Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Back to College lessons

 For the past eight weeks I have been hard at work learning something new - or rather - lots of new things!

I am woefully behind on sharing reviews of books I have read, but I hope to remedy that some next week on fall break. What has kept me occupied? College classes! Yes, after more than 20 years, I made the decision to head back to college to get a business degree. It has been a wild and crazy ride so far.

I've had fun (mostly) learning how to use PowerPoint, and I can report that I passed my MicroSoft certification exam for PowerPoint yesterday! Huzzah! Also on the schedule these first eight weeks was a class on Team Dynamics. Oh my! So many things to think about with this one. It had me asking various people I know in different areas of the business world for help and mentoring. I learned SO MUCH, and yet, it taught me I have a whole lot more to learn!


What else has kept my days and evenings full? Two weeks ago I started a new, full-time job at Conner Prairie in the Facilities department - but, lest anything be too easy in my life - I am still working my scheduled days in Guest Services until the end of the month. One of my co-workers asked me today if I feel like I'm "trying to drink from the fire hose"? Um, yes. 

So many things to learn. I am so, so very thankful for the patience of my new boss(es) and the others in the department who have gone out of their way to make my transition as easy as possible. :)


Life is an adventure, this past month has been a whirlwind, and I am looking forward to what comes next. It might be another eight weeks before I get back on here to post an update, so feel free to ride along with me on my adventure by checking out my Instagram posts.


May your fall season bring joy, peace, purpose - and lots of Jesus!





Monday, August 24, 2020

Vying for the Viscount by Kristi Ann Hunter - a Bethany House book review


book reviews, Kristi Ann Hunter, Bethany House Publishers


How do you handle it when everything changes in your life and you feel adrift? Miss Bianca Snowley is about to find out. Her step-mother decides that as the oldest daughter she needs to hurry up and get married so Mrs. Snowley's preferred younger daughter can become the center of attention and make a good marriage match. If that was not disturbing enough to Bianca's normally peaceful life, there is a new Viscount next door, and her access to his horses she loves to ride may be in jeopardy.

Hudson has endured a grueling six month sea voyage from India to England, yet once he arrives he finds out that assimilating into English society is exceedingly more complicated than he expected. As the new Lord Stildon Hudson now owns a vast home and grounds, and a well-known racing stable. Can he learn the nuances of moving within society and balance breeding, and racing, his horses while still looking for a wife? After all, would not a wife with good connections be an asset he needs? The life Hudson finds himself in is so different from the one he was raised in that he struggles at every turn.

Vying for the Viscount is Kristi Ann Hunter's newest Regency era romance from Bethany House Publishers. Hunter does a masterful job of weaving the history of Regency England into a charming and challenging story of life, friendship, and chances at true love. Fans of Jane Austin will find a wonderful tale filled with characters to adore and despise. 

Lord Stildon and Miss Snowley decide to work together to help each other find spouses. They start as neighbors and end up as friends. The problems arise when Bianca starts to realize she is comparing each of her possible suitors to Hudson. How can she keep her word to help him court Lady Rebecca while secretly pining for his attention herself? 

Hudson is struggling as well. His stable manager Aaron Whitworth becomes Hudson's only other friend besides Bianca. Aaron admits he is an illegitimate son and therefore no help in matters of navigating the society circles. How can courting Lady Rebecca be so difficult? Hudson starts to doubt his own plans for his future when an acquaintance of Aaron's invites Hudson and Aaron over for a game of cricket and dinner. 

I enjoyed this story immensely. The characters might be set in Regency England, but they deal with problems that people have had since the beginning of time. How do you know who to trust? Is it better to have a wide swath of acquaintances or a few close friends? Is marriage a business deal, or a love match? Can financial security make up for a broken heart, and who would ever choose a broken heart?

Miss Snowley learns a lot about herself, and comes to realize it was not her step-mother's decision that set her adrift, but rather that she had been adrift for a while, and the command to marry soon simply pointed that out to her. Bianca learns how to invest time in friendships, to choose to offer compassion, and how help can come at just the right time from the most unlikely places.

Step away from the challenges of today and get lost in a wonderful story of friendship, choices, consequences and love in the English countryside.


I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.


Sunday, August 23, 2020

Mercy



five minute friday writing prompt, offer mercy, compassion

It's been a bit since I've joined my friends in the Five Minute Friday community to write. Each week I've seen the word prompt, and had ideas, but life has a way of invading our small spaces and taking over our time. This week though, I could NOT pass up a chance to spend five minutes, or a little more reflecting on Mercy - a thing we all so desperately need.

Set a timer, and go:


The first thing to come to mind when I read the word Mercy are the lyrics to Matthew West's "Mercy is a Song." Now that it is stuck in your head too, I want to focus on what mercy means. The dictionary describes it as: compassion, charity, forgiveness, humanity, kindness, and generosity. These are all good synonyms, but mercy is more. 


Mercy is deeper, and can only originate from God.


Mercy is not receiving what we deserve. We deserve death. Each and every one of us deserves death. We have sinned, fallen short of following God. Whether by cursing the person who cut us off on the road last night or by committing a crime, we have all fallen short of Jesus' commandments to love God and love one another. 


Mercy is not going to hell when we deserve it.


Mercy is forgiveness and some grace. Grace is getting something good that we do not deserve. Can you see the difference? Mercy is not going to hell for our sins. Grace is having blessings poured out on us when we have done nothing good to earn them. The Scriptures tell us that the rains fall on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:45) That is a blessing, an expression of grace. 

If we have been given mercy (and grace), then why are we so hesitant to offer mercy to others? How can we choose to withhold mercy from the people around us? Our family, our neighbors, our co-workers? How about that guy you heard on tv that you did not agree with? These people, these human beings probably did not get up this morning thinking "I'm going to tick people off today, let me go cause strife." And yet, it might have happened anyway. You see, we need to offer mercy for the big things AND the small things. Because God is merciful to us. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Show mercy, extend mercy, offer mercy, be merciful. You are still alive and able to read this post because God has been merciful to you. 


Go and do likewise: offer mercy. Then spread grace.




If you want to hear joy, grace, freedom, and mercy, here is Matthew West's song.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Line by Line - by Jennifer Delamere - A Bethany House book review


Bethany House book reviews, historic fiction, telegraph operators, London


The year is 1881 and Alice McNeil is ready to leave her position at London’s Central Telegraph Office in search of a position with private company. With seven years’ experience and dreams of living somewhere other than a boarding house, Alice expects that her skills plus her determination will land her a job with a promising future.

The world of the telegraph has always fascinated me. How can someone have the skill to not only memorize the dots, dashes, and pauses needed to send a message in morse code, but understand it deeply enough to receive a message in code? Line by Line is a work of Historic Fiction by Jennifer Delamere focuses on an interesting point in London’s history approximately 20 years after the completion of the Transatlantic telegraph cable.

Alice gains a step forward in her career when she is hired by Henley and Company, an importer of wheat and cotton. There she soon meets Douglas Shaw, Mr. Henley’s second in command who travels the world gaining the contracts for their imports. Mr. Shaw sees the benefit of having Alice, who is an excellent telegraph operator, learn more about the business overall, and Alice begins to see new possibilities for her future. The problem is, even though sparks begin to fly, Alice is prepared to be a spinster because she thinks it will allow her freedom to live as she wants, and Douglas has his sights set on a young society lady, Miss Rolland, he has yet to meet. 

When Douglas and his friends find an etiquette book for ladies at a local bookstore, they read a few sections and laugh. Unbeknownst to Douglas, Alice is also in the bookstore and overhears their conversation. She isn’t out to catch a man, she just wants to read the book and laugh at its suggestions… or maybe find one or two to help her with a difficult co-worker, Archie Clapper. So she purchases The Spinster’s Guide to Love and Romance and takes it home.

I enjoyed the banter between characters, the history lessons on the ins and outs of detailed telegraph work, and the everyday look at life in London, England in the 1880’s. A fun read, Line by Line is the first book of a new series from Delamere: Love Along the Wires. I look forward to her future books to see whether they will follow Alice’s friends Rose and Emma, or Douglas’s friends Stuart Carson and Hal Halverson. 


I received an electronic ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Graphic credit: Arlene @ Modern Vintage


Sunday, August 2, 2020

Write into the Hard Things




Write into the hard things. That is one of many insightful things that Leslie Leyland Fields imparted to us during her online writing class in April, May and June. Write into them, and then let God redeem them. It may not happen overnight, it may not even happen this side of eternity, but it is GOD who redeems us and our brokenness and uses it for His glory. 

Leslie taught these lessons from her newest book: Your Story Matters. It was a really good class. It is an even better book. There are a lot of hard (read to understand as: difficult) things in each of our lives. And there are good things as well. Sometimes the same instance is both hard and good.

At the end of May, our daughters and I were in a car accident. Someone else ran a red light, and hit us while we were turning. This has been a really, really long nine weeks. The girls' injuries are healed, mine are not. This is my hard thing right now. I want God to redeem it, to use it for His glory, and my good. So I am choosing to overcome the listlessness and apathy that come at the end of each hard day, and write. I write a lot, then none, then a little more, it is sporadic. Today I am sharing from early on, just a handful of days after the accident.


Week one, part one


Here I lie, flat on my back like a corpse in a morgue, except I'm not dead.

I know I'm supposed to be thankful, rather I am supposed to give thanks in all circumstances, but truthfully, it is hard to give thanks when you're consumed by pain. It must be around 2 a.m., I'm afraid to try to turn over and reach for my phone to confirm this hypothesis. I've been a wake for a while now. I took more Tylenol already, cranked back up the temperature on the heating pad I'm lying on, and yet, the pain continues.

How could one little car wreck cause so much pain? Will I be stuck feeling this way forever? I surely hope not. I feel awful. At least it wasn't worse- I'm not in the hospital in traction - I'll give thanks for that. I don't think my husband believes I'm badly injured. He is used to me being able to do whatever needs done. I know I don't look injured, but Oh! how I feel it!

So here I lie in the dark in the middle of the night and think and pray. At least when I'm praying for others I can block out most of the pain. Oh wait. Who was I praying for? It's okay, I'll start again. The pain in my neck has made it difficult to hold my concentration these past few days since the accident. It has also made my right elbow and outside two fingers either tingle or go numb often.


to be continued...





Monday, July 27, 2020

A Bride of Convenience by Jody Hedlund - A Bethany House book review


Jody Hedlund, Bride ships, historic fiction, 1863 Vancouver Island


Jody Hedlund has a gift for weaving fictional characters into real historical events in a way that makes a reader want to read more. Her latest novel, A Bride of Convenience, is no exception. This well written book is set on and around Vancouver Island, British Columbia in 1863.

Abraham Merivale, known to locals as Pastor Abe is serving the Church of England during a five year stint as a missionary in the British Colonies. He spends most of his time in the mining camps outside of Vancouver, but comes down to check in with his Bishop and get supplies several times a year. He loves his job, the miners he serves, and the rugged mountains. What he doesn’t love are the Bishop’s ideas about how he should be re-creating the Church of England in the wilderness. Abe is more concerned with the state of men’s hearts than whether or not a new church building gets completed this year.

Zoe Hart has recently arrived in Vancouver upon one of the Bride Ships that left England, sailed around South America, and has brought dozens of former millworkers, all women, to this rugged land. She isn’t sure she wants to marry, unless it helps her find her twin brother who ran away from home after being falsely accused of setting a mill on fire. 

Zoe has a huge heart for others, and soon finds herself taking over the care of a native baby, Violet, whose mother died and whose English-born father has failed at mining due to his alcoholism. But she cannot keep the baby in the Marine barracks where the other bride-ship women are staying. The baby cries, and the women are looking for husbands, not outside responsibilities. While none of the women will be forced to wed, many are hopping to find either a husband of a job and leave the barracks as soon as possible. They do not understand Zoe's desire to take on baby that night prevent finding a husband, or a job.

Zoe is hurting from the loss of her friend who dies shortly after they arrive. Now she really needs the help of others, but isn’t sure whom to trust. Through an unusual turn of events, Pastor Abe finds himself suddenly without a fiancĂ© back home. He is reeling. Zoe is determined to find someone to help her find her brother. Local Dexter Dawson says he will take her if she marries him, but should she trust him? What about Pastor Abe?

Want to know what happens next? Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or online. It is also available as an E-book.

I found the storyline compelling. To think that literally hundreds of women arrived on a handful of bride ships, trusting that there would be something better than their lives in England when they arrived in Vancouver. What challenges and trials must they have faced back home to board a ship knowing they would very likely never return? Not only were they sailing half-way around the world, they were doing it through the same oceans that were filled with the warships of the American Civil War. 

One part I always appreciate about Hedlund’s series is that she includes some historical information at the end of each story. This helps the reader walk away with a deeper understanding of what parts of the story were history, and what were fiction. She often references the historic texts she used while researching as well.

If you are a fan of Jennifer Delamere, Elizabeth Camden, or Jocelyn Green you are sure to enjoy this third book in Hedlund’s The Bride Ships series. I give it 4.5 out of five stars.


I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Will you or won't you homeschool this year?

*affiliate links are used in this post*


I am not going to lie - you have a HUGE decision ahead of you in the next couple of weeks. What are you going to choose for your children's education for this semester? There is so much uncertainty out there about if in-person classes will happen at local schools, will parents be able to continue e-learning and still keep their jobs, and how will you balance it all?

There are choices, but there is also help! If you want to try homeschooling your children this fall, I'm going to cheer you on, point you to helpful resources, and try to answer as many of your questions as I can. If you choose e-learning - I'm going to cheer you on and support you as best as I can. If you send your children to class - I'm going to cheer you on, pray for their health and safety, and try to hold you up as you balance all those deadlines. Whichever option you choose: I support you!

I know homeschooling is not for everyone. It was tough, but we found it worth the effort. I worked anywhere from 15-35 hours outside of the home the entire 16 years we homeschooled our girls. And by saying "we homeschooled" I'm, really saying "I homeschooled" while Kurt went to work 40 or more hours a week to make sure we could pay the bills, and then made sure no one burned the house down while I slept on the weekends. ;)




If you are considering homeschooling, or wondering if e-learning will be enough, I encourage you to check out your options. There are full curriculums in a box you can purchase, or you can use an online resource like SchoolhouseTeachers.com that offers either full curriculum or single subject choices all for one price per family. If you love printed books, look to purchase as many of them as possible as used copies to save you some money. Many (most) homeschooling families sell their curriculum at a significant discount once they are finished with it. We always preferred printed math books, so I would budget to purchase them, then sell the teacher's books and DVD's to other homeschoolers once both girls were finished. A savings to the new owners, and a little cash to put towards the next year's books for us - a win-win! We used SchoolhouseTeachers to fill in the gaps between our printed resources, but I know many families use it exclusively.

Want to know more about how we homeschooled? There are dozens of posts here in the blog archives that you can read. Lots about field trips, many about different curriculum we used over the years, quite a few about being different than everybody else - and how that is perfectly okay, and most importantly, some timely posts about God's faithfulness to help us through both the good and bad times. God gave you those precious children for a reason - it is important that you find out why that is!

If you ARE considering homeschooling, but not quite sure where to start with curriculum, I suggest a family membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com. If you are certain you're going to homeschool, you can get their once-a-year Shark sale special of $179 for two years for the entire family. That works out to less than $8/month for two full years of curriculum for all grades. Use coupon code: SHARK20 - this offer is non-refundable. 

If you're still sitting on the fence about homeschooling, why not try the quarterly payment of $49.97 for all grades, or only $37.97 for PreK-8th grade? One of the best features of SchoolhouseTeachers is that it has helps for parents, streaming videos and world book access for families, and a truly helpful "Start Here" section.

Not sure homeschooling is really legal? It is - in ALL 50 states and Washington, D.C. You can do a quick web search for the requirements for your specific state in less than five minutes. That gives you a great perspective on what will be needed both to get started, and to follow through with homeschooling. 



And because I know your next question might be this one: what do I need to buy? I want to point you back to this ever popular post of ours about school supply lists for homeschoolers

Check it out, ask questions, and know I'll stand by you whatever educational option you choose for your children for this fall!