Three Blind Mice (Halstead Mysteries Book 2)

Eden’s Grandma is no killer, but proving her innocence is another matter entirely.

After solving a local murder mystery, Eden Price is beleaguered by reporters, and she hates every minutes of it. Together with her grandmother Maimeo, she sneaks out of town in disguise to cheer for Halstead at the Kansas 3A State Baseball Tournament.

But what starts out as a joyful challenge turns sinister when Maimeo discovers the body of one of the umpires. With the murder weapon found by the police, Lucas and his teammates are under suspicion. Eden needs to prove the Halstead players’ innocence, but everything she uncovers points toward Maimeo as the killer.

If she can’t fit the pieces together in time, Lucas and the Halstead Dragons can kiss their shot at a State Championship goodbye. And her grandmother may sit in jail for a very long time.

Three Blind Mice is the second book in the Halstead Mystery Series.

Purchase Three Blind Mice:
Amazon
Barnes and Nobel
Vivlio
Thalia

Watch the Book Trailer

Book 1: When the Time is Right
Book 3: Toxic Intentions

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Pandemic Devotionals

When the pandemic and shut down hit the world, every aspect of our lives changed. An alternate reality became our norm, and each person was faced with unprecedented choices. Pandemic Devotionals is an anthology of stories collected during the 2020 and 2021 aftermath of a virus that brought the world to its knees. However, in the chaos and confusion, God remains a tower of unchanging strength. As we learn to overcome fear with faith, we can find courage that God is moving mightily on the behalf of those who love Him.

I was honored to contribute a devotional for this anthology. All proceeds are being donated to the Salvation Army.

Purchase Pandemic Devotionals

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April 2021 Storytime Blog Hop

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Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

Grit Nearly Succeeds

I was determined not to fail…again.

I had been following Darren for days. It was overkill, I knew, but desperation had overtaken me. I had to catch a soul. The authorities understood a learning curve, but mine had yet to curve.

Darren was active, but 92 and his heart would soon give out.

I knew the time and place—we all do. That’s how we can be on hand to collect the souls. It wasn’t good to have a lot of lost souls roaming the earth. It took the cleanup crew years, often centuries, to collect souls that were lost at death.

Armed with confidence from my last assignment—I had witnessed the death for the first time—I was determined not to get distracted. I would collect the soul this time around.

The higher-ups had made it clear that I was on a short leash. I had to start producing or it was paperwork for me. While paperwork sounded better watching people die, I wouldn’t survive in an office processing kills. I needed interaction with others.

Darren cried every night. His wife of 69 years had died a few weeks prior. At first his crying worried me, then it became annoying. Now it had me curious. What is it about his wife that makes him cry all the time?

Every day he tells his children and grandchildren that he will be with her again soon.

Tonight, Darren’s son brought him a glass of water and Darren drank as he sat on the edge of the bed.

“The doctor called and said your heart is healthy.”

“It’s broken,” Darren insisted.

“Your tests all came back positive.”

“It isn’t the kind of break that machines can measure.”

“Dad, I wish you wouldn’t talk that way. You should be more positive.”

“Son, I am positive. Your mom and I were never apart more than a few days since we met 73 years ago. I don’t intend to start now.”

Tears ran down his son’s face, triggering Darren’s own tears. “I promised your mom I would outlive her so she wouldn’t have to experience the pain of losing a spouse. The only reason I fought the cancer years ago was to keep my promise.”

“You still have so much to live for,” his son argued.

“You and your sister have your families, and as much as I love you and all my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, your mom is my first and greatest love. She needs me. And I miss her.”

His son helped Darren lie down before turning out the light. “Good night, Dad.”

Darren waited for the door to close then whispered, “Goodbye, Son. I love you.”

He starred up at the ceiling. “Sweetheart, I’ll see you soon.”

He was all smiles as he drifted off to sleep.

How could he be so confident that he would die tonight? I mean, he would, but how did he know?

How could a person be so full of love? I loved my family, but not as much as Darren loved his. I had gone on a date with Dale’s sister Sheila, but I couldn’t imagine ever loving her like Darren had loved his wife.

I felt myself longing to love someone the way Darren loved his wife…or even his son. I had only known Darren for a few days and I felt myself drawn to him like no one else in my life. I wish I had met him years ago so I could know more about him.

He only had a few minutes left. My excitement rose as the time neared that I would be able to talk to him. I had so many questions. I’m sure the guys in processing wouldn’t mind me spending a few minutes with Darren before I turned in his soul. After all, I hadn’t turned one in yet, so late would better than never, right?

I sat on his bed, his face full of contentment, even in sleep. At least his death wouldn’t be gruesome like the one I had witnessed. He would die in his sleep.

Suddenly he sat up. “Who’s there?”

I stood, startled.

“Who are you?” he demanded.

“You, you can see me?”

“Of course I can see you.”

“My name is G.R., and I’m…”

“You’re here for me,” he finished matter-of-factly.

His face softened and his smile returned. “I’m ready to be taken to my love.”

I was unsure what to do.

“I’m sorry. You’re not dead yet.”

“Oh.” Disappointment filled his voice. “But you are here for me, are you not?”

“Well, yes. Any minute now. I have so many questions for you.”

Everything within me wanted him to live longer. I wanted to know him better, know what made him tick. I felt like I had so much to learn from Darren.

“I’ve waited long enough.” He laid his head back down on his pillow, closed his eyes, and within seconds his heart abruptly stopped.

Darren’s soul departed the dead body. “I’m ready. Take me to my wife.”

We floated up through the roof and he stopped to take in the view of the city.

“I will, I promise, but first I need to ask you some questions.”

Suddenly two guys I recognized from collections arrived. The pair, about equal in height, would dwarf any human.

Rick carried himself like he was in charge. “Congratulations, G.R. You finally caught one. Cost me the office pool though. I thought it would be another two weeks.”

I wouldn’t have considered his stature thin except compared to his partner, Stan, whose extreme enthusiasm for his job clearly had made an impression on many of my former classmates.

“I had you at never,” Stan laughed. “Make sure you turn in your paperwork within three days to get credit. We’ll take it from here.”

“Wait…”  But they were gone. I didn’t get to ask Darren any questions.

Check out the other stories in the blog hop and leave us comments.

Love’s Sweet Pick by Sabrina Rosen
For A Breathe of Air by Nic Steven
Pitch by Sandra Llyn
Bees by Barbara Lund
Bullied by Elizabeth McCleary
Welcome To Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop by Juneta Key
A Day to Remember by Katharina Gerlach
Were’s The Rabid Rabbit by Jemma Weir
VI – The Lovers by Raven O’Fiernan

Posted in Blog Hop, Grim Reaper in Training, Stories | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

A Fun Visit

A couple of weeks ago I had the treat of visiting the seventh grade language arts class in Cottonwood Falls.

Bill and Kinsey posing with her copy of When the Time is Right.

My cousin’s daughter (I think that makes her my second cousin, but who’s counting?) presented a book report on my cozy mystery, When the Time is Right. Having a book I wrote as the subject of a book report was a first for me, so given the opportunity I gladly agreed to appear in person.

Unfortunately, due COVID-19, I appeared via Zoom instead of in person.

It was a treat for me to watch and listen to Kinsey talk about my book. I enjoyed visiting with the students, though this group was one of the quietest I have come across. Maybe they were awestruck by my celebrity status. 🙂

Bill and Kinsey in D’Angelo’s (better known as the Pizza Parlor).

The biggest treat for me happened the weekend before my visit to the classroom. Kinsey came for a visit to Halstead with my Aunt Nyla and Abby (another second cousin, I believe). They wanted to see the actual places that I wrote about in my book.

We started by eating pizza at D’Angelo’s (better known as the Pizza Parlor in When the Time is Right). Nyla took pictures of the inside of the restaurant and I posed with Kinsey in one of the booths.

From there we walked to the hospital and took several pictures and I told them how I envisioned the story playing out as I wrote it. I showed them the house across the street that I used to begin my description of Dr. and Mrs. Emmett’s house.

As we circled the hospital, I think Kinsey peeked inside every window she possibly could. She even took a couple of pictures.

My family ran out of time and had to leave, so I didn’t get to take them up on the levee and show them where Eden and Lucas took the critical walk that led them to an understanding that they needed to work together. We’ll save that one for next time.

Maybe one day When the Time is Right will be big enough to supplant Picnic as the go-to reference for what gave Halstead its biggest exposure to the outside world. Or maybe it will be the whole collection of the Halstead Mystery series. Maybe not.

But maybe…

Bill and Kinsey being silly and re-enacting the break-in scene from his book.

Kinsey pretending to break into the hospital.

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Sevitan (Vetrix Series Book 4)

The Snader Lord has awakened. The Chase is on.
Can the companions keep him from the weapon he desires?

Allison remains trapped on the Snader spaceship. With a power struggle among leaders, she uses her dreaming ability to warn her friends of the Snader Lord’s intentions. But is the information she’s gained helping her friends or leading them into a trap?

The destination?  An abandoned spaceship laboratory containing hundreds of experiments and a few dead bodies. When Flipper and his Gude friends arrive at the city-sized spaceship, they must discover what it is about the wreckage that attracts the monster’s attention.

The only clues they have come from a single visit by Allison and strange messages from a distant Prophet relaying information through Chezlor, who’s stranded on Sevitan, a planet without technology. Soon, a scarier and more urgent question arises—are they alone on the spaceship?

Can the trio use their resources to keep the Snader Lord from what he’s after?

Can Flipper turn enemies into allies in time to save the galaxy?

Don’t miss out on Flipper’s scariest and most exciting adventure yet in this fourth installment of the Vetrix series!

Purchase Sevitan on Amazon

Watch the trailer for book 1 in the series, Vetrix

Book 1: Vetrix
Book 2: Earth
Book 3: Zentron

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Author Interview: Taryn Oakley

Taryn Oakley with her latest novel, Dreams of July, making it to the bookshelves of Faith & Life Bookstore in Newton, Kansas. (Photo credit: Bethany Martin)

Taryn Oakley is a second grade teacher in the Bentley/Halstead school district where I live. I don’t know her personally and only learned of books recently when Jared Janzen (Editor for the Harvey Independent newspaper) interviewed her. I enjoyed getting to know her through this interview process and look forward to reading her books!

Share a little bit about your latest book, Gathering up the Stones

Back Cover:

He needs a family to want him. One family wants him but can’t have him.

Emmaline Holcomb has waited years for God to grant her a child of her own. In the wake of miscarriages and a failed adoption, she resigns herself to believe a child will never come. When her husband prompts entering the world of foster care, it’s not long before Ollie arrives in the Holcomb household and their resolve is tested once more. In Emmaline’s eyes, he is a stone, cast away, and she can’t wait to gather him up. But she must let him go–another season she must endure.

Seven years pass. When a discovery that could alter the trajectory of both their lives emerges, Emmaline must race to unveil the truth if she hopes to ever gather up her stone. Told through the eyes of a lost boy, a struggling mother, and a woman who hopes to be one someday is a tale that personifies the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3:5.

The story revolves around foster care and adoption with heavy themes focusing on Christian elements.

Tell us about your previous book(s)

I have written one other novel titled Dreams of July. Focusing again on Christian themes, Dreams is a clean, romantic novel, somewhat like you’d find on the Hallmark Channel.

The back cover blurb says it best:

A story of sorrow, faith, and a love mighty enough to restore the Dreams of July.

​For two years, Laney Sanford has lived with the remains of a dream after her husband is tragically killed. She’s turned from everything–her faith, her family, her career. But she’s had enough loneliness to last a lifetime. Moving back to her small-town home in Henson, Texas, she hopes to be rid of the past once and for all. Yet, just when everything seems too painfully familiar, she runs into a new face. His kind eyes evoke a sense of awareness to something she should remember, but the answer evades her like a cool breeze in summer. What could it be about the handsome stranger, other than drawing out emotions she longs to have but shouldn’t feel amongst her grief?

Firefighter Lucas Taylor is no stranger to grief and sadness. His job is to rescue and protect, but when it’s mattered most, he’s failed one too many times. Seeing Laney again revives the shame. Yet, this could be his second chance–at least that’s how he saw it at first. What he didn’t plan on was falling for her. How will she react when she learns what he’d done? Will her newfound faith in God be strong enough to withstand the truth? If so, can he bring back her dreams of July?

How long have you been writing and why did you start?

In middle school and a little bit of upper elementary, I’d write stories for fun. I shared a few with friends, but mostly it was for my eyes only. I didn’t start taking writing seriously until late high school and early college. I tinkered with a story in my mind for several years before finally finishing it one summer post-college.

This became Dreams of July. Soon after, I penned Gathering up the Stones. My goal with writing is to share Jesus. I want the entertainment a story can bring to mingle with Truth and speak to the heart of the reader. I aim for depth to stir emotions that will hopefully spur questions and desire to find Salvation through Christ.

What has influenced you the most as a writer?

Other authors have definitely influenced me. I love Karen Kingsbury and Deborah Raney (local author). I wanted to be like them–not necessarily style, but influencer like them. I wanted to be able to reach as many people as I could in a way that I felt gifted in–through the written word.

You labeled both books as Christian on Amazon. How does your faith factor into your writing?

My first novel revolved more around the story than the message, while my second novel began with the message and the story molded around it. I love Bible stories and the Truth of God’s Word, and I wanted to incorporate storytelling with Truth in a way that resonated with my audience. So Gathering up the Stones took a verse from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:5 about gathering and scattering stones, and I basically wrote an analogy using the lives of people who are lost and looking for a place of belonging. I also include direct biblical references and don’t skirt around my message. Direct, yet including imagery, speaks volumes in my novels.

Taryn writing her second novel during the summer of 2020

Where do the ideas for your stories come from?

Stories of people around me and my imagination. I like to listen to stories, read the Bible, and read news articles. Plotlines spin off from those areas in my life.

Are teaching and writing related or two separate activities for you?

Teaching allows me to understand people better. The way children behave versus adults helps me bring my characters to life. I get a little insight into the minds of kids as a teacher, which I incorporate into my novels. Otherwise, the process of teaching versus writing are different ball fields.

What is the most difficult part of the writing process for you?

Being patient enough to get the right story on paper. I itch to write, so waiting for the whole storyline to come together before beginning can be hard. I like to know how I’m going to get from point A to point B. But the details can sometimes bog me down. But I’m proud of how it ends up. The details are the best part. They’re worth the wait.

What is next on your writing agenda?

I have a few ideas floating around in my mind, but the full picture isn’t formed yet. Hopefully a new novel will be in the works soon.

Taryn appeared in the Harvey County Independent on January 28, 2021.

Biography:

Taryn Oakley always dreamed about writing stories ever since elementary school. A lifelong resident of the Midwest, she is inspired by the open backdrop of her home. As a child, she would stare out the window on road trips, daydreaming as the wheat and cornfields flashed by. Those daydreams were the birthplaces of her stories. The possibilities were as endless as the landscapes.

Her debut novel, Dreams of July, officially propelled her into the world of writing, leading to her second novel, Gathering up the Stones. Through her stories, she hopes to bring the joy of Jesus’ life-changing power to her readers.

When she is not composing works of fiction, she teaches public school and enjoys time with her husband and daughter.

Excerpt:

It came to a head one night when I caught Jesse scrolling through an adoption website. He clicked on a child’s profile, and a boy popped up on a new screen, his bio detailed on the right.

I turned away. “How can you consider this?”

Even to my ears, I sounded cold.

Jesse ignored me and continued reading.

Angered, I lashed out. “Are you actually considering adoption? Have you given up? Don’t you believe God will give us a child?”

“I haven’t given up, Em.” He sounded sad. “I want a child. Just like you. But I keep thinking, what if this is how God’s going to answer our prayer. What if it doesn’t have to be our own flesh and blood? I mean, look at these faces. I read the stories. These kids don’t have a chance at a family unless someone chooses them. What if they’re crying out to God to give them a family? What if we are their family?”

He stopped when he saw my mouth agape. I didn’t know what to say. His words stung. A fear crept over me. He was no longer on my side. He’d abandoned me for them.

The pride welled. He was wrong about this. He had to be wrong, didn’t he? Surely, God would fix me and we’d have a family, just like we wanted. He was, after all, the Healer.

I left Jesse on the couch and went to bed.

That night I tossed and turned, wrestling for understanding. The idea, and possibly the truth, festered and rooted into my dreams and in the daytime as I grasped for answers.

I couldn’t escape it.

What if Jesse was right about God’s plan?

But, I balked, I can’t desert the idea of a child of my own. Not permanently.Because, what if I’m right, too?

Yet the revelation grew and molded around my heart, softening it like potter’s clay. Before long, I was hunting down information. Maybe we could test the waters. Do a little good in the lives of these kids without jumping in with both feet first. There was, after all, a bridge: foster care.

Websites/Social Media:

Website: www.oakleybooks.weebly.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/oakleybooks
Email: booksoakley@gmail.com
Book Locations:
Print and eBooks at Amazon
Print only (but local business): Faith & Life Bookstore

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Whatever you think of me, it’s probably true

If you entered my house you would quickly notice that I have areas of clutter, especially my bedroom where few people see. My house isn’t terribly dirty—I don’t keep dirty dishes and such lying around—but I don’t always put things away. I don’t have a place for everything so I tend to have piles lying around. I easily ignore them until I need something from that pile. Your impression of me from the visit might be one of a lazy, uncaring, disorganized, and unmotivated person.

However, if you focused you attention on my lifestyle you may get a different opinion. I work full-time, am a single parent, run 5-6 days a week, am involved at my church, am a published author, write several books a year, and I use my website to blog and market my stories. From that perspective, you might call me driven, disciplined, focused, well-organized, overachieving.

The fact is, both are true. I’m complicated—highly organized and disciplined in some areas and lazy and unmotivated in others.

The same holds true on a deeper level as well.

I view myself as a failure. Why? Because I have a half century of factual data to support that conclusion. I’ve failed professionally, personally, morally, spiritually, financially, relationally; with multiple examples in each category. Need I got on?

It isn’t that I haven’t had successes; I have. But the truth is I’ve had enough failures (and enough big failures) that those experiences are ingrained into my self-identity.

There is a large piece of me that I battle nearly every day, that wants to kick back, find an easy job, and spend my time being comfortable and safe. I want to disconnect from the world; from reality.

I would like to fiddle away as much of my life as possible watching movies, sports, whatever, just to limit situations that provide an opportunity to fail. I am so tired of making mistakes, feeling frustrated, disappointing myself and those I love, and not living up to the standards I have set for myself.

That easy, relaxing, less stressful life sounds so, so, so inviting.

But the other part of me is driven—maybe even from the result of the aforementioned failures—to find a way to justify my existence. I’m afraid that if my life ended now that I would have lost, failed to fulfill my purpose. I love to do something to prove my life was worth it.

I have an inner longing to find a way to feel like I’m contributing to the world. I strive, continually, to figure out what I need to do so I feel like I’ve tipped the scale and the positive contributions of my life outweigh the failures.

It’s complicated, because I often feel like two people at war—both with the same scars, fears, and anxiety—but with completely different needs.

The truth is, whether you see me as a person who’s disorganized and cluttered, or as disciplined and productive, the truth is I’m both. I’m a giant mess doing the best I know how.

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Habits – December Update and 2020 Conclusion

My word for 2020 is habits, so each month in 2020 I selected one habit that I wanted to stop and one I wanted to start. I’ll list those by month below.

But first, a short recap of the year.

Like anything new, I had some successes and failures. I took some time in December to consider the new habits I attempted to develop this year—both habits in giving up and in starting. In short, this is how I would grade myself.

Habits relating to:

Writing – A
Spiritual – B
Exercise/body care – C
Food/drinks – D

My goal was to try something new each month and see how I responded and decide if I wanted to continue the habit. I realize now that I did not give up anything on a long-term basis. All of my attempts were for a month, or at most two.

Honestly, I had far less success in these goals than I did in the ones I started in 2020.

I think that tells me I should consider areas of my life that I need to make a change and give up something. I suspect that I am either blind to or in denial of things I should give up. Or maybe I am flat out unwilling to give us some unhealthy areas of my life. I don’t have an answer today.

My major successes in 2020 occurred in some new goals I started, primarily in the writing, but also in doing devotions.

I wanted to increase writing new fiction last year and set a goal to use a ten minute timer at least once a day for new writing. On December 31 I completed my 366th day in a row. Yes, I did not miss a single day. Yay!!!  During the year I wrote 1,578 TMTs, which is 15,780 minutes or 263 hours of new fiction writing. I am beyond thrilled.

Although I maintained the habit throughout the year, the biggest difference in my writing production happened in the last 3-4 months. I reached the point where my TMTs increased significantly, as did the time I spent on other writing activities like revision and marketing. I contribute the increased discipline and production to the focus on increasing my writing habits all year long. I think my efforts of fighting through the struggles really bore fruit toward the end of the year and I hit a rhythm like I have never experienced before.

I hope, hope, hope I can maintain my pace.

I finished with mixed results with the goals I set relating to my devotional times, though overall I made very good progress. I only missed a handful of days of reading a daily devotional using the YouVersion app on my phone. And although it wasn’t a set goal, I believe I wrote in my journal more last year than I ever have.

I did really well at holding my devotional time in the morning for much of the year but waned off the last couple of months, often doing it before I turned in the for night. And while I succeeded more often than not with my goals of reading spiritual truths and praying, I still didn’t always stick to them the way I had hoped.

I don’t plan to do the goal setting each month going forward, but it is something that I could return to if I reach a point I believe I need the added focus in making some changes. I hope that having a year of intense focus on goal setting will help me be more conscious of patterns of behavior in my life and prepared to address those behaviors (habits) accordingly.

My stopping habits for 2020:

January – Watching shows for entertainment
February – Soda
March – Chocolate
April – Chocolate
May – No hitting the snooze
June – No hitting the snooze
July – Avoiding the national news
August – Avoiding the national news
September – Soda
October – Watching the Chiefs football games
November – No hitting the snooze
December – Quit Amazon Prime

My starting habits for 2020:

January – A daily devotion using the YouVersion Bible app and a ten-minute writing timer (TMT)
February – Read a list of truth declarations (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
March – Twelve minutes in prayer (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
April – Twelve minutes in prayer (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
May – Two minutes of prayer after devotions (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
June – Two minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
July – Three minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
August – Four minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
September – Five minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing);  read truth declarations every day
October – Five minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running and one ten-minute workout a week; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing);  read truth declarations every day
November – Five minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running and one ten-minute workout a week; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing);  read truth declarations every day
December – Six minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running and one ten-minute workout a week; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing);  read truth declarations every day

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Favorite Christmas Movies

Christmas would not be the same without movies, so I thought it would be fun to compile my favorites. See how they compare to yours.

10) It’s A Wonderful Life – This classic with Jimmy Stewart never fails to tug on the emotional strings make me thankful.

9) The Santa Clause – A clever twist on the tale of Santa Claus with funny man Tim Allen

8) Elf – A nice combination of comedy and Christmas spirit.

For me, this is where the level of Christmas movies divides. The previous movies are good, and I enjoy them, but the top seven on my list are ones I try to watch every year. They are in a class by themselves.

7) Die Hard 2 – Sequel to the great and indisputable Christmas move, Die Hard.

6) Die Hard – Not a Christmas movie in the traditional sense, but a Christmas movie nonetheless. And one I watch every year. The season wouldn’t be the same without it.

5) Home Alone 2 – Almost as good as the original.

4) Christmas Vacation – One of the funniest movies every made. And so many classic lines. “Can I refill your eggnog? Get you something to eat, drive you into th emiddle of nowhere, and leave you for dead?”

3) Holiday Inn – The movie debut for the song White Christmas. Great music, dance, story, with slips of humor thrown in at the right times.

2) White Christmas – Love this movie! Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye were brilliant. Depending on the year, numbers two and three switch for me.

1) Home Alone – What can I say? My emotional growth stunted at age ten. I saw this movie in the theater on Christmas Day, 1990, when I lived in California, away from my family on Christmas for the first time. I related to the loneliness Kevin experienced, and cried from laughing uncontrollably for the final thirty minutes.

Disagree with the order of my choices? What movies are on your list that didn’t make mine? Share your thoughts below.

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Don’t ignore how you’re feeling emotionally

The week of Thanksgiving felt pretty crazy.

Because of the holiday, our newspaper deadline was a day early. That meant that Monday felt like Tuesday; Tuesday felt like Wednesday; and Wednesday felt like Thursday.

Because I stayed at home alone all day on Thanksgiving and did my normal Sunday activities, Thursday felt like Sunday.

I worked on Friday so it felt like Monday. I celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday with some extended family, so Saturday felt like Thursday. Sunday felt like Saturday because my church didn’t meet.

So if you’re scoring from home:

Monday felt like Tuesday
Tuesday felt like Wednesday
Wednesday felt like Thursday
Thursday felt like Sunday
Friday felt like Monday
Saturday felt like Thursday
Sunday felt like Saturday.

Notice what’s missing?  I didn’t get a Friday; just two Thursdays.

But the holiday week was even more out of sorts for me than that, I think.

For a couple of weeks I have experienced more anxiety than normal. Yes, weeks where all the days seem jumbled can cause that, but I think it’s something else. I think it’s been my lack of contact with people. Physical contact.

It isn’t that I haven’t seen people, I have. It’s just been a lot less.

It’s great that we can stay in touch with people through technology, but it just isn’t the same.

I paused to think about the way I was feeling, which led me to the following discoveries. I hadn’t done an in-person interview in at least three weeks. Until last Friday, the last in-person story I covered was the Sedgwick City Council meeting on Nov. 16. All my other interviews had been over the phone or by e-mail.

My church took a couple of weeks off of meeting because of the rising COVID-19 numbers. While I supported the decision, I’ve missed seeing and interacting with my church family. We’ve sent numerous texts encouraging each other and I’ve stayed connected through Facebook with some of them, but it isn’t the same as seeing them face to face and having a conversation that includes direct eye contact and body language.

My church met last Sunday, but I wasn’t feeling well so I’m staying at home for a few days, just in case. That means more isolation.

I did get some family time over Thanksgiving weekend and that helped, a lot. And I’m starting, at least a little, to feel better.

Because of the rising positive COVID-19 numbers, I’ve been trying to work at home a little more than I normally do. I honestly don’t know if my working at home instead of from the office helps in the big scheme of things, but I’m trying to do at least a couple of things that might help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

It’s easy to focus on things we can measure, like active cases and accumulated deaths. What isn’t as easy to measure is our mental and emotional health. While not everyone has been directly affected by COVID-19, we have all been indirectly touched by it, and everyone has experienced added stress and anxiety since March.

I didn’t start to feel better until I paused to recognize what was going on inside of me. It’s a busy season, but please, pause, reflect, meditate, worship, and be honest with how you’re feeling. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s not okay to ignore it.

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