Woe! It’s Wednesday: It’s the Little Things


If only I could Photoshop out the dust …

little things

This is a picture of some little mementos that I keep in front of my monitor.

  • A little zebra that a friend brought back from a mission trip to Africa.
  • A tadpole to remind me that we’re all in process of becoming the person God wants us to be.
  • A rosebud that fell off a beautiful bookmark from a friend.
  • A stone heart that I purchased on a recent trip out of town with friends. To remind me to love at all times.
  • 2 pieces of beach glass to remind me of a special time away and that when I feel tossed around by life, it’s just smoothing off the rough jagged edges.

A few weeks ago for several mornings in a row, I found the zebra in the hallway outside the office. Then the heart disappeared. Someone was messing with my mementos. I blamed Stud Muffin for opening and closing the window above my desk too vigorously. I never said it out loud, but I figured that’s what happened.

Until I caught the culprit red-pawed:


I don’t know if he liked the pretty colors or the heft of them against his batting paws.

I just know they kept him enthralled for hours.

I do the same thing. I allow myself to be distracted by pretty things. Time-wasting things. Unimportant things.

It’s been a week or so since the cat swiped anything off my desk. Maybe he’s outgrowing his need for aimless distractions.

I hope I am as well.


Book Talk Tuesday: Sons of Thunder


If Starbucks announced they were making sheep’s milk cheese in addition to coffee, I’d be cautious about trying it. If Toyota went into the burger business, I’d be skeptical. If McDonald’s announced a foray into fine dining, I’d have some doubts.

Susan May Warren’s contemporary stories have long been at the top of my favorites list. I knew she’d written a few historicals but couldn’t bring myself to try them. What if I didn’t like them? Would they ruin the contemporaries for me?

I just finished her Sons of Thunder with a sigh of relief.

Sons of Thunder

It’s very good.

I love how Susie weaves her plot lines together and creates a deep and compelling story with honest and flawed and real characters.

Sons of Thunder is about two brothers and the woman they both love. It’s pre-World War II. Markos Stavros and his younger brother Dino flee their Greek home on the island of Zante when tragedy erupts. Also on their boat is Markos’s friend and love, Sofia.

They make it to Chicago and get swept up in the gangster wars. The trio is separated and each builds a new life. War and circumstances bring them together again. But each has done terrible things to survive. Their journeys bring them back to God as well as to each other.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but will say Sons of Thunder is worth reading. It won’t ruin your appetite for contemporary Susan May Warren stories. In fact, it may encourage you to run out and buy a few. I went ahead and requested one I missed from the library and picked it up today!


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

SarahJane, Cassie, Amanda, Austin, Liam, Linda, and Nathan are too busy playing beach volleyball to give me an update this week. They promise they’ll behave next week. Thanks for checking in!


Woe! It’s Wednesday: The Circle of Life


We’ve had quite a 2012. A fairly mild winter. A short spring. An endless summer – and I don’t mean in a good way. It was still in the 100s here just a week or so ago.


Summer, fall 2011 309



A view from the car window, September 2011, near Hamilton, New York.



Sunday I told Stud Muffin that I smelled fall in the air for the first time.

He scoffed and went out to wash his truck. The sun was warm and he didn’t feel the chill bite in the breeze.

Monday morning I woke up to gray rain and a grouchy husband complaining about his clean truck being rained on.

That’s the thing about time and seasons. They pass whether we’re ready for them or not.

This last weekend we heard that a family friend passed away. A niece got married. Friends announced they will be grandparents for the first time. A job opportunity came along.

We may not feel ready for winter or death. Spring and new life may seem so far away.

But God is constant and unchanging and faithful. No matter the season, the temperature or who’s in the playoffs.

That’s a comfort to me.


Book Talk Tuesday: Love Inspired Suspense

I’ve just read several Love Inspired Suspense novels back to back. They range from really good to just okay. Unfortunately I read them in reverse order of quality, starting with the best.

In no particular order here are brief reviews:

Danger on the MountainMaggie Bennett and Reese Kirkpatrick are caught in a bank robbery. Reese is a new deputy in town and is able to save Maggie when the robbers plan to take her and her baby daughter hostage. The robbers seem more intent on harming Maggie though then getting away with the robbery loot. They stay in town and harass her. Reese is drawn to the strong widow with the baby and vows to keep them safe.

This was a good one! I believed the setup, although my credulity was stretched a bit by the end. Overall, it was good and I would pick up others in this series. The small mountain town sounds charming and I could see it and want to spend time there.

Buried Secrets (Heart of the Amazon, #2) (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense #72)Maggie Somers is shocked when Zach Collier (a Montague to her Capulet family) turns up in her burglarized grandfather’s home just after the funeral. Zach is convinced her grandfather was murdered, just like his was two weeks ago. When younger, the two men shared possession of maps and a journal that promised Aztec treasure. They fought over a woman and Zach’s grandfather won the woman and the map. Maggie’s got the journal. Now someone is after both elements and have already killed in their quest. It goes against Maggie’s grain to trust a Collier, but it’s the only way to find her grandfather’s murderer.

I enjoyed Buried Secrets. It had good action and I believed the attraction between Maggie and Zach. I did have a problem with the plot point that a Spanish priest, hundreds of years ago, would write an English word into his Spanish journal as a clue. That quibble aside, it was a good read. If you like Indiana Jones, Romancing the Stone, or Victoria Pitts-Caine’s Alvarado Gold, you’ll enjoy Buried Secrets.

Dead Air (Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense #189)Gabby Rogillio is a night DJ in Mystique, Mississippi. Just   before the station owner’s planned announcement that he sold the station, he’s knocked unconscious and another employee is dead with the gun near the unconscious owner. Gabby is convinced Robert Ellison, the former owner, is innocent. The new owner, Clark McKay, agrees and they join forces to find out the truth. Both Gabby and Clark receive threats to back off their quest while they fight their growing attraction.

This one was my least favorite. Maybe because I’m not from the South, I didn’t find the quirks and idioms charming, just tiresome. Maggie’s thoughts about other characters that are meant to be witty and flip just came across as mean to me.

The inner conflict that kept Gabby and Clark apart wasn’t strong enough for me. I get loving a house but him buying it when he didn’t even know she existed, much less planned on buying it herself, just isn’t enough to convince me Gabby wouldn’t be able to shrug off her disappointment. Surely there are other charming antebellum houses in town. Gabby also had a bad experience with a man in the past and that convinces her that all businessmen are up to no good. That just doesn’t make emotional logic sense to me. She’s smart enough to see that one jerk doesn’t mean all men are jerks.

There is the basis of a great story here, but the potential wasn’t quite realized.

Hide In Plain SightAndrea Hampton hurries to the small town in the heart of Amish country where her grandmother and sister have been preparing to open the family home as a Bed & Breakfast inn. Andrea’s sister was in an accident and is hospitalized. Andrea can’t abandon the only family she has left so she takes a few weeks off from her job to help get the inn ready.

Cal Burke gave up a high powered job to become a furniture craftsman. He rents part of Andrea’s grandmother’s barn as a shop and apartment. He’s drawn to Andrea’s spunk and courage but sees that she’s determined to get back to the city and lifestyle he’ll never return to.

Accidents continue to plague the inn and Andrea and Cal join forces to figure out who’s trying to sink the inn before it can float.

I enjoyed this one. I got the inner conflict that kept Andrea and Cal apart. The suspense was well done with just enough red herrings between the real clues to keep me not 100% sure that I knew who the bad guy/girl was. (I was right – but I wasn’t sure – just the way I like it!)

This is the first in a series about Andrea’s family. I’d read the others. I recommend it!


Fiction Friday: What?!?! It’s FRIDAY?

I lost a week somewhere.

The Bandbox Hat will be back next Friday.

See you then and we’ll catch up with SarahJane and Austin and Cassie and Amanda and Nathan.


Book Talk Tuesday: You Don’t Know Me

I’ve mentioned Susan May Warren and her books here before. I just finished her latest and it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s definitely going on my “Best of 2012” list.

You Don't Know Me

Annalise Decker has lived in Deep Haven, Minnesota for twenty years. She’s built a perfect life. An adoring husband who’s running for mayor. Three accomplished children. A loving mother-in-law.

Too bad it’s all based on a lie.

Annalise is really Deidre O’Reilly and she’s in the Witness Security Program.

Her ordered life comes crashing down when the drug lord she testified against is released on parole and comes looking for her, intent on vengeance.

Nathan Decker has his own secrets he’s keeping from Annalise.

I loved these characters. Susie Warren knows each character from the inside out and has layered them with real and complex emotions. The plot moves briskly and kept me turning pages.

Characters and their emotional logic is big to me. When faced with huge moments, each character acted totally true to him/herself and their situation and feelings.

This one is a winner and I highly recommend it!


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat

Previously: SarahJane saves Amanda who was comatose in the pool after choking. SarahJane meets Logan, a production assistant. He informs her that she’s been chosen for a bowling date for the next day. She feels strangely warm and tingly as she leaves him.

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Cassie was spread across her bed when I tiptoed in and collapsed on my own bed. I stared at the ceiling for only a minute before I blinked my eyes open to sunshine bleeding through the blinds and sounds of the shower running in our bathroom.

“Are you awake yet?” Cassie called.

“Yes.” I struggled upright.

“A date card arrived. They want us downstairs in ten minutes.”

I splashed water on my face and changed into cropped pants and a cute top. Bowling today.

First, I’d have to act surprised then pleased when my name was read. Then I’d have to act pleased to go bowling. When all I wanted was to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head.

But I made my way downstairs with a smile on my face. A buzz of conversation stilled as I entered the kitchen. “What?” I asked.

“Amanda’s back. She said you saved her life.” A redhead sipped a fruit smoothie as she spoke, her blue eyes rounded and watching me.

“That’s not what she said last night.” I poured a mug of coffee and stirred in a teaspoon of sugar.

“She’s back and she said she was real sorry for snapping at you. I guess the hospital told her she would have died in a few more minutes.”

Relief flooded my chest. As much as I disliked the game-playing and name calling between the girls, I was relieved that any Amanda drama seemed to be over. “I’m just glad I was there.”

“Okay, ladies! We need everyone in the living room.” Liam’s voice echoed from the other room.

We filed like obedient first graders into the next room. The first six sat on the couch. The next four took chairs. The rest of us lined up behind the couch, in front of the French doors to the outside.

After ten minutes of positioning cameras and mics, lights and spotlights, we were ready to begin. Cassie was selected to answer the doorbell and to read the date card.

The director listened to his earpiece then pointed at Cassie as the bell rang. Girls squealed and giggled then quieted when she reappeared with an envelope.

She unsealed it and withdrew an embossed ivory card. “Family is important to me and to Austin,” Cassie read. “We enjoy lots of hobbies and activities together. Today we’re going … bowling!” The murmurs of anticipation quieted and girls looked at each other. “Please join us at the alley.” Cassie paused and looked up, meeting my eyes. “Cassie—that’s me! SarahJane.” She grinned and I smiled back. She went back to the card and reeled off a half dozen more names. Amanda wasn’t one of them. “See you soon, ladies. Signed, Linda.” Cassie stuffed the card back into the envelope as conversation swelled again. She made her way to my side.

“You, me, no Amanda. What’s up with that? It could be boring.”

I laughed. “With you and me around, it’ll be anything but boring.”

“Ladies, let’s go!” Liam herded us with his clipboard in one hand and his other cupping his ear.

We allowed ourselves to be guided outside and we climbed into a pair of SUVs.

“I haven’t been bowling in years,” Cassie said. “How about you?”

“I do Wii bowling with my niece all the time.”

She groaned. “Great. I’ll look like a complete dork while you continue to charm both Linda and Austin.”

I elbowed her. “Yesterday was your day in the spotlight, Miss Beach Volleyball.”

She smiled. “Oh yeah. And I forgot one other thing—” She flushed and fell quiet.

“What?” I asked.

She just shook her head. “I can’t talk about it. Yet.”

I leaned closer. “Whisper it to me, the cameras won’t hear.”

“I can’t,” she said with a smile. Then without moving her lips I heard a whisper. “It’s against the rules, but I think … well, I might have met someone.”

“Here?” I breathed back. “But there’s no one to meet here except Austin. Or the crew … Are you falling for someone on the crew?”

Her smile never changed. “We’re just flirting a little. But I have a feeling …”

The SUV rocked to a stop.

“Don’t say a word to anyone!” Cassie said.

“Even if I could, I wouldn’t,” I said. “I don’t know anyone to blab it to.”

Our door opened with a whoosh. “Welcome to the Glen Eagle Bowling Alley,” Austin said.


Woe! It’s Wednesday: The Rewards of Being a Victim

A friend recently told me something that grabbed my attention:

“The rewards of being a perpetual victim is no responsibility, no accountability, and eternal empathy.”

This is the kind of thing that makes me nod when I hear it, but the deeper implications are only clear after meditating on it for some time.

I know a few people who positively exult in their victimhood. Every time I see them, they bring up the past, how they were hurt and done wrong.

Their fixation on their hurt enables them to stay focused on several things.

  • Their selves
  • Their feelings
  • Their grievances

If they let go of that victim mentality, they’d have to examine what personal responsibility they bear for the problem.

Then they’d have to be accountable. Maybe apologize. Maybe forgive. Maybe think about someone else’s needs and wants.

How much easier it is to stay wrapped up in their own hurt, continuing in the victim role, being rewarded with no consequences and empathy from their enablers. How sad.

I’m off to take some responsibility and do some apologizing.


Book Talk Tuesday: 50% Off Murder

  I have a shopping story that’s part chick lit, part romance, so I picked up this one, curious about a shopping mystery.

It’s the first book of a series called The Good Buy Girls.

50% Off Murder is set in the village of St. Stanley, Virginia and centers on four friends who meet to exchange coupons and suss out deals.

When a man is found murdered in the library basement, one of the quartet, Claire, is arrested. Claire’s a librarian, her cake knife is the murder weapon, and one of her books is found near the body. The circumstantial evidence is damning.

Maggie is determined to prove her friend’s innocence, but she’s stymied at every turn by the new sheriff in town: her high school love, Sam.

Josie Belle shows good instincts for cozy mysteries and she knows how to lay the red herrings while not burying the real evidence.

This is a short, fun, light read. I likely won’t seek out the next book in the series because I’m too far behind in my To Be Read stack, but if it was offered to me, I’d add it to the stack.


Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: SarahJane goes outside by the pool to think about leaving the show. Amanda, her nemesis, comes out also. They exchange a few words then Amanda gets in the water while SarahJane lies on a lounge chair. When it gets too quiet, SarahJane calls Amanda’s name. Amanda doesn’t answer. She’s face down in the water. SarahJane jumps in and calls for help.

Chapter Thirty-Seven

I splashed my way to Amanda, still yelling. Where was everyone? Didn’t someone monitor the cameras?

“Help!” The water filled my sleep pants, dragging me down. I kicked them off and in another stride reached her. Her arms floated at her sides. I turned her over. Her eyes stared, glassy and large.

“Amanda!” I shook her but she didn’t blink.

“What’s going on?” A production assistant jogged to the pool edge.

“She’s not breathing!” All the CPR instructions tumbled through my head but I couldn’t sort them into any order. Pinch her nose? Or breathe into her mouth.

“The medics are coming. Pull her to me.” The man leaned over, reaching out.

Basic lifesaving skills I learned in high school returned to my foggy brain. Grasping under Amanda’s shoulders, I tugged her to the PA who hauled her onto the pool deck. Thundering footsteps sounded as I clambered out behind her.

Two medics appeared with bags of gear. They knelt next to Amanda, calling her name. They worked quickly, palpating and looking in her eyes and throat, pulling out tubing and fastening them to oxygen containers and to a plastic mask that covered her nose and mouth.

After an agonizingly long minute her eyelids fluttered and she raised a trembling hand to feel the mask.

I hovered over the medic. The PA stood, arms crossed over his chest. “What’s the verdict?” he asked.

“Looks like she choked on something,” one of the medics said. “We’ll take her to the hospital and have her checked out.”

“Great.” He didn’t sound like he thought it was great at all. More like irritated.

I glared at him. “What, will this interrupt your plans for tomorrow’s date? What is it? More beach volleyball? Or maybe tango lessons?”

He didn’t flinch as he met my gaze. “Bowling, and yes, it does change things. She’s out, you’re in.” He turned on his heel and strode away.

“Why, you—”

Amanda sat up and ripped off the mask. “No!” she called to his retreating back. “I’ll be okay. I can bowl!”

The medic closest to me pressed her back onto the ground with a hand to her shoulder. Her look at me could have cut diamonds. “This is all your fault.”

I pointed at my chest. “ME? You’re the one who almost drowned!”

“I would have come to in a minute.” Her voice sounded subdued under the mask, but I still got the venom.

“Whatever.” I turned and shuffled away. My sleeping pants were in the bottom of the pool and I realized I stood in my panties and a camisole, shivering in the cool night air.

“Here.” The production assistant had returned. He handed me a terrycloth robe.

“Thank you.” It felt warm and blessedly dry on my goose-pimpled arms. I had one more reflexive shiver before my muscles relaxed. “What’s your name?” I’d seen him around, but until then he’d just been part of the crew.


“I’m SarahJane.” I stuck out my hand.

He smiled, and I found myself smiling back. He had warm brown eyes and when he grinned, they were framed by small crinkles. “Yes, I know. And I’m really sorry about your friend over there.”

“We’re not friends.” It was out before I could censor myself. “I mean, well, we’re not close, but I guess …”

He nodded. “I know. I’ve seen the footage. She hates you.”

I laughed. “I’m so glad you said that. I thought it was my imagination.”

“Nope, and sorry to say, you two have made for some of our best scenes.”

My mouth snapped shut for a moment. “So, I guess I’ll be seeing a lot of us on TV while someone says, ‘Next on Date My Son, Amanda and SarahJane battle it out for Austin’s heart. Does SarahJane break Amanda’s nose when they go after each other during an innocent game of beach volleyball? Stay tuned.’”

He chuckled. “Probably.”

I shivered again. “I should have known.”

“Let’s go inside. You really are going bowling tomorrow, so you should get to bed.” He moved to the French doors into the kitchen and held them open for me.

Once inside, he poured hot water from a kettle on the stove over a tea bag and handed me the cup. “Good thing I happened to be in production room and saw you yelling.”

“Isn’t someone watching all the time?” I asked. “I presumed everything is recorded.”

He nodded. “It is, but it’s not all watched at the same time. A couple of girls are having heart-to-hearts upstairs and that was more riveting than you two not speaking by the pool.”

I gestured with tea cup. “Well, thanks for this and the robe. Guess I better go look at what I have in the way of bowling clothes.”

“See you soon, SarahJane.”

I suddenly felt very warm and I had a feeling it had nothing to do with the terrycloth.



Woe! It’s Wednesday: How Rude!

I’ve blogged before about how contemporary society has coarsened and become careless about simple courtesy, such as RSVPing, returning messages, and cussing in public.

I’ve been noticing another example of how we’re all getting ruder and louder and more selfish.

I had the opportunity recently to see Diana Krall in concert. She’s been one of our favorite musicians for quite a while. A few years ago when we were in the midst of some severe trials, her music buoyed us and helped us keep on. We’d get more bad news, look at each other, and say, “Time to go buy another CD.” Ms. Krall doesn’t tour often and gets to the west coast even less often, so we were thrilled that she was coming to a small historic theater an hour from home. We bought our tickets months ahead, as soon as we knew about it. We waited and anticipated a fun evening.

When we arrived, the ticket takers said, “If you have to leave the theatre, please wait until the end of the song to return to your seat.” They made eye contact while saying this. The lobby was lined with signs that said the same thing. The restroom mirrors had the signs. There was no way you could enter that concert without knowing the expected behavior.

Sure enough, during the first song, a couple with drinks in hand, scooched along the front row to take their seats. Not thirty seconds later they stood and scooched back to a different pair of seats.

Ms. Krall and her trio played a few more minutes, then paused to welcome the audience. She barely opened her mouth and people started yelling, “We love you, Diana!” and “Tell about Rio!” She sighed. Said, “I love you, too.” Every time she tried to talk, people yelled comments. “Where’s Elvis?” was next.

When did buying a concert ticket give us the right to badger and interrupt the performer? When did knowing and loving someone’s work become an illusion that we have a relationship? And when did it become okay to treat a theatre or club or concert hall like our living room? People in the front row at the Krall concert placed their drinks at the edge of the stage. Ms. Krall did say to the late arriving scoochers, “This isn’t a bar,” and soon the drinks were removed.

She responded with grace and courtesy to the boors who called themselves fans. Too bad they don’t give her the same honor and courtesy to perform for those of us who were there to listen to her music, not find out if Elvis had left the building.


Book Talk Tuesday: I Ate The Sheriff

I’m not into the horror genre at all. I’ve never watched any of the zombie movies or television series.

I read the first of K. Bennett’s legal zombie thrillers, Pay Me In Flesh, for review and because K. Bennett is the nom de plume of one my favorite writers and (mentors) James Scott Bell.


Mallory Caine is an LA lawyer, full of snappy retorts and an intense hunger for human brains. She was shot and killed and reanimated as a zombie. She’s in a Twelve Step program and trying to convince herself that cow brain is just as yummy as UCLA grads.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. So I picked up the latest Mallory Caine book with less trepidation.

I missed the second book, The Year of Eating Dangerously, so my only concern with I Ate The Sheriff was if I’d be able to follow the story without knowing what exactly happened just before.

Mallory’s doing well with her Zombies Anonymous meetings. Her only relapses are serial killers, so it could be argued that she’s performing a public service when she eats them.

Evil is infecting Los Angeles and much of the malevolence seems targeted at Mallory. The sheriff threatens her and tells her to leave town. She’s busy with her father’s upcoming trial and a custody case for a werewolf client.

Then the sheriff pays her a late night visit and insists she leave. He shoots her which only enrages her. When she wakes up, she’s wanted for a double homicide.

Even though the premise of a zombie lawyer in an LA full of demons, ghosts, vampires, and werewolves is over the top, the stories themselves have heart and humor. Bennett’s writing is sure and deftly shows that there is a real battle in the world today between good and evil. And like Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Mallory Caine may be a zombie but she’s a good person and she proves it.

The ending is a satisfying resolution without being smarmy or cloying.

I highly recommend these books, especially to someone who loves the zombie entertainment but wants some hope as well.