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Monday, October 31, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 10/31


The first month of our Grocery Budget Challenge went OK, but I know we can and will do better. I spent some time this weekend do my "research" and getting some menu plan ideas and money saving ideas so that November can be a much better month! I am confident we will have a chest freezer by the end of this month and having a chest freezer will allow us to save more money by being able to do some Make Ahead Meals. I always thought that saying "Boys will eat you out of house and home" only applied to the teen years, but it really applies to boys of all ages. LOL LOL

I have a couple new breakfast recipes we are trying this week as I was tired of the "same ole' same ole" every week.

Here is our Menu Plan for this week:

Weekly Menu Plan 10/30-11/6

For more menu plan ideas and recipes visit:

Organizing Junkie   StoneGable Serve It Up Sunday Desiring Virtue

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

I am honored with an AWARD!!


WOW!! WOW! WOW!! I am very honored to have received my first "Blog Award". A BIG THANK YOU to Jen @ Making Our Life Matter for bestowing this honor to me! God is good!!

The Liebster Award is given to Up and Coming bloggers/blogs who usually have less then 200 followers.

Upon receipt of the Award there are a few simple rules:

1) Copy and Paste the Award onto your blog

2) Thank the Giver and link back to the blogger who gave you the award

3) Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog

4) Hope that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers


I now have the honor of passing the award on to 5 other blogs that are "up and coming". The 5 blogs I bestow this award to are:

1) Confessions of a SuperMom


2) Training our Daughters


3) We Don't Need no Education


4) Homeschooling the Strobel Kiddos


5) Forever and Always No Matter What

I hope you have the oppurtunity to visit these 5 wonderful blogs and give them some "love"!!


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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Health: Ups and Downs


WOW, October has been quite a month for me regarding my health. I started with an appointment on October 6th with my Primary Care Physican at Loyola University Medical Center. The main reason for the visit was to get some answers on the Superficial Phlebitis that is affecting my left leg. The appointment was with my new Resident Dr. and I must say I like the new Dr. very much. He and I talked about my health and specificially the leg issue, he went and conferred with my Attending Dr. and then both came back. Both Drs. agreed it was time to be referred to a Vein Specialist and I didn't even have to ask! YEAH!! The appointment was all set for Oct 13th, just one week away.

October 13th: I met with a Dr. who specializes in Foot and Leg Vein Issues at the Loyola University Medical Center, Center for Heart and Vascular Medicine. I had another great appointment. Dr. Halandras really examined my leg and said that she suspected the Superficial Phlebitis was due to Vein Reflux. She ordered an ultrasound on the Left Leg and wrote me a prescription for Knee High Compression Stockings. I was able to get an appointment for the ultrasound for the very next day and my return appointment with Dr. Halandras for Oct 27th. The Leg Ultrasound went very well and I had the compression stockings by Monday.

October 27th: The boys and I drove Harlin to work so we could have the van to get to my appointment by 9:30am. We actually arrived at 9:10am and I was seen immediately. The Dr. came in and explained that the ultrasound does show Vein Reflux. It is beginning in the thigh area and they believe there is a "connecting vein" that it is affecting in my lower leg. She conferred with a colleague who performs Vein Obliteration surgery and he ordered another leg ultrasound. He will be present at this ultrasound so that he can see if I am eligible for surgery. He said it is important to view the ultrasound as it is happening, rather then the reports and "screen shots". I have the ultrasound scheduled for Tuesday Nov 8th at 3:30pm. I also had to call and make another appointment with my General Dr. because I was concerned about what I thought were 2 "high" blood pressure readings. Oct 13th my reading was 144/88, Pulse 72 and my Oct 27th reading was 133/80 Pulse 68. I have never, never, never had a reading that high. I am consistently 120/80, no higher then 122/82. I was able to get an appointment for Monday Oct 31st at 8:45am.

October 28th: I was all set to start our day and had just ate breakfast and I started having a dizzy spell and tightness of the chest. I sat down in my chair and the episode lasted about 15 minutes. I was "exhaling" to help with the tightness of the chest. I called my Drs. office and told them I have been having dizzy spells since Saturday off and on and about the episode that just happened. It was determined I should come in for an examination so they scheduled me for 3:20pm. I had to call hubby at work and explain to him what is going on and ask him to try to get an early release. He called me back and let me know he was able to leave at 1:30pm. I was seen by another Dr. in the practice. The Dr. was very through in the exam. The nurse initially took my Blood Pressure and it was 108/70, Pulse 68. I was still having the chest tightness as I was in the office. The Dr. decided to do an EKG readout right there in the office. My heart is HEALTHY!! The Dr. also did some coordination testing to see what could be causing the dizzy spells. He also had me lay over the side of the table and held me there for 30 seconds to see if when I was sat back up would I be dizzy: No dizziness! He also took my blood pressure laying down and then standing up. My laying down BP was 122/80, Pulse 68. He then had me stand and waited a minute before taking my BP again. BP standing was 120/80, Pulse 70. He also took oxygen level which was 97. He told me that even though I had those 2 recent High Blood Pressure readings, I do not have High Blood Pressure. I am very glad to hear that news as High Blood Pressure "runs in the family". The Dr. determined that the Dizziness is a very mild case of vertigo and the chest tightness is coming from the chest muscles contracting to much and too hard. I am under Drs. orders to rest and relax this weekend. I also don't have to go to the appointment on Monday morning. I will call Monday morning to find out the results of the Chest X-Ray I had done. All in all, the issues I have been having this with dizzy spells and chest tightness are best taken care of with rest and relaxation. I will be doing just that this weekend!

I am very glad that I am General Good Health. I do worry about potential Health problems like Heart, Kidney and Diabetes as they do tend to run in the family. I am trying to do my best to prevent those issues, the most important thing to prevention is losing weight. The boys and I are working on a Nutrition and Fitness study in our homeschool, so we are on the "right track". I just picked up some books on "healthy recipes for kids" that the boys and I are going to try. I am very glad that I am on the road to getting answers to my Superficial Phlebitis and that treatement plans are in place with that. I hope that I can continue to stay healthy and work towards an all around healthy lifestyle. All in all, I am general good health.

REST and RELAXATION for me this weekend and looking forward to continued "Good Health"!!

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up: Week 8



We had a wonderful and fun week, spending time outside whenever possible! I had some pictures and tried putting together a slideshow, but they are blurry and not worthy of posting. I took them with my cell phone because I kept forgetting my camera and they are BAD. My phone camera usually doesn't take bad pics, so I am confused as to why so blurry!

Monday: The boys and I did a lot of reading, after our book work was done. Josh is learning how to write a book report. He really loves reading and he loves Grammar, so I felt it was time for him to combine the 2 and have him begin writing Book Reports. I found many great resources online, my favorite being an awesome Book Report Form. I am trying to work wtih Nate on his reading. I would really like to have him reading or at least "Grasping" it a bit. We have been using All ABout Spelling to help with recognizing the sounds of letters and putting it all together. I recently found a FREE reading program online and started using it with him on Monday. Nate seems to like it so far and I am hoping he will "get it" soon. Danny loves Math and also loves trying to the be the "teacher" to Nate. We had lunch and then decided to take advantage of the 65 degree day and walk to McDonalds for Ice Cream cones and then to the park by McDonald's. We spent about 2hrs outside on Monday. The boys loved chasing the squirrels at the park and swinging on the swings and just enjoying the great weather.

Tuesday: We got a late start because Nate and myself weren't feeling well due to fall allergies and also my dad came by in the morning to drop off an "end roll" of newsprint paper. He gets them for FREE from the printer that prints the weekly newspaper at the neighborhood paper he works for. We use it for many projects in our homeschool and around the house. We did our schooling in the afternoon and we worked on reading again and I also am working on Money skills with Nate and Danny. Nate is liking the reading program.

Wednesday: We got the basics done today. We left our place at 2pm to head to church. Nate lost his backpack at church last week and we needed to get there early to be prepared to "hunt" for it if needed. It contained his eyeglasses and a recorder that his AWANA leader gave him for recording his verses because he doesn't read yet. We arrived at church by 2:30PM and headed to the 3yr old room because one of the moms at our church said she thought she saw it in there and BAM it was there! Woohoo! Woohoo! I was such a happy mama! I had a meeting with a Pastor at 3pm and also my weekly service of helping in the kitchen for Wednesday night dinner. The boys had a great night at AWANA and we finally arrived home around 9:30pm.

Thursday: The boys and I had to drive my hubby to work because I had a Drs. appointment at 9:30am. My appointment went well and I am finally getting answers to my Leg Vein Issue. I have to have another leg ultrasound on Nov 8th to see if I am eligible for Vein Ablation. My appointment was done by 10am and the boys and I decided we were going to "Library Hop" and "learn at the library" all day yesterday. Our first stop was LaGrange Library. It was our first visit there and we want to go back already! The library building is about 4yrs old and it and it VERY cozy and inviting. The Youth Library was roomy and had lots of resources. We stayed there for about an hour. I found another resource that might help Nate with his reading. I found some I Can Read books that also have the CD version in a kit. I am going to have Nate listen to the CD and follow along in the book and hope he can start reading by recognizing words by both sight and sound. Our next stop was the Brookfield Library. The boys enjoyed learning via their computers and we pulled some books off the shelf and read for awhile. We came home around 12:30pm and had lunch and relaxed for a bit. We headed to the Berwyn Library(our "home" library) as I had a few books to pick up and Josh some to return. We then headed to Villa Park Library. Hubby works in Villa Park and it was a library we had never been to. Very nice library and very nice staff. Josh and I registered our Berwyn Library cards with Villa Park Library so now we are able to check books out at Villa Park Library also. We had some reading time and also did some research using books. We picked hubby up from work at 5:15pm and headed home. 4 Libraries in one day and we loved it!! Josh checked out about 25 books between the 4 libraries. The books are mainly quick reads and he mainly got books on Squirrels and Football. He also got some of the Warrior books by Erin Hunter. He is loving this series!!

Friday: We had to call an "Emergency Sick Day". I have been having dizzy spells since Saturday, but today I started getting tightness in the chest off and on and it lasted about 5 minutes each episode. I called my Drs. office at 11:30pm and they scheduled me for an appointment at 3:20pm. I called hubby and he was able to get an early release from work and was home by 2pm. I didn't see my regular Dr. but one of the other Drs. at Loyola OutPatient Center. He checked my blood pressure 2x, they were 122/80 and 120/80, so those were NORMAL. I really liked seeing those numbers as had 2 high readings in the past couple of weeks. I also had an EKG and my heart is healthy! He diagnosed me with a mild case of vertigo and the tightness of the chest is from my chest muscles. I am under Drs. orders to take it easy for the weekend. I am going to do just that. I will be in my "comfy chair" all weekend either reading or getting some computer stuff done on my laptop, including homeschool lesson plans for next week!

I am looking forward to our studies for next week. I am going to begin some Thanksgiving lessons and arts and crafts!

Need some inspiration or ideas for your homeschool?? Do you like to read about the daily life of other homeschoolers? Come on over and join the fun at:




Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers



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Monday, October 24, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 10/24


The Grocery Budget Challenge really needs to do better next month, as this first month we started off doing well, but sorta slacked lately. I am so ready for holiday grocery sales so that I can stock up on a few items and save money while doing so. I know Potatoes are going on sale soon and I found a recipe I am going to try this week and if it turns out well we will for sure do some freezer stock. Homemade Frozen Hashbrowns, is one of those ideas that you say "Why didn't I think of that?"I have been scouring the internet and other resources to really try to get a grasp on the grocery budget while trying to feed 3 growing boys.

Here is our menu plan for this week:
Weekly Menu Plan 10/23-10/29

For more menu plan ideas and recipes visit Menu Plan Monday at:

Organizing Junkie

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

LitFuse Blog Tour: Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy

About the Book:
A storm the size of Texas brews when Gloria Powell and Kai Chang meet in a Ft. Worth hotel. They have come to discuss the future of Lily, the daughter Gloria adopted from China and the sister Kai hopes to reclaim. Kai is a doctor who had to give up her little sister during the Cultural Revolution and has since discovered that an inherited genetic defect may be waiting to fatally strike Lily.

Gloria's relationship with her daughter is tattered and strained, and the arrival of Kai, despite the woman's apparent good intentions, makes Gloria fearful. Gloria longs to restore her relationship with Lily, but in the wake of this potentially devastating diagnosis, is Kai an answer to prayer--or will her arrival force Gloria to sacrifice more than she ever imagined?

About Patti:
Patti Lacy graduated from Baylor University with a BS in education and completed master's-level courses in English at Indiana State University. She taught at Heartland Community College until May 2006, when she resigned to pursue her passion of writing. The author of three previous novels, Patti is the mother of two grown children and lives with her husband in Normal, Illinois.

For more about Patti and her other books, visit her website at www.pattilacy.com.

My Thoughts and Review:

Wow, wow, wow! This book is an awesome book about the joy of adoption for one family, yet how another family is left wondering and hoping to be reunited one day. I really appreciate that the story line is about an older child, as many times older children in orphanages are "unwanted". Gloria knew the moment she was told that there were no infants available and upon seeing Lily that God was directing her that Lily was meant to be a part of their family. As Lily grows into her teens, she becomes rebellious and has struggles. Her older sister, Kai, locates her to let her know about a potentially fatal genetic disease that Lily is at risk for. Kai and Gloria are both trying to help Lily with her struggles and try to help Lily try to make through the rough years. Lily is the one who finally has to make the decisions for herself.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The bringing together of 2 cultures and 2 families from across the globe is very fascinating. The heartaches and joys of this book, have you grabbing for that box of tissue. Adoption is a topic very near and dear to my heart. I am a Birth Mom(21 years on October 21st) and I know it is a joy to make a great sacrifice, but there is always that space in your heart longing for a reunion one day. I was very emotional reading this book, but most of it emotions of joy and comfort! THANK YOU Patti Lacy for writing such a great novel on Adoption. The story felt soo real even though it is a fiction book! Patti Lacy is a 'new to me" author, but I am going to be reading her other books as soon as possible. EXCELLENT Book and I highly recommend it for everyone!

Buy the Book: Reclaiming Lily by Patti Lacy

Patti Lacy is hosting a Facebook Party and Kindle Touch Giveaway:

Patti Lacy is celebrating the release of her latest book, Reclaiming Lily,  with a KindleTouch Giveaway, blog tour and FB Book Chat Party!

Follow the blog tour and read the reviews!

Patti and her publisher, Bethany House, are giving away a Reclaiming Lily prize package worth over $150 to one lucky winner!!!!



Enter the Reclaiming Lily Giveaway and you could win:

  • A brand new just released KindleTouch with Wi-Fi
  • $25 gift cetificate to Amazon.com
But, wait there’s more!

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. Giveaway ends on 10/19! Patti will be announcing the winner of the Reclaiming Lily Giveaway at her Party on Facebook October 20th! She’ll be hosting a book club chat of Reclaiming Lily (it's okay if you haven't read it - you could win a copy!) and giving away other fun prizes! (signed copies of her books and gift certificates to Amazon.com, Starbucks, & iTunes!). Don’t miss the fun at Patti’s FB Author Page on 10/20/11 at 5pm PST ( 6 pm MST, 7 pm CST, & 8 pm EST)! RSVP today!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book as part of my participation in the LitFuse Blog Tour Program. I was only required to give an honest review. I received no other form of compensation and my opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

First WildCard Tour: Autumn's Song by Martha Rogers

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:

Realms (October 4, 2011)
***Special thanks to Kim Jones | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Martha Rogers is the author of Becoming Lucy; Morning for Dove; Finding Becky; Caroline’s Choice; Not on the Menu, a part of a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo; and River Walk Christmas, a novella collection with Beth Goddard, Lynette Sowell, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. A former schoolteacher and English instructor, she has a master’s degree in education and lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Why does everyone think a girl’s only lot in life is to find a husband and settle down?
Kathleen Muldoon is twenty-three and tired of ranch living. Fiercely independent and determined to become a nurse, she has left her family’s ranch to study medicine under Old Doc Jensen and live in town with her Aunt Mae, who runs a boardinghouse.

Daniel Monroe has just arrived in Porterfield to set up his law practice. Sparks fly when he is introduced to Kate at the boardinghouse, but the initial attraction quickly dissolves into an argument—the first of many. Daniel is enamored with Kate but uncomfortable with her independent spirit and dreams of becoming a nurse.

When trouble erupts between the ranchers and lumberjacks over timber rights, Kate is furious to learn that Daniel has worked out an agreement she believes will destroy her father’s land. Can they overcome their pride and help each other become everything God wants them to be?
Set in the late 1800s, the Seasons of the Heart series follows the lives of four women and their families, weaving together their stories of faith, life, and love as they bond in friendship only God could orchestrate.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616384573
ISBN-13: 978-1616384579

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

August 1889

Kate Muldoon, I simply can’t understand why you haven’t found yourself a husband among all the eligible men in this town.” Sarah picked up a book from the bedside table in Kate’s room. “You’re twenty-three now, and hiding yourself away to read and study all the time will not help you find the right man.”

Kate grabbed the book from her sister-in-law, who had wandered into her room for a chat. As usual, the talk had turned to men. “I don’t need a man,” Kate declared.

“How can you say that?” Sarah gasped.

Kate shook her head. Marriage and family ranked last in the things she wanted out of life right now. Kate fought against the swelling tide of anger that had landed her in trouble on more than one occasion. Why did everyone think a woman’s only role was that of a wife and mother? Sarah meant well, but then she loved living on a ranch and taking care of her husband Donavan Muldoon. Sarah believed everyone should be in love, as did her other sisters-in-law.

Once again Kate tried to explain. “Sarah, I do not intend to marry a rancher or anyone connected with cattle. I was born on a ranch, grew up on a ranch, and have lived around cattle and horses all my life so far, and I don’t plan on spending the rest of it on one.” Despite her love of horses and riding, the ranch held no pull or fascination for her as it once did when she was younger. Kate hugged her textbook to her chest. “Why do you think I’ve studied everything about Florence Nightingale and nursing and moved into town to help Aunt Mae?”
Sarah waved her hand airily, dismissing Kate’s plans. “I don’t know about that, but I do know Auntie Mae’s boardinghouse is full of men who are not ranchers. Why, there’s my cousin Seth who just moved out here to pastor our church, and then there’s Doc Jensen’s nephew who came to town to assist his uncle with the infirmary. They’re both unattached. Sometimes I think you’re just too picky.”

Picky wasn’t exactly the word Kate would choose, but preachers and doctors held no interest for her other than as people she could work with. She did enjoy working with Doc Jensen and his nephew, Elliot Jensen, but they were teaching her to be a nurse. Besides, Elliot wasn’t really a friendly sort even if he did have an excellent bedside manner with his patients.
Kate sighed. Her sister-in-law was raised in an upperclass family in Boston, where the entire focus of her life in the last few years had been on her whirlwind romance, marriage to Donavan, then moving to Texas and having Jeremy. How could she possibly understand Kate’s dreams? “I’m learning all I can about nursing and treatments so I can work more with Doctor Jensen,” she explained with as much patience as she

could muster. “He lets me help with some of the lighter cases and says I’m getting good at recognizing symptoms. Besides, I was thinking that the preacher would make a wonderful match for Erin.”

Sarah brightened at the thought. “That might not be a bad idea now that she is of marrying age. Erin would be a good wife for Seth and a good mother for their little ones. She loves little Jeremy and has been a big help to me in taking care of him.” She turned to leave. “I’ll look for you Sunday at church and then afterward for dinner out at the ranch. Now I need to rescue Auntie Mae from Jeremy.”

As if Aunt Mae needed rescuing. Kate waved her hand in the air to say good-bye. Dinner with the Muldoon clan meant much food and lots of laughter, but it also meant another boring afternoon listening to talk of cattle drives and auctions and horses by the men, and talk of babies and mothering by the women—none of which held any interest whatsoever for Kate.
Three older brothers—Brody, Donavan, and Ian—had ranches of their own, and that’s all they talked about. The fourth older brother, Cory, had his sights set on being a lawman and had moved into town to be a deputy for Marshal Slade. Erin, the baby of the family, still lived on the ranch. She’d just turned nineteen and was by far the prettiest of the Muldoon clan.
Kate welcomed Cory’s company and his presence at the boardinghouse. At least he wasn’t interested in finding a bride, and he didn’t pester her about finding a mate. He had his sights set on being a marshal himself one day and figured that job too dangerous to take a wife. Kate snorted. So it was OK

for a man to be unmarried and pursue his dreams, but not a woman.
She laid aside her book and sauntered down to the hallway to find the mail from Aunt Mae’s boarders. One of her jobs at Aunt Mae’s included taking care of the mail. With a start, she realized she’d have to hurry to get there before the afternoon train arrived.

One afternoon train from the west would be picking up mail headed for the East Coast. An earlier train had dropped off its delivery, and that mail waited for her now at the post office. Ever since the railroads had been completed, Kate had seen more men coming to town to work the ranches around the area as well as find their own land and start farming or ranching. All the land around Porterfield belonged to ranchers

and farmers, but in a state as big as Texas, there seemed to be plenty of land to go around.

She donned her wide-brimmed straw hat to ward off the sun’s rays and hurried out to complete her task. The Grayson General Store and Post Office beckoned her to hurry. The train would be here any minute. Her feet kicked up puffs of dust as she walked. Her shoes would need a good cleaning later, but she didn’t mind as she enjoyed the four-block walk to the general store that housed the post office.

When Kate stepped into the store, the balding proprietor grinned and tilted his head. “Is that mail from the boarders at your aunt’s house?”

Kate plopped the letters on the counter along with coins

for stamps. “Yes, it is.”

Mr. Grayson affixed a two-penny stamp to each envelope. “How many boarders are there now?”

Kate closed her eyes to vision the count. “Counting Cory and me, there’s eight. All but one of the rooms is filled, and Aunt Mae is happy as a lark. For some reason, men come to this town, like it, and stay.”
Mrs. Grayson joined her husband. Her blue eyes sparkled as she gazed at Kate. “And when are you going to choose one of these men here for your own?”
Heat rose in Kate’s cheeks. Everyone thought they had to ask that question. “I don’t plan on marrying anytime soon. I’m studying to be a nurse, and besides, who’d help Aunt Mae take care of the house and all the meals if I wasn’t around?”

The plump, rosy-cheeked Mrs. Grayson laughed. “She’d do fine without you, and I’ve seen how Mr. Fuller over at the bank looks at her. Wouldn’t surprise me if she takes a husband one of these days.”
“That’s hard for me to imagine.” The very idea of her aunt with another man after the love she shared with Uncle Patrick caused Kate’s insides to quiver like the branches of a justfelled tree. Aunt Mae did have a few of the men, including Mr. Fuller, looking her way, but she paid them no mind. If Aunt Mae did decide to marry, Kate wouldn’t interfere, but she’d have no part in bringing about that possibility.
As soon as Mr. Grayson dropped the envelopes into the outgoing mail bag, he headed outside and toward the depot. Mrs. Grayson handed her mail from the boardinghouse box. “Thank you.” Kate slid the envelopes into her pocket and wiggled her fingers at Mrs. Grayson. “Bye, now. It’s time to get things started for dinner at Aunt Mae’s.”
On her way back to the boardinghouse, the idea of Aunt Mae marrying danced through her head. Would Aunt Mae give up running the boardinghouse if she married? Kate knew how much her aunt loved visiting with the boarders and preparing their meals. It was impossible to think of her ever leaving the place. Certainly she had found her calling, and for once in this town it didn’t focus only on being a wife and keeping house! Still, when Uncle Patrick was alive, Aunt Mae had combined being a wife and managing all those boarders without much trouble. Perhaps Kate could do the same sometime in the far distant

future.
Daniel Monroe finished his letter and sealed it in an envelope. In a few days he’d leave for the greatest adventure of his life, and he wanted Seth to know when to expect him. He reread the post from his friend telling him that the mayor was more than willing for Daniel to come to Porterfield, Texas, and practice

law as they had no lawyers in the town. If lawyers were needed in Porterfield, then that’s where he’d head.

Seth Winston had gone to Texas last year to pastor the church where his cousin Sarah and her family were members. The idea of going to Porterfield had grown more appealing as Seth had described it when he’d returned to Briar Ridge for his sister Rachel’s wedding this past spring. True, Texas was a long way from Connecticut, but images of the untamed West and all the adventures Daniel could have outweighed the

distance.
He envisioned cowboys, gunfights, saloon brawls, and train robberies. The tales he’d heard about Texas rolled through his mind in an endless stream of pictures. All the action and excitement sounded much better than the quiet town of Briar Ridge where he spent most of his time writing wills and taking care of legal documents for land sales or contracts for service. He’d already reassigned all his clients to other lawyers in

Briar Ridge, and none had truly complained, which only served to emphasize the fact that he wasn’t really needed here. Daniel cleaned out his desk and put it all in a box to carry home. He planned to have the desk, a gift from his parents, shipped to Texas with him. Now all he had to do was purchase his train ticket and say good-bye to family and friends. Since his parents, especially his mother, didn’t approve the move, he didn’t expect a going-away party.

Father seemed on the verge of understanding Daniel’s desire to travel to new frontiers and make a life for himself. Mother, on the other hand, wouldn’t and couldn’t accept the fact that her only son wanted to leave home and move thousands of miles away. His sister, Abigail, would hardly speak to him, but that did not keep Daniel from making arrangements to leave. After his twenty-fifth birthday last month, the desire

for a change came over him, and Texas seemed the best place to do just that.
On the way home he stopped at the depot and purchased a ticket that would begin his trip. He’d have stops in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, and Dallas before the last leg of the journey to Porterfield.
The ticket agent handed Daniel his passage. “That’s a mighty long trip. I take it you’re heading out West to join Seth Winston. I can see the need for a preacher out west, but what’s a fancy lawyer like yourself going to do there?”

Daniel laughed. His mother had asked the same question. “Not sure, but I hope to help tame some outlaws.” How he’d do that he had no idea, but it sounded good when he said it.

“Well, now, just don’t go and get yourself shot by one of ’em.”
“I don’t plan to, Mr. Colley.” He tipped his hat and walked back out to his rig. At least he knew how to ride a horse well. With all his many long trips to Hartford by horseback, he figured he’d have no trouble riding in Texas. The rig today was simply a convenience for carting home his personal belongings from his office. Tomorrow the desk would be crated and shipped westward.

He entered the foyer of the comfortable, two-story home he still shared with his family. At his age, many other men had places of their own, but Ellie’s cooking and the free lodging had tempted him to stay.
After handing over his hat to Stevens the butler, Daniel turned toward the voices he heard in the drawing room on his left. He knocked then pushed open the doors. “Good evening, Mother, Father.”

His mother stood and hurried to him. She wrapped her arms around him. “Oh, Daniel, please tell me you’ve changed your mind and are staying in Briar Ridge. I can’t bear for you to leave us.”

He patted her back and glanced at his father, who simply lifted his gray bushy eyebrows and shrugged. He turned back to his mother. “I’m sorry you feel this way, Mother, but I purchased my train ticket on the way home this evening and will leave the beginning of next week.”
She pushed away from him and held a handkerchief to her nose. “I simply can’t believe it. I don’t understand why you have to go all the way to Texas to practice law. New Haven and Hartford are much closer. Why, even Boston would be better than way out West.”

“We have a multitude of fine barristers in the cities here in the East. As I’ve said many times, this will give me the opportunity to travel and see what is happening in the rest of our great country.” No matter how many times he explained, his mother would never truly understand his desire to move on. She had grown up in this town, as had his father, and she would never leave it or her beautiful home.
Stevens appeared in the doorway. “Mr. and Mrs. Monroe, dinner is served.”
Mother hooked her hand into Daniel’s arm. “Thank you, Stevens. Tell Ellie we’ll be right in.” She patted Daniel’s hand now resting on hers. Although she held her head high, he noted the slight tremor in her voice as she spoke. “I had Ellie prepare your favorite meal tonight. She’ll be serving all your favorites until your departure.” She swallowed hard as she walked beside Daniel into the dining room.
Daniel’s younger sister, Abigail, bounded down the stairs but stopped short when she saw her parents and Daniel. Her next steps were much more sedate. “Good evening, Daniel. I didn’t know you were home.”

Father waited to escort her into dinner. “And what is your great hurry, my dear girl? Is Ellie’s food that tempting?”

“No, Father, I’m just happy about my trip to see Rachel and Nathan in Hartford next week. I haven’t seen her since the wedding, and I’m anxious to visit and talk with her.”

Daniel assisted his mother in her chair at the table. “I’m sure you two will have much to talk about. What’s it been? Two, three months since the wedding?”
She turned to glare at him. A month ago she wouldn’t have minded the teasing, but since his decision to leave, she had been less than sisterly. “Three, if you must count, but it may as well be three years.” Abigail dismissed him and turned to her mother. “I truly miss having Rachel here in Briar Ridge.”

Father held her chair while she seated herself. He bent and brushed his lips across her hair. “Then I’m glad you will have this chance to visit Rachel in Hartford.”

After his father said grace, Ellie brought in a platter emanating the most delicious aroma. His favorite roast beef as Mother had promised. Along with it came perfectly creamed potatoes, buttered asparagus, carrots, fresh baked bread, and his favorite sweet pickles. “What, no soup tonight?”

Mother pressed her lips together. “You said you didn’t care for soup at every meal, and since this is your meal, we skipped it.”

“Thank you, I prefer to fill up on the main course and not the first one.” He glanced over at Abigail, who scrunched up her nose as the asparagus was passed to her. “Not to worry, dear sister, after I’m on my way to Texas, you won’t have to worry about asparagus. Ellie only cooks it because she knows how much I like it.”

“Humph, that will be one good aspect of your leaving.” She placed two stalks on her plate and handed the bowl to their father.

As his parents began discussing their day, he noted the total lack of reference to his leaving the coming Monday. His mother believed if she ignored it, that perhaps it wouldn’t really happen. Father cast a wistful eye Daniel’s way a few times, as though he wanted to talk with his son. Perhaps after dinner he and Father could have a conversation.
Daniel gazed around at the opulent surroundings. Sparkling crystal, fine china, silver cutlery, and damask table cloth and napkins reminded him of his parent’s wealth. He would find nothing like this in Texas.
Then he glanced again at his mother and swallowed a lump in his throat along with a bite of potato. He didn’t want to hurt her, but he could see in her face and the way she only moved the food around her plate without actually eating it that he had done just that.

How could he make her understand his desire to move away and seek a new life? Somehow between now and Monday he must convince her that God had called him to the frontier. He had spent many hours in prayer over this move, and now he gladly embraced the future and all it held in the grand state of Texas.



My Thoughts and Review:

Martha Rogers is a "new to me" author, having never read one of her books. I really enjoyed the book! The book in set in the late 1800's and I am very fond of books set in or near that time period, so score 1 for the book. The main character, Kate, is a great part of the story. Her independence and demeanor remind me so much of me. I love how the author, Martha Rogers, weaves romance into Kate's life and it really is a "Love/Hate" relationship between Kate and Daniel. Kate has a "stubborness" about her, which I tend to have also. Autumn's Song is book 2 in the Seasons of the Heart series, but the story flows well even without reading Book 1. Autumn's Song is a great book for anyone who like Romance and Westerns!! I am looking forward to going back and reading book 1 and anxiously awaiting book 3 in the series!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for FREE as part of the First WildCard Tour. I received no other compensation for my honest review and all opinions are my own.

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First WildCard Tour: A Place to Belong by Lisa Troyer

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:

Barbour Books (September 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Radio personality, recording artist, speaker and author Lisa Troyer finds herself heart-deep in ministries that are changing lives forever. Her incredibly successful Circle of Friends women’s ministry, formed over a decade ago, is growing in all directions. With partners Dawn Yoder and Jocelyn Hamsher, Lisa and her Circle of Friends offer women’s conferences, counseling services, worship music, life skills classes and marriage/family resources. No matter the outlet or the venue, Lisa uses her gift of encouragement, her influence and her resources to open doors for women everywhere to discover their significance and belonging through Christ.

Active on the business side of the music industry for many years, Lisa worked as a copyright administrator for what is now Provident/Integrity Music, as well as a consultant for well-known European Christian recording artists. In Nashville, she also sang demos for songwriters, but never dreamed of recording music herself.

After several years in Nashville, much to everyone’s surprise, including her own, Lisa made the decision to return home to join the family business and explore what kind of ministry God had planned for her. As Lisa began to develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with God and, subsequently, became more involved with the steady stream of hurting women God placed in her path, she knew that she had found her calling.

Lisa’s passion for God, authentic love for people and undeniable giftings have landed her dead center in the middle of a burgeoning ministry beyond her wildest expectations. She lives in Berlin, Ohio, with husband and best friend Bob, and their two precious children, Jillian and Christian.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Every woman needs a place to belong—and that’s the underlying theme of the new book from Lisa Troyer, president of Circle of Friends Ministries, singer/songwriter and radio host. In A Place to Belong: Out of Our Comfort Zone and into God’s Adventure (Barbour Publishing), Troyer shares her own journey to acceptance as well as the story of a group of dynamic “women helping women” who call themselves the Circle of Friends. Troyer encourages readers to form their own circle of friends, a safe place of truth and love where women can develop lasting relationships and discover together the purposes of God for their lives.

Though refreshingly warm and simple, A Place to Belong is far from shallow. Troyer’s passion to lead others into the bottomless love of God compels her to plunge deeply into the heart of the issues all women face, but most keep to themselves. With tendencies toward depression, anxiety attacks and an eating disorder, she knows firsthand the bondage of secrecy and shame. “Living with a secret,” Troyer admits, “doesn’t make it go away. It doesn’t change your heart. As well hidden as your secret it, that is how deeply lonely you will be. I’ve been there. I know it’s true.”

In A Place to Belong, she explores five principles that address the heart-needs of women today:

* Acceptance, embarking on adventure in relationship

* Authenticity, exchanging the familiar for the extraordinary

* Affirmation, enriching the lives of those around you

* Accountability, receiving the comfort of companionship

* Action, stepping into the journey and walking into the purpose

By learning to apply these concepts, women will not only experience freedom themselves but will also develop a biblical, transformational ministry to lead others within their own sphere of influence to freedom as well.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (September 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616265051
ISBN-13: 978-1616265052

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

I Had a Secret

This is my story. Acceptance means you can tell yours.

Day after day for four years in high school, I felt his eyes on me. His aftershave lingered in the aisle as he walked past rows of students, and I remember what his presence felt like when he stood close to me.
I kept his secret all that time and for many years afterward. Protecting him was not my agenda. I thought I was protecting myself.

I was not going to be one of those girls.

I was not going to get that kind of reputation.

He was a married man, and I was not going to give in to what he asked of me.
School is supposed to be safe, for crying out loud. He had no business doing the things he did, and I knew that at the time. But I was fourteen, a freshman in high school, and I didn’t want to walk the halls in my smalltown high school and have everybody see the cloud of inappropriateness that hovered over me. Who would whisper behind my back? Who would

pull away from me if they knew?

So I kept quiet.
He asked me out, and I kept quiet. He made physical passes at me, and I kept quiet. He offered to purchase alcohol for a friend, and I, sadly, accepted the offer. I remember the warm spring day in early May of my sophomore year when he asked if I needed anything for the weekend and suggested he join me for a drink. And I kept quiet. He looked at me in that way, and I kept quiet. I felt ashamed and confused, and knew this was wrong, but I kept quiet. I sat in his classes every year and earned awards. He was part of my day, part of my routine existence, and no one but my best friend ever suspected the things he suggested to me in private moments. She did not know everything, but she knew something was going on. But she kept quiet, too.
I wasn’t the first girl with whom this teacher behaved in inappropriate ways, and I wouldn’t be the last. I knew just enough about his previous victims to know their reputations were trashed. He was the predator, but they paid the price, and I was not going to let that happen to me.

So I said nothing.
But I had chronic stomachaches, repeated severe colds, wanted to sleep all the time, and hated going to school. School was never my favorite activity to begin with. I preferred to read what I was interested in and found little wonder in things that didn’t apply to my focus du jour. The heightened emotional pressure in high school made attendance even less motivating. My junior and senior years were especially difficult. My interest in music was increasing, but so were my level of frustration and signs of clinical depression, though I didn’t know the phrase at the time. I wonder now how I didn’t flunk out of school. Two elements of relief were my choral and humanities classes. I enjoyed singing and reading Wuthering Heights and other classic literature. I was thankful for the positive influence and encouragement of Penny McKey and Connie Evans, true educators in every sense of the word. Despite my emotional challenges, I managed to make the honor roll and progress toward graduation.

When I was a senior in high school, my stomach trouble took the form of a duodenal ulcer. Because the symptoms persisted after the ulcer healed, the gastroenterologist suggested my parents explore a psychological reason for my illness. I started seeing a psychologist, who officially diagnosed my clinical depression. His practice was not faith-based, but he had studied for the priesthood before getting married, and he encouraged my own faith. It was a safe place for me to say I was not okay without saying why I was not okay.

I still kept the secret.
After a while, my father had his doubts that the psychologist was doing any good, but I had recently turned eighteen. By the grace of God, the psychologist reminded me I no longer needed my parents’ permission to see him, and he offered to treat me for free for a few months. We spent a lot of time talking about my poor dating choices and areas of my life where I felt I had little control. Looking back now, I realize the therapist probably suspected more than he ever expressed. He was waiting for me to be ready to talk.
But still I said nothing.
My free visits with the psychologist got me through the months until graduation, and then I was free from that environment. I never had to see that teacher again. I was off to the Art Institute of Atlanta, far away from my small Midwestern town, to prepare for a career on the business side of

the music industry.
You can’t just walk away.
Just because I did not reveal what happened during high school did not mean the experience had no effect on me. It was years before I told anyone the whole sordid truth and faced the huge impact it had. The depression that began during those years has been a specter for all of my adult life.
On the outside, things looked good. My dad wanted me to take his financial investment in my education seriously, so he said, “No bad grades and no partying, or the money stops.” I didn’t intend to give him a reason to cut me off. I now enjoyed school. I was free from my tormentor. I could be anybody I wanted to be. People who struggle with depression and don’t take prescribed medications tend to medicate themselves with something else, and that’s what I did. I plunged into a whole new social life where no one had even heard of my school or the predator who gave me an ulcer. I amassed a new cadre of friends and relished the freedom of living in an apartment by myself. I even dated a young man who presumed we would marry someday—although I knew I would never marry him. Social activities stimulated me and became the core around which my life revolved. I looked forward—never back. I was grown up now, I thought. The past was behind me. I was never going to live in my hometown again, so I had no reason to dwell on the things that happened there. After graduation from the exhaustive one-year program and an internship with the retail division of Zondervan, a publisher with a music arm, I was ready to take on the world.

In those days, a career in the music business meant New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville. My parents objected to Los Angeles, and I had no desire to move to New York. That left Nashville. So off I went with a classmate. We planned to share expenses. Neither of us had a job, nor any

prospects, but the hope of youth springs eternal. However, my friend soon found that Nashville was not the place for her and resumed her vocation of ministry and education. So I was on my own.

And I still carried my secret.
In Nashville, at the ripe old age of twenty, I found a niche on Music Row, a historic area that is home to hundreds of enterprises involved in country, gospel, and Christian music. Record labels, publishing houses, recording studios, video production companies—they’re all there. I found a job singing demos for a studio in a music publishing company, but ultimately I wanted to work for a Christian company.

I kept inquiring at Benson Records, a major Christian music publishing company that belonged to Zondervan at the time. I grew up in a family business, and I knew the easiest department to get into was sales, where the turnover is always high. So I just kept asking. Eventually I got a job.

The woman who hired me said it was not because I had any experience that impressed her. Rather, my tenacity captured her attention. So I jumped into

the sales department ready to give it everything I had. Six weeks later, a job in the copyright administration department opened, and she recommended me for that promotion since I’d had some experience on Music Row with similar tasks.
My stubbornness paid off, and I had what I wanted. I was independent. I was out of the Midwest countryside. I was on my way to a career on the business side of the music industry. I worked for a Christian company.
I stayed in Nashville long enough to know I didn’t want to work for someone else the rest of my life. The family dairy business that was the backdrop of my childhood had imprinted me with a different mind-set. I had proven I could bulldog my way into the music scene in Nashville, but for what? My parents ran their own business and employed dozens of other people. In addition to his solid business, my dad was always pursuing interests he loved. He even bought a plane. I understand my father. He is never one to shy away from a challenge or an adventure. I wanted to find that elusive intersection between work that paid the bills and being involved with activities that brought meaning to my life. When Dad invited me to return home and join the family business, I took him up on it. I could have the security of the business behind me while also exploring what kind of ministry God had planned for me.

When I chose to move back to my hometown, people thought I had lost my marbles. Didn’t I realize how hard it was to get a job at one of the country’s largest Christian music companies? If I walked away now, I might never get another chance.
My broken past was behind me. At least, I convinced myself this was true. I was twenty-four years old—a lifetime away from that high school girl with a secret—and embarking on independent music industry consulting. I worked for Cliff Richard, one of England’s most popular recording artists, from a base in the rural Midwest. I also jumped right into making cold calls to find new distribution outlets for specialty items of the family business and turned out to be pretty good at the job.

But I still had a secret.
Secrets make you lonely.
Secrets can destroy from the inside. When I kept my secret, I thought I was protecting myself, but instead I isolated myself from people who cared about me. I put up a wall to try to keep myself safe, but instead I kept out people who would have wanted to help. I regret all the years I didn’t tell my mother what happened. As a teenager, I wanted to avoid the attention that surely would come from exposing the predator—my mother would have

made sure he lost his job. He continued to prey on high school girls and eventually was found out. I just didn’t want to be the one who made that happen, and I was clueless about how deeply the events would affect me as I launched into adulthood. As hard as I tried to pretend that what happened didn’t matter after I left high school, the episodes haunted me for years.
All these years later, I still feel naked telling this story, even without including the details. But I hope we are going to travel together on the road to a transforming life in God, so you need to know that this happened to me. In the pages ahead, you’ll read about a lot of heartache. Some of it is mine, some of it reflects the lives of women I know, and some of it rises from the pages of the Bible. And yes, there are some sordid details God thinks we need to know!

Keeping a secret doesn’t make it go away.

Putting on your mask doesn’t change what’s in your heart.

As well hidden as your secret is, that’s how deeply lonely you will be. I’ve been there. I know it’s true.

So I tell you my secret and invite you into my journey with God to encourage you to step into your own journey with God. I’m not suggesting you publish your innermost wrestling in the daily newspaper or on a blog or a billboard. But I do hope you will begin to see the bountiful blessing that can come to your life if you unclench your fists and let go of whatever you have been hiding from yourself. From others. From God.
Circle of Friends is a ministry of women who both seek and offer a place to belong, a place of acceptance, a place of truth and love.

This is my story. Acceptance means you can tell yours.



My Thoughts and Review:
A GREAT book! I was totally expecting this book to be about how to overcome our "shyness" of things(Out of our Comfort Zone), but that wasn't what is was about completely. Lisa Troyer opens up about her past and the things that hindered her in life from completely being the woman God wanted her to be. She says having A Circle of Friends, women who she was accountable to helped her overcome her past and move forward so allow God to fully change her.

I know this book was a great help to me. I am the type of person who would rather "keep things in" then share with others. Lisa showed me that I can come out of that "comfort zone" and share. I can reveal things to a "Circle of Friends" and have that accountability to allow God to fully change me and I can find that "Place I Belong". I know I haven't reached that point yet, but I think this book has been a good resource to help me on my journey to finding that place and to stop allowing my own past from hindering me from a completely embracing what God has in store for me. I recommend this book for any woman who is struggling with her past and any woman who wants to strive to be all that God has intended her to be!

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book as part of the First WildCard Tour. I received no other compensation for my honest review and my opinions are my own. 

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First WildCard Tour: Sunrise on the Battery by Beth Webb Hart

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 (October 11, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


With a B.A. in English Literature from Hollins University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, Hart serves as an inspirational speaker and creative writing instructor at conferences, retreats, schools, libraries and churches across the country, and she is the recipient of two national teaching
awards from Scholastic, Inc. and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. She lives with her husband, composer Edward Hart, and their family in Charleston.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

She wanted her husband to attend the town’s society-driven church.

God answered her prayer in a radical way.

An emptiness dogs Mary Lynn Scoville. But it shouldn’t.  After all, she’s achieved what few believed possible. Born in the rural south, she has reached the pinnacle of worldly success in Charleston, South Carolina. Married to a handsome real estate developer and mother to three accomplished daughters, Mary Lynn is one Debutante Society invitation away from truly having it all. And yet, it remains—an emptiness that no shopping trip, European vacation, or social calendar can fill.

When a surprise encounter leads her to newfound faith, Mary Lynn longs to share it with her husband. But Jackson wrote God off long ago.  Mary Lynn prays for him on Christmas Eve...and her husband undergoes a life-altering, Damascus Road experience. As Jackson begins to take the implications of the Gospel literally, Mary Lynn feels increasingly isolated from her husband...and betrayed by God. She only wanted Jackson beside her at church on Sunday mornings, not some Jesus freak who evangelizes prostitutes and invites the homeless to tea.

While her husband commits social suicide and the life they worked so hard for crumbles around them, Mary Lynn wonders if their marriage can survive. Or if perhaps there really is a more abundant life that Jackson has discovered, richer than any she’s ever dreamed of.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 11, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595542000
ISBN-13: 978-1595542007

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Mary Lynn Scoville

December 24, 2009

It was the morning before Christmas, and Mary Lynn was preparing for her sunrise jog around the tip of the Charleston Peninsula. She stretched her thighs and calves in the gray light of her piazza, then bounded out of her South Battery home, traveling west toward the coast guard station like she did every morning as part of her effort to “finally get back in shape” since her fortieth birthday, six short months ago.

  By the time she reached Tradd Street, the gray had turned to a soft, creamy light, and she hung a left and rounded the corner onto Murray Boulevard where she traced the west tip of the peninsula as buoys bobbed in the churning water of the harbor and pelicans—beak first, wings pulled tight against their large prehistoric bodies—dove for breakfast in a thrilling kind of free fall.

  At her husband Jackson’s strong suggestion, she stayed clear of the darkened cars parked along the edge of the waterway leading up to White Point Gardens. Unseemly characters gathered along the water’s edge at night and often fell asleep there, not to mention the handful of homeless folks who made their berths on park benches. There had been a murder in one of the cars last year as well as a rape, but the light was too high in the sky for any of that now. As her friend from her bluegrass days, Scottie Truluck, boldly proclaimed the day after someone broke into her house and took off with her laptop and her sterling silver tea set, you couldn’t let fear get in the way of your city life.

  Mary Lynn hit her stride, as usual, at the High Battery as a lone sailboat with little blinking white Christmas lights encircling its mast pushed through the choppy water. She felt her heart rate rising and she became conscious of her breathing, so she attempted to take her mind off of her workout and the pounding of the pavement on her knees by going through her to-do list for the day as she passed the Carolina Yacht Club where Jackson had been offered a membership after his second time through the application process. Hot dog! An invitation to join this exclusive, tight-knit club was a kind of proof that they had been officially accepted by Charleston society. Not an easy feat in this historic southern city that, after two brutal wars and a depression that stretched on for half a century, had good reason to be wary of outsiders. Of course, they both knew they had Mark Waters—an older friend with hometown ties—to thank for this and many of the doors that had been opened to them.

  Still, Mark didn’t run the entire city (especially not the old-Charleston set) no matter how deep his pockets, and the yacht club membership meant that they had finally passed some sort of insider’s test after their move to the city ten years ago. And that, along with the invitation Mary Lynn received last year to join the Charlestowne Garden Club and another to serve as chairman of the board of the old and prestigious Peninsula Day School, made her feel like this truly was their home. Their real home. She smiled even as she panted. She and Jackson, two country bumpkins from Meggett, South Carolina, were somehow making their way into Charleston society. Who’d have ever thunk it?

  But that wasn’t even the primary goal for Jackson, who was the sharpest, most focused man Mary Lynn had ever known. The real goal for him (and he had written it down and asked her to put it in her jewelry box in an envelope marked “family mission statement”) was to give their three girls the life he and Mary Lynn never had. This meant a top-rate education, exposure and immersion in the fine arts, and frequent opportunities to see the big wide world beyond the Carolina lowcountry or the United States for that matter.

  “Not just education, baby—cultivation,” he would say as they lay side by side in their four-poster antique bed purchased on King Street for a pretty penny, Jackson resting some classic novel he should have read in high school on his chest. Then Mary Lynn would look up from the Post and Courier or Southern Living or lately, the little black leather Bible Scottie had given her after the birthday luncheon meltdown, and smile.

  Every time Mary Lynn and Jackson discussed their children, she had an image of her husband tilling the soil of their daughters’ minds and dropping down the little seeds like he did every spring growing up on his daddy’s farm. “Just like the tomaters, darlin’,” he’d say in his exaggerated country accent. “Only now it is little intellects that will one day be big as cantaloupes!”

  A pretty lofty mission. But a worthy one, Mary Lynn supposed. Though sometimes she grew nervous that he rode the girls too hard with their school work and over scheduled them with extracurricular activities—strings lessons, writing workshops, ballet, and foreign language. They sure didn’t have much time to lollygag or linger or strike out on an adventure as she had as a child roaming the corn fields on her uncle’s farm, climbing trees, building forts, or spending the night in a sleeping bag beneath a blanket of stars. Despite her mama’s missteps and mean old Mrs. Gustafson, who made sure the whole town knew every little detail about them, Mary Lynn had a sanctuary on her uncle’s farm. Much of her childhood she was ignorantly blissful of all the trouble and the gossip that surrounded her family as she played hide-and-seek in the corn husks with her mama, running fast through the papery leaves that gently slapped her face. Then crouching down as she heard the sweet voice of her only parent call, “Ready or not, here I come!”

  But Mary Lynn had to acknowledge the fruit of Jackson’s labors. Thanks to his staying after them, the girls were well on their way to mastering a stringed instrument and they could carry on a conversation (and for their oldest, read a novel) in French and Spanish. Imagine!

  Who would have guessed the upward turn their lives would take after Jackson’s daddy’s death revealed the little real estate gems up and down the South Carolina coast he had inherited from a great uncle? The timing was right and Jackson had been shrewd. He turned to Mark Waters, who showed him just how to go about it. This was in the early ’90s, well before the economic downturn, and Jackson sold each piece of property for five and even ten times what his great uncle had paid for it. Then he bought more land, bought several low-end housing projects Mark introduced him to, invested in some of Mark’s big commercial and condo development ventures, and did the same year-in and year-out for more than a decade as the market soared.

  “Boy, you picked wisely,” Mama had said the first time she came to visit them at their new home on South Battery. She narrowed her eyes and looked up at Mary Lynn. “’Course I thought Mark was going to gnash his teeth when he got a gander at the skinny farm boy you had fallen for.”

  “Mama, Mark was married by that point.”

  “Not that nuptials ever meant much to the Waters clan.” She winked, then shook her head. Mary Lynn guessed her mama was thinking of her own engagement to Mark’s father, who had proposed after she ran his office for years. They never did make it to the altar. “But you saw something in Jackson no one else took the time to see, smart girl.” Then she walked carefully over to the portrait of some eighteenth-century British gentleman that their decorator had insisted they purchase for the foyer, rubbed the corner of its gilded frame, and shook her head in disbelief before turning back. “You saw the man in the boy, didn’t you?”

  Mary Lynn had smiled. Then she walked over and kissed her mama’s made-up cheek. It felt cool like putty.

  “I was just lucky, Mama.” And that was the truth. Jackson was the only boy in town she ever dated, though Mark Waters had told her more than once he’d wait for her to grow up. Of course, she wasn’t surprised that he didn’t.

  Her mama had nodded her head as she walked into the foyer and rested her hand on the grand staircase’s large pineapple finial. Then she gazed up the three flights of intricately trimmed hardwood stairs, clucked her tongue, and said, “Everybody gets lucky sometimes, I reckon.”

Now if Jackson stuck with Mark and played it right, he might not have to work for the rest of his life, and he and Mary Lynn would leave a pretty penny to their girls someday. With financial security and intellects as big as cantaloupes, what more could their daughters need?

  But back to the to-do list. Mary Lynn still had a few presents to wrap, and she needed to polish the silver serving pieces for the “show and tell” tea party they had hosted every Christmas afternoon for the last eight years. Jackson, who had taken up the cello a few years ago, was trying to get their three daughters to perform a movement from a Haydn string quartet (Opus 20, no. 4 in D major, second movement to be exact), and he had played the slow and somber piece on the CD player so many times over the last month that Mary Lynn found that she was waking up from her sleep with the notes resounding in her head.

  She’d never really known of Haydn; she never knew a lick about classical music until they moved to Charleston and started going to the symphony and the Spoleto Festival events. Eventually they became supporters of the symphony and the College of Charleston’s music department, and now she found she could recognize a few pieces by ear, though in all honesty, she always daydreamed when she went to a concert. Sometimes it would be over, the audience would be standing for their ovation, and she’d be lost in thought about shelling butter beans on the back porch with Aunt Josey or sitting by Uncle Dale in the rocking chairs as he tuned his mandolin before they started in on “Man of Constant Sorrow” or “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” with him singing low and Mary Lynn singing the dissonant high lonesome sound while she twirled and twirled around. Uncle Dale said she had a voice that was pure sugar and more moves than a croker sack full of eels. And once when Mark Waters and his daddy, Cecil, were over, Cecil teared up over the singing and the twirling and then insisted on underwriting voice and guitar lessons from a famous country music writer who had settled in Charleston. Mary Lynn and her mother drove the fifty minutes into town for the next seven years until she graduated with two offers: one from her guitar instructor to join his newly formed bluegrass band as the lead singer, and an academic scholarship to USC-Beaufort. Since she was smart enough even then to know that an eighteen-year-old girl didn’t need to be traveling in a band, and since Jackson had proposed on bended knee, she did what felt right to her heart: she chose the scholarship and married her sweetheart.

  But on those mornings when she dropped the kids off at school and had to run a few errands, she turned back to the radio station she grew up listening to, an old blend of rock ‘n’ roll and country and bluegrass, and tapped along to Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash or the Stanley Brothers as she drove through the historic streets with her windows rolled up as if she were in her own secret time capsule, transporting herself back to when she was thirteen, dancing and twirling with her mama to “Return to Sender” on the screened porch as Aunt Josey and Uncle Dale clapped and laughed.

  Catherine and Lilla, Mary Lynn’s oldest girls, both played violin, and Casey, the baby by five years, played the viola. Their family quartet sounded all right, except for the cello, which made an occasional alley cat screech when Jackson came at it a little off angle. She imagined they’d be practicing all day to get it right for tomorrow’s performance.

  The sun was beginning to warm Mary Lynn’s back when she turned from East Bay Street onto Broad where she planned to sprint all-out to Meeting Street, then stop and walk briskly home the rest of the way, her hands raised and clasped behind her head, her heart pounding, then slowing moment by moment as the brisk air chilled her sweaty body to the bone. What a way to wake up! She loved it. And she had shed twelve of the fifteen pounds she had been trying to get rid of since her big birthday.

  But this morning, just after she bounded at full speed across Church Street and back onto the uneven sidewalk of Broad Street, the front tip of her left running shoe caught for a split second in a crooked old grate so that when she slammed her right foot down and lunged at a sharp angle to keep herself from somersaulting, she heard a tear just below the back of her knee and a pain blasted through her calf as though she had been shot at close range.

  “Agh!” she screamed, falling hard on her side and grasping the back of her right leg.

  She knew what had happened, and she wasn’t sure if it was her knowledge or the pain that was causing the intense wave of nausea. She spit and attempted to will her stomach to settle down as her aching muscle throbbed.

  The injury, she was sure, was tennis leg, a rupture of the calf muscle on the inside of the leg. She had suffered the same kind of tear in the same place two other times before. Once when Scottie had taken her to a Joni Mitchell concert in Atlanta and she had danced a little too hard to “California,” and just two years ago, when she was standing on the top of her living room sofa, hanging a new set of silk drapes hours before hosting a Parents Guild luncheon.

  Mary Lynn put her forehead on her knee and ground her teeth. The stones from the old sidewalk were cool beneath her legs, and a chill worked its way up her spine. At best, she would spend the next ten days on crutches icing down her leg every few hours. And then another six weeks in physical therapy. Or worse, she would have to undergo surgery—something Dr. Powell had warned her about after her last rupture. “Surgery means no bearing weight for four months,” he had said, looking over his tortoise shell bifocals at her. “So be cautious, Mary Lynn.”

  The street was quiet on this early Thursday morning. No one was around to gawk or help her up, and she started to weep—more from the frustration, from the time she would lose in the days and weeks to come, and from the stupid grate that no one in the city had bothered to right in maybe one hundred years than from the pain that seemed to compound itself with every new beat of her heart.

  She put her clammy palms on the sidewalk and rotated her body over to her left side toward the entry way of the Spencer Art Gallery, and then she slowly felt her way up the side of the stone building until she was upright. She would have to walk on her tippy toes until she flagged someone down or found an open store where she could use the phone to call Jackson.

  Mary Lynn swung her head back and forth in an effort to shake off the stars she was seeing. She walked a good block, carefully, on the balls of her feet to the corner of Meeting and Broad singing “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” by Elvis just to keep herself going. When she rounded the corner where St. Michael’s Episcopal Church stood, she spotted Roy Summerall, the rector, chatting animatedly to a familiar-looking man who leaned against a parked taxi cab, steam rising from his coffee mug.

  She recognized the man as soon as he glanced in her direction. It was Craig MacPherson, Alyssa’s father. (Alyssa was one of Catherine’s best friends.) He had lost his job as a real estate appraiser during the recent economic crisis, and he was forced to pull Alyssa out of the Peninsula Day School, the private school Mary Lynn’s daughters attended. Now she could see that the rumor she heard was true. He was driving a cab to make ends meet.

  Then just as she relaxed the balls of her feet after her favorite line in the chorus—“Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse . . .”—in her relief over finding some folks she knew could help her, the pain shot through her leg, worse than before, and she leaned forward and vomited all over the base of the large white church column closest to Broad Street.

  The men must have heard her retching. By the time she looked back up again, wincing and straining to get upright and back on her tip toes, they were by her side, gently placing her arms around their shoulders.

  “You all right, Mary Lynn?” Reverend Summerall asked. She had been attending his church with Scottie every now and then, and she had met him once briefly at a Downtown Neighborhood Association gathering awhile back, but she was sort of surprised that he remembered her name.

  She pulled her arm back around, wiped her mouth with the back of her fleece jacket, then placed it on his shoulder again. “Tennis leg.” She shook her head in disbelief. “I tore a muscle in my calf. It’s happened to me before.”

  The men made a quick plan to carry her to the cab.

  “On three,” Craig MacPherson said, and after he called out the numbers, she felt them lift her up and carefully scurry her down the sidewalk before setting her gently in the backseat of Craig’s taxi.

  “Let’s get you home,” Craig said.

  “Wait.” Roy put his hand on her shoulder and uttered a quick prayer. She couldn’t make out the words, but that didn’t matter. She had no problem with prayers. In fact, she was starting to like them. She’d been going with Scottie to a women’s prayer group at the church every Wednesday afternoon for almost two years now, and she had become downright used to listening to folks pray out loud for one another’s needs, though she’d never had the nerve to join in.

  “Thank you.” She looked up and swiveled her head back and forth to meet both sets of sympathetic eyes. “I’ll be okay.” And then to Roy, “Sorry to leave a mess on your portico.”

  The priest smiled. “Don’t worry about that. Just take care of yourself. I’ll check in on you later.”

  Mary Lynn nodded, and Craig gently closed the cab door and walked around to the driver’s side. She was surprised by how clean the car was. It smelled like soap and maybe gardenias? Some sort of flower, anyway. And when she looked up to see Craig’s picture and license displayed on the visor, she noticed a drawing that Alyssa must have made for him. It was of the steeple of St. Michael’s with the sun shining through the second tier balcony. The one with the handsome arches. Then she saw the girl’s name inscribed in the far right corner.

  Sitting down felt much better, and Mary Lynn was astonished by how much the pain receded when she took weight off of her leg. She needed to get ice on her calf as soon as she got home, and she would have to elevate her leg (up higher than her heart as she recalled) to stop the ache. That was how she would spend the whole afternoon—her leg in a pillow with a rope tied to the ceiling beam. That and calling all of the guests to cancel tomorrow’s tea.

  But she felt so much better at this moment. Whew. Sitting down in the back of the clean cab with the bright sunlight shooting through the windows, she felt relief. As if, for a moment anyway, it had never happened.

  As they turned off of Meeting Street onto South Battery, she could see her historic white clapboard home in the distance, particularly grand in its Christmas d├ęcor—fresh garland around the doorway and piazza rail, two magnolia-leaf wreaths with large gold bows on each piazza door, and even a little red berry wreath around the head of the statue in the center of the fountain in the side garden. That had been Casey’s idea, and it added a little whimsy to the decorations, Mary Lynn thought. To her it made the house wink to the passersby as if to say, There are children who live here! It’s not a just a photo from Architectural Digest. See? Every time Mary Lynn saw it, she grinned.

  As Craig went around to help her out of the car, she turned to face him and still did not feel the pain. He took out his cell phone. “Should I call Jackson to meet us down here?”

  “No,” she said. “He’s probably on his morning walk and I’m sure the girls are still asleep.” She reached out her hand. “If you help me out, I can make it in on the balls of my feet.”

  Like Mary Lynn, Jackson had a morning ritual—walking their black Labrador, Mac, up King Street to Caviar & Bananas, munching on a scone and an espresso, reading the New York Times, preparing for a meeting with Mark or mapping out the day, the week, or the month—depending on how exuberant he was—and walking briskly home. Sometimes she ran into him a block from their house on her way home from her morning run. He usually brought something back to her—a muffin or a strawberry dipped in chocolate, which she discreetly gave to Anarosa, the housekeeper, to take home to her little boys. And now that the girls were out of school for the holiday, he brought something for them as well. Casey always enjoyed her treat, but the older girls were watching their weight and they, too, gave their treat to Anarosa.

  When Craig leaned forward, she put her arm around his shoulder and let him hoist her up on her tippy toes. Then she took a step forward on the balls of her feet, still leaning on him, and she didn’t feel any pain. She took another step. Nothing. Her calf felt normal. She almost put her heels down, but she was afraid to.

  When a horn from a driver stuck behind the recycling truck blasted just yards ahead, she was so startled, she leaned back and was forced to put her heel on the sidewalk.

  The pain behind the back of her knee was not there.

  She looked up at Craig. Her eyebrows furrowed. She rubbed the back of her leg. No tenderness. Nothing. What in the world?

  “Hurt bad?” he said. He shook his head in an effort to commiserate. Then he stepped back and leaned forward with his hands on his knees to give her a little space. Maybe he thought she might get sick again.

  She looked up at him. Had she dreamed the whole thing? No. She had heard her muscle rip. She had felt the shot of pain. It had happened to her two other times in her life, and she knew precisely what it was.

  She decided not to answer Craig. It was just so strange. After a few seconds he lifted out his hand and she leaned into it expecting the pain to kick in, but it didn’t. Once she was on the piazza, she thanked him and he headed back to his cab. Then she unlocked the door, walked in the house with her heels firmly planted on the hardwood floor.

  Was she fine?

  She shook her right leg out. She walked. She did a few lunges, then jumped up and down several times, which caused Mac to bark and run into the foyer where he stopped, stared, and tilted his head as if he were as confused as she was.

  Had Reverend Summerall’s prayer been answered?

  “How was your run?” Jackson handed her a chocolate croissant in a waxy little bag. He was back sooner than she expected.

  How many calories in a chocolate croissant? Way too many for a gal beating back a middle-age paunch in the midst of the holiday season. And how was her run? Well, she wanted to tell him the whole story, but something held her back. He had made it clear since she started going to church with Scottie that he had no interest in religion. He wasn’t going to stop her. It didn’t bother him that she went. He just didn’t want her to expect him to follow along with all of that. He had a mission, after all, and he was focused.

  He cocked his head. “Your jog all right, baby?”

  She looked into his bright green eyes. They blinked slowly. It was the first time they had made eye contact today.

  “Amazing,” she finally said. She smiled and lovingly squeezed his shoulder. Then she gently accepted the little waxy bag and headed to the pantry where Anarosa kept her purse.



My Thoughts and Reviews: 

I really enjoyed this book! A book for those who enjoy Contempory Fiction, like myself, it focuses on Mary Lynn Scoville and her family. Mary Lynn is a "Socialite" from the south who is married to a Real Estate Developer and has 3 daughters. She has lots of "riches" of the world, and then encounters the "riches" of God. Mary Lynn is consistently praying for her husband to come to God, and he when he finally does it "wrecks havoc" on their life both socially and finacially. I love this story because it shows how all the "riches of the world" are worthless and the only worth is found in God! This book is really about how a "conversion" can really lead to a family to a "Better Life" then what they really had without God at the center. Beth Webb Hart is an EXCELLENT author and this book is a great book!!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book as part of the First WildCard Tour. I received no other form of compensation and my opinions are my own. 


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