Thursday, December 17, 2015

An Open Letter to My Father-in-Law in Heaven

Dear Jim,

Christmas is next week, and I can't help but remember the year you bought that little yellow Corvette for our precious girl. She really loves that car, you know. And she loves you. So much.

As I sit here and think of you, I wish I could tell you how very much we miss you. How Cora will talk about you at the most random times, how she'll get really quiet and say "I just miss Poppee" when we ask her what's wrong. How your son wishes more than anything to see you on Christmas, and how he remembers - with a smile on his face and tears in his eyes - all the things you did for him growing up. All the sacrifices you made so that he could have an amazing childhood.

I wish I could tell you in person how overwhelmingly thankful I am to you for loving me the way you did. You always made me feel welcome - like part of the family. You treated me with kindness. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.

I wish I could thank you for loving my children with all your heart, for always bringing crackers and treats for them, making them feel special - even if it meant spending your last dime. I will always remember the way their faces lit up every time you visited.

And finally, I wish I could tell you how happy your son makes me, and what an amazing husband and father he is. I know you were proud of him while you were here on Earth and that you're proud of him even now, looking down on us from Heaven. But I worry that I didn't show you often enough how proud I am of him, too - so I want you to know that I am. And I owe you so much for teaching him what it means to be a hardworking, supportive man.

All these things I wish I could say to you will forever be held captive in my heart. I can only hope that, somehow, you know.

We never imagined that we wouldn't have you with us this year for Christmas. I know God needed you and that it was time for you to leave your imperfect earthly body. But that knowledge only slightly diminishes the pain. My heart aches for your sons, your mother, your grandchildren, and, yes, your daughters-in-law. All of our souls will forever have a Poppee-sized hole in them.

So today, I will hold your son and grandchildren a little more tightly. I will love more fully. And I will laugh more often, remembering that these days on Earth are numbered.


We love you and miss you.
Merry Christmas in Heaven, Poppee.      

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Review of "Hush in the Storm" by Julie B. Cosgrove

"Desperation forced my body to push through the crushing pain in my chest. Inhale. Exhale. Each breath fought to get out, yet couldn't. They became more and more shallow. Was I suffocating? Was I running out of oxygen?"
What Jen thought was going to be a quick, innocent dinner (with a somewhat annoying coworker) turns into the wildest ride of her life. Kidnapped by someone claiming to know her deceased husband, Jen struggles to put her trust in anyone, not knowing who may be keeping dangerous secrets from her.   

What an incredible, heart-wrenching, hope-filled story Julie B. Cosgrove has woven in Hush in the Storm! Powerful emotion fills every page of this novel from start to finish. Julie creates memorable moments at each turn, pulling you into the heart and soul of her main character. When Jen's afraid, you're afraid. When Jen's confused and frustrated, you're confused and frustrated. You feel every spine-tingling sensation, every desperate hope, every throbbing betrayal right along with her. 

The author takes a very real, very dire situation and educates you about it through this book, intertwining edge-of-your-seat twists and turns along the way. She stabs your heart with a strong awareness of the horrific human trafficking problem our country faces by putting it right in front of you. If this story doesn't tug at your heartstrings and inspire you to get involved, nothing will. 

And in the midst of all that, Julie manages to subtly teach a lesson in faith - faith to give God control and wait for his timing, no matter how powerful your storm.  

Believable characters, a plot that never ceases to shock and intrigue, and descriptive visuals are just a few elements that make this book worthy of your time. I highly recommend it to anyone who...well, to anyone, really. Learn more about Julie and check out all of her books here

Thanks for visiting, and happy reading!  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Interview With Jewell Tweedt, Author of "A Bride for the Sheriff"

Author Jewell Tweedt Joins Me for a Q & A

Q: It's nice to have you, Jewell! Let's jump right in. One genre in which you write is historical fiction. Where do you get the background information for your historical fiction stories?

A:  Thanks for interviewing me today. I get the background information for my historical fiction from my content knowledge as a history teacher. I've been crazy about frontier America since I was a little girl reading Laura Ingalls Wilder and Janette Oke and read extensively. I use my personal library and the internet to check my facts. 

Q:  I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder, too! I've always wanted to write historical fiction, but have shied away from it out of fear. But that's not all you focus on; you also write contemporary mysteries, correct? What inspires these? Do you enjoy crime shows on TV? If so, do you have a favorite?

A:  The contemporary mystery I am writing now (Boji Bound) was inspired by my vacations to Okoboji, Iowa and the beautiful lakes there. I enjoy NCIS, but mostly because Mark Harmon is so good looking!

Q:  I'd certainly have to agree with the Mark Harmon comment! But we'll save that for another time. Getting back on track, you have a new book coming out next month. Can you give us a little sneak peak?

A:  Yes I do have a new book that releases on September 19th from Prism Book Group. It is the second book in the Nebraska Brides series (A Bride for the Sheriff is book one) and it's title is A Lady for the Lawman. Here's a blurb:

On special assignment from the White House to the Nebraska Prairie undercover Pinkerton Agent Jason Reynolds always gets his man. Sent by President U.S. Grant to capture a loco ex-soldier accused of sealing Confederate gold, Jason falls for shopkeeper Arianna Quincy. Trouble is, she's not interested in him or his dangerous career. Can Jason get his man and his woman?   

This is my favorite book so far because it deals with a true Civil War mystery. What became of nearly one million dollars of gold and silver from the Confederate treasury?  Jefferson Davis sent it by wagon with teenage boys guarding it into the deep south to avoid confiscation by Yankees. To this day it has not been recovered.

Q:  That sounds intriguing! You said earlier that you're a teacher. With all the stress that job sometimes entails, how do you find the time and energy to write?

A:  As I mentioned, I teach American History. Most of my writing is done summers and week-ends. I try to maintain a schedule of one thousand words per day. Of course, there are many days I don't go near my home computer - after all, the great outdoors, books (and laundry) are calling - but I try.

Q:  If it weren't for laundry, I bet many writers would double the number of books they produce! In your spare time, what (aside from writing) do you enjoy?

A: My hobbies include reading, walking, boating and watching old war movies and westerns with my husband.

Q: Well, there ya have it, folks! Thanks so much for chatting with me, Jewell! Where can readers learn more about you and find your books?

A: My blog is and my books are for sale through the blog, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and of course Prism Book Group.  

Readers, check out Jewell's blog for more info on her books, and keep an eye out for "A Lady for the Lawman." Happy reading!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Six Things New Parents are Shocked to Hear Themselves Say

Ever found yourself screaming for your child to get her hand out of her own poop? Then you can relate to these six crazy things that come out of parents’ mouths. Heck, you’ll say them eventually, too (if you haven’t already). It’s ok to admit it. We’re all in this together.

“You wouldn’t believe the amount of poop that just came out of this baby!”
Wow...never thought you’d say that, huh? When you have a baby, suddenly everything is about poop. Actually, it’s about what goes into your baby as well as what comes out, but you’d be surprised at how much your life revolves around human feces after you welcome your sweet little bundle of joy to the world.

“I haven’t had a shower in...I don’t, two days.”
I’d like to think that after a certain age, kids become independent enough to allow you sufficient time to maintain proper hygiene. Until then, here’s how the conversation goes:
Husband: “I know you’ve had a rough day. Come on over here and I’ll give you a back rub.”
Wife (Because, come on, we know what “back rub” really means): “Seriously? I haven’t showered today...or yesterday.”

“I think I have food poisoning.”
Ok, you’ve probably said this at least once in your lifetime, with or without kids. But if you’ve used it as an excuse to lock yourself in the bathroom and get some alone time, then you’re a parent of small children. Before having kids, you never would have dreamed of telling anyone - especially your significant other - about your tummy troubles. Now? You’re all too willing to make the issue known...or even to make up the issue.

“Don’t eat your boogers!”
While cliche, this still rings true as ever. And if you hear someone saying it, just send up a silent prayer for her. She probably has a rebellious toddler on her hands. Because, as much as you’d like to believe your child would never, ever eat a booger (gross!), it happens. Maybe it’s curiosity. Maybe it’s an act of defiance. Who knows why kids do some of the crazy, irrational things they do?

“Just swallow it!”
No, this is not of the - ahem - adult nature. But if you’ve got a picky eater in your family (otherwise known as any child between the ages of two and...??), then chances are you’ve uttered this phrase or some version of it a million times. The food is already in your mouth, kid. The more you chew it, the grosser it will be. Just swallow the dang chicken!

“Don’t step in your pee.”
Potty training? Now there’s comedy. You won’t believe the things you’ll utter while trying to teach a child the most basic human process. Stepping in pee? Yeah, that happens - to your child and to you. Even once you’ve made it through the horrendous potty-training months, there will still be accidents. And there will still occasionally be pee on the bathroom floor. It’s just a part of your life now.

Don’t fret, New Parent. We all utter these crazy things from time to time - as in, at least once a day. Welcome to the club.

Monday, June 22, 2015

When Life Unravels

Do you ever just feel like giving up? We all have those days, and it’s definitely been that kind of morning for me. Our seven-month-old kept us up from midnight until 3 a.m., causing me to oversleep and go into a frenzied, stressful time-crunch for writing an article with an early deadline. Then, just as I gathered my thoughts and began to outline the article, my four-year-old woke up and informed me that she’d had an accident in her bed. Really? This rarely ever happens. Why today, of all days?! So...I took a deep breath (which did little to calm my nerves), waved goodbye to my deadline, and got the girl cleaned up. All before I’d even had coffee.

I’ve been wondering all morning why this keeps happening to me. Why, when I’m trying SO hard to be a good mother, a compassionate wife, and a dedicated writer? Why is there constantly - and I mean constantly - a crying baby? Why can’t he be content to play by himself the way our daughter was at his age? Why hasn’t he grown out of this yet? Why won’t my preschooler listen and just do what I tell her? Why does she wait too long to go to the bathroom, causing me to stop what I’m doing and clean up her accident?

Why do I feel this constant pressure to keep the house perfectly clean, cook all the meals, and still bring money in for the family? And...most of all, why can’t I keep it together and get it all done so that I don’t always feel like such a failure?

As I’m asking myself these questions and willing my eyes not to betray me with tears, God slaps me with an answer so simple, I’m dumbfounded that I never thought of it before. And He does it with an email.

It’s because Satan doesn’t want me to succeed. 

But that’s ok - God does.

Wow. Chew on that for a minute. God wants us to succeed; He says so in the Bible! In all my years of Sunday School and sermons, I never really paid much attention to this idea, this notion that God’s rooting for me. And He’ll give me a way out of temptation - or, in my case - frustration.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” God encourages us again in Philippians 1:6: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

So, with those verses in mind, I’ve decided I’m not going to let Satan win. Here’s my plan.
  • Give it to God. First and foremost, when I start to feel frustrated or overwhelmed, I’m going to remind myself that I’m only human. Then I’m going to pray for God to take over. Because, with Him, all things are possible.
  • Practice patience. When my world is going crazy and the baby’s screaming, the four-year-old’s pitching a fit, the dishes are overflowing, and there’s a load of laundry I forgot to switch to the dryer (again), I will stop. I’ll just stop what I’m doing and pray for patience. 
  • Be grateful. No matter how much seems to be going wrong in my life, it could always be worse. From now on, I will take time every day to remember the things I have to be thankful for, big and small. Today, I’m thankful that the client whose article I was working on is willing to give me a deadline extension, so I won’t lose that money - or the client. I’m also thankful that my sink full of dirty dishes means we have food to eat, and my washer full of now-soured clothes means we have something to wear. Finally, I’m thankful that, at this very moment, my baby is asleep and my daughter is playing quietly. It may not last long, but I will thank God for these peaceful - even if infrequent - moments. 
That’s my plan of attack against Satan. He will NOT win. My family and I WILL survive. We will thrive. After all, how could we not, with God on our side?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Working from Home: Where's the Glamour?

To say "parenting is hard" would be the understatement of the century. Parenting two small children while attempting to work from home, on the other hand, is, well...just plain funny. And crazy. And certainly not glamorous.
My second and youngest child, Brady, is six months old today. His short life has flown by more quickly than I ever could have dreamed possible, as has the life of my oldest, who will be four in a few short days. As my children grow and change with each passing moment, I reflect on the joy, pain, and comedy of being a full-time "work-from-home" mama. That said, I've come up with a list of five reasons working from home is not for the faint of heart.

Reason #1: Potty Breaks 

The baby's finally taking a nap? Great! Maybe I can get a little bit of work done. Ya know, possibly one social media post before he starts screaming again.

And then it happens: "Mama! I need to potty!" Yes, my almost-four-year-old is fully potty trained, but even the best potty-goer needs assistance occasionally, even if only to make sure she gets her pants pulled down in time. Especially since she has a tendency to put off going to the bathroom until the very last possible minute.
Ok, got the girl to the bathroom in time - just narrowly avoiding a mid-day, post-accident shower - and now I can get back to work. I grab the laptop, get comfy in the rocking chair, and start to brainstorm. I then get distracted by the loud "thud" of a door slamming. The preschooler has decided she's "mad" at her pretend boyfriend, and thus, feels the overwhelming need to slam her bedroom door.
And the baby is awake.

Reason #2: Working in Pajamas
You may be thinking, "You get to work in your pajamas? I'd kill for that!" But trust me, it's not all it's cracked up to be. Working in pj's just means I haven't had time to shower yet, and that I'm a mess. I often miss the days of waking up, showering immediately, fixing my hair, getting dressed in a skirt and heels, and "putting on" my face. There's something cathartic about looking your best; it boosts your confidence.

These days? It's only on the rare, special occasion that I'm able to take time to actually put on makeup. And forget straightening my hair. I mean, ponytails are cute, right?

Reason #3: Incomplete Tasks
When my husband and I decided I'd take the leap and quit my full-time, out-of-home job to be with the kids and work on my writing career, I was stoked. I thought, "Wow! I'll have soooo much time! I'll get soooo much done!" Wrong. While it's true that my work is extremely flexible, there are still only 24 hours in a day. And I do need to sleep at some point.
Dealing with a baby and a preschooler while trying to meet deadlines - and spit out enough articles to meet my quota for the day - is no joke. Seriously. The house is a mess about 90 percent of the time, laundry piles up, and what should take half an hour to write ends up taking half the day. Where did all those promising hours go?!

Reason #4: Cold Coffee  
Every day is the same. I turn on the coffee pot, fill it with water, and put in the coffee grounds. A few minutes later, I pour myself a nice cup of smooth, rich, hot coffee. Ah, that's the stuff!
An hour later and my cup is still full. Breastfeeding, making breakfast, helping with potty breaks, putting the baby to sleep, and answering a million questions from the preschooler have all gotten in the way of drinking my wonderful, soul-lifting, energy-producing, hot coffee. Now I just have a cup of cold, bitter liquid. So I reheat. And repeat.

Reason #5: Smelling Like Spit-Up
Sure, if you work outside of the home and have a baby, you'll often smell like spit-up. But because I'm home all day with the baby, I get spewed on several times throughout the day. And because I've got nowhere to go, I don't bother to change clothes. Thus, I adopt a constant smell. I might as well bottle the stuff and call it perfume.

Why do I do it?

So. If this is all true - which, I promise, it is - why in the world would anyone choose this life? I'll tell you: for love. There's nothing I enjoy more than being able to wake up to my little ones in the morning, hug and kiss them all day, and then put them to bed each night. I get to go to every single class party and field trip at my daughter's preschool - I'd never give up seeing the look on her face when I tell her I'll be spending the morning with her at school. And I get the very special honor of providing my baby's every meal, nourishing him from my own body and watching him grow as a result of it.
In no way am I saying that working from home is the only way to raise a family; it's just the way that works for mine. Even though I may complain or joke about the difficulties of it all, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I know I'm lucky to have this opportunity. Scratch that - I'm blessed.

I know what it's like to feel the tears on your cheeks when you have to leave your newborn baby in the morning. I've experienced the guilt of missing your child reach an important milestone in her young life. I've felt the horrendous pain of a child tugging on your hand, begging you not to go.
So, to all you mamas facing these heart-wrenching emotions day after day, I admire you. Keep your head up and stay strong. You're giving your family exactly what it needs, and your children love you for it.