of her drunken ramble.

As I said last week, I completely relate to Maggie, except that I don’t feel I am a pushy person who forces people to do what I want. Sadly, when I asked my husband if that part of her was like me, he paused much too long. He’s still taking care of that lump on his head from the book I threw at him. That last part, of course, is a joke. The part about him pausing too long is not. 

Christmas season is starting so I’m sure I’ll watch my share of stupid Hallmarkesque Christmas movies this week. 

What’s Been Occurring / What I’m Writing

I finished the first draft of The Farmer’s Daughter yesterday. The final version will be a bit different than what I shared here on the blog since I have removed both Franny and Jason’s storyline from this book. Their stories will be separate novels or novellas. It felt pretty good to finish the book since I’ve been working on Molly’s story for the last couple of years when I first wrote the kiss scene on a whim. I started her story before I started A New Beginning and in the middle of writing A Story to Tell. I’m so glad I won’t be saying goodbye to Alex and Molly, though. Their story will continue some in The Farmer’s Son, which will be Jason’s story, and in The Business Man’s Son, which will be Alex’s story.

I will be working on rewrites and edits this week if I can keep my brain from jumping to the other stories I am planning for the series. 

Last week’s posts included:

Last week we spent my husband’s birthday visiting a light display at a golf course about a half an hour away. The Christmas lights lined trees and displays across the course and it was a beautiful sight. The way they made lights look like a running river was amazing. I’m sure my photographs don’t do it justice. I’m sharing a few here and will share more in my Photos of the Week post tomorrow. The only issue we had during the tour were the odd comments from my kids, including when my daughter asked if that was Santa in an airplane in one of the displays and when my husband said “yes,” she said “That is so cringe.”

After the tour, they offered hot chocolate, cookies, and other snacks in a space near the main club room location. One of those snacks were smores kits., which were simply one marshmallow, a mini Hershey chocolate bar, and two graham crackers. The marshmallows were roasted over fire pits they had set up in the open courtyard.

We spent Thanksgiving with my parents, enjoying three different types of pies they made, a turkey my husband made, and a variety of other food we all made together. 

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week. How about you? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday Bookends: Really don’t have much in me anymore

Sunday Bookends is my week in review, so to speak. It’s where I share what I’ve been up to, what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been watching, what I’ve been listening to, and what I’ve been writing. Feel free to share a link or comment about your week in the comments.

What I’m Reading

Whose Waves These Are

While I am reall enjoying the book, it is full of metaphors and people who talk dramatically with hidden meaning in every word. It’s, well, dramatic, in other words. And that’s nice but it’s also a little mind numbing because there are so many — words in the book. I know that sounds stupid, but I don’t know how else to explain it. The author doesn’t just write “she walked to the pier.” She adds extra meaning behind each step of how and why and where and when she walked to the pier. This all sounds like a complaint but it isn’t. Not at all. The book is beautifully written. In fact, it just won a Christy Award for best general fiction novel. (The Christy Awards are Christian fiction awards.)

So, the book is lovely and I recommend it highly.

Somedays, though, a book with so much hidden meaning is a bit much for my brain and that makes me feel guilty because I should want to read deep things, right? But there are days I don’t want to read anything deep.

After the year we’ve all had, plus my years in newspapers, my brain can’t go deep anymore. It’s bottomed out in many ways.’

There are days I think I should read and write deep.

“My stories would be better if I wrote deep,” I tell myself but then I remind myself that there is a time for deep and a time for simple and light. When someone needs deep and thoughtful they can pick up Amanda Dykes or someone like her (and I hope they do!) but when they need light they can find authors who write light books.

One author who writes books full of humor and laughter is Peggy Rowe. I hadn’t finished her latest About Your Father And Other Celebrities I Have Known for some reason so this week I picked that up again. It’s more of a collection of short stories and that’s perfect for my brain capacity these days.

I’m also reading Christmas in Absaroka County, a Walt Longmire Mystery by Craig Johnson. This is a collection of short stories about Sheriff Longmire. I’m enjoying it so far but it is much different than much of what I read.

At nights my daughter and I read Paddington until she falls asleep.

What I’m Watching

For some reason I’m distracting myself with an old Australian soap opera of sorts called The Man From Snowy River. I guess it is based on the movie, which I’ve never seen, which was based on a book that I’ve never read. There are a lot of actors on the show who later became movie stars including Hugh Jackman, Guy Pearce, Josh Lucas (who I always just called “That guy from Sweet Home Alabama”), Olivia Newton John, Tracy Nelson, Dean Stockwell, and Chad Lowe (yeah, I know….I don’t really remember him as much as his older brother Rob either).

The show is actually ridiculous in a lot of ways, but again, that is what I need right now. I’m only in season one. I’m hoping Hugh Jackman shows up soon since he’s the one pictured on the thumbnail.

What I’m Writing

I worked on The Farmer’s Daughter this week and posted two chapters.

What’s Been Occurring

Honestly, life has me down, cranky, and acting quite miserable to others at times so I prefer not to talk much about what’s been “occurring.” The bottom line is that I’m exploding on people because I’m stressed about other things and that isn’t fair to those other people (strangers mind you. My family has been fairly safe — thus far.)

I deleted my Facebook account last week (deleted. Not deactivated.), took Instagram off my phone, and am considering walking away from blogging as well, since not even that is an escape for me anymore. I’m pretty much sick of online life and life in general both right now.

I’m actively avoiding so much of what I used to enjoy simply because there is no enjoyment left in those things. It seems there is always someone out to ruin everything and slowly I am even becoming one of those people in certain circumstances.

Getting rid of social media is one step in many I need to take to deal with the issues I’ve developed from smiling and doing my best not to share what I really think (which I’ve failed at a number of times in the last couple of days.).

Photos the Week

If you read the previous paragraphs, you’ll understand why I don’t have photos from this week. My heart just wasn’t in it.

Sunday Bookends: Warmer weather, comfort reading, and the boy turns 14

Sunday Bookends is my week in review, so to speak. It’s where I share what I’ve been up to, what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been watching, what I’ve been listening to, and what I’ve been writing. Feel free to share a link or comment about your week in the comments.

What I’m Reading

I read through a sappy romance last week, which I enjoyed, and for a change of pace I’m reading another Longmire book by Craig Johnson. I’m also reading A Cat Who book, and I haven’t forgot Maggie by Charles Martin. I’m reading whichever one that fits the particular mood I’m in on whatever day.

What I’m Watching

I needed to go back to the basics this week so I watched a couple of sappy Signed, Sealed, Delivered movies from Hallmark and several episodes of The Andy Griffith Show.

What’s Been Occurring

Warmer weather hit our area again this week, which was a welcome surprise since I wasn’t really paying attention to what the weather was supposed to be. We used the warm days to run around our yard with the dog and take my daughter’s school outside to have some fun learning a few sight words.

Other than getting outside a few times, we didn’t do a lot this week except for celebrate my son’s 14th birthday on Saturday. He and his dad went to an actual mall and a Chick-Fil-A, my son’s first trip to one. For some reason he’s been obsessed with going to a Chick-fil-A for a few years and we finally found one about an hour and a half from us. I tried not to sit and reflect how fast the last 14 years have gone this week but it hit me a little hard one night and I cried for about 15 minutes. My son hugged me and promptly ruined the moment by farting. I could say that he only developed this inappropriate farting only when he became a teenager, but that’s not true. He’s always farted away sweet moments, even as a newborn. Of course, when he was a newborn his farts were cute. Not so much anymore.

Notice: The next paragraphs were written early in the week before any announcements about the election so this is not a reflection of who was chosen and is related to my frustration with all politics. I am truly at peace about outcomes, which I mention below. Also this is not so much about politics as it is an opinion on how it makes people act!

Later in the week, I had to stop looking at the news because of the absolute vitrol coming from a variety of different people on all sides of the political spectrum — all of them claiming to be kinder and nicer than the others. Newsflash: if you are telling people you hope they die and their children are raped and murdered, you’re not a kind person, I don’t care what party you are a part of. You’re a mentally ill person. Period.

After a couple of days of reading these comments go back and forth and even watching so-called journalists (from a variety of “news” outlets) use the same language (FYI: there are no longer journalists left. Only commentators.), I had to back away because I had sunk into a very deep depression.

This is the world my children are being brought up in. The world that says it’s normal to spit in the face of people and call that normal, threaten the lives of those you don’t agree with, and childishly scream at each other when you are in your 70s. I say if you want to disagree or peacefully assemble, that’s fine, but keep your spit and your threats to yourself — no matter what party you allign yourself with. And I have seen it coming from people who allign with both this past week. It’s so bad I’m about to declare myself an independent. I don’t want to be associated with either of the major parties.

It’s like the whole world has gone mad.

I’m not sure how to explain that world to my children so I don’t allow the news to be on around them or near them these days.

If it hadn’t been for the warmer and sunnier weather, plus reminding myself of the post I wrote last week (and having other Christians remind me online of similiar sentiments) I probably would have slipped even deeper into depression.

What I’m Writing

I’m gutting The Farmer’s Daughter right now and didn’t share any chapters this past week. It’s not like people are clammoring to find out what happens (haha!) so I’m sure missing a week or two isn’t a big deal. Who is going to notice, right? Not really anyone.

I renamed Quarantined on Kindle because the book isn’t about quarantine really. It’s about relationships rekindling so I went back to what I had originally called it on here “Rekindle” and re-posted it on Amazon with a new cover as well. Republishing it removed the lovely review that had been written for it and that annoys me, but I had to rebrand it because I figure there are a lot of people who are like me and are sick of hearing about quarantines and lock downs and all of that jazz.

Photos of the Week has been moved to Monday for this week.

How was your week? Reading or watching anything interesting? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday Bookends: Enjoying Christmas movies (yes, already); Charles Martin is a master writer; and cold weather hits our area

Sunday Bookends is my week in review, so to speak. It’s where I share what I’ve been up to, what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been watching, what I’ve been listening to, and what I’ve been writing. Feel free to share a link or comment about your week in the comments.


Cold and rainy weather hit our area this week so we barely left the house. On Friday we even had snow. Yuck.

Since it rained all week I managed to delve into some books (finishing one, starting two others), and watch three movies (five or so if you count me watching part of the Harry Potter movies with my son and his friend while they binged watched all the movies). I also wrote quite a bit more of The Farmer’s Daughter.

What I’m Reading

I finished The Dead Don’t Dance by Charles Martin this week and oh, it was so good. I believe it was his debut novel in 2004 or 2005.

He is a masterful writer and it made me wish I could write that well. After reading his book I considered giving up on writing all together, but decided we can’t all be Charles Martin and not everyone wants to read Charles Martin, though they should. To show an example of his writing, here are a couple of my favorite sentences/paragraphs:

  • “Whatever it was, I know that if someday the roles were reversed, I’d want her to do the same for me. I’d want my wife’s hands on me. I’d want to know she was there, thining about me, and her hands could tell me that better than anything else she might do.”
  • “I’m not quite sure where, but from someplace deep within, where the scabs are hidden, where the doubt can’t go and the scars don’t show, I began to cry.”
  • “Professor, you don’t know it, but you introduced me to me. This life needs people who stand in the ditch and argue with God because the rest of us are either too scared or too proud. I don’t really like all I see in the mirrior, but I’m beginning to think that the girl behind the glasses is worth digging into. Maybe I’ll take them off one day.”
  • “Moments before, I lived in a world where wisteria snake across my son’s grave as he rotted beneath a cement slab; where Vietnam Vets inhaled beer to help them forget the day they wiped Vicks salve in their noses so they wouldn’t have to smell the bodies as they zipped up the bags; where a no-good farmer bathed in a cornfield but couldn’t wash the blood clean; where snow fell on iced-over railroad tracks; where used-car salesmen robbed old women with inflated prices and double-digit interest rates; where little boys peed in the baptistry and pastors strutted like roosters; . . .”
  • “Standing there in my new boots and covered in pig smear, I didn’t know who to be until I knew where she was. I needed Maggs to tell me who to be-because that would tell me where she was, and most importantly, who we were.”

There are so many tough topics in this one (infant loss, wife in coma, rape, abortion, self-harm, alcoholism etc.) but it’s dealt with in such tasteful ways that it isn’t full-on in-your-face horror. You are pulled on this journey, sometimes kicking and screaming, with Dylan Styles, a man who has had a lot of heartache in his life and is dealing with more heartache as his infant son has died in childbirth and his wife is in a coma after losing too much blood during delivery. He is a teacher, writer, and a farmer after taking over his grandparents’ farm, where he moved with his wife. He spends much of the book struggling to come to terms with Maggie being a coma, the loss of his infant son, and where God was in all of it. This book is not your typical Christian fiction and it is not preachy at all, even though there are definite Christian undertones and Charles Martin is a Christian, having written non-fiction Christian books as well. I don’t even believe it is listed in Christian fiction (I mean he uses the word crap so that pretty much eliminates him from being allowed to publish a book under the Christian fiction title).

I’m delving into Maggie, the sequeal to The Dead Don’t Dance this week.

I’m also reading A Handful of Hope (Taste of Romance Book 4) by Elizabeth Maddrey. It’s my first book by her and though it’s part of a series, it stands on it’s own, like her other books seem to. It’s a straight up romance with very little side story other than the romance so it’s a nice, light read.

Book description:

She wants to be worth loving.

Repeated heartbreak has convinced Jen Andrews she’s unlovable. When the groomsman she’s paired with at her best friend’s wedding shows interest, she wonders how long it will be before he realizes his mistake.

David Pak is ready to settle down with the right woman. After a disastrous first date with Jen, he’s determined to look elsewhere. But he’s haunted by the wounded look in her eyes.

How will David set aside his hesitations and see past Jen’s barriers to find love? And if he tries, will she let him?

A Handful of Hope is the fourth book in the Taste of Romance series of contemporary Christian romance novels set in the metro Washington, D.C. area. If you like stories of love and hope in the fast-paced modern world with realistic characters and heartwarming romance, then you’ll love Elizabeth Maddrey’s latest journey with this beloved circle of friends.

The third book I hope to start this week is Amanda Dykes’ Whose Waves These Are, which was nominated for a Christy Award for best first novel and best novel. My mom read this in two days and then called me to tell me to read it so I think I’d better read it this week. Plus it’s on Kindle Unlimited and if I don’t hurry up and read it, my mom will return it. She’s a reading beast.

What I’m Watching

I watched Christmas romance movies this week. Yes, I did. I don’t care if I am two months early. They weren’t actually as cheesy as other Hallmark-type movies I’ve watched either. I only had to fast forward part of the one because of the “you lied to me!” trope.

Christmas Contract starred people I don’t know and was about a woman who had gone through a break-up but had to go home for Christmas and knew she would see her ex-boyfriend so her friend decides she should take the friend’s brother home with her to make it look like she has a new boyfriend. Yeah, you can figure out the rest. The acting was actually pretty good and that’s all that saved this horrible plot.

Christmas on the Bayou was with the same actress as Christmas Contract and was another story of a woman going home for Christmas, not because of a break-up but because she knew she needed to spend more time with her son. The subtly between the romantic interests was a breath of fresh air compared to those movies where they are all hot and heavy the whole time and sleep together after their first kiss.

Wild Prairie Rose was the better of the three movies I watched this week. It was a sweet story of a woman who — um, yeah, — goes home. Yes, I know. Very similar plot to the other two. BUT it wasn’t at Christmas this time. This time she went home in the summer because her mother had not been feeling well and she wanted to help her take care of her home and simply to see her during that time. The story takes place in 1952. While there, Rose, the main character meets a man who is both deaf and dumb and forms a friendship with him. Will it develop into more? Won’t it? You’ll have to see but it’s not only a romance and I suggest you pull out some tissues before you watch it.

All three movies were on Amazon but may be available other places as well.

What I’m Writing

I shared two chapters from The Farmer’s Daughter this week and a post with tips about how to combat anxiety and depression during COVID and a toxic political season. I didn’t really have much mental energy to write much else.

Photos of the Week

I do not have a ton of photos this week because, again, it was dreary and miserable out and we didn’t really do anything worthy of photographing. We did attend a Trunk-or-Treat in town on Halloween so I have some photos from that, but that was about the extent of our “excitement” for the week.

How was your week? What have you been reading, watching, doing, writing, listening to and all that jazz? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday Bookends: Recommending Silas Marner (regretting I mocked it), reading suspense and watching post office detectives

Sunday Bookends is my week in review, so to speak. It’s where I share what I’ve been up to, what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been watching, what I’ve been listening to, and what I’ve been writing. Feel free to share a link or comment about your week in the comments.

What I’m Reading

I finished two books this week and there isn’t even a full moon. It’s some kind of miracle.

I finished Silas Marner early in the week and really enjoyed it (after making fun of it a few weeks ago). The book has romance, intrique, and a sweet storyline of redemption and forgiveness. For those who have never read it, here is a description:

In this heartwarming classic by George Eliot, a gentle linen weaver named Silas Marner is wrongly accused of a heinous theft actually committed by his best friend. Exiling himself to the rustic village of Raveloe, he becomes a lonely recluse. Ultimately, Marner finds redemption and spiritual rebirth through his unselfish love for an abandoned child who mysteriously appears one day in his isolated cottage.

My son and I will be watching the movie with Sir Ben Kingsley next week.

I also finished Expired Refuge, Last Chance County Book One by Lisa Phillips which was a Christian supense book without the heavy-handed Christian message. God is mentioned, yes. Forgiveness is talked about, yes. But it’s not all throughout the book and doesn’t distract from the action for those who aren’t interested in a Christian message. I had a hard time putting it down because of the non-stop action. I actually thought the action was a bit too non-stop at some points, but it was still a good, distracting read.

The book’s description:

She’ll never accept his help.

He’ll never stop trying to protect his town.

Mia Tathers is an ATF Special Agent. It’s not like she needs Conroy to protect her. However, when it becomes clear someone is recreating her biggest mistake, Mia has to face her own inability to forgive Conroy for what he took from her. It’s the only way she’ll stay alive.

In this town, Police Lieutenant Conroy Barnes is the one who fixes problems. When a blast from the past shows up, bringing danger with her, he vows to keep her safe. But the clock has expired on her refuge. Death is knocking, and Conroy is determined not to let it in.

This week I’m hoping to finish Charles Martin’s book The Dead Don’t Talk.

I also felt really bad about being so negative about Fannie Flagg’s book last week. I mean, what do I know? I’m no award winning author. And some people may prefer a story where it is just “told” to them instead of “shown.”

What I’m Watching

I’ve been watching Signed, Sealed, Delivered on the Hallmark app through Amazon.

There was only one season of the show, with ten episodes, and it was followed by eleven made for TV films.

Just a warning if you watch Episode 9 & 10 especially, get a box of tissues and settle in. I couldn’t handle episode 9 (warning, it deals with rape, but in a very different way and nothing is shown) and had to fast forward it. I cried like a baby through a good part of Episode 10.

What I’m Writing

I released Quarantined on Kindle last week. It is 99 cents until later this week.

I also shared a chapter of The Farmer’s Daughter for Friday Fiction.

What’s Been Occuring

Our weather suddenly warmed up this week, just to drop back down again by the weekend. We had temperatures in the 70s with high humidity and by Saturday we were wearing our winter coats. That’s Pennsylvania for you. Other than the weather, we really didn’t have anything too exciting happen this past week. I spent most of my days teaching the kids, walking up and down the street with my daughter and her little friend, and working on The Farmer’s Daughter (as well as finishing Silas Marner).

Photos of the week

Sunday Bookends on Monday: Fannie Flagg, Hallmark movie distractions, and playing in leaves

Sunday Bookends is my week in review, so to speak. It’s where I share what I’ve been up to, what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been watching, what I’ve been listening to, and what I’ve been writing. Feel free to share a link or comment about your week in the comments.


The plan to walk among books, touching them, looking at them, choosing some to take home was thwarted Saturday by the memorial service of a sweet 90-year old man who had attended the church I grew up in. He and his tough-talking Bronx-born wife were both piano players who often performed together for local senior groups and others. I last saw them play together about a year ago at my husband’s great-aunt’s 90th birthday party.

It was delightful and mesmorizing to watch them perform, no music in front of them, playing by memory and for Ernie, the husband, by ear. Saying ‘good-bye’ to Ernie here on earth was more important than going to the local library’s fundraising book sale and I’ll have to wait for another time when I can walk among books again. (As we all know, that could be a very long time.)

The memorial service, combined with a week where I didn’t feel particularly motivated to write blog posts, kept me from drafting a Sunday Bookends post for yesterday.

It seemed like every time my mom would call the last couple of weeks, she would tell me someone had died. As soon as she would deliver the bad news, my husband would deliver more bad news with some tragedy or one night the death of a man who was a cornerstone of the community we lived in for 18 years. It’s gotten to the point I’m almost afraid to answer the phone because I figure it’s Mom telling me about someone else’s death.

Despite the depressing news, I was able to drag myself out of depression most days by working on The Farmer’s Daughter, reading a couple of different books, and watching and making fun of some really stupid Hallmark movies.

What I’m Reading

I finished Courtney Walsh’s Just Like Home. So, yeah. I finished it. I should stop there, but I’ll share a couple thoughts instead. First, Courtney is a really good writer, but second, I’ve never seen one romance book use every single romance book trope imaginable not only throughout the entire book, but especially in the last five chapters. Despite not enjoying the use of all those tropes and what felt like a very predictable, rushed ending, the book was a nice distraction from, well, life.

I have not yet finished Silas Marner — again, I should keep my mouth shut, but I won’t because I seriously am baffled how George Elliott is considered an amazing writer. Her run-on sentences make me have vivid flashbacks to the year I had to reach John Steinbeck in high school.

This week I continued reading Down Where My Love Lives, which includes two books (The Dead Don’t Dance and Maggie) by Charles Martin. I’m curious who published this collection because on Kindle the book cover reads The Dead Don’t Dance, but the index reads “The Death Don’t Dance.” It was the second typo I’d seen in a book published by a big name publisher in a week. Despite that odd typo, the book is very good, although slightly depressing and heavy at this point.

Here is a description of the first for those who might be interested:

A sleepy rural town in South Carolina. The end of summer and a baby about to be born. But in the midst of hope and celebration comes unexpected tragedy, and Dylan Styles must come to terms with how much he’s lost. Will the music of his heart be stilled forever—or will he choose to dance with life once more, in spite of sorrow and heartbreak?

The Dead Don’t Dance is a bittersweet yet triumphant love story—a tale of one man’s journey through the darkness of despair and into the light of hope.

Maggie, is the sequel to The Dead Don’t Dance, but I won’t add the description because it’s a major spoiler for the first book. These are Charles Martin’s first two books and he is now a multiple-time New York Times Bestselling author (which my husband says really doesn’t matter anymore considering how far down the NYT has fallen in the journalism world.).

I’m also reading a hardcover of Fannie Flagg’s The All Girl’s Filling Station’s Last Reunion that I reserved at the library, and am enjoying it so far. My mom warned me the book might be “dirty” because she said one she’d read by her before had had something “dirty” in it, but so far the book has had no dirt and only one swear word and I’m half way through it. I did find a typo in it, which made me feel better about my typos, considering this was edited was by a large publishing firm.

For those who might be interested, here is a description:

The one and only Fannie Flagg, beloved author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, and I Still Dream About You, is at her hilarious and superb best in this new comic mystery novel about two women who are forced to reimagine who they are.

Mrs. Sookie Poole of Point Clear, Alabama, has just married off the last of her daughters and is looking forward to relaxing and perhaps traveling with her husband, Earle. The only thing left to contend with is her mother, the formidable Lenore Simmons Krackenberry. Lenore may be a lot of fun for other people, but is, for the most part, an overbearing presence for her daughter. Then one day, quite by accident, Sookie discovers a secret about her mother’s past that knocks her for a loop and suddenly calls into question everything she ever thought she knew about herself, her family, and her future.

Sookie begins a search for answers that takes her to California, the Midwest, and back in time, to the 1940s, when an irrepressible woman named Fritzi takes on the job of running her family’s filling station. Soon truck drivers are changing their routes to fill up at the All-Girl Filling Station. Then, Fritzi sees an opportunity for an even more groundbreaking adventure. As Sookie learns about the adventures of the girls at the All-Girl Filling Station, she finds herself with new inspiration for her own life.

What I’ve Been Watching

Last week I watched The Outsider with Tim Daly and Naomi Watts. It’s classified as a Western/Romance by Google. Filmed in 2002, it was fairly clean but also pretty unbelievable in some parts. It’s a movie, though, so we’ll let those parts slide. Daly was — quite honestly — hot in this movie. It completely erased my memories of him on Wings and made me wonder why he didn’t do more acting in movies. After I saw some clips about it YouTube, I discovered Hallmark had edited the sex scene out on the Amazon app. Yes, I signed up for the Hallmark channel on Amazon for a month and I’m somewhat regretting it at his point. I regret it when I watch movies made from about 2010 on because they are so cheesy, predictable and horribly acted. Luckily The Outsider featured some strong acting and I was able to stomach it enough to not fast forward the majority of it.

My husband and I are continuing to watch Murdoch Mysteries and we were also thrilled they are adding episodes of Shakespeare and Hathaway’s third season on Britbox (another Amazon offer). There are two up and they are apparently adding a new one every Tuesday. Both of these shows are fairly clean, simple, formulaic mystery/crime shows. We’ve been finding these types of shows are about all our brains can handle with all the weirdness of the world going on around us.

What I’ve Been Writing

I finished making changes in Quarantined so that I can publish it on Kindle on October 20 and continued writing The Farmer’s Daughter, sharing another chapter on the blog this week. Thursday I answered a question if Quarantined was a horror book or a romance.

So what have you been doing, reading, or watching? Let me know in the comments.

Photos of the Week:

I have less photos this week. I didn’t take as many. There is one in here of a chipmunk that was watching us from a hole in a tree in my parent’s yard while we played in the leaves Sunday. It cracked me up how he just sat there, acting like we couldn’t see him while he hid from our dog and watched us. He eventually escaped to hide under a storage shed.

Sunday Bookends: The new six year old, I need distractions, and suffering through – I mean, reading the classics

Sunday Bookends is my week in review, so to speak. It’s where I share what I’ve been up to, what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been watching, what I’ve been listening to, and what I’ve been writing. Feel free to share a link or comment about your week in the comments.

This week, especially toward the end, I have needed distractions from real life. Lots of distractions. That’s where the reading and writing has come in.

What I’m Reading

I mixed my reading with both lighter and “more challenging” reading this past week.

For the “light reading” (you know, if you consider a book that starts with the death of the main characters’ best friend and sister “light reading”.), I’m reading Just Like Home by Courtney Walsh, which is her latest book.

Here is the Goodreads description:

Prima ballerina Charlotte Page has a life any dancer would envy, but the tragic loss of her best friend, Julianna, leaves her wanting more. Or maybe—less. In an effort to make her life about something other than accolades and applause, Charlotte leaves professional ballet to save Julianna’s small-town dance studio. This lands her directly in the path of cranky high school football coach and Julianna’s older brother, Cole Turner.

Fresh off a state win and a bitter divorce, the last thing Cole expects is for a prima ballerina to chip away at the wall he’s grown quite comfortable hiding behind.

Will their fledgling relationship be strong enough to weather the storm of old secrets and a haunting past? Or will Charlotte lose the new, simple life she’s given up everything to gain?

For my “more challenging” reading, my son and I are reading Silas Marner by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). I have never had to read George Eliot, so I never knew George Eliot was actually a woman and when I say I’ve never “had to read George Eliot” I think people probably only read her when they are forced to. My son and I are “forced to” for his Economics curriculum, which seconds as English. I had a feeling no one reads Eliot for fun based on two things: my brother asking if we were reading her on purpose and the first long-winded, run-on sentences-out-the-wazoof irst page of the book. Listening to the book being read out loud on Youtube (audio only) is helping us push through and we are already on Chapter 3. To be honest, the story itself is not that bad. It’s the old-fashioned language that is a bit hard to push through. In all seriousness, Evans really was a good writer for her time, if not a bit long-winded

In case your dying to read a book that is thought of as a classic, here is the description from Goodreads:

George Eliot’s tale of a solitary miser gradually redeemed by the joy of fatherhood, Silas Marner is edited with an introduction and notes by David Carroll in Penguin Classics.

Wrongly accused of theft and exiled from a religious community many years before, the embittered weaver Silas Marner lives alone in Raveloe, living only for work and his precious hoard of money. But when his money is stolen and an orphaned child finds her way into his house, Silas is given the chance to transform his life. His fate, and that of Eppie, the little girl he adopts, is entwined with Godfrey Cass, son of the village Squire, who, like Silas, is trapped by his past. Silas Marner, George Eliot’s favourite of her novels, combines humour, rich symbolism and pointed social criticism to create an unsentimental but affectionate portrait of rural life.

If you ever really want a crazy, trippy story about a slightly crazy, trippy lady, look up Evan’s story (if you haven’t already.) We watched a documentary on her this past week and I got a lot of weird looks from my son when they discussed the sex life of some of the people during the victorian age. That’s all I’ll say about that.

If we make it through this book we plan to watch the movie with Sir Ben Kingsley.

What I’m Watching

My husband and I started Murdoch Mysteries this week and my son and I watched Guarding Tess for something different. I’ve seen Guarding Tess before but thought my son should be exposed to movies other than Harry Potter and Star Wars. Sadly, the language in Guarding Tess isn’t the best, but the rest of it is still cleaner than a lot of movies.

The description of Murdoch Mysteries on the CBC website (yes, it is Canadian):

Set in Toronto at the dawn of the 20th century, Murdoch Mysteries is a one-hour drama series that explores the intriguing world of William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), a methodical and dashing detective who pioneers innovative forensic techniques to solve some of the city’s most gruesome murders.

Murdoch’s circle of associates includes Constable George Crabtree (Jonny Harris, Hatching, Matching and Dispatching), Murdoch’s eager and often naïve right-hand man; Inspector Brackenreid (Thomas Craig, Coronation Street), Murdoch’s skeptical yet reluctantly supportive boss; and the love of his life, pathologist-turned-psychiatrist Dr. Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy, Durham County), a staunch ally who shares the detective’s fascination with forensic science and innovative ideas. All are valuable allies who help Murdoch solve his varied cases and traverse the many stratums of Victorian-turned-Edwardian society.

What I’ve Been Writing

I’m working on rewrites and corrections from my “editor” (husband) for Quarantined, the novella I shared here on the blog and plan to publish Oct. 20. I finally decided on a cover design for it.

I shared another chapter of The Farmer’s Daughter on Friday and on Thursday I shared some fall photos, a story of my dad burning one of his favorite hats, and a book review for Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner.

What’s Been Occurring

This week we celebrated Little Miss’ sixth birthday. I should probably write a separate blog post about that, but I’m not sure I can handle that emotionally. I’m amazed with how fast these six years have gone by.We spent her birthday going clothes shopping at a small second hand shop near us, buying her a treat of cupcakes and going to pick up her take-out dinner from a local diner down the street. Yesterday we held a small party for her with a little girl she’s befriended since we moved here and her grandparents.

Someone from our family finally saw the bear and cubs that have been wandering around the neighborhood. My son saw them out his window about 12:45 a.m. and texted me but oddly, I had actually fallen asleep early that night and didn’t get the message until the morning. He said he saw one of the cubs on our back porch and the mom and other cub out in the yard. In the morning my husband found our burn barrel shoved into the garden fence. Alas, it was too dark to try to get a photo of them. Last night we thought we heard them again and turned all the lights off to look, but whatever was moving out there wasn’t interested in letting us see it. Something ran into the woods when we let out our dog for her final “pee session” of the night, according to my son.

So what’s up with all of you? How was your week? Let me know in the comments!

Photos of the Week: