A Year of Gratitude: Reflecting on Memorial Day

Photo by Sharefaith from Pexels

Beginning of summer
Three-day weekend
Road trip
Cookouts, parades & boating

These are all things we associate with Memorial Day – Americans anyway.
But I think perhaps I, and possibly many others, are missing the point.

Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor our fallen soldiers, brave men and women who have lost their lives while serving in the line of duty. I know, it sounds canned and cliche, but I cannot think of a better way to say it.

I feel a tinge guilty planning a barbecue with my family this weekend. I haven’t lost any family or friends to war. I suspect there are lots of people for which Memorial Day sparks sadness and reminders of loved one who gave all.

I do have several family members who have and/or are currently serving in the military. The ones that were deployed in wartime thankfully have returned safely. I am beyond grateful to still have them in my life. And I want to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt sympathy for those of you mourning a loss not only this weekend, but every day.

I believe when you lose someone close to you, the grief never goes away. Instead it subsides, wanes for a season only to return later in cycles of ebb and flow. Grief becomes a companion that sometimes takes center stage and other times retreats to the shadows. You are not alone in your sorrow. I want you to feel proud of your friend or brother or sister or parent that gave their life fighting to defend America and protect not only our citizens, but our ideals and our way of life.

Soldiers serving in active-duty conflict face struggles that I can’t even begin to imagine. They deserve respect, honor and gratitude. I am grateful for every man and woman brave enough to answer the call and sign up for service. It takes a special person to be a soldier.

Thank you for doing what you do. And thank you to the families of all soldiers.
I hope everyone will take a moment this weekend to pray and give thanks for the men and women who have chosen to fight for and protect the rest of us.

Book Review: The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds by T.E. Kinsey

The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds: A Dizzy Heights Mystery, Book 1

Hi everyone. I am back with another book review. The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds is book 1 in the Dizzy Heights Mystery series. The Dizzy Heights is a jazz band whose members get caught up in hunting down a war deserter who is suspected of being a jewel thief. This is a cozy mystery set in London in 1925.

This book fell a bit flat for me. There are a lot of characters, but I never connected with any of them. There is also a huge amount of dialogue, and sometimes it was difficult to keep track of who was speaking. That being said, I might have been distracted by the London dialect and unfamiliar slang; it was definitely a distraction from the story flow for me. (I am from Texas, btw!)

Speaking of story, cozy mystery is also a new genre for me. I am always eager to broaden my horizons and read outside of my comfort zone. I had no idea what to expect when I started this book. I now realize that I prefer meatier characters and stronger emotion in the fictional worlds that I visit.

I don’t want to dissuade you from reading this book, as it was entertaining. If you are a fan of cozy mysteries, settings across the pond, and more fun than drama, then you will probably enjoy The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds. I am including the Amazon link for your convenience.

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A Year of Gratitude: My Church Family

Photo by Tabitha Mort from Pexels

This month I want to express gratitude for my church family. My husband and I belong to a very small, rural church. There are no strangers there.

Sunday mornings we wake up with only one thing on our agenda – fellowship. We arrive at church eager to greet each other and happy to see everyone. We catch up on what’s been happening all week, we pray for each other and we worship the Lord.

Slowly but surely, seats are filling back up in our little church and it’s such wonderful sight. Watching the service online just doesn’t give me the same experience as being there, studying the Word in the presence of fellow believers, building each other up and strengthening our faith.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT)

If you have lost touch with your church family over this past year, I urge you to reconnect. Do what you need to feel safe – mask, distance, hand-sanitizer – but go and say hello to other members of the Body of Christ in person. Allow the Holy Spirit to rejuvenate your soul. Spend time rejoicing in the grace and mercy of our Lord.

And if you have no church family, please think about finding one. There is nothing that compares to the strength and comfort of being cared for by the Body of Christ.

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Want to know more about the Gospel? Check out this article about the meaning of Mark 14:7. As always, thanks for stopping by MyWhateverBlogsite, and happy reading.

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Book Review: Dancing On My Grave by Gelsey Kirkland with Greg Lawrence

Photo by Andrea Cannon

Hello Everyone and Happy April. I am back with another book review. I have spent the last two months immersed in Gelsey Kirkland’s autobiography (written with Greg Lawrence). It was published in 1986 by Doubleday & Company, Inc. Here is the description from Goodreads:

Gelsey Kirkland was a princess in the world of American ballet. The seeming fairy tale of her life in the rarefied atmosphere of classical dance was considerably darker than it appeared to those on the outside. The endless pressure to rise to soloist and later to principal dancer took a toll on the psyche and body of the young dancer. Dancing On My Grave details her eating disorders, drug abuse and difficult relationships with George Balanchine and Mikhail Baryshnikov. (less)https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1554484.Dancing_on_My_Grave

I feel like it took me a long time to finish this book, as it was a very difficult read. Dancing on My Grave is the story of Gelsey Kirkland’s life from childhood through her addiction to cocaine and subsequent recovery. She is very candid and painfully honest in the telling of her story.

I think the reason this book was so difficult for me to read is because it shattered the image of Ms. Kirkland that I had been carrying in my mind for years. I grew up dancing – ballet classes six days a week; multiple studios and instructors training me in the art of classical dance. I loved it. (The point shoes in the picture above are all my own, treasured for the memories they hold.) My life revolved around my love of being in the studio, and I had serious intentions of dancing professionally. My dreams never came to fruition, as life happened and the Lord had other plans for me. But I have never lost my love and appreciation for ballet and the artists that are committed to it.

Gelsey Kirkland was one of my roll models. I spent hours watching VCR tapes of her performances, trying to memorize her steps, her positioning, her magic. Before reading this book, I had no idea of her emotional and physical struggles. But I was definitely able to relate to them – the drive for a ballet-perfect body, weightless steps, conveying theme and story with movement. What I didn’t know was how much the pressure increased when a dancer moved from class to the professional world of performance. Kirkland’s story has opened my eyes to a harsh reality of the art and theater culture that I would not have believed coming from anyone else.

If you have any interest in ballet at all, I think you will like this book. It is truthful and heartbreaking, but wonderful in the end to know Ms. Kirkland was able to overcome her addiction. A quick search of Amazon and Ebay shows me that this book is widely available in both hardcover and paperback. If you’ve read this book (or plan to) please leave a comment below. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Thanks for stopping by MyWhateverBlogSite. I hope you found this review helpful. Please consider joining my email subscriber list for periodic updates on my own novels. And be sure to check out ‘My Books’ page if you looking for something new to add to your TBR list. As always, happy reading!

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A Year of Gratitude: Birthdays

This month I am thankful for birthdays – lots of them. My family celebrates 14 birthdays in the month of March, but there is one in particular that I am especially grateful for. It’s my kid brother Jason.

Jason is actually a grown man. We celebrated his 42nd birthday this year. Reaching this milestone is a miracle. With all of Jason’s medical problems, doctors warned my parents long ago that he probably would not live to see 40 – and here we are 2 years past that prediction.

My brother is my joy and the source of my courage. His disabilities are such that he requires round the clock supervision. He is blind; he is deaf, but can hear with cochlear implants; and he has epilepsy. Watching him each day with all of his challenges reminds me that I can overcome anything. I spend a lot of time with Jason talking and trying to make him laugh. I want him to always know that he is loved beyond measure. He says he does not want to be a burden to us, so each day I want to make him feel needed.

I also take a lot of pictures of Jason. I know that the Lord could take him away from me at any moment, so I cherish every minute that we spend together, no matter what kind of day I am having.

This realization that I could lose my baby brother reminds me the same is true of everyone I love. The Lord has numbered our days, and none of knows when our time on earth will end. So this month as I have eaten too much cake and sent so many happy birthday texts that I am running out of GIFs, I thank the Lord for each one of these wonderful people that have filled my life with laughter, love, and joy.

People that I love.
People that I hope to spend man more birthdays with.
People who have been part of my life for years, and new additions to my family.
People still with us as well as those who have moved on to the next life.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

So to everyone with birthdays in March and every other month of the year – please accept my well wishes and virtual birthday hugs. Each year that passes brings new experiences, new opportunities, new heartaches, new struggles and achievements…new chances to live each day to the fullest!

Thanks for visiting MyWhateverBlogSite. I hope you have enjoyed my musings and contemplations. Be sure to hop over to my books page and see what I have available. Happy Reading!

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A Year of Gratitude: Changing Seasons

The view from our porch February 17, 2021

I was standing in a long checkout line at the store the other day, directly in the path of cold wind blowing in through the sliding glass doors every time they opened. I was chilled to the bone. In my mind I was whining about the draft; I most likely even had a frown on my face.

And then I remembered that less than two weeks ago the entire state of Texas was blanketed in snow, complemented by temperatures well below the freezing mark. I scolded myself for complaining.

The odd, winter storm that caught everyone in my state off guard earlier this month also threw a wrench into my mojo. Cold winter months are challenging for me even in a mild season. I’m a warm weather, outdoors kind of gal. The plummeting temp grabbed hold of my emotions and dragged them right down too. The scary thing is that I didn’t realize until much later that the seasonal sadness had hit me. It snuck up on me this year and put me in a sour mood.

I rarely complain about anything, but that day I actually caught myself in the act – complaining about something I have no control over and letting it ruin the moment I was in, instead of praising God for everything and in all circumstances. I sat down today to write about being grateful that the winter storm is over. But instead – as so often happens when I write – the words have taken a life of their own, leading me to the lesson God is giving me this day.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes. 5:18 NKJV)

Offer praise and thanksgiving for everything. I am loved. I am made in His image. I am His child. His care and provision for me do not change with the seasons.

Yes, I am grateful that the winter storm has ended. But I am so much more grateful that God allowed me to experience it. I walked through snow ten inches deep – something I’ll probably never do again in this region of Texas. I watched kids sledding down a roadside hill. I found the opportunity to help others in need. I got to sleep late every day for a week – one of my favorite things! I spent hours cuddled up by the fire with the man that I love.

Most importantly, I saw the beauty and majesty of God’s creation in a whole new way. So thank you, Lord, for changes big and small, for hiccups in my routine that allow me to experience Your glory in new ways.

Thanks so much for stopping by MyWhateverBlogsite.
Please feel free to comment, share and connect with me, and have a wonderful day!

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Book Review: Honeysuckle Season by Mary Ellen Taylor

Howdy everyone! I am back with my first review of 2021. I am so excited to share this book.

Honeysuckle Season was one of my Amazon Prime First Reads picks. I don’t know how long it’s been in my Kindle library, but I finally pulled up and read it this month. (Let me also tell you that I have yet to be disappointed by any of the Prime First Reads that I’ve selected. It’s a great perk to being a Prime member.)

This story alternates between early the 1940s and the present day. The historical parts tell the story of Olivia Carter and Sadie Thompson, two very different women who develop a bond through trying circumstances. The current section follows Libby McKenzie, a photographer, and Elaine Grant, the owner of Woodmont Estate, which both plots revolve around. Woodmont is a lavish property in Blue Stone, Virginia that has been in the Carter family for generations.

I really loved this book. It was difficult to limit my reading to only a few chapters per day. And when I got close to the end, I spent the entire weekend binge reading. (Forget streaming TV – who needs it when we’ve got so many great books to read!)

Anyway, back to Honeysuckle Season. This was my first time reading Mary Ellen Taylor; she has quite a few books out, so I will definitely read more of her work.

I am intrigued by historical fiction. Taylor’s depiction of a WWII era mountain town is very realistic. And Sadie is my favorite character in this story. She is written in a way that I think readers can really connect with, even if you’ve never run moonshine or hidden from the sheriff deep in the woods.

As for the present-day protagonist – Libby is emotional, neurotic, and endearing despite her tendency to overthink everything. Libby meets Elaine pretty early in the book, and then we tag along as secrets are revealed and we finally learn how these women are connected. I am trying not to spoil anything, but I was completely surprised at the end.

If you like family drama and history with a little bit of mystery thrown in, then you will probably enjoy this book too. I absolutely recommend it.

Thanks so much for stopping by MyWhateverBlogSite. I hope you found this book review helpful. If you’d like to see what else I’ve been up to lately, then click here to read my article on taking breaks from the chaos of life. I also hope you’ll check out my books page and see if anything there piques your interest. Happy reading!

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A Year of Gratitude ~ Delivery Workers

Hello everyone, and a happy new year. Welcome to my first post of 2021.
I have decided this year will be my year of gratitude. I’ve started a wonderful gratitude journal for documenting all of the things I am thankful for as this new year rolls on.

This month I want to send a shout out to everyone in the shipping industry, delivery drivers, and the folks behind the scenes that help those couriers get where they need to be.

Post office, UPS, FedEx, DoorDash, Amazon, and any I’ve forgotten – I’m talking to all of you. You have made it possible for the rest of us to continue getting things we need. And also, a big thanks to the website and tech people working behind the scenes.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind any of you that 2020 was a tough year. Adjusting to the changes in the last 12 months has been challenging for the entire world. People are spending more time at home; social distancing has changed the way we work, shop, and even relax. Many of us think twice before running to the store for a gallon of milk. The postal service and shipping companies have stepped up and worked extra hard, especially through the holiday season, to make sure we can still get our stuff.

I know it’s easy to complain about shipping times and couriers who may seem careless, but who really are just stressed and behind schedule. Before you complain, take a moment to imagine a day in their shoes. Nine times out of ten, they are doing the best they can.

Now, let’s play a game. Remember what daily life was like way back in 1980. Close your eyes, think really hard. Are you with me? Remember – no home computers, no cell phones or tablets. Now imagine all of that lack of technology along with a pandemic. POW! (Millenials – you’ll have to get your parents to tell you about the dark ages that we grew up in!)

Now you get it, right? Web and app developers, tech support, the folks programming virtual assistants – those folks are rock stars in my book. I love the ease of shopping on my phone and having my goodies delivered within days. (For those of you that live in the city, I bet you can get deliveries within hours.)

And most of us have still been able to work. Thanks to technology, we can wake up and stroll to our home offices and continue to work and collect a paycheck. There are lots of industries and skillsets that don’t have that option, lots of folks out there in the world working like it was 2019 (with a mask, of course). This post is to let all of those people know they are appreciated.

So thank you, thank you to everyone that helps keep our world running smoothly with all of the changes.

Thanks again for stopping by MyWhateverBlogsite. I hope you have enjoyed it. Be sure to check out my ‘Books’ page and sign up for my e-mail list. Have a great day!

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My Year in Books

I was just looking over my yearly summary on Goodreads, and it looks like I totally slacked off this year as far as reading is concerned. But that is not entirely accurate.

These are the five books I read this year according to Goodreads. What that fun, tracking website doesn’t know is that I also read a great collection of Jack London Stories, and I completed 4 Bible studies in 2020. So keep on reading for the rundown.

  1. Maybe I’m Flying to You by Diamaya Dawn is a poetic and deep and lovely short story.
  2. I finally finished Pilates and Yoga, an instructional home workout book that I have been reading for years. There is tons of information in this book.
  3. Circle of Seven by Clay Jacobsen is a Christian thriller that kept me on my toes right till the end.
  4. I found some great advice for fleshing out story ideas in Cathy Yardley’s Rock Your Plot.
  5. And I tagged along on adventures with Baron Britpop Blastfurnace by Mark Starlin.

And what does Goodreads not know that I read this year? For starters, I finished a wonderful collection of stories by Jack London. You can read more about it here.

I also did several Bible studies in 2020: the books of Matthew, Colossians and Phillipians. Guided Bible studies are a great way to go deeper into the Word, if that’s something you are interested in. May I suggest Living By Design Ministries for some helpful resources.

And finally, I read J. Vernon McGee’s commentary on the book of Daniel. Here is a link if you want to know more about it.

So there you have it, my true year in reading. I will admit that I read less in 2020 than I did in 2019, which is strange. I think lots of people did more reading this year because of pandemic lockdowns. But not me. I tried to do more writing and crafting this year. All in all, I feel like my reading was very balanced this year.

How about all of you guys – did you read much more than usual in 2020 or spend time doing other activities? I’d love to read your comments, so please feel free to share.

Thanks for stopping by My Whatever Blogsite.

I wish all of you a late Merry Christmas and an early Happy New Year. Until next time, happy reading.

Book Review: Jack London Stories

Photos by Andrea Cannon

Hello everyone and happy holidays. Today I am sharing my thoughts on Jack London Stories, a collection published by Platt & Munk Co, Inc. in 1960. This is another treasure that I hunted down in one of my local antique stores. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you know I have an affinity for old books. Just look at the cover. I couldn’t possibly resist.

It took me almost an entire year to read this book, partly because I set it aside for a while after finishing ‘The Call of the Wild’. My beloved hound dog died shortly after I began that story. My stubborn determination would not allow me to stop reading until I reached the end. I was already an emotional mess over my Duke, and ‘The Call of the Wild’ only made it worse. Time passed and I was finally able to revisit the story with some objectivity.

Now back to the collection as a whole. I did know anything about Jack London when I made this purchase. As I read through the stories, I did some digging into London’s biography. It turns out he was quite an adventurer. More on that in a bit.

Reading ‘The Cruise of the Dazzler’ was like listening to a ten-year-old kid recount an escapade from his imagination. I grew up with boys, all of my kids are boys – so this story was spot-on for me. I absolutely loved it.

Most of the other short stories in this collection felt like listening to a bunch of drunk, old-timers recall tales of their younger selves. Interesting doesn’t even begin to cover it. A lot of London’s stories take place in the Yukon region of Alaska. I believe they were born out of his own experience chasing gold. They are entertaining, but also very revealing.

Jack London lived in a different era and culture. Most of us alive today have no concept of the hardships faced in the late 1800’s and the turn of the century. He wrote tales that were rough around the edges and filled with weather-beaten characters.

London wrote and published for the sole purpose of earning money. In fact, he was one of the first authors to receive a monthly stipend from a magazine to travel and record his adventures in story form. He lived a life many writers dream of, and honestly, I’m a bit jealous. He didn’t worry about marketing or stats, followers or likes. He just wrote stories and sent them to the publisher. Ahh – the good old days.

But honestly, Jack London Stories is not for the faint of heart or those who are easily offended. So when you read this book remember it was written in a time and place that is foreign to many of us, and try to enjoy them for the entertainment and shock value they provide.

If you are interested in procuring your own copy of this wonderful collection, I found some available on Ebay. Just click the link to check out the listings for yourself. Or you can go on a scavenger hunt through your local antique and junk stores.

Thanks for visiting MyWhateverBlogsite today. I hope you enjoyed your visit. Please consider subscribing to my email list for updates on books I am working on. Merry Christmas and Happy Reading.

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