Monday, November 19, 2012

Ressurrect by David E. Stevens

About Resurrect

Book 1 in the Resurrect Trilogy.

Preventing his burning fighter from crashing into a neighborhood, Navy Commander Josh Logan ejects ... too late.
Critically injured, he's offered a new life and mission exploit highly classified military technology to stop a global cataclysm. The price? He'll be dead to everyone he knows.
He wakes in a city hospital with a genetically enhanced body and no identity. With the help of his brilliant, Neuro ICU nurse, and guided by nothing but a voice, he must infiltrate the military-industrial complex to develop the world's most powerful weapon ... to protect humanity? 
Link to buy the book: 

Meet David:  
A Navy fighter pilot with hundreds of aircraft carrier landings, Commander David E Stevens holds degrees from Cornell and the University of Michigan with graduate work in astrophysics. He test piloted new fighters and received an aviation patent. With a Top Secret clearance, Dave served as Strike Operations Officer for the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm and led classified defense programs. He's traveled to over two dozen countries.
Find out more about David E. at
To celebrate the release of Resurrect, David E. Stevens has teamed up with his publisher, Kregel Publications, for a Kindle Fire Giveaway and Facebook Author Chat Party {12/4}.

One "thrilling" winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Resurrect by David E. Stevens
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 3rd. Winner will be announced at the "Resurrect" Author Chat Facebook Party on 12/4. Connect with David, get a sneak peek of the next book in the Resurrect Trilogy, try your hand at the trivia contest, and win some great prizes—gift certificates, books and a Book Club Prize Pack (10 copies for your book club or small group)!

So grab your copy of Resurrect and join David on the evening of December 4th for a chance to connect with David and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 4th! 



My Take: Filled with action and making you wonder what will happen next with each turn of the page this book is truly a white knuckle thrill ride that has you hanging on to the edge of your seat. A great start to a trilogy this book reminds me a bit of the old show the Six Million Dollar man. Josh is given a second chance but he must give up many things that are near and dear to him. This book will appeal to both women and men but I think that men especially will enjoy it. I am looking forward to seeing the movie that is being made that is based on this book.

 I received a review copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, November 16, 2012

First Chapter Peak at Still I Will Praise by Renee Bondi

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

CLC Publications (August 24, 2012)

***Special thanks to Blythe Daniel for sending me a review copy.***


Renée Bondi is a popular speaker and recording artist who has shared the stage with Sandi Patty, Larry King and Point of Grace. She has been featured in magazines such as Today’s Christian Woman and Woman’s World and on shows, including “The 700 Club,” “Hour of Power,” and TBN. Renée is the founder of Bondi Ministries. Among her many awards and honors is Woman of the Year from the California State Senate and recognition for Outstanding Service to the Community from the U.S. House of Representatives. She lives with her husband and son in Southern California.

At age 29, Renée s future was incredibly bright. She was engaged and had a beautiful singing voice, a thriving career as a music teacher, and a loving family. But then one night a bizarre accident left her a quadriplegic. Renée lost not only all use of her arms and legs, but also her singing voice she could barely speak above a whisper. Through even this, Renée remained hopeful and held tight to her faith. Her unbroken spirit and amazing physical progress baffled the medical field and even surprised those close to her. She miraculously began to sing again and went on to live more fully than she ever dreamed. Whether performing or sharing her victorious story Renée are uplifted and mesmerized by her angelic voice, music and messages. Most importantly, all who hear Renée are encouraged to pursue a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Visit the author's website.


Praising God hasn’t come easy for Bondi. She shares, “For most of us, praising God in difficult times doesn't come naturally. We praise God on the mountaintop, not in the valley. After becoming paralyzed, I found when I chose to lift my eyes and heart in praise to Christ, I experienced a much deeper peace and strength I didn’t have before. Praising God changes my focus, which changes my mind and then my heart and ultimately my attitude.”

Her book is filled with personal stories that emphasize how important worship has become in her life and brings to life some well-known and more obscure Bible characters who praised God in the good times and also in the tough times.

Product Details:
List Price: $18.99
Hardcover: 175 pages
Publisher: CLC Publications (August 24, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1619580136
ISBN-13: 978-1619580138


Please go HERE and press the "Look Inside" button on Amazon to read the first chapter of this amazing book.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

First Chapter peak at Sofia's Secret by Sharleen MacLaren

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Whitaker House (October 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***


Born and raised in western Michigan, Sharlene MacLaren attended Spring Arbor University. After graduating, she traveled, then married one of her childhood friends, and together they raised two ldaughters. Now happily retired after teaching elementary school for over 30 years, “Shar” enjoys reading, singing in the church choir, traveling, and spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren—and, of course, writing. Her novels include Through Every Storm, Long Journey Home; the Little Hickman Creek series, the acclaimed historical trilogy, The Daughters of Jacob Kane, and the first two books in her latest series, River of Hope: Livvie’s Song and Ellie’s Haven.

Visit the author's website.


The River of Hope Series, set in the 1920’s, continues with the story of Sofia Rogers who is pregnant, unmarried, and guarding a secret. Nobody in Wabash, Indiana seems to know her real story and Sofia isn’t about to share it. She’d rather bear the shame than face the threat of consequences. When Eli Trent, the new doctor in town, gets involved, trouble escalates in the form of thievery, arson, and death threats. Nevertheless, Eli remains determined to break down the wall of silence behind which Sofia hides her secret. He is out to convince her she is not alone and to help her come to the realization that trusting him—and God—is the only thing that makes sense.

Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (October 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 160374214X
ISBN-13: 978-1603742146


The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
—Psalm 51:17
June 1930
Wabash, Indiana
The blazing sun ducked behind a cloud, granting a smidgeon of relief to Sofia Rogers as she compressed the pedal to stop her bike in front of Murphy’s Market and, in a most inelegant manner, slid off the seat, taking care not to catch the hem of her loose-fitting dress in the bicycle chain. She scanned the street in both directions, hoping not to run into anyone she knew, then parked the rusting yellow bike next to a Ford truck. These days, she dreaded coming into town, but she couldn’t very well put off the chore much longer if she wanted to keep food on the table.
Her younger brother, Andy, had won the race to their destination. His equally corroded bike leaned against the building, and he stood next to it, his arms crossed, a burlap sack slung across one shoulder. As she approached, a smug grin etched his freckled face. “Didn’t I t-tell you I’d b-beat you?”
“That’s because you had a full minute head start on me, you rascal.” Sofie might have added that her present condition did not permit the speed and agility she’d once had, but she wasn’t about to make that excuse. “Just you wait. I’ll win on the way back home.”
“N-not if I can help it.”
She pressed the back of her hand to her hot, damp face and stepped up to the sidewalk. “We’ll see about that, Mr. Know-It-All.”
Andy pointed at her and laughed. “Now your face is all d-dirty.”
She looked at her hands, still soiled from working in the garden that morning, and frowned. “I guess I should have lathered them a little better when I washed up.” She bent over and used the hem of her skirt to wipe her cheek before straightening. “There. Is that better?”
He tilted his face and angled her a crooked grin. “Sort of.”
“Oh, who cares?” She tousled his rust-colored hair. “Come on, let’s get started checking those items off my shopping list.”
They headed for the door, but a screeching horn drew their attention to the street, where a battered jalopy slowed at the curb. Several teenage boys, their heads poking out through the windows, whistled and hollered. “Hey, sister! Hear you like to have a good time!”
At their crudeness, Sofie felt a suffocating pressure in her chest. With a hand on her brother’s shoulder, she watched the car round the bend, as the boys’ whoops faded into the distance.
“Who were those guys?”
“Nobody important.”
As if the baby inside her fully agreed, she got a strong push to the rib cage that jarred her and made her stumble.
“You alright?” Andy grabbed her elbow, looking mature beyond his eleven years.
She paused to take a deep breath and then let it out slowly, touching a hand to her abdomen. Even in her seventh month, she could scarcely fathom carrying a tiny human in her womb, let alone accept all of the kicks and punches he or she had started doling out on a daily basis. She’d read several books to know what to expect as she progressed, but none of them had come close to explaining why she already felt so deeply in love with the tiny life inside of her. Considering that she hadn’t consented to the act committed against her, she should have resented the little life, but how could she hold an innocent baby accountable? “I’m fine,” she finally assured her brother. “Let’s go inside, shall we?”
Inside Murphy’s Market, a few people ambled up and down the two narrow aisles, toting cloth bags or shopping baskets. Sofie kept her left hand out of view as much as possible, in hopes of avoiding the condemnation of anyone who noticed the absence of a wedding band on her left ring finger. Not that she particularly cared what other folks thought, but she’d grown weary of the condescending stares. Several women had tried to talk her into giving the infant up for adoption, including Margie Grant, an old friend who had served as a mother figure to her and Andy ever since their parents had perished in a train wreck in 1924. “The little one growing inside you is the result of an insidious attack, darling. I shouldn’t think you’d want much to do with it once it’s born,” Margie had said. “I happen to know more than a few childless couples right here in Wabash who would be thrilled to take it off your hands. You should really consider adoption.”
Because Margie had long been a loyal friend, Sofie had confided in her about the assault, including when and where it had occurred. As for going to the authorities and demanding an investigation—never! Margie had begged her to go straight to Sheriff Morris, but she had refused, and then had made Margie swear on the Bible not to go herself.
“That is a hard promise to make, dearest,” Margie had conceded with wrinkled brow, “but I will promise to keep my lips buttoned. As for adoption, if you gave the baby to a nice couple in town, you would have the opportunity to watch it grow up. That would bring you comfort, I should think, especially if you selected a well-deserving Christian couple.”
“I can’t imagine giving my baby away to someone in my hometown, Christian or not.”
“Well then, we’ll go to one of the neighboring towns,” the woman had persisted. “Think about it, sweetheart. You don’t have the means to raise a child. Why, you and Andy are barely making ends meet as it is. Who’s going to take care of it while you’re at work?”
“I can’t think about that right now, Margie. And, please, don’t refer to my child as an ‘it.’”
The woman’s face had softened then, and she’d enfolded Sofie in her arms. “Well, of course, I know your baby’s not an ‘it,’ honey. But, until he or she is born, I have no notion what to call it—I mean, him or her.”
“‘The baby’ will do fine.”
Margie had given her a little squeeze, then dropped her hands to her sides and shot her a pleading gaze. “I sure wish you’d tell me who did this to you. It’s a crime, you know, what he did.”
Yes, it had been a crime—the most reprehensible sort. And it was both a blessing and a curse that Sofie couldn’t remember the details. The last thing she could remember was drinking her habitual cup of coffee at Spic-and-Span Cleaning Service before starting her evening rounds. She’d thought it tasted unusually bitter, but she’d shrugged it off at the time. Half an hour later—at the site of her job that night, at the law offices of Baker & Baker—she’d been overcome by dizziness and collapsed. She’d teetered in and out of consciousness, with only a vague notion of what was going on. When she’d awakened, it had been daylight, and she was sore all over. Fortunately, it had been a Saturday, and the offices were closed; no one had discovered her lying there, nauseous and trembling, her dress torn, her hair disheveled. A particular ache had given her a clue as to what had gone on while she’d been unconscious. As the sickening reality had set in, she’d found beside her the note that had haunted her ever since.
Breathe one word about this and you can say bye-bye to your brother.
It had been typed on the official letterhead of the sheriff’s office, making her even less inclined to go to the authorities. Whoever had assaulted her had connections to the law, and she wasn’t about to risk her brother’s life to find out his identity. Plus, without a name, and with no visual or auditory recollection, she had nothing to offer that would aid an investigation.
By the time she realized she’d gotten pregnant, two months had passed—too late to go crying to the authorities. Not that she’d planned to. Her attacker’s threat had been enough to keep her quiet. She could bear the scorn and the shame, as long as he left her alone. And the only way of ensuring that was to comply with his demands. No, she couldn’t say anything more about it to Margie.
“Margie, we’ve been over this. It’s better left unsaid, believe me.”
“But, don’t you know people are going to talk? Who knows what they’ll think or say when you start to show? If they learned the truth, perhaps they’d go a little easier on you.”
“No! I can’t. No one must know—not even you. I’m sorry, Margie.”
Margie had rubbed the back of her neck as if trying to work out a kink. A loud breath had blown past her lips and whistled across Sofie’s cheek. “You know I love you, and so I will honor your wishes…for now.” Then, her index finger had shot up in the air, nearly poking Sofie in the nose. “But if he so much as comes within an inch of you again, I want you to tell me right away, you hear? I can’t abide thinking that he’ll come knocking at your door. You must promise me, Sofia Mae Rogers!”
Sofie had hidden the shiver that had rustled through her veins at the mere thought of crossing paths with her attacker again. Why, every time she went to work, she couldn’t get the awful pounding in her chest to slow its pace until she was home again. She’d stopped drinking and eating at work—anywhere other than at home, really.
“Show me your list, Sofie.” Andy’s voice drew her out of her fretful thoughts. She reached inside her pocket and handed over the paper. When he set off down an aisle, she idly followed after, her mind drifting back into its musings.
Dr. Elijah Trent parked his grandfather’s 1928 Ford Model A in the lot beside Murphy’s Market. As he climbed out, he was careful not to allow his door to collide with a bicycle standing nearby. Another battered bike leaned against the building. It looked as if it could use some serious repair work. He closed his door and took a deep breath of hot June air, then cast a glance overhead at the row of birds roosting on a clothesline that stretched between two apartment buildings across the street.
When he pulled open the whiny screen door, an array of aromas teased his nostrils, from freshly ground coffee beans to roasted peanuts in a barrel. As he stepped inside, a floorboard shrieked beneath his feet, as if to substantiate its long-term use.
“Afternoon,” said the shopkeeper, who glanced up from the cash register, where he stood, ringing up an order for a young pregnant woman. Beside her, a boy dutifully stuffed each item into a cloth bag. The young woman raised her head and glanced briefly at Eli, who sensed a certain tenseness in her chestnut-colored eyes. Then, she shifted her gaze back to the clerk.
“Say, ain’t you Doc Trent’s grandson?” the man asked.
“That I am, sir. Elijah Trent. But most people call me Eli.”
The clerk stopped ringing items for a moment and gave him an up-and-down glance. “Heard you’re takin’ over the old fellow’s practice. That’s mighty fine o’ you. I understand you graduated with honors from the University of Michigan, an’ you worked at a Detroit hospital for two years, but you were itchin’ for small-town livin’. Timing’s good, since Doc’s retirin’. S’pose you two been plannin’ this for quite a while now, eh? Hate to see Wilson Trent retire, but most folks seem to think it’ll be good to get in some new blood. Get it? Blood?” He gave a hearty chortle, causing his rotund chest to jiggle up and down.
Eli smiled at the friendly man. “It sounds like Grandfather’s been keeping everyone well-informed.”
“He sure has. Plus, the Plain Dealer wrote up that article ’bout you.”
“Yes, I heard that.”
The woman shifted her narrow frame and fingered one of her short, brown curls, but she kept her eyes focused on the counter. Beside her, the freckle-faced youngster poked his head around the back of her and met Elijah’s gaze. They stared at each other for all of three seconds, but when Eli smiled, the boy quickly looked forward again.
As the clerk resumed ringing up their order, Eli reached inside his hip pocket and grabbed the short list his grandfather had scrawled in his somewhat shaky handwriting. In Detroit, he’d taken most of his meals at the hospital. Helping his grandfather in the kitchen would be an entirely new experience. At least it would be only temporary, until Grandfather’s housekeeper of twenty-odd years, Winifred Carmichael, returned from her two-week vacation out West.
“You lookin’ for anythin’ in particular?” the clerk asked.
“Nothing I can’t find on my own, sir.”
“Pick up one o’ them baskets by the door for stashin’ what you need. Name’s Harold, by the way. Harold Murphy. I’ve owned this place goin’ on thirty years now.”
Eli bent to pick up a basket. He hadn’t thought to bring along a sack in which to carry the items home. The store he had occasioned in Detroit had offered brown paper bags, but the trend didn’t seem to have caught on in Wabash just yet. “Yes, I recall coming here with my grandmother as a kid.”
“And I remember you, as well, with that sandy hair o’ yours and that there dimple in your chin.”
“Is that so? You have a good memory, Mr. Murphy.”
A pleased expression settled on the clerk’s face. “You used to ogle my candy jars and tug at your grandmother’s arm. ’Course, she’d always give in. She couldn’t resist your pleadin’. Seems to me you always managed to wrangle some chewin’ gum out o’ her before I finished ringin’ her order.”
“It’s amazing you remember that.”
“Well, some things just stick in my memory for no particular reason.” He glanced across the counter at the freckle-faced boy. “Young Andy, here, he’s the Hershey’s chocolate bar type. Ain’t that right, Andy?”
The lad’s head jerked up, and he looked from Mr. Murphy to the woman beside him. “Yes, sir. C-c-can I g-get one today, Sofie?”
Her slender shoulders lifted and drooped with a labored sigh. “I suppose, but don’t expect any other treats today.”
“I won’t.”
The brief tête-à-tête allowed Eli the chance to disappear down an aisle in search of the first item on his list: sugar. He found it about the same time the screen door whined open once more, with the exit of the young woman and the boy. Next, Eli spotted the bread at the end of the aisle. He picked up a loaf and nestled it in the basket, next to the box of sugar.
“Well, I think it’s plain disgraceful, her coming into town and flaunting herself like that. My stars, has she not an ounce of decency? And what, pray tell, is she teaching that brother of hers by not keeping herself concealed?”
“I must agree, it’s quite appalling,” said another.
Eli’s ears perked up at the sound of female scoffs coming from the other side of the shelving unit at the back of the store. He stilled, slanted his head, and leaned forward. If he could push a few cans and boxed goods to the side without creating a commotion, he might manage a partial view of the gossips.
“I always did wonder about her and that pitiable little brother of hers, living all alone on the far edge of town. No telling what sort of man put her in a motherly way. Why, if I were in her place, I’d have gone off to stay with some relative in another state. One would think she’d have somewhere she could go. She could have birthed the child, given it to some worthy family, and come back to Wabash, and no one would’ve been the wiser.”
The other gossip cleared her throat. “Perchance her ‘lover’ won’t hear of her leaving, and she doesn’t dare defy him. She always did come off as rather defenseless, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes, yes, and very reclusive. Never was one to join any charity groups or ladies’ circles. Why, she doesn’t even attend church, to my knowledge. As I said before, the whole thing is disgraceful.”
Eli shuffled around the corner and stopped at the end of the next row, where he picked up a couple of cans of beans, even though they weren’t on Grandfather’s list, and dropped them into his basket with a clatter. The chattering twosome immediately fell silent. Eli cast a casual glance in their direction, and he almost laughed at their poses of feigned nonchalance. One was studying the label on a box, while the other merely stared at a lower shelf, her index finger pressed to her chin.
When Eli started down the aisle, both of them looked up, so he nodded. “Afternoon, ladies.”
The more buxom of the two batted her eyelashes and plumped her graying hair, then nearly blinded him with a fulsome smile. “Well, good afternoon to you.” She put a hand to her throat. “My goodness. You’re Doc Trent’s grandson?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Well, I’ll be. I overheard you talking with Harold, but I didn’t lay eyes on you until now.” She perused him up and down. “You sure are a handsome devil.”
“Oh, for mercy’s sake, Bessie, mind your manners.” The second woman bore a blush of embarrassment. “Don’t pay her any heed, Doctor. She’s such a tease.” She extended a hand. “I’m Clara Morris, the sheriff’s wife, and this is Bessie Lloyd. Her husband owns Lloyd’s Shoe Store, over on Market Street. Welcome to Wabash, Dr. Trent. We read about your impending arrival in the newspaper. I hope you find yourself feeling right at home here.”
“I’m sure I will.” Eli shifted his shopping basket and extended a hand first to Mrs. Morris, then to the annoying Mrs. Lloyd. He would have liked to remind them that two upstanding women in the community ought to put a lock on their lips, lest they tarnish their own reputations, but he hadn’t come to Wabash with the intention of making instant enemies, so he restrained himself. “Nice meeting you ladies. You have a good day, now.”
He glanced to his left and, seeing a shelf with maple syrup, snatched a can and tossed it into his basket. Casting the women one last smile, he headed down the aisle in search of the remaining items.
“My, my,” he heard Mrs. Lloyd mutter. “I think it may be time for me to switch physicians.”
“But you’ve been seeing Dr. Stewart for years,” Mrs. Morris said. “What about your bad knee?”
“Pfff, never mind that. I’d much rather look into that young man’s blue eyes and handsome face than Dr. Stewart’s haggard mug. Why, if I were younger….”
Eli picked up his pace and made it out of earshot before she finished her statement.
Several minutes later, he’d rounded up everything on his list, so he made his way to the cash register. As he did, the voices of the two gabby women carried across the store. Evidently, they’d found a new topic of conversation. “I went to McNarney Brothers yesterday,” Mrs. Lloyd was saying, “and would you believe they raised the price of beef by five cents a pound? Don’t they know times are tight? Before you know it, folks won’t be able to afford to eat.”
“She could afford to go a few days without eatin’,” Harold Murphy muttered. His eyes never strayed from his task, as he keyed in the amount of each item before placing it back in the basket.
Eli covered his mouth with the back of his hand until his grin faded. He decided it was best to keep quiet on the matter. Something else bothered him, though, and he couldn’t resist inquiring. He leaned in, taking care to keep his voice down. “That girl…er, that woman, who left a bit ago, who is expecting….”
“Ah, Sofia Rogers? She was here with her little brother, Andy.” Mr. Murphy rang up the final item, the loaf of bread, and placed it gently atop the other goods. Then, he scratched the back of his head as his thin lips formed a frown. “It’s a shame, them two…well, them three, I guess you could say.” He glanced both ways, then lowered his head and whispered, “Don’t know who got her in that way, and I don’t rightly care. When she comes here, I just talk to her like nothin’s different. Figure it ain’t really my concern. I know there’s been talk about her bein’ loose, an’ all, but I can’t accept it. Never seen her with anybody but that little boy. She takes mighty fine care o’ him, too.”
“She’s his guardian, then?”
“Sure enough, ever since…oh, let’s see here…summer of twenty-four, it was. They lost their ma and pa in a terrible train wreck. They’d left Andy home with Sofie for a few days, whilst they went to a family funeral somewhere out West, little knowing their own funeral would be three days later.” The man shook his balding head.
The news got Eli’s gut to roiling. Even after all those years of medical school, which should have calloused him to pain and suffering, his heartstrings were wound as taut as ever. He needed to learn to toughen up. Needed to accept that, thanks to Adam and Eve’s fateful decision in the garden, bad things happened to innocent people; that he lived in an imperfect world in which evil often won.
“Where do they live, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Somewheres out on the southwest edge o’ town. River Road, I believe, just off o’ Mill Creek Pike.”
Eli didn’t know Wabash well, but his grandfather certainly did, having driven virtually every street within the town limits to make house calls. But what was he thinking? He ought to bop himself on the noggin. He knew next to nothing about this woman, and the last thing he needed upon taking over Wilson Trent’s medical practice was a reputation for sticking his nose where it didn’t belong.
Eli paid the shopkeeper and took up the basket. He had a good feeling about Harold Murphy. “Nice to see you again, sir. I’ll bring this basket back next time I come in…or shall I return it to you tonight?”
Harold flicked his wrist. “Naw, you bring it back whenever it’s convenient. You give ol’ Doc a hearty hello from me.”
“I’ll do that.” Eli turned and proceeded to the door, shoving it open with his shoulder. The first thing he noticed when he stepped outside was the absence of the two bikes, and it occurred to him then that Sofia and Andy Rogers had ridden to and from Murphy’s Market on those rickety contraptions. A woman in what looked to be her seventh month of pregnancy, riding a bike clear to the edge of town? In a dress? And in this heat?
This time, he did bop himself on the head.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann Book Review and Contest

About The Breath of Dawn:

 "Heitzmann weaves a many-layered tale keep[ing] readers entertained and wondering when the next bit of drama will occur." -Publishers Weekly Corporate turnaround specialist Morgan Spencer, dubbed the "success guru," has a Midas touch in business. But losing his wife sent him to the brink, and his two-year-old daughter, Livie, is all he's living for-until they encounter a woman whose trouble just might draw him out of his own. Four years ago Quinn Reilly did the right thing. Now the man her testimony put in jail is getting out. Though she has put up barriers to protect herself and those around her, she has come to care for the Spencer family, especially the winsome Livie and her mercurial father. Unwilling to put them at risk when the threats begin, she requests something she hopes the super-successful Morgan might be able to deliver. Fixing problems is what Morgan does best, but his counterproposal takes them in a direction neither is equipped to handle. Determined to confront the past, will they survive to build a future? Link to buy the book:


Meet Kristen: Kristen Heitzmann is the bestselling author of over a dozen novels, including "Freefall", "Halos", "A Rush of Wings", and the Christy Award winner "Secrets". She and her husband, Jim, and their family live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she serves as worship leader in their church. Find out more about Kristen at

My Take:  I haven't read the first two books in this series but the author does a great job of bringing you up to speed.  She does have this book listed as a standalone on her website so you don't need to read the first two in order to enjoy this book.  But I think you will want to read all of her books if this one is anything like the other ones.  This book has you engaged with the characters from the very start and has you keep wondering what will happen next so much so that you will not want to put the book down.  If you like books that grab you by the collar and don't let go then this is the book for you. 

Kristen Heitzmann is celebrating The Breath of Dawn by giving away one of the new Paperwhite Kindles and hosting a fun Author Chat Party on Facebook. (11/27)

One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Paperwhite
  • The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 26th. Winner will be announced at the "The Breath of Dawn" Author Chat Facebook Party on 11/27. Connect with Kristen, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at the trivia contest, and chat with readers just like you. There will also be gift certificates, books and a Book Club Prize Pack to be won (10 copies for your book club or small group)!

So grab your copy of The Breath of Dawn and join Kristen on the evening of the November 27th for a chance to connect with Kristen and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 27th!

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

First Chapter Peak of Susanna's Christmas Wish by Jerry Eicher

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***


Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.

Visit the author's website.


From the pen of bestselling Amish fiction author Jerry Eicher, (more than 350,000 books sold), comes a truly delightful and inspiring Christmas novella. A perfect holiday delight for lovers of Amish fiction…and those who love a heartwarming and tender Christmas tale.

Product Details:
List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736951512
ISBN-13: 978-0736951517


Susanna Wagler stood by the living room window watching Herman’s broad shoulders as he guided the team of horses into the field. Was he really her husband? The thought raced through her mind, and she pushed it away. These were not the thoughts a woman of God should have. Of course Herman was her husband. They had said the marriage vows in front of Bishop Jacob not three weeks ago. She could still hear Bishop Jacob’s voice intoning, “Do you, sister Susanna, believe Da Hah has given our brother Herman to you as your husband?”

The words had hung in the air only for a moment before she whispered, “Yah.”

Herman was the husband Da Hah meant for her. She had been certain of it. As certain as she could be. He was a man deeply loved by the community for his honest ways, his open face, and his dedication to the faith of the fathers. This was why she had said yah to Herman’s first timid request when he’d asked her home from the hymn singing. And so far Herman Wagler hadn’t let her down. Not like someone else had…Susanna also pushed that thought away.

She had forgotten about him—shut his memory from her mind. But even now she shouldn’t think badly of Matthew Yoder, though he had broken her heart. The truth had come out, and it was better this way. How awful would it have been if the truth had waited to appear after they were married? That was what her sister Mary told her, and she was right. Mary was wise about Matthew, having married his brother Ernest. Even before Matthew had left, Mary had seemed unsure of his intent. Older sisters were good for something after all, it seemed.

Still, Susanna tried to give Matthew the benefit of the doubt. He must have had his reasons for leaving the community. Even though she couldn’t understand them…or follow him into the Englisha world. And his reasons were obviously greater than his love for her. That was what hurt the most when he’d informed her he didn’t plan to stay in the Amish community. He hadn’t been able to tell her before, he’d said, though he’d assured her he hadn’t been playing her along all those years.

But a man didn’t suddenly make up his mind to leave, she figured. Such a desire had to have been there for a long time. Matthew had known something, regardless of how much he insisted he hadn’t. If she had loved him enough, she would have gone with him, she supposed. But how could a woman love a man who loved the Englisha world more than he loved her? Still, she had wavered for weeks over the matter. Struggled with the agony of it. Was she at fault? Did love require the sacrifice of everything…of all she held dear? Things like this land of her people? These open fields she’d grown up in? This place where she’d been born?

Matthew seemed to have no problem leaving all of it, and he’d soon put his words into action, getting himself placed in the bann in the process. As if she could face something like that. The cutting off of all contact with her past. This couldn’t be love, she’d finally told herself. She could not choose this.

So Matthew was gone.

And slowly she had put the fragments of her heart back together. Finding a piece here and a piece there that fit. Herman, with his tenderness, had helped. And her heart had healed somewhat, hadn’t it? She wouldn’t have married Herman if it hadn’t, would she?

She loved Herman. She did. Herman was the kindest man around. She should be thankful he had even considered her. Especially after Matthew left and caused such a stir in the community. No Amish young man would have been blamed for avoiding her completely, like she was a second-rate, cast-off shirt. And yet Herman hadn’t thrown her away. He had asked her home from the hymn singing and eventually asked if she would be his frau. Someone to love and cherish forever while they lived on this earth. Herman had done that, and was that not love?

Susanna’s eyes lingered on Herman’s face as he turned the team of horses around. The prancing hooves left tracks in the light dusting of the overnight snow. For a moment Herman glanced toward the house, and she ducked behind the drapes. It wouldn’t be decent for him to see her staring at him from the window. Not yet. Even if he was her husband. They should learn to know each other better first.

When Susanna stole another look, Herman was headed out over the open fields, hanging on to the lines. He is a handsome man, she told herself. And one she was thankful to have as her husband.

There was at least one brokenhearted girl in the community that she knew of. Herman had left behind Ruth Byler. She sure hadn’t kept her desires to have Herman take her home from the hymn singing a secret. And if there was one who did so openly, there had to be others who had hid their feelings. Yet Herman had chosen her.

Susanna turned back to the kitchen with a sigh. This had to stop. This wondering and puzzling over things. She had expected it would be over after the wedding. In fact, there had been plenty of signs during the weeks before the wedding that her doubts had flown away. Now they apparently were back in force.

But they would live through this, Susanna told herself. Herman loved her and she loved him. He had made that plain enough in the days since the wedding. And she had no reason to complain. She was sure Herman was aware that her heart hadn’t totally healed from Matthew, but he was being kind and understanding. What woman wouldn’t love such a man?

Susanna ran hot water into the kitchen sink while she brought the last of the breakfast dishes to the counter. Herman’s plate was sopped clean—it looked almost washed, like it always did. Even though it had been a large breakfast of eggs, bacon, and home fries she’d fixed him. Herman would have made a gut bachelor, that was for sure. The way he kept everything tidy around himself. And yet he felt the need of her, felt it necessary to bring her into his life.

But why?

Because he loved her, of course, Susanna told herself. There didn’t need to be a reason beyond that. Perhaps it was the conversation at the breakfast table this morning that was bringing this indecision up again. Well, it was more of an argument, really. Their first timid disagreement. And she had been shocked at the feelings that rose up inside of her. The insistence that Herman see things her way. And she had even grown angry, though Herman hadn’t, even as he remained firm. There would be no celebration of Christmas in their new home. And they wouldn’t be going to her parents’ place to celebrate either. It was not the way of his family, and it would not be their way.

Susanna washed the dishes and stared out the window at the snow. Soon the snow would be falling in earnest, the flakes floating past this very window. The joy and hope of Christmas would be in the air. The celebration of the Christ child in the manger would be coming. Was this feeling just an Englisha thing, like Herman claimed? He said her family had given in to worldly influences and his family had not.

Yet how could this be true? Her family didn’t celebrate Christmas like the Englisha did, with their Christmas trees and lots of store-bought presents. Nee, their celebration was simple. They began by gathering on Christmas morning for breakfast. In his deep voice, Daett would read the story of the Christ child’s birth. Then the day would be spent together visiting, eating candy and goodies galore, and letting the children race around the house. Maybe that was a little like the Englisha, but she would be willing to adjust something, like leaving early, if that helped Herman get used to her family’s ways.

But Herman had said no. No hesitation, right out, flat no.

And she had gotten angry. Even her cheeks flushed and her fingers tingled. She had stood up from the table to get a drink at the sink even though her glass was still full of water. His eyes had followed her as he seemed to be waiting for harsh words from her.

But she had not spoken them. She knew that Herman, being her husband, was in the right. And she knew what he would say further on the matter—that she knew before the wedding what his feelings were. He had made no secret of them. And there had been the talk with his mamm. Herman’s mamm had made two or three special trips to the Keim farm before the wedding to visit Susanna. From that first visit, it seemed as if his mamm was sizing her up as a daughter-in-law. Would she be good enough for her Herman? That was her purpose in that first visit. She must have passed the test because there had been the second visit. That’s when Mrs. Wagler told Susanna what Herman’s favorite dishes were and how important it was to honor their family traditions. That was when she mentioned their longstanding abhorrence of the celebration of Christmas that had somehow infiltrated the community. Those visits had been uncomfortable enough, but then only two days after the wedding Herman’s mamm had showed up to help her organize her kitchen. Hadn’t it occurred to her that if Susanna needed such help she would have asked her own mamm?

Nee, she couldn’t say she didn’t know how Herman and his family felt about Christmas, Susanna acknowledged. And now with their first Christmas together approaching, Susanna was realizing it would also be her first Christmas without the joy she had experienced at home. Nee, she would never get to be at Mamm and Daett’s for Christmas morning again.

Knowing about his objections beforehand wasn’t making it any easier, no matter how often she’d told herself it should be. She had thought maybe there was some sort of compromise possible. Surely there had to be. Susanna sighed. It was useless, really. She already knew that. Hermann was handsome and nice and calm, but he was “Amish stubborn.” That was just how it was. And she was his frau.

Well, she could imagine that Christmas was no big deal. Perhaps she was being silly about such a small matter. They would find something else to do on Christmas morning.

Susanna dried the plates and placed them in the cupboard above her. She would have to learn submission, that was the only answer. This was the first big test being placed before her by Da Hah, and she would have to pass somehow. Oh, if she only could. Who would have thought she would have trouble with being a gut frau? That had been the least of her expectations. A sloppy housekeeper, perhaps, or being unable to keep up with the sewing once she had a bunch of kiener. Those things had worried her, but letting her husband have his way about Christmas had not been on her list.

Susanna closed the cupboard door. She would learn this lesson by Christmas morning. She still had time. Thanksgiving was this week, and that left nearly a month until Christmas. Yes, that’s what she would do. She would set her whole heart to the task. This would be her gift of love to Herman. She would learn to keep her mouth shut, and even if she didn’t succeed right away, it would happen. She would apologize until it did happen. Surely by Christmas the task would be done. Herman would see on that morning how much progress she’d made in fitting herself into his family’s lifestyle.

By Christmas Day she would love him fully, with all of her heart. What better wish to aim for than to live in total harmony with your husband, she decided. And love would keep growing in her heart for him. Perhaps not exactly the love she used to feel for Matthew, but a better love. A higher love. One that would grow from suffering.

Hadn’t Matthew shown her how shallow their love used to be? He’d sure been able to cast it off as if it didn’t matter.

Running to the window again, Susanna peeked out. Herman was a dim figure now, almost lost from view in the distant field. He looked intent on his work, his head bent toward the ground as his plow turned up the black dirt. Susanna turned away. How like plowing her plan was. Turning her old life under like Herman was doing to the ground today. Preparing for the spring when things come alive again. She would do the same. Plow under her selfish desires to plant a future spiritual harvest. Here was the sign as to what she should do as plain as day and right before her eyes. How like Da Hah to show her so quickly that He liked her plan. He would surely be answering her wish soon.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's Monday What Are You Reading?

It's Monday What are you Reading?  is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey .  Head over there and check out what others have been reading or plan to read. 

Last Week on the Blog

First Chapter Peak of

Twelve Months by Steven Manchester

Book Review of

Courting Cate by Leslie Gould

Audio Book Review of

Zoo | [James Patterson, Michael Ledwidge]

 Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

 This Week on the Blog

Susanna's Christmas Wish

Susanna's Christmas Wish by Jerry Eicher

The Breath of Dawn
 The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann

 Sofia's Secret
 Sofia's Secret by Sharlene MacLaren

My Current Reads are on the sidebar

Coming Up

 The Secrets of Intercessory Prayer: Unleashing God's Power in the Lives of Those You Love
 The secrets of Intercessory Prayer by Jack Hayford

James Stewart a Biography
 James Stewart by Donald Dewey

Beside Two Rivers (Daughters of the Potomac, # 2)
 Beside Two Rivers by Rita Gerlach

What's on your Reading Horizon?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge audio book review

Zoo | [James Patterson, Michael Ledwidge]
Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
narrated by Jay Snyder


Publisher's Summary

Once in a lifetime, a writer puts it all together. This is James Patterson's best work ever.
For 36 years, James Patterson has written unstopable, pulse-racing novels. Now, he has written an audiobook that surpasses all of them. Zoo is the thriller he was born to write.
All over the world, brutal attacks are crippling entire cities. Jackson Oz, a young biologist, watches the escalating events with an increasing sense of dread. When he witnesses a coordinated lion ambush in Africa, the enormity of the violence to come becomes terrifyingly clear.
With the help of ecologist Chloe Tousignant, Oz races to warn world leaders before it's too late. The attacks are growing in ferocity, cunning, and planning, and soon there will be no place left for humans to hide. With wildly inventive imagination and white-knuckle suspense that rivals Stephen King at his very best, James Patterson's Zoo is an epic, nonstop thrill ride from "One of the best of the best" (Time).
©2012 James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (P)2012 Hachette Audio

My Take:  James Patterson's best work yet?  I don't think so.  This book was good but I wouldn't say great.  All the animals in the world are suddenly attacking humans and they are doing so in packs which have several different species together.  Oz has seen this coming for awhile but could get no one to listen to him until the problem was to big to ignore.  I just thought that is was dumb that Oz saw this happening but was surprised when his chimp attacked his girlfriend.  Then all of sudden it is five years later.  No mention of what happened to the chimp (we do learn later what happened to him which was a bit unbelievable ).  Although the story was not very believable if you are able to suspend the believability  it is an enjoyable story and keeps you guessing. 

The narrator did a good job.  He did some little bit of an accent for some of the characters.  There were random snippets of music that really didn't add anything to the story.

All in all I did enjoy this audio book but there was alot to overlook.  I feel that with the last couple of books James Patterson has just been phoning it in.  I am currently listening to another of his books and this one is much better. 

soundbytes picture hosts a meme where we link up all our audio book reviews.  Head over there and you might find your next great listen.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Courting Cate by Leslie Gould

Book Info About Courting Cate: When This Couple Gets to Courting, Sparks Will Fly! In Paradise, Pennsylvania, Cate Miller is known more for her sharp tongue and fiery temper than her striking appearance. Her sweet and flirty sister, Betsy, on the other hand, seems to have attracted most of the bachelors in Lancaster County! But the sisters' wealthy father has made one hard-and-fast rule: older Cate must marry first, before younger Betsy can even start courting. Unfortunately, untamable Cate has driven away every suitor-until Pete Treger comes to town, that is. Prodded by the men of the area, Pete turns his attention to winning Cate's hand. But is his interest true or is there a scheme at play? Book 1 in The Courtships of Lancaster County series. Link to buy the book:

Meet Leslie: Leslie Gould is the co-author, with Mindy Starns Clark, of the #1 bestselling The Amish Midwife and The Amish Nanny. She is also the author of numerous novels, including Garden of Dreams, Beyond the Blue (winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice for Best Inspirational Novel, 2006), and Scrap Everything. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Portland State University and has taught fiction writing at Multnomah University as an adjunct professor. She resides with her husband and four children in Portland, Oregon. Learn more at

Enter Today - 11/1-20! Courting Cate by Leslie Gould 

My Take:  This book is the first book in a new series by Leslie Gould "The Courtships of Lancaster County".  This story is loosely based on The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare.  Cate's Father declares that her younger sister cannot court or marry unless Cate does first.  So Cate feel that pressure to find a husband.  But she is not going to just accept anyone as she has been spurned before.  With a bit of fate and alittle meddling mixed in Cate meets Pete Treger.  Has Cate meet her match or is Pete just like the other?  I liked this book and will be looking for the others in the series.  If you enjoy Amish Fiction you may find this book a little different.  This book takes a little of the strangeness of the Amish a way and shows them just as they are as people. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

First Chapter Peak of 12 Months by Steven Manchester

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Story Plant, The (August 14, 2012)

***Special thanks to Steven Manchester for sending me a review copy.***


Steven Manchester is the published author of Pressed Pennies, The Unexpected Storm: The Gulf War Legacy and Jacob Evans, as well as several books under the pseudonym, Steven Herberts. His work has appeared on NBC's Today Show, CBS's The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of his short stories were selected "101 Best" for Chicken Soup for the Soul series.  

Visit the author's Facebook.
Visit the author's website.


Don DiMarco has a very good life – a family he loves, a comfortable lifestyle, passions and interests that keep him amused. He also thought he had time, but that turned out not to be the case. Faced with news that might have immediately felled most, Don now wonders if he has time enough. Time enough to show his wife the romance he didn’t always lavish on her. Time enough to live out his most ambitious fantasies. Time enough to close the circle on some of his most aching unresolved relationships. Summoning an inner strength he barely realized he possessed, Don sets off to prove that twelve months is time enough to live a life in full. A glorious celebration of each and every moment that we’re given here on Earth, as well as the eternal bonds that we all share, Twelve Months is a stirring testament to the power of the human spirit.

Product Details:
List Price: $15.95
Paperback: 326 pages
Publisher: Story Plant, The (August 14, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 161188053X
ISBN-13: 978-1611880533



They say – whoever they are – that every story has to start at its beginning. I’m not sure that’s true. Maybe the best place to start with any story is the here and now. And that’s exactly where we’ll begin.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Let me paint a picture for you: My name's Don DiMarco and I live at 55 Summerfield Avenue on the outskirts of Pilgrim Hill. It’s a small, residential neighborhood that sits beside a giant field of white and yellow daisies. And it’s become the perfect place to enjoy my once-dreaded retirement.

In the mornings, even though I swore I’d never own another dog, Foxhound – named after my childhood companion – and I go for our daily walk and take it all in. It’s like living in the middle of a Thomas Kinkade original.

Colonial, Cape Cod, and ranch style homes line both sides of the street, each one betraying the unique character befitting its owner. Brick driveways, laid out in a herringbone design, are guarded by statues of grinning lions or laughing cherubs. Faded cedar shingles are offset with cranberry or forest green shutters. Striped awnings hang above each window, while multi-colored petunias fill each box beneath. Open porches with rocking chairs lead to inviting front doors, their flowered wreaths matching the hanging potted plants that drip with warmth. Red brick and black wrought iron complement the sparkle of glass and richness of mahogany. In the rear, Connecticut stone patios host sturdy picnic benches and swinging hammocks.

Most of the yards are meticulously landscaped. Rhododendrons and azaleas burst with color, while apple and cherry blossom trees weave a carpet of pink and white petals beneath their twisted branches.

While Foxhound pulls at his leash, I prefer to maintain a leisurely pace. It's amazing the details you can pick up if you just stop long enough to pay attention.

To the harmony of singing birds, a tiny peeper calls out from a moss-covered stonewall. I like to stop for a moment and feel the tingle of a gentle breeze and the sun's warm hands on my skin. Suddenly, the powerful aroma of fresh-cut grass grabs my senses and I breathe it all in.

As we travel on, red maples and giant sycamores dance with the white birches and mighty oaks. If you follow their branches to the top, you’ll find melted marshmallow clouds traveling a slow and easy pace against a sky of blue that's indescribable.

Though Foxhound and I enjoy our time alone, I also like the occasional exchange of a warm smile or friendly wave. When we’re lucky, we’ll catch Sarah pushing her newborn in an open antique carriage. When we’re not so lucky, we’ll come across another dog walker and his four-legged friend. Though I’ve tried to teach him better manners, Foxhound suffers terribly from an only child syndrome.

When you put all the pieces together, I guess Summerfield Avenue is my true refuge. For me, everything is at peace here. That, coupled with the fact I've finally managed a perfect lawn, how could I ever complain?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As I think I've mentioned, I retired early – at fifty-seven years old – which allows me lots of time to spend with those I love and to think about the paths I’ve traveled. Family, of course, comes first.

Isabella – my beautiful Bella – is my true partner and wife. She's a great cook and from what I can tell, while I'm out cutting the grass or changing the car's oil, she's always loved playing the traditional role of homemaker. Through the years, she's insisted on very few things, but the one thing she's asked for is that the family eat together at the dinner table each night. Bella and I have been together so long it's tough to tell the differences between us. I guess you could say we more than complement each other. She laughs when I say it, but I believe we're two halves that make up a whole. A firm but compassionate soul, Bella has worked with mentally disabled children for the better part of four decades. We’re holiday Catholics and for years, she took care of her ailing mother – her cross to bear – and had a difficult time letting go when the old woman finally passed. Bella can't sit still. She's constantly cleaning. And my wife, I've learned, has never been wrong – which might honestly be her only true flaw.

At thirty-six, our only child, Riley, is still Daddy’s little girl. On the morning we were blessed with her company, I remember thinking, In my daughter’s face, I have seen my grandmother’s smile. With my brown hair and her mother’s hazel eyes, she turned out as pretty as she is kind – which is most important, if you ask me. To the applause of thunder and torrential downpours, Riley came into the world without wanting to cause anyone any trouble. I sensed she was an old soul and we clicked right away. I suppose she had a normal upbringing; from Tomboy to boy crushes to college, where she eventually followed in her mother’s footsteps and became an advocate for disabled children. Through the years, she became a gifted softball player – which I think was equally considerate of me, as I had no son – and an avid cyclist; a passion that has carried on through her adulthood. Riley and I have also shared an undying love for the Boston Red Sox. However, she did go through a rebellious stage I tried to ignore as much as humanly possible. With a back tattoo, belly button ring and a few nights where she had too much to drink and needed to call me for a ride (I never made a big deal about it at the time, preferring that she call me rather than drive home intoxicated), trust me when I say we’ve had our moments.

I thought I was lucky to have had two loves of my life – that is, until the grandkids came along.

After testing a string of potential suitors, Riley finally settled down with Michael. Even if I’d wanted to dislike him like some of the others, there’s no way I could have. He was respectful to me and Bella, but more importantly he was good to Riley. Before long, our daughter became Riley DiMarco-Resonina, a name I've never stopped kidding her about. “Wanna buy a vowel?” I'd ask, but she’s always been a good sport about it. Riley and Michael waited quite a while, but they eventually gave me and Bella two beautiful grandbabies. The first was Madison Ruth, named after Michael’s mother. Then came Michael Donald, which honored me beyond words. And with these children, I’ve been completely blessed. Grandkids are the perfect payoff for any life.

Ms. Madison, the oldest, was tough stuff from the start. With rosebud lips, a potato nose and her grandma's eyes, the gap between her two front teeth makes her smile contagious. The word determined can’t even begin to describe this child. Of course, she looks like a living doll in her flowered dresses and fancy bows, but in reality she’s all tomboy like her mom. Her relationship with her baby brother is reflective of the tough love my brother Joseph and I shared when we were coming up. “No one’s going to mess with this kid,” I've boasted time and again.

Michael Donald, the baby, was the chubbiest newborn I'd ever laid eyes on, so I nicknamed him Pudge and have never called him anything else since. With his dad's dimpled smile, he’s a mix of Mamma’s boy and the kind of rough and tumble lad that any man would love to have for a son. Before he could walk, this inquisitive little grubber was throwing baseballs and testing out different wrestling moves.

Madison and Pudge have always called me Poppa and I could not be any more grateful to their dad for allowing me to share in their love and adoration. As if it were possible, I've spoiled both of them even more than I did Riley. And the truth is – I've never once felt guilty for it.

Forgive me for going on like this. Though I always swore I wouldn’t, it seems I’ve become the stereotypical grandfather.

Let's see, we were talking about the joys of retirement. Well, I still work – or volunteer, I should say. After years spent in a woodworking shop, I now volunteer in a children’s hospital, transporting kids. I love it. I do. There’s no pressure, better hours and I’m not killing myself any more because I’ve learned everything I need to know about money. The way I see it is – when you don’t place so much value on something, it’s not as important as it once was. Believe me, there’s great freedom in that.

Before turning in each night, I like to sit on my deck in my Adirondack chair with my musty-smelling stray lying by my side. Prayer, meditation – whatever you’d like to call it – I now enjoy getting in touch with my spiritual side. At first, going within felt very strange, but the more time I’ve spent in the stillness – not thinking or doing anything, just being – the closer I’ve felt to myself; to the essence of who I truly am. To me, sitting on that deck at the start of a silver-lined dusk is like hosting a family reunion with my soul.

Like some unfinished masterpiece still in the process of creation, on most nights the light is bent to create the most magnificent colors, unnamed and infinite. Midnight blue poured onto black velvet, the ordinary is turned mysterious. Like a snow-covered mountain range, billowy clouds crawl by. The dark silhouetted tree line against a steel gray sky leaves me with the illusion of solitude and I am grateful for the opportunity to appreciate the light. Then, a giant curtain is drawn and the light announces its final surrender. As promising as the dreams of a child though, it will be back. The world closes in all around me, allowing me the time I need to recharge my batteries. By now, the eye can only pick up movement. Sounds and smells become much crisper. The scent of moisture settles in and then burnt hardwood from a distant fireplace. Twinkling specks of light, of pure energy, are gradually scattered across the firmament, and I stare until I can see depth. All sounds are heightened beyond a whisper; the steady beat of a whippoorwill, the rustling of a skunk foraging for a late dinner, the patter of a moth's wings on glass. Even in the moon's halo, the clouds are no more than wisps of smoke drifting by. Like tiny magicians, the fireflies disappear and reappear until the cool air ushers them off to some hollowed-out log. Before long, all things are tucked away into their rightful place.

And though I must do so through the innocent eyes of a child, I can witness this most nights. If Foxhound and I are real lucky, on special nights we'll catch a lightning storm on the deck. Hearing the echo of rolling thunder and seeing the flash of lightning only reminds me that God never sleeps. “The angels are bowling," my mother used to say. Grandpa, however, preferred to capitalize on fear whenever he could. "God is angry with us!" he’d swear. Either way, it was a childhood fear that I’d never internalized or had to overcome. Like a mosquito to a bug zapper, I was drawn to these dangerous storms. To me, it's like being stuck in a car wash that comes with a very cool light show.

Stormy or clear, any night is ideal for thinking about those paths I mentioned. I'll spend hours just sitting there, searching my memory. It’s funny the things you pick up along the way; the things you can share with your grandkids if you're smart.

I've learned that anyone can change the world; you just have to start with one person at a time. I’ve also learned that not caring what other people think of me has allowed me the energy to focus on what I think of myself. For me, life is like looking through a kaleidoscope. With every turn, a different view will be brought to light.

I’ve taught my grandkids that good things come to those who wait, but great things come to those who go after it; that a gift within is meant to be shared or else it wouldn't be a gift; and no matter how large or small, everybody's problems are enormous to themselves. Though the list goes on, the most important thing I've passed on is that life can be a beautiful dream, or a living nightmare. It's all about your attitude – your perspective.

But I didn’t always see things this way…

Chapter 1

I hadn’t been feeling well for a while; a change in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss and terrible cramping in my lower abdomen. When I started to find blood in my stool, I knew I had to see the doctor. “You stupid man!” Bella scolded. I thought she was going to kill me for waiting so long.

Together, we visited one doctor’s office after the next, while I was subjected to a battery of intrusive testing. Most diseases were immediately ruled out – at least all the livable ones.

While Bella sat by my side, Doctor Olivier conducted his line of questioning. “Family history of intestinal polyps?” he asked.

“Not that I know of.”

“History of an inflammatory bowel disease?”


“Any possible genetic factors?”

I cringed. “Yeah, both my parents died from cancer.” I looked over at my wife. Her eyes were filled with worry.

After giving samples of every bodily fluid you can imagine and enduring the most God-awful probing, I was sent to the hospital’s radiology department for a CT scan.

As I recall, it was the final days of a long, harsh winter. The wind banged on the window, while the last remnants of a blackened snow bank stood off in the distance. Though Bella was worried sick, she reluctantly agreed to let me return to Doctor Olivier’s alone because Riley needed someone to watch the kids. “But please come straight home after you’re done,” she requested.

As I sat half-naked on the exam table, I couldn’t help but take note of the meaningless details that surrounded me; a water color painting hanging crooked on the wall, a glass container that needed to be refilled with tongue depressors, an extra chair that didn’t belong, making the room feel cluttered.

The door opened and Doctor Olivier walked in, holding a yellow folder under his arm. It was my entire medical history. His face looked somber.

This can’t be happening, I thought, I never smoked, rarely drank and I’m only in my fifties.

Doctor Olivier was a white-haired gent with a moustache trimmed a half-inch off his top lip, betraying his military background. With a white coat to match, his stethoscope swung freely from his thick neck. He had large hands with perfectly manicured fingernails. It’s strange the things you pick up when somebody’s about to invade your private parts. “Don,” he began in his calm, no-nonsense approach. “I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but…you have colon cancer.” He opened the folder for more details.

I felt like he’d just punched me in the gut. “I what?” I asked, one octave higher than normal.

“The rectal bleeding, weight loss, abdominal pain and the fact that your stools have become longer and more narrow are all symptoms.”

“But it hasn’t been going on all that long,” I argued. He only shook his head. Now I definitely felt like vomiting.

“Sometimes colon cancer fails to produce any symptoms until the cancer has grown very large and even metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body. This is why the identification and removal of polyps through regular screenings play such an important role in prevention.”

“Spread to other parts?” I asked.

The man’s green eyes peered up from behind narrow reading glasses. I knew right then and there that I was in serious trouble. “The cancer’s already spread to your liver,” he said.

A bolt of panic, generating from my core, shot out and filled every cell of my body. My extremities began to tingle and my breathing turned shallow. There was a sudden pain in my chest and I knew intuitively that this was felt for my wife. What's Bella going to do? I wondered, and a wave of dizziness nearly pushed me off the table. Then, I must have gone into some kind of shock or something. I kept eye contact, but for a while all I heard was a hum; the occasional phrase dancing in and out.

“…trace amounts of blood. Blah. Blah. Blah. …blockages preventing bowel movements. Blah. Blah. Blah. …consumption of red meat, obesity, smoking. Blah. Blah. …stage four. Blah. Blah.” There was a long pause. “Do you understand what I’m saying, Don?” he finally asked.

I don’t know how long we stared at each other before I answered. “Yes, I heard you. I have cancer.”

“That’s right. You have stage four colon cancer which has started to spread to other organs. At your age, I strongly recommend we pursue aggressive surgical treatment to remove the cancerous tissues. We'll also want to consider chemotherapy and radiation therapy.” From his tone, this wasn’t so much a recommendation as it was an order.

Along with oxygen, my wits were returning to me. I understood the words he was saying, but they were still difficult to register. “But I've always been more of a quality guy…not so concerned with quantity,” I blurted.

He folded his arms, awaiting an explanation.

“What kind of life will I live…even if it's extended?" I asked.

“We won’t know that until we begin, will we?”

“Maybe I should get a second opinion?”

"By all means, please do. It's important to..."

"I just don't want to cut myself short by living a few more months hooked to tubes," I interrupted.

He nodded once. “I understand,” he said. After explaining a few more details I was too overwhelmed to comprehend, he left the room. There was clearly nothing more he could do for me.

Minutes later, I was dressed and walking down the icy sidewalk toward a frightening future that had just shrunk by decades. It was as if adrenaline forced me to move, one foot in front of the next. I felt numb, high on the fear of losing my life. And then I pictured Bella's face and stopped. I must have dry-heaved for a solid five minutes.

My pretty, light-haired wife met me at the front door, shivering. I looked into her hazel eyes and attempted a smile. Before I said a word, she already knew. "Oh, dear God…" she gasped and pulled me to her.

As we stepped inside, I told her, “Stage four colon cancer.”

“I thought it was…” she began. “But it can’t be…” Her voice began cracking like warm water on ice.

Although we both suspected the same prognosis, there was no real way to prepare for it. We held each other for nearly a half hour and cried. Although I was already worried about having to leave her, I tried to console her. "We'll be fine," I whispered.

For a moment, she pushed away and peered into my soul. "We'll be going for a second opinion," she confirmed.

While a late-night hailstorm threatened to shatter the living room windows and Bella tossed and turned in bed, I fumbled on the Internet and conducted my own research:

It is estimated that fifty-seven thousand Americans will die from colon cancer this year; the second leading cause of cancer death in the nation and a disease that it is completely preventable. Prevention and early detection can mean the difference between life and death. Colon cancer forms from non-cancerous polyps on the wall of the small or large intestines. Polyps can eventually increase in size and turn cancerous. If polyps are found during a routine test, a biopsy may be done to determine if cancer is present and to which stage it has advanced. Women are usually diagnosed with colon cancer in its latter stages because many believe this disease only affects men. Unfortunately, this disease affects people of all genders and ethnicities. There are five stages, zero through five.

I stopped reading. I’m already nearing the final stage, I thought, and for the first time I felt guilty about not taking better care of myself.

I was preparing for bed when I looked up from the sink and surveyed my face in the mirror. I still had most of my dark hair. My brown eyes were filled with life. Dying can't be what I’m in the process of, I thought. Besides the pockmarked cheeks from a cruel case of pre-adolescent acne, I looked as healthy and unscathed as the day I was born. I washed down two pills with a gulp of water and shut off the light.

As I headed for bed, it suddenly dawned on me, All the things I was planning to do when I finally had the time…I may not actually have the time to do! I snickered at the thought of it. Shoot, I was gonna go fishing and travel the country with Bella in a motor home, where we could rekindle our romance…which took a backseat to too many other things.

I lay down in bed, placed my hands behind my head and stared up at the ceiling – haunted by my unrealized aspirations. I was hoping to do some writing, maybe even for the newspaper, and beg the boys down at the local race track to let me go for a spin. I even thought about talking Bella into doing some horseback riding…

I turned to my side and watched Bella’s eyelids struggle with another bad dream. Now what? I wondered.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It's funny how the mind works. Besides making Bella promise not to tell anyone until we were absolutely sure, I honestly cannot tell you what my feelings or thoughts were between doctor's visits. I remember going to work in the cold and coming home to watch Bella pray each night, but most of that time remains a complete blur to me. I vaguely recall the desperate phone calls and hours of research my frantic wife conducted, and her sudden outbursts of grief. I stayed out of it – all of it. I wasn't ready to consider death. It wasn't part of the comfortable routine I'd spent decades perfecting.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For whatever reason, I was surprised to find that Dr. Rice was a woman. She was too thin and pale, but she had kind eyes and a soft tone to her voice. “Colon cancer is one of the most common types of cancer,” she explained to Bella and me. “And treatment usually depends on the location, size, and spread of your cancer at the time of diagnosis. When colon cancer is detected at an early stage, surgical treatment is very effective. We also use chemotherapy or radiation with surgery to reduce the chance that the cancer will return.”

Seated by my side, Bella couldn’t wait to ask. “And Don's…do you agree with the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation in his case?”

The doctor hesitated. It was slight, but she hesitated, and as plain as day, I could see that she was too kind for this aspect of her profession. Without a word, she confirmed our dreaded suspicions. “It was caught too late, Mr. and Mrs. DiMarco,” she explained. She looked at Bella and then back at me. “Your cancer is inoperable, and although radiation is an option, the diagnosis is still terminal.”

“How long?” Bella asked, her voice cracking.

“Twelve months…at best.”

“Now what?” I asked. It was a stupid question, but I still hoped for an answer.

"Go…and really live the time you have left."

Like a puppet that had snapped its strings, Bella collapsed into a chair and began to sob. “Oh, dear God,” she cried.

"My father didn't raise a quitter," I said, surprised at my last-ditch effort.

“That’s admirable, but you can either spend your remaining time fighting or enjoying it,” Dr. Rice advised.

I felt devastated, but when I found her eyes again I also felt a brief moment of peace. It was unexplainable.

To the beat of Bella’s heavy sobs, the doctor took out her prescription pad. “I’ll give you all the medication you’ll need to manage the pain.”

“Thank you.” I took the two scripts and helped my wife to her feet. It was time to go home and face Bella's unanswered prayers.

As the days threatened to turn into weeks, I moped around in a silent state of numbness. Life was a fog and I was traveling aimlessly with no light to guide me. I prayed harder and with more frequency: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference – but serenity and courage were nowhere in sight. Instead, as though I was competing in the emotional Tour de France, I cycled through denial, anger, depression and negotiating with God – again and again.

“Talk to me!” my wife pleaded, trying everything to include herself in my secret mourning. But I was too selfish to let her in. For whatever reason, I needed to sit with the misery for a while longer before sharing it – with anyone.

It didn't take long to run the full gamut of darkness – anger, sorrow, fear – and then run through each of them again. WHY? I screamed in my head. WHY ME? But there was no answer. Eventually, I was only left with the stinging realization that on many levels, it didn't matter that there were people who loved me and didn't want to lose me. In many respects, my dying was the perfectly natural thing to do. Still, I wasn't ready to surrender to it. For the time being, I preferred to stay within my shell and simmer in a bitter rage.

Bella, on the other hand, was more than happy to express herself each day. I never realized my gentle wife could be so angry and sad – all at the same time.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After canceling my next dentist appointment – I figured, What's the use, right? – I finally called for a family meeting with Riley and Michael. It was time we broke the terrible news. I didn’t want anyone outside the immediate family to know, though. You see, I’ve always believed that positive thoughts and actions bring about positive results, with the same holding true for the opposite. So, with the negative hens in our extended family, I figured if they caught wind of my illness, I’d be dead in a matter of weeks. Besides, the fuss would be too annoying.

We were at the kitchen table for a few terrible moments before Bella began to explain exactly what Doctor Rice had said.

Before she was through, Riley screamed, “No, Daddy…NO!”

I honestly thought I was going to be strong for everyone until she did that. I looked up to find Bella sobbing and Michael looking away to wipe his eyes. I couldn’t help it. I joined the family for a good, long, healthy cry. When I finally composed myself enough to speak, I said, “Okay guys, this is the last time I want to see anyone mourning for me while I’m still alive.”

Everyone reluctantly nodded.

“What are you going to do now that…” Michael stopped himself and looked away again.

“I’m going to run a marathon.”

No one laughed.

“I’m going to live,” I said and meant every word of it. “I promised Pudge a couple years ago at his sister’s Kindergarten graduation that I’d be there at his, and I fully intend to keep my word.”

Riley peered into my eyes. “There’s always a chance for a miracle, right?”

“I’m expecting it!” I told her.

She jumped into my lap and hugged me for a long while. It was the type of medicine that could heal anything.

Bella barely excused herself and hurried out of the room. Even through my own haze, I knew she was furious with God; a rage that lasted longer than I would have ever expected.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Right from the start, everything changed.

After Riley had flown the coop, for years Bella and I would go for a ride in the car every Friday night with the windows rolled down and the music playing. Nine out of ten times, we’d end up at Flo’s on Island Park. Flo’s served the best clam cakes and fried clams anywhere. Bella and I would sit together on the sea wall and share our feast with the seagulls. But Bella had a different idea now. “What about taking me to Venus for that baked stuffed lobster we always talked about?” she asked.

I had to smile, thinking, She is a clever one. For years, I’d wanted to try that lobster but never thought we could afford it. We finally went.

I was stunned. Venus’s baked stuffed lobster wasn’t nearly as good as I thought it would be, nor was it all that hard to shell out the cash for it. After all these years of fantasizing, I thought, and we should have gone to Flo’s for the cakes.

Thanks to a vested retirement plan, I was able to retire early from McKaskie’s. This money was sure to carry me through to the end. For Bella's well being however, I was thankful for the large life insurance policy I'd complained about paying on for years. From the moment I'd signed the papers, I thought we'd overpaid, but he was a good salesman. "We don't need it," I complained again and again to Bella, but once we started making payments it seemed foolish to stop. I've never been so happy to stick with something I didn't want. Now, not only would my wife be able to survive on the money, she'd be able to live quite well – long into her own retirement. On one hand, it was strange to be worth more dead than alive. On the more important hand, I was thrilled that Bella would be able to live better than she ever had.

With no intentions of sharing the truth about my impending doom, I walked into McKaskie's for the last time to take one final stroll through the grease and wood shavings. It felt so surreal. Here I was, the foreman in charge of quality assurance of this giant woodworking shop, taking one last look around. I didn’t expect it, but it hurt. I’d been at the same job forever. It was the place that had provided purpose for my entire adult life and the reason I’d gotten up every day – five days a week – at five o’clock in the morning. It had offered just enough overtime to put my daughter through college and now I was never going to see it again.

Bobby, Marty – even the Smeaton brothers, who were supposed to be identical twins but looked nothing alike – came over to shake my hand and wish me luck on my early retirement. “We’ll be seeing each other soon,” they all promised

I knew better.

I sat with them on the loading dock for the day’s final break and listened to Adam go on about his ex-girlfriend. “We were together through most of Tractor Trailer School,” the young smartass joked, creating just enough laughter to get him rolling. “God, did I love her. She was so big, though, that you could have put a swing set in her backyard.”

Everyone laughed.

“I think she snacked between meals. For whatever reason, what really turned me on was walking behind her when she climbed stairs. It was like watching two baby pigs fighting under a blanket.”

Even I laughed at that one.

“When we went out dancing, I couldn’t tell whether she was doing the electric slide or having a seizure. And she used to have me shave her back in the shower – that is, until the weed whacker nearly electrocuted us.”

We shared one last laugh and the whistle went off. It was perfect timing. The guys each got up, dusted themselves off and went back to work. I took one last look around, grabbed my timecard and – for old time’s sake – punched out.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

While Bella wrestled with the reality of my early departure and the sharp pains that went with it, I watched in agony as she stumbled through the same dark valley I was traveling in. She snapped at the slightest annoyance and cried at the most random times. Days fit slowly into weeks.

I slept in one morning but it wasn’t easy to break old habits. For decades, I’d gotten up before the sun. Now, all I could think was to take my coffee to the deck where there wasn’t much to do but sit in the Adirondack chair and listen to the birds gossip.

Idle time can be a killer. I started thinking too much about where I might be heading. I wasn’t sure about heaven and hell, but I eventually pictured my Nana. Wherever she ended up is good enough for me, I thought. And if she didn’t make it to heaven, then I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell.

One night, I got up from bed and went into the living room away from Bella’s sensitive ears. I cried for a long while – not for myself, but for the love I was going to have to leave behind – for Bella, Riley, Michael and the kids. Before long, I heard some rustling around in the kitchen. Bella's angelic silhouette suddenly appeared in the doorway. Without a word, she joined me on the couch where we cried together. When we'd had our share of grieving, she turned to me and asked, “Are you ready to share this with me now?”

“Yeah. But I…”

“No buts," she said, "for better or worse, remember?” She rested her head on my chest. “In sickness and in health…you big oaf.”

“Okay,” I said. “In sickness and in health.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The following week, after my bi-weekly visit with Dr. Rice, the blue-collar stiffs from McKaskie's threw me an impromptu retirement party in Jimmy Smeaton's frigid backyard. It was half-assed at best, but they did the best they could. It was an off-season cookout, with burgers and dogs, a full keg of beer and a beat-up radio playing country music. From this jaded crew, the thought really was all that mattered. I found out later that Bella funded the majority of the shindig. It didn't surprise me. I did my best to enjoy the celebration, but my mid-section throbbed in pain the entire afternoon.

Suddenly, I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted. Besides my wife, though, there was no one else around to do it with. Everyone was either working or taking part in that thing I used to know as life.

Five weeks to the day I’d received the bad news, Bella and I took in a movie. The smallest details seemed to mean everything; the smell of new carpeting mixed with buttered popcorn; the young, inattentive ushers with their roving flashlights. The entire experience was so different from anything I’d ever known; much different from the days not so long ago when I took everything for granted.

Like a switch that had been turned back on inside of me, as I walked out into the sun it hit me. I had already lost fifteen pounds and was now fitting into my skinny jeans. If my attitude didn’t change, I wasn’t going to last six months. You’d better accept this dying thing before you waste the rest of your life, I told myself. Besides, you’ve been a pain in the ass since you were a kid. What’s more appropriate than going out with colon cancer?

I turned to Bella. "I need to stop pouting, we both do, before we waste the time we have left."

She grabbed my arm and kept walking. "I know," she said. "I've been thinking the same thing."

From that very moment on – with the filters turned off, the walls torn down and all the defenses lowered – we stepped back into our life together, or at least what was left of it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Michael popped over on that next weekend to help me carry my worn recliner out to the sidewalk for the junkman.

“But you love that chair,” Bella said.

“But I love you more,” I told her and then turned off the TV. “As far as I’m concerned, you can get rid of this, too. I don’t have time for it anymore.”

She was shocked. She’d always called that TV my soul mate.

It took some searching, but I finally found the jigsaw puzzle on the top shelf of the hallway closet. It was a five thousand-piece mural of angels ascending into heaven, a gift that Riley had gotten me many Father’s Days ago. The picture on the box showed shades of blue and green so close that they were guaranteed to make me pull every remaining hair out of my head. Puzzle making was a simple task of such complexity that I couldn’t help but embrace the torment. This one wasn’t going to be a one-nighter, but if I had to fill my time I wanted it to be with the pastime I loved most. A picture of angels can’t hurt either, I figured. “It’s going to help relax me,” I told Bella when I showed her the box.

“Sure it will,” she snickered, “just make sure you watch your mouth in front of the kids.”

I laughed. “Those days are done,” I promised.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved putting together puzzles. I think I was six years old when I got my first puzzle for Christmas. I don't remember how long it took me to put together or how many pieces it was, but it looked like a lot. I guess it must have been about a hundred pieces.

As I got older, during the long New England winters my mother would set up a card table where I’d chip away at three hundred-piece Whitman puzzles, or the more expensive Wysocki’s. Back then, the average puzzle was around two hundred fifty pieces and a large one was no more than five hundred. The pieces were at least three or four times thicker than they are today.

I’ve tackled two giant puzzles in my time. One was eight thousand five hundred pieces, cost eighty-nine dollars and took nearly three months to complete. There were three of us doing it on the weekends – Bella, Riley and me. Every time I passed the puzzle, I’d have to stop and put in a piece or two. When adding up the cost of soda pop, beer and snacks, that puzzle ended up costing us around five thousand dollars. The other monster had twelve thousand ninety-six pieces and was four and a half feet wide by nine and a half feet long. I gave them both away after we finished them.

Over the years, I must have put together at least a thousand puzzles, maybe more. Per Bella’s orders, many of them were laminated and framed and now hang everywhere throughout our house. I really enjoyed making all of them. I’ll tell you, though, sometimes I’d get so involved that I’d call McKaskie’s and tell the boss something important had come up and I’d be to work a little late. I did that more than once.

I can remember staying up late some nights, getting only two or three hours of sleep before having to go to work. I’d wait until the last possible moment so I could put in a few more pieces. There were even days when I’d get to work and tell them I wasn't feeling well and had to go home. Crazy, I know.

For a one thousand-piece puzzle, it would take Bella and me a month or so. There were others, though, that took longer. Though I wouldn’t admit it to my wife, there were definitely moments when I’d get pretty steamed.

I was really looking forward to getting back into one.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We were working on the angel puzzle after dinner one night when Bella blurted, “We need time for us. So, where’s your favorite place in the whole world?”

I didn’t need to think. “Martha’s Vineyard,” I replied. We’d only been there three times in all the years we'd been married. It seemed odd to me now. A rush of memories came flooding back. I could picture the narrow cobblestone streets, the quaint shops, water views from anywhere, elephant grass blowing in the stiff sea winds, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets...

“Then Martha’s Vineyard it is,” she said. “When do you want to leave?”

“How ‘bout in a week or two?”

Her raised eyebrow requested an explanation.

“Before I go anywhere, I’d like to take some time and go back…to remember how I got here.”

The raised eyebrow remained.

“I’ve been thinking about visiting the old neighborhood,” I explained. “I’d like to spend a few moments with my memories…at least the good ones. They seem to deserve at least that much.”

The eyebrow surrendered and was quickly replaced by a smile. “Then that’s where you should go,” she said.

I gave her a kiss, and with a grateful nod, returned to the puzzle.