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December 31, 2010

Coffee Creamer Delight

I have another favorite to share with you all.  I love coffee...especially when I can "doctor" it up with tastey creamers!!  Now, don't pass out when I tell you this but, I have never ever liked Starbucks coffee!!  I've tried, ya'll, I have tried!  I don't think I know anyone else who doesn't care for it.  Trust me, I've tried something different everytime I've gone in and I just can't find anything better than a fresh cup of coffee at home with a great flavored creamer!!

I've always counted down the days until they bring out the Pumpkin Spice flavors in the fall.  Now I have discovered another new one that is D-I-V-I-N-E and I can have another seasonal countdown!!  Are you ready??
YES!!!!!  Chocolate Mint Truffle!!!!  OH MY!!  Just looking at the picture made me want this!!  Now my 16 year old is addicted to the stuff as well.  I think I could just drink it out of the bottle....I HAVE NOT TRIED THIS BY THE WAY...but I want to!!  hahaha

Nothing like chocolatey goodness with a hint of mint aftertaste!  You can't beat it!  I have always been a coffee creamer snob and only ever wanted coffee mate but when I saw the picture and read the name of the flavor, it sucked me in!  I had to cheat! 

I am sitting here right now with my great longaberger mug and my coffee with this wonderful creamer in it typing this post.  Ahhhhh, I am almost ready for the day!  hahaha  Go get ya some!  You wont' regret it!




***This is not a review and I am not being paid in any way to write this blog post. I am just wanting to share with my friends a product I have found that I truly appreciate.*** ENJOY!

December 28, 2010

Tom, Oh, Tom My New Fave Shoes!!

So, for Christmas my daughter wanted silver glitter Toms.
You know about those right???  If not, please go to Toms website and read all about them here.  They are doing a wonderful work!!  More on that later.

I (like others) searched every store in the local area AND in the area 2 hours away from me!!!  Crazy!!  I did happen to find a store that was "expecting" to receive a shipment in on Wednesday before Christmas.  They were kind enough to put my name on a list and the size and color I needed was spoken for.  All I had to do was go in on Wednesday, pay for them, go home and wrap them up!!  DONE!

Weeelllllllll, wouldn't you know that the store didn't receive their shipment.  Do you blame UPS?  Do you blame Tom's?  No, I actually blame myself for starting late...haha!  So, this momma had to get creative and blow up a picture of the silver glitter toms she wanted and wrapped them up.  She was thrilled that I got them and was unbelievably pleasant about knowing she would have to wait a few more days to get them.

After finally receiving their shipment, I had slowly developed a great appreciation for these shoes as well.  Hmmmm...I don't want to run around crazy looking all over for these shoes myself soooo, I took a shot in the dark!  While getting the details set for my daughters shoes, I happened to ask if they had a black glitter pair in my size.  Won't you know they did!!!  YAY! 

I just went and picked them up.  When I put them on and walked, it was PURE HEAVEN!  They feel so great on my feet.  Kinda like slippers. 


Aren't they c-u-t-e!!??  I also found the silver ones in my size so I now own 2 pair! I have also had to confess to my daughter of my purchase and I have promised to buy her a black pair when I find her size! ha

As mentioned before TOMS does a great thing.  Any time a pair of TOMS are purchased they send a pair of TOMS to a needy child.  I have taken an excerpt from their website for you to read about this program.


One for One


TOMS Shoes was founded on a simple premise: With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we're all about. The TOMS mission transforms our customers into benefactors, which allows us to grow a truly sustainable business rather than depending on fundraising for support.

Giving Is Catching On...

The TOMS mission of giving shoes has attracted other brands, resulting in unique and successful collaborations. Ralph Lauren sold co-branded Polo Rugby TOMS, giving a matched pair with every pair sold. Element Skateboards has issued limited edition TOMS + Element shoes as well as a One for One skateboard. With every skateboard purchased, one will be given to a child at the Indigo Skate Camp in Durban, South Africa. It is TOMS’ hope that as our One for One movement continues to grow, more and more companies will look to incorporate giving into what they do.

The TOMS Story

In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One. Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff later that year with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by TOMS customers.

As of September 2010, TOMS has given over one million pairs of new shoes to children in need through Giving Partners around the world. 


Such great shoes and they are doing such a wonderful thing for the children of our world!!  Go look around at their website.  Find a store that sells these fabulous shoes, try them on your feet and see if you don't have the urge to walk out of the store with those on your feet!!  Trust me, you'll love them!

***This is not a review and I am not being paid in any way to write this blog post.  I am just wanting to share with my friends a product I have found that I truly appreciate.***  ENJOY!

December 9, 2010

Book Review - Blind Hope


Title: Blind Hope: An Unwanted Dog and the Woman She Rescued
Author: Kim Meeder and Laurie Sacher
Publisher: Multnomah Books
Publication Date: July 20, 2010
Paperback: 208 pages
ISBN: 978-1601422804
Genre: Inspirational/Non-Fiction

From the Publisher:
An unwanted dog. An emotional rescue.

Two lives forever changed.

Laurie’s dreams had been shattered before she came to work at Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch—the ranch of rescued dreams—where broken horses and broken children encounter healing every day. In an attempt to soothe her aching soul, Laurie reached out to save a dog in need. And she soon began to realize that the dog was rescuing her.

An inspiring true story told through the engaging voice of Kim Meeder, Blind Hope reveals poignant life lessons Laurie experienced from her ailing, yet courageous canine friend. Despite the blindness of her dog—and her own heart—Laurie uncovered what she really needed most: authentic love, unconditional trust, and true acceptance, faults and all.

As Laurie and her dog, Mia, both learned to follow the lead of a master they couldn’t see, Laurie discovered the transforming power of God’s grace even for imperfect and selfish people—and she experienced a greater love than she had ever known.



About the Authors:
Kim Meeder is the cofounder and director of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, an organization that rescues abused and dying horses and pairs them with children in need. Kim’s first book, Hope Rising, propelled the ranch to win the national Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award and launched her extensive public/motivational speaking schedule at schools, churches, and governmental conferences across the United States. She and her husband, Troy, have been married for twenty-five years and live in Central Oregon. The size of their family fluctuates each year with the number of horses and kids that they rescue.

Laurie Sacher is a team leader at Crystal Peaks Youth. Laurie graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2003 and taught English as Second Language in Spain before returning to her native California roots to pursue her passion for kids and animals. When she isn’t working at the ranch, Laurie enjoys running with her dog, snowboarding, hiking, horseback riding, and spending time in coffee shops with friends.

I received a complimentary copy of Blind Hope by Kim Meeder and Laurie Sacher from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.

 
My Review:
This is a story of complete unabandoned and unconditional love.  Laurie arrived at Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch broken and hopeless.  She was holding strong to all of her emotions and not sharing with anyone while volunteering at the ranch.  While at the ranch she decides to rescue a dog, sight unseen.  Her thoughts and ideas of this dog were dashed on the rocks when she went to pick up the dog.  Struggling with whether to stick with this dog or give up on it, she realizes that this relationship was helping her in more ways than she could count.  Blind Hope is a very short book that is set up in conversation mode between Kim and Laurie.  The insights to this book are completely overwhelming.  There are moments of joy, laughing and tears.  You truly "get" the relationship and the love that builds and grows between Laurie and this dog.
 
Such a wonderful feel good story!!  This book is great for every age.

December 8, 2010

Not A Very Diligent Blogger

Oh my!!  I must apologize to anyone who reads my blog!  I have not been a very diligent blogger the past 1-2 months.  I have been sooooooo stinkin' busy that my head is beginning to spin!! 

It seems like after halloween was over, my life began a downhill spiral into the busyness of schedules that are almost too much for me to handle!!  First of all, it didn't help that I was in Africa from Nov. 7-11 and before that spent two days in Dallas preparing for our church's Ladies Christmas party that I am in charge of this year.  When I got home from Africa, I was kind of sick and jetlagged.  By the time I felt kind of back to normal, it was time to load up the family and drive home to Mississippi for Thanksgiving.  Another 5 days away from the house and then December was here on us.  With December comes all of the holiday parties, still working on finalizing the Ladies Christmas Party and BASKETBALL!!!!!!!!!  Did I mention basketball??

I have TWO children playing basketball this year.  My youngest (Andrew - 11) has been playing basketball for 3-4 years now.  It's so much fun to go to his games and watch them INDOORS (away from the cold).  Well, this year my daughter (Hannah - 13) decided she wanted to play basketball FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HER LIFE!!!  So, we have practice schedules AND games that go on for two kids at the same time usually!  It's been trying but I know it's worth it!!

Just for giggles - here's a peek into what our schedules have been like:

MONDAY - Daughter has game (away).  Son has a double header (in town).  I have a meeting at the church.  All of this happens at the same time...what in the world!!!!

TUESDAY - Daughter gets in school suspension and has no game.  Son has another game (in town).  I have a Bunco Christmas party.  AGAIN, all of this happening at the same time!

WEDNESDAY - Daughter STILL IN ISS.  Church for all of us.

THURSDAY - Daughter has a game (away).  Son has ball practice (in town).  ME - NOTHING!!! except picking up children.

FRIDAY - Both kids go to their dads.  I have TWO parties to be at.  Guess my evening will be split up between those.

SATURDAY - Can I say I am being ABSOLUTELY LAZY!!!??  I do have ANOTHER  party to attend that evening but nothing all day!

SUNDAY - Church, Church, Church.  Plus have to be there early to finalize some things for the Ladies Christmas Party on Monday AND stay late to set up the gym for the party.  WHEW!

Ya'll!!!!  I am exhausted!!!  That's just schedules that's been going on.  Not to mention LIFE that happens whether you're tired or bouncing off the walls excited!! 

I am SOOOOO ready to get back to a normal life.  Just another week or so more and then I can chill out!! HA!  I do hope everyones Christmas season is going well!!

Ciao!

December 1, 2010

Mama’s Holiday Wish List Meme

TodaysMama and GameStop are giving away a sleighful of gifts this holiday season and to enter I’m sharing this meme with you.

1. What is your holiday wish for your family?
That GETTING THINGS would not be the main focus this year.  My children truly need to wake up and realize how privileged we are as Americans! 

2. What is your Christmas morning / Hanukkah Nightly tradition?
Open presents first thing!!  I like to have an overnight Christmas rolls waiting in the fridge to pop right in the oven so we can have warm, gooey cinnamon rolls.

3. If you could ask Santa for one, completely decadent wish for yourself, what would it be?
A swimming pool.

4. How do you make the holidays special without spending any money?
It took me a while to think about this one.  I guess I would truthfully have to say that I don't believe there is anything that I do to make the holidays special without spending money somehow.  OBVIOUSLY, the decor makes it special but it was purchased with money.  Not necessarily this year but previously in the future. 

5. What games did you play with your family growing up?
None.  I was an only child and my family didn't play games.  If I played games it was with other families.  I LOVED hungry hungry hippo and I played Mr. Hand a lot by myself!

6. What holiday tradition have you carried on from your own childhood?
Still like to open ONE present on Christmas Eve.  That was something I anticipated as a child and I still do that with my children.

7. Where would you go for a Christmas/Hanukkah-away-from-home trip?
New York City would be nice.

8. Check out GameStop and tell us, what are the three top items on your GameStop Wish List this year?
#1 - Kinect games.
#2 - Call of Duty - Black Ops
#3 - DSi XL


SERIOUSLY MOMS, if you have a child in your home that is OBSESSED with electronics like mine are...CHECK OUT THE GIVEAWAY AT TODAYS MAMA THAT IS HAPPENING!!  It's UNBELIEVABLE!!
 
WE LOVE GAMESTOP!!!!!!!!

November 23, 2010

Album Review: "...Featuring Norah Jones" - by Norah Jones


Norah Jones' newest CD "...Featuring Norah Jones" was released on Tuesday, November 16, 2010.  I was privileged enough to be asked to review this new album.  I was soooo excited and could not wait!

I left for Africa on the 7th and the CD had not made it to my home before I traveled.  I was hoping to be able to listen to it during all of my flight time...but oh well!  When I got home, I ripped into the package immediately!!!  I couldn't wait to pop it in and listen.  I was NOT disappointed!!

This collection of 18 songs with various artists is outstanding!!  There are a couple of songs that I don't really care for BUT the majority of it is just fabulous!!!  My favorites would have to be "Baby It's Cold Outside" with Willie Nelson, "Creepin' In" with Dolly Parton and "Blue Bayou" with M. Ward.

Here is an excerpt taken from her PR release on August 19, 2010:
The tracks on …Featuring span her entire career, from one of her earliest recording sessions (a version of Roxy Music’s “More Than This” with guitarist Charlie Hunter in 2001) to her most recent performance, a song called “Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John” that she cut with Belle and Sebastian, which will also appear on their new album. The result serves as a kind of parallel history to her own four albums, which have sold over 40 million copies worldwide.

These collaborations reveal Jones’s astonishing musical versatility, from jazz to country, hip-hop to rock. Three of the songs on …Featuring originally appeared on records that won Grammy awards forAlbum of the Year (Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company, Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters, and OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below), and several others were also nominated for
Grammys.

The album also includes recordings by some of Jones’s own bands and side projects (The Little Willies and El Madmo), and performances with artists that she’s toured with including M. Ward, Sasha Dobson, and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Songs on …Featuring range from classics recorded by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, and Roy Orbison to new material by such wide-ranging innovators as Ryan Adams and Q-Tip.
 


Thank you to One2One Network for this complimentary CD in exchange for my honest review on my blog!


For Norah Jones website and to order the new CD go here



November 20, 2010

Jambo!!! I Am Back in the USA!

Jambo, Rafiki!!!  I am so glad to be back home!!  I left for Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday, November 7.  A team of 12 from my church went with two other churches to assist an orphanage with some major needs.  We had an UNBELIEVABLE time!!  I have close to 1,000 pictures and will be forced to narrow that down!  It is going to be a great task for me to do that!!  I think it would be best to break them up into several posts.  I think I will start that post tomorrow.  For now, here's a peek at my experiences:

The roof over the boy's dorm - FIRST PRIORITY!!

 Meeting the Kenya's Kids for the first time.

Momma Paticia, Miriam and Faith greeting us on our first day.

Working on the roof with clouds looming behind.

Happy children!!!

Giving gifts to the kids.  Much needed gifts!!

Freshening up the front of the orphanage with paint.

Me with a few of the girls at the orphanage.

More details and wonderful pictures to come!!  What a lifechanging experience!!

November 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Grandbabies!!!!  HOW FUN!!



October 30, 2010

Africa Countdown

I have 7 days until the beginning of an adventure begins. I am getting very very excited about experiencing Africa. We will be going to Kenya to assist an orphanage in reroofing their building. I am understanding that the roof is so bad that the children are getting wet during the night when they sleep. How sad!! We will also be going to another village and putting up a tabernacle. Oh how I hope we get to do that!! That is the plan in the event we finish with the roof early. On our last two days before leaving for the airport, we will be in the Serengeti for a two day safari. Such an experience!!

If you can tell by the left side of my page, I am almost half way there to my funds!! Soooooo blessed and thrilled by that!! I would like to commission my blog followers to keep me in your prayers. While we are going to do God's work, we still need supporters at home covering us in prayer for safety. Please pass this along to your friends, the more the better!! Thank you all that have donated and thank you all that are willing to pray for me and the group that will be going to minister. I can not wait to share photos from Africa!!!

God bless!

October 29, 2010

Book Review: "The God Hater"

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The God Hater

Howard Books; Original edition (September 28, 2010)

***Special thanks to Libby Reed, Publicity Assistant, HOWARD BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Bill Myers is an author, screenwriter, and director whose work has won more than fifty national and international awards, including the C.S. Lewis Honor Award.

Visit the Book Specific Site.

Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Howard Books; Original edition (September 28, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439153264
ISBN-13: 978-1439153260

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



Samuel Preston, a local reporter with bronzed skin and glow-in-the-dark teeth, turned to one of the guests of his TV show, God Talk. “So what’s your take on all of this, Dr. Mackenzie?”

The sixty-something professor stared silently at his wristwatch. He had unruly white hair and wore an outdated sports coat.

“Dr. Mackenzie?”

He glanced up, disoriented, then turned to the host who repeated the question. “What are your feelings about the book?”

Clearing his throat, Mackenzie raised the watch to his ear and gave it a shake. “I was wondering . . .” He dropped off, his bushy eyebrows gathered into a scowl as he listened for a sound.

The second guest, a middle-aged pastor with a shirt collar two sizes too small, smiled, “Yes?”

Mackenzie gave up on the watch and turned to him. “Do you make up this drivel as you go along? Or do you simply parrot others who have equally stunted intellects?”

The pastor, Dr. William Hathaway, blinked. Still smiling, he turned back to the host. “I was under the impression we were going to discuss my new book?”

“Oh, we are,” Preston assured him. “But it’s always good to have a skeptic or two in the midst, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Ah,” Hathaway nodded, “of course.” He turned back to Mackenzie, his smile never wavering. “I am afraid what you term as ‘drivel’ is based upon a faith stretching back thousands of years.”

Mackenzie removed one or two dog hairs from his slacks. “We have fossilized dinosaur feces older than that.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Just because something’s old, doesn’t stop it from being crap.”

Dr. Hathaway’s smile twitched. He turned in his chair so he could more fully address the man. “We’re talking about a time honored religion that millions of —”

“And that’s supposed to be a plus,” Mackenzie said, “that it’s religious? I thought you wanted to support your nonsense.”

“I see. Well it may interest you to know that—“

“Actually, it doesn’t interest me at all.” The old man turned to Preston. “How much longer will we be?”

The host chuckled. “Just a few more minutes, Professor.”

Working harder to maintain his smile, Hathaway replied, “So, if I understand correctly, you’re not a big fan of the benefits of Christianity?”

“Benefits?” Mackenzie pulled a used handkerchief from his pocket and began looking for an unsoiled portion. “Is that what the 30,000 Jews who were tortured and killed during the Inquisition called it? Benefits?”

“That’s not entirely fair.”

“And why is that?”

“For starters, most of them weren’t Jews.”

“I’m sure they’re already feeling better.”

“What I am saying is—”

“What you are saying, Mr . . . Mr—”

“Actually, it’s Doctor.”

“Actually, you’re a liar.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Finding an unused area of his handkerchief, Mackenzie took off his glasses and cleaned them.

The pastor continued. “It may interest you to know that—”

“We’ve already established my lack of interest.”

“It may interest you to know that I hold several honorary doctorates.”

“Honorary doctorates.”

“That’s correct.”

“Honorary, as in unearned, as in good for nothing . . . unless it’s to line the bottom of bird cages.” He held his glasses to the light, checking for any remaining smudges.

Hathaway took a breath and regrouped. “You can malign my character all you wish, but there is no refuting the benefits outlined in my new book.”

“Ah yes, the benefits.” Mackenzie lowered his glasses and worked on the other lens. “Like the million plus lives slaughtered during the Crusades?”

“That figure can be disputed.”

“Correct. It may be higher.”

Hathaway shifted in his seat. “The Crusades were a long time ago and in an entirely different culture.”

“So you’d prefer something closer to home? Perhaps the witch hunts of New England?”

“I’m not here to—”

“Fifteen thousand human beings murdered in Europe and America. Fifteen thousand.”

“Again, that’s history and not a part of today’s—”

“Then let us discuss more recent atrocities—towards the blacks, the gays, the Muslim population. Perhaps a dialogue on the bombing of abortion clinics?”

“Please, if you would allow me—”

Mackenzie turned to Preston. “Are we finished here?”

Fighting to be heard, Hathaway continued. “If people will read my book, they will clearly see—”

“Are we finished?”

“Yes, Professor,” Preston chuckled. “I believe we are.”

“But we’ve not discussed my Seven Steps to Successful—”

“Perhaps another time, Doctor.”

Mackenzie rose, shielding his eyes from the bright studio lights as Hathaway continued. “But there are many issues we need to—”

“I’m sure there are,” Preston agreed while keeping an eye on Mackenzie who stepped from the platform and headed off camera. “And I’m sure it’s all there in your book. Seven Steps to—”


***

Annie Brooks clicked off the remote to her television.

“Mom,” Rusty mumbled, “I was watching . . .” he drifted back to sleep without finishing the protest.

She looked down at the five year old and smiled. He lay in bed beside her, his hands still clutching Horton Hears a Who! Each night he’d been reading it to her, though she suspected it was more reciting from memory than reading. She tenderly kissed the top of his head before absent-mindedly looking back to the TV.

He’d done it again. Her colleague and friend—if Dr. Nicholas Mackenzie could be said to have any friends—had shredded another person of faith. This time a Christian, some mega-church pastor hawking his latest book. Next time it could just as easily be a Jew or Muslim or Buddhist. The point was that Nicholas hated religion. And Heaven help anybody who tried to defend it.

She sighed and looked back down to her son. He was breathing heavily, mouth slightly ajar. She brushed the bangs from his face and gave him another kiss. She’d carry him back to bed soon enough. But for now she would simply savor his presence. Nothing gave her more joy. And for that, with or without Nicholas’ approval, Annie Brooks was grateful to her God.


* * * * *


“Excuse me?” Nicholas called from the back seat of the Lincoln Town Car.

The driver didn’t hear.

He leaned forward and spoke louder. “You just passed the freeway entrance.”

The driver, some black kid with a shaved head, turned on the stereo. It was an urban chant, its beat so powerful Nicholas could feel it pounding in his gut. He unbuckled his seat belt and scooted to the open partition separating them. “Excuse me! You—”

The tinted window slid up, nearly hitting him in the face.

He pulled back in surprise, then banged on the glass. “Excuse me!” The music was fainter but still vibrated the car. “Excuse me!”

No response.

He slumped back into the seat. Stupid kid. And rude. He’d realize his mistake soon enough. And after Nicholas’ call to the TV station tomorrow, he’d be back on the streets looking for another job. Trying to ignore the music, Nicholas stared out the window, watching the Santa Barbara lights soften as fog rolled in. Over the years the station’s drivers had always been polite and courteous. Years, as in Nicholas was a frequent guest on God Talk. Despite his general distain for people, not to mention his reclusive lifestyle, he always accepted the producer’s invitation. Few things gave him more pleasure than exposing the toxic nature of religion. Besides, these outings provided a nice change of pace. Instead of the usual stripping away of na├»ve college students’ faith in his classroom, the TV guests occasionally provided a challenge.

Occasionally.

Other than his duties at the University of California Santa Barbara, these trips were his only exposure to the outside world. He had abandoned society long ago. Or rather, it had abandoned him. Not that there was any love lost. Today’s culture was an intellectual wasteland—a world of pre-chewed ideas, politically correct causes, sound bite news coverage, and novels that were nothing more than comic books. (He’d given up on movies and television long ago.) Why waste his time on such pabulum when he could surround himself with Sartre, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche—men whose work would provide more meaningful companionship in one evening than most people could in a lifetime.

Nevertheless, he did tolerate Ari, even fought to keep her during the divorce. She was his faithful companion for over fifteen years, though he should have put her down months ago. Deaf and blind, the golden retriever’s hips had begun to fail. But she wasn’t in pain. Not yet. And until that time, he didn’t mind cleaning up after her occasional accidents or calling in the vet for those expensive house calls. He owed her that. Partially because of her years of patient listening, and partially because of the memories.

The car turned right and entered a residential area. He glanced down to the glowing red buttons on the console beside him. One of them was an intercom to the driver. But, like Herbert Marcuse, the great Neo-Marxist of the 20th Century (and, less popularly, Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber of the 1980s) Nicholas mistrusted modern technology as much as he scorned the society that created it. How many times had Annie, a fellow professor, pleaded with him to buy a telephone . . .

“What if there’s an emergency?” she’d insisted. “What if someone needs to call you?”

“Like solicitors?”

“They have Do Not Call lists,” she said. “You can go online and be added to their—”

“Online?”

“Okay, you can write them a letter.”

“And give them what, more personal information?”

“They’d only ask for your phone number.”

“Not if I don’t have one.”

And so the argument continued off and on for years . . . as gift occasions came and went, as his closet gradually filled with an impressive collection of telephones. One thing you could say about Annie Brooks, she was persistent—which may be why he put up with her company, despite the fact she doted over him like he was some old man who couldn’t take care of himself. Besides, she had a good head on her shoulders, when she chose to use it, which meant she occasionally contributed something of worth to their conversations.

Then, of course, there was her boy.

The car slowed. Having no doubt learned the error of his ways, the driver was turning around. Not that it would help him keep his job. That die had already been cast. But the car wasn’t turning. Instead, it pulled to the curb and came to a stop. The locks shot up and the right rear door immediately opened. A man in his early forties appeared—strong jaw, short hair, with a dark suit, white shirt, and black tie.

“Good evening, Doctor.” He slid onto the leather seat beside him.

“Who are you?” Nicholas demanded.

The man closed the door and the car started forward. “I apologize for the cloak and dagger routine, but—”

“Who are you?”

He flipped open an ID badge. “Brad Thompson, HLS.”

“Who?”

“Homeland Security Agent Brad Thompson.” He returned the badge to his coat pocket.

“You’re with the government?”

“Yes sir, Homeland Security.”

“And you’ve chosen to interrupt my ride home because . . .”

“Again, I apologize, but it’s about your brother.”

Nicholas stared at him, giving him no satisfaction of recognition.

“Your brother,” the agent repeated, “Travis Mackenzie?”

Nicholas held his gaze another moment before looking out the window. “Is he in trouble again?”

“Has he contacted you?”

“My brother and I seldom communicate.”

“Yes, sir, about every eighteen months if our information is correct.”

The agent’s knowledge unsettled Nicholas. He turned back to the man. “May I see your identification again?”

“Pardon me?”

“Your identification. You barely allowed me to look at it.”

The agent reached back into his suit coat. “Please understand this is far more serious than his drug conviction, or his computer hacking, or the DUIs.”

Nicholas adjusted his glasses, waiting for the identification.

The agent flipped open his ID holder. “We at HLS are very concerned about his involvement—”

Suddenly, headlights appeared through the back window, their beams on high. The agent looked over his shoulder, then swore under his breath. He reached for the intercom, apparently to give orders to the driver, but the town car was already beginning to accelerate.

“What’s the problem?” Nicholas asked.

The car turned sharply to the left and continued picking up speed.

“I asked you what is happening,” Nicholas repeated.

“Your brother, Professor. Where is he?”

The headlights reappeared behind them, closing in.

“You did not allow me to examine your identification.”

“Please, Doctor—”

“If you do not allow me to examine your identification, I see little—”

“We’ve no time for that!”

The outburst stopped Nicholas as the car took another left, so sharply both men braced themselves against the seat.

The agent turned back to him. “Where is your brother?”

Once again the lights appeared behind them.

Refusing to be bullied, Nicholas repeated, “Unless I’m convinced of your identity, I have little—”

The agent sprang toward him. Grabbing Nicholas’ shirt, he yanked him to his face and shouted, “Where is he?!”

Surprised, but with more pride than common sense, Nicholas answered. “As I said—”

The agent’s fist was a blur as it struck Nicholas’ nose. Nicholas felt the cartilage snap, knew the pain would follow. As would the blood.

“WHERE IS HE?”

The car turned right, tires squealing, tossing the men to the other side. As Nicholas sat up, the agent pulled something from his jacket. There was the black glint of metal and suddenly a cold gun barrel was pressed against his neck. He felt fear rising and instinctively pushed back the emotion. It wasn’t the gun that concerned him, but the fear. That was his enemy. If he could focus, rely on his intellect, he’d have the upper hand. Logic trumped emotion every time. It was a truth that sustained him through childhood, kept him alive in Vietnam, and gave him the strength to survive in today’s world.

The barrel pressed harder.

When he knew he could trust his voice, he answered, “The last time I saw my brother was Thanksgiving.”

The car hit the brakes, skidding to a stop, sliding Nicholas off the seat and onto his knees. The agent caught himself, managing to stay seated. Up ahead, through the glass partition, Nicholas saw a second vehicle racing toward them—a van or truck, its beams also on high.

The agent pounded the partition. “Get us out of here.” he shouted at the driver. “Now!”

The town car lurched backward. It bounced up a curb and onto a front lawn. Tires spun, spitting grass and mud, until they dug in and the vehicle took off. It plowed through a hedge of junipers, branches scraping underneath, then across another lawn. Nicholas looked out his side window as they passed the first vehicle which had been behind them, a late model SUV. They veered back onto the road, snapping off a mailbox. Once again the driver slammed on the brakes, turning hard to the left, throwing the vehicle into a 180 until they were suddenly behind the SUV, facing the opposite direction. Tires screeched as they sped off.

The agent hit the intercom and yelled, “Dump the Professor and get us out of here!”

The car continued to accelerate and made another turn.

Pulling Nicholas into the seat and shoving the gun into his face, the agent shouted, “This is the last time I’m asking!”

Nicholas’ heart pounded, but he kept his voice even. “I have already told you.”

The man chambered a round. But it barely mattered. Nicholas had found his center and would not be moved. “I have not seen him in months.”

“Thanksgiving?”

“Yes.”

The car made another turn.

“And?”

Nicholas turned to face him. “We ate a frozen dinner and I sent him away.”

The agent searched his eyes. Nicholas held his gaze, unblinking. The car took one last turn, bouncing up onto an unlit driveway, then jerked to a stop. There was no sound, except the pounding music.

“Get out,” the agent ordered.

Nicholas looked through the window. “I have no idea where we—”

“Now.”

Nicholas reached for the handle, opened his door and stepped outside. The air was cold and damp.

“Shut the door.”

He obeyed.

The town car lunged backward, lights off. Once it reached the road it slid to a stop, changed gears and sped off. Nicholas watched as it disappeared into the fog, music still throbbing even after it was out of sight. Only then did he appreciate the pain in his nose and the warm copper taste of blood in his mouth. Still, with grim satisfaction, he realized, he had won. As always, logic and intellect had prevailed.

October 28, 2010

Book Review: "Uncertain Heart" (Seasons of Redemption, Book 2)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Uncertain Heart (Seasons of Redemption, Book 2)

Realms (October 5, 2010)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar is a certified Christian life coach and speaks at writers’ conferences and for women’s groups. She has taught workshops at such conferences as: Write-To-Publish; American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW); Oregon Christian Writers Conference; Mount Hermon Writers Conference and many local writers conferences. Another of Andrea’s accomplishments is co-founder of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization. For many years she served on both its Advisory Board and as its CEO.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616380233
ISBN-13: 978-1616380236

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Milwaukee, Wisconsin, June 1866

Stepping off the train, her valise in hand, Sarah McCabe eyed her surroundings. Porters hauled luggage and shouted orders to each other. Reunited families and friends hugged while well-dressed businessmen, wearing serious expressions, walked briskly along.
Mr. Brian Sinclair . . .
Sarah glanced around for the man she thought might be him. When nobody approached her, she ambled to the front of the train station where the city was bustling as well. What with all the carriages and horse-pulled streetcars coming and going on Reed Street, it was all Sarah could do just to stay out of the way. And yet she rejoiced in the discovery that Milwaukee was not the small community she’d assumed. There was not a farm in sight, and it looked nothing like her hometown of Jericho Junction, Missouri.
Good. She breathed a sigh and let her gaze continue to wander. Milwaukee wasn’t all that different from Chicago, where she’d visited and hoped to teach music in the fall. The only difference she could see between the two cities was that Milwaukee’s main streets were cobbled, whereas most of Chicago’s were paved with wooden blocks.
Sarah squinted into the morning sunshine. She wondered which of the carriages lining the curb belonged to Mr. Sinclair. In his letter he’d stated that he would meet her train. Sarah glanced at her small watch locket: 9:30 a.m. Sarah’s train was on time this morning. Had she missed him somehow?
My carriage will be parked along Reed Street, Mr. Sinclair had written in the letter in which he’d offered Sarah the governess position. I shall arrive the same time as your train: 9:00 a.m. The letter had then been signed: Brian Sinclair.
Sarah let out a sigh and tried to imagine just what she would say to her new employer once he finally came for her. Then she tried to imagine what the man looked like. Older. Distinguished. Balding and round through the middle. Yes, that’s what he probably looked like.
She eyed the crowd, searching for someone who matched the description. Several did, although none of them proved to be Mr. Sinclair. Expelling another sigh, Sarah resigned herself to the waiting.
Her mind drifted back to her hometown of Jericho Junction, Missouri. There wasn’t much excitement to be had there. Sarah longed for life in the big city, to be independent and enjoy some of the refinements not available at home. It was just a shame the opportunity in Chicago didn’t work out for her. Well, at least she didn’t have to go back. She’d found this governess position instead.
As the youngest McCabe, Sarah had grown tired of being pampered and protected by her parents as well as her three older brothers―Benjamin, Jacob, and Luke―and her older sisters, Leah and Valerie. They all had nearly suffocated her―except for Valerie. Her sister-in-law was the only one who really understood her. Her other family members loved her too, but Sarah felt restless and longed to be out on her own. So she’d obtained a position at a fine music academy in Chicago―or so she’d thought. When she arrived in Chicago, she was told the position had been filled. But instead of turning around and going home, Sarah spent every last cent on a hotel room and began scanning local newspapers for another job. That’s when she saw the advertisement. A widower by the name of Brian Sinclair was looking for a governess to care for his four children. Sarah answered the ad immediately, she and Mr. Sinclair corresponded numerous times over the last few weeks, she’d obtained permission from her parents―which had taken a heavy amount of persuasion―and then she had accepted the governess position. She didn’t have to go home after all. She would work in Milwaukee for the summer. Then for the fall, Mr. Withers, the dean of the music academy in Chicago, promised there’d be an opening.
Now, if only Mr. Sinclair would arrive.
In his letter of introduction he explained that he owned and operated a business called Sinclair and Company: Ship Chandlers and Sail-makers. He had written that it was located on the corner of Water and Erie Streets. Sarah wondered if perhaps Mr. Sinclair had been detained by his business. Next she wondered if she ought to make her way to his company and announce herself if indeed that was the case.
An hour later Sarah felt certain that was indeed the case!
Reentering the depot, she told the baggage man behind the counter that she’d return shortly for her trunk of belongings and, aft er asking directions, ventured off for Mr. Sinclair’s place of business.
As instructed, she walked down Reed Street and crossed a bridge over the Milwaukee River. Then two blocks east and she found herself on Water Street. From there she continued to walk the distance to Sinclair and Company.
She squinted into the sunshine and scrutinized the building from where she stood across the street. It was three stories high, square in shape, and constructed of red brick. Nothing like the wooden structures back home.
Crossing the busy thoroughfare, which was not cobbled at all but full of mud holes, Sarah lifted her hems and climbed up the few stairs leading to the front door. She let herself in, a tiny bell above the door signaling her entrance.
“Over here. What can I do for you?”
Sarah spotted the owner of the voice that sounded quite automatic in its welcome. She stared at the young man, but his gaze didn’t leave his ledgers. She noted his neatly parted straight blond hair―as blond as her own―and his round wire spectacles.
Sarah cleared her throat. “Yes, I’m looking for Mr. Sinclair.”
The young man looked up and, seeing Sarah standing before his desk, immediately removed his glasses and stood. She gauged his height to be about six feet. Attired nicely, he wore a crisp white dress shirt and black tie, although his dress jacket was nowhere in sight and his shirtsleeves had been rolled to the elbow.
“Forgive me.” He sounded apologetic, but his expression was one of surprise. “I thought you were one of the regulars. They come in, holler their orders at me, and help themselves.”
Sarah gave him a courteous smile.
“I’m Richard Navis,” he said, extending his hand. “And you are . . . ?”
“Sarah McCabe.” She placed her hand in his and felt his firm grip.
“A pleasure to meet you, Mrs. McCabe.”
“Miss,” she corrected.
“Ahhh . . . ” His deep blue eyes twinkled. “Then more’s the pleasure, Miss McCabe.” He bowed over her hand in a regal manner, and Sarah yanked it free as he chuckled.
“That was very amusing.” She realized he’d tricked her in order to check her marital status. The cad. But worse, she’d fallen for it! Th e oldest trick in the book, according to her three brothers.
Richard chuckled, but then put on a very businesslike demeanor. “And how can I help you, Miss McCabe?”
“I’m looking for Mr. Sinclair, if you please.” Sarah noticed the young man’s dimples had disappeared with his smile.
“You mean the captain? Captain Sinclair?”
“Captain?” Sarah frowned. “Well, I don’t know . . . ”
“I do, since I work for him.” Richard grinned, and once more his dimples winked at her. “He manned a gunboat on the Mississippi during the war and earned his captain’s bars. When he returned from service, we all continued to call him Captain out of respect.”
“ I see.” Sarah felt rather bemused. “All right . . . then I’m looking for Captain Sinclair, if you please.”
“Captain Sinclair is unavailable,” Richard stated with an amused spark in his eyes, and Sarah realized he’d been leading her by the nose since she’d walked through the door. “I’m afraid you’ll have to do with the likes of me.”
She rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Mr. Navis, you will not do at all. I need to see the captain. It’s quite important, I assure you. I wouldn’t bother him otherwise.”
“My apologies, Miss McCabe, but the captain’s not here. Now, how can I help you?”
“You can’t!”
The young man raised his brows and looked taken aback by her sudden tone of impatience. This couldn’t be happening. Another job and another closed door. She had no money to get home, and wiring her parents to ask for funds would ruin her independence forever in their eyes.
She crossed her arms and took several deep breaths, wondering what on Earth she should do now. She gave it several moments of thought. “Will the captain be back soon, do you think?” She tried to lighten her tone a bit.
Richard shook his head. “I don’t expect him until this evening. He has the day off and took a friend on a lake excursion to Green Bay. However, he usually stops in to check on things, day off or not . . . Miss McCabe? Are you all right? You look a bit pale.” A dizzying, sinking feeling fell over her.
Richard came around the counter and touched her elbow. “Miss McCabe?”
She managed to reach into the inside pocket of her jacket and pull out the captain’s last letter―the one in which he stated he would meet her train. She looked at the date . . . today’s. So it wasn’t she that was off but he!

“It seems that Captain Sinclair has forgotten me.” She felt a heavy frown crease her brow as she handed the letter to Richard.
He read it and looked up with an expression of deep regret. “It seems you’re right.”
Folding the letter carefully, he gave it back to Sarah. She accepted it, fretting over her lower lip, wondering what she should do next.
“I’m the captain’s steward,” Richard offered. “Allow me to fetch you a cool glass of water while I think of an appropriate solution.”
“Thank you.” Oh, this was just great. But at least she sensed Mr. Navis truly meant to help her now instead of baiting her as he had before.
Sitting down at a long table by the enormous plate window, Sarah smoothed the wrinkles from the pink-and-black skirt of her two-piece traveling suit. Next she pulled off her gloves as she awaited Mr. Navis’s return. He’s something of a jokester, she decided, and she couldn’t help but compare him to her brother Jake. However, just now, before he’d gone to fetch the water, he had seemed very sweet and thoughtful . . . like Ben, her favorite big brother. But Richard’s clean-cut, boyish good looks and sun-bronzed complexion . . . now they were definitely like Luke, her other older brother.
Sarah let her gaze wander about the shop. She was curious about all the shipping paraphernalia. But before she could really get a good look at the place, Richard returned with two glasses of water. He set one before Sarah, took the other for himself, and then sat down across the table from her.
He took a long drink. “I believe the thing to do,” he began, “is to take you to the captain’s residence. I know his housekeeper, Mrs. Schlyterhaus.”
Sarah nodded. It seemed the perfect solution. “I do appreciate it, Mr. Navis, although I hate to pull you away from your work.” She gave a concerned glance toward the books piled on the desk.
Richard just chuckled. “Believe it or not, Miss McCabe, you are a godsend. I had just sent a quick dart of a prayer to the Lord, telling Him that I would much rather work outside on a fine day like this than be trapped in here with my ledgers. Then you walked in.” He grinned. “Your predicament, Miss McCabe, will have me working out-of-doors yet!”
Sarah smiled, heartened that he seemed to be a believer. “But what will the captain have to say about your abandonment of his books?” She arched a brow.
Richard responded with a sheepish look. “Well, seeing this whole mess is hisfault, I suspect the captain won’t say too much at all.”
laughed in spite of herself, as did Richard. However, when their eyes met―sky blue and sea blue―an uncomfortable silence settled down around them.
was the first to turn away. She forced herself to look around the shop and then remembered her curiosity. “What exactly do you sell here?” She felt eager to break the sudden awkwardness.
“ Well, exactly,” Richard said, appearing amused, “we are ship chandlers and sail-makers and manufacturers of flags, banners, canvas belting, brewers’ sacks, paulins of all kinds, waterproof horse and wagon covers, sails, awnings, and tents.” He paused for a breath, acting quite dramatic about it, and Sarah laughed again. “We are dealers in vanilla, hemp, and cotton cordage, lath yarns, duck of all widths, oakum, tar, pitch, paints, oars, tackle, and purchase blocks . . . exactly!”
swallowed the last of her giggles and arched a brow. “That’s it?”
grinned. “Yes, well,” he conceded, “I might have forgotten the glass of water.”
Still smiling, she took a sip of hers. And in that moment she decided that she knew how to handle the likes of Richard Navis― tease him right back, that’s how. After all, she’d had enough practice with Ben, Jake, and Luke.
finished up their cool spring water, and then Richard went to hitch up the captain’s horse and buggy. When he returned, he unrolled his shirtsleeves, and finding his dress jacket, he put it on. Next he let one of the other employees know he was leaving by shouting up a steep flight of stairs, “Hey, there, Joe, I’m leaving for a while! Mind the shop, would you?”
She heard a man’s deep reply. “Will do.”
At last Richard announced he was ready to go. Their first stop was fetching her luggage from the train station. Her trunk and bags filled the entire backseat of the buggy.
“I noticed the little cross on the necklace you’re wearing. Forgive me for asking what might be the obvious, but are you a Christian, Miss McCabe?” He climbed up into the driver’s perch and took the horse’s reins.
“Why, yes, I am. Why do you ask?”
“I always ask.”
“Hmm . . . ” She wondered if he insulted a good many folks with his plain speech. But in his present state, Richard reminded her of her brother Luke. “My father is a pastor back home in Missouri,” Sarah offered, “and two of my three brothers have plans to be missionaries out West.”
“And the third brother?”
“Ben. He’s a photographer. He and his wife, Valerie, are expecting their third baby in just a couple of months.”
“How nice for them.”
Nodding, Sarah felt a blush creep into her cheeks. She really hadn’t meant to share such intimacies about her family with a man she’d just met. But Richard seemed so easy to talk to, like a friend already. But all too soon she recalled her sister Leah’s words of advice: “Outgrow your garrulousness, lest you give the impression of a silly schoolgirl! You’re a young lady now. A music teacher.”
Sarah promptly remembered herself and held her tongue―until they reached the captain’s residence, anyway.
“What a beautiful home.” She felt awestruck as Richard helped her down from the buggy.
“A bit ostentatious for my tastes.”
Not for Sarah’s. She’d always dreamed of living in house this grand. Walking toward the enormous brick mansion, she gazed up in wonder.
The manse had three stories of windows that were each trimmed in white, and a “widow’s walk” at the very top of it gave the struca somewhat square design. The house was situated on a quiet street across from a small park that overlooked Lake Michigan. But it wasn’t the view that impressed Sarah. It was the house itself.
seemed to sense her fascination. “Notice the brick walls that are lavishly ornamented with terra cotta. The porch,” he said, reaching for her hand as they climbed its stairs, “is cased entirely with terra cotta. And these massive front doors are composed of complex oak millwork, hand-carved details, and wrought iron. The lead glass panels,” he informed her as he knocked several times, “hinge inward to allow conversation through the grillwork.”
“!” Sarah felt awestruck. She sent Richard an impish grin. “You are something of a walking textbook, aren’t you?”
Before he could reply, a panel suddenly opened, and Sarah found herself looking into the stern countenance of a woman who was perhaps in her late fifties.
“Hello, Mrs. Schlyterhaus.” Richard’s tone sounded neighborly.
“Mr. Navis.” She gave him a curt nod. “Vhat can I do for you?”
Sarah immediately noticed the housekeeper’s thick German accent.
“’ve brought the captain’s new governess. This is Miss Sarah McCabe.” He turned. “Sarah, this is Mrs. Gretchen Schlyterhaus.”
“A pleasure to meet you, ma’am.” Sarah tried to sound as pleasing as possible, for the housekeeper looked quite annoyed at the interruption.
“The captain said nussing about a new governess,” she told Richard, fairly ignoring Sarah altogether. “I know nussing about it.”
grimaced. “I was afraid of that.”
Wide-eyed, Sarah gave him a look of disbelief.
“Let’s show Mrs. Schlyterhaus that letter . . . the one from the captain.”
Sarah pulled it from her inside pocket and handed it over. Richard opened it and read its contents.
The older woman appeared unimpressed. “I know nussing about it.” With that, she closed the door on them.
Sarah’s heart crimped as she and Richard walked back to the carriage.
“Here, now, don’t look so glum, Sarah . . . May I call you Sarah?”
“Yes, I suppose so.” No governess position. No money. So much for showing herself an independent young woman. Her family would never let her forget this. Not ever! Suddenly she noticed Richard’s wide grin. “What are you smiling at?”
“It appears, Sarah, that you’ve been given the day off too.”

Book Review: "The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin"

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:


The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin

Frontline Pub Inc (September 21, 2010)


***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Stephen Mansfield is the New York Times best-selling author of The Faith of George W. Bush, The Faith of Barack Obama, Benedict XVI: His Life and Mission, and Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill, among other works of history and biography. Founder of both The Mansfield Group, a consulting and communications firm, and Chartwell Literary Group, which creates and manages literary projects, Stephen is also in wide demand as a lecturer and speaker.


Visit the Stephen's website.



David A. Holland is an author, speaker, media consultant, and award-winning copywriter who writes the popular blog BlatherWinceRepeat.com and the satirical ChrisMatthewsLeg.com. He is the co-author of Paul Harvey’s America, as well as numerous articles, essays, and opinion pieces. David makes his home with his wife and daughters in Dallas, Texas.


Visit the David's blog.




Product Details:

List Price: $22.99
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Frontline Pub Inc (September 21, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381647
ISBN-13: 978-1616381646

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Roots of Faith and Daring


Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.1

—Robert A. Heinlein

It is a warm summer day in June of 1964, and at Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Richland, Washington, a tender moment is unfolding. A small group of the faithful has gathered before a candled altar and a patiently waiting priest. Though the church is spare, it is transformed into regal splendor by the color of deep green evidenced in the vestments of the priest and in the cloth that adorns the altar. This is the color that the Christian church has used for centuries to signify the liturgical season of Pentecost, in which the coming of God’s Spirit is celebrated, in which refreshing and new birth are the themes. It is a fitting symbolism for today’s event, for a child is soon to be baptized. When all are settled, the priest steps to the fore and nods his head to a young family. They move, solemnly, to the baptismal font—a father, a mother, a two-year-old boy, a one-year-old girl, and the infant who is the object of today’s attention. “Peace be with you,” the good priest begins.“And also with you,” those gathered respond.“And what is the child’s name?” the priest asks. “Sarah Louise Heath,” comes the answer.

“And what is your name?” the priest asks the parents.

The answer comes, but it is obvious to all that the energetic part of that answer, the one filled with eagerness and faith, has come from the child’s mother. She is a striking figure. Slightly taller than her husband, she is lean and feminine, possessing a sinewy strength that is unusual for a mother of three. Her eyes are intelligent, slightly wearied but quick to flash into joy. Her mouth is wise, reflecting a sense of the irony in the world and yet disarmingly sweet.

It is her voice, though, that her children and her friends will comment upon most throughout her life. It has a musical lilt that rises and falls with meaning and emotion. It makes the most mundane statement a song, transforming a book read to children before bed or a prayer said before a family meal into a work of art.

This young mother was born Sally Ann Sheeran in 1940 and so took her place in a large, proud, well-educated Irish Catholic family in Utah. As would become the pattern of her life, she would not be there long. When she was three, her family moved to Richland, Washington. Her father, known to friends as Clem, had taken a job as a labor relations manager at the Washington branch of the Manhattan Project, whose task it was to perfect the atomic bomb sure to be needed before the Second World War, then well underway, was over. From her father, Sally acquired a passion for doing things well, a love of sports, and unswerving devotion to Notre Dame, a loyalty questioned in the Sheeran home only at great peril.

It was Sally’s mother, Helen, who taught her the domestic skills and devotion to community that would become her mainstays in the years ahead. Helen was widely known as a genius with a sewing machine and made clothes not only for her own family but also for dozens of others in her town. She also had an uncanny ability to upholster furniture. Neighbors remember the astonishing quality of her work and how she refused payment, though her fingers were often swollen and bleeding from the hours she spent stretching leather over wooden frames or forcing brass tacks into hardened surfaces. Helen taught her children the joy of the simple task done well, that the workbench and the desk are also altars of God not too unlike the altar at the Catholic church they attended every week.

Sally came of age, then, in a raucous, busy family of overachievers. There were piano lessons and sports and pep squads and sock hops. Achievement was emphasized. All the Sheeran children did well. Sally’s brother even earned a doctorate degree and became a judge. Sally herself finished high school and then began training as a dental assistant at Columbia Basin College.

“What are you asking of God’s church?” the priest intones from the ancient Latin text.
“Faith,” respond the child’s parents.
“What does faith hold out to you?” he asks.
“Everlasting life,” they answer.
“If, then, you wish to inherit everlasting life, keep the commandments, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’”

At this moment the priest leans over young Sarah, still in her mother’s arms, and breathes upon her three times. “Depart from her, unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.” It is then that he traces the sign of the cross upon the child’s forehead and prays, “Lord, if it please you, hear our prayer, and by your inexhaustible power protect your chosen one, Sarah, now marked with the sign of our Savior’s holy cross. Let her treasure this first sharing of your sovereign glory, and by keeping your commandments deserve to attain the glory of heaven to which those born anew are destined; through Christ our Lord.”

At these words, some who have gathered shift their eyes to the young father of the child being baptized. His name is Chuck. He is a good man, all agree, and he loves his family, but he is only tolerant of his wife’s faith. He does not share it. He keeps a distance from formal religion, and those who know his story understand why.

He was born in the Los Angeles of 1938 to a photographer father and a schoolteacher mother. His father, it seems, had gained some notoriety for his work, and there are photographs of young Chuck with luminaries of the Hollywood smart set and even with sports stars like boxer Joe Louis. Something went wrong, though—this is the first of several unexplained secrets in the Heath story—and when Chuck was ten, his father moved the family to Hope, Idaho. His mother taught school again, and his father drove a bus and freelanced.

As often happens after a move to a new place, the Heath family was thrown in upon itself. And here is where the tensions likely arose. Chuck’s mother was a devoted Christian Scientist. She believed that sin and sickness and even death were manifestations of the mind. If one simply learned to perceive the world through the Divine Mind, one would live free from such mortal forces. It likely seemed foolishness to a teenaged Chuck, who was not only discovering the great outdoors and finding it the only church he would ever need but also discovering his own gift for science, for decoding the wonders of nature. There was tension in the home, then, between this budding naturalist and his mystic mother. Arguments were frequent, and from this point on, young Chuck seemed intent upon escaping his parent’s presence as much as possible.

He soon discovered his athletic gifts too, and, though his parents thought such pursuits were a waste of time, he chose to ride the bus fifteen miles every day to Sandpoint High School and then hitchhike home again just so he could play nearly every sport his school offered. He found gridiron glory as a fullback behind later Green Bay Packers legend Jerry Kramer.

These were agonizing years, though. He routinely slept on friends’ couches when he just couldn’t face hitchhiking home. He was nearly adopted by several families of his fellow players. Everyone knew his home life was torturous and tried to help, but for a boy in high school to have no meaningful place to belong, no parents who loved him for who he was without demanding a faith he could not accept—it was, as Sarah Palin herself later wrote, “painful and lonely.”

After graduation from high school and a brief season in the Army, Chuck enrolled in Columbia Basin College. Now he could give himself fully to learning the ways of nature, long his passion and his hope. He collected rocks and bones, found the insides of animals and plants a fascinating other world, and thrilled to his newly acquired knowledge of geology and the life of a cell. He was a geek, but a handsome, athletic geek whom girls liked. It was during this time that he enrolled in a college biology lab and found himself paired with that lanky beauty Sally Sheeran.

“Almighty, everlasting God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the minister implores, “look with favor on your servant, Sarah, whom it has pleased you to call to this first step in the faith. Rid her of all inward blindness. Sever all snares of Satan, which heretofore bound her. Open wide for her, Lord, the door to your fatherly love. May the seal of your wisdom so penetrate her as to cast out all tainted and foul inclinations, and let in the fragrance of your lofty teachings. Thus shall she serve you gladly in your church and grow daily more perfect through Christ our Lord.”

It says a great deal about Chuck and Sally Heath that after they had married—after they had brought three children into the world and begun working in their professions and coached sports and enjoyed their outdoor, adventurous lives—there was still something missing. Sandpoint simply wasn’t enough. Chuck, ever the romantic, had begun reading the works of Jack London—The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and The Sea Wolf—and through these the great land in the north—Alaska—began calling to him. As a neighbor later reported, “The call of the wild got to him.” This neighbor did not mean the London novel, but rather that mysterious draw to the raw and untamed that has lured men to Alaska for centuries. It did not hurt that Alaska was in desperate need of science teachers like Chuck, and that the school systems there were offering $6,000 a year, twice what Chuck was making in Sandpoint. With a growing family and dreams that Idaho could not contain, Chuck Heath turned to his wife and said, “Let’s try it for one year and see what happens.” Sally should have known better. They would never come back to Idaho again. Alaska was the land of Chuck’s dreams and always would be.

It also says a great deal about Chuck and Sally Heath that they ventured north to Alaska just days after the state had been rocked by one of the worst earthquakes in history. On March 27, 1964, what became known as the Good Friday Earthquake shook Alaska at a 9.2 Richter scale magnitude for nearly five minutes. The quake was felt as far away as eight hundred miles from the epicenter.2 Experts compared it to the 1812 New Madrid earthquake that was so powerful it caused the Mississippi River to run backward, stampeded buffalo on the prairie, and awakened President James Madison from a sound sleep in the White House. The Good Friday Earthquake did hundreds of millions dollars in damage, cost dozens of lives, and vanquished entire communities in Alaska, but even this devastation could not keep the Heath family away.

They would live first in Skagway, then in Anchorage, and finally they would be able to afford their own home in the little valley town of Wasilla. Chuck would teach sciences and coach, and Sally would do whatever paid—work in the cafeteria, serve as the school secretary, even coach some of the athletic teams.

This is what they did. Who they were is the more interesting tale.

The Heaths were determined to create an outpost of love, learning, and adventure in their snowy valley in the north. Their lives were very nearly a frontier existence, as we shall see, but their learning and their hunger to explore lifted them from mere survival. Chuck found Alaska an Elysium for scientific inquiry, and as he hunted and served as a trail guide, he collected. The Heath children would grow up in a home that might elsewhere have passed for a small natural history museum. Years after first arriving in Alaska, when their famous daughter had forced their lives into the international spotlight, the Heaths would welcome reporters who sat at their kitchen counter and marveled at the skins and pelts and mounts—dozens of them—that adorned the house. There were fossils and stuffed alligators and hoofs from some long-ago-killed game and samples of rock formations and Eskimo artifacts. The reporters had been warned. In the front yard of the Heath house stood a fifteen-foot-tall mountain of antlers, most all from game shot by Chuck Heath.

Yet what distinguished the Heath home was its elevated vision, its expectations for character and knowledge. There would come a day when Sally’s spiritual search would lead her in a different direction than her husband had chosen—his conflicts with his Christian Science mother distancing him from traditional faith—and this would have to be managed. But there was complete agreement about the other essentials. Work was sacred. Everyone was expected to labor for the good of the family. Knowledge was paramount. Theirs was a home filled with books, and nearly each one was read aloud more than once. Since both Chuck and Sally were teachers, dinner-times were often occasions of debate or discussion, which Chuck frequently began by reading from a Paul Harvey newspaper column or by quoting from a radio broadcast he had heard during the day. So intent upon the primacy of learning were Chuck and Sally that when a television finally did make its way into their home, it lived in a room over the unheated garage where a potential viewer had to have a death wish to brave the cold. Rather than what Chuck and Sally called the boob tube, in the warmth of the house were the poetry of Ogden Nash and Robert Service, the works of C. S. Lewis, and most of the great books of the American experience.

There was also love. It was deep, transforming, and infectious in the Heath home. When friends of the Heath children missed their school bus home, they routinely made their way to the Heaths’ house. Their parents knew and understood. It was the place where strangers were always welcome, where a story was always being told, and where you merged seamlessly into the family mayhem the moment you stepped through the door. Some of those friends of the Heath children, now adults, recall that the closest thing they ever experienced to a healthy family was in Chuck and Sally’s home.

And so the Heaths did it. They carved out the life they had dreamed in the frozen wilds of Alaska. They took the best of their family lines and, refusing the worst, built a family culture of courage and learning and industry and joy. And this was the family soil from which Sarah Palin grew.

Thus, the reverend father comes to an end:

Holy Lord, almighty Father, everlasting God, source of light and truth, I appeal to your sacred and boundless compassion on behalf of this servant of yours, Sarah. Be pleased to enlighten her by the light of your eternal wisdom. Cleanse, sanctify, and endow her with truth and knowledge. For thus will she be made ready for your grace and ever remain steadfast, never losing hope, never faltering in duty, never straying from sacred truth, through Christ our Lord.3

The service concluded, the Heath family and their near relatives walk out into the northwestern sun. It is June 7. Already there are tears, and they are not tears of joy. The Heaths’ presence in Richland is not just for the sake of the baptism. They have come to say good-bye. Alaska calls to them, and they will leave in a few short days to make the nineteen-hundred-mile drive to their new home in the land of the north. Their relatives grieve, but the Heaths, particularly Chuck, cannot hide their joy at the looming adventure. Nor can they hide the sense that they will be changed by their new land, that somehow they will become one with it, and that it will become mystically intertwined with their destiny in ways they could never imagine.

In a matter of few days then, attended by the tears of their loved ones, the Heath family step toward the great land of their dreams.

Book Review: "Catching Moondrops"

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Catching Moondrops

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (September 20, 2010)

***Special thanks to Maggie Rowe of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jennifer Erin Valent is the 2007 winner of the Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest. A lifelong resident of the South, her surroundings help to color the scenes and characters she writes. In fact, the childhood memory of a dilapidated Ku Klux Klan billboard inspired her portrayal of Depression-era racial prejudice in Fireflies in December. She has spent the past 15 years working as a nanny and has dabbled in freelance, writing articles for various Christian women's magazines. She still resides in her hometown of Richmond, Virginia.

Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (September 20, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414333277
ISBN-13: 978-1414333274

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


There’s nothing in this whole world like the sight of a man swinging by his neck.

Folks in my parts liked to call it “lynching,” as if by calling it another word they could keep from feeling like murderers. Sometimes when they string a man up, they gather around like vultures looking for the next meal, staring at the cockeyed neck, the sagging limbs, their lips turning up at the corners when they should be turning down. For some people, time has a way of blurring the good and the bad, spitting out that thing called conscience and replacing it with a twisted sort of logic that makes right out of wrong.

Our small town of Calloway, Virginia, had that sort of logic in spades, and after the trouble it had caused my family over the years, I knew that better than most. But the violence had long since faded away, and my best friend Gemma would often tell me that made it okay—her being kept separate from white folks. “Long as my bein’ with your family don’t bring danger down on your heads, I’ll keep my peace and be thankful,” she’d say.

But I didn’t feel so calm about it all as Gemma did. Part of that was my stubborn temperament, but most of it was my intuition. I’d been eyeball to eyeball with pure hate more than once in my eighteen years, and I could smell it, like rotting flesh. Hate is a type of blindness that divides a man from his good sense. I’d seen it in the eyes of a Klansman the day he tried to choke the life out of me and in the eyes of the men who hunted down a dear friend who’d been wrongly accused of murder.

And, at times, I’d caught glimpses of it in my own heart.

The passage of time had done nothing to lessen its stench. And despite the relative peace, I knew full well that hearts poisoned by hateful thinking can only simmer for so long before boiling over.

In May of that year, 1938, that pot started bubbling.

I was on the front porch shucking corn when I saw three colored men turn up our walk, all linked up in a row like the Three Musketeers. I stood up, let the corn silk slip from my apron, and called over my shoulder. “Gemma! Come on out here.”

She must have been nearby because the screen door squealed open almost two seconds after my last words drifted in through the screen. “What is it?”

“Company. Only don’t look too good.” I walked to the top of the steps and shielded my eyes from the sun. “Malachi Jarvis! You got yourself into trouble again?”

The man in the middle, propped up like a scarecrow, lifted his chin wearily but managed to flash a smile that revealed bloodied teeth. “Depends on how you define trouble.”

Gemma gasped at the sight of him and flew down the steps, letting the door slam so loud the porch boards shook. “What in the name of all goodness have you been up to? You got some sort of death wish?”

A man I’d never seen before had his arm wound tightly beneath Malachi’s arms, blood smeared across his shirt front. Malachi’s younger brother, Noah, was on his other side, struggling against the weight, and Gemma came in between them to help.

“He ain’t got the good sense to keep his mouth shut, is all,” Noah said breathlessly.

I went inside to grab Momma’s first aid box, and by the time I got back out, Gemma had Malachi seated in the rocker.

Gemma gave him the once-over and shook her head so hard I thought it might fly off. “I swear, if you ain’t a one to push a body into an early grave. Your poor momma’s gonna lose her ever-lovin’ mind.”

Along with his younger brother and sister, Malachi lived down by the tracks with his widowed momma—as the man of the house, so to speak. He’d taken up being friends with Luke Talley some two years back when they’d both worked for the tobacco plant, and they’d remained close even though Luke had struck out on his own building furniture. Malachi was never one to keep his peace, a fact Gemma had no patience for, and she made it good and clear many a time. Today would be no exception.

“Goin’ around stirrin’ up trouble every which way,” she murmured as she pulled fixings out of the first aid box. “It’s one thing to pick fights with your own kind. Can’t say as though you wouldn’t benefit by a poundin’ or two every now and again. But this foolin’ around with white folks’ll get you into more’n you’re bargainin’ for.”

The man who’d helped Noah shoulder the burden of Malachi reached out to take the gauze from Gemma. “Why don’t you let me get that?”

Gemma didn’t much like being told what to do, and she glared at him. “I can clean up cuts and scrapes. I worked for a doctor past two years.”

Malachi nodded towards the man. “This here man is a doctor.”

I was putting iodine on a piece of cotton, and I near about dropped it on the floor when I heard that. Never in all my born days had I seen a colored man claiming to be a doctor. Neither had Gemma by the looks of her.

“A doctor?” she murmured. “You sure?”

He laughed and extended his hand to her. “Last I checked. Tal Pritchett. Just got into town yesterday. Gonna set up shop down by the tracks.”

Gemma handed the gauze over to him, still dumbfounded.

“What d’you think about that?” Malachi grinned and then grimaced the minute his split lip made its presence known. “A colored doc in Calloway. Shoo-whee. There’s gonna be talkin’ about this!”

The doctor went to work cleaning up Malachi’s wounds. “I ain’t here to start no revolution. I’m just aimin’ to help the colored folks get the help they deserve.”

“Well, you’re goin’ to start a revolution whether you want to or not.” Malachi shut his eyes and gritted his teeth the minute the iodine set to burning. “Folks in these parts don’t much like colored folk settin’ themselves up as smart or nothin’.”

Gemma watched Tal Pritchett like she was analyzing his every move, finding out for herself if he was a doctor or not. I stood by and let her assist him as she’d been accustomed to doing for Doc Mabley until he passed on two months ago. After he’d bandaged up Malachi’s right hand, she seemed satisfied that he was who he said.

Noah slumped down into the other rocker and watched. “It’s one thing to get yourself an education and stand for your right to make somethin’ of yourself. It’s another to go stirrin’ up trouble for the sake of stirrin’ up trouble.”

“I ain’t doin’ it for the sake of stirrin’ up trouble. I done told you that!” Malachi flexed his left hand to test how well his swollen fingers moved. Ain’t no colored man ever goin’ to be free in this here county . . . in this here state . . . in this here world unless somebody starts fightin’ for freedom.”

“Slaves was freed decades ago,” Noah said sharply. “We ain’t in shackles no more.”

“But we ain’t free to live our lives as we choose, neither. You think colored people are ever gonna be more’n house help and field help so long as we let ourselves be treated like less than white people? No sir. We’re less than human to them white folks. They don’t think nothin’ about killin’ so long as who they’re killin’ is colored.”

“Don’t you go bunchin’ all white people together, Malachi Jarvis,” I argued. “Ain’t all white folk got bad feelin’s about coloreds.”

Malachi waved me off in exasperation. “You know I ain’t talkin’ about you, Jessilyn.”

Noah had his hands tightly knotted in his lap and was staring at them like they held all the answers to the world’s problems. “All’s you’re doin’ is gettin’ yourself kicked around.” He looked up at me pleadingly. “This here’s the second time in a week he’s come home banged up.”

I put a hand on Noah’s shoulder and set my eyes on Malachi. “Who did it?”

He put his bandaged right hand into the air, palm up. “Who knows? Some white boys. You get surrounded by enough of ‘em, they all just blend in together like a vanilla milkshake.”

“How’s it you didn’t see them? They jump you or somethin’?”

“Don’t ask me, Jessie. I was just mindin’ my own business in town and then on my way home, they start hasslin’ me.”

“What he was doin’,” Noah corrected, “was tryin’ to get into the whites-only bar.”

Gemma sniffed in disgust. “Shouldn’t have been in no bar in the first place. There’s your first mistake.”

“Whites-only, too.” Noah kicked his foot against the porch rail and then looked up at me quickly. “Sorry.”

I smiled at him and turned my attention back to Malachi. “It’s a good thing Luke ain’t here to see this. He don’t like you drinkin’ and you know it.”

His eyeballs rolled between swollen lids. “I don’t know why he gets his trousers in a knot over it anyhow. Ain’t like there’s prohibition no more. And he’s been known to take a swig or two himself.”

“Luke says you’re a nasty drunk.”

“He is.” Noah knotted his hands back in his lap. “And he’s been at the bottle more often than not of late.”

“Quit tellin’ tales!” his brother barked.

“I ain’t tellin’ tales; I’m tellin’ truth. They can ask anybody at home how late you come in, and how you come in all topsy turvy. He comes home in the middle of the mornin’ and sleeps in till all hours the next day.”

“What about your job at the plant?” Gemma asked.

Malachi closed his eyes and waved her off, but his brother provided the answer for him. “Lost it!” He loosened his grip on his hands and snapped his fingers. “Like that. There’s goes his income.”

“I said I’ll get another job.”

“Oh, like there’s jobs aplenty around these parts for colored folk. And anyways, if you find one, how you gonna’ keep that one?”

Gemma had her hands on her hips, and I knew what that meant. I leaned back against the house and waited for the lecture to commence.

“You talk a fine talk about colored folks needin’ to stand up for equality, but you ain’t doin’ it in any way that’s right and good. You’re goin’ about town gettin’ people’s goat, and tryin’ to get in where you ain’t wanted, and gettin’ yourself all liquored up and useless. Now your family ain’t got the money they depend on you for, and why? Because you walk around livin’ like you ain’t got to do nothin’ for nobody but yourself.”

“I’m standin’ up for the rights of colored folks everywhere.” Malachi was angry now, pink patches spreading on his busted-up cheeks. “You see anyone else in this town willin’ to go toe to toe with the white boys in this county?”

“Don’t put a noble face on bein’ an upstart.”

Malachi pushed Tal’s hand away and sat up tall. “You call standin’ up to white folks bein’ an upstart?”

Doc Pritchett tried to dress the wound on Malachi’s temple, but Malachi pushed his hand away again. That was when the doctor had enough, and he smacked his hands on his thighs and stood up tall and determined in front of Malachi. “I ain’t Abraham Lincoln. I’m just Doc Pritchett tryin’ to fix up an ornery patient, and I ain’t got all day to do it. So I’m goin’ to settle this argument once and for all.” He pointed at Gemma. “She’s right. There ain’t no fightin’ nonsense with more nonsense, and all’s you’re doin’ by gettin’ in the faces of white folks with your smart attitude is bein’ as bad as they’re bein’.” Then he pointed at Malachi. “And he’s right, too. There ain’t never a change brought about that should be brought about without people standin’ up for such change. And sometimes that means bein’ willin’ to fight for what’s right.”

Gemma swallowed hard and didn’t even try to argue. My eyes must have bugged out of my head at the sight of her being tamed so easily.

“Now, I’m all for civil uprisin’,” Tal continued. “I don’t see nothin’ wrong with colored folk sayin’ they won’t be walked on no more. I don’t see nothin’ wrong with wantin’ to use the same bathroom as white folks or sit in the same chairs as white folks. Way I see it, none of that’s goin’ to change unless someone says it has to.” He squatted down in front of Malachi again and stared him down nose to nose. “But all this hot-shottin’ and show-boatin’ ain’t goin’ to do nothin’ but get your rear end kicked. Or worse. You aim to stand tall for somethin’? Fine. Stand tall for it. But don’t you go around thinkin’ these battle scars say somethin’ for you. You ain’t got them by bein’ noble; you got them by bein’ stupid. All’s these scars say is you’re an idiot.”

It was one of the best speeches I’d heard from anyone outside my daddy, and if I’d ever thought for two seconds put together to see a colored man run for governor, I figured Tal Pritchett would be the man for the job. As it was, I knew he was the best man for the job he had now. Sure enough, being a colored doc in Calloway would be a challenge. But I figured he was up for it.

Regardless, he shut Malachi up, and for the next five minutes we all watched him finish his job with skill and finesse. When he’d fixed the last of Malachi’s face, he stood up and clapped his hands. “Suppose that should do it. Don’t see need for any stitchin’ up today. Let’s hope there’s no cause for it in future.” Then he looked at me. “You got someplace out here where I can wash up?”

I held my hand out toward the front door. “Bathroom’s upstairs.”

He hesitated. “I’d just as soon wash up out here.”

I caught the reason for his hesitation but didn’t know what to say. As usual, Gemma did.

“I done lived in this here house for six years now, and I’m just as brown as you. You can feel free to go on up to the bathroom, you hear?”

He looked from Gemma to me, then back to Gemma before nodding. “Yes’m.” And then he disappeared inside.

“Ma’am,” Gemma muttered under her breath. “Ain’t old enough to be called ma’am, least of all by a man no more’n a few years older’n me.”

“You know what happens once you start gettin’ them crows feet . . .”

Gemma whirled about and gave Malachi the evil eye. “Don’t go thinkin’ I won’t hurt you just because you’re all bandaged up.”

Noah got up and paced the porch until Tal came back outside. “Doc, you have any problem gettin’ your schoolin’?”

Tal shrugged and leaned against the porch rail. “No more’n most, I guess. There’s a lot to learn. Why? You thinkin’ about goin’ to college?”

You could have heard a pin drop on that front porch. Never, and I mean never, in all the days Calloway had been on the map, had there ever been a single person, white or black, to step foot at a college. The very idea of that mark being made by a colored boy was a surefire way to start war.

And Noah knew it.

He looked at his feet and kicked the heel of one shoe against the toe of another. “Ain’t possible. I was just wonderin’ aloud, is all.”

“What do you mean it ain’t possible? All’s you’ve got to do is work hard. You can get scholarships and things.”

But Noah took a look at his brother, whose face was hard and tight-lipped, and nodded off toward the road. “Nah, there ain’t no use talkin’ over it. We’d best get home anyhow.”

Tal didn’t push the subject. He just picked his hat up off the porch swing and plopped it on his head. “Miss Jessie. Miss Gemma. It was a fine pleasure to meet you, and a kindness for you to give us a hand.”

“You should stop by sometime and meet my parents,” I said. “They’re off visitin’, but I’m sure they’d be right happy to know you.”

“I’m sure I’d be right happy to know them, too.” He turned his attention to Gemma. “You said you worked for a doctor?”

“I worked for Doc Mabley. He was a white doctor. Died some two months ago.”

“He let you assist?”

“Only with the colored patients. Doc Mabley was kind enough to help some of them out when they needed it. Otherwise I kept his records, kept up his stock.”

“Well, I’ll tell you, Miss Gemma, I could sure use some help if you’d be obliged. An assistant would be a good set of extra hands, and I could use someone known around here to make my introductions.”

Gemma eyed him up before slowly nodding her head. “Reckon I could.”

“Wouldn’t be much pay, now, you know. Ain’t likely to get much in the way of fees from the patients I’ll be treatin’.”

“Don’t matter so long as I have good work to put my hands to.”

“That it would be. My office is right across the street from the Jarvis house.”

Malachi snorted. “Shack’s more like it.”

“Room enough for me,” Tal said. Then to Gemma, “You think you could stop in sometime this week to talk it over?”

“I can come day after tomorrow if that suits.”

“Nine o’clock too early?”

“No, sir! I’ve kept farm hours all my life.”

He grinned at her. “Nine o’clock then?”

“Nine o’clock.”

Malachi watched the two of them with his swollen eyes, a look of disgust growing more evident on his face. He’d made no secret over the past year about his admiration for Gemma, and the unmistakable attraction that was growing between her and Tal was clearly turning his stomach.

“Mind if we go home?” he muttered. “Before I fall down dead or somethin’?”

Gemma tore her eyes away from Tal to roll them at Malachi. “Would serve you right if you did.”

“And on that cheery note . . .” Malachi groaned on his way down the steps. “I’ll bid you ladies a fine evenin’.”

I gave Noah a playful whack to the head, but he ducked so it only clipped the top. “Luke will be back home tomorrow evenin’. He’ll be itchin’ to see you, I’m sure.”

“I’m itchin’ to see him.” He took the steps in one leap, tossing dust up when he landed. “You tell him to come on by and see us real soon.”

“And tell him to bring his cards,” Malachi added. “He owes me a poker rematch.”

I squinted at him suspiciously. “Only if you play for beans.”

“I hate beans.”

Malachi leaned on Tal for support and Noah scurried to catch up and help. I watched them go, but I wasn’t thinking much about them. I was thinking about Luke. It had been two months since he’d left to collect customers for his furniture-making business, and every day had seemed like an eternity.

The very thought of him got my stomach butterflies to fluttering, but one look at Gemma told me it was another man who had stolen her attention. “That

Doc Pritchett’s a fine man.” I looked at her sideways with a smirk. “Looks about twenty-five or so.”

“So?”

“Good marryin’ age.”

She crossed her arms defiantly. “Jessilyn Lassiter, what’s that got to do with anythin’?”

“Only what I said. I’m only statin’ fact.”

“Mm-hm. I hear ya. You’d be better off keepin’ your facts to yourself.”

She grabbed the first aid box and headed inside, but the sound of that door slamming told me I’d got to her.

It told me Tal Pritchett had got to her, too.