"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Friday, January 4, 2019


Three and a half years ago, our friend Joni told us she was in such pain that she went to the emergency room. Sadly, her diagnosis was stage 4 ovarian cancer. She took chemo, underwent surgery, and then had more treatments. At one time, she was in remission. Sadly, it was short lived.  Yet, she fought on, tried different treatments, kept a terrific attitude, inspired us all. She had these Cancer Conversations on Facebook.  I just looked for her last one. It was November 30.

Cancer Conversations #???
“How can I help?” 

This is such a great question to ask! Sometimes my answer though is going to be that I don’t have anything right now. Sometimes there are tasks that I only feel comfortable letting certain people do. That’s no reflection on you, it’s just I need to do what is easiest and most comfortable to me. Yeah, there maybe laundry that needs doing, but when my knickers are involved I don’t really feel like parceling that out to anyone who asks, you know?

So my exhortation is don’t be offended if I don’t have a task for you - your offer of help IS valued and I do keep it in my mind as future things come up.  <3 span="">

I also found this one from September 24, 2018

Cancer Conversations #24
The Club

There is so much about cancer that is different between the types of cancer - liver vs ovarian vs breast vs lymphoma, etc. But one thing is the same: when you get that cancer diagnosis you are inducted, unwillingly, into the Cancer Club. It's a fraternity (sorority?) most of us never think we will join, and that no one wants to join. 

Before cancer, I always thought that cancer was something that happened to other people, not to me and not to my family. Cancer was a "them over there" problem. I mean, I would have said that yes, cancer could happen to me, but when it comes down to what I believed, I believed it wouldn't happen to me. 

But now I am in the club. When a friend is diagnosed with cancer, I can relate. I know the fear, the questions, the unknown, the hope, the side effects, the grace extended. I had friends who were, for me, the 'trail guides" - having been through cancer, even if it wasn't the same kind, and were the example of what living with (and after) cancer looked like. They showed that hope and joy are still possible, even with the Big C. Now, three years into my own journey, I am able to be that same "trail guide" for others.

We knew Joni was doing poorly. She'd had fluid build up and drained from her abdomen and lungs back in October. She told us in November that the chemo wasn't working. She was weaker, and tireder, and not around as much.

She was admitted to the hospital on Christmas day, the doctors were not able to place the G tube as the family wished (too many tumors in her stomach), and just the day before her death, her husband had let me know via Messenger that Joni was home, the hospice nurse had just left, and they were worried about her oxygen levels dropping.  What they hoped would be weeks, turned into an estimated 72 hours.

Sunset; Bryson City, NC

While recovering from chemo, Joni sometimes enjoyed painting. I posted the above picture on Facebook after a late June 2018 trip to Bryson City, North Carolina.   A few days later she told me she had used my picture as an inspiration and painted something that I could have if I wanted. Of course I did!

I am thrilled to own it!

a gift from Joni

I met Joni over 15 years ago. Although I chose not to have children, I always enjoyed baby names. When my first nephew was expected, I went on Babycenter.com, and made a name poll. I don't think I met Joni there, but eventually several of us who commented on the name polls formed a private group at Yahoo Groups. Later we had another group at Yahoo, and later still we switched over to a private Facebook group. We've discussed about everything over the years. Even those things "polite society" says is not good to discuss with friends.

Although I never had the opportunity to meet Joni - she lived near Seattle and I never traveled to the West Coast, nor she to the South where I live - she was a dear, precious friend. There are about 12 or 15 of us that met on those Babycenter name polls and have gotten close over the years. A few are in NC (I've met them), Maryland (met one), Georgia, New York, South Dakota, Ohio (met her twice when she lived in the NC mountains years ago), California, Massachusetts - even one in Ottawa.

Last night, about ten of us were chatting on a Messenger thread.  It was like we were on this vigil - so sad about Joni, yet still laughing at memories and conversation. JLNL in Ohio suggested at 10:00 PM EST we each drink a beverage of our choice as a toast to Joni. She was having wine.  Sassy (a fellow NC gal) posted soon after that she was at Food Lion picking out her drink (a pineapple margarita).  Taff in NY decided to eat ice cream. Cey (one of our Marylanders) was out with her daughter at volleyball practice in D.C., but she picked up some donut holes  - "munchkins" - and iced coffee. Sommer (our Californian) had ghost pepper tequila. Carmen (in Georgia) had hard cider. V (in Massachusetts) had cookies and a raspberry peach smoothie. Elsa (in South Dakota) had beer. Niki (also in NC) drank water and fresh-from-the-oven Pillsbury hot chocolate rolls. (Read her blog post here.)  I got up, opened a box of chocolate covered cherries, and ate one followed by a swig of 2% milk straight out of the carton.   (I rarely eat so late, but I had to do it in solidarity with the girls. Also Sommer told me a few minutes ago that she ate a chocolate covered cherry last night because I did!)

It was a sweet time. My first online "vigil" that I recall. I think Joni would be happy that we all spent time together, thinking of her, shedding a few tears, joking around, remembering things - celebrating friendship.

December 1974 - January 2019

Her husband posted about an hour after I went to sleep that she was gone (12:44 AM EST). I was sad to wake up to the news of my friend's death, and I've been crying off and on all day. But I have faith that Joni is healed and happy and one day I will meet her in person, for the first time ever.

Until then, I will think of you whenever I hike at Max Patch. I remember you told me one time that this was your favorite of the places where I went.

We won't forget you. Love you, Friend.

Monday, December 31, 2018

December Books

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn -- a great book and a fun way to learn about female spies; Charlotte St. Clair is in Europe with her mom; they are headed to Switzerland to take care of Charlie's "Little Problem," but before they make it out of England, Charlie abandons her mom to look for a person whose name she has in connection with her beloved missing cousin. Evelyn Gardiner is an old, drunk, crotchety woman with secrets. She and Charlie and Eve's handyman Finn head to France in search of Rose and RenĂ©, a terrible sort from Evelyn's spying past (World War I).  Anyway, I enjoyed this book. It's funny and historical and gruesome altogether.

Together Forever by Jody Hedlund -- book 2 in the Orphan Train series; This book focused more on the middle Neumann sister, Marianne, as she goes on an orphan train as an agent who helps find families for the children along with her co-agent Andrew Brady.  Decent book. 

The Dry by Jane Harper -- Another good story by this Australian author!  I read her second book first, and knew there was an earlier book since the main character, Falk, had an issue with his hand that made me believe it was injured in book 1.  In this story Aaron Falk returns to his hometown for the funeral of a friend. Well, he would have skipped it since he and Luke hadn't been good friends in years, and he hated the memories associated with home, but Luke's father sent a cryptic message demanding Aaron be there. Aaron joins the local police in looking for a possible other reason that Luke, his wife, and their 6 year old son were brutally killed. Was it a murder suicide or something else?

A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas -- Book 2 in The Lady Sherlock Series; Charlotte Holmes and Mrs. Watson look for clues in the disappearance of Lady Ingram's first love, who happens to be Charlotte's illegitimate half-brother, Myron Finch. A cute book.

Crash & Burn by Lisa Gardner -- The library has a lot of her books so I'll probably read more of them soon. This one dealt with a lady, Nicole Frank, driving over a steep ravine in the mountains of New Hampshire. She survived, but is looking for her missing girl, Vero.  Nicky has had three concussions in the last 6 months and with these brain injuries, memories have surfaced on her time at "the dollhouse" where she lived in a house that catered to wealthy men.  A mystery; pretty good story.

The Risen by Ron Rash -- Two teenage brothers met a girl from Florida swimming near their fishing hole one summer years ago.  After falling under her spell (so to speak), they begin supplying her with samples from their grandfather's medicine cabinet (he's a doctor) and alcohol.  Years later, Eugene reads a news article about Ligeia's remains being found buried along a creek, and he is stunned since Ligeia supposedly left on a bus for Miami all those years ago. The story goes between then and now times; a decent book.

The Ballad of Tom Dooley by Sharyn McCrumb -- a great way to learn more about the rascal Tom Dula and the women of Wilkes and Watauga counties: the Foster cousins, Ann Melton, Pauline Foster, and Laura Foster who was murdered. A pretty good story.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman -- A pretty good story about Elsa and her Granny who leaves Elsa clues for a treasure hunt when she dies. I didn't always appreciate the fairy-tale aspect of half the book, but started enjoying it better when I realized who the characters stood for. 

The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney -- Told in the voices of the four ladies making up the close-knit group "Saving Graces," Isabel, Emma, Rudy, and Lee introduce themselves and their struggles.  I admit that one aspect of this book hit a bit hard as I have a dear friend struggling with quite likely the last stages of ovarian cancer (today - December 17 - is her birthday, in fact). A pretty good book.

Alone by Lisa Gardner -- I've been enjoying these crime thrillers and hope to get more. This one deals a lot with Trooper Bobby Dodge who also is a sniper. When he kills a man who appears to be threatening his wife and child, his life gets turned upside down. I read most of this book while we took Sophie back to Spring Creek today (12-19). It's a fast-paced, easy read.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight -- Kate is distraught when her daughter supposedly committed suicide by jumping off the roof of her elite school, but an anonymous text gets her looking into her daughter's life. This was an interesting book, but left me sad that teenagers are treating each other in such ways. A good book, though.

The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas -- book 3 in The Lady Sherlock Series; a rather cute series, and definitely better if you can read the books in quick succession since, otherwise, I have trouble remembering aspects from previous books.

Touch & Go by Lisa Gardner -- another crime thriller; Part of the book is Libby narrating the story of her family's kidnapping after date night with her husband (who is trying to "do better" after being confronted for cheating); a good book on this Christmas Eve

Family Pictures by Jane Green -- Sylvie has a great marriage - when her husband is in town.  Those two or so weeks per month when he's traveling for work, it's actually really hard to get in touch with him. Sylvie tries not to think about it too much, but there is sometimes that niggling fear that he is with some other woman.   Maggie lives on the East Coast - in Connecticut, in a nice house. Her husband, too, travels quite a bit. One day these two women meet and, well, this is a rather good book. I may look for others by this author at some point.

Helpless by Barbara Gowdy -- A very pretty nine year old girl disappears during a city-wide blackout. Pretty good book

Girl Unbroken by Regina Calcaterra and Rosie Maloney -- "A Sister's Harrowing Story of Survival from the Streets of Long Island to the Farms of Idaho."  My mom and I both read Regina Calcaterra's memoir a couple of years ago, and what a story! There have been hints since then that her youngest sibling, Rosie, would write her story. Rosie and her brother Norm - the two youngest children of Cookie (mom) - were the only children taken to Idaho by Cookie and her then boyfriend. The older girls had left the hellhole home at this point, but Norm and Rosie were still rather young (12 and 9, respectively.)  Rosie's story is worth reading as well. Makes you appreciate good family and friends, school and church workers and neighbors who look around, take notice, encourage, LOVE, feed, clothe you.  And it makes you appreciate good foster families of which I know several. 

Hide by Lisa Gardner -- An underground chamber is discovered on the grounds of the former Boston State Mental Hospital. In it, are the wet mummified remains of four girls who died decades earlier. Another D.D. Warren, Bobby Dodge crime thriller.

And with that, another year of reading ends. May the stories continue. 

Happy 2019!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas Pics

The kids' Christmas pictures taken today. Aren't they sweet?

When Sophie came for a visit recently (post-hair cut), I made a big deal about her looking so good with her shorter hairdo.  She was hoping people would notice - and like it!  She does.

She's wanted bangs like Nana for awhile. She made me chuckle when she pointed to the part that drapes her forehead now, and said with some emphasis: 

"And...I have a bang."

Her long hair was pretty, but got so tangly and she would cry when you'd try to comb it out. Quite frankly, I couldn't comb the tangles out; they were terrible. And listening to her cry was even worse.

Zach is 7; Sophie is 4 (and over a half for each of them since they have spring birthdays.)

Thursday, November 29, 2018

November Books

Mina by Jonatha Ceely -- I read book 2 before book 1 (this book) so I knew how the story ended with Mina in America, but I didn't know the backstory except for what was alluded to in book 2. Which was actually quite a lot of it, but still it was good reading this one. I enjoyed this book.

With You Always by Jody Hedlund -- Sisters Elise, Marianne, and Sophie are struggling to survive in New York City and gain employment at a mission house. When economic problems arise, they lose their livelihood. As the eldest, Elise travels to central Illinois to work in a new town that Thornton Quincy is trying to establish along the railroad line.  This is book 1 in the Orphan Train series.  Mostly predictable, but an easy read, and an OK, decent story.

A Heart Revealed by Josi S. Kilpack -- Amber is the Rage of the (London) Season until a health issue brings humiliation and a change in address: she's pretty much banished to her family's small cottage in northern England.  As she and her loyal maid-turned-friend Suzanne live so far from London, they learn to survive without a household of staff and the life of privilege.  A pretty good story.

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer -- I read two of her books previously and wrote that they were merely ok, but this one I rather liked.  It wasn't super by any means, but I liked it better than the others for some reason.  Grace and Amos are telegraph operators who talk after hours over the wire. When Grace is threatened, Amos travels to her town and they meet face-to-face for the first time.  Pretty good book.

Walking to Listen by Andrew Forsthoefel --  "4,000 miles across America, one story at a time" ; Andrew leaves his home in Pennsylvania with a sign on his backpack "Walking to Listen." He heads south and I love some of the stories he shares especially from Virginia and later from Alabama.  Also good was when he was on the Navajo and Hopi reservations out west and the people were so kind to him. 

If Only by Richard Paul Evans -- an easy read, and a sweet book about Eric, a ninth grader who recently moved from California to Utah. While at work one night, Eric finds a girl looking in the Dumpster for food.  He takes her to the clubhouse on his family's property where she hides out for several weeks.  A cute story. 

The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center -- This, I believe, is the fourth book I've read by this author, and I could tell within the first bit what would happen as far as men go.  Not that other books and authors aren't predictable, but hers really stand out.  Main Character is living with a guy who turns out to be a loser (or Looozah as Sophie would say) so she ends up with some other guy who comes on the scene who for real is Mr. Perfect. But how each Main Character gets to that point in each of her books is pretty good.  In this book Jenny is pregnant and when Looozah FiancĂ© leaves her, she does the whole single parenting thing alone. And it is tough.  A decent book; not my favorite of hers.

Circle of Three by Patricia Gaffney -- One of those three-generations-of-women books.  Grandma Dana (70ish), Mom Carrie (42), and Daughter Ruth (15) who struggle through life's changes.  A decent book.

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai -- I got this at a Little Free Library, and I really do not know what all it was about. Indians and other nationalities in India?  And Indian young men in the US?  I didn't like it.

The Outcasts by Kathleen Kent -- I'd read one other book by this author so I figured why not read this one? It alternates between Lucinda's story as an epileptic whore escaping the brothel with a mission to locate information about gold on a small island somewhere in Texas and Nate's story as a Texas lawman who teams up with a couple of Rangers to locate an outlaw.  Despite how it sounds here, it was a halfway decent book, I guess. 

Note to self: put Becoming on hold -- 16th in line as of November 14, 2018; I want to see how long it takes me to get it from the library  Edited on January 18, 2019, to add: 2 months. See January 2019 books post when it's posted.

The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier -- After holding herself aloof from relationships most all of her forty eight years, Joy leaves her professorship in NYC for one in Amherst, Massachusetts. There she makes friends and helps people out, and learns more about herself in the process.  An OK book.

The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund -- Elizabeth works for Pastor John Costin's family as a housekeeper after the death of his first wife. Vicious rumors are spread about her and the reverend. Should he marry her or another in this Puritan community in order to squelch the talk? This was an OK book.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper -- A corporation chose 5 men and 5 women for a bonding retreat in the Australian bushland. The two teams head out with their supplies and a map, but the women fail to make it to camp the second night.  Tempers flare, injuries abound, and when the group finally emerges hours after the scheduled time, only 4 of the women walk out of the woods. Alice is missing, but what happened to her?  I found this book by chance at a local library (but not the one nearest me) and I enjoyed this mystery and have put the author's other book on hold.

Life's a Beach by Claire Cook -- A light, easy read for when the kids were visiting. Ginger Walsh is 41 and living in the apartment above her parents' garage when her mom decides to put the house on the market. Ginger tries to figure out her life: a job, take a higher commitment with her boyfriend and all that stuff. An OK book. Cute, but nothing special.

Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund -- Massachusetts while the US was still a colony of England. Susanna Smith's loyalty to her king is tested when a British soldier oversteps his authority. An OK book. 

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain -- the library got another book by this author, and this one was different, but interesting especially if you don't mind a little time travel between 1970 and the 2000s.  Hunter shows up in 1970 with a broken ankle after falling from the roof of a building. Some say he is suicidal, but in reality, he just landed in 1970 after being part of 2018, and he fell off the building he landed on! Weird. But the book is pretty good.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

Sophie is visiting the area now, and today she was at my house for a couple of hours.  She had a great time playing with Tucky, and when he left to help with youth group at church, Sophie and I went to the park which is near my house.

When we first got there, Sophie and I had the whole place to ourselves so we entertained ourselves by doing the scavenger hunt.

We have to locate the apple, frog, star, clock, carrot, and so forth. Ten items in all. Or "awwb jects" as Sophie drawls it.  Objects, if you don't understand Southern.

She loves when she finds the objects first.  

About twenty minutes after we got to the park, people started arriving and - yippee! - Sophie had not one, but TWO little girls just a bit older than her to play with.

I had been walking up and down a hill in order to redeem the time and get a little exercise. It's a favorite hill to roll down - or, at least, both Sophie and Zach have rolled down this hill in times gone by.

Sophie asked if they could, and I said I could not give permission for Jillian and Carla since I'm not their guardian/parent. But eventually all three girls rolled down the hill.

Here are a few pictures I took of Sophie in the process.

And finally I had her stop so I could show her her leafy hair!

She loved it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Toy Bonnie and Cinderella made the paper!

Zach and Sophie's grandmother - they call her Nana - sent us this picture via text last evening.  The kids were included in the local county paper, The News-Record & Sentinel, while wearing their Halloween costumes.

The caption should really have an "at" in place of that first "and" to be accurate and "Freddie" should be "Freddy's," but possibly the caption writer was like me about FNaF stuff.

(No clue.)

Friday, November 2, 2018


Lifetouch gave me a coupon for a free digital download since I made a purchase on their online site today. Actually they said it was because I signed up for their rewards program.

I wanted to have a copy of this here.

Zach, 7 years old