July Reflections

This July has been one of the stormiest months I can remember. Our days seemed to oscillate between over-100 degree heat indexes or storms. I took this picture of the sky right after a storm early in the month.

I didn’t quite capture the beauty I wanted to. But I love the light at the edge of the cloud, which shows more brightly on my phone than it does here. I thought it was a poignant symbolic reminder that storms may seem to come between us and God, but He is always there.

In-between the heat and storms, we had fun celebrating the birthday of our country plus the birthday of my middle son a couple of weeks later.

I mentioned this a few times already this month, but in case you missed it, I had an interview with Kurt and Kate Mornings on Moody Radio Florida to talk about my blog post on regret. Here’s a link to the interview. I started out with some technical glitches, but thankfully everything worked out.

I mentioned on my last Friday’s Fave Five that my husband had discovered this weird but fascinating creature on our patio. It looked like a cross between a bee, a hummingbird, and a moth. My son looked it up, and it’s a hummingbird moth, also sometimes called a hawk moth. Jim took a video, but I can’t upload videos directly unless I invest in the next tier of paid WordPress blogs. But I did manage to capture this photo from the video.

Timothyisms

My daughter-in-law texted me that she asked my grandson, Timothy, where he got his cuteness. He answered, “Mommy.” She said, “Annnd?” meaning, I think, and Daddy. But Timothy said, “And Grandma.” I’m honored to be considered a contributor to his cuteness. 🙂

One night we were playing Uno at our house. Timothy noted that our Uno cards looked different from his. I explained that ours were an older set. Someone else said, “These are classic Uno cards.” Timothy said, “That’s what classic means”–older. 🙂

Creating

This card was for a couple in our church celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary:

The birds, branches, and leaves were made with the Cricut.

This was for Jason’s birthday:

I had an interesting time with this one. I try to incorporate something of the recipient’s interests when I can instead of just making a generic card. All I could think of for Jason is that he liked his family, the Mandalorian, and electric cars (and coffee, but I’ve used that motif in cards several times before). I looked up electric cars in the Cricut image data base, but they didn’t have much of a selection. This one was originally part of a design that had several tiny pieces that I was growing frustrated trying to piece together, then gave up. I tried a couple of other ideas that were ok, but I wasn’t thrilled with. I picked up a scrap that had this part cut out–this was the paper left after I took out the designed part–and I decided I liked it as it was. So I cut it out again and placed it in a better and then cut out the bolt after seeing that incorporated in another design.

This is for a great nephew’s wedding coming up this weekend. I meshed together a couple of ideas I had seen on Pinterest.

The embossing was done with the Cuttlebug. I printed out the “Mr. and Mrs.” on the computer and colored the edges by tapping a foam brush on a silver ink pad and brushing it against the edge of the cardstock.

Watching

I’ve thought about eliminating this category, but I enjoy when others share what they have watched. If you have any good, clean movie or series recommendations, let me know!

Jim likes WWII movies, so we’ve watched a few. One movie we really enjoyed was The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler, based on the true story of a Polish social worker who worked with the Polish Underground Resistance and smuggled over 2,000 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto and placed them with other families until the war was over.

We also watched a few old ones. I remember seeing The Great Escape when I was a kid, and it was interesting to watch it with adult eyes now. The Bridge on the River Kwai was good until its very frustrating ending. The Eagle Has Landed was a bit of a disappointment. If I had known it was fictional, based on a novel about German paratroopers trying to kidnap Churchill, I probably would not have watched it. It also had a bit of language, which is not usually a problem with older films. With all of these, it was kind of fun to see actors in their younger days that I had only seen when they were older.

Reading

I’ve enjoyed several good books this month. Since last time I have finished (linked to my reviews):

I’m currently reading:

  • Where I End: A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope by Katherine Elizabeth Clark
  • The Stranger by Melanie Dobson
  • O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God compiled by Nancy Guthrie (not that any of us is facing imminent death, as far as we know. But I saw several quotes from this in Aging With Grace and loved Nancy’s other compilations).
  • Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the Countess of Carnarvon

Blogging

Besides the regular Friday Fave Fives, Saturday Laudable Linkage, and book reviews, I’ve posted these since last time:

We have a lot to look forward to in August, which my oldest son’s birthday and visit and my birthday.

How was your July?

June Reflections

We began this month with an end-of-school party for Timothy. We enjoyed celebrating Father’s Day 2/3 of the way through the month. And now we’re gearing up for the Fourth of July.

It’s been too hot out to do much else, but Jim did get the patio spiffed up for summer. We need to get new patio chairs but haven’t looked yet. We’ve had a couple of cookouts already. One evening,Timothy brought over sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and “pop-its”–those things you throw on the concrete where the make a loud pop. The weather was nice that evening, and it felt like a summery thing to do.

My middle son, Jason, had to leave his employer when the employer couldn’t pay his salary for a few weeks. He’s been making deliveries for a few different companies and has been able to make just about his regular salary. He likes the flexibility, and he says it’s kind of like playing Santa Claus–you get to deliver stuff to people and make them happy. I don’t know how long he’ll do this kind of thing, but it’s a nice change from the pressure he was under.

Timothyisms

When we play Jackbox games together as a family, we have to sign in with our names. Timothy usually calls me Grandma, but one night I just put “Gram” in for my name. Then he started calling me Gram Cracker, and more recently, Gramster. 🙂

But what really cracked me up was when Jason texted that Timothy had said, “Oh, man! I need to pay my bills! I haven’t paid any in 8 years!” Thankfully, he won’t have to worry about that for a few years yet.

Creating

The first card I made this month was for Timothy’s end-of-second-grade party:

I made the words on the computer and the sign on the Cricut.

This was for my step-father for Father’s Day:

Once again, the words were done on the computer and the mustache on the Cricut.

This was for my husband for Father’s Day:

I had gotten the idea for these two on Pinterest and adapted them. The tape measure was done on the Cricut.

And this one was for Jason for Father’s Day:

The silhouettes were cut on the Cricut, but the moon and stars and squiggles were drawn by the Cricut with markers my oldest son just got for me either for Christmas or Mother’s Day. It was fun to experiment with those. I loved how much this design looked like Jason and Timothy.

This was for a friend’s birthday:

The bird and butterflies are multi-layer stickers. I did the words on the computer and then used two different-sized scalloped hole punches.

Watching

There’s not a lot on this time of year. We enjoy America’s Got Talent (though you have to have the remote at the ready sometimes) and reruns of America’s Funniest Home Videos (usually I’ve forgotten enough of them that it is like seeing a new program. 🙂 ).

We streamed a really good movie titled In Harm’s Way about an American pilot who heads a bombing raid on Japan just after Pearl Harbor was bombed. He crashes in China, and a young widow helps nurse him back to health and hides him from the authorities. I don’t know if the movie is based on a particular true story, but the end screen said many Chinese helped Americans in such ways, and, sadly, the Japanese killed many Chinese because of it. Even though much of the film was in subtitles, it was easy to follow and get caught up in the story. It was one of the best movies I have seen in a while. Here’s the trailer:

I had watched The Boy in the Striped Pajamas a few years ago after reading the book, but Jim had never seen it. So we watched it together one night. It’s about a boy whose father is put in charge of a work camp in Germany. The boy thinks the camp is a farm and the people where funny striped pajamas. One day while exploring, he sees a boy on the other side of a fence, and they start talking. Eventually they become friends. The ending is very sad. But maybe because I knew what was coming, I noticed other things this time, like the various attitudes of different people and the boy’s wrestling with whether or not his father is a good man.

Reading

Since last time, I finished (titles link to my reviews):

I’m currently reading:

  • Shadows in the Mind’s Eye by Janyre Tromp
  • Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott
  • Victorian Short Stories of Successful Marriages by Elizabeth Gaskell and others.
  • Be Compassionate (Luke 1-13): Let the World Know Jesus Cares by Warren Wiersbe
  • Aging With Grace: Flourishing in an Anti-Aging Culture by Sharon Betters and Susan Hunt InstaEncouragements is hosting a study of this book on Tuesdays through July.

Blogging

Besides book reviews, Friday Fave Fives, and Saturday Laudable Linkage, I’ve posted these since last time:

Around the corner

We’ll probably have a cookout on the 4th. Jason’s birthday is this month. Otherwise, I am not sure what’s on the horizon yet.

How was your June? Anything you’re looking forward to in July?

May Reflections

It’s nice when my end-of-month post lines up with the actual last day of the month!

Once again, the month has flown by. May is not the busy month it was when we had kids in school with all the end-of-year programs, recitals, etc. It’s odd how I am mostly glad not to have those activities any more, yet I still miss them sometimes.

Also, with all my mother-figures no longer living, I don’t have to do anything for that day except make a card for my daughter-in-law. While I miss my mom and other “moms” in my life, I enjoy the fact that the rest of the family makes plans for that day. They do a wonderful job making me feel special. My husband used to take me out to dinner that day. But the restaurants were so busy and waits were so long, he began making Mother’s Day dinner at home and employing the kids to take care of different faces of it. Nowadays he usually grills something. The last two years, Jason had made Chocolate Pretzel Pie, one of my favorite desserts (probably second to Texas Sheet Cake, which Mittu usually makes for my birthday).

The other big event this month was a road trip with my husband and my friend, Melanie, to Jan Karon’s Mitford Museum in Hudson, NC. Jan Karon authored a slew of best-selling books set in the fictional Mitford, based on the town she grew up in. I posted about the trip with lots of pictures here. It was something we’ve been planning and looking forward to since last fall, and it was so nice to finally go.

I also had a colonoscopy this month–not fun, but I was glad to get it over with and to have clear results. We’re still trying to figure out my stomach issues, but I am glad the procedure ruled out some major concerns.

We got wills and living wills and such made us and notarized, something that’s been on our need-to-do list for ages.

So I guess May was still busy in a different way!

It also seemed like this month turned from spring to summer quickly. Even though it’s not officially summer until later in June, we usually count summer as starting from the Memorial Day weekend. This year, however, it has started to feel like summer the last couple of weeks.

Timothyisms

My daughter-in-law sent me a couple of exchanges with my grandson, Timothy.

One day they were talking about roadkill. Timothy asked, “Do people eat bear?”

Jason said, “I don’t think that’s allowed in America.”

Timothy responded, “Maybe in Texas?”

🙂

Another time, Timothy asked his mom if it was fun in the 90s. She said yes and asked what he thought they did in the 90s. “Probably watched TV and wore cool clothes.”

Creating

I only made one card this month, for my daughter-in-law for Mother’s Day.

She likes sunflowers, as you might guess. The arrangement in the center is a multi-layered sticker. I was very pleased with myself for learning how to arch text on the computer without having to ask one of my sons! I did find a YouTube video that helped.

Watching

I watched Spiderman 3: No Way Home and loved it (except for a bit of language). I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it (and have missed spoilers everywhere), but it had a lot of neat parts.

As a family, we watched the first live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie and Clifford movie. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the Sonic one, but I did. Clifford was a disappointment in that they changed just about everything from the books except the dog’s and girl’s names.

Reading

Since last time, I finished:

I’m currently reading:

  • Be Distinct (2 Kings): Standing Against the World’s Foes by Warren Wiersbe
  • The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis
  • The Confessions of St. Augustine, audiobook
  • Shadows of Grace by Cara Putnam
  • Shadows in the Mind’s Eye by Janyre Tromp

Blogging

Besides book reviews, Friday Fave Fives, and Saturday Laudable Linkage, I’ve posted these since last time:

  • Content . . . with Thorns? A look at why God allows weaknesses and needs in our lives and how Paul could say he was content with his.
  • Ministry in the Mundane. We want to get past the everyday necessary tasks in order to do something meaningful and important—yet our ministry most often is in the everyday mundane details of life.
  • Our Responsibility to Discern False Teaching. False teachers are accountable for leading others astray and misrepresenting God’s truth. But God also gives us plenty of warnings about them. We need to know His Word well enough to spot false teaching.
  • Assorted Stray Thoughts. A collection of random things I wonder about.
  • Encouragement in the Fight Against Temptation. I get discouraged that I am tempted by things I should have victory over. But I can use those temptations as a call to arms and defeat Satan at his own game.
  • Are You a Big Z or an Ordinary N? We can’t make words in Scrabble with just the high-scoring letters. We need the ordinary ones. People, too, don’t function alone. The stars and executives have a whole support staff. Even if we’re just an ordinary “N,” God has essential things for us to do.

And that just about wraps up May. I hope yours was good as well!

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

April Reflections

I don’t know what happened to April. It seemed to zoom by more quickly than usual.

We’re still in up-and-down weather, but we’re gradually having more warm days than cool ones. We’re getting plenty of “April showers,” so hopefully that will make up for the dry spell and fire warnings we were experiencing and prepare us for an abundance of “May flowers.” I’m relishing these warm days before the heat of summer sets in.

We celebrated my grandson’s birthday and Easter this month. I don’t think we had any major outings.

Timothyisms

Last week I included in my “Laudable Linkage” this video of a new baby who seems unimpressed with the outside world.

When I showed it to Timothy, he said to the baby, “You’ll get used to it.”

Creating

I only made one card this month, for Timothy’s birthday. For years he has loved “balloon men,” or, as we discovered they were called, air dancers. I had seen a couple of cards with them on Pinterest, but I didn’t want to copy them exactly (especially since they were both items the makers were selling.) But Cricut didn’t have any images of them, and I couldn’t find a template of them. I’ve mentioned before that I am not at all good with freehand drawing. But I printed out a couple of samples and got out my ruler and pencil, and came up with a reasonable air dancer.

I cut out the eyes from white cardstock with a hole punch and then used a Sharpie marker to color in all but the little white dot. I thought about using tissue paper for the “hair,” but in the end decided to make it simple by just cutting slits in the top and then fanning them out a bit.

Watching

Jim and I saw a few movies, but the only one I thought really good was The 12th Man. It’s based on a true story. Twelve Norwegian men disguised as fishermen sabotaged several German facilities in Norway during WWII. But then they could not find a man they were supposed to meet, running into another man by the same name instead. That man, fearing he was being tested by the Nazis, reported the group. The Nazis found and killed all but one of the Norwegian men. The head of this Nazi group followed the escapee, Jan Baalsrud, with Javert-like persistence. Jan headed toward neutral Sweden, but the brutally cold weather, lack of supplies, injury, and other factors hindered his progress. Jan became something of a national hero, symbolizing hope to his fellow countrymen.Those who helped him were taking their lives in their hands. The majority of the film is in other languages with English subtitles, but after a while we got caught up in the story and didn’t mind watching that way. There is an annual event in Norway following Jan’s pathway. (Warning–a few bad words).

Reading

I felt a little bad that the first couple of weeks, I only finished reading and reviewing one book each week. Then the last couple of weeks, I finished and crowded in several. I’d like the book reviews to be spread out a little more evenly, but that doesn’t always work out.

Since last time I finished (titles link to my reviews):

I’m currently reading:

  • Ten Time Management Choices That Can Change Your Life by Sandra Felton and Marsha Sims
  • “Don’t Call Me Spry”: Creative Possibilities for Later Life by Win Counchman
  • The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis
  • The House on Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
  • IBS for Dummies by Carolyn Dean and L. Christine Wheeler

Usually I read much more fiction than nonfiction. But somehow, I’ve been dipping into more nonfiction lately.

Blogging

Besides book reviews, Friday Fave Fives, and Saturday Laudable Linkage, I’ve posted these since last time:

  • Dormant Souls. “Believers have their winters too,” says John Newton. Yet dormant is not dead. With the light of God, the nourishment of His Word, and “springs of living waters,” He can bring us out of dormancy and into vitality and growth and fruitfulness.
  • What We’re to Be Before We Teach. Most teaching from Titus 2 centers on the content older women are to teach younger. But first, Scripture talks about the character of older women.
  • Lamb of God, who died to take away our sins when we believe on Him.
  • Why Is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ Important? I really enjoyed this study. It gave me new appreciation for all the resurrection means and accomplishes.
  • At Least I’m Still Good for Something.” Sometimes we’re so caught up in taking care of loved ones’ needs, especially elders’ needs for safety, that we forget to let them know they still matter.

As we change the calendar over to May this weekend, I look forward to a short road trip with a friend (more on that later), Mother’s Day, and filling our planters. Jim takes care of the yard work and what landscaping we have, but I enjoy arranging two big planters in front of the house and one on the patio. Somehow these plants survive my lack of green thumb more than houseplants do. I want to try planting peonies somewhere in the yard. I may start a sewing project. I’ve mended and made curtains and pillows, but I have not sewn clothes in ages. I’m not looking forward to a scheduled colonoscopy except for getting it over with.

How was your April? Looking forward to anything in May?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

March Reflections

March has been springy one day and wintery the next. But I am glad spring is officially here, and soon the weather will settle in to consistently warmer days. We’re enjoying the blooms and buds appearing in the yard and around the neighborhood. Both the warmth and new life are welcome after the cold, drab palette of winter.

We celebrated my husband’s birthday this moth as well as “Pi Day” on 3.14 (really an excuse to eat pie). We didn’t do anything for St. Patrick’s Day this year. In the past I’ve made corned beef and cabbage or at the very least played some of my Irish Tenors CDs.

Otherwise, it’s been a fairly quiet month. Except for car situations. Jason had one tire blow, then had to place an order for new tires, then found the place he orders from had been hacked and closed down. It took a while, but he finally got his tires. Then Jeremy’s car was sideswiped by a hit-and-run driver, thankfully not while he was in it. His car is in the shop now. Then when Jim got out his lawn mowers, both the riding and push lawn mowers didn’t work. After ordering some parts, changing spark plug, etc., he got both of them going.

Timothyisms

While energetically pretending that a cardboard box was a boat in a storm, Timothy said, “My abs are popping out.”

Creating

I just made one card this month for Jim’s birthday. He has taken Timothy fishing once and would like to again soon. So I decided to base his card on fishing.

masculine birthday card about fishing

This Cricut silhouette reminded me of this photo from the former fishing venture:

Watching and Listening

We had some hits and misses in the viewing department. One of the not-so-good ones was The Angel of Auschwitz. The premise was good and based on a true story: Stanislawa Leszczynka was a Polish Catholic midwife who was sent to Auschwitz after being arrested for helping Jews. There she delivered over 3,000 babies. Unfortunately, one of the nurses (?) in the camp was tasked by Mengele with drowning newborns. I didn’t remember until after the film that Mengele was called the “angel of death,” and then realized this film meant to contrast his activities with Leszczynka’s. But I think the film’s makers tried to be too artsy about it. There were a lot of scenes where we didn’t know what was going on, like the agonizingly slow opening.

One that would have made a good candidate for Mystery Science Theater mocking was Flight World War II about a modern-day overseas flight that passes through a weather anomaly and ends up over Europe during WWII. Even suspending disbelief over the premise, there were so many improbable situations and plot holes, we ended up laughing through the last half, even though it wasn’t meant to be a comedy (warning: 3 or 4 bad words).

The only one I recall that we did like was Casablanca. Somehow, even though I was familiar with some of the iconic lines and scenes, I had never seen the whole film. I enjoyed it.

Jim also watched This Beautiful Fantastic with me–not his usual style, but I wanted to see it again, and he tolerated it. 🙂

One night while Jim was away, I watched Finding You, which I had seen recommended by a few people. The film is based on a book by Jenny B. Jones (which I haven’t read), who usually writes Christian YA novels. There is no Christian content in the film except a verse on a tombstone and a vague mention about prayer and not being alone. But the film was sweet and cute. A violinist, failing to get into the conservatory she wanted, takes a course in Ireland. There she meets a teen heartthrob actor doing his latest film with his supposedly girlfriend/costar. The violinist immediately doesn’t like or trust the actor, but circumstances throw them together. She finds there is another side to him–but which is the real man?

I also enjoyed watching Letters to Juliet one night when Jim was away. The premise is based on a place called Juliet’s Balcony in Verona where people leave letters asking advice about their love lives, and “Juliet’s secretaries” answer them. In the movie, an American girl, Sophie, flies with her boyfriend to Verona. He’s a chef and busy looking for supplies, touring vineyards, etc. She goes by herself to Juliet’s balcony, meets the secretaries, and joins them for a while. She finds a 50-year-old letter in a crevice and answers it, leading to the recipient traveling to Italy to search for her long lost love, and she asks Sophie to accompany her. My favorite part is that Vanessa Redgrave plays the older woman, and her long lost love is played by Franco Nero, her real-life husband. They were Guinevere and Lancelot in Camelot in 1967.

Also while Jim was away, I watched the new remake of West Side Story (some great parts and music, but a little vulgar in places) and the 2016 Anne of Green Gables (with Martin Sheen as Matthew). I don’t think any version of AoGG will ever beat the 1985 Megan Follows series. This one was ok in the first half, but changed the “puffed sleeve dress” scenario and the way that Matthew and Marilla decided to keep Anne, plus added in some scenes not original to the book.

Reading

Since last time I finished (titles link back to my reviews):

  • 100 Best Bible Verses to Overcome Worry and Anxiety, a devotional book by various authors. Good.
  • Be Successful (1 Samuel): Attaining Wealth That Money Can’t Buy by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • The Enchanted Places: A Childhood Memoir and The Path Through the Trees, both by Christopher Milne, A. A. Milne’s real-life son, reviewed together here. The first book tells of Christopher’s childhood; the second tells of his adult life. He enjoyed the fame of being “Christopher Robin” at first, but resented it later on.
  • Just 18 Summers by Michelle Cox and Rene Gutteridge, a novel about several families in different stages of child-rearing, realizing the time is short to have an influence on their kids.
  • The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope (audiobook), the fifth in his Barsetshire Chronicles, had numerous threads, but the main plot focuses on a widow and her two daughters who live in a small house on the property of her brother-in-law, who owns the manor house and never liked his sister-in-law.

I’m Currently Reading:

  • IBS for Dummies by Carolyn Dean and L. Christine Wheeler. Just picking this one up here and there. I need to get done with it.
  • Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity by Alisa Childers. Excellent so far.
  • Be Restored (2 Samuel & 1 Chronicles): Trusting God to See Us Through by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • I Must Decrease: Biblical Inspiration and Encouragement for Dieters by Janice Thompson
  • Ten Time Management Choices That Can Change Your Life by Sandra Felton and Marsha Sims
  • The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope (audiobook)

Blogging:

Besides book reviews, Friday Fave Fives, and Saturday Laudable Linkage, I’ve posted these since last time:

  • How Well Do We Know Him? We like to be known for who we truly are. But do we know God as He truly is, or our preferred version of Him?
  • We Don’t Know What to Do. When we don’t know how to pray, we can borrow Jehoshaphat’s prayer: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
  • The Dangers of Success. “There are scores of books, articles, blog posts, podcasts, and sermons about dealing with trials and suffering. And that’s good, because we need them. But I don’t know that I have ever seen any material about the dangers of success. What danger can there be in success? Especially success that we’ve prayed and trusted God for?”
  • How Do We Adorn the Doctrine of God? I explored this question after coming across the phrase “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” in Titus.
  • Comforted by the Ways God Uses Us. I felt out of my element much of my time caring for my mother-in-law. God taught me much through my weakness and inability, but recently I saw ways He used the skill set and personality He gave me.
  • From a Weight of Care to a Weight of Glory. When Paul says “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18), he’s not minimizing our affliction. He’s saying the glory will be that much greater.

Writing

I actually have gotten back into the book I am working on! I’m wrestling with the hardest chapter: it has so much information, I am trying to figure out the best way to present it without having readers’ eyes glaze over (or worse yet, causing them to skip the chapter).

As April comes to a close, we look forward next month to more warmth and growth as well as Easter and Timothy’s birthday.

How was your March?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

February Reflections

Once again the end of the month is still a few days away, but there will probably be other posts between now and then. So I thought this might be a good time for my end-of-month post.

February is when winter starts getting old. However, the month has its highlights. One is my daughter-in-law’s birthday. Another is Valentine’s Day, which we celebrate as a family. Another is that the daylight that has been steadily increasing since the winter equinox finally becomes enough to be noticeable.

This year we had the added benefit of the Olympics in February. I rarely watch sports on TV except when the Olympics are on. We watched mostly figure skating, but caught some skiing, bobsledding, and snowboarding as well. One night when we were looking for something from the Olympics to watch while eating take-out, all we could find was a curling match between the US and China on the NBC app. There’s a reason curling is only shown in clips in prime time! It’s not the most exciting sport to watch, though I am sure a lot of strategy is involved for the players.

My favorite Olympic moments: Nathan Chen’s gold medal free skate program, Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgartner’s win in the mixed snowboard cross (with the two of them being among the oldest Olympic competitors), and Shawn White’s last run and then closing interview with Mike Tirico.

Home and family

A couple of organizing projects had been tugging at me since before Christmas without the chance to do anything about them. I finally got to them this month. It would be too long and boring, probably, to tell all about them. But one involved getting things I only use once or twice a year, like seasonal cookie cutters and pumpkin-carving tools, out of a kitchen drawer and into the pantry. I didn’t take “before” pictures, but here are the bins in the pantry afterward:

And here’s the drawer, the deepest one on the kitchen. Imagine it with most of the stuff in those bins in here in plastic bags. It seemed whatever I wanted in here was always at the bottom of the drawer. I’m so much more pleased with it now.

I used to post Timothyisms, funny little things my grandson would say. He still says cute things, but I don’t think to write them down. He likes jokes now, so I collect them and share them with him. My favorite recent one: Why don’t anteaters get sick? Because they’re full of anty-bodies. 🙂

Jason just took this picture of Timothy and me last week. He’s only 8 (next month), but is almost as tall as I am!

And, yes, he’s in the making-funny-faces-for-the-camera stage of life. 🙂

Creating

February was a banner month for card-making, between Valentine’s Day and a couple of birthdays.

Going in chronological order, this was a card for a friend’s birthday. Only . . . I had the date wrong. I had it on my calendar and gathered a few things together and made her a card. Then the night before, I thought maybe I should check the church directory and make sure of her birth date. And I discovered it was in July, not February! I decided to go ahead and give everything to her since she’d probably get a kick out of it. We could almost call it her half-birthday. 🙂 Plus, I didn’t want to have to keep up with the things until summer. As it turned out, when I dropped the things off at her house, she had had a very draining couple of days. So an unexpected non-birthday gift was a day-brightener.

She likes blue-green and sunflowers. The flowers here were multi-layered stickers.

Here are the Valentine’s cards:

This one was for Jim:

The heart and EKG-type readout were done with the Cricut. The original idea I had seen for something similar to this said, “You make my heart beat faster.” Since I have afib, I thought that might not be the best wording. 🙂

This was for Jeremy, who likes foxes:

The fox here is a puffy sticker. I used a heart-shaped punch for the cut-out and did the wording for the sign on the computer. Everything else is scrapbooking paper.

When I saw this, I couldn’t resist it for Jason, even though it meant downloading and printing a file rather than cutting and pasting. 🙂

If you are not familiar with these characters, they are from the Mandalorian. I don’t know much about Star Wars and haven’t even seen all the movies, but we loved this series. Jason especially like the fatherhood theme in it. “This is the way” is something the Mandalorians say repeatedly. This was designed by Karen, which she generously offered as a free download. It’s designed with multiple cards on one page that can be cut out and distributed to kids’ friends. I adapted it for a single larger card.

This one was for Mittu:

The cupcake was made with the Cricut, the hearts with hole punches, and the words with stickers.

This was Timothy’s:

It’s also Mandalorian-inspired, designed and generously offered free by Mandee. And she even included a link that explained how to download this into the Cricut to be cut there, so I learned a new facet of the Cricut. I hadn’t thought about Baby Yoda when I was at Hobby Lobby buying supplies, and I was relieved to have just the right shade of green paper among my stash.

This was for Jesse. I just liked that paper for him, as he likes red but doesn’t like overly mushy cards.

The “love” and “hugs” were stickers.

Finally, this was for Mittu’s birthday. She likes sunflowers and purple, but until now I had not seen paper that combined the two.

The “Happy birthday” and sunflowers by it were stickers. The rest was from a scrapbooking paper set.

Watching and Listening

As previously mentioned, the Olympics took up most of our viewing time this month. Though I enjoyed them, I’m kind of glad they’re over.

We’re still watching The Amazing Race and the Holderness family podcast/video recaps the day after each episode airs.

Around the World in 80 Days wrapped up on PBS. As I said last month, though no film adaptation is going to be exactly like the book, they rewrote too much of this one. Really, I felt they just hijacked the characters and main story arc to write their own program, adding in modern-day dilemmas and sensibilities. But . . . if I stopped comparing it to the book and just took it as it was, I enjoyed it. My husband had never read the book and enjoyed the series a lot. I tried to resist saying “In the book it was like this . . .” too often, but I did let it slip sometimes.

All Creatures Great and Small on PBS Masterpiece Theatre finished its second season this last Sunday. I’ve only read the first book in Herriot’s series, and that was a long time ago, so I am not sure how much was changed between book and film. But I loved this series–so heart-warming. I’m looking forward to their third season.

Jim and I watched the old movie The Guns of Navarone one night. Another night, we watched Good-bye Christopher Robin, kind of a sweet and sad telling of A. A. Milne and his family: how he came to write books about Christopher Robin (his real son’s name, though he didn’t go by it in real life), how the fame affected all of them. I knew that Christopher had liked the fame at first and then resented his father’s sharing of his life later on. This might be a cautionary tale for those who write about their real-life children. In the film, Christopher eventually overcomes his resentment when he realizes the comfort and joy the Pooh stories gave people in their childhoods, the memories of which brought comfort to them even as adults. I had Christopher’s book, The Enchanted Places, in my Kindle app and immediately started reading it, hoping he came to a similar conclusion in real life. Pooh was a big part of my children’s growing-up years, though we were more familiar with the Disney videos and toys than the original books. But Pooh and Christopher Robin and the rest will always have a soft spot in my heart.

One other series I watched was on PBS was the two-part A Very British Romance, tracing romantic rituals through English literature. Pluses: the literature, courtship history, host Lucy Worsley’s dressing up as some famous literary heroines, some elaborate original Valentines. Minuses: the feminist lens through which much of this was processed, the looking down on virtuous heroines and equating virtue with weakness, the amplification of sexual liaisons or reading into books more sexuality than was originally meant. Since I recently listened to The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow, where Mary Bennet read much of Thomas Carlyle, it was interesting to hear more about him here.

Reading

The Olympics cut into my reading-before-bed time. But here’s what I managed to finish this month:

  • Half Finished by Lauraine Snelling (fiction). A group of friends starts a UFO club, not for exploring extra-terrestrial life, but for finishing unfinished projects while fellowshipping with each other. Relationships form and people band together to help each other through the sorrows and joys they encounter.
  • The Road Home by Malissa Chapin (fiction). A woman running from her past encounters a recipe box in an antique shop. An attempt to return the box to the owner’s family leads to a road trip in a pink Cadillac and the story of another woman who tried to hide truth. A very good debut novel.
  • Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope, the fourth of his Barsetshire Chronicles (classic fiction, audiobook). A young vicar trying to get in with society’s elite gets into trouble. The village matron’s son falls in love with the vicar’s sister rather than the beautiful but cold society maiden his mother had picked out for him.
  • The Middle Matters: Why That (Extra)Ordinary Life Looks Really Good on You by Lisa-Jo Baker (nonfiction). Lisa-Jo discusses the impact of our middle years in eight areas: our bodies, marriage, parenting (which gets two chapters), in a breezy chatting-with-girlfriends style.

I’m currently reading:

  • 100 Best Bible Verses to Overcome Worry and Anxiety (still. Almost done.)
  • Be Successful (1 Samuel): Attaining Wealth That Money Can’t Buy by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • IBS for Dummies by Carolyn Dean and L. Christine Wheeler
  • The Enchanted Places: A Childhood Memoir by Christopher Milne
  • The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope (audiobook)
  • Just 18 Summers by Michelle Cox and Rene Gutteridge

Next in the queue: The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis, Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity by Alisa Childers, The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope, Wiersbe’s “Be” book on 2 Samuel.

Blogging

Besides book reviews, Friday Fave Fives, and Saturday Laudable Linkage, I had these posts on the blog this month:

  • Ways to Disagree Without Tearing Each Other Down. Disagreements are inevitable, even among those we love best. But we can disagree graciously and constructively without belittling each other.
  • Don’t Let Truth Become Cliche. If some parts of the Bible seem trite or overly familiar to us, the solution is not to scale back on our Bible reading. I share some ways to refresh our view and renew our love for the Word.
  • Does He Still Love Me? Sometimes it’s hard to comprehend God’s love for us when we continue to mess up. Maybe that’s why Paul prayed the Ephesians might “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).
  • What Can We Know for Sure? Some say there is no absolute truth, even in Christianity. But, though people will argue about some things until we get to heaven, God has given us core truths that we can know for sure.

Incidentally, I noticed a while back that I had passed the 5,000 mark in posts. I’m at 5,059 now in 15 1/2 years of blogging.

As we wrap up February and turn to March, we look forward to my husband’s birthday early in the month and Pi Day (when we eat pie on 3/14). Then the calendar is pretty much free until mid-April. I hope to dig into some writing then.

I’m aware of the news, though I don’t mention it much here. I figure it’s mentioned plenty elsewhere. There’s not much we can do about any of it except pray, but that’s the biggest, best, most important thing we can do. Among my prayers: wisdom for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4), that events will cause people to turn to the Lord, “that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you” (1 Kings 8:43), that those suffering may know “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:9-10).

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

End of January Reflections

The end of the month is still a few days away. But I have other posts in mind between now and then, so I thought I’d do my end-of-month wrap-up now.

January is usual a rest month after the beloved busyness of December. It hasn’t quite worked out that way this year. But we’ve had a bit of down time in-between appointments and appliance repairs.

Covid hit my daughter-in-law and grandson, and we didn’t see them for three weeks–a record (and a hard one!) I’m thankful for FaceTime when we can’t see them in person. But they are finally doing better, and we got together for a couple of times the last few days.

Covid numbers are up again here, as they are in others places. Our church is meeting in person, but thankfully they keep the Zoom option open.

I mentioned in last week’s Friday’s Fave Five that my husband had been working on our leaking dishwasher. The parts he ordered didn’t fix the problem. After two weekends working on it, he posted this on Facebook:

There is one more thing he’ll try when the part comes in. If that doesn’t work—it’s dishwasher shopping time.

I was just telling a friend today that something about January makes me want to sort and organize. I don’t usually do a whole closet or cabinet at a time, but sometimes it will suddenly hit me that this item would work better there and this would be a better way to sort that. I had three areas (or more accurately four–two are in the kitchen, but they are separate spaces) that I was chafing to get to before Christmas. That didn’t happen, but I want to tackle them this month. I’ve done one—three to go.

A question about Feedly

Do any of you use Feedly as a blog aggregator? I like to put the blogs I read in there, and I can see when they have new posts instead of having to visit them individually. Feedly has been working fine for years, but lately it hasn’t been showing all of a site’s blog posts. There’s one that won’t update at all. Another only updates twice a week though they post five times a week. Another has posts on an irregular basis, but Feedly won’t show any posts from them for a while and then will show three all on the same day (not the way they were posted). Other blog posts show up like they are supposed to—at least, as far as I know.

I’ve tried to Google the problem but haven’t found a solution. When I click on Feedly’s support button, it takes me to a page that shows their paid plans—so I guess you get no support if you use the free plan?

It may be time to try a different service. Do you use something other than Feedly? I don’t need something with all kinds of features—I just want a blog aggregator.

I know I could subscribe to blogs via email, and some bloggers prefer that you follow them that way. But I really don’t want blog posts coming to my email. I like keeping blogs separate to read when I can get them. If they came through the mail, I’d either feel pressured to read them as soon as they come in, or they’d get buried and I’d miss them.

Creating

No cards this month–nice since December and February are big card-making months here.

I have another project in mind for the guest room, but I’ll share more about that when I get it started.

Watching and Listening

I mentioned earlier this week listening to a series on aging from Elisabeth Elliot’s old Gateway to Joy programs. BBN Radio is playing them this week, but they are also available on the EE web site.

I had not watched The Amazing Race for the last few years. But this year the Holderness Family is on it-–my son and d-i-l have shared with us several of their videos. I love that they treat each other with respect . . . unlike some other contestants. That’s one reason I stopped watching the show before—all the drama with people fighting. But I am looking forward to this year’s race.

We’ve been watching Around the World in 80 Days and All Creatures Great and Small on PBS Masterpiece Theatre. This is the second season of All Creatures, and even though it’s not entirely true to the books, the feel of the show and the characters are so cozy. 80 Days, however, is the kind of remake that riles me. It’s been a while since I read/listened to the book, but from what I can tell, only the characters’ names and the bare overview of the story are the same. It’s not just that they turned Detective Fix (who in the book mistook Fogg for a bank robber and was after him for much of the book) into a young female journalist. But they’ve changed nearly every scene, making it more fan fiction than a remake. And they are trying to infuse 21st century sentiments into a 19th century work. Argh! But . . . if I can just take it as it is and not compare it to the book, it’s enjoyable to watch.

We also watched Darkest Hour, about Winston Churchill’s appointment and early days as Prime Minister during WWII. It has been out for a while, but we had never heard of it. It was quite good, though some scenes and details are fictional. (Warning–one or two bad words.)

Reading

Since last time I have finished:

I’m currently reading:

  • 100 Best Bible Verses to Overcome Worry and Anxiety
  • Be Successful (1 Samuel): Attaining Wealth That Money Can’t Buy by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • The Middle Matters: Why That (Extra)Ordinary Life Looks Really Good on You by Lisa-Jo Baker
  • IBS for Dummies by Carolyn Dean and L. Christine Wheeler
  • Framley Parsonage (fiction) by Anthony Trollope (audiobook)
  • Half-Finished (fiction) by Lauraine Snelling

Blogging

Besides book reviews, Friday Fave Fives, and Laudable Linkage, I had these posts on the blog this month:

  • When God Changes Your Plans. “God’s highest blessing may not be having my plans and dreams turn out like I want.”
  • Books Shape Our Thinking. “We observed over the course of years a definite shift in thinking and beliefs in each of these cases. The speaker or writer didn’t come to their new views from their Bible reading, but from the books they read. Those books then colored their view of Scripture.”
  • Blameless? “Sometimes the word ‘blameless’ caused me the same kind of frustration as a white shirt. My flesh fails daily. How can I ever be blameless?”
  • God Is Not Going to Slap the Cookie From Your Hand. “Our standing before God and His love for us are totally dependent on His grace, not our actions. My ups and downs, stumblings, faults, and failures don’t threaten His love for me or my salvation. But Jesus did say, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments’ (John 14:15).”
  • An Old Poem for a New Year. Part of a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier about his birthday seemed applicable to the start of a new year.

Looking Ahead

On the plus side, we make much about Valentine’s Day, plus my daughter-in-law’s birthday is this month. A friend and I are trying to get together for lunch one day, an event that has been postponed due to the holidays and illnesses. On the downside, I have a medical test I am not looking forward to. But getting it over with will be a plus.

And each day is one day closer to spring, warmer days, more sunlight, and growing things!

How was your January? What are you looking forward to in February?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

December Reflections

I wasn’t sure, at first, whether I’d do an end-of-December post. Probably many of our activities have been the same as yours, with getting ready for and then celebrating Christmas. But there were a few things unique to this month, so I decided to go ahead.

Family news

My oldest son is visiting, as he always does for Christmas. But he’s staying a week longer than usual, for two reasons. First, he usually leaves the Sunday after Christmas. This year, that would have meant leaving the day after Christmas, which would have been an abrupt end to our holiday togetherness. Plus, my middle son’s workplace is its busiest in December. On top of that, the temp agencies they work with this time of year promised 20 workers, but only two came. So Jason has been working nights and weekends for weeks. If Jeremy had left the 26th, he would not have seen Jason’s family much at all. So this week Jeremy is working from home here during the day, then we have more visiting time in the evenings. It has been nice to have the extra time together after the busyness leading up to Christmas subsides.

Jim and I celebrated our 42nd anniversary a few days before Christmas. We usually celebrate with a nice meal out and exchanging cards. This year we went to a ritzier restaurant than usual because when we sold our rental house earlier this year, at closing our realtor gave us a gift card to Ruth Chris Steakhouse. We had never been there before. It was very nice. I’m afraid I could get used to luxury all too easily.

Creating

This has been a banner month for card-making. I buy Christmas cards to send to extended family and friends, but I make them for immediate family. Plus we had some other occasions for cards this month.

This was for a friend’s birthday. The white part was done with a Cuttlebug embossing folder.

This was for our pastor’s surprise party for his 50th birthday. I got the idea from Pinterest and used the Cricut for the numbers and window. The words were stickers.

This was for our anniversary. My husband was a physics major, math minor, so when I saw this idea, it appealed to me.

This was Jim’s Christmas card. The deer and trees were done with the Cricut. I printed out the words for all the Christmas cards on the computer.

I did think about saying deer/dear instead of love, but I resisted. 🙂

This was Jeremy’s. I usually do something with a fox for him. But he has a cat, so I decided to use the feline influence. The cat was made with the Cricut, the presents from scrapbooking paper.

His cat isn’t totally black: she has some brown/tan/gold colors in her fur. But there was no way I could replicate that, so solid black would have to do.

This was Jason’s. I wanted to use the fa la la paper in some way, and he’s the most interested in playing different instruments. The instruments were done with the Cricut; the frame was done with decorative scissors.

This is Mitttu’s. The door was done with the Cricut. I printed the wreath from some free clip art and cut it out by hand.

Timothy’s is supposed to look like a snow globe. I was excited to work with clear acetate for the top of it. I had some little plastic bits from a package of snowflake confetti that I used for the snow–the snowflakes themselves were too big. But static cling keeps the “snow” from moving around much. If I ever do this again, I’ll use sequins. The snowman and trees were stickers.

Jesse’s contains something of an inside joke. For his white elephant gift for a young adults Christmas party, he found some pizza socks—a set of socks decorated with different pictures of pizza toppings, folded all together in a pizza box. So, I thought, since a pizza slice is the same shape as a Christmas tree . . . I’d use that as the base of his card. The pizza slice was done on the Cricut.

This year’s Christmas cards are some of my favorites.

Reading

Since last time I have completed:

  • Christian Reflections by C. S. Lewis. His thoughts on literature, culture, church music, ethics, subjectivism, and more. Challenging, but good.
  • Be Available (Judges): Accepting the Challenge to Confront the Enemy by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • The Nature of a Lady by Roseanna M. White. I had just finished this last month but had not reviewed it then. Lady Elizabeth takes her maid to the Isles of Scilly to escape the marriage her brother is trying to arrange for her. But she is mistaken for another Elizabeth and given strange notes and packages. The local vicar—the other Elizabeth’s brother—works with Libby to try to decipher the messages and find his sister.
  • Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan. reminded me of I Love Lucy, but with a Southern accent. Not my favorite, but if you like that kind of humor, you’d probably enjoy this book.
  • A Quilt for Christmas by Sandra Dallas, a Civil war-era novel. A women makes a quilt for her husband while he is soldiering. It comes back to her in an unusual way. Plus her beliefs are tested when she is asked to shelter a runaway slave wanted for murder.
  • A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson. A woman plans to update a seaside cottage she inherited in order to sell it. But her son wants to stay there.
  • Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. Four friends plan to meet for Christmas in Paris after WWI ends. But it lasts much longer than expected. Several decades later, the last of the four travels to Paris for his last Christmas to read the one unopened letter remaining from their correspondence. Excellent. One of my top twelve of the year.
  • The Yuletide Angel by Sandra Ardoin. Victorian novel about an anonymous benefactor, the man who secretly guards and admires her, and another not so friendly stalker.
  • The Ornament Keeper by Eva Marie Everson. Separated after twenty years of marriage, a woman unpacks the special ornaments her husband had given her every year, remembers their lives together, and tries to figure out if they can get past the resentment and lack of forgiveness.
  • Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien wrote letters to his children as Father Christmas for several years, complete with disasters set off by the kind but bumbling North Polar Bear. Delightful.

That looks like a lot, but most of the Christmas stories were novellas.

I’m currently reading:

I posted my top twelve books of the year here and all the books I read this year here.

Watching and Listening

My husband and I aren’t binge watchers. He can barely stand to spend two hours viewing something. We started watching the last season of the remake of Lost in Space on Netflix here and there. Then one night, after a long and busy day, we got pizza and watched the next episode. And we had to find out what happened next, so we watched on . . . and on until we finished it. It’s such a good series. I love the emphasis on family. It’s much more intense than the original version.

We also watched A Castle for Christmas, a pretty cute movie about an author who travels to the castle where her father’s family worked in Scotland and finds out its for sale. The owner needs to sell but doesn’t want to, so he tries to sabotage her plans. Then we watched Elf with Jesse and Jeremy and found out later that Jason and Mittu had also watched it. I’ve seen it once or twice before, but still enjoyed it a lot.

I listened to a podcast series by Audible set up like an old radio serial: The Cinnamon Bear: A Holiday Adventure. It was a little too much at times—a little loud and bizarre. And the opening note of its intro music is the worst in the history of intro music. But it was cute and clever in places.

Blogging

In the last month, I have shared:

Writing

Of course, writing has taken a back seat this month. But in January I want to map out time to make it a priority.

Sad News

I wasn’t quite sure where to mention this. We found out a few days before Christmas that my husband’s second oldest brother died from Covid and his wife was in ICU with Covid. It’s been something of a shock. He’s the first of any of our siblings to pass. We’re still processing and waiting to hear more.

Looking Ahead

December has been a full month. I enjoyed the time with family so much. But I am kind of glad the Christmas hoopla is over and the last few days have been more relaxed (for me anyway—maybe not so much for those returning to work). We’ll still have some time together this weekend. Then it’s on to new calendars and a bright shiny new year.

I’ve shared this before, but I love this quote from Captain Jim in Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery:

“Welcome, New Year,” said Captain Jim, bowing low as the last stroke died away.
“I wish you all the best year of your lives, mates.
I reckon that whatever the New Year brings us will be the best
the Great Captain has for us.”

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

November Reflections

It seems like we had a very short autumn. It wasn’t just that time appears to be flying by ever faster. But our moderate fall temperatures gave way to winter-like ones seemingly sooner than usual. I enjoyed the fall color and crisp air while we had it.

Family news

We’ve all taken turns being sick, and we missed out on pumpkin decorating with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. They sent pictures, though. I went very super simple with mine and my husband’s.

We did get together for early Christmas cookie baking and Thanksgiving feasting and Christmas decorating. Another round of colds started up before the last two, so we’re hoping they don’t spread through all of us.

I’m so thankful that everyone except our out-of-state son pitches in to decorate here for Christmas even though they have their own places to decorate. All together, we get it done in a few hours. If I had to do it myself, it would probably take me several days. It’s fun to go through all the familiar things and stories.

Creating

I made this card for our pastor’s wife’s baby shower.

I knew she was using blue, tan, and brown with a Noah’s ark theme in the baby’s room. So I wanted to do something with those colors and baby animals. These animals are just stickers, but I loved their expressions and the way they’re drawn and colored. I couldn’t find anything else I liked nearly so well in the Cricut images. With the ark theme, I should have put a rainbow in as well, but didn’t think about it.

I also made a card for a friend, but since she hasn’t received it yet, I’ll have to wait to show it til next time. 🙂

Reading

Since last time I finished:

  • The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, a true story about a disgruntled man terrorizing a pastor’s family and their struggle to love and forgive him as well as protect themselves from him.
  • Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson, Christian time slip novel about a timid bookstore owner whose research of a name inscribed in one of her books leads to surprising connections to her adopted mom.The historical time line takes place in Austria as WWII is closing in. One young man hides his Jewish friends’ treasures, helped by the caretaker’s daughter. She’s in love with him, but he’s in love with a beautiful Jewish violinist. Excellent–will probably be one of my top ten of the year.
  • Be Right (Romans): How to Be Right with God, Yourself, and Others by Warren W. Wiersbe.
  • The Nature of a Lady by Roseanna M. White. Just finished this one over the weekend and will review it later this week.

I’m currently reading:

  • Treasures of Encouragement: Women Helping Women by Sharon W. Betters
  • 100 Best Bible Verses to Overcome Worry and Anxiety
  • Be Available (Judges): Accepting the Challenge to Confront the Enemy by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • Christian Reflections by C. S. Lewis. I always enjoy Lewis, but this one is particularly challenging. I may set it aside for now.
  • Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan, first in a series of novels about friends in a small town in GA.
  • A Quilt for Christmas by Sandra Dallas (audiobook)
  • IBS for Dummies by Carolyn Dean and L. Christine Wheeler

I’m looking forward to some Christmas reading in the days ahead.

Blogging

Besides book reviews, Friday Fave Fives, and Laudable Linkage, I had these posts on the blog this month:

  • Is This the Right Way? Sometimes the Christian life doesn’t look like we thought it would, and we wonder if we missed a turn somewhere.
  • What Kind of Roots Are You Growing? Good roots are nourishing and supportive. But bitterness can take over like a stubborn ivy and crowd out healthy growth.
  • Don’t Reject God Because of His People. Those “deconstructing” their belief system often point to the failures of other professing Christians as part of the reasons for walking away. But we’re responsible for the truth we heard from others, even if they don’t live up to it themselves.
  • A Perfectly Ordinary Thanksgiving. In trying to come up with a new angle with which to write about Thanksgiving, I realized Thanksgiving doesn’t need an angle. And we can give thanks even if we don’t feel thankful.
  • Your Soul Needs Food Even If It Doesn’t Want It. When our appetites are off, we don’t want to eat much. Bur our bodies need food to function and heal. The very food we don’t have an appetite for will not only help, but will create an appetite. The same is true spiritually with God’s Word.

Writing

Once again, not much has been done on the book project, though I did have one really good session where I think I got my opening chapter nailed down. I have three different sections to it, and I think I’ve had each one at the beginning at some point. With all that’s involved over the next month, I’ll probably have to wait until January to get back to the book. But then I need to make revising and finishing this book a higher priority!

As we transition into the Christmas season, may we not leave the spirit of thankfulness behind. May we remember to spend time with the One who went to such great effort to be with us.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

October Reflections

We’ve had some quite pleasant days this month. Full fall color still isn’t out yet, at least in the few places I have been. We’ve gotten down in the forties a few nights, but no frost yet.

We’ve had a pretty full month. We started with a trip to Ohio for the memorial service of my husband’s former pastor and father of his best friend. This was our first overnight trip in the RV, which went okay. I don’t think I’d want to take long trips across the country in it, but a night or two is fine. This was also the first time we had seen some of these folks in years, so it was a little like a family reunion. Though we were sorry to hear Pastor Bob was gone, we’re glad he’s with the Lord, united with his wife, without discomfort and dementia. We rejoiced in his testimony and his life. And we thoroughly enjoyed catching up with his five adult kids and their families.

Then Jim, Jesse, and I were sick, and that took up the bulk of the month. Jesse’s Covid test came back negative, and we think our illness came from him, so we didn’t get tested. Some have told us he may have received a false negative since he was vaccinated. But we pretty much isolated as if we had Covid anyway–even if that’s not what we had, we didn’t want to spread it to anyone else.

Our church went back to Zoom meetings only for a few weeks because several people in our congregation had Covid. I think we’re going to try to meet in person again this week.

So in some ways, we felt as we did at the beginning of the pandemic.

We finally felt well enough for a family outing to see the Pinta, a replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship, last weekend. It was the first time we had been all together as a family for about three weeks, and it felt so good to be out and to see each other. We topped the day off by going out to eat.

I had another interview with the very kind and gracious Kurt and Kate of the Moody radio station in Florida. I am not quite sure how they discovered me, but this is the second time they’ve invited me to their program. All went well—thanks so those who prayed about it! My son recorded the interview and made a link to it here, if you’d like to listen.

One big change this month makes me a little sad. We have one of those big, unsightly transformer boxes on the corner of our property, right as you turn into the driveway—so it’s the first thing you see when you approach our house. I don’t know why they didn’t put it on the other side of the driveway or property, which has open grassy areas. Anyway, the previous owners had planted some little trees around the box. There was a sign on the box saying not to plant any vegetation that would obscure access to the box. But since the plants were already there, we figured we’d leave well enough alone. If the utility company had a problem, they’d let us know.

The trees were the same height as the box when we moved in. Now, after 11 years, they were six or seven feet tall.

We enjoyed putting lights on them for Christmas every year, and sometimes wrapping the box up for Christmas.

From Christmas 2011

But we finally heard from the utility company. They have to replace all the lines underground. And they had to take out our little (now big) trees. Our front corner looks all shaven and shorn.

Some time after they’re done, we’ll have to figure out a way to make the corner more presentable. And I know there are bigger concerns in the world, but I am going to miss that corner Christmas display.

As a aside, these guys only seem to work Tuesday through Thursday. No wonder these things take so long to complete.

Creating

I didn’t make any cards this month—no birthdays or other occasions for them. We didn’t do anything in the guest room since neither of us was feeling up to it at the same time. But I should be able to finish it out soon.

Reading

Since last time I finished:

  • Only Glory Awaits: The Story of Anne Askew, Reformation Martyr by Leslie S. Nuernberg, a fictionalized account of Anne’s testimony, life, and death.
  • Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund, an interesting and helpful study of Jesus’ assessment of himself as meek, or gentle, and lowly which does not de-emphasize his righteousness and holiness.
  • Woman Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue by Kathryn J. Atwood, short true accounts of several women and their activities during WWII.
  • Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, musings about finding balance.
  • Be Strong (Joshua): Putting God’s Power to Work in Your Life by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • Catching the Wind by Melanie Dobson, audiobook, a touching time slip novel. One plot takes place in WWII, when two children try to escape Germany on foot. They make it to the English Channel, but are separated. In modern time, one of them hires a reporter to search for the other, who finds unexpected links to her own past.
  • Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson, audiobook, another WWII time slip novel about a group of friends in the Resistance in Amsterdam and their modern-day descendants trying to research what happened to them.

It wasn’t on purpose that I read so much about WWII. I love that era, and some of my favorite authors write almost exclusively of that time. There’s plenty of scope for drama from that period. But I’m ready to read of another time for a while.

I’m currently reading:

  • Be Right (Romans): How to Be Right with God, Yourself, and Others by Warren W. Wiersbe
  • The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, audiobook, true account of a pastor’s family terrorized by a disgruntled member of their congregation.
  • Treasures of Encouragement: Women Helping Women by Sharon W. Betters
  • 100 Best Bible Verses to Overcome Worry and Anxiety
  • Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan, first in a series of novels about friends in a small town in GA.

Blogging

Besides book reviews, Friday Fave Fives, and Laudable Linkage, I had these posts on the blog this month:

  • Thoughts From a Memorial Service, ponderings about life, what we can learn from the end of it, realization that the “old guard” is slipping away and we’re supposed to take up their banner.
  • I Know God Promised, But . . . Having God’s promises but not relying on them doesn’t get us anywhere.
  • How to Read Books and Support Authors Inexpensively. Books ARE a worthy investment, even at full price. Authors and publishers work long and hard to provide books. But for some who like to read beyond what we can afford, here are some ways to read more inexpensively and still help authors.
  • From “What If” to “Even If.” We can scare ourselves to death with “what ifs.” But when we face them full on, we realize that even if the worst happens, God will provide help and grace.
  • What Light Reveals, two childhood stories when light helped distinguish between reality and imagination. We need the light of God’s Word to do that in our hearts as well.

Writing

There has not been much going on in that area, with everything else going on. I did make one decision, though.

I had been considering changing my “official” author name for a long time. There is another “Barbara Harper” who writes about water birth, something I know nothing about. I had thought our content would be different enough to distinguish between us. But people continually link to or follow my Facebook author page when they meant to link to hers. Plus, one article I read suggested looking up one’s name, which a potential agent or publisher is sure to do. When I did, it was six pages into Google results before anything of mine came up—all the rest were this other Barbara. So, to avoid confusion and distinguish myself, I decided to add my middle name and go by Barbara Lee Harper instead.

Some have mentioned the similarity to Harper Lee. That wasn’t intentional. My parents didn’t know I was going to marry a Harper when they named me Barbara Lee. 🙂 But if the name is associated with a good author, well, I don’t mind. 🙂

Another decision I’ve been pondering: I have a Facebook page for the blog here, and all my blog posts automatically go there for those who prefer to follow in that way. Then I created a separate Facebook author page (maybe prematurely? I’ve read different recommendations), which was meant for writing-related news and updates. I post my my devotional blog posts there as well and occasionally others. I’ve considered merging the two, but keep going back and forth.

There’s a writer’s group I looked into, but decided not to join. Their fee was pretty expensive, plus I didn’t feel their services were worth the price. But since I had registered for a free seminar, I still get occasional offers from them. Last week they offered a “summit” (which turned out to be some of their older recycled videos, but they were new to me). We could listen to them free, but the free link was only good for a day—unless I wanted to pay $67 for lifetime access! I didn’t, so I listened while resting or cleaning and sorting.

In one of those videos, an agent said that for a new author to be considered by a publisher, they needed to have about 10,000 followers with about 10% engagement—meaning at least 1,000 of those followers comment, “like” posts, etc.

Well. I have nowhere near 10,000 followers. And the necessity of “seeking followers” seems a wrong emphasis, though it also seems a reality the way things are set up in the business of publishing today.

I’ve considered self-publishing, if a publisher wouldn’t be interested in me due to a small “platform.” Plus, it takes a year or two for a manuscript to be published from the time it’s accepted. And I am not getting any younger. 🙂 Self-publishing would be quicker, though I would still want to pay for an editor and have the highest quality end product I could.

On the other hand—I’ve heard that if you self-publish and your book bombs, that pretty much guarantees a publisher will not be interested in your future books.

So, if you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate your prayers for some of these “behind the scenes” decisions, as well as for wisdom in carving time to actually finish writing the thing.

And I hope you’ll forgive this longer than usual monthly round-up. 🙂

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)