History of a Weirdo

Many refer to me as a weirdo, a dork, and a nerd. After years of introspection, I’ve learned to embrace it and take it as a compliment on my creativity.

The History of a Weirdo:

In second grade, I wrote the short story, “Miss Pat’s Salad.” When Pat makes a salad then accidentally drops it on the floor, her family reacts in different ways. This start to my writing career won the coveted place on the center of our refrigerator door.

After three weeks, my younger sister Tricia’s Chartreuse and Tangerine drawing of a cow knocked my story out of the spotlight. Seriously, who could compete with that? A few weeks later, I upended the Crayola cow with my short story, “The Card Family” about the King and Queen of Clubs, who introduce the newest addition to their family.

It was on. Trish won many more times. Deservedly so. She had colored between the lines. My younger brothers, James and Jefrey, added their kiddy crafts of Thanksgiving hand turkeys and macaroni art to the mix; and the competition became fierce.

With a few fridge awards under my belt, I expanded my genius to writing, directing, and producing our basement plays with my siblings. The most talked about play in the neighborhood was The Bionic Family starring our shaggy mutt, Arfie, as the bionic dog. If YouTube was around back then, we would have been a sensation … or mortified beyond belief.

As a tall, gangly, band geek, my creativity took a backseat in junior high and high school. Fitting in and avoiding embarrassment took precedence. Neither worked out, but it gave me cringe-worthy material for later stories.

In college, I met my now husband, Kraig, who inspired my world. He encouraged my writing even if it was research term papers. Later, I dabbled with fiction and focused on our children. With them grown, I took on the creative writing challenge once more.

And Ta-Da! Here I am!

Again I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new.  My newest WIP is  a historical fiction story based on my father’s letters during the Korean War.

I’ll keep you posted. Thanks again for stopping by.

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Meet Madeline’s Aunt Sylvia

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the people in The Chemical Attraction Series. Joe Roberts, Eva O’Sullivan, and Taylor Valentine are siblings by choice. They’ve told me their story, and I wrote about their amazing journey. These interviews take place just after their adventure in Chemical Reaction. [trivial spoilers/no plot spoilers]

Madeline’s Aunt Sylvia lost her husband, Herbert, a year ago. In Chemical Attraction, she had a hand in getting Joe and Madeline together. Then, in Chemical Reaction, her support for Joe helped him focus on finding Madeline. Today, Sylvia answers a few questions for the fans of the Series.

CHRISTINA: Whose idea was it to setup Madeline with Joe?

SYLVIA: Herbert and I had the idea years ago, but it wasn’t until recently we got them into the same room. At the local women’s group, Eva and I thought Joseph and Madeline would have chemistry. I think Joseph saw right through our plan. He was already smitten though. I’m happy everything worked out. I trust in the Lord’s plan for us. My sister, Allison, would have approved the match. My heart breaks that she’s not here to see how happy her daughter is. Family meant everything to Allison, too.

CHRISTINA: You met Joe before the start of Chemical Attraction. How’d you first meet?

SYLVIA: In The Kindred Code, I met Joseph about the time Eva and Matthew started dating. Herbert thought pairing Joseph with Madeline would be beneficial for both of them. He never said why; he’d just chuckle. Eva and I felt we carried out his wishes.

CHRISTINA: Is Joe as good of a dancer as he thinks he is?

SYLVIA: Yes, he is. I danced with him before Madeline did. I knew then that our plan would work.

CHRISTINA: Did Earl VanKampen have any chance of courting you?

SYLVIA: Good God, no! Herbert was my one and only. My focus is on my new family. Suddenly, I have sons, daughters, and grandchildren. I’m truly blessed. They keep my heart young.

CHRISTINA: Tell us about your husband, Herbert.

SYLVIA: Joseph reminds me of Herbert ─ charming with a sense of humor and a kind heart. Herbert retired after working thirty-five years at Haworth Manufacturing then he helped me at the B & B until he passed. We met at the local American Legion’s annual veteran’s dance. He was my Navy man. Herbert swept me off my feet. I miss dancing with him.

CHRISTINA: Everyone loves your chocolate chip cookies. Care to share the recipe?

SYLVIA: It’s Herbert’s mother’s recipe. Imogene would say, “Love makes them good, but lard makes them great.” That’s our secret, right? The women in my sewing circle have been after my recipe for years.

CHRISTINA: It’s our secret. Thanks for joining me today and giving the fans insight into your life. Learn more about Sylvia’s life in the standalone romantic thriller Chemical Attraction and its sequel, Chemical Reaction.

Meet Joe Roberts

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the people in The Chemical Attraction Series. Joe Roberts, Eva O’Sullivan, and Taylor Valentine are siblings by choice. They’ve told me their story, and I wrote about their amazing journey. These interviews take place just after their adventure in Chemical Reaction. [trivial spoilers/no plot spoilers]

His charisma hiding his loneliness, Joe Roberts is searching for an instant chemistry with his soulmate, the one person who will love him for his faults not in spite of them.

In Their Rigid Rules, Joe meets his future boss and then in The Kindred Code, he sets his career with the FBI in motion. In Chemical Attraction, he and Madeline fall in love during that dangerous case. In Chemical Reaction, they struggle to make it work while apart. Today, Joe answers a few questions for the fans of the series.

 

CHRISTINA: How’d you know Madeline was your one?

JOE: When I read her case file, her brilliance intrigued me. Then, I saw her jogging down the street next to her Aunt Sylvia’s B & B and knew. Our kiss on the dance floor confirmed it for me, but getting her on board took a while.

CHRISTINA: Madeline’s a genius research scientist and you need to be right. Do you find her intimidating?

JOE: I grew up where I had to take charge. I was on my own and had to be right to survive. With Madeline, I love the challenge of raising myself up intellectually. Her intelligence is sexy.

CHRISTINA: Is there any correlation between Madeline and Taylor’s favorite scent of lilacs? Did that scent attract you to Madeline?

JOE: Wait. What? I, um, uh, I never thought about that. I’m not comfortable discussing it. Next question, please.

CHRISTINA: Okay, we’ll move on. How’s your relationship with Stuart now?

JOE: We’re good. He and Matt treat me like a little brother although they don’t pick on me as much as Eva does. I let her to make her feel superior. Don’t tell her I said that.

CHRISTINA: You and Sylvia have a flirty relationship. How’d that start?

JOE: Years ago, in The Kindred Code, I met Sylvia and Herbert Folkert when Director Bingaman and I stayed at their B & B. She asked me if I was single.  Apparently, she planned to set me up with Madeline way back then. I flirted back amused by her playful banter. The next day, Herbert gave me an inspiring piece of advice that I still hold on to. I’ll share it with Madeline later.

CHRISTINA: When did you get rid of your tank of a car and buy the Ford Taurus?

JOE: My eighty-eight Lincoln Continental sat at the Director’s cabin for most of the winter and wouldn’t start, so he had to have it towed. Before I answer about my Taurus, what did the Director say about it? I, uh, didn’t actually buy it. It’s revealed in The Kindred Code though.

CHRISTINA: How would you characterize your relationship with your boss?

JOE: Director Bingaman took a chance on me in Their Rigid Rules. I’m grateful for that. At the office, we stay professional. At family gatherings, Peter is my mentor and fills the father role with Eva and Taylor, too.

CHRISTINA: Thanks for joining me today and giving the fans insight into your life. Read more about Joe’s backstory in Their Rigid Rules and The Kindred Code. Then follow up with Joe and Madeline’s romance in Chemical Attraction and Chemical Reaction.

 

Meet Eva O’Sullivan

Taking-the-town

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the people in The Chemical Attraction Series. Eva O’Sullivan, Taylor Valentine, and Joe Roberts are siblings by choice. They’ve told me their story, and I wrote about their amazing journey. These interviews take place just after their adventure in Chemical Reaction. [trivial spoilers/no plot spoilers]

Eva O’Sullivan Connor, a petite Irish spitfire with auburn spiral curls, has big opinions, and you know them whether you want to or not. Masking her vulnerability, she wears her willfulness like armor. Eva grew up in a single parent household and met Joe and Taylor in grade school. They quickly became inseparable. Eva has a fierce love for her family and believes families are bound by love not blood. Today, she answers a few questions for the fans of the Series.

CHRISTINA: Taylor and Joe have said, “If Eva has an opinion on a subject, you knows it whether you want to or not.” Does that description bother you?

EVA: No, it’s true and it’s not a bad thing. I like that way I am. Joe and Taylor tease me about my bossiness, but it’s never mean. We have our strengths and weaknesses. Family balances them. How boring would it be if we were all the same?

CHRISTINA: You made quite an impression with David and Matt at your first meeting in Their Rigid Rules. How’d you feel about them?

EVA: What’s not to love? David was adorable. He’s smart with a good heart just like his father. And, well, my first thought about Matt was “Wow, now this is a man.” He wasn’t a guy or a college boy. This handsome rugged man has embraced the responsibilities to his son and his profession. Seriously, Matt was shot in the line of duty saving an officer’s life. How much more manly can you get? They included me in their family. I can’t imagine a better feeling for your soul than that.

CHRISTINA: Throughout the series, you’ve fixed the meals when the family gathers. Have you always been a great cook?

EVA: I learned to cook from Matt’s mom. I have a thick homemade cookbook with all her delicious recipes. We didn’t get off to a great start. In fact, Gail hated me.

CHRISTINA: What happened that made her dislike you so much?

EVA: Oh boy, well, I visited Matt at his house for our first weekend together without David, who stayed at a friend’s house. Naked in his bed, I waited for Matt to come home from work. Well, Gail walked in first. She called me a harlot. The weekend deteriorated from there. Everything I did caused a stir in the town. It’s a big part of The Kindred Code.

CHRISTINA: You love messing with your brother, Joe. You’ve called him out for his player ways and embarrassed him in front of the other agents in Chemical Attraction, and then you pranked him during your phone call with Madeline in Chemical Reaction. Has he ever gotten you back for those shenanigans?

EVA: Not yet. He tries, but I’m always a step ahead of him. Taylor and I tease him so his anger doesn’t take over. Madeline’s the perfect balance for him. For a long time, Joe didn’t think he was worthy of someone special. I hope Madeline will continue to appreciate how great he is. Oh, uh, don’t tell him I said that. He doesn’t need a bigger head.

CHRISTINA: Thanks for sharing your insights. I love how dedicated you are to your family. Read more about the chemistry of Eva and Matt’s first meeting in Their Rigid Rules. Then follow up with their touching romance in The Kindred Code.

 

“New Year’s Home”

What is the ultimate gift?

This short story is based on The Garden Collection, one of my favorite novels to reflect on during the holidays … “The heartwarming story of struggle, determination, heartache, and true love …”

 

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 31ST

In Mason’s Diner in rural West Michigan, six-year-old Chloe Miller’s paper snowflakes cover all of the windows as if another blizzard hit town. Multicolor Christmas lights blink around the window frames. By the cash register, a two-foot-high fake Christmas tree holds so many of Chloe’s homemade ornaments the patrons can’t see the branches.

Standing behind the counter, Brianna Carlson waits for Henry Mason to pass her orders through the grill window. She stares at the poster behind the register.

Her best friend, Lucy Donovan, had suggested Bree put her own doodle sketches to good work and enter the competition to design the New Year’s Eve Gala poster. Out of one hundred applicants, she won.

She had drawn dark snowy woods where the old trees have snarled branches. The trees’ arthritic fingers reach for the sparkling red box with a bright white bow that illuminates the small clearing. The caption reads WHAT IS THE ULTIMATE GIFT?

The regulars at the diner celebrated her excitement by encouraging her to attend the gala. As the winner, she received one hundred dollars and a ticket to the party. She had saved her money for three weeks to buy a dress with matching shoes.

“Bree, your order’s up,” Henry yells from behind the grill. She sees only his eyes and the top of his bandana-covered baldhead through the open window.

The retired men on the stools at the counter chuckle. “Are you daydreaming again, Cinderella?” Charlie asks.

She blushes. “Maybe I’ll find my Prince Charming tonight,” she replies, picking up the cheeseburger platters.

George unrolls his silverware from his napkin. “Are you ever going to tell us what’s in the red box from your poster?”

She grabs the ketchup from under the counter. “What do you think is in the box?”

George takes the bottle. “Money?”

“How about keys to a yacht?” Charlie adds.

“I know what’s in the box,” Chloe says from the end of the counter. Her long brown hair in a thick braid matches her big sister’s. Chloe bites into a French fry and grins.

“Well, my sweet one, please share with us,” Bev Mason says from behind the cash register.

Chloe looks at her. “Can I tell them?”

Bree nods. “I always thought it was obvious.” She caresses the etched ivy on her gold heart-shaped locket, an emerald in its center.

“Tell us right now,” George demands. He winks at Chloe as he wipes his mouth.

“It’s LOVE, sillies. I can’t believe you never guessed it.”

“Oh, I forgot you’re a genius,” Bev jokes.

“I’ve gotten all excellent marks so far in first grade.”

Brianna nods. “You have a lot of wonderful tutors,” she says, glancing at her work family. Chloe grew up on that stool. They even put her name on it.

As the men tease Chloe that they made her smart, Officer Eddie Kent stomps his feet inside the door. In his dark blue uniform and auburn crew cut, he sits at the opposite end of the counter. Bree greets him with his usual glass of milk.

“It’s not ready yet?” he asks.

“I wasn’t sure you were working today. I’ll get right on it.”

Bree quickly enters the kitchen and helps Henry with the order of rare steak and scrambled eggs with a side of raw onions and garlic toast. Eddie eats it every day he works.

She carefully sets his plates in front of him. She had learned not to stand too close afterward.

“Bree, don’t worry. I’m here if you need anything,” Eddie says, reaching for the knife.

“What?”

“Kent! I will explain it,” Chief Cameron Mason says, taking up the entire doorway. He smooths down his thick mustache with his thumb and finger then points her to the end booth. With a hand over her stomach, she sits. He stops Chloe from jumping off her stool. “Stay put. I want to talk to Bree in private.”

“Cam, what’s wrong?” she asks as he slides in across from her.

“Wayne is being paroled due to overcrowding.”

She gasps. “When?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Oh, God.” She places her shaking hands on her lap. Chloe stares at her reaction. “Do you think he’ll come back here?” she whispers.

“I honestly don’t know. If you see him anywhere in town, call my cell,” he says, pulling out his card.

She stops him. “I still have it memorized.”

Cam leaves for the kitchen to talk to his father. She stares out the window at the two fresh inches of snow. What should she do?

Wayne Miller’s letters from prison promised to take Chloe away from her. Bree has no legal rights to Chloe. Could he reclaim his daughter?

Bree had taken the brunt for years so he wouldn’t hurt her half-sister. She would not let Wayne hurt her now.

She jumps as Chloe slides in next to her. “Bree, what’s the matter?

She hugs her. “Nothing for you to worry about, my sweet Clover.” She nudges her out of the booth. “I have to get back to work.”

While carrying the tub of dirty dishes, she bangs her shin into the metal cart behind the counter. The tub crashes to the floor. Plates and mugs shatter. With tears in her eyes, she rushes to clean the mess. Partial blindness in her left eye and a limp from a healed broken leg makes her clumsy, especially when stressed or tired.

Eddie Kent laughs as he finishes his meal. “Bev, have you run out of plates yet?”

Bree looks up at her. “I’m sorry.”

“Honey, we know it’s not your fault. Why don’t you and Chloe take off? Tonight’s the big night. Happy early birthday.”

As she puts the last broken plate in the tub, she slides it to the side and stands. Charlie asks, “You’ll save me a dance?”

“I’m first in line. She promised me yesterday,” George adds.

“Only if you recognize me. It’s a masquerade ball after all.”

Thankful for their understanding, Brianna helps Chloe with her coat, hat, and mittens. Stepping outside, she takes a deep breath. They would make a run for it. They’d hide, and Wayne would eventually give up looking. With a purpose, she reaches for her sister’s hand.

“Bree, do you want a ride?” Eddie asks, absently patting the gun at his side.

Resisting the urge to wrinkle her nose at his horrid breath, she shakes her head. “We have errands. Thank you though.”

Chloe shuffles her boots through the snow on the sidewalk and sings “Let it Snow.”

After closing out her savings account with one hundred and twenty-six dollars, she pulls open the door to the pawnshop. The stifling heat hits them in the face as they wipe their boots on the rug just inside the door. In a Santa hat, Gus Fuller strokes his long white beard and waves.

Bree sighs. “I need to talk to Gus for a moment. Do you want to wander around?” Chloe nods and heads for the stack of board games while Bree meets him at the counter. “I’d, uh, like to see what I can get for this,” she says, slipping her precious locket over her head. A treasured gift from Lucy’s brother, Robert.

Gus turns it in his hand. “This is a high-end piece. I’d say it’s worth a grand. I can only give you five hundred, but Donovan’s Jewelry may give you more.”

She groans. Robert had spent too much money on her. She quickly wipes her eyes. This is about responsibility and survival not a sentimental trinket.

Bree takes the locket back from him and stares at it. She wears it all the time and touches it often. Finally nodding, she sets it back on the counter. As she tucks the money into her wallet, Chloe joins her with a magic kit.

“Do we have extra for this? It’s three dollars,” Chloe says.

“It’s yours for a hug,” Gus replies.

Chloe runs around the counter. After paying with a hug, she kisses his cheek and tugs his beard. “Thanks, Gus.”

With slouched shoulders, Bree moves toward the door.

“Take care,” Gus says quietly.

She wants to grab her locket and run. Instead, she limps out the door. No turning back. At the bus station, she opts for the trip tomorrow morning so she can attend the gala. Her one last hurrah.

“What are you going to wish for?” Chloe asks as they walk down the snowy sidewalk.

“Hmm, my birthday wish,” she says, swinging Chloe’s hand. “What would your wish be?”

“It’s a secret.”

“You’re keeping secrets from me?” Bree asks.

“Only my wish.”

“Are you wishing to hold hands with your boyfriend, Patrick Dugan, during recess?”

Chloe yanks her hand away. “I don’t like Patrick.”

“If you say so.”

“Well, I don’t,” Chloe replies.

Bree laughs. “So what’s your wish or should I keep guessing?”

Chloe takes a deep breath. “I wish I had a mom.”

Bree winces. Her eyes blur again. “I’m sorry things are different for us. I try to take care of you the best I can.”

Now, Bree would be making their lives even more difficult. The stress and worry sends an ache to her leg as they walk up the hill.

“Bree, I didn’t mean—”

“It’s okay, Clover. I sometimes wish for that, too.” Bree points to the golf course country club where the gala would be held. Delivery trucks drop off flowers and balloons. The band unloads their equipment. “Should I bring you home one of those huge balloons? Silver or gold?”

“Both,” Chloe replies, taking her hand again.

Bree slows her pace and huffs as they approach Paul and Marta Donovan’s house. She and Chloe live in the studio loft above their two-stall garage.

After retrieving Chloe’s backpack for her overnight stay, they enter the main house through the huge kitchen. Passing two freshly pressed tuxedos still in their plastic wrap, Chloe races up the steps. Bree limps behind her.

In Lucy’s room, a cluttered oak desk overlooks the snow-covered in-ground pool and golf course. Working from home, Lucy has a knack for marketing while Robert, always away, travels the world and designs amazing necklaces, earrings, and bracelets for the family business — Donovan’s Jewelry.

On the plum couch, Chloe scoots closer to Lucy so they can look at her new magic kit.

Lucy grins as if she knows a secret. “Turning twenty-one will be your best birthday ever. I can feel it. The stars have finally aligned.”

Lucy believes in Happily Ever After scenarios. She had said having a sprained ankle would allow her to watch Chloe while Bree went to the gala this year.

“A new year always brings hope and excitement,” she replies, letting Lucy’s positive energy wash over her. “Are you sure you’re up to this?”

“Chloe and I are going to have a girls’ spa night with facials and manicures,” Lucy says.

“Oh boy,” Chloe says. “Bree, you can go now.”

Bree kisses Lucy’s cheek and whispers a “thank you” in her ear. “Behave, my sweet Clover. I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow morning.”

“Why so early?” Lucy asks. “We’re staying up until midnight.”

“I want to start celebrating my birthday. Chloe promised to be extra nice. I want to take advantage of it.”

“You’re not going to be mean, are you?” Chloe asks.

“I’m going to be so horrible, and you’ll still have to be nice,” Bree replies, kissing her head. Chloe laughs at her jest and pushes her away.

After leaving the main house, Bree hurries up the steps to the loft. Inside, she kicks off her boots and tosses her coat on the double bed that she and Chloe share. She loves this small space but her home no longer.

XXX

 

Read more about Brianna and her struggle in the novel, The Garden Collection

 

The Garden Collection: Blurb

A few words of encouragement can stay with you for a lifetime. Robert and Brianna’s childhood friendship grew into respect for each other and their ideas. Robert gave her the confidence to stand up for herself. Brianna helped him see his artistic potential and encouraged him to travel for his inspiration. He found it in the letters she wrote.

Now struggling to care for her six-year-old half-sister, Chloe, after their mother abandoned them, Brianna Carlson receives news that her abusive stepfather will be released from prison. Still limping from a once broken leg, she’s terrified he’ll come back to hurt Chloe this time. She decides to leave town.

While traveling for his family’s jewelry business, Robert Donovan designed The Garden Collection, his newest line of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Returning home, he discovers Brianna had lied in every letter she sent. She never received any of his. Before he can demand answers, she disappears without Chloe. As Robert learns about Brianna’s life during his absence, he sets out to find her and convince her to trust him again.

If you obey all the RULES, you miss all the fun.

“If you obey all the RULES, you miss all the fun.” ~ Katharine Hepburn

One of the reasons for the second edition release of The Chemical Attraction Series is to put it in chronological order. Captivating, fast-paced, suspenseful, and romantic, Their Rigid Rules is now the first book in the Series. Learn more about these characters from the beginning:

Taylor Valentine, a senior at Western Michigan University, has had her life planned out since kindergarten. After her parents died while she was still in high school, she had perfected it to make them proud. Now with the help of her best friends, Joe and Eva, she focuses on graduation and a career with romance in the far distant future. However, when the visiting professor enters the lecture hall to a four-weekend Civil War seminar, her perfect plan hits a snag.

As a handsome history professor and former Marine, Dr. Stuart Morgan has his own set of strict rules especially with infatuated students. He enjoys his boring yet pleasant life until he starts receiving death threats. With his unwanted bodyguard in tow, Stuart is unnerved by his reaction to Taylor.

Their rigid rules discourage all but a flirtation. With the threats from family and foe pulling them apart, Stuart must somehow convince Taylor to break her rules and embrace a new plan.

Grab your copy for ONLY $0.99

(the sale ends soon)

Their Rigid Rules (Book One)

Siblings by Choice

Mark your calendars for the release of The Kindred Code on Wednesday, July 19th. In the meantime, enjoy the excerpt between Joe and Eva, who are siblings by choice. They tease, harass, deflect, and know each other so well…

Excerpt from The Kindred Code

“Joey, focus! You missed the street,” Eva said.

Joe backtracked and finally found Matt’s house, a plain, well-kept country blue ranch with a two-car attached garage and a chain link fence in back half buried in the snow. In the neatly shoveled driveway, Matt’s old Bronco had also been cleared. Joe stopped beside it then blew out a breath in relief, glad to be done with the long drive on the slippery back roads.

“Crap,” Eva said, searching through her brown leather purse. “He gave me a key and I forgot it.”

“Damn it, Eva. I’m not going back,” he replied, flexing his fingers to ease the ache from his tight grip of the steering wheel. “Maybe he has one hidden somewhere.”

She laughed. “Here,” she said, holding it out for him. “You’re the one who needs to lighten up.”

He ripped it from her hand. She continued to laugh as he walked around the car to help her out. She handed him her purse and mittens then struggled to stand on her own, despite the walking boot cast on her right foot. Stubborn as always. With a sigh, he filled his arms with her crutches and suitcase from the back seat.

Taking the crutches, she started hopping toward the front door. Matt had shoveled the walkway bare, too, and rock salt covered every cement surface. Matt was definitely a responsible guy. Joe chuckled as he followed her.

Eva held out her hand for the key. “Just drop my purse and suitcase inside then you can leave,” she said, unlocking the door.

“No way. What kind of brother would I be if I didn’t look around and make sure he’s not some psycho?” he asked.

Inside, Eva turned and glared at him. “He’s a cop and a wonderful father who owns his own home.”

“You do need to lighten up. I was kidding, except for the snooping part.”

In the living room, Joe set her suitcase, purse, and mangled mittens beside the worn yet comfortable looking sofa. Under one end table, he spotted a wicker basket with yarn and a partially crocheted blanket.

“How domestic do you want to be with this guy? Crocheting? Really?” Joe said with a chuckle.

“Aren’t you going to be late?” Eva replied.

“Nope. I’ve got time.” He walked toward the kitchen on the right.

The plain white kitchen had enough room for a square wooden table and four chairs. David’s school paintings on the refrigerator added the only color to the room. To annoy Eva, Joe opened a cupboard above the bare countertop.

“Joe, stop,” she said, leaning on the back of one of the chairs.

“Do you really want to get tied down with a kid?”

Opening the fridge, he found it overflowing with Tupperware containers. He pulled out the closest, lifting the lid to see what was inside. His mouth watered at the macaroni salad. He quickly found a spoon in the drawer. After taking a huge bite, he moaned and held out a spoonful for Eva.

“This is so good,” he mumbled with another mouthful.

“I think his mom made it. His parents live across the street.” She hopped to the lid on the counter and held it out for him to cover the bowl. Instead, he walked around the table, making her hop after him.

“Sounds like Everybody Loves Raymond,” he said, before taking another bite.

“Have you talked to Taylor today?”

“No,” he replied, taking the lid she thrust in his face. “She’s not my problem anymore.” He shoved the container with its lid back into the refrigerator.

“Not your problem? She’s your family.”

“You know what I mean. She’s with Stuart now.” Leaving the kitchen, he headed down the hallway and glanced in David’s dinosaur-themed bedroom. In the guest room next to David’s, six boxes of toys and books rested on the bed beside two police uniforms lying across an ironing board.

“Do you want to talk about her?” she asked at his heels to keep him from snooping too thoroughly.

“This place is void of a female touch. Are you gonna decorate right away or wait until you’re living here?”

“Peter’s going to make you wear a suit everyday with the FBI.”

“Not if I can help it,” he replied.

Before Joe could add another retort, he and Eva heard a bang then a rattling from the basement. Joe whispered for Eva to go into the bathroom and lock the door. Rolling her eyes, she shook her head while Joe opened the basement door. The rattling vibrated the steps as Joe carefully descended. Eva hopped down behind him.

Beside neatly packed boxes on metal shelves that lined the perimeter of the small clean basement, an old furnace shook. At closer inspection, Joe found a large wrench sitting on the water heater and a slight dent in the furnace beside it. He banged the wrench into the dent and the rattling stopped. The heat popped on.

Joe grinned. “Owning a home is easy. I’m a pro already.”

Eva snorted and hopped back up the stairs huffing as she went. When his cell rang, Joe checked the caller ID. He let Taylor’s call go to his voicemail. Eva watched him.

“You need to work through your feelings for her,” Eva said.

“And, on that note, I’m out of here.” She was right, but he wouldn’t openly admit it.

Using her crutch, Eva poked him in the back, stopping him. “I love you, Joey.”

“Stay out of trouble,” he replied, giving her a hug, “although nothing ever happens in these farming towns.”

 

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The Birds of Winter

cardinal-2

Today, I’m featuring a short story written by my brother, James. I’d like to think my passion for writing is rubbing off on him…

 

The Birds of Winter

By James Bennett

I knew returning to Michigan was going to be hard. Under these circumstances perhaps even harder. It had just started to snow as I arrived at my mother’s house. A gust of cold wind blew across my neck as I made my way to the door. She was ready with a glass of wine and a deck of cards hoping to make up some lost time. It’s been tough for her since her father died two months ago. Especially on Sunday when we used to gather for the traditional family dinner.

We sat down at the kitchen table and had time for a few games before my brother and sisters arrived. “Gin again,” my mother said as she slapped down her cards. I had never quite got the hang of the game she taught us when we were kids. She left me there to shuffle the cards as she journeyed to refill her drink.

Just then a cloud passed overhead and cast a shadow on the room. When I glanced outside I noticed a bright red Cardinal staring at me from the feeder. I was mesmerized by his flickering motion and instantly transported on a memory to my grandfather’s house. I was six years old standing perfectly still in a foot of snow with my arms outstretched. Wrapped in a faded purple snowsuit that was handed down from my sister, I waited patiently.

I remember my grandfather telling me that if I was perfectly still, they would come. And as the minutes passed, standing there trying not to shiver from the cold, they came. I was hypnotized by the movement, watching them dart back and forth. I could see them jump around on the different feeders hanging from the small maple tree. They would jump from a branch to the feeder and back again waiting for their turn. Sometimes they would light in the huge black walnut tree just down the hill and sometimes they would seem to appear out of nowhere. I knew each type of bird. My mother and grandfather both taught me the difference between Sparrows, Wrens, Finches and a dozen others.

Finally, it happened. First a Chickadee, then another, then a Wren and two sparrows. They took turns hopping in and out of my hands taking a bit of seed each time. Their tiny feet felt like snowflakes dancing in my hand. I’ve never felt closer to nature.

“What are you staring at?” my mother said as she returned with her drink.

“I was just remembering when grandpa taught us how the birds could eat out of our hands.”

“I haven’t thought about that for years. What made you think of that?”

“I just noticed the birds outside on your feeder. Do they stick around all winter?”

“Of course,” she said.

“But, don’t most birds migrate for the winter? What makes these stay though the harsh bitter cold months?”

“Well, because, this is their home and this is where their families are.” After a moment, we both smiled at each other.

“Now deal the cards,” she said.

xxx

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Happy 2017—a Year of Kindness & Encouragement!

 

What Surrounds You?

feng-shui-blog-picture

I still tap into my holistic training with my writing. It’s a theme throughout my novels because the healing power of Love is incredibly profound. I’m constantly in awe of the mind, body, and spirit connection especially when our environment is involved. I’m talking about Feng Shui, one of the eight modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Feng Shui is the enhancement of the energy (Qi) in your surroundings to attract prosperity. Flowing through all living things, Qi is the spirit or vital force that carries your body—the way you appear, act, move, talk. When you’re healthy, your Qi flows gently within your body. Problems occur when the Qi is blocked or moves too swiftly along its pathways.

Your environment affects your Personal Qi. Has someone’s mean comment ever soured your mood? Qi becomes blocked. How did you feel after receiving praise from your boss? Your positive energy increases. Your Home Qi also affects you. When stressed do you ever reach for your favorite warm blanket, put on your favorite sweatshirt, or fix a cup of tea using your favorite mug? The things that surround you can either comfort you or stress you.

Are you skeptical? Is it too New Agey for you? Let me put it in another context. Professional sports teams rely on Feng Shui, paying millions of dollars to make improvements. What? I’m talking about Home Field Advantage. “The energy of the crowd …” “The cheers energizing the players …” If you’ve ever been to a home game for any sport, you know what I’m talking about. How do you explain it?

Well, with Feng Shui, you surround yourself with the things that make you feel good. Your favorite chair overlooking the backyard full of trees is calming and relaxing. Your child’s artwork on the refrigerator puts a smile on your face. On the other hand, do you still have a piece of furniture you bought with your ex? How do you feel when you see it? If you remember the good times, keep it. If it brings up feelings of bitterness and resentment, get rid of it, and then see how you feel. There’s an intangible reason we shove all our ex’s things into a box to give back. Negativity does not attract abundance.

You don’t have to rearrange your whole house or dangle chimes at an angle from your southeast corner. Surrounding yourself with those favorite things creates positive energy.

Look around. What do you see? How does it make you feel?