"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

28 February 2015

2015 Book Review #7: The Girls of August

 
Another winner of a story!

Because the week was so frigid cold, I stayed in most of last weekend and after cleaning my house, I curled up in my fave living room chair and read!  And then 2 evenings this week, while waiting for Claire to come out of the ballet studio, I sat and read after running errands.  Some of my friends always laugh when they see my book lying on the car seat....but hey...if I have to wait for someone, it's a good use of my time!

This is one of my very favorite "summer reads" authors. I chose the book because I am "thinking Spring"!  She tends to have her books set in the southern part of the USA and this one was set off the coast of South Carolina. I hadn't read one of her books in about a year or more so I was excited to see it on the town library's shelves last weekend when I had to bring my daughter there for a project.  It is a quick read, too. Most of her books are easy to read but with deep themes. 

STORY SUMMARY

August is the perfect month for friends to get together for a beach house vacation and that's exactly what Madison (Maddy), Rachel, Barbara, and Melinda would do every year for one week.  They would leave their husbands (all doctors) behind, and strengthen their friendships. They all live in various regions of the southern United States but would come together at the ocean.

They called themselves "the Girls of August". 

And then one night, Melinda is killed in a car accident on an icy Kentucky road.

Leaving just 3 Girls of August.

Until Baby comes along. (real name, Lucy Ann Gaillard).  Baby owns a beautiful beach house on an isolated island (Tiger Island) where the only other occupants are the Gullah people on the other side of the Island.  There are no stores.  They need to pack everything they will need and this year, they will be vacationing for two weeks.

Baby has married Teddy. Yes, she is only 22 and everyone else is middle-aged.

But Teddy, now on his 3rd marriage, has arranged all of this and the Girls of August do admit that the house is perfect.  Coincidentally, the island is a place where Madison's husband Mac grew up!

Baby is not at all what the other women expected.  Their patience soon gets tested by her young ways and manners.  But that's not all that will be tested.

Their friendships will be tested while each woman discovers new secrets, dreams, truths about the other.

And they will be changed in ways they never expected.

MY THOUGHTS

This book was so real!  I could really resonate with some of the characters...particularly Madison.  Her relationship with her husband Mac reminded me of mine with Dave.  I loved reading about it.

And Barbara's determination to face her issue (I don't want to write what it is as I don't want to spoil it for you) was commendable.  She takes her life by the "bootstraps" so to speak and continues on.

Rachel's situation was sad.  I had tears in my eyes when I read one section of when Maddy found Rachel in the ocean with her hands lifted to the sky. Again, I won't spoil it for you but it was very poignant and profound.....filled with much symbolism.  (and I had predicted correctly what the issue was!).

The ending of the book is a complete surprise and not like anything I expected!

It was gripping right up to the very end.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older (due to some content).

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 10.


27 February 2015

End of February Faves

and Winter plods on........

but I'm looking every single moment for the blessings in these days..........and will share FIVE of these FAVES here. Please join in by linking up over at Susanne's or sharing one of your blessings in the comment section.

FIVE FAVES


  • NEW CUT!  I've had short bobs, long bobs, stacked bobs, inverted bobs, asymetrical bobs.  Shoulder length, chin length and just under the ear length.  For the last 25 years!!  Once in a great while I've tried a short pixie cut (UGH...TOO short for me).  But I typically have worn my hair in some version of the classic French bob hair cut for the last 25 years.  In college, my hair was down the middle of my back. Well last Friday I decided to try a new salon in town which happens to be owned by the daughter of a co-worker.  I told her I wanted a change, with some of my thick, heavy hair (especially the bulk on the sides) taken off.  But a feminine look that angles to the side.  She was fantastic!!  I had shown her 3 images and she, being a master stylist, knew just what to do. I finally have a new haircut I LOVE.  And it only takes 3 minutes to blow dry (optional) and  2 minutes to put the styling cream through it.  Tousle, and I'm ready to go!!  I totally love it and the blessing is that the cost was only $34. Only $4 more than my regular girl who colors my hair!!

  • SUNDAY WORSHIP:  Our new Worship Arts Director at church is awesome.  He chooses a nice mix of contemporary hymns/songs, as well as classic hymns.  He opened the service with this one which happens to be from one of my fave groups.  What fun it was to sing this as a corporate body with about 1500 other voices lifted in praise and worship.  It's a blessing to have good music for church services!


  • SMOOTH START:  We went back to work/school on Monday and it was a nice smooth start to the week after having all last week off for Winter Recess. The students did well adjusting back into the routines and my own daughter has been great about still doing the salt water rinses and finishing the antibiotic for the wisdom teeth extraction.  She has had no problems so far and this afternoon we have the follow-up appointment.  I'm thanking God that it was a smooth week and that even my husband helped out a bit at home to make things smoother.
image courtesy of Target
  • NEW FLAVOR!  Oh.my.goodness.  I discovered this flavor at $tarbucks one day and then saw it was available in K-cups at our local discount store!  Whoo hoo!  PLUS it was on sale!  So I grabbed a box and it makes the perfect late- afternoon- cup -of- coffee- so- I- am- not- tempted -to have- cookies- o-r muffins kind of a snack.  Seriously, I have cut way back on refined sugar and dessert type foods so this flavored coffee is perfect for me!  I only need a small drop of skim milk in it and the cinnamon flavor is the best I've ever had in  coffee.  I've tried cinnamon in 2 other brands and I must say, this particular brand, in my opinion, is THE best. It's a blessing to have some time and a good cup of coffee in the afternoon to unwind.
  • NEW WRITING PAPER!  I love writing letters the old fashioned way.  In fact, my husband's second cousin's wife and I write letters back and forth all the time. And I have a couple of other long distance friends and relatives I write to.  I'm always looking for new stationary and one day last week I discovered the above writing paper!  A friend of ours creates her own notecards and writing paper and it is beautiful!  You can find her work here.  Her prices are very reasonable too and they ship quickly!  She and her husband were friends of Dave and I from our old church and we have watched her children grow up.  In fact, one of her daughters and my youngest daughter write letters back and forth!! She is also the person who first introduced me to  blogging!  You can find her blog here. It's a blessing to have new things that are created by friends.


That wraps up my week.......

weekend plans include a trip to the town library, a coffee date, a "stay home" date with the husband, church, and a short hike...and of course the never ending housework that didn't get done during the work week.

Whatever you have planned, take time for some restful moments.




24 February 2015

Testimonial Tuesday #4: Not the Way We Expected

Welcome!  It's Testimonial Tuesday where we share a story of answered prayer/testimony.  This is hosted by Jerralea from over here.  Won't you think about linking up with us?

I was about 3 months (12 weeks) pregnant.  It was my 2nd pregnancy (and my last).  Our little girl, Courtney (a.k.a the Princess) was 4 1/2 when I became pregnant.  We had tried for about a year.  Gave up when nothing happened.  Dave had to work in Italy for 5 months the year Courtney was in 4 year old preschool.  He came home on a break and I got pregnant!  He did have to go back to Italy so I had to tell him the news over the phone.

At my 12 weeks ultrasound, the tech said "oh, we see a cyst". I thought she meant on me.  (although I had never had one before, at least not that I knew of).  When I asked where my cyst was, she said "no...it's on the baby's ovary....you're having a girl!".

They said they would need to watch this but not to worry as most of these types of cysts just pop during the birthing process and that about 10% of female babies have them.  I wasn't worried at all.  But I didn't like knowing our baby had this on her ovary.  

So...like the praying parents we were, we took this to the Lord in prayer and asked our good friends at church to pray. At the next ultrasound (I had three partly because I was an older mom...I was 38 when I got pregnant the 2nd time and although in the 1990's it was very common for women to wait, the ob/gyns still wanted to do a couple of extra ultrasounds. I didn't mind at all as being a special education teacher, I knew the various risks so had them check for those too.  I wanted to be prepared.  Her fingers/hands all looked normal so no Down Syndrome.  In fact, everything looked great.  But the cyst was still there.  And it was getting a little bigger

We continued to pray.  One week before her due date, on a snowy night (Dec 20, 1998) at about 11  pm,  I went into labor.  When we got to the hospital I was already in transition and she was born at 4:22 a.m. on December 21 (our Winter Solstice baby!) weighing 8 lbs 15 oz! and yes, I did this by all natural/no drugs birth.  I used the Bradley method.  I was supposed to deliver her in the birthing pool but my water had broken so they wouldn't let me get in.  They whisked her away for yet another ultrasound and sure enough...much to our chagrin, honestly...the cyst was still there and it was torqued around the Fallopian tube!

Surgery was scheduled for 10 weeks of age. That was one of the hardest things I've ever sat through!!  Dave and I started praying the cyst would be benign.

It was!!  Glory to God!!  Yes, they had to take one ovary and one Fallopian tube.  She will still be able to have a baby one day if she wants to. The pediatric surgeon said she might have a little more difficulty in getting pregnant but that she still could.  She has a little tiny scar from the surgery that is barely noticeable.  
Claire at 8 nonths at Tanglewood
August 1999





Our answer to prayer did not go exactly the way we would have wanted it to.  Of course we wanted it to just go away during the birthing process.  Of course we didn't want them to have to remove anything ....yet...God grew our faith big-time during that time period.  He showed us that HE is in control and that our children really do belong to Him.  

How we thank Him that it wasn't cancerous!!

God is good.  Even  during the harder times and with answering us in the ways we don't expect.


Claire at her Sweet 16 Party
December 2014






22 February 2015

Hand in Hand





Remembering when the girls were little....under the age of 8....

.....and their little hands would clasp mine (or Dave's) holding on as we walked, ran, skipped, trudged.  In sunshine and rain, on the sand and up the trails. Across the busy parking lots and down the street to friends.

Holding hands.  It reminds me of what I read the last two mornings.

One devotional was about trust and thankfulness.  

And how they go hand in hand. 

It was from the Jesus Calling devotional book.  

I think God was wanting to remind me that trust and thankfulness help us get through the days. In peace.  By trusting Him we can stop worrying or obsessing.  



By thanking Him, we are less likely to be critical and complaining.  I actually purpose in my heart each day to find the blessings...whether they be big or small.  It really helps.  I encourage you to live in gratitude, too.  

But more than that....God also wanted me to remember that we need a healthy dose of "the fear of the Lord".  This was brought out in something I read from the non-fiction book You and Me Forever (see my side bar).  I bought the book for my husband for Christmas and I've just started reading it.  It is a wonderful book  that I do recommend because it's not the kind of marriage book you might think it is!  I was very surprised.

Anyways...in reading through chapter 1, I learned that most marital difficulties are simply that each person does not have a good healthy fear of the Lord.  That we turn to quick fixes or marriage counseling or prayer partners or good works or "to do lists for marriages" but we forget God!! 

We need to think of our marriage partner in light of eternity. Where do we want our partner to be in eternity??  How do we relate while here on earth??

And it tied in so nicely with my thoughts about trust and thankfulness.  Because, in a healthy marriage, we trust our spouse.  And that trust leads to more intimacy in all areas (not just the physical).  And keeping a  thankful heart for this spouse (whom, if we are believers, was brought to us by God), will help our attitudes and actions towards each other in our daily mundane lives.  

There are so many more things I could write about here that God is showing me about marriage....my marriage....and about our relationship with Him.

But for now.....trusting God and being purposefully thankful each day will help me walk hand in Hand with Him...and in so doing, it will help us walk hand in hand with each other.


21 February 2015

2015 Book Review #6: Never Come Back

I read this book in just a few days....it was totally gripping and very well written.

If you like books about family sagas/drama with a bit of mystery thrown in, this book is one I recommend.

STORY SUMMARY

Elizabeth Hampton is a graduate student at a small college in Dover, Ohio.  She has a brother, Ronnie, with Down Syndrome, who is just one year older than she is.  Their mother Leslie Hampton dies unexpectedly and it appears to be homicide!! Their dad had died of cancer a few years before.  The prime suspect is Ronnie but Elizabeth knows in her heart that her brother just isn't capable (emotionally) of murder.  Especially of his beloved mother. 

Leslie's sudden death plunges Elizabeth and Ronnie into a twisted family saga.  All of a sudden they are in danger from people they never even met until their mother's funeral, and they learn about double lives and long-lost relatives.  Just who did kill Leslie??  and why??

When a stranger...a woman in her 40s, shows up claiming to be Elizabeth Yarbrough (Beth), Elizabeth and Ronnie learn more about their mother than they care to know.  Everything Elizabeth thought she knew about her mom is being challenged.

Elizabeth and her Uncle Paul find out that Leslie had been married as a young girl to a man named Gordon Baxter.  They had a daughter named Elizabeth who "ran away" when she was 15 never to be seen again.  Why did she run? and why did Leslie keep this a secret from Elizabeth and Ronnie?? And just how much does Uncle Paul really know??

And even more important....this woman has been named as a part of Leslie's will!  Was that the motivation needed to kill her own mother?

As all of these family secrets come to light, a man, Gordon Baxter, shows up in their lives claiming to have all the answers.  But those answers will put Elizabeth, Ronnie and everyone she knows and loves in danger.

Who is this man?? and is Beth really who she says she is??

MY THOUGHTS

This was a quick and easy read.  I liked that it kept me up late at night reading and turning the pages to find out more of the mystery.

The character development was pretty good and the description of small town Ohio was perfect!

It's a very riveting story although a little unbelievable....and the ending felt rushed to me.  At one point in the story, when Ronnie supposedly tries to commit suicide, I had guessed where the pills came from.  Then the author twisted the plot a little bit throwing me off guard...only to rein it in again in an abrupt manner and showed me my first guess was correct.  That was fun!

The ending is very poignant. The author writes it as an epilogue 5 months later and it is my favorite part of the story.  It not only ties all three lives together well (Elizabeth's, Beth's and Ronnie's) but it brings out the fact that "What is normal??"  Is there such a thing as a "normal" family and if so, what is it??

It also brings out the theme of siblings and how we share biology but that so often our lives are vastly different.

In my opinion, this book is appropriate for ages 17 and older (due to some content).

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, I rate this a 9.

NOTE:  it's interesting to note that I read one of this author's other novels just last January (20140)!  It was called Cemetery Girl and the review can be found here.  I didn't like it nearly as much as I liked this one!


20 February 2015

Winter Break Faves

28 more days until Spring begins!!!  Let's hope it really does start on time, since Winter was early this year...at least here in the Great Northeast!

For now, I've been relaxing, for the most part, all week due to being off the school job for Winter Recess.  The ballerina teen has been sleeping in, I've been sleeping a bit later, and doing lots of reading and cleaning! I'm taking a few moments, with a steaming mug of coffee nearby, to reflect on the past week and the FIVE FAVES that God brought my way.  Won't you join in with us by linking up at Susanne's site?

FIVE FAVES

Special  Treats

  • VALENTINE TREATS!  How fun to celebrate Valentine's Day!  We celebrated the evening before, with Claire, by getting Indian food from this fave place in town.  YUMMY!  Last Thursday, I had my small group, and one of the ladies (my dear friend Monica) surprised us all with little pink boxes of chocolates....so special. (Yes, I shared mine with Dave and Claire!)  And Saturday morning I woke up to find Dark Chocolate Blueberries by my mug of coffee.....he definitely knows what I like to snack on!  And I received a very nice text from the college princess, and the tiny heart card, handmade and with a wonderful note inside, from the ballerina girl.  I'm blessed and I thank God for my dear friends and family.

The ballerina girl (Claire) on the right with from l-r starting in front:
Mady (age 6), Emma (age 11), Uncle Mike and Aunt Jill

Claire and Emma share the chocolate lava cake!
  • LUNCH DATE!  Claire hadn't seen her cousins on my side of the family since last summer so my youngest sister and I arranged a lunch date for Valentine's Day at this fave spot in this fave city which lies between both of our towns.  Jill's husband Mike decided to come along too and it was great to see them.  Oh my. The food!! and the drink I had was perfect. (raspberry cosmos).  Claire and I shared sweet potato fries with blueberry sauce (yup...another weekend of eating  sweet potato fries...I got my fix so no more until summer!!) and I had the Caesar Salad while she had the mozzarella sticks.  She shared a huge piece of Chocolate Lava Cake with her cousin Emma, who will be turning 12 next month.  We had a lot of fun and it's a blessing to get together with family we don't get to see very often.


  • A BIT OF SPRING!  I had ordered the wreath pictured above, for my living room with the intention of putting it up sometime mid-March. But it's been so bitter cold and there was more snow last weekend, so once it arrived on my doorstep Tuesday afternoon, I decided to put it up! I am tired of winter! I took down the snow scene I had on the wall and replaced it with a bit of spring.  The wall behind the wreath did not come out well in this photo...it's actually a light yellow, similar to the flowers in the wreath only a bit more subtle.  It has already lifted my spirits when I sit in there and read.  It's just a little thing but little things are faves too!









  • KITCHEN FUN!  Since I've been home all week, I decided to do some purging of old items from around the house.  The space between the cupboards and the ceiling in my kitchen on 2 walls has been a collection of my Shaker and wicker baskets.  I hung them there when we first built the house 20 years ago.  And I only take them down once a year to dust.  I'm tired of them and my daughters have never liked them...they say it's too "1990s" (um...well..the house was built in 1994 so...)anyways...I decided since I had some free time, to go to this store (I rarely go there even though it's right in town) and do some browsing. I didn't find much but I did find the cute little wooden signs pictured above. I loved the bright colors of the cross "faith, hope and love" and "it is well with my soul" is one of my fave hymns. And that quote on the other sign reads "life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away"....another fave I've seen in books and on cards. So....my college daughter will be thrilled when she comes home in March to see that I did get rid of 3 baskets.  I have more to go! I decided I will keep 2 of the baskets (mini ones) and replace the other 3 with either hiking prints or signs about coffee...for now, it's a blessing just to have some new "stuff".

  • EASY RECOVERY!  I'm most thankful this week for the easy recovery the ballerina girl is experiencing after her 4 wisdom teeth were extracted on Tuesday. She had quite a bit of bleeding but once that stopped, she was pretty good.  She's been good about doing the salt water rinses, eating soft foods, taking the antibiotic, and icing/heating her face.  Whew....it's a relief to have it done....I've not been a fan of this procedure in either daughter and now we are done! Thanking God for good oral surgeons and good recoveries.
That wraps up my week.  Whatever you have planned for the weekend, I hope you take time to find the blessings......