Woe! It's Wednesday: Walking the Walk

We don't travel in circles with people who make the news much. For either good or bad reasons. With one exception.
I met my friend Dot when she put together a critique group. There were four of us and we were all local alumni of the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer's Conference. Our little group has grown in so many ways, including Dot's newsletter for Christian educators in the Fresno area. The Salt Fresno newsletter was a photocopied collection of pages and it's now a full color magazine. I'm privileged to write and edit for the magazine. Dot has always been encouraging and generous with opportunities.

Oh, did I mention that Dot's husband is the superintendent of Fresno County schools? Larry and Dot have invited us to their home, shared meals with us, and now they're bringing national media attention to Fresno for doing something that surprises no one who knows them.

Larry is giving up his salary for the next three and a half years and funneling that money back into some threatened programs. The Huffington Post is just one of the online news sites that are talking about Larry and Dot and their generousity.

The Powells are the kind of people who don't just talk about living their faith, they do it. Every day.

Thanks Larry and Dot, for being the kind of people who remind others that Christians can be in the news for things other than picketing funerals or bombing clinics.


Book Talk Tuesday: Stained Glass Hearts

Some books I pass on to others I think will enjoy them. Some go directly to the donation stack. A rare few have gone straight to the trash. This one is a keeper.

Even though Stained Glass Hearts' subtitle is "Seeing Life From a Broken Perspective," I feel it speaks more to the stale and stagnant. Each chapter includes art, music, poetry, and scripture to give the reader a renewed or different perspective of God and His grace. I loved the suggestions and the quotes sprinkled throughout the book. Patsy's stories of brokenness add her unique personality to the pages.

Broken glass can be pieced together to form beautiful pictures and Patsy shows how broken lives can be healed and shaped into something grace-filled and God-glorifying. She talks about the importance of having a new perspective and seeing our brokenness as opportunities for growth. With examples from her own life, Patsy encourages the reader to start small, believe big, and emerge strong.

I will be shelving this book right next to my copy of Madeleine L'Engle's Walking on Water and Luci Shaw's The Crime of Living Cautiously. I turn to these when I need a fresh perspective, a renewed vision, or to kindle my creativity. Patsy Clairmont's Stained Glass Hearts is a worthy companion to those volumes.

I received a free copy of Stained Glass Hearts from Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program but this did not influence my review.


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

I actually had this ready early last week. Only I forgot to post it on Friday. Oops!


Previously: When Sarah Jane told her family that Jesse had seen Rachael, her father left, saying he didn’t know anyone by that name. Nathan called Jesse to get details and was told Jesse was on his way to the Richter home to talk to them. Sarah Jane wondered if the woman she saw with Jesse could be her sister.


The Bandbox Hat

Chapter Eight

As soon as I hit the top of the stairs, I called out to let Jake and Anna know I was back. “Got it!” I sang out. “Should I serve the cobbler, Anna?”

“Not yet,” she said, materializing in the kitchen.

“He’s here.” Nathan called from the living room. “Looks like he’s alone, too.”

My heart settled back into my chest from my throat where it had been hovering since hearing Jesse was on the way over.

The clack of the front door opening reached me and I darted a glance at my sister-in-law. Her lips were pinched together as tightly as she insisted her Tupperware be sealed. She saw my look because she turned pink and strode out of the room.

“Jesse,” she said.

I followed more slowly.

“Hi Anna, Sarah Jane.” Jesse stood in the doorway and I had to force myself to breathe normally. The last time I’d seen him before yesterday, he’d been in that same spot. This time though he wasn’t twisting a gimme cap advertising Rosedale Feed and Seed in his hands and shuffling his size 12 Carhartt boots.

I returned his easy smile before I had a chance to wonder at my response.

“What’s going on, Jesse?” Anna skipped over the pleasantries like a flat rock flung across Tule Lake. “Sarah Jane told us you’ve been in contact with Rachael. You should know we don’t want to see her. She’s not welcome here.”

Jesse flinched as if Anna’s words were directed at him. Which in a way they were, even though Anna’s real anger was meant for Rachael. “Is that true?” He looked from Anna to me to Nathan who held up a placating hand.

“I want to ask you some questions first,” Nathan said. “Anna, didn’t you mention cobbler and ice-cream? Jesse and I will be on the porch.”

Anna whipped around and back into the kitchen, indignation rolling off her stiff back. Jesse let Nathan herd him outside leaving me in the entry between the dining room and living room. I was dying to hear what Jesse had to say about Rachael but if I didn’t help Anna dish out the dessert I’d be in for several days of silent treatment interspersed with heaving sighs of disdain whenever I spoke. I followed Anna.

“Here.” She thrust a tray into my hands. “Put the coffee carafe, some cups, sugar, and cream on here and take it out to them. I know you’ll be useless in here.”

I let the insult slide and filled the tray with mugs and other coffee paraphernalia. I let the screen door slam behind me just because it would irritate Anna.

“Here’s coffee.” I set the tray on a wicker side table and sank into Mom’s rocker. “So, what’s going on?”

“Rachael came to town with me.” Jesse leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.

“Was that her with you at Enns Dry Goods?”

He shook his head. “That’s a … another friend. The three of us drove up from LA yesterday. Rachael was at the motel. Lynn wanted to see the town.”

I exhaled and willed my heartbeat to normal. I knew it couldn’t have been Rachael. Surely I would’ve recognized my own sister. At least, I hoped I would.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: They Put Up a Parking Lot


Is it just me or do drivers need a refresher course on parking lot driving, safety, and etiquette?



I roll out of parking spots veeerrry slowwwwly. I’m usually hemmed in by giant SUVs and I can’t see what’s coming until I’m well into the traffic lane.

About 75% of the time I have to slam on my brakes because someone is barreling down the center of the parking lot. I drive a small-ish white SUV. The backup lights work. There is no way they didn’t see me coming out. If I wasn’t going so slowly, we’d be exchanging contact and insurance information.

Oh, and the laws governing stop signs apply in parking lots as well as out on the street. That means coming to a full and complete. S.T.O.P.

I know it’s a lost cause.

But it bugs me.


Book Talk Tuesday


I’m in the middle of reading several books, both for review and friends’ recommendations, so I don’t have anything new to rave about.

Instead, I think I’ll revisit a young adult favorite.


Apples Every Day  Apples Every Day by Grace Richardson.


I checked this one out of the library so often, the librarians would just call me if they got a request for it.

Well … not quite, but it could’ve happened.

It’s a coming of age story about an unconventional boarding school in Canada and a “new girl” who feels like a misfit. She ends up thriving at the school, growing into herself and recognizing her talents.

I haven’t read it in probably 35 years but I still remember the characters and their emotions and the story. I wouldn’t hesitate to give it to a teen today. There’s no cell phones and no texting, but Harry Potter doesn’t text either and lots of kids enjoy reading about his boarding school days.

There’s heartfelt emotion but nothing inappropriate for a young adult.

Anyone else read this one?


Woe! It's Wednesday: Movies and Books and Civil Rights ... Oh my!

I'm really kind of obnoxious about having to read a book before I see the movie. I've admitted it before.
I saw The Help over the weekend. I read the book last year and loved it so I was looking forward to the movie, albeit with some trepidation.
Hollywood isn't exactly known for it's faithful adaptions (e.g. My Sister's Keeper) but everything I read about the movie indicated that they were adhering closely to the book. The director was a friend of the author's. The actress cast as Minnie was a friend of both theirs. I figured chances were good they weren't going to muck up the story. And they didn't.
I loved both the book and the movie.
But then today I read an article about how some people are angry with the movie (and I presume the book). They said it trivializes the Civil Rights Movement.
I disagree.
It never claims to be a Civil Rights movie.
It's about courage.
It's about faith.
It's about doing the right thing.
That crosses color, neighborhood, and economic lines.
Read it. Watch it. Make up your own mind.


Book Talk Tuesday: Falls Like Lightning

I love everything Shawn Grady writes and this one is another winner. I had it on top of my To Be Read stack while I was finishing up a library book. David saw it, snagged it and read it first. He said “Awesome,” and he was right.
The set up and the beginning is a little slower-paced than Grady’s first two books, but in this case it’s warranted. There are a lot of characters and the set up is needed for the second half’s suspense and climax.
From my amazon review:   Silas Kent and Elle Westmore have a past with more baggage than a 747. Silas is a smokejumper, a fire fighter who parachutes in to battle back country fires. Elle is the pilot who ferries the jumpers in. They both get caught up in an evil scheme and have to fight for their lives against greedy men as well as the natural elements of fire and water, along with trees and mountains, not to mention their own shared past and their unresolved feelings for each other.
I have a couple of tiny quibbles and I debated about mentioning them. I decided that the things I had a problem with were editing issues and since I read the book as a reviewer, not an editor, I shouldn't mention them.
So, as a reviewer I have to stand by my first statement: Awesome!
If you love suspense, great characters, an insider’s look at a hard and risky job, with a dash of faith, Falls Like Lightning is perfect. I highly recommend it.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive a free copy to review and write about. This did not influence my feelings or my review.


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

It’s back! I’m finally writing fiction again and here’s the next installment of Sarah Jane Richter and her family.

Previously: Sarah Jane blurted out at the dinner table that Jesse, her former boyfriend who moved away seven years ago, gave her news about Rachael, Sarah Jane’s long missing older sister.

The Band Box Hat

Chapter Seven


Daddy swallowed then took a long gulp of his milk. After setting down the glass, he looked at me, lips thin as a new peach tree scion.

“I don’t believe I know anyone by that name, Sarah Jane. And you don’t either.”

“Dad! Come on—” Nathan started to protest.

Dad shoved away from the table and stood. “Anna, thank you for a delicious dinner. Next time, I hope the conversation is more suitable.” He strode out on long legs and a stiff back.

Everyone around the table exhaled, even April.

“What did he say?” Nathan asked, leaning on the table.

“That she’s been in Pasadena and afraid to call or come home.”

Now it was Nathan’s turn to stand. “In L.A.? Four hours away?”

I nodded. “I know.”

“April, run upstairs and start your homework,” Anna said.

“But, Momma, I—” April gave a token protest, but even she must have sensed the tension around the table because she grabbed her piece of corn bread and headed down the hallway.

I looked around the table at my brothers. Hard workers, all. Kind. Men of few words, too, except for Nathan. Abel and Daniel had returned to their meals and were already piling their forks and knives on their plates. They disappeared into the kitchen and a moment later the back door slammed. They were the two middle boys, the ones who learned to keep their heads down and their ears open and to stay out of trouble. As adults, this meant they avoided any and all signs of drama.

“Did Jesse say anything about Peter and the baby?” Anna asked.

“The ‘baby’ is ten years old now,” I said. “And he has a name.”

Anna’s nose grew white and pinched. “Did Jesse say if Rachael has been in contact with Peter and if she’s seen her son any time in the last decade?”

“I didn’t give him a chance to tell me much else.” I rubbed a crumb of corn bread between my finger and thumb, spreading a fine yellow sand across my plate.

Nathan pulled his cell phone from his belt holster and pressed a few buttons before speaking into it. “Hello, Ethan, it’s Nathan Richter. I understand Jesse is in town. May I speak with him? … I see … Thanks.” He flipped close his phone and stood. “Apparently, Jesse is on his way here.”

Anna popped out of her chair. “Sarah Jane, help me clear this and get the dessert plates out. Good thing I made a cobbler this afternoon.”

I complied with my hands while my mind wandered back to my first glimpse of Jesse yesterday. And the woman with him … it couldn’t be Rachael. Could it? No. Even though I hadn’t seen my sister in ten years, surely I would have recognized her.

In the kitchen, I set the cleared plates on the counter while Anna fussed over her dessert. “I don’t have time to whip any cream so we’ll have to use vanilla ice-cream as a topping. Will you run to the freezer, Sarah Jane?”

I rinsed the forks and dropped them into the silverware caddy in the dishwasher with a clatter. “Sure.”

Once in the basement, I paused in front of the old chest. My parents bought it when Jake was born and it had been chugging away in this very spot ever since. We were afraid to unplug it for fear it would never start again. The lid felt pebbly under my hand. I tugged it upward until the rubber seal finally released with a resigned sigh.

Freezer jam, butcher-paper blocks of ground beef and steaks, along with some frozen pizzas filled the interior. Ice-cream, in perfect rectangular half-gallon blocks, had always ruled the front right corner for easy access. Now that ice-cream came in ovoid-shapes and cylinders rather than easily stacked blocks, the containers were often plunked in and the next hungry person had to hunt and pick through the meat and jam.

This time though, the vanilla was right on top. Anna must have been the one to return it because it sat in its assigned corner.

“I don’t care! I don’t want her in this house. It’s mine now.” Anna’s voice reached me and I cocked my head. It sounded like she was standing next to me, but would have heard her footsteps behind me if she’d followed me down.

A low murmur sounded.

“She didn’t even come see your dying mother. How can you defend her?”

Oh, yes, the heater grates. From before the days of central air and heat. I edged closer so I could hear better.

“We’ll wait to hear what she has to say before we make any decisions.”

“Jake, she abandoned her husband and her child. We can’t fellowship with her.”

“Letting her come into her childhood home is hardly fellowshipping with her.”

“It’s not exactly shunning her, either.”

Jake gave a soft chuckle. “Anna, sweetheart, we haven’t shunned anyone in years.”

“Is that because no one deserved it or the church here doesn’t have the guts?”

Jake drew a sharp breath.

I grabbed the ice-cream and raced back up the stairs.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: You Must Be So Proud

We’ve never been the kind of parents whose wellbeing or happiness or sense of accomplishment is tied up in our kids.
We love our kids, of course. We’d die for them. Literally and figuratively. We support them 100% in whatever they do.
Sure, we made mistakes in our parenting.
And they’ve made mistakes.
We still love them and are proud of (most of) their choices.
After being congratulated on how his four children turned out, my friend’s father said, “I can’t take the credit, because if they didn’t turn out, I wouldn’t take the blame.”
That sums it up nicely for me.
I have one person in my life who is determined to hold me responsible for the actions and words of an adult member of my family. I’d love to have a conversation about this but they seem to want to hold onto their anger more than they want me as a friend.
I can only shrug. But I do wonder how proud they are when their family members post public tweets about the wild time they had in Vegas and how much fun it was getting drunk last week, and about the raunchy movies they’ve been enjoying, not to mention the hookups.
I have to wonder if they don’t see a bit of the double standard.
But I don’t wonder too hard.
The people who love me are still speaking to me. They support me 100% in all that I do.
I’m blessed.


Book Talk Tuesday: Finding New Favorites

How do you find new authors?

I often find my newest favorites when a friend recommends a new-to-me writer.

That’s how I found Margaret Maron, Kristan Higgins, J.D. Robb, and Jodi Picoult.

Some I find all on my own. Agatha Christie, Claire Cook, Dick Francis, and Harlan Coban.

Several friends have been raving about Susan Wiggs so I’ve recently read three of hers. They’re very good and I enjoyed them.

But I didn’t flip for them as my friends did and it got me wondering why. She’s often marketed with other writers I enjoy, like Luanne Rice.



I’ve come up some possibilities and I have to read a bit more of her to see if I’m right.

  • Not enough humor. They’re straight women’s fiction and I like a little of the light side, a la Kristan Higgins or Kristin Billerbeck.
  • I need to read some of her newer books. As I looked at her website, I noticed the three I’ve read any of her newest releases.
  • No cute pets, like in Claire Cook’s novels.

I’ll get back to reading and let you know if I narrow it down.

In all likelihood though, I’m not reading her best, most recent work. I’ll fix that and post again.

Anyone love Susan Wiggs and have a recommendation of a newer book of hers to try?


The Plasticization of Hollywood–Woe! It’s Wednesday


I’ve noticed that so many actresses have the same mouth.

I hate it. I miss Courtney Cox’s smile from the early Friends years.

I’ve tried to watch Cougar Town because it gets good reviews but I can’t stand to see her stretched smile. I think she had her cheeks done and it messed up her mouth. But I’m just speculating here.


Cougar Town Publicity Still



But I don’t need to since I can just flip to Desperate Housewives to see the same smile on Felicity Huffman.



Or Shannon Tweed on Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels.



Or Meg Ryan, who ruined what was once the most beautiful smile in movies.



It makes me appreciate the women with the guts to age the old fashioned way. With smile lines.

Linda Hamilton:


Kathleen Turner:


Sissy Spacek:          


Thanks, ladies, for being examples of class and beauty.


Book Talk Tuesday: Pay Me in Flesh


I just read something completely out of the ordinary, in every sense of the word.

It’s out of the ordinary of what I usually read.

It’s out of the ordinary of what’s being published.

It’s out of the ordinary of what the author usually writes.

It’s out of the ordinary in its capacity to combine horror, humor, and heart.


It’s about Mallory Caine, a defense attorney by day and a brain-eating zombie by night.


I read it.

I even liked it.

I read it because the author is a friend and he trusted me enough to send me a preview copy to read and tell others about. If I liked it.

I’m not gonna lie.

It was tough to get into. Mallory’s craving for flesh, in particular brains, creeped me out. I don’t read horror. I don’t watch horror movies. The closest thing I’ve watched or read is the Twilight series and Harry Potter. Neither of which has zombies.

But because I know and like the author (K. Bennett is a pseudonym for James Scott Bell) and I’ve enjoyed his other work, I hung in there and kept reading. 

This is from Jim’s blog announcement :


In L.A., practicing law can be hell. Especially if you’re dead.


In an increasingly hellacious L.A., zombie lawyer Mallory Caine defends a vampire hooker accused of the crime Mallory herself committed, even as a zombie-killer closes in and the love of her former life comes back as the Deputy DA she must oppose. And as Lucifer himself begins setting up L.A. as his headquarters for a new attack on heaven and earth, Mallory slowly discovers she may be the one who has to stop him.

The book has humor, lots of it. Mallory gets the irony in being a zombie attorney.

There is a bit of horror. Enough for the horror fan to be happy. Just a tad too much for the non-horror fan to appreciate, but the worst of it is in the first third. After that, either I was desensitized or the horror was truly lessened.

It’s full of heart. Mallory struggles with God and wonders what (and who) consigned her to the undead life. She gets a glimpse of truth at the end, with a nice setup to the next book in the series.

I’m glad I stuck with it. I’ll even read Mallory’s next adventure. I believe Jim will show God at further work in Mallory’s unlife and I look forward to reading how He will redeem even a zombie.

Pay Me In Flesh is available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

If you read it, let me know what you think. Really.