Tuesday 24 December 2019

The Best of Christmas

I just wanted to wish everyone a very wonderful Christmas with many blessings for the new year. In so doing, I am including three poems I wrote as a much younger person. I've never  been a poet, but my thoughts about our Savior and this very special time of year are tender. May God's choicest blessings be with each of you.

When I was a child, Christmas meant anticipation,
taking our pennies and dimes 
to Kresses or Woolworths
to buy simple, well thought-out presents.

We were poor, and the six of us children shared 
one basement bedroom and a couple of cots in the hall.
We didn’t know just how poor we really were until we 
went to church or school and saw what others wore.

We’d read the story of our Savior’s birth
from the book of Luke on Christmas Eve,
then opened one specific present,
homemade flannel pajamas from our parents.

We’d hurry off to bed, knowing we’d never sleep 
until we were sure Santa had made it there.
We’d creep up the stairs several times during the night
tiptoeing on the edges so they wouldn’t crackle and creak.

But we never saw if the jolly old elf had arrived.
An old Army blanket, suspended in the
living room doorway was too formidable an object 
to either push aside or crawl under.

At five in the morning, Daddy hurried out to the barn,
Mom called Grandma and Uncle Douglas, saying it was time.
We warmed ourselves by the old coal stove trying 
to keep our excitement down so we wouldn’t explode.

When the time came to take down the magical barrier,
we kids would rush to find our pile of presents.
There was never much there, for money was not:
a doll, a book, plastic animals for the boys.

A new pair of shoes and a homemade dress or shirt, 
an orange, peanuts and hard candy for our stockings.
They were simple holidays, but happy ones.
Dad played with us and Mom fixed the traditional meal.

After Daddy died, leaving seven little children alone,
the real joy of the Christmas season was gone.
We still got gifts and kept the blanket in front of the door,
and Grandma and Uncle Douglas came to spend the day.

But Daddy wasn’t there to make the holiday special, 
to play with us or to hold us tight in his protective arms.
The hole in our family was so immense we went through
motions but were never really happy and smiling again.

That was also the time when the real meaning of Christmas 
made more sense for death is part of life just as birth is.
Christ walked the earth, by example showing the way,
atoning for sins, dying so we can be a complete family again.

I have seen many Christmas’ since I was a child but 
none have been more meaningful than those of early days,
except for the Christmas’ I shared with my own children
when they were young and starry-eyed and still believed.

I played the magical elf, and my son and daughter 
climbed the stairs to see if Santa had been there.
There were more gifts purchased from stores those days,
but homemade ones still played a part along with a tradition meal.

They were happy times, but life moves on, children grow, 
have children of their own, and our part in the celebration changes.
But the meaning for the day is always crystal clear, and Christ’s gift
is the only one that cannot be purchased except by complete devotion.


In this world of modern marvels,
one seldom takes time to think
of the creator of both heaven and earth,
Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind.

But who is this man?

A babe,
born in a stable in the village of Bethlehem. 
A boy,
reared as a carpenter in Nazareth. 
A citizen,
of a conquered and subdued nation. 
A man,
whose mortal footsteps never went beyond a 150 mile radius. 
A scholar,
who never received a school degree. 
A preacher,
who never spoke from a great pulpit.
A citizen,
who never owned a home.
A traveler,
who moved about on foot, without money. 

He is Jesus Christ,
author of our salvation.

His life, brought light and understanding
of things eternal and divine. 

His teachings, influenced the behavior 
of unaccounted millions.

His matchless example became the greatest power 
for goodness and peace in all the world.


Grandpa’s Christmas Letter

I am not yearning for a white Christmas
as well you may have guessed.
The white stuff that so delights you
can stay in the mountains in drifts.

Christmas, as other holiday, is just another day.
My parents who were not into gift exchange,
but giving more to the needy than anyone else in the valley,
being liberal with us when they sensed the need.

I understand their viewpoint now that I am older.
Too much money is wasted on throwaway gift giving.
So, granddaughter dear, do not send me things
I do not need or have any particular desire for.

The things people need more of 
in this country of ours are
worthy compliments,
appreciation, and just plain love.

Sunday 15 December 2019

The Most Glorious Time of the Year

When I was growing up two-thirds of a century ago in a small farming community in South Eastern Idaho, Christmas really was a magical time of year. We always woke up to three or four feet of fresh snow and since our neighbor’s houses were too far away to be seen, it was like we were in a kingdom all our own. My father made sure we had a fresh Christmas tree. It wasn’t necessarily the most symmetrical and there were spaces between the branches, but we thought it was wonderful. When we returned from the Neighborhood Christmas party on Christmas Eve where Santa gave each of us a brown paper bag with peanuts, hard candy and an orange in it, he would sit us down on the floor and read the story of Christ’s birth from Luke: 2 in his deep, melodious voice.

We never got much in the way of gifts because my father was a World War II veteran who came from an impoverished family. His father had died when he was a year old and his mother had to take in washing and ironing and clean other people’s homes to support her children. I only remember two gifts I ever got, what we called in those days – a lady doll and a baby doll with a soft body and a hard head. 

But I do remember thinking what an enchanting story Christ’s birth in a manger was because I grew up around animals, and they were never pleasant nor serene. The chickens would peck my hands when I went to gather the eggs. The cows would toss their heads around when they were milked, and we had to be careful not to get the stepped on. The horses were big and frightening. The sheep were un-cooperative and not terribly bright, and the pigs were right down offensive and disgusting. 

The barn was a converted Army barrack that leaked when the snow started to melt. Shepherds were rough-looking men with bad hygiene who lived in one-room trailers and only came around civilization when it was time to sheer or sell the sheep. As for the Wisemen, I had no idea what they did, but apparently they could afford some very nice gifts. 

My misconceptions about a lot of things did not change rapidly. I learned songs at church like Give Said the Little Stream, Popcorn Popping on an Apricot Tree and Jesus Wants me for a Sunbeam. And our lessons were more about being good little boys and girls than about learning who Jesus really was and why it was important to become more like him.

I’m not sure when thinking about the way Christ’s birth has blessed my life even became part of my thought process. My childhood and youth seemed to be nothing more than one tragedy after another, and it was all I could do to survive, but I have come up with a few pivotal examples from my life that have helped me see both the beauty and the necessity for challenges that force us to our knees and give us a chance to learn the principles Christ taught throughout his earthly ministry in a way that became personally meaningful.

The first happened when I was five and taught me about the need for obedience, watchful care and the value of life. It was a cold spring morning and my father was busy in the field preparing the tandem disc for plowing up the fields. My mother allowed my three year-old brother and me to go outside. Since I was the older sibling, I was told to watch him. I’m not sure what happened, but the frost hadn’t even left the grass when my father came running towards the house with my little brother’s body dangling in his arms and calling for my mother to get the keys to the jeep because this beautiful little boy was dead. My father had accidently run over him. 

My mother turned to me and said in a tone that crippled me for years. “If you had been watching him the way I told you to, this never would have happened.” He spent six weeks in a coma, and while he survived, the extent of his injuries meant our family life was never really happy again. My guilt over something that wasn’t my fault is still there, but it taught me not to take unnecessary chances and to listen to what people I needed to trust said. 

When I was in the 3rd grade, I learned about compassion for others and acceptance of what cannot be changed. I spent 6 months in bed with Rheumatic fever that damaged my heart and made it impossible for me to even take part in physical activities while growing up. I was ostracized and made fun of simply because I was unable to do so many things, but those experiences helped me to see inside people’s hearts. I found myself always fighting for the underdog and wanting to be kind to people who were not readily accepted by others.

There were many other experiences that challenged my formative years, but the most gripping tested my childhood faith and belief in miracles to nearly the breaking point. I found my father dead in the bathroom of our small home from suffering a massive heart attack when I was thirteen. I loved him dearly and got up before dawn each morning to drive the tractor while he threw hay to the animals in the fields. Sometimes it was so cold my toes and feet would be numb the entire time I was outside, but with 7 children and no one else old enough or willing to help, I was always his right-hand man. 

I remember being told by my mother to take all of my siblings down the road to the neighbor’s house and stay there until someone came to get us. No one was at home, but people never locked their doors so we waited for hours and prayed continually that we would be the recipients of a miracle, but it didn’t happen. In fact, life became even more difficult because my mother went through a complete breakdown that forced me away from my home before I graduated high school. My grandmother, the only person other than my father that I ever felt close to, took me to BYU so I could utilize an academic scholarship, but she died before the end of my freshman year.

Now you might wonder why I’m relating such sad stories at Christmas. For me these challenges, along with losing every baby I tried to carry as an adult, have given me the basis for what I consider the greatest blessings of my life because they forced me to reach inward and upward for survival. I know God lives. I know he sent his son as a baby in a manger to bless the lives of everyone who even attempts to believe in and trust him. 

If I had no knowledge of Christ and his mission to bless and redeem, I would be just like all the other billions of persons who have lived through the centuries wandering aimlessly in a dark and frightening world, accepting mediocrity, living for the moment, taking what was wanted, and dying without knowing what my purpose was for even being here.

My blessings are the gifts that come from learning hard lessons and accepting what Christ has done for each one of us individually because he set the perfect example. Now that I’ve finally come to understand things more clearly than I did as a child who only recognized the magical beauty of the season, I know the types of blessings I’ve received. It’s being obedient and humble enough to ask for guidance and direction. It’s the ability to get an education so I could stand on my own without letting fear debilitate me.  It’s the capacity to love my siblings, children, grandchildren and friends without having to accept everything they’ve done. It’s being guided and protected on a daily basis and finally getting it that all of our prayers will not be answered the way we might like in this life. 

Because of Christ, I have a reason to live joyfully. I have hope that things are progressing as they should and have clarity of mind and peace that fills my heart and soul. My belief in something greater than I can comprehend fills every part of my life, if I will just allow it to. In Hebrews 5:8 we are told that we learn obedience by the things we suffer. 

My life has been blessed greatly over the years, even when I couldn’t see it. And I know it will continue to be that way until my mission is complete. I rejoice each day that I’m still able to get out of bed and go about my day with purpose. I might not get as much done as I once did, but I still make lists and check off goals that have been completed. 

I treasure my time spent doing things for others, and writing books that share Christian beliefs and gospel principles with people around the globe. I’ve been unfriended and ridiculed because I write about what I believe, but I want others to know what I do about Christ, his teachings and enduring to the end. It’s a beautiful time of year, and I don’t appreciate it nearly as much as I should. 

Monday 2 December 2019

Post Thanksgiving

So I haven't written in awhile. There are no excuses except that I've been busy doing other things. Like finishing book 3 in my new series, Safe Haven - Agent Reagan Sinclair, FBI. I couldn't seem to wrap my head around the changes I needed and wanted to make since the story was becoming more complex and the motives had to match the actions and what prompted them. Trying to keep all characters straight was also making my head spin, but at my age I need the mental stimulation since I'm no longer around teenagers every day. I suppose I also have to admit that my expectations override my capabilities sometimes.  But to my great relief I sent it to Amazon today so I can start thinking about the holidays. 

Actually, I did spend some time contemplating Thanksgiving as I worked. I even set an entire day aside to do nothing but thank God for all my blessings instead of complaining because I have never gotten what I've wanted my entire life. But I know I'm not alone in that, and it really was refreshing to look at life a little different than I was used to doing. In fact, it's put me into a better frame of mind now that Christmas is almost here. I even plan on getting my tree put up some time this week and most of my presents are already purchased. Maybe the huge snow storm helped with that. I wasn't ready for slick roads and inconsiderate and often incompetent drivers but managed to make it where I needed to go.

I have no profound thoughts on anything today, but I do feel a great deal of gratitude as I get ready to go to the doctors for my weekly allergy shot. I love the blessings I've been given from relatively good health to family to having things I can do I enjoy. When I really think about it, I'm not so sure I would be any happier if all my dreams did come true. I would probably just have a stroke from being unable to comprehend how everything had finally come together. Sometimes our challenges and disappointments are our greatest blessings because they make us reach further inside as we search for ways to serve others better. Maybe I'll even bake some cinnamon rolls or stir up some caramel popcorn to take to a few of my neighbors. I do like to do things in my kitchen and really shouldn't even everything I see. I hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving, regardless of whether they were alone like me eating leftovers from the meal I had prepared for my children before they went other places, or enjoying the day with numerous family and friends.

Sunday 13 October 2019

Strength of the Human Spirit

I've spent a good deal of time the past week thinking about life and how the briefest moment in time can set us on a path we would never have imagined. When I was five and my little brother was three, my mother blamed me for a farming accident that could easily have claimed his life, practically destroyed our family and left him with severe physical and mental disabilities he would have to endure for as long as he lived.  That horrifying declaration, "If you had been watching him like I told you to do this never would have happened," took away what was left of my childhood and plunged me into a world filled with self-doubt, guilt and an inability to trust or ever feel truly loved again.

We never spoke of that moment until right before her death over fifty years later where she said she didn't recall ever saying it, but I was left with scars that have never really healed. I don't actually believe in fate, but I do believe that insecurity and self-doubt, along with the knocks of life that come to each of us so we can gain experience and get to know ourselves better, have a tendency to put us in places we would rather not be. I've lived through three bouts with Rheumatic Fever, the loss of half of my hair that has never grown back, being molested by my violin teacher, loosing my dad when I was thirteen, and being forced to leave home after my mother - who was suffering a nervous breakdown - tried to run me through with a butcher knife because I wouldn't do something she asked. I lived with other people until I was taken to college by my grandmother and uncle. Those were lonely days because I wasn't allowed any contact with my siblings. My grandmother died a few months later.  All of those heart-wrenching experiences, along with other less traumatic events, happened during my first nineteen years.

I remember watching "Gone with the Wind" as a teen and feeling very much like Scarlet O-Hara when she said she would think about it tomorrow after facing a life-altering event. That simple phrase  has kept me going through an entire life filled with more loss and sorrow than I ever dreamed possible because tomorrow never comes, and the daily pressures associated with living must be faced as they come. I feel blessed that my spirit would not let me give up, even when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and never see the light of day again. I also suppose that's why I write the kind of books I do. Anyone can write about a single trial turning into a happily-ever-after kind of life. But what about all those people who never get their happy ending?

I want the bloodied, bruised and broken who refuse to give up or give in because life is hard to know that they're not not alone. Those are the people I write for because I'm still waiting for the same things I desired as a child - not to feel afraid and to be loved for the woman I am. I recognize that the chance of that happening before this life is over is minimal at best, but I also believe in a loving God who wants the best for each of his children and will compensate for every loss and hurt felt in this life in the one to come - as long as a person never loses hope and remains faithful.

So I want to invite each of readers to check out all the books I've written under the pen name of JS Ririe. I know they will bring help and comfort to even the most troubled soul. You can read about Brylee and Reagan and all the people them come to know and love in two powerful series for free as a member of Kindle Unlimited. And if you don't belong to that, I'd like to send you the first book in the Indecision Flame series of 7 books and/or the first book in the Reagan Sinclair, FBI series in digital format for free just by sending me a quick email at janhill720@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you. All books are available at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv. Resilience came out in September and the next book in the series will be out right before or after Thanksgiving.

Sunday 6 October 2019

So its been a few days since I wrote anything. I had a wonderful visit with my sister in Branson, Missouri, watching some of our good friends perform. It was wonderful seeing Tony Roi back on stage after suffering fall 2 years ago that left him in a coma for three months. Just as the family had decided to pull the plug, he woke up and wanted a steak. It's taken him months to learn how to walk and talk and do normal things again but he's back on the stage, with his own kind and loving spirt, performing tunes that Elvis made famous and so much more. We also saw John Tweed who performed in Disneyland years ago, a great tribute to Frankie Valli and the group Six who came out from Las Vegas several years ago and use their voices as their only instruments. They are truly amazing.

But we spent most of our time in Motown shows. It's the music we grew up on and love, and was performed by some of our favorite people: Eddie, Andre, William, Doc, Will, Rico, Kirk, TJ and others. They sing songs by the Temptations, Platters, Drifters, Spinners, Al Green, Marvin Gaye and so many others it's hard to keep track of them. I shouted and sang along so much that I lost my voice half way through our time there and still haven't recovered. We were there when some of them received a trophy for Best Morning show. We got up on stage and danced at several performances and got hugs and kisses that will keep me going for a few months since they're in very short supply at home. I've been divorced for over 25 years and have yet to find anyone who speaks to my heart. Guess I'm hoping God will provide someone for me to love forever when I get to the next life because it's certainly been lonely here.

It got to me thinking about family and how not everyone we love is connected by blood. One of my favorite things is doing genealogy using family search. I can spent literally hours looking at names of family members who paved the way for the life I live. Some of them have wonderful names like Deliverance, Thankful, Obedience and Echo. I love finding out what countries they come from and often wonder where I get some of my characteristics that are very unlike anyone else in my family. Perhaps some day I will have my DNA tested to see which countries from all over Europe, the British Isles, America and even South Africa I have legitimate ties to. But sometimes it's just nice to wonder. I am truly grateful for the sacrifices they made and can't help but wonder what experiences they had that turned them into the people they became. Guess it will be fun to see them again once this life is over because I truly believe we will go on forever. That comforts me when it comes to thinking about leaving my children and grandchildren when the time comes. I hope I have built happy memories and will leave behind a legacy they can remember with pride. I guess that's what we all want to do, but we will go about creating it in very different ways.

Monday 16 September 2019

Families and Learning Curves

I just got back from visiting my daughter, her husband and my adorable six year-old grandson. There's always a certain amount of trepidation when visiting family members. Living in such close quarters for even a few days at a time is hard. As a mother, I remember the days of childhood when I was more in control and knew what to say to make things right. Adult children have evolved from the days of learning what you want them to learn and acting like you expect them to. They make choices that define what their lives will become and must learn to live with whatever circumstances that brings. It's a time for parents to step back, listen more and make only comments that are necessary and hopefully wise. It's easy to see adult children as still needing your help and guidance, but they mostly just want your support and friendship.

My relationship with my children has been more difficult than most because they were adopted as babies and found their biological parents as adults. That changes the dynamics of normal parent-child relationships considerably. Patience and undying love no longer make the difference they once did because you are no longer the center of their universe. You must decide to bridle your own wants and desires so they can add two additional families to their lives without feeling like they've hurt feelings or caused too much sorrow. Understanding is complex because feelings do get in the way and hearts feel like they might actually break. It's one of those times when tears shed in private rule most days and a pleasant countenance is expected but hard to maintain.

Watching my daughter face her own challenges helped me to see her more as a person in her own right. I still see parts of the child I raised where stubbornness and the need to be in control rule the day. But I also see a woman who is raising a son who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at three and caring for a husband whose heart is only working at 20 percent capacity. He is going in for a second surgery next week that might raise the pumping capacity by another 20 percent, but that's as good as it will ever be.  I'm amazed at how she is able to handle such difficult circumstances without falling completely apart and am beginning to see why making phone calls or texting happens so rarely. Talking about what she is facing makes it harder for her.

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that no life is perfect, and it isn't meant to be. We are supposed to change and grow each day. I love being able to see into someone else's heart for even a few moments. It helps me see that we're all alike -- just doing the best we can and hoping that others will accept that as being enough.

Sunday 25 August 2019

A new year of learning

It's been a few weeks since I posted anything, but it's not for lack of desire. I've just been incredibly busy with my ten year-old granddaughter. I've had her with me at least three days a week all summer, and with work and church there hasn't been much time for writing anything else--even writing my books or working in the yard and garden. But while it's been a very intense and exhausting summer, I  can't complain about spending time with a child whose imagination is boundless and whose energy far outlasts my own. My little gal prefers animals to most people, but she's my little shadow, and nothing is more satisfying than curling up with her in a chair to watch a movie after a busy day of sewing doll clothes from homemade patterns, baking treats from recipes she finds online for her hamster and rabbits, watching her dance, playing with Barbies and baby dolls, constructing Shopkins' villages or entertaining ourselves in the castle that was constructed in my basement. She's almost outgrown that now, but she's an only child who loves having my undivided attention.

It got me reflecting on my own childhood. I had four sisters and two brothers and we tried to exist in a two bedroom and one bathroom house. We lived on a farm and our toys consisted mostly of sticks, cans and pieces of cardboard. But we did have one great place to escape. In the old fruit orchard were several old cars and trucks, some them laying on their sides. They were rusted and torn up, but we could climb through doors and windows and slid across seats that were loosing their horsehair stuffing and make believe we were traveling to far away and exciting places. We also had a favorite game where we would run along the top boards of the pigpen and try to make it across the sloped roof of the pig's house without falling inside where an angry boar was waiting to rip us apart. 

There were bikes to ride, an empty granary with several rooms we could turn into apartments, and willow tree branches to swing on. It was a fearsome delight each summer to watch our mother chop the heads off a hundred chickens so they could be skinned, washed, packed in milk cartons and stored in the freezer for winter use. There were cats, horses and cows to feed and miles of garden to weed. We seldom had outside friends to play with, and there was never any money for extras, but in many ways I feel lucky because life seemed much simpler then with party telephone lines, no television or computers and two or three outfits to wear to school.

When I tell may granddaughter about my childhood she has no conception of what I'm talking about. Automated life has its advantages, but sometimes I'd like to turn back the years and give the children of today a chance to be free to explore life on their own terms without constant planned activities and cellphones that can't be relinquished. It makes me wonder what my granddaughter will remember when she gets to be my age. I just hope I'm part of her pleasant memories. 

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Pioneer Day

It's July 24th. In Utah that means honoring our pioneer ancestors who traveled across the plains on foot and horseback, and by wagon and handcart, hoping to find a place where they would be free to worship God without persecution and violence. I admire mine greatly for the sacrifices they made. The stories about their lives fill me with gratitude and admiration and make me want to do everything I can to live up to the heritage they gave me. Perhaps part of my added focus comes from being older myself and knowing that it won't be that much longer until I meet them again in heaven to give an account of what I did with my family name. It's a rather daunting thought, but I really do want them to be proud of me.

In many ways, I consider myself, and every other person who lives on the earth, a pioneer in his or her own right. We each must carve out a place for ourselves in a world that is often filled with challenges and heartache that test our strength of character. I see people all around me who are rising above tremendous hardships and still giving back to others. They see the positive when the world around them is filled with chaos. They smile when their lives have fallen apart, and they rejoice with others who are enjoying success. They never become part of a newscast or enjoy any worldly accolades, but they live lives of hope, happiness and service.

I wouldn't want to be the pioneer who had to endure the extent of physical hardship many of my ancestors did. I'm afraid I might have stayed behind or given up during the journey. There are people in many countries who still exist that way today. I admire the selfless sacrifice of others who devote their lives to serving them and try to do my part, but I know it will never be enough. Perhaps that's the reason I wrote my next series. Final Allegiance, the first book in Reagan Sinclair, FBI, series came out today. It's about a 21st century woman who loves family, country and others and is willing to put everything on the line for what she believes. I'd love for any of you to read it and tell me what you think. It's now live at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv in both print and eBook. 

Saturday 20 July 2019

It's Okay to Fail

So after three months of frustration, lack of sleep and feeling rather hopeless I’m finally admitting defeat when it comes to being able to design covers for the books in my new series. There are plenty of free and relatively non-complex options for designing eBook covers that look okay. Canva is great. I’m sure that’s why so many authors on a very limited budget only go digital, but I love the feel of a real book in my hands. So I sought help from a wonderful and talented friend who will do them for me at a very reasonable cost. I’m sure all of you will appreciate it because the ones I tried did not look good. Now I can quite worrying and feeling bad because the graphic art genes missed me completely and can get back to doing something I feel good about. The first book in the new series should be out in a few days. I’m really excited about it. The story will keep you guessing from first chapter to last. 

I guess my real message for today is that not everyone can do everything well. We need to discover where our talents and limitations lay and be okay with it. I know a great many people who seem to be able to do it all, but I'm sure they have things they feel less than confident about. Sometimes I wish I didn't have so many but I'd stack my work ethic up with most anyone even half my age, and can I ever cook, clean, sew and work in the yard. I was raised without any fluff or fanfare, but that's okay too. I just want to be the best person I can in my own little corner of the world.

Sunday 7 July 2019

Hot Summer Fun

  This will be a little personal since I'm talking about my writing, but I hope everyone is enjoying the beautiful summer months with all the warm weather, gorgeous flowers, family vacations and grass to cut. I'm not a fan of hot weather but so far it hasn't been too bad, as long as I get up by 6 in the morning so I can do yard and garden work before 9. After that, I can spend time writing, doing things with family members and friends or giving service to others two days a week. I love giving back to people who cannot do certain things for themselves  I have been blessed with good health and the ability to do so. It is a great blessing and one I thank God for each day. There is so much suffering in the world, and I want to be part of the group who isn't always taking. That's so easy to do in our society where wants more likely than not outdo needs and people are more concerned with getting ahead than doing good to others. I believe every kind and thoughtful turn comes back a hundred fold in ways we would never expect.
  But back to what I would like to say, and it is about giving.  I'm really excited to announce the July 4 winners of the digital copies of Betrayal - Indecision's Flame - Book 4. I love sharing what I've written with others almost as much as I like writing. So here's a big congratulations to Judy Norris, Misty Mendenhall, Letitia Brower Klein and newrozunak@yahoo. For those whose names have not yet been drawn in a contest, I will be sponsoring another giveaway when the first book in the Final Allegiance series comes out in a few weeks. I'm working on cover-design. It’s very different from writing what goes inside, but I will endure. This new series is very different from Indecision’s Flame, but it does take place in some very exotic locations as Agent Reagan Sinclair begins her extraordinary and challenging service with the FBI. Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter.
    My knees trembled slightly as I walked past the empty desks of other agents in our division. Some of them were out of the building on assignments, while others would start trickling in as the clock ticked closer to the hour. This was going to be either a very good or a very bad day. The knot that had formed in my stomach while I was in the elevator traveled upwards until it lodged in my throat. What if I was being overly confident?  Nearly half of the new agents washed out the first few months on the job. There were few nine to five assignments and arrival at work didn’t always mean going home at night. Some cases took several days or even weeks to complete, and families couldn’t always be apprised of what was going on. 
   I’ll be sharing more later on my Facebook page and blog, and don’t forget that you can still get the first three books in Indecision's Flame as a Trilogy and save a little money, along with the rest of the books in the series at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv. If you’ve enjoyed any of books I’d love for you to leave a review. They’re what help us get noticed and would mean a lot. Just use this link to help me out. http://bit.ly/IFReview

  This is the setting for the first book in Final Allegiance. Doesn't it look like a fun place to visit?

Tuesday 25 June 2019

The Fun of Being a Homeowner

So here's my excuse for not posting something the past few weeks. I'm sure it's one many of you have lived through - probably more than once. It's all about being a homeowner and having things fall apart. It began when I turned on my sprinkler system a few weeks ago and found that every time I turned the outside water on in the house my back yard got sprinkled until I shut it off again. I couldn't get any of the other lines to work. Instead of calling a repair man, I asked a neighbor for help. He struggled with it for a few days thinking the valves in the back might be shot but finally brought another neighbor who figured out that one of the valves in the backyard wasn't sufficiently tightened. He reprogrammed the entire system for me - something I'd been struggling with since moving into the house nearly four years ago.

Once that issue was solved, I turned on the AC only to discover that every time I did it froze up. This time I did call for professional help. The verdict, like so any others, they could try to fix it for almost as much as new one could cost but there was no guarantee it would work through the rest of the summer. The furnace and AC are 16 years old. Apparently, they're only built to last 15 years anymore. It makes me wonder why the old ones would work for 25 years plus. (Perhaps all the new technology makes more than just people a little more lazy.) Anyway, I opted to replace both of them since installation would be a thousand dollars less to do them together. Plus, they would give me a discount and a rebate. That purchase successfully ended any travel plans for the next couple of years.

While I was waiting for them to do the installation, my granddaughter turned on the facet in the guest bathroom, and we couldn't get it to shut off. My son came to see what he could do. He got the hot water  value underneath the sink closed but didn't check the one for cold water. Two days later I walked into the basement to get a can of soup and found water dripping on my head and a whole bunch of it soaking into the floor. My son came to my rescue again and tightened the other valve so the flooding would stop, but he doesn't have time to replace the facet and valves for a week or so. He's in the process of moving. I cleaned up the mess, but it still means that if anyone comes to visit they will have to wash their hands in one of the other sinks.

I'm not sure there's a moral to this story. Life happens and things fall apart. It's how we react to negativity and irritants that really matters. I do believe in divine help and the goodness of others. I believe they work together to help us through the challenging times in life. I'm just very grateful for all my blessing. Life could always be so much worse.

In case I didn't mention it before, the final book in the Indecision's Flame series was released last month. It's a great read for any member of the family, and there's even an option to get the first three as a trilogy and save a little money. I'm hoping I will have a little more time for writing now, but it's a little iffy until school starts because I'll  have my granddaughter with me 2 to 4 days each week. Being with her is a blessing. She's teaching so much.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Remembering Others

So I didn't exactly forget Memorial Day. It's just that I live too far away from the cemetery's where my ancestors are buried to visit them and pay my respects very often. However, I did spend some time thinking about those who had gone before, especially my father. He died when I was thirteen. A sudden heart attack took him away from a wife and 7 little children who needed him desperately. He was tall and lean and kind and truly one of the most hardworking and selfless men I have ever known. He wanted to come a soldier and fight for liberty and truth during World War II, but a heart condition and an injury while playing high school football prevented it until the end was near.

Since he couldn't be sent directly into battle, he became part of the military police who rode the rails back and forth across the United States looking for draft dodgers and deserters. I can't imagine doing that, but it was a necessary part of the process since not everyone wanted to leave their lives of relative ease to help someone else. The last few months he spent on a Del Monte Pineapple Plantation in the Philippine Islands as a medic nursing soldiers back to health. It seemed like such a noble cause until I learned that most of the men he was helping were suffering from venereal diseases. Being young, I didn't know what he was talking about until much later.

That recollection made me think about how important the seemingly simple decisions in life can be.  It might not matter what we eat for breakfast or what we wear on a particular day, but it will matter to someone if we smile when we see a stranger, pick up a piece of litter or think before we speak. Life is about giving something back, not always wanting to be the recipient of something good or wonderful. I applaud those who hang posters on doors asking for old shoes that can be sent to those in need. I marvel at the compassion and help freely given during times of disaster, personal crisis or unrest. I feel great pride when I see the flag flying because I know millions of people sacrificed all they had so our nation could be free. I wish I could do more but need to be content with doing what I can. We choose what we will become and what we will be remembered for. Most days I just want to be remembered as being a replica of my father - minus the tall and lean, I'm afraid. Someday I will see him again, and I want him to be proud of me.

As a quick side note, you have until Friday to get the first three books in the Indecision's Flame series as a trilogy for $.99 by clicking on this link https://amzn.to/2PfLun2.  I'll tell you about book 7 in the series later. It's a must-read for everyone who believes in family, hope and forgiveness.

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Belated Mother's Day

So I completely spaced the holiday when it came to thinking about my own mother. Ours was a difficult relationship and my childhood was rarely pleasant, but I still admire her as a woman who worked hard, tried to do her best and commanded respect. There were never any fuzzy moments when I felt truly loved and accepted, but I always had clothes to wear and a roof over my head. I could never go to her with the problems that really mattered or seek shelter in the strength of her arms when I was frightened or needed help, but she made sure there was food on the table even if I had to cook it myself and she sometimes typed my school reports. (I never felt the need to take a typing and that has been a hindrance my entire life, especially since I have spent so much of it writing as a way to cope with things I didn't understand.)

From her I learned how to survive, rely on myself and never risk more than I could stand to lose. While those may not seem like endearing characteristics they have suited me. I've been alone most of my life since I never learned how to really connect or trust others. My marriage lasted 22 years but there was never any intimacy, and I was constantly afraid of saying or doing something that would meet with disapproval. I tried to break the chain of abuse that had been a part of my life since I was five by walking away, but it was done too late and in the wrong way. I often feel like I hurt my children more than I helped them, but like my mother, I was just trying to do my best.

That said, writing about families and intimate relationships in the Indecision's Flame series has been very hard for me. I know all about abuse, illness, denial, conflict, abandonment, lack of warmth and threats, but I don't know much about how happy families interact. One of the few things I remember about my parent's interacting was the day my father became angry enough to rip the dress from my mother's shoulders because she kept insisting on wearing something that was worn out when she had better things in her closet. So much for the mind wanting to protect the sanity of an individual!

But I still believe in Mother's Day and honor all of the  tremendous women I have known over the years who have overcome great odds, tried to serve others, and have given everything they have for the ones they love. No life is perfect, but it can always be improved on. I hope that my mother, who has been gone for almost 20 years now, will know that I love her and am really trying to understand how difficult her life must have been. I often see her refection when I look in the mirror. Whether we like it or not, we are part of the people who gave us life and will see them again someday. I'm hoping for a glorious reunion.

        Happy Belated Mother's Day

Wednesday 1 May 2019

May Flowers? I woke up to snow.

Exciting news and the perfect way to begin a rather chilly May. It's something I would never have tried on my own since cover design is a skill I'm still trying to learn, but with the help of a wonderful friend the first three books in the Indecision’s Flame series have been packaged as a trilogy. That means great reading for a great price. Until May 26, you can get all three books in digital format for $.99 at https://amzn.to/2PfLun2 After that, they will go to their regular price of $5.99. And don’t forget that the last book in series - Destiny - will be out later this month. It’s twists and turns will keep you guessing until the very end. Here's a sneak peak: 

Beth’s arrival at the ancestral home effectively ruins what Brylee and Jake hope will be the beginning of many happy Christmas days, but the much-anticipated holiday turns to complete ruin when Raymond Tucker interferes in a most galling way. It’s a battle against family feelings of betrayal, sinister alliances and catastrophic news as NJ returns to the outback armed with a plan that has the potential of upsetting the very balance of nature. Ongoing confrontations and unmitigated pressure force LeAnn to rethink what is right for her and her children, and Brylee wrestles with feelings of self-doubt and a very uncertain future while trying to keep the family together. Will Jake’s final decision bring her the closure and peace she so much desires, or will it turn to ashes everything they have been trying to build? 

All books are available in both digital and print format at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv  Stay warm and happy reading. 

Sunday 21 April 2019

Easter Day

I just couldn't let this glorious Easter Sunday go by without expressing my love to my Savior who paid the price for my sins, weaknesses and sorrows and provided a way for me to live again. At church, a talk was given relating the final week of his life. How he raised his dear friend Lazarus from the dead, had boughs strewn in his path as he entered Jerusalem, cleared the temple of the animals and money changers, had the last supper with his disciples and gave them the sacrament. He knew he was going to die and who would betray him; yet he had nothing but love and forgiveness in his heart. He prayed in the garden for all of mankind and was betrayed with a kiss. He stood before his accusers and never condemned anyone or tried to defend the false charges. He willingly hung on the cross when he had the power to save himself, and he suffered the finally agony of death. He lay in the tomb of a friend and three days later rose from the dead just as he had promised his disciples he would. 

His life was one of majesty, love and dedication, and I truly want to emulate as much of it as I possibly can by forgiving my neighbors, accepting challenges and disappointments without ridicule and complaint, and serving and loving as he did. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My heart is simply filled with love because I have accepted him as my Savior and know I will see him, and all of my family, again. What beautiful promise that is! More glorious than anything this world has to offer.

I think these few words express it best: JESUS IS A GOD OF MIRACLES BECAUSE HE RESCUED YOU AND ME.

Tuesday 9 April 2019

April Showers

Can't say that I've enjoyed the coolness of this spring day and all the rain after 70 plus degrees and plenty of sun yesterday, but it has given me time to do laundry and more editing and refining of the first book of my new series that will be launched in mid-summer, if all goes according to plans. I don't know why I'm so excited since book Destiny - Book 7 of the Indecision's Flame series won't be released until next month, but I'm a person who always likes to look ahead and can't stand to remain in one place for long. I suppose that's why I've moved so often the past few years. Like the children of today - I GET BORED EASILY.

Right after my divorce I bought a small, new home in the town where I taught school. That was challenging but fun, although I was receiving a lot of opposition. People in my community didn't like the idea that I had found it necessary to leave my husband of 22 years, but my doctor told me that my body was shutting down, and I would be dead in six months if I didn't make a drastic change.  Eighteen months later, I got a different job at the high school I went to and even managed to compile both print and video histories with my students of the institution. After 7 years, I sold that home, moved to another part of Idaho and bought a different house. I stayed they for 10 years and then retired.

That was my chance to do something really different and fun. I bought an acre and a quarter of ground on a private pond next to my sister in Missouri and proceeded to build my dream house. Little did I know that just a few months after I moved in that my daughter-in-law would be diagnosed with stage 4 Melanoma Lymphoma and my son would need me in Utah. So I sold my beautiful home there and moved into a house I had never seen in the middle of a subdivision where the houses are so close it gives me claustrophobia. But my daughter-in-law is doing great now, and I've been able to spend tons of time with my granddaughter.

I guess any place can be home, and I've met wonderful people and made a great many friends. I only know that I'm getting antsy after three and a half years and would love to be in the country again. Don't know if that's in my future, but sometimes we simply have to make do with what we have and be grateful for the blessings of family, health, faith, money to survive on and enough passion to do something useful. That's where I sit right now, just counting my blessings as the rain continues to fall. Spring flowers are already blooming, and in a few weeks I'll be complaining about all the heat. What's life like where you're at?

Here's the main setting for the first book in my new series. Hope you'll feel like checking it out.

Friday 22 March 2019

Is spring really on the way?

So here I am sitting in my most comfortable chair in the middle of the morning with a lamp on behind my head since it's too dark outside to read or work on my computer otherwise. I love these quiet days at home after I've finished my housework and taken care of other things that need to be done. It's soul enriching to spend time alone contemplating life and what I can do to make the world a better a place. I know each person on earth has a vital role to play, even if his or her circle of acquaintances and friends is small. There's always someone close by who needs a word of cheer, help with a difficult task or something as easy to give as a smile. 

I'm an introvert and really struggle with social situations since my tongue often gets tied when I try to say something, and I mostly question if anything I have to say will be of interest to someone else. My life is simple. Most people would say it's boring since I don't have to be shopping, going out with family or friends or traveling to be happy. I take great pleasure in the common, everyday things.  I love the smell of fresh bread baking, touching a flower I've helped to grow, folding clean laundry and looking at the stars in the sky. But I also recognize that I need to help others see these beauties as well. So I've challenged myself this year to step out of my comfort zone and do at least one kind deed for someone else each day. It can be as simple as responding to a Facebook post or as uncomfortable as inviting a neighbor I barely know out to lunch. 

I haven't missed a day yet. That's not to say I haven't come close to crawling into bed at night before realizing that I still need to make good on my promise to myself. What I do may not mean much to anyone else in the larger scheme of things, but it means something to me because I've forced myself to go from a place of comfort into the unknown. Sometimes I get feedback, but mostly it's just knowing that I'm doing something that is hard for me. I used to think extroverts were so much better than me because they always seemed to be having so much fun with so little effort, but my perspective is starting to change. While I will always feel somewhat intimidated around others, I'm beginning to see that being different is okay. True happiness comes from accepting who we are and trying to become better. Perhaps there might even be someone else who wishes they were more like me.

Wednesday 13 March 2019

A Blustery March

Hope this finds everyone well. I've been fighting a bug for the past month but am very glad I got a flu shot. We've had some pretty erratic weather this winter but then so has most everyone else in the country. I've tried to spend my time wisely and not let the long, dark days upset me too much by revising the first five books in the Indecision's Flame series. It's taken awhile, but I feel much better about marketing something where I've found every error that I possibly could.

This past eight months haven't been easy trying to learn a new trade. I love writing but never considered all the work it would take to get my books Indie Published. For those of you who don't know what that means, it's doing all the work yourself. I've had great friend to help me, but the learning curve has been steep. Thank goodness he volunteered to do the covers. That's something I have yet to learn, and quite frankly, even thinking about it scares me. But since I have a new series mostly written, I can't drag my feet forever. 

As a way to celebrate my accomplishment, I'm offering a free PDF copy of the first book to anyone who might like to read it, and maybe get a few review in return. I'm learning that's a critical step in the process, but it's not easy asking people to take the time to do it. In case you don't know what the book is about, here's a preview of what you'll find it book 1.

Brylee Hawkins returns to her birthland, the Australian outback, to confront her father whom she believes was responsible for her mother’s death. Now face to face with him after years apart, she discovers that the painful truth she has clung to was not the reality of what really happened. As the truth unfolds, Brylee must face the new family that has filled her father’s life, the lies and the betrayals she must relive, and the incredibly handsome ranch hand that tempts her into compromising her values. Will she find her way through this labyrinth, or succumb to his charms, losing herself in the process. Set in the rugged Australian outback, Indecision’s Flame is a rich tapestry of love and lessons that must be read to fully appreciate.

Happy reading, whatever genre you like.