Monthly Archives: April 2012

Nest— full?

It looks as if I might be getting my wish.

My wish for a full house again.

Oldest, GF, and Son2 are all thinking of moving back in! This makes me a very happy mama. They want to save money, and did the math… wow, the amount they could save in one year by moving back in with us, is astounding!

So, to give them some privacy, we will be doing some remodeling, to give them an apartment like atmosphere, needless to say, I’m a happy mom, an excited mom, and looking forward to having my babies back in my nest!

To See the Sun

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

CreateSpace (January 6, 2012)

***Special thanks to 
Peggy Blann Phifer  for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Peggy Blann Phifer is an author and columnist, whose work has appeared on various Web sites and writer periodicals both in print and online. She is also an avid reader and loves to escape between the covers of a good book. A retired executive assistant, Peg now makes her home in southern Nevada with husband Jim.

To See the Sun is Peg’s debut novel, released January 2012

Visit her blog, Whispers in Purple.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Pregnant and widowed hadn’t been part of her “happily ever after” dream. And now, someone was trying to kill her . . .

Erin Macintyre never expected to be a widow and a new mother in the same year, anymore than she expected mysterious notes, threatening phone calls, and a strange homeless man who seems to know all about her. The thought of raising a child without a father is daunting enough—worse when you have no idea who might want to harm you. Put an old flame into the mix, and her life begins a tailspin into a world she never knew existed.

When P.I. Clay Buchanan, stumbles upon Erin at her husband’s gravesite, he’s totally unprepared for her advanced pregnancy. Her venomous reaction at seeing him, however, was predictable. But Clay can’t let her distrust, or his guilt, get in the way—not when he has evidence that proves Erin’s life is in danger.

With few options left, Erin begrudgingly accepts Clay’s help . . . and it just might be her undoing.

Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (January 6, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1468121081
ISBN-13: 978-1468121087

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Friday, March 26, late afternoon
What a fantastic day. A bid won. A contract signed. The job of a lifetime that would put Stuart and Macintyre at the top of the construction heap, not just in Las Vegas, but all of southern Nevada.
Whistling, Justin Macintyre pressed the keyless remote of his Cadillac Escalade, tossed his briefcase across the console to the passenger seat and slid behind the wheel.
To top it all off, after seven long years, he and his wife, Erin, were going to have a baby. A baby! He laughed aloud at the overwhelming joy of it.
“Hey, world, I’m going to be a daddy!”
He shifted the SUV into gear and pulled out of the Mt. Charleston Lodge area onto Kyle Canyon Road and headed down the mountain to the Las Vegas Valley below. Despite the successful day, Justin couldn’t banish his worry over a recent discovery of some irregularities in the company’s finances. Nothing concrete, and his Uncle Sebastian, S&M’s CFO, assured him everything was fine. Nevertheless, Justin’s uneasiness had prompted him to send what little proof he had to his long-time friend, Clay Buchanan, a private investigator in Texas.
Preoccupied with his thoughts, he vaguely registered the yellow and black blind curve warning sign. Too late he saw the stalled car across the center line. No time to stop! He spun the  wheel to the right.
I’m going too fast! God, help me . . .!
###
Seconds passed and silence settled once more over the mountainside. A shadow emerged from behind a Joshua tree and stepped to the edge of the ravine. After a moment, the form walked to the car in the road and drove away.
###
Erin Macintyre stretched her arms along the balcony’s balustrade of her twenty-seventh-floor condo above the streets of Las Vegas. Beyond that, the lower edge of the setting sun kissed the still snowy peaks of the Spring Mountain Range and Mt. Charleston.
Justin would be home soon.
“Erin, where’s the zester?”
Erin returned to the kitchen. “In the utility drawer.”
“Which is the utility drawer?” Magie Gifford, Erin’s dearest friend, pulled out drawer after drawer.
Erin giggled and reached across Magie’s arm and slid out the utility drawer.
“You changed it.” Magie snatched the zester and bumped the drawer shut with her hip. “That’s not where it was last time.”
Erin wrapped her arms around her friend and hugged. “No, Mags, I didn’t change anything.” She waited a beat. “Can I interest you in a memory enhancement program?”
“Very funny.” Magie pushed Erin aside and proceeded to rub a lemon across the gadget and then whisked the zest into a frothy mixture of olive oil, Italian herbs, and balsamic vinegar. “Okay, just drizzle this over the salad and stick it in the fridge.”
That done, Erin checked on the lasagna in the oven. The garlic toast waited on the foil-lined cookie sheet ready to pop under the broiler. Everything was ready.
Erin glanced at the kitchen clock. “He’s late.”
“Posh. You should know by now how those meetings can drag on.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s just—”
“Get over here, Erin. He’ll be here when he gets here.”
Erin joined her friend in the breakfast nook off the kitchen and adjacent to the balcony. She scooped up a dozing Siamese cat from her chair and sat, settling him back on her lap.
“You spoil that critter.” Magie brushed off the chair cushion before sitting.
“Yeah, I do. But you love him, too. I saw you sneaking him some treats earlier.” Erin smiled. “Not to mention the romp you had with him in the living room when you got here.”
“Busted. But he’s so much fun, aren’t you, Kazimir?”
At the sound of his name, the cat uncoiled, left Erin’s lap and jumped onto Magie’s. She snorted. “So much for protecting my black slacks.”
“Thanks for coming over to help with this meal. I wanted it to be special and I never know when the nausea will hit.” She raised an eyebrow. “But you will leave as soon as Justin gets here.”
“You think he’ll get that bid?”
Erin tapped her heart and nodded. “I know he will.”
The first five descending notes of Welcome to My World sang out in the condo’s foyer. Justin! No, he wouldn’t ring the doorbell. Puzzled, she stepped across the tiled floor and rose on tiptoes to peer through the peephole. She gasped and jumped back.
The doorbell chimed again.
Fingers trembling, Erin released the security lock and opened the door to two uniformed police officers.
“Mrs. Macintyre?”
Erin nodded as Magie moved to her side.
“What is it, officers?”
“I’m afraid there’s been an accident, Mrs. Macintyre. Your husband . . .”

How to vote?

Next month, our state is having a vote on the definition of marriage. What is marriage? I know a lot of states are having these same ammendments, votes, whatever they are called in your area. We have come to a point in our society where the very definition of a word has to be voted on. Strange huh.

As for me, well, I’m stuck. I have no idea how I will vote.

The ammendment is worded to say that you vote yes if you believe the definition of marriage is one man, one woman. Which I believe marriage is one man, one woman. Its plain and simple how the Bible defines marriage.

The problem I run in to, is that I know too many gay couples who deserve the right to be called “married”. I have a few gay couple friends that have been living a monogomous married life for as long as, if not longer than my own marriage, which is 23 years old. I know gay couples who are more committed to each other than straight couples ever thought about being.

I honestly believe gay couples should have the same rights as straight couples. They should be able to file taxes as married filing jointly instead of having to file two separate returns as single/head of household. There should be no question as to life partners being able to visit each other in the hospital. Or be listed as next of kin. There should be no legal drama over sharing benefits, inheritance or anything else that we straight couples take for granted.

I’m positive how I Feel about both things. I know that marriage is one man one woman. But I also know gay couples deserve the same rights I take for granted.

I just don’t know how to vote next month when the time comes.

How?

I was flipping through the “day’s highlights” over on a news feed the other day, and one of the top stories was one of a mother and father who were letting their 10 yr old son live as a girl. The son, had came to them and told them he was a girl inside, even if he was born a he.

I know I am rather uneducated on this, but how does a 10 year old come to that determination?

Her Restless Heart

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Her Restless Heart
Abingdon Press (April 2012) by Barbara Cameron

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Barbara Cameron is the author of more than 30 fiction and nonfiction books, three nationally televised movies (HBO-Cinemax), and the winner of the first Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Her two novellas won the 2nd and 3rd place in the Inspirational Readers Choice Contest from the Faith, Love, and Hope chapter of RWA. Both were finalists for the novella category of the Carol Award of the American Christian Writers Award (ACFW).

When a relative took her to visit the Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, she felt led to write about the spiritual values and simple joys she witnessed there. She currently resides in Edgewater, FL.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Mary Katherine is caught between the traditions of her faith and the pull of a different life. When Daniel, an Amish man living in Florida, arrives and shares her restlessness, Mary Katherine feels drawn to him and curious about the life he leads away from Lancaster County.  

But her longtime friend Jacob has been in love with her for years. He’s discouraged that she’s never viewed him as anything but a friend and despairs that he is about to lose Mary Katherine to this outsider.  

Will the conflicted Mary Katherine be lost to the English world, or to Daniel, who might take her away to Florida? Or will she embrace her Amish faith and recognize Jacob as the man she should marry and build a life with?

If you want to read the first chapter of Her Restless Heart, go HERE.

Need You Now

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 10, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson, The B&B Media Group, for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 When a personal crisis tested and strengthened her faith, award-winning journalist Beth Wiseman was advised by her agent to consider writing a Christian novel, particularly an Amish one. Encouraged by her agent’s urging, she began exploring the Amish lifestyle and soon developed a great appreciation for the more peaceful way of life. In 2008 Wiseman wrote her debut novel, Plain Perfect, featuring the Amish lifestyle within the context of a fictional love story. It was a bestseller, as have been all of the full-length novels and novellas she has written since.

While Need You Now is Wiseman’s first non-Amish novel, she is confident it will not be the last. She is already making plans to write a second contemporary novel in the near future. Like Need You Now, it will also be set in small-town Texas, a familiar background she thoroughly loves exploring and writing about.

Wiseman’s previous releases have held spots on the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) bestseller lists. In 2010, she received the INSPY Award for Amish Fiction (chosen by blog reviewers). In 2011, she received the Carol Award and was the Inspirational Readers Choice winner for her book Plain Paradise. Her novel Seek Me with All Your Heart was the 2011 Women of Faith Book of the Year. In addition, Wiseman has been a Retailers Choice Finalist, a Booksellers Best Finalist and a National Readers Choice Finalist. Prior to becoming a novelist she received many honors for her work as a journalist, including a prestigious First Place News Writing Award from the Texas Press Association.

Today, she and her husband are empty nest parents of two grown sons, enjoying the country lifestyle and living happily with two dogs, two cats, two pot-bellied pigs, two chickens and a single pygmy goat in a small community in South Central Texas. Along with writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, traveling and watching good movies. Her favorite pastime, however, is spending time with friends and family.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

We all count on the support of those around us when times are tough, but what do we do when those we depend on the most are suddenly gone? How do we cope when life has pulled the rug out from under us and left us with nothing and no one to hold on to? To whom can we turn when it seems no one, not even God, is there? These are the questions best-selling author Beth Wiseman addresses in her first contemporary novel, Need You Now (Thomas Nelson).

After the safety of one of their children is threatened, Need You Now’s main character, Darlene Henderson, and her husband Brad choose to move their family from Houston to the dot-in-the-road town of Round Top, Texas; moving into the old fixer-upper farm left to Darlene by her grandparents. Adjusting to the change is more difficult than any of them imagined, especially for the middle child, 15-year-old Grace, who becomes a cutter, using a dangerous and particularly self-damaging way of coping with stress.

The move also begins to take a toll on the couple’s marriage when Darlene decides to take a job outside the home in an effort to make new friends in the community. As the domestic tension rises, both begin to wonder if the same shared faith that has carried them through difficult times in the past will be strong enough to help them now.

To make matters worse, Darlene begins receiving inappropriate attention from the widowed father of the autistic young girl she is assigned to work with at the school for special needs children where she is employed. Unfortunately, this new attention comes just when she is most vulnerable. If there has ever been a time in her life when she needed God, it is now. But will she allow arising feelings of unworthiness to keep her from seeking Him?

In her first novel not set in an Amish community, Wiseman spins her well-honed characters and setting into a thought-provoking message that not only makes the reader ponder his or her own relationship with God, but also sheds light on the little-known disorders of using self-injury as a way of seeking relief and high-functioning autism. Need You Now is the perfect read for anyone who has ever questioned life and God’s will.


Product Details:
List Price: $ 15.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 10, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595548874
ISBN-13: 978-1595548870

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Darlene’s chest tightened, and for a few seconds she couldn’t move. If ever there was a time to flee, it was now. She put a hand to her chest, held her breath, and eased backward, sliding one socked foot at a time across the wooden floor of her bed- room. She eyed the intruder, wondering why he wasn’t moving. Maybe he was dead.
Nearing the door, she stretched   her arm behind   her, searching for the knob. She turned it quickly, and at the click of the latch, her trespasser rushed toward her. In one movement, she jumped backward, across the threshold and into the den, slamming the door so hard the picture of the kids fell off the wall. She looked down at Chad, Ansley, and Grace staring up through broken glass, then hurried through the den to the kitchen. Her hand trembled as she unplugged her cell phone and pressed the button to call Brad. Please answer.
It was tax time, so every CPA at her husband’s office was working long hours, and for these last weeks before the April deadline, Brad was hard to reach. She knew she wouldn’t hear from him until after eight o’clock tonight.  And she couldn’t go back in her bedroom. What would she have to live without until then? She looked down. For starters, a shirt. She was later than usual getting dressed this morning and had just pulled on her jeans when she’d noticed she wasn’t alone.
She let out a heavy sigh and rubbed her forehead. Brad answered on the sixth ring.
“Bradley . . .” She only called him by his full name when she needed his full attention.
“What is it, babe?”
She took a deep breath. “There is a snake in our bedroom. A big, black snake.” She paused as she put a hand to her chest. “In our bedroom.”
“How big?”
She’d expected a larger reaction. Maybe her husband didn’t hear her. “Big! Very big. Huge, Brad.”
He chuckled. “Honey, remember that little snake that got in your greenhouse when we lived on Charter Road in Houston? You said that snake was big too.” He chuckled again, and Darlene wanted to smack him through the phone.  “It was a tiny little grass snake.”
“Brad, you’re going to have to trust me. This snake is huge, like five or six feet long.” A shiver ran down her spine. “Are you coming home or should I call 9-1-1?”
“What? You can’t call 9-1-1 about a snake.” His tone changed. “Darlene, don’t do that. Round Top is a small town, and we’ll be known as the city slickers who called in about a snake.”
“Then you need to come home and take care of this.” She lifted her chin and fought the tremble in her voice.
Deep breath on the other end of the line. “You know how crazy it is here.  I can’t leave right now. It’s probably just a chicken snake, and they’re not poisonous.”
“Well, there are no chickens in our bedroom, so it doesn’t have any business in there.”
“Chad can probably get it out when he gets home from school. Maybe with a shovel or something, but tell him to be careful. Even though they’re not venomous, it’d probably still hurt to get bit.”
Darlene sighed. “Our girls are going to freak if they come home to find a snake in the house.”
“Maybe—” Darlene turned toward a sound in the entryway. “I’ll call you back. There’s someone at the door, and I’m standing here in my bra. I’ll call you back. Love you.” She clicked the phone off, then yelled toward the door. “Just a minute!”
After finding a T-shirt in Ansley’s room, she pulled it over her head as she crossed back through the den toward the front door. This was the first visitor she’d had in the two months since they’d moved from Houston.  She peeked around the curtain before she opened the door, realizing that her old city habit would probably linger for a while. Out here in the country, there probably wasn’t much to worry about, but she was relieved to see it was a woman. A tall woman in a cowgirl hat. She pulled the door open.
“Your Longhorns are in my pasture.” The woman twisted her mouth to one side and folded her arms across her chest. “This is the second time they’ve busted the fence and wandered onto my property.”
Darlene thought this cowgirl could have walked straight off the set of any western movie. She was dressed in a long- sleeved denim shirt with her blue jeans tucked into brown boots. She was older than Darlene, possibly mid-forties, but she was gorgeous with huge brown eyes and blonde hair that hung in a ponytail to her waist.
“I’m so sorry.” Darlene shook her head. Brad should have never gotten those Longhorns.  Neither she nor Brad knew a thing about cows, but Brad had said a move to the country should include some Longhorns. Although it didn’t make a lick of sense to her. She pushed the door wide. “I’m Darlene.”
The woman shifted her weight, but didn’t offer a greeting in return. Instead, she stared at Darlene’s chest. Darlene waited for the woman to lock eyes with her, and when she didn’t, Darlene finally looked down. Her cheeks warmed as she sighed. “Oh, this is my daughter’s shirt.” Don’t Bug Me! was scrolled across the white T-shirt in red, and beneath the writing was a hideous picture of a giant roach.  Darlene couldn’t stand the shirt, but twelve-year-old Ansley loved it. “Do you want to come in?” She stepped back.
“No. I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to round up your Longhorns and head them back to your pasture. I’ll temporarily repair the fence.” The woman turned to leave, and it was then that Darlene saw a horse tethered to the fence that divided their property. She stifled a smile. This woman really was a cowgirl.
“Know anything about snakes?” Darlene eased onto the front porch, sidestepping a board she knew was loose. The porch was next on their list of things to repair on her grand- parents’ old homestead.
“What?” The woman turned around as she held a hand underneath the rim of her hat, blocking the afternoon sun.
“I have a snake in my bedroom.” Darlene shrugged. “Just wondering if you had any—any experience with something like that?” She padded down two porch steps in her socks. “I’m not sure I got your name?”
“Layla.” She gave a quick wave before she turned to leave again. Darlene sighed. Clearly the woman wasn’t interested in being friends. Or helping with the snake. Darlene watched her walk to her horse and put a foot in the stirrup. Then she paused and twisted her body to face Darlene. “What kind of snake?”
Hopeful, Darlene edged down another step. “A big, black one.”
Layla put her foot back on the ground and walked across the grass toward the porch. Darlene couldn’t believe how graceful the tall blonde was, how out of sync her beauty was in comparison to what she was wearing.
“Only thing you really have to worry about around here are copperheads.” She tipped back the rim of her hat. “Was it a copperhead?”
At five foot two, Darlene felt instantly inferior to this tall, gorgeous, horse-riding, snake-slaying blonde. She wasn’t about to say that she couldn’t tell one snake from the other. “I don’t think so.”
“All I’ve got is a .22 with me.” Layla pointed back to her horse, and Darlene saw a long gun in a holster. “But a .22 will blow a hole through your floor,” Layla added. A surreal feeling washed over Darlene. She thought about their previous home in a Houston subdivision, and a woman with a gun on a horse wasn’t a sight they would’ve seen.
“Do you have a pellet gun?” She stopped in front of Darlene on the steps. Darlene was pretty sure that was all they had— Chad’s BB gun.
“Yeah, I think so.”
Five minutes later, Darlene pushed open the door to her bedroom and watched Layla enter the scene of the invasion. The bed was piled with clean clothes, but at least it was made up. The vacuum was in the middle of the room instead of in the closet under the stairs. It wasn’t the way she wanted a stranger to see her bedroom, but it could have been worse.
Layla got down on her knees and looked under the bed. From the threshold, Darlene did a mental scan of what was under there. Boxes of photos, a flowery hatbox that had belonged to her grandmother, an old, red suitcase stuffed with baby keepsakes from when the kids were young—and a lot of dust. “There he is.” Layla leaned her chest to the floor and positioned Chad’s BB gun. Darlene braced herself, then squeezed her eyes closed as two pops echoed underneath the bed. A minute later, Layla drug the snake out with the tip of the gun. “Just a chicken snake.”
Darlene stepped out of the room, giving Layla plenty of room to haul the snake out. Big, black, ugly. And now dead. Blood dripped all the way to the front door.  Layla carried the snake to the fence and laid it across the timber, its yellow underside up.
“Belly up should bring rain.” Layla was quickly up on her horse. “Maybe tell your husband that I’m patching the fence up, but he really needs some new cross planks.”
“I will. And thank you so much for killing that snake. Do you and your husband want to come for dinner tonight? I’d like to do something for you.”
“I’m not married. And I can’t come to dinner tonight. Thanks, though.” She gave the horse a little kick in the flank, then eased through a gate that divided her acreage from Brad and Darlene’s. She closed it behind her from atop her horse and headed toward the large house on top of the sloping hillside. Coming from town, the spacious estate was fully visible from the road and her youngest daughter called it the “mansion on the hill.” The rest of the family took to calling it that too.
In comparison to their rundown farmhouse, Darlene sup- posed it was a mansion. Both homes were probably built in the late 1800s, but Layla’s was completely restored, at least on the outside, with fresh, yellow paint and white trim.  A split-rail, cedar fence also surrounded the yard, and toward the back of the property, a bright red barn lit up the hayfield not far from a good-sized pond. A massive iron gate—that stayed closed most of the time—welcomed  visitors down a long, winding drive- way. And there were lots of livestock—mostly Longhorns and horses. If the wind was blowing just right, sometimes Darlene could hear faint music coming from the house.
She was hoping maybe she could be friends with Layla, even though she wasn’t sure she had anything in common with her. Just the same, Darlene was going to pay her a visit. Maybe take her a basket of baked goodies, a thank-you for killing that snake.
Brad adjusted the phone against his ear and listened to Darlene’s details about her snake ordeal, then she ended the conversation the way she always did. “Who do you love?”
“You, baby.”
It was their thing. Nearly twenty years ago, at a bistro in Houston,  Brad wanted  to tell Darlene that  he loved her—for the first time—and he was a nervous wreck, wondering if she felt the same way. He’d kept fumbling around, and the words just wouldn’t come. Maybe she’d seen it in his eyes, but she’d reached over, touched his hand, and smiled. Then in a soft whisper, she’d asked, “Who do you love?” His answer had rolled off his tongue with ease. “You, baby.” Then she’d told him that she loved him too, and the who-do-you-love question stuck. Darlene asked him all the time. He knew it wasn’t because she was insecure; it was just a fond recollection for both of them. That night at the bistro, Brad had known he was going to marry Darlene.
He flipped his phone shut and maneuvered through the Houston traffic toward home.  He was glad that he wouldn’t have to deal with a snake when he got there, but he was amused at Darlene’s description of the tall, blonde cowgirl who shot it with Chad’s BB gun.
He had four tax returns to work on tonight after dinner. All these extra billable hours were bound to pay off. He needed the extra income if he was going to make all the renovations to the farm that he and Darlene had discussed. Brad wanted to give her the financial freedom to make their home everything she dreamed it could be. Cliff Hodges had been dangling the word partner in front of him for almost two years, and Brad was sure he was getting close to having his name on the door.
If they hadn’t been in such a rush to move from Houston, Brad was sure they could have held out and gotten more for their house. As it turned out, they’d barely broken even, and just getting the farmhouse in semi-livable shape had taken a chunk of their savings. Buying out Darlene’s brother for his share of the homestead had put a strain on their finances too, but it was worth it if Darlene was happy. She’d talked about restoring her grandparents’ farm for years. The original plan had been to fix the place up over time so they could use it as weekend getaway. But then they’d decided to make the move as soon as they could, even if the house wasn’t in tip top shape.
Forty-five minutes from his office, he’d cleared the bustle of the city, and the six lane freeway narrowed to two lanes on either side of a median filled with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. Nothing like spring in Texas to calm his mind after crunching numbers all day long, but leaving the office so late to head west put the setting sun directly in his face. He flipped his visor down, glad that the exit for Highway 36 was only a few miles. Once he turned, he’d get a break from the blinding rays. Then he’d pass through the little towns of Sealy and Bellville before winding down one-lane roads to the peaceful countryside of Round Top. It was a long commute, almost an hour and a half each way, but it was worth it when he pulled into his driveway. Small-town living was better for all of them. Especially Chad.
Brad could still recall the night Chad came stumbling into the house—drunk.  His seventeen year old son had been running around with a rebellious group of friends in Houston. And sometimes Chad’s glassy eyes had suggested more than just alcohol abuse. He shook his head to clear the recollections, knowing he would continue to pray that his son would make better choices now that he had some distance from his old buddies.
Brad felt like a blessed man. He’d been married to his high school sweetheart for nearly twenty years, and he had three amazing children. He wanted to spend his life being the best husband and father he could be. There wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t thank the Lord for the life he’d been given, and it was Brad’s job to take care of his family.
Darlene finished setting the table. She regretted that her mother couldn’t see her enjoying her grandmother’s dining room set. Darlene had been surprised to find the oak table and chairs still in the house when they’d moved in. The antiques had been dusty and in dire need of cleaning, but they were just as sturdy as ever. She could remember many meals with her parents and grandparents in this house, at this table.
She still missed her grandparents—and her parents.  Dad had been gone almost six years, and two years had passed since her mother’s death. Her parents had started their family late in life, both of them in their late thirties when she was born, and
Dale was born two years after Darlene. She was glad her brother hadn’t wanted the farm. It had been a struggle to buy him out, but no regrets. Someday, they too would have a “mansion on the hill,” like Layla’s. She cast her eyes downward, frowning at the worn out wooden floors. She’d be glad when they could afford to cover the original planking with new hardwood.
Thinking of Layla brought a smile to her face as she mashed steaming potatoes in a pot on the stove. She couldn’t help but wonder what the tall blonde was doing all alone on that estate. Darlene had never even been on a horse or owned a pair of cowgirl boots. Several of her friends back in Houston sported a pair of high-dollar, pointy-toed boots, but they didn’t particularly appeal to Darlene. Her friend, Gina, had told her it was un-Texan not to own a pair of boots.
She missed Gina. They’d been friends since their daughters had started Girl Scouts together, but after Gina’s divorce, they’d drifted apart.  Gina’s interests had changed from Girl Scout and PTO meetings to going out with new single friends.
She left the dining room and went back to the kitchen, glad that the aroma of dinner covered up the dingy old-house smell that lingered, despite her best efforts to conceal it with air fresheners.
“Mom! Mom!” Ansley burst into the kitchen with the kind of enthusiasm that could mean either celebration or disaster; with Ansley you never knew. At twelve, she was the youngest and the most dramatic in the family.
Darlene gave the potatoes a final stir before she turned to face her. “What is it, Ansley?”
“Guess what?” Ansley rocked back and forth from heel to toe, and Darlene could tell by the grin on her daughter’s face that the news was good. “I did it. Straight C’s and above!”
Darlene brought her hands to her chest and held her breath for a moment, smiling. When Ansley was in grade school, early testing indicated she was going to struggle, and Darlene and Brad knew she was a bit slower than other kids her age.
Not so thrilling was what Brad had promised Ansley if she received a report card without any failing grades.  “Sweetie, that’s great. I’m so proud of you.” She hugged her daughter, knowing it was highly unlikely Ansley wouldn’t remember her father’s promise. Ansley eased out of the hug.
“I know they scare you, Mom, but having some chickens and roosters will be so much fun! We’ll be like real farmers, and every day after school, I’ll go get the eggs.” Ansley’s dark hair brushed against her straightened shoulders, and her big brown eyes twinkled. “Think how much money you’ll save on eggs!”
Darlene bit her bottom lip as she recalled the chickens her grandparents used to keep on this very same farm. And one very mean rooster. Eight dollars in savings per month was hardly going to be worth it, but a promise was a promise. She’d told Brad before they’d left Houston not to offer such a reward, but Darlene had put it out of her mind. At the time, it seemed a stretch for Ansley to hit the goal and make all C’s.
“Maybe just have laying chickens. You don’t need a rooster.”  Darlene walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a tub of butter.
“Mom . . .”
Darlene set the butter on the table and raised a brow in time to see Ansley rolling her eyes.
“Even I know we can’t have baby chicks without a rooster.” Ansley folded her arms across her chest.
Darlene grinned. “I know you know that, but how many chickens are you hoping to have?” She recalled that on some of her visits to her grandparents’ house, if the wind blew just right, she could smell the chicken coop from the front yard, even though the pens were well over fifty yards away, back next to the barn. When they’d first moved in, Brad had fixed up the old coops as an incentive for Ansley to pull her grades up. Sitting on the porch swing with Brad late in the evenings had become a regular thing, and smelly chickens would be an unwelcome distraction.
“Not too many,” Ansley said as she pulled a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water.
One was too many in Darlene’s opinion, but it was a well- deserved reward. Darlene gave a lot of the credit to the school here. Much to her children’s horror, there were only 240 students in grades kindergarten through twelve in the Round Top/ Carmine School District, but Darlene felt like they were getting a better education and more one-on-one attention.  Darlene had been on the verge of homeschooling Ansley before they left Houston, but Ansley threw such a fit that Darlene had dis- carded the idea.
Ansley chugged the water, then put the glass in the sink. “I can’t wait ’til Daddy gets home.”
Darlene smiled. Her youngest was always a breath of fresh air, full of energy, and the tomboy in the family.
She thought about the snake and realized Ansley probably wouldn’t have freaked out after all. She heard Brad’s car rolling up the gravel driveway, and moments later, the front screen door slammed and Ansley yelled, “Daddy! Guess what!”
An hour later, everyone was gathered at the dinner table, except Chad. After about ten minutes, he finally sauntered into the room, slid into his chair, and folded his hands for prayer.
“It’s your turn to offer the blessing, Chad.” Darlene bowed her head.
“Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings you’ve given us, for this food, the roof over our head, and Your love. And God . . .” Chad paused with a sigh. Darlene opened one eye and held her breath. More often than not, Chad’s prayers included appeals for something outside the realm of what should be requested at the dinner table. Like the time he’d asked for God to help his parents see their way to buying him a better car. Darlene closed her eye, let out her breath, and listened.
“Could you heal Mr.  Blackstone’s cancer and bring him back to school? He’s a good guy.” Darlene’s insides warmed, but then Chad continued.  “Our substitute stinks. Amen.”
“Chad!” Darlene sat taller, then cut her eyes at Brad, who shouldn’t be smiling.
“No, Mom. I mean, really. He stinks. He doesn’t smell good.” Chad scooped out a large spoonful of potatoes. “And he’s like a hundred or something.”
“Even more reason you shouldn’t speak badly about him. Respect your elders, remember?” Darlene passed the meatloaf to Chad, who was shoveling potatoes like he hadn’t eaten in a month of Sundays.
“Grace, how was your day?” Brad passed their older daughter a plate of rolls.
“It was okay.”
Grace rarely complained, but Darlene knew she wasn’t happy about the move from Houston.  Mostly because of the boy she’d left behind.
Ansley turned her head to Darlene, grunted, then frowned. “Mom, why are you wearing my shirt?”
Darlene looked down at the big roach. “Oh, I had to borrow it earlier. I sort of couldn’t go in my room for a while.”
Darlene told the full-length version of the snake story that she’d shortened for Brad on the phone.
“I’ve seen that woman,” Chad said. “And she’s hot.”
“She’s old like Mom, Chad! That’s gross.” Ansley squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then shook her head.
Darlene took a bite of roll. At thirty-eight, when had she become old in her children’s eyes? “I believe Layla is several years older than me, Chad.”
Her son shrugged. “Whatever. She’s still—”
“Chad, that’s enough.” Brad looked in Chad’s direction, and Darlene was glad to see him step in since it seemed like she was the one who always disciplined the children. Brad, on the other hand—well, he promised chickens.
They were all quiet for a few moments before Chad spoke up again.
“Did you know Layla drives a tractor? I’ve seen her out in the pasture on the way to school.” He shook his head. “Seems weird for a woman.” He laughed as he looked to his left at Ansley. “Can you picture Mom out on a tractor plowing the fields?”
Ansley laughed. “No, I can’t.”
“Don’t underestimate your mom.  You never know what she might do.” Brad reached for another roll as he winked at Darlene.
Darlene smiled. She found herself thinking, yet again, that this was a good move for them. They all needed this fresh start. None of the kids had been particularly happy at first, but they were coming around.
“Can I be excused?” Grace put her napkin in her lap and scooted her chair back.
Darlene knew meatloaf wasn’t Grace’s favorite. “Whose night is it to help with dishes?”
Grace and Ansley both pointed at Chad.
“Okay,” Darlene said to Grace. “You can be excused.”
Darlene watched Grace leave the table. Her middle child was tiny like Darlene, and she was the only one in the family who inherited Darlene’s blonde hair and blue eyes. And her features were as perfect as a porcelain doll’s, complete with a flawless ivory complexion.  She looked like a little princess. Chad and Ansley had their father’s dark hair and eyes—and his height. Darlene loved her children  equally, proud  of them  all, but sometimes  it was hard not to favor Grace just a little bit, especially since they’d come so close to losing her as an infant. Grace had come into the world nine weeks’ premature, a surprise  to  everyone, including  Darlene’s  doctor,  since  Darlene had  delivered  Chad  at  full-term  with  no  complications  just two years earlier. Grace struggled those first few weeks with undeveloped lungs and severe jaundice, and twice they were told to prepare themselves for the worst. But their Grace was a fighter, and as her sixteenth birthday approached, Darlene silently thanked God for the millionth time for His grace.
There’d been issues and struggles with both Chad and Ansley from time to time—mostly with Chad. But Grace had never given them one bit of trouble.

New diagnosis…

I had a Dr appt yesterday. I think we finally made progress in getting me well.

1- I have a UTI. That is causing bladder spasms, which is causing some major pain for me. Enter antibiotic, and I should be fine.

2- We are adding progesterone to my life. In a couple of months we should know if it will help.

3- Evidently my anemia isn’t getting better, she upped my iron tab’s. Said I looked paler than normal.

My uterus is extremely tilted, and does have the adnemoyosis. There isn’t any treatment for it, so I just have to deal with that. At least until there is a more urgent reason for me to have a hysterectomy.

So, the most up to date count is….

UTI, adneymyosis, anemia, IBS, and possible endometriosis, oh and scar tissue… those are all the diagnosis I have so far. Maybe one day we will be able to figure out what the actual one is.

Heart of Gold

Today has been a very unusual one for the Stud fam…. We’ve had company twice today! Sunday’s are normally nap day for us, all day we take it easy, nap, eat and be merry!

One visit was from an old friend of the family, an older woman who loves us and our kids like her very own. We haven’t seen her since her sister passed away and Stud performed the ceremony. That was about 1.5 years ago.

It always brings a smile to my face when Miss V comes to visit, or calls, or sends a note in the mail. She is genuine in her care. She is non judgemental, loving, caring and just an honest to goodness great lady.

So my question is…

Why aren’t there more folks like Miss V in the world?

Why are there so many people who when they ask “how are things?” that you immediately wonder what their angle is… what the ulterior motive is… and you have the distinct urge to smile.. and say GREAT! even when life is treating you like the slime a snail leaves in its path.

I know I have walls built, to protect my heart from pain of finding out friends aren’t really friends, and I know those walls are hindering me from having a lifetime friendship. But around Miss V, I don’t have those walls. I know she genuinely cares when she says “How are you?”. When she says “take care of yourself” I know she means it, and will probably whoop my tushie if she finds out I’m not! lol.

Miss V is one of 3 sisters, that I have been blessed in life to know. Their parents did a wonderful job raising those ladies. They are/were all amazing women. I wish we could take what their parents did and bottle it for future generations. We will need that in the future. I hate to think of my children, grand children, not knowing someone who is genuine like Miss V and her sisters. Someone who they would never have to worry about ulterior motives.

Miss V will never fully comprehend how much she means to me, or my family. To her, she is nothing special, she just has a heart of gold.

Echos of the Titanic

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Karri James Harvest House Publishers of  for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Mindy Starns Clark is the author of many books (more than 450,000 copies sold), which include A Pocket Guide to Amish Life, Shadows of Lancaster County, Whispers of the Bayou, and The Amish Midwife. In addition, Mindy is a popular inspirational speaker and playwright.

John Campbell Clark is an attorney and CPA who works in the Christian nonprofit field. Married to Mindy Starns Clark, he has served as her brainstorming partner, research facilitator, and first reader for many years. A lifelong Titanic buff, he is pleased to be coauthoring with her now. John and Mindy live with their two daughters near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

Visit the authors’ website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Kelsey Tate comes from sturdy stock. Her great-grandmother Adele endured the sinking of Titanic and made it safely to America, where she not only survived but thrived. Generations later, Kelsey works for the firm Adele founded nearly 100 years ago.

Now facing a hostile takeover, the firm’s origins are challenged when new facts emerge about Adele’s actions on the night Titanic sank. Kelsey tries to defend the company and the great-grandmother she has long admired, but the stakes are raised when Kelsey’s boss is murdered and her own life threatened. Forced to seek help from Cole Thornton, a man Kelsey once loved—and lost, thanks to her success-at-all-costs mentality—she pursues mysteries both past and present. Aided by Cole and strengthened by the faith she’d all but forgotten in her climb up the corporate ladder, Kelsey races the clock to defend her family legacy, her livelihood, and ultimately her life.


Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736929460
ISBN-13: 978-0736929462

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Lower Manhattan, New York
April 3, 2012
Kelsey Tate glanced at the clock and then at the stack of files on her desk. It was three p.m., which meant she had thirty minutes before she’d need to start getting ready for the ceremony. She knew she should use that time to work on risk assessments, but something told her she’d be better off getting some fresh air and clearing her head. The assessments she could do later that evening, once the big event was over. For now, she wanted to run through her speech and somehow find focus. Today had been a busy day at the office, and at the moment all she felt was scattered.
Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, she made the decision. Air. Ceremony. Work. In that order.
She locked the files away, straightened her desk, and grabbed her Bluetooth headset for cover. The only way she’d get out of here without being pulled into half a dozen conversations en route to the elevator was to clip the device over her ear and pretend she was on an important call as she went. She loved her front office and the view it afforded her of the busy Manhattan streets below, but sometimes it was a pain having to run the gauntlet of a conference room, an administrative assistant area, and three other executive offices just to get away.
“Is there something proprietary about this?” she asked aloud as she stepped into the hall and pulled the door shut behind her. “Because otherwise, I’m afraid it’s just a little too early to buy in. At this point, there’s simply not enough data.”
Pausing at the desk of Sharon, her executive assistant—or “EA,” as she liked to be called—Kelsey told the nonexistent person on the other end of the line to hold on and then said in a low voice, “I’m running out for a few, but I’ll be back by three thirty if anybody needs me.”
“Got it, Chief,” Sharon replied with a brisk nod, her auburn, precision-cut bob swinging loosely around her face.
So far, so good. Continuing on toward the elevator, Kelsey spotted one of her more talkative coworkers coming up the hall, so before he could speak, she gave him a quick smile and continued with her faux telephone conversation.
“Look, we can’t justify a buy-in of that size. You know as well as I do that you’re estimating the value too high. A million and a half for ten percent is ridiculous.”
The coworker smiled in return and continued past her in the hall.
She finally made it to the elevator, pushed the down button, and punctuated her wait with several well-timed brief utterances. “Really?…With that price earnings ratio?…I don’t know, I’m not sure about that…How much?”
Finally, the bell dinged and the doors opened to reveal an empty elevator. She stepped inside with relief and removed the device from her ear as soon as the doors whisked shut again. She hated to admit it, but her nerves were more rattled today than she had anticipated, though she wasn’t sure why. The announcement she’d be making at the ceremony was an important one, yes, and something she’d been working toward for a long time. But she was no stranger to the podium. She had no fear of public speaking.
It was a more general, vague apprehension she was feeling, almost a foreboding about today’s impending event, though she couldn’t imagine why. Regardless, Kelsey had these thirty minutes to pull herself together somehow. Then she would return, get ready to go on, do her part, and be done with it.
If only the new public relations consultants hadn’t insisted on combining the two separate announcements into one big celebration, she thought as she reached the lobby and walked briskly toward the front door. Though she usually stopped to chat with her friend Ephraim, the building’s head of security, she moved on past with just a glance and a wave toward the front desk. Once she was outside, she exhaled slowly, grateful for the warm spring sunshine. Weather in April in New York City could go either way, but today was warm and dry, thankfully, with just a hint of a breeze.
Turning right, Kelsey merged into the foot traffic moving down the wide sidewalk toward Battery Park. On the way, she thought about the important part of today’s ceremony, the announcement of a brand-new scholarship program to be funded by her late great-grandmother’s foundation. Adele Tate had survivedTitanic and gone on to become a successful businesswoman in an era when women in business were practically unheard of. In her later years, she had created the foundation with the express purpose of empowering other women in business. This new program Kelsey would be announcing today was a perfect fit and would provide up to ten scholarships per year to outstanding young females majoring in business-related fields of study.
Kelsey had been pushing for this for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently, when her family’s firm, Brennan & Tate, had begun taking steps to improve their public relations, that the board was even willing to consider it. The fact that, in the end, the scholarship decision had come down to a PR move rather than any actual altruism didn’t bother her. She figured as long as the money was given out to deserving recipients, the end result was the same, regardless of motive.
Kelsey ran through her speech as she continued down the sidewalk and was pleased to get through the entire thing without once having to refer to the notes in her pocket that listed her key points. When she finally reached the corner at Number One Broadway, she looked ahead longingly at Battery Park, a fixture of the city for several hundred years and the perfect greenery-filled end cap to the island of Manhattan. More than anything, she wanted to make her way across the street and into the park to seek out one of her favorite spots in all of New York: the old family memorial stone that honored her two relatives who had perished on Titanic. Kelsey loved to visit the memorial, as it always left her feeling connected somehow to her many family members, both living and dead.
But there was no time for that now. Instead, she turned left, and once the light changed she moved with the crowd across Broadway to the triangular-shaped area on the other side known as Bowling Green. At the foot of the triangle was a sprinkling of vendors, and she took a moment to buy a bottle of water from a pretzel cart. Continuing onward, she tried some deep breathing exercises as she angled across the wide base of the triangle to tiny Bowling Green Park, another of her favorite places to go when she needed a quick breather during the workday. She loved the symmetry of the place and convergence of shapes: a circular fountain inside an oval park on a triangular piece of land. This was a little oasis of greenery in a landscape of cement, its current focal point a ring of vivid red tulips surrounding the fountain.
Kelsey wanted to sit for a while on one of the benches that lined the walkway and take it all in, but she knew she needed to keep moving. At the very least, she slowed her pace and sipped her water and forced herself to get down to what was really bothering her: the other purpose of today’s event, the part she wasn’t exactly jumping up and down about.
To be sure, she appreciated the honor that was about to be bestowed upon her, and she was proud of having reached this new level of achievement in her career. The problem wasn’t the award itself but the big public fuss that was being made over it. Others had earned membership in Brennan & Tate’s “Quarter Club” in the past, and the most they had received was a handshake and a little plaque.
She, on the other hand, was about to be trooped out front and center in what the PR firm was practically turning into a circus. Between the handwritten invitations and the catered munchies, they were going all out to promote something that should have happened far more quietly. The best Kelsey could do, she supposed, was to grin and bear it––and try as hard as she could to keep the focus on Adele and the foundation and the new scholarship program. The more publicity for that, the better.
Kelsey let out a deep sigh as she continued through the park. This was the price she paid for being not just an account associate in the company’s corporate finance division but an account associate in the corporate finance division who also just happened to be the great-great-granddaughter of the company’s founder and the daughter of its reigning president. If there was such a thing as reverse nepotism, she thought, she was living it now. She’d never expected her professional path to be made easier because of family connections, but she also hadn’t realized how much harder she’d have to work because of them.
At least she had her mentor and business-savvy friend Gloria to guide her through this current maze of public relations troubleshooting. But she’d be glad when this flurry of promotions was finally over and she could get back to business as usual. She loved what she did—and she was very good at it—but lately she’d spent more time authorizing interviews than she had authorizing investments.
Looking upward, Kelsey watched as a copter lifted off from the heliport at the water’s edge, probably taking some important executive to a business meeting. She picked up the pace, exiting the park at the northern end and making her way around a group of chattering tourists who were taking turns posing for photos beside the bronze bull, a statue that had become synonymous with Wall Street and the stock market. Crossing back to her side of the road, she retraced her steps to the office building, allowing herself to take in the sights and sounds and smells of the city that was always so utterly alive and invigorating: car horns blaring the ever-present soundtrack of New York, the doughy smell of pretzels warming in a vendor’s cart, businesswomen on their way to appointments in thousand-dollar suits and Uggs, their designer heels tucked inside briefcases for when they reached their destinations.
About twenty feet from her building, Kelsey spied a catering truck idling out in front and stopped short. From what she could see, Ephraim was holding open the door as a trio of uniformed workers dashed in carrying trays of food. Feeling a vague stir of nausea at the spectacle to come, she ducked into an alley on her left and made her way around to the back side of the building.
At the rear entrance, a solid metal door with a keypad above the knob, Kelsey typed in her security code, listened for the click, and stepped inside. Coming in this way, she’d have to take the stairs rather than the elevator, but she didn’t care. Right now she just couldn’t face the lobby and the excited chaos of the event that was being pulled together in her honor.
Kelsey’s office was on the fourth floor, but she continued up the back stairs to the fifth without stopping. Once there, she again had to type in her security code, and then that interior door unlocked with a soft click. The fifth floor back entrance opened into the executive conference room, but it didn’t occur to Kelsey until she was swinging the door wide that she might be interrupting some sort of meeting. Fortunately, however, she wasn’t. The room was empty.
Stepping inside as the door to the stairwell fell shut behind her, Kelsey paused, relishing in the peace and quiet of the empty space. The fresh air had done her good, but the busyness of the streets had managed to stir up the busyness in her soul. She still felt disquieted, unsettled.
Apprehensive.
Ignoring those feelings, Kelsey glanced around, trying to remember if there was a phone in here as there was in the conference room on the fourth floor. Sure enough, she spotted it on the back wall, mounted between the audio/video cabinet and the broad space where the projection screen hung when it was in use. Lifting the receiver, Kelsey dialed the extension for her EA and told her she was back in the building but would be upstairs with Gloria until it was time for the big event. Sharon read off several messages that had come in while she was gone, none of them urgent, and then said there was one more thing.
“Yes?” Kelsey looked around the room for a clock, hoping her assistant wouldn’t take much longer.
“Next time you fake a phone call as you’re leaving,” Sharon said with a chuckle, “make sure you actually bring your cell phone with you.”
Quickly, Kelsey patted her pockets, her face burning with heat when all she came up with was the headset.
“Busted,” was the best she could say, and then they both laughed. “So who else knows?”
“Just me. I was putting some files on your desk when I heard a ringtone coming from a drawer. I found your phone in your purse and put it on mute. Hope that was okay.”
“Of course. I appreciate it,” Kelsey said, grateful for the quick thinking—and discretion—of her faithful assistant. “Would you do me another favor and lock up my office before you head down to the ceremony?”
“No problem, Chief.”
They ended the call, and Kelsey decided that before she went to talk to Gloria she would take a few minutes to fix herself up for the ceremony. Hoping to avoid having to go downstairs to her office, she decided to pay a visit to the executive washroom instead, where she knew all sorts of necessities could be found.
Slipping from the conference room into the main hall, Kelsey walked toward the front of the building. Though she had to go past a reception area and several offices along the way, she made it to the primary executive suite without having to pause and chat with anyone. Fortunately, the door to the CEO’s office on her left was closed, and the EA that worked for the upper echelon, the exotically lovely Yanni, was busy talking on the phone and simply waved Kelsey on through to the right. With a smile and a nod, she turned and continued down the hallway, past the closed door of Gloria’s office, to the executive washroom.
As expected, inside were baskets of toiletries on the wide marble counter. She washed her hands and then helped herself to an individually wrapped toothbrush and a tiny, disposable packet of toothpaste. After brushing her teeth, she unwrapped a fresh comb and ran it through her hair, trying to neaten up the windblown look she’d earned from her walk outside. She followed that with a shot of hairspray, a little dab of face powder, and some lip gloss for the cameras’ sake, and then she stepped back, smoothed out her clothes, and studied the full effect in the mirror.
Whenever Kelsey looked at herself, the word that came to mind was “Irish”—not the red-headed, pale-skinned, green-eyed variety that most folks thought were the norm. Instead, she and her family sported a look far more common among the Irish: dark hair, even-toned skin, blue eyes.
Taking a cue from her mentor Gloria—and from her great-grandmother Adele, for that matter—Kelsey always bought the nicest clothes she could afford, knowing they were a business investment of sorts. Today she was sporting a new Hugo Boss suit in a soft gray pinstripe, accented with a red silk blouse and a pair of red Gaetano Perrone shoes. On her lapel was her favorite piece of jewelry, a hat pin she’d inherited from her great-grandmother and often wore as a stickpin instead. Purchased in London the day before Adele and her cousin and uncle set sail for America on Titanic, the top of the hat pin was in the shape of a tiny Irish harp, a lovely reminder of their homeland.
The overall look Kelsey always strived for was class, competence, and understated elegance. Examining her image in the mirror now, she felt that today’s outfit had really hit the mark. Her layered, shoulder-length brown hair nicely framed her face, and the touch of makeup emphasized her lips and gave a smooth, matte finish to her skin.
Now all she had to do, she decided, was to get through the big event. In the end, though she wasn’t looking forward to it at all, at least the new scholarship program made this trouble worthwhile.
Gloria’s door was still closed, so Kelsey knocked first and then cracked it open, peeking through to see if her friend was in there by herself or if she had company. Fortunately, she was alone, and though she looked quite startled for a moment, she invited Kelsey in.
“Well, if it isn’t the woman of the hour,” Gloria said. Papers were spread across her desk, but she quickly shoved them into a single file folder and slipped it in a drawer. “You look gorgeous. Is that a new suit?”
Grinning, Kelsey slowly turned in a full circle. “Gotta look good in the photos. It’s all about playing the game, right?”
“I’ve taught you well, my dear.”
Kelsey took her usual seat in one of the two leather chairs facing the desk—a move she’d done countless times before. Yet as she settled in, she detected an odd expression on the older woman’s face, as if she were more nervous and apprehensive than Kelsey herself. Worse, in fact. Though Gloria could usually be found looking perfectly polished, at the moment she was anything but, with dark circles under her eyes, rumpled clothing, and not a speck of makeup on.
“Are you okay?” Kelsey asked. She didn’t want to be rude, but clearly something was wrong. “You’re not sick, are you?”
“Just tired. I worked later than I should have last night. You know how it is.”
Gloria obviously didn’t want to talk about it, so Kelsey simply nodded and changed the subject, asking about the order of events for the ceremony. Gloria spelled things out, describing what sounded like a two-person show featuring Kelsey and the company’s CEO, Walter Hallerman.
Kelsey scrunched up her face in dismay. “What about a board member or two? And don’t we want to include somebody from the foundation?”
“Stop trying to deflect, Kels. You know as well as I do that this is all about you. That’s the whole point.”
Miserably, Kelsey slumped in her chair. “This is getting so old.”
Gloria pulled off her glasses and nervously cleaned them with the corner of her blouse. “Hopefully, it won’t be for much longer.”
Both women knew Kelsey really had no choice—both for her family’s sake and for the sake of the corporation. According to management, after Nolan Tate, Kelsey’s father and the firm’s leader, suffered a stroke last year, the company’s value had taken a serious nosedive and now they needed to show that someone else would be carrying on the Tate name, someone who possessed the same sharp gut instincts and business acumen for which the Tates had long been known. As Kelsey was the only other family member who currently worked here, she’d become the logical choice by default.
It was a heavy weight to bear, one that was feeling heavier all the time. She was happy to carry on the family legacy and didn’t mind doing her part to bolster the company’s image, but she was getting awfully tired of being the center of attention. Last week had been a feature article in the New York Times magazine section about the “up-and-comer with the Midas touch.” Prior to that, her name and face had been splashed across countless other newspapers and magazines, and she’d even appeared on a few local television and radio interview shows. Now she was about to go through this ridiculous ceremony, all for the sake of reassuring the public that even though Nolan Tate might be sidelined for now, another, just-as-capable Tate was ready to step up and prove that the family gift for investing was alive and well.
“I hope you’re right,” she said tiredly. “I don’t think I can stand much more.”
An odd look appeared on Gloria’s face, and Kelsey thought she was about to say something important. But then, after a moment, she simply cleared her throat and asked if Kelsey needed any last-minute help polishing her speech.
“No, thanks. It’s fine. But what were you thinking, just now? I can tell there’s something on your mind today.”
The older woman’s cheeks flushed. “It’s not important. I was…I was going to tell you not to worry, that the end is in sight. Maybe sooner than you think.”
“What do you mean?”
Gloria shrugged and looked away, her fingers nervously taking off her glasses, cleaning them again, and putting them back on. Before she replied, the phone on the desk buzzed, startling her so much she practically fell out of her chair.
Face flushing, Gloria resettled herself in her seat and pushed the button for the speaker. Out came the voice of Walter, their CEO.
“I just got downstairs and don’t see Kelsey. Have you talked to her?”
“She’s here with me now.”
“Good. Tell her to hurry up and get down here. We’ll be starting in ten minutes.”
“No problem.”
“Have her take the stairs and use the side door to go backstage. She can wait there until I finish my introduction.”
“Will do.”
With a click he was gone.
“You heard the man,” Gloria said, suddenly using her brightest pep talk voice, though it sounded strained and on edge. She rose, walked to the door, and stood there holding it open. “It’s showtime, kid. You’d better get downstairs. Break a leg, or whatever it is they say.”
Kelsey stood, feeling oddly dismissed. “Aren’t you coming with me?”
“I…uh…I’ll slip in the back later.”
“But I thought we could go down together.”
“I don’t think so,” Gloria responded without further explanation.
“Listen, are you sure you’re all right?” Kelsey pressed, moving closer.
The woman wouldn’t meet her gaze, though after a moment, much to Kelsey’s surprise, her eyes filled with tears. Cooing sympathetically, Kelsey pulled a clean tissue from her pocket and handed it over, asking again what was wrong, if Gloria wanted to talk about it.
“Is it something with work?”
Gloria didn’t reply.
“Maybe something personal? A problem with you and Vern, perhaps?”
Even though Gloria’s marriage wasn’t exactly known to be warm and fuzzy, she seemed surprised at the thought. Shaking her head, she blew her nose and said, “It’s…I…” Her voice trailed off as she dabbed at her tears. Then she took a deep breath and slowly let it out.
“I’m so sorry,” she said, looking down at the floor and speaking in a soft voice. “Have you ever done something bad out of good intentions?”
Kelsey was surprised. What an odd question for an ethical, no-nonsense woman like Gloria to ask.
“You mean, the ‘end justifies the means’?”
Gloria nodded. “Exactly.”
“Probably,” Kelsey replied, studying her friend’s face. “One time when I was a kid, my mother wouldn’t buy me the mini marshmallows I wanted from the grocery store, so while she was busy at the checkout, I went back and got a bag off the shelf, tore it open, and started eating them anyway. I figured that once they were open she’d have no choice but to buy them. Of course, I didn’t count on her making me pay her back out of my allowance—and then she didn’t even let me have the rest of the marshmallows.”
Both women smiled, but fresh tears filled Gloria’s eyes. “If only this were that simple.” She blinked, sending twin tracks of wetness down her cheeks.
Kelsey felt terrible for the poor thing, but she still didn’t have a clue as to what any of this was about. Of all the people in this office, Gloria was the very last person she’d ever expect to talk this way, much less to stand in an open doorway and cry.
Suddenly, before Kelsey could even think of how to reply, Gloria gripped her by both arms and spoke in an urgent whisper.
“You don’t have to go down there, you know,” she hissed. “You don’t have to do this at all. You could walk right out the back door and go home, and I could tell Walter you weren’t feeling well and had to leave.”
Kelsey was dumbfounded. What on earth was Gloria talking about?
“Why would I do that? It’s just a stupid ceremony. I’ll get through it, no big deal.”
Just as suddenly, Gloria let go of her arms, stepped back, and placed both hands over her eyes. “What am I saying? Don’t listen to me. I’m not myself today at all.”
Kelsey stood there amidst her friend’s meltdown, thinking, You can say that again. She wondered if perhaps Gloria had been drinking or something. She didn’t smell alcohol on her breath, but she certainly was acting strange—stranger than Kelsey could ever have imagined.
“Enough of this,” Gloria said finally, taking her hands from her face and giving Kelsey a broad, forced smile. “Are you ready to go? Because your time’s up. Come on, Tater Tot. Forget what I said earlier. I’ll walk you down myself.”

The Wedding Dress

What is “true” beauty? Join the conversation at Rachel’s Author
Chat Party Event Page
. On the eventing of 4/19 we’ll gather to talk about inner
and outer beauty and share moments of beauty in our lives.

In the meantime, celebrate with Rachel by entering her True Beauty
Giveaway!

Rachel’s “True Beuaty” Author Chat Facebook Party on
4/19
. Rachel will be hosting an evening of beauty (inner/outer) chat, fun trivia,
laughter, and encouragement – bring your friends! She’ll also be giving away some
GREAT prizes:

gift certificates, books, and a Book Club Prize Pack! (Ten copies of
the book for your small group or book club and a live chat with Rachel
via Skype.)


One dress. Four women. An amazing destiny.

Charlotte Malone is getting married. Yet all is not settled in the heart of Birmingham’s chic bridal boutique owner. Charlotte can dress any bride to perfection-except herself. When she discovers a vintage mint-condition wedding gown in a battered old trunk, Charlotte embarks on a passionate journey to discover the women who wore the gown before her.

Emily in 1912. Mary in 1939. And Hillary in 1968. Each woman teaches Charlotte something about love in her own unique way. Woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of faith, and the beauty of finding true love.


About Rachel Hauck:

Rachel Hauck is the bestselling author of Carol Award winner Sweet Caroline, and RITA Finalist Love Starts With Elle, and of the critically acclaimed fiction collaboration with multi-platinum country artist Sara Evans, The Songbird Novels.

She lives in sunny, though sometimes hurricane plagued, central Florida with her husband and their ornery pets.

Rachel earned a degree in Journalism form Ohio State University and is a huge Buckeyes football fan. She is the past President of American Christian Fiction Writers and now sits on the board as an Advisor. Visit her web site at http://www.rachelhauck.com to reader her blog, and to follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Fiddler

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing The Fiddler Bethany House Publishers (April 10, 2012) by Beverly Lewis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Beverly’s first venture into adult fiction is the best-selling trilogy, The Heritage of Lancaster County, including The Shunning, a suspenseful saga of Katie Lapp, a young Amish woman drawn to the modern world by secrets from her past. The book is loosely based on the author’s maternal grandmother, Ada Ranck Buchwalter, who left her Old Order Mennonite upbringing to marry a Bible College student. One Amish-country newspaper claimed Beverly’s work to be “a primer on Lancaster County folklore” and offers “an insider’s view of Amish life.”

Booksellers across the country, and around the world, have spread the word of Beverly’s tender tales of Plain country life. A clerk in a Virginia bookstore wrote, “Beverly’s books have a compelling freshness and spark. You just don’t run across writing like that every day. I hope she’ll keep writing stories about the Plain people for a long, long time.”

A member of the National League of American Pen Women, as well as a Distinguished Alumnus of Evangel University, Lewis has written over 80 books for children, youth, and adults, many of them award-winning. She and her husband, David, make their home in Colorado, where they enjoy hiking, biking, and spending time with their family. They are also avid musicians and fiction “book worms.”

ABOUT THE BOOK

Come home to Hickory Hollow, Pennsylvania–the beloved setting where Beverly Lewis’s celebrated Amish novels began–with new characters and new stories of drama, romance, and the ties that draw people together.

A wrong turn in a rainstorm leads Englisher Amelia Devries to Michael Hostetler–and the young Amishman’s charming Old Order community of Hickory Hollow. Despite their very different backgrounds, Amelia and Michael both feel hemmed in by the expectations of others and struggle with how to find room for their own hopes. And what first seems to be a chance encounter might just change their lives forever.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Fiddler, go HERE.

Watch the book video:

Who exactly am I?

I had a Dr. appt today. Not to see the Doc, that is next week, but for an ultrasound. I just had one a year ago, but the doc wants to check progress seeing as how I am having new and worsening symptoms.

Getting older stinks.

Oldest and his GF are going to be getting a new place when their current lease is up. They are looking at houses, and are considering one with 3 bedrooms. Son2 already lives with them 98% of the time, as it is closer to work for him, and he is helping them out with getting to and from work since their care went kaput on them…

Yesterday, Oldest called Son3, who just turned 18 a few weeks ago, and asked him if he wanted to claim the 3rd bedroom if they get the house.

I told oldest that if he keeps stealing his brothers from me, I will be moving in with him.

It is well documented that I do not like having an empty house, two of them gone is empty enough. They can’t have Son3. Its way too quiet around here anyhow.

I love the chaos of a full house. I love the noise, the activity, even the fights that come along with having 5 sons so close in age.

In my mind, they are still young, I see Oldest as 12 years old in my mind. He doesn’t age in my minds eye. I don’t want him to age at all. I don’t want any of them to age.

We were discussing the fact that he will be 23 yrs old on his next birthday. He was freaking out about it. He doesn’t like getting older anymore than I like him getting older.

Why can’t there be a pause button, where we can pause life, and just enjoy the time for a while. Instead of all of us getting older, a bit wiser, and alot creakier?

I told them at the Dr’s office today, I wish they would just go in and take out everything I don’t need to live, “my youngest is 13, its not like I’m going to have any more kids”. I think that is the first time I have ever uttered those words.

For the past 11 years when I had my tubes tied, I have held out hope for a miracle baby. For Stud’s swimmers to make it past that band blocking my fallopian tubes and make a sweet baby just one more time. Now I see that isn’t going to happen. My child bearing years are over. I know that. I don’t want to know that, I don’t want to ever be finished making babies. I’m good at making babies. I make pretty ones. I make smart ones. The one thing I can honestly say I am good at is having babies. I’m a good mom.

Now I have to figure out how to transition from being mom, to being… whoever it is I am.

Always the Designer, Never the Bride

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Always The Designer, Never The Bride Abingdon Press (April 2012) by Sandra D. Bricker

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For more than a decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles. While honing her chosen craft of screenwriting in every spare moment, she worked as a personal assistant and publicist to some of daytime television’s hottest stars. When her mother became ill in Florida, she walked away from that segment of her life and moved across the country to take on a new role: Caregiver.

The Big 5-OH! was released by Abingdon Press in the Spring of 2010, and the novel was very well-received, garnering a couple of nibbles from Hollywood.

Always the Baker, Never the Bride was released by Abingdon Press in September 2010. With its phenomenal reviews, the novel spawned a series of three more books based on the popular cast of characters at The Tanglewood Inn, a wedding destination hotel in historic Roswell, Georgia. The series cemented Sandie’s spot in publishing as a flagship author of Laugh-Out-Loud romantic comedy for the inspirational market.

“Being allowed to combine my faith and my humor with my writing dream,” says Bricker, “well, that’s the best of all worlds, as far as I’m concerned!”

ABOUT THE BOOK

It’s taken Audrey Regan years to establish herself as a wedding dress designer, and to date she’s been roped into creating dresses for nine of her girlfriends. Request #10 follows her vow to “Just say no!” and comes from her very best friend. She can hardly turn Carly down!

Audrey arrives in Atlanta early to perform all of her maid-of-honor duties along with final fittings for a one-of-a-kind dress. But Carly’s wedding is nothing short of an event, complete with Prince Charming, and the festivities make Audrey question whether there’s a prince of her own anywhere in her future.

Enter the groom’s brother and best man. Shaggy-haired, tattooed bad boy J.R. Hunt couldn’t be any more different from Prince Charming if he rode in on a Harley Davidson.  Oh, wait. He actually did ride in on a Harley!

If you would like to read an excerpt of the first chapter of Always The Designer, Never The Bride, go HERE.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! A few hours late I know, but its been a busy day.

Today my mom went to church for the first time in almost 10 years. She is wheelchair bound, and it is extremely difficult to get her ready, dressed, and out of the house. She normally only leaves for doctor appointments and such.

A few weeks ago, my younger boys told her they would be in a skit at church this morning. She decided right then she wanted to go. She has been planning on it ever since. We bought her a new outfit and everything. She was so excited, so we got up early this morning, got her bathed, dressed, all made up, and hair fixed, and off to church we went.

I can’t explain how good it felt to be sitting in church with my parents again. Dad doesn’t go to church often any more, he usually stays home with mom, not feeling quite up to it as often. I did not realize how much I missed worshiping with them.

Familial love

I alluded to the fact I had two things to write about, well I wrote about number 1, now here’s number 2.

My dad has a very small trailer park, that currently has 3.. no 4 spaces rent out. He doesn’t make anything off it, just enough to pay his bills with a couple hundred left over for groceries each month. That’s it.

One of the trailers needed some work. My cousin offered to do the work, FREE OF CHARGE for my dad, as long as my dad bought supplies. Dad jumped on that. Well, to make a long story short, this week, the cousin got his mom, my aunt, my dad’s sister, to give my dad a bill for $150.00 for the work he did. My dad told her that he didn’t have that money, and her son said many times he was doing it for free. My aunt was adamant. SO, my dad scrounged up the money and paid the cousin today.

Me… I’m livid.

There are a couple of “jobs” my cousin has supposedly done for my dad in the past couple of months that are still unfinished, jobs he has already been well paid for. Yet he insisted on being paid for a job he was doing for free.

My dad is in his 90′s.

He asked me today to take the money to my aunt’s house and pay it. I told him I would, but would not promise to keep my thoughts on the matter quiet. He took the money himself. He asked me to keep quiet and not say anything to the cousin or my aunt. I am having a very hard time doing that, so, I am writing it out here. Its either that or bust out a rampage and let everyone in the neighborhood know how I feel about it.

I’m sick of people taking advantage of my parents. My dad had 4 different people witness him offering to pay my cousin for the work, all 4 verified that my cousin said he didn’t want any money, he was doing it for free. Now my dad has no grocery money for the month. That’s ok, Stud and I will make sure they are taken care of, but still…

How can you do that to someone?

I know I can’t.

NIV Boys Bible

Just a bit of a disclaimer here, we use KJV version here at my house, I wish someone would do a KJV Bible for boys like this. I love the extras it has, like grossology, which points out the rather gross things that attract boys!

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card is:

Zonderkidz; Special edition (March 6, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Getting into a routine of reading the Bible can be challenging for anyone, but trying to keep the attention of pre-teen boys is especially difficult. So now there is a Bible especially developed for them. The NIV Boys Bible is designed with boys ages 9 to 12 in mind. Fun in-text features help boys dig deep into the Word and learn about amazing people, facts and stories of the Bible. The NIV Boys Bible will help boys grow into the young men God wants them to be. It will appeal to boys and cause them to desire to spend time in the Word with its unique features such as:

* Introductions to each book of the Bible

* Hundreds of highlighted verses worth memorizing

* What’s the Big Deal?-Need-to-know biblical stories and people

* Check It Out-Interesting and fun facts about Bible times and characters

* Grossology-Gross and gory stuff they never knew was in the Bible

* Makin’ It Real-Help for applying Bible stories to their everyday lives

This Bible includes the full text of the New International Version, the most popular Bible translation in the world, and 12 color tip-in pages introducing content that shows boys how they can grow to be like Jesus. Each book of the Bible has activities that make God’s Word more relevant than ever. It is jam-packed with customized content and artwork that really makes the Bible stand out.

Product Details:
List Price: $27.99
Reading level: Ages 9 and up
Hardcover: 1504 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz; Special edition (March 6, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310723086
ISBN-13: 978-0310723080:

AND NOW…A SAMPLE. PLEASE CLICK ON THE PICTURES TO VIEW THEM LARGER: 

Hanging over my head…

I’m torn with which way to go with this post. I have two things i want to write about, on total opposite ends of the spectrum. I think I’ll go with the sex related one first.

Somehow, I wound up discovering Pastor Mark Driscoll’s writings today. I don’t know how I have never heard of Pastor Driscoll, or his many, many “outrageous” things, but until today I had no clue who the man was. I must have had my head in the sand or something.

He is the Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, author, speaker and many other hats sit on his head. And from an excerpt I just read from his book, Real Marriage… he found that blow jobs are biblical. Wow. Who knew.

Stud will literally be holding this over my head forever now.

Cooking the Books

In Cooking the Books, Bonnie Calhoun incorporates an amazing sense of humor with intrigue, plot twists, and characters that make you want to sit down and have a cup of coffee with them all together for one great read! I loved it, and hope to read her future books and find out more about Sloane Templeton, and her wacky band of Granny Oakleys!

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Cooking The Books Abingdon Press (April 2012) by Bonnie S. Calhoun

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As the Owner/Director of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance Bonnie has helped use the 220+ blogs of the Alliance to promote many titles on the Christian bestseller list. She also owns and publishes the Christian Fiction Online magazine which is devoted to readers and writers of Christian fiction. She is the Northeast Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). At ACFW she was named the ‘Mentor of the Year,’ for 2011, and she is the current President of (CAN) Christian Authors Network. Bonnie is also the Appointment Coordinator for both the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference.

In her spare time she is an avid social media junkie, and teaches Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and HTML as recreational occupations. She also has a novel coming out in the Abingdon Quilts of Love series. Her novel Pieces of the Heart will publish August of 2013.

Bonnie and her husband Bob live in a log cabin on 15 acres in upstate area of Binghamton, New York with a dog and cat who consider the humans as wait-staff.

ABOUT THE BOOK

After her mother dies from a heart attack, Sloane Templeton goes from Cyber Crimes Unit to bookstore owner before she can blink. She also “inherits” a half-batty store manager; a strange bunch of little old people from the neighborhood who meet at the store once a week, but never read books, called the Granny Oakleys Book Club; and Aunt Verline, who fancies herself an Iron Chef when in reality you need a cast iron stomach to partake of her culinary disasters. And with a group like this you should never ask, “What else can go wrong?”

A lot! Sloane begins to receive cyber threats. While Sloane uses her computer forensic skills to uncover the source of the threats, it is discovered someone is out to kill her. Can her life get more crazy?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Cooking The Books, go HERE.

Watch the book video:

If you’d like to read interviews with Bonnie, try these:
Everbody Needs A Little Romance
A Christian Writers World
Novel Rocket
ACFW – Fiction Finder

Well, I didn’t win the lottery. Did you?

Like the rest of the country, I spent quite a bit of time dreaming about what if? What if I did win the lottery? What would I do with that amount of money?

Oh and dream I did.

First thing, once claiming the money….

Walk out the door with my Stud, my kids, my parents, my animals and never look back at my current state again! I would head straight to the beach and spend at least 2-3 months just sitting oceanside, not doing a single thing. Stud would golf, the boys would learn to surf, my parents would enjoy the warm weather. But most of all, we would enjoy the peace and quiet.

Sounds nice huh?

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