Monthly Archives: May 2013

Last couple of weeks..

We have had a busy May! It has been full of fun activities, but a little overwhelming for this mom that is realizing more and more what a stretch it is to be so social!

Sports Banquet was early in May and the boys played against the dads.

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It was a really fun game to watch! Lots of laughters as well as the dads had an oxygen tank prop they used.

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The boys getting ready to play!

 

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I know this last one is blurry….but I still liked it! Basketball has been a great experience for us this year and I am not sure what the future holds with it, but it has been good for all of us!

Track and field day was supposed to be this year, but it poured down rain on that day. Thankfully, our local co-op planned an end of the year party with fun educational games and it was a lot of fun to go and visit there!

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H. and his friend playing an indoor ball game.

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The children gathering to hear the rules of the game!

P1050844Dividing into groups…

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The older children divided and some played the game here and some played another in another room!

P1050848I loved seeing the older ones help the little ones and join right in this cool spelling game!

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Then we had the homeschool graduation and parties to go to. There were 31 homeschool graduates this year.

It was a beautiful ceremony, one that a mom could cry her way through, even if she is not a crier. It was very emotional.

P1050851These talented young ladies shared a song that they had arranged. They have amazing voices!

954881_10200798814726337_1976143295_nClass of 2013!!

 

We did a make up field play day at the park, which was fun today, but my camera was full! We have taken a lot of pictures this year!

 

 

 

 

 

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Though the Bud be bruised by Jo Wanmer

Though the Bud be bruised

By Jo Wanmer

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

From back of book:

Can one little note, read at midnight, really trigger a chain of events that could shake the very foundation of Zara Heymer’s life? Can she even grasp the horror of what has happened within her family? The shock of discovering that evil, cleverly disguised, has penetrated her home and her church has left Zara reeling. Feeling a total failure, she looks for a way to resign as a mother; a way to stop this nightmare. But her daughter, Issy, desperately needs a good mother as she attempts to face life. Can Zara put aside her grief, her own need for acceptance, her narrow thinking, and deeply ingrained religiosity in time to help Issy? Will Issy even survive? How could God allow this to happen? Is God even there? Is her faith relevant or is it just a false crutch she has lent upon all these years? Is there any possible way that God can use this nightmare for good?
My review:
This book begins as a tale all too familiar in many circles, christian or non-Christian. The story of a family whose friendship with another turns tainted when the facts of their secret sins are revealed. This family find outs not only has their daughter been abused, but the church seeks to cover it up, makes excuses for the abuser, and is not there to support the family.
The book has some excellent points and shows how painful the journey can be for a child that has suffered at the hands of another, the pain parents feel trying to not only help their child, but deal with the scorn and judgement of others. The “forgiveness” speech that is often given to Christians that have been abused was addressed in this book in a very decent way.
Over all, I found this book a bit of a challenge in the way it was written, but the story was real to life in every painful little detail. The frustrations with the medical system, the system of punishment, the church, was all so harshly real, front and center. Almost a little too real, in a way. I would recommend this book to you, if you have struggled with dealing with judgement from others, namely, a church group, in the case of abuse or having a child that suffered abuse and had to go through the mental health system for help. It could give you some relief to walk through it with Zara! -Martha
This book was provided for me for review by BookCrash. The opinions contained are my own and I was not paid for my views.

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Meal Plan for the week

I have sadly been slacking on my meal planning. But am ready to get back on the wagon!  Keeping things simple is my motto! 

Tuesday:  Grilled Chicken Souvlaki Gyros

Wednesday: Baked Chicken parmesan, spaghetti and salad

Thursday: Chicken Tamale Pie, salad

Friday: Stir fried noodles with Thai peanut sauce 

Saturday: Crock pot stew

Sunday: Leftovers, cookies, popcorn

Monday: Crock pot shepherd’s pie

Tuesday: Skillet steaks, homemade mac and cheese, salad

 

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Top 2 job titles I hold

#1- Mother

#2-Teacher

 

Does that mean that I do not venture outside those titles or interests? Um, I should probably limit myself more than I do, but instead, I am widely varied! I enjoy dabbling in many forms of writing and would love to actually write a book. I have been working towards that goal for awhile now, but lack time and sometimes brain power to form sentences.

I love to read, which if you read my blog, you have deduced! I get often asked by people who see me how I manage to read with all I do. I don’t actually read as much as I used to, so it always takes me surprise a bit, but then I have explained how to read books with a lack of time to read. You read a book, a sentence at a time. While waiting for anything, when you have a few minutes between appts. while sipping your afternoon tea and eating a snack.

It takes longer to read a book that way, but eventually, you do complete them!

As a teacher of our small homeschool, I find myself dabbling in areas I never thought I would. Research. Science. Hiking.

I found that because I am a mother, I have had to learn how to be more social. For a person that was painfully introverted, that has been a learning process. I am thankful for my friends that have found it worthwhile to put up with me! But still, there is something to be said for absolute stillness and quiet. Sometimes even the normal “quiet” is too much for me.

 

I sat at a homeschool graduation yesterday. I watched as 30 sets of parents came on stage and passed diplomas to their children. I sat in wonder wondering if I am going to ever get there, and in fear that I may not achieve my goals.

My interests are wide and varied, but all of them can get put on the back burner for my top two job titles of Mother and Teacher. It goes by too quickly and I will have time to develop those interests deeper, but before I know it, my boys will be the ones on the graduating platform, if I am successful. I will be out of a job, and looking for a new one. So, for now…I will enjoy the one I have. I may not have all the time I wish to read, I might have to visit with a lot more people that I used to, and I should probably make sure that I am caring for my house better….but every day is full of something special that I will enjoy for now.

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Enjoying the beautiful weather

I am trying to work on my yard! What a mess! Crab grass, some ivy looking weed and lots of spiders make me want to pull back and not do it.

But here I was, gloves, shovel, weed whacker and I went at it. It was not very fun. I did transplant the mint, that has for the last two years has gotten cut down by the weed whacker in over zealous hands.
I hope it stays safe where I put it now, as I really would like some mint tea!

This morning after visiting the post office, we went on a little hike…

944252_4877303056406_960407593_n As you can see….we like to mix it up a bit!!

 

We marched up that hill, and then on the way down, decided to take a longer, round about way to get a better workout.

Homeschool moms love to point out and name plants, bugs, and other things.

This time someone spotted a toad in the weeds!!

600913_4877302656396_1494589222_n It is always fun to find something more unusual!

Before the weather decided to turn to rain, I managed to wash and hang a load of laundry outside to dry! It was so nice! I am not sure how much nicer the yard looks, as when I had been working hard half the afternoon, someone knocked on my door to see if I needed help in the yard. Oh well…I am trying!

 

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Follow the Heart by Kaye Dacus

My Review:

Kate and Christopher Dearing suddenly have their lives turned upside down by a mistake that their father has made. Katherine, losing all hope of marrying well in America, goes back to regency England to take her chances there. They both hope to marry well, save their family home and support their younger siblings in such a way.

This story immediately brought to mind North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, which I saw at the end, it was what brought to the author’s attention to that time period. The history of the clothing, manners, and formalities are superb throughout this regency novel.

Kate seems to struggle throughout the pages in finding herself, she believes in love and sacrifice at all costs, but the question that lingers while you are reading, is how much sacrifice is she willing to make?

I loved how Ms. Dacus told Christopher’s story as well. I loved his story! I was drawn in and felt like many of my favorite novels, bits and pieces were thrown in here and there.

I throughly enjoyed this book! It is for sure one that you will want to check out and buy for yourself, if you are a regency fiction fan. I will warn you, this book contains a bit more detail of romantic encounters than a Jane Austen or Elizabeth Gaskell novel would have in it, it is done fairly tastefully. – Martha

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:

B&H Books (May 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Laurel Teague for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 Kaye Dacus is the author of humorous, hope-filled contemporary and historical romances with Barbour Publishing, Harvest House Publishers, and B&H Publishing. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, is a former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, and currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. Kaye lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is a full-time academic advisor and part-time college composition instructor for a local university. To find out more about Kaye and her books, please visit her online at kayedacus.com.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Set during the Industrial Revolution and the Great Exhibition of 1851, Follow the Heart is a “sitting-room romance” with the feel of a Regency-era novel but the fashions and technological advances of the mid-Victorian age. Kate and Christopher Dearing’s lives turn upside down when their father loses everything in a railroad land speculation. The siblings are shipped off to their mother’s brother in England with one edict: marry money. At twenty-seven years old, Kate has the stigma of being passed over by eligible men many times—and that was before she had no dowry. Christopher would like nothing better than to make his own way in the world; and with a law degree and expertise in the burgeoning railroad industry, he was primed to do just that—in America. Though their uncle tries to ensure Kate and Christopher find matrimonial prospects only among the highest echelon of British society, their attentions stray to a gardener and a governess. While Christopher has options that would enable him to lay his affections where he chooses, he cannot let the burden of their family’s finances crush his sister. Trying to push her feelings for the handsome—but not wealthy— gardener aside, Kate’s prospects brighten when a wealthy viscount shows interest in her. But is marrying for the financial security of her family the right thing to do, when her heart is telling her she’s making a mistake?

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (May 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433677202
ISBN-13: 978-1433677205

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:


SS Baltic
Off the Coast of England
February 9, 1851

You should come back down to the saloon, where it’s warm.”

Kate did not turn from the vista of gray, choppy water in front of her at her brother’s voice. The last fourteen days seemed as nothing to Christopher—a lark, an adventure, not the exile Kate knew it to be.

An exile that came with an edict: Find someone wealthy to marry.

“I do not see the point in sitting in the grand saloon, pretending as though everything is fine when I know it is not. I have no talent at pretense.” Kate wrapped her thick woolen shawl closer about her head and shoulders at a gust of icy wind. “If any of those other passengers knew we were being sent to England as poor relations, they would shun us.”

Just as everyone in Philadelphia had. Word of Graham Dearing’s financial misfortune spread like last summer’s great fire that consumed the Vine Street Wharf—quickly and with almost as much destructive force. Kate and Christopher’s stepmother had been too embarrassed to come down to the train station to see them off to New York two weeks ago—too afraid she would see someone she recognized on the street and not be acknowledged. Only Father had come with them to New York to say good-bye. And to remind Kate why she was being sent to her mother’s brother: to find and marry a fortune that would save their family. The memory of their argument on the platform before she joined Christopher to board the ship burned through her like the coal that powered them closer to her destiny.

“What’s wrong with enjoying the trappings of money while we can?” Christopher sidled up beside her and leaned his forearms against the top railing. “Besides, from Uncle Anthony’s letter, it doesn’t sound like he plans to treat us any differently than his own children, just because we’re ‘poor relations,’ as you put it.”

“But they’ll know. Sir Anthony and his daughters and whatever house staff they have—they’ll know that we’re completely dependent upon their charity. It will be written in their eyes every time they look at us. Every time we sit down at a meal with them. Every time they take us to a ball or party. We will be creating additional expense for them.” Kate trembled, not just from the cold.

“You had no problem with our creating additional expense for Father when we lived at home. Why start worrying about it now?”

Kate finally turned to look—to gape—at her brother. Certainly he was younger than she, but only by three years. However, he was a qualified lawyer, a man full-grown at twenty-four years old. How could he speak so juvenile? Did he not realize what Father and Maud had done to afford to send them abroad? Had he not noticed the missing paintings, carpets, and silver—sold so Father could afford their passage? Kate had a suspicion that much of their stepmother’s heirloom jewelry had met the same fate. Not to mention Father’s sacrifice of pride in begging his first wife’s brother, the baronet Sir Anthony Buchanan, to take them in.

Christopher’s light-brown eyes twinkled and danced. “Come on, Kate. I’ve heard that wealthy men can be plucked up on every corner in England, so you’ve nothing to worry about. They will take one look at you and be lining up at Uncle Anthony’s door to court you.”

Heat flared in her cheeks. “You can stop that nonsensical flattery right now, Christopher Dearing. It will get you nowhere.” But she couldn’t stop the smile that forced its way through her worry.

“It got me exactly what I wanted.” He put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze, then turned and forced her to walk back toward the stairs leading down to the grand saloon on the deck below. “We will be docking in a few hours, and you’ve been sulking the entire voyage. I insist you come below and enjoy yourself, just for a little while. Or pretend, on my account.”

Tiny snowflakes floated down and landed on Kate’s shawl and the mittened hand holding it to her chin. “Oh, all right. I will come. But only to get warm before we dock.”

It took her eyes several moments to adjust to the darkness of the stairwell. Reaching the grand saloon, Kate slowed and waited for Christopher to regain her side. Though not yet noon, the candles in the hanging lamps and wall sconces had been lit against the gloomy gray skies outside. The large, etched-glass columns in the middle of the room, which connected to the skylights above, brought in little light to reflect from the mirrors lining the walls between the doors to the sleeping cabins.

Several younger men, playing cards in the corner near the foot of the stairs, called out to Christopher, entreating him to come join the game.

He waved them off with a laugh and then offered Kate his arm. “Come, there are a few people who would like to speak to you.”

At the opposite end of the long room, partially hidden by one of the glass pillars from the card players near the stairs, sat a group of middle-aged women and a few men. The rest of the men, she assumed, were in the smoking room.

“Ah, here is your beloved sister, Mr. Dearing.” An older lady patted the seat of the settee beside her. “Do, come sit, Miss Dearing.” Mrs. Headington’s clipped British accent made Kate more nervous than she usually felt before strangers. That, and learning the woman had been governess to their cousins many years ago. Mrs. Headington was so particular and exacting, Kate worried she and Christopher would disappoint their extended family at every turn.

Kate removed her mittens and shawl and perched on the edge of the sofa. “Thank you, Mrs. Headington.”

“We were just speaking of the Great Exhibition.” The plump former governess waved a fan in front of her flushed, moist face, her more-than-ample bosom heaving against her straining bodice with each breath.

“The Great Exhibition?” Kate folded the shawl and set it on her lap, where she rested her still-cold hands on it.

“Oh, Kate, I’ve told you all about it. Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition. It’s to be the largest display of industry and arts from all over the world.” Christopher’s eyes took on the same gleam as when he talked about laws governing the railroads. “Imagine—delegations are coming from as far as India, Algiers, and Australia and bringing displays of their industry and manufacturing, their artwork. Some are even bringing wild animals.”

He lost the dreamy expression for a moment. “And I have heard there will be agricultural exhibits, Kate. You may find some exotic plants for the garden.”

She smiled at the memory of her garden, her favorite place in the world—but melancholy and reality struck down the moment of joy. She might never see her garden again. For either she would marry some wealthy Englishman and stay in England for the rest of her life, or Father would be forced to sell the house.

Talk continued around her, rumors of fantastical exhibits and inventions supposedly coming to this great world’s fair, which would open in just under three months.

What would she be doing by then? What about Father and Maud and the girls? She shook her head, trying to stave off the unwanted visions of her father, stepmother, and little sisters begging on the streets of Philadelphia.

The steward entered the saloon and called everyone to follow him in to luncheon. Christopher offered Kate his hand. When she gained her feet, he bent over, placing his mouth close to her ear, as if to place a kiss on her cheek.

“I know what you’re thinking about. Don’t let it get you down. Everything will be all right. You’ll see.” He tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow and led her through the steward’s pantry, where the beautiful silver trays and chargers displayed there winked in the candlelight, mocking her with their opulence.

Mrs. Headington invited them to sit at her table for the meal, and Kate sank gratefully into the chair Christopher held for her. Though her brother knew almost all of the hundred or so first-class passengers traveling with them, Kate had kept to herself most of the voyage, unable to laugh and flirt and pretend the way Christopher could.

“You appear sad, Miss Dearing.” Mrs. Headington gave Kate a knowing look. “Is it a young man you have left back home who occupies your thoughts?”

Kate latched on to the question. “I had—have a suitor, ma’am. He courted me for over a year. I believed he would propose before . . . before Christopher and I left for England. But alas, he did not.”

Christopher’s jaw slackened, and Kate felt a kindling of amusement at his astonishment over her ability to spin the story in such a manner. Perhaps she did share some of his abilities, buried deep within.

“I do not know what the fellow could have been thinking, allowing a woman like you to slip away with no firm commitment. Does he realize how easily he could lose you to one of our fine English gentlemen?”

If only Mrs. Headington knew what Devlin Montgomery knew.

“If the blighter is not man enough to propose before you left, you should consider yourself free to accept other suitors, Miss Dearing. Though you must allow me to caution you against those wicked men who want nothing more than to ruin virtuous young women like you.” Mrs. Headington raised her teacup in emphatic punctuation to her warning, though speculation filled her gaze. “There are plenty of lords who will look beyond the lack of a title when it comes to a pretty face, so long as she has a substantial dowry.”

Kate hoped one of them would also look beyond the lack of a dowry. Rather than let Mrs. Headington’s unintentional disparagement send her back into the doldrums she’d been in since that awful discovery on New Year’s Eve, Kate continued smiling and trying to engage in conversation with Mrs. Headington and the other travelers who joined them at the marble-topped table.

It would do her no good to show up on England’s shores dour-faced and hung all around with melancholy. She had little enough to work with as it was—being too tall, with average looks, and angular features. Oddly enough, for Kate, the Old World meant a new life. Here, where no one knew her, where no one could recount the names of the men who had courted her and then decided not to marry her, she could forget the past, forget her failure to find a husband. In England, she could become Katharine Dearing, the woman who could not only carry on a conversation about botany or politics with any man, but who could dance and flirt as well.

For ten years, since her debut at seventeen, she’d turned her nose up at the young women who simpered and giggled and flattered all the young men. Well, most of those young women were now married with families of their own.

She glanced around the table and studied the interactions between married couples and among the few unmarried young women and men. Could she remake herself in the image of the debutante across from her with the blonde ringlets, whose coy, soft eyes and sweet smiles drew the men’s attention like bees to nectar?

To her right, Mrs. Headington argued with Christopher about the politics surrounding the Great Exhibition and the worry of many that Prince Albert would bankrupt the country with the lavish display of agriculture and industry.

Kate Dearing would have joined in the conversation of politics. Katharine Dearing, however, turned to the balding, middle-aged man on her left. “What part of England are you from, Mr. Fitch?”

She lowered her chin and blinked a few times, trying to imitate the blonde’s batting eyelashes. The man beside her almost choked on his wine before setting down the goblet to answer, obviously no more accustomed to being flirted with than Kate was to flirting.

Dowry or no dowry, she must and would find a wealthy husband. And as her stepmother was so fond of saying, practice makes perfect.

~

Andrew Lawton drew his coat collar higher around the lower part of his face and pulled his hat down, wishing it would cover his ears, exposed as they were to the frigid winter air. Beyond the inn’s small front porch, snow blew and swirled on the indecisive wind—first toward, then away; left, then right. White dust skittered this way and that on the cobblestone street.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, longing for spring and the orderliness and discipline he would bring to the gardens at Wakesdown Manor. He had the plans all laid out on paper and was prepared to begin construction of the new gardens so they would be ready to burst into bloom when warm weather arrived. But instead, he was in Liverpool. And on a Sunday, no less.

Who would choose to travel by steamship in the middle of winter?

He’d only just managed to get away from Mr. Paxton and the Crystal Palace in time to catch the train from London to Liverpool yesterday. Eleven hours on an unforgiving wooden seat in the unheated third-class car—not wanting to part with his hard-earned wages in order to ride in the warmth and comfort of second class or the luxury of first—followed by a night on a lumpy bed in a freezing inn had done his back and his temper no favors.

Rather than go to the expense of a hiring a cab for the mile walk back to the train station, Andrew adjusted his collar again, hooked the handle of his valise over his left wrist, stuffed his gloved hands into his coat pockets, and leaned into the swirling wind with a brisk pace. The inn’s distance from the station had made it economically attractive for the overnight stay—half the cost of those within a block or two of both the train station and the Mersey River ports, where everything and everyone came in and out of Liverpool.

By the time he reached his destination, the swirling white dust had turned to hard, pelting ice. According to the timetable written on the board in the ticket office, the Baltic had docked ten minutes ago, shortly after one o’clock.

If he caught the two o’clock train, he would arrive in Oxford near eleven tonight. He desperately wanted to sleep in his own bed after so many nights away. He purchased three first-class tickets, as per his employer’s instructions, tucked them into his waistcoat pocket, then went to the telegraph office and wired Sir Anthony so he would know to be expecting his guests to arrive tonight.

Back out on the platform, he noticed the ferry from the steamship had landed at the far end. Passengers disembarked while crew unloaded baggage through a lower-deck portal.

He scanned the passengers coming toward him, looking for a young man and young woman traveling together. Americans. That was all Andrew knew. Dismissing several older people and a couple of women traveling alone, Andrew released his breath in frustration.

“You look lost, young man.” A woman in a dress too tight and juvenile for her ample form and age stopped in front of him.

Andrew doffed his round-crowned bowler hat—and the woman frowned at it a moment. If Andrew had known he would be making this side trip when he left Wakesdown, he would have packed his top hat, since the more serviceable bowler served to emphasize his working-class roots.

“Good afternoon, ma’am.” Andrew tucked the hat under his elbow. “I am supposed to be meeting a Mr. and Miss Dearing. You do not, perhaps—”

“Christopher and Kate. Of course I met them. It is hard not to get to know all the other passengers on a two-week voyage.”

Andrew inclined his head in relief. “Would you mind pointing them out to me?”

“No, not at all.” She squinted at the ferry. “Yes, there they are. Good-looking fellow in the indigo coat. The young woman is, alas, much plainer than her brother.” The woman leaned closer and dropped her voice. “And if what I heard in Philadelphia is true, their father, wicked man, just lost all his considerable fortune in a railway speculation that failed. Poor dear. Only way she would have caught a husband at her age and with her lack of beauty would have been with a substantial dowry.”

Andrew scanned the passengers coming off the boat. There—a young man in a dark blue overcoat. But that could not be Christopher Dearing. For the woman beside the man in the blue coat was anything but plain. Not beautiful like Sir Anthony’s daughters—but far from plain. A straw-brimmed bonnet hid her hair, but her brown cloak and shawl emphasized her bright blue eyes, even from this distance.

“Now, if you will excuse me, I must arrange my travel to London.”

Andrew gave the older woman a slight bow, then stepped forward to meet the Dearings.

Andrew stepped into the man’s path. “Are you Mr. Dearing?”

A smile replaced the look of consternation. He stuck out his gloved hand, which Andrew shook in greeting.

“Christopher Dearing.” He pulled the arm of the young woman in the brown cloak, who’d stopped a full pace behind him. “And this is my sister, Kate—I mean, Katharine.”

Katharine gave a slight curtsy, red tingeing her cheeks.

“Andrew Lawton.” He inclined his head, then dragged his gaze from the woman—whose face was, perhaps, a bit too square for her to be considered truly handsome—back to her brother. “Sir Anthony sends his apologies for not coming to meet you personally. But his youngest daughter fell ill two days ago, and he did not want to leave her.” He glanced back at Katharine Dearing, to keep her from feeling excluded from the apology.

Concern flooded her striking blue eyes. “I hope it isn’t a grave illness.”

Andrew reminded himself that Miss Dearing was Sir Anthony’s niece and, therefore, no one who should garner his interest in any capacity other than as one of the masters—fortune or no. “When last Sir Anthony wired, he did not believe it to be more than a fever due to the wet winter we are having and Miss Florence’s insistence on riding every day no matter what the weather.”

“I am sorry she’s ill, but it is good to know it isn’t dire.” Katharine looked as if she wanted to say more, but at the last moment lost her nerve.

“So . . . did I hear you correctly?” Christopher asked. “The name is pronounced Antony and not Anthony?”

“Yes, Mr. Dearing, you heard correctly.”

Miss Dearing transferred a tapestry bag from one hand to the other.

“May I take that for you, miss?” Andrew pushed his hat back down on his head and reached for her bag.

“Oh, you don’t—” But she let the protest die and handed him the bag with a sudden doe-eyed smile. “Why, thank you, Mr. Lawton. We arranged with the steward to have our trunks transferred directly to the Oxford train. The schedule they had aboard ship indicated there is one that leaves at two o’clock.”

“Yes, that is our train.”

Katharine looked up at her brother. “We should get our tickets now so that we are ready when it’s time to board.”

“No need.” Andrew shifted her bag to his left hand, along with his own, and patted the waistcoat pocket through his frock and overcoat. “I have already taken care of the tickets. The train arrived just moments ago, so we can go find a compartment.” He motioned with his free hand for Christopher and Katharine to join him, and he led them down the platform.

“My, but you have already thought of everything, haven’t you?” Katharine’s flirtatious expression seemed odd, like a daisy growing from a rosebush.

And the look of confusion on her brother’s face only added to Andrew’s. Surely she realized from his humble attire he wasn’t anyone who could offer her the wealth she apparently needed in a husband. So why would she overtly flirt with him?

“How long a trip is it from here to Oxford?” Christopher asked.

“Almost nine hours, so long as the tracks are clear.” Andrew looked past the roof of the station. Snow mixed with the icy precipitation from half an hour before, and it looked to start piling up quickly. Hopefully, traveling south and inland from here would mean away from the snow.

He found a compartment in the first-class car, set his and Katharine’s valises on the seat, and turned to assist her in. She thanked him profusely. Once she was settled, he and Christopher lifted the small valises onto the shelf over the seat opposite Katharine, and then sat, facing her.

Katharine wrapped her shawl tighter around her shoulders and arms. Christopher leaned over and opened the grate of the small heater and stoked the glowing red coal. “I’d hoped maybe to see one of those new heaters I’ve been reading about—where steam heat is pumped from the fire in the locomotive throughout the cars in the train.”

“Have you an interest in the railway, Mr. Dearing?” Though he had no desire to make the sister feel left out of the conversation, Andrew was in great danger of allowing himself to stare at her now that she was in such close proximity. Upon second thought, the squareness of her jaw did not detract from but added to the symmetry of her face. And above all else, Andrew appreciated symmetry.

“Yes—my apprenticeship was with a firm that specializes in railway law. It’s fascinating to see how, in a matter of just ten or twenty years, the railroad has changed our way of life.” Christopher stretched his lanky frame into a position of repose, obviously accustomed to the comforts of first-class accommodations.

“I was twenty years old when the railroad came to Derby—my home—in the year ’40. It has quite changed the way of life for everyone there.” Andrew removed his hat and gloves and set them on the seat beside him.

Christopher’s eyes—brown, rather than blue like his sister’s—flashed with curiosity. “Really? I hardly remember when the first railroad opened in Philadelphia in 1832.”

“That’s because you were not quite six years old when it came.” Katharine’s soft voice reminded them of her presence—as if Andrew needed reminding. “I remember it well. Father took us to the parade and to see the locomotive take off. It was the first time we were all happy since Mother and Emma died.” Katharine’s focus drifted far away along with her voice.

Andrew stared at her. In the space of mere minutes, she had changed entirely. No longer did she seem a vapid flirt, but a woman one might like to converse with.

Katharine’s eyes came back into focus. “I do apologize. I didn’t mean to cast a melancholy pall over the conversation.” The strangely foreign flirtatious smile reappeared. “What is it that you do for Sir Anthony, Mr. Lawton? You must hold quite the position of importance for him to have sent you to meet us and escort us to Wakesdown.” Her long eyelashes fluttered as she blinked rapidly a few times.

“I am a landscape architect. I am redesigning all of the gardens and parks on Sir Anthony’s estate.”

At the mention of gardens, something miraculous happened. A warmth, a genuine curiosity, overtook Katharine Dearing’s blue eyes. Ah, there was the rose pushing the daisy out of its way.

“You’ve done it now.” Christopher sighed dramatically. “One mention of gardening, and Kate will talk your ears off about plants and flowers and weeds and soil and sun and shade.”

Katharine gave a gasp of indignation, but quickly covered it with the flirtatious smile again. “I am certain I do not know what you mean, Christopher. I would never think to importune Mr. Lawton in such a manner.” She crossed her arms and turned to gaze out the window.

The train lurched and chugged and slowly made its way from the station.

Andrew couldn’t tell if Katharine was truly angry at her brother or not, but he determined a change of subject might be in order. “Will you continue to read the law, Mr. Dearing?”

Christopher nodded. “I brought some books with me to study, yes. And I expect I’ll pick up many more on the British legal system while I’m here.”

Andrew opened his mouth to ask if Christopher were joking with him—but then pressed his lips together. Perhaps they had a different term in America for the pursuit of education in the legal system other than read. “Will you seek out a lawyer to apprentice with?”

“If Uncle Anthony doesn’t mind, I might do that just to keep myself busy.”

Katharine made a sharp sound in the back of her throat.

“Oh, right, I’m supposed to call him Sir Anthony until he gives us permission to call him uncle.” Christopher grinned at Andrew. “Though really, in this modern era, why anyone would stand on such formality is beyond me.”

Under the wide brim of her bonnet, Katharine rubbed her forehead with her fingertips, now freed from the mittens she’d worn earlier. Upon first seeing the Dearings, he’d assumed Christopher the older and Katharine the younger—from the way Katharine hovered behind her brother when they first met. Now, however, from Katharine’s memory of something that happened almost nineteen years ago, she was obviously the older sibling. And if Christopher had been six years old in 1832, that meant he was now around five-and-twenty. Meaning Katharine must be in her late twenties, if not already Andrew’s age of thirty.

That was what the woman he’d met at the station meant by “at her age.” Andrew was not certain how things were done in America, but here in England, Miss Dearing would be considered well past the prime marriageable age. And if the rumors that woman heard in Philadelphia were true, without a substantial dowry, Katharine had no chance of marrying well.

For the first time in his life, Andrew felt true pity for another person. The last thing he’d promised his mother before she died of lung rot was that he would not end up like her—condemned to live out her days in the poorhouse. He’d worked hard to get where he was today, and he would do whatever it took to continue bettering himself and his condition.

He thanked God he had not been born a woman.

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School is mostly out….now what?

I say mostly out, because I never stop teaching. What mother does, homeschooling or otherwise?

I have had a full camera for awhile, and went to get pictures taken off of them and the photo center was down.

We have had a lot of basketball, lots of reading, still finishing up math books, and really enjoying outdoors.

Plus, I decided to catch a very nasty cold, which my husband now has as well, which is not nice.

Our Summer plans are very simple.

-Spend lots of time reading

-Spend lots of time outside

– Do math practice twice or three times a week

What are your summer plans?

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Though my heart is torn by Joanne Bischof

Though my heart is torn

By Joanne Bischof

Reviewed by Martha Artyomenko

From back cover:
Gideon O’Riley has two wives—but he doesn’t know it.

Settling into a simple life in the majestic Blue Ridge mountains, Lonnie and Gideon O’Riley have finally found happiness after the rocky start to their marriage. The roguish bluegrass musician has fallen in love with his gentle wife and the God she serves, and Lonnie rests secure in his tenderness for her and their young son. A heartless ruse interupts their peace, bringing them back to Rocky Knob—and forces them to face the claims of Cassie Allan, a woman who says she is Gideon’s rightful wife.

As Gideon wades into the depths of his past choices, Lonnie is stunned by the revelations. She has no choice but to navigate this new path, knowing that surviving the devastating blow will take every ounce of strength she has.

While Gideon’s guilt and his bitterness towards Cassie threatens to burn up his fledgling faith, Lonnie wrestles to find the courage to trust the God who brought them together in the first place. Will their hard-earned love be able to conquer all?

Lonnie only wanted her husband’s love. Now that he belongs to another, can she surrender Gideon to a God with a bigger plan?

My Review:

I read Be Still My soul last year (Review for Be Still my Soul) and really enjoyed it. It was one of those stories where you could have hope that the really horrible person came around, changed their life and made good, positive changes.

When I started this book, I had read the back cover and was confused, but remembered Gideon was kind of a horrible person and here, it came the time to pay the piper.

I felt like the story moved a little slowly in places, I wanted more explanation as to how this could have happened, a little more explanation in the beginning, but instead felt like it was the middle of the book and I still didn’t have the answers. That frustrated me a bit, but I realized that similar to real life, Ms. Bischof demonstrated the frustration that Lonnie and Gideon would have been feeling as well.

Gideon had worked hard to be a different person, but the past has a way of knocking on our doors when we pretend it isn’t there. In his case, it was lack of follow up to make sure he really divorced the first wife, before being forced to marry the second wife. The culture of that time gave him little choice, and I finished the book wanting the next one to be on hand, to finish out the story.

That is one way to get people to read the next book!! = )

This is not really a feel good, happy book, but more a real life, book about people with major issues. It is well written, engaging and will keep you reading! -Martha

I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books.

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Double or Nothing by Meg Mims

My Review:

Lily jumps into danger with both feet, in this old west tale of mystery and intrigue. She narrowly escapes death, an arranged marriage and finds herself in more trouble than before.

Bad guys are abundant and even the good guys, you don’t know if they are that good.

I enjoyed the author’s talent for pulling out the history in the making of dynamite in here and the fast moving pace of the book throughout.

This book does have some more descriptive romantic scenes with a little more info than I like to have, but overall was still a fairly clean book. The spiritual aspect of the book was very light, making this more simply historical fiction, rather than Christian fiction. I would have liked to read more about the mission work that was being done there in San Francisco.

This book kept me up reading until my eyes fell shut from sheer exhaustion, and I had to finish it in the morning. – Martha

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:

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 20, 2013)
***Special thanks to Meg Mims for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Meg Mims is an award-winning author and artist. She writes blended genres – historical, western, adventure, romance, suspense and mystery. Her first book, Double Crossing, won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel from Western Writers of America and  was named a Finalist in the Best Books of 2012 from USA Book News for Fiction: Western. Double or Nothing is the sequel. Meg has also written two contemporary romances, The Key to Love and Santa Paws — which reached the Amazon Kindle Bestseller list.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A mysterious explosion. A man framed for murder. A strong woman determined to prove his innocence.

October, 1869: Lily Granville, heiress to a considerable fortune, rebels against her uncle’s strict rules. Ace Diamond, determined to win Lily, invests in a dynamite factory but his success fails to impress her guardian. An explosion in San Francisco, mere hours before Lily elopes with Ace to avoid a forced marriage, sets off a chain of consequences. When Ace is framed for murder before their wedding night, Lily must find proof to save him from a hangman’s noose. Will she become a widow before a true wife?

Product Details:
List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 258 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 20, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1483901629
ISBN-13: 978-1483901626

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:


‘Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father is also merciful… forgive,

and ye shall be forgiven.’ Luke 6:36-37

Chapter One

1869, California

I jumped at a screeching whistle. Men swarmed over the distant slope like bees over a wax honeycomb in a mad scramble. “Good heavens. What is that about?”

Uncle Harrison pulled me out of harm’s way. “Just watch. They’re almost ready to begin the hydraulic mining,” he said and pulled his hat down to avoid the hot sun. “You’ll see. This is far better than panning for gold in a creek bed.”

“I can already see how destructive it is, given the run-off,” I said, eyeing the rivulets of dried mud that marked each treeless incline. “I’ve read about how the farmers can’t irrigate their fields and orchards due to the gravel and silt filling the rivers—”

Water suddenly gushed from two hydraulic nozzles in a wide, powerful stream. The men’s bulging arm muscles strained their shirts, their faces purple with the effort to control the water. I turned my gaze to the ravaged earth. Mud washed down into the wooden sluices, where other men worked at various points to spray quicksilver along the wide stretch. Others worked at a frantic pace to keep the earthy silt moving.

An older man with a grizzled goatee and worn overalls held out a canteen. “Have a sip while you’re waiting, miss,” he said. “A body gets mighty thirsty out here.”

“Thank you so much.”

I sipped the cold, refreshing ginger-flavored liquid that eased my parched throat. Dirt from the canteen streaked my gloves. Not that it mattered. At least the spatters of fresh mud wouldn’t show much on my black mourning costume and riding boots. Two days of rain earlier in the week had not helped.

The kind man offered the canteen to Uncle Harrison, who brushed it aside with a curt shake of his head. Steaming, I bit back an apology. The man had already headed back to his position near the sluices.

Bored of watching the ongoing work, I wandered over to several horses that stood patient in the sun and patted their noses. A tooled leather saddle sat atop one gelding’s glossy brown hide, and the silver-studded bridle looked just as rich. The horse gave a low whicker in greeting. If only I’d pocketed a few carrots or sugar lumps from breakfast.

“You’re a beauty. I wish I could ride you for a bit.”

The gelding’s ears dipped forward. One of the men left the knot of others in a huff. His dusty open coat swung around him as he stalked, spurs jingling, and closed the distance. He passed by me with a mere tip of his wide-brimmed hat and untied the reins. The horse pawed a bit while the man mounted, jittery, sensing his foul mood. I noted his scowl. Was he upset that I’d dared touch his property? A scruffy beard and thick black mustache hid his mouth. He rode off, keeping the gelding’s gait easy, down the gully toward the Early Bird’s entrance.

“Who was that?” I asked a miner.

The worker wiped sweat from his forehead with a sleeve. “Senor Alvarez? He’s got a burr under his blanket as usual. Pay him no mind, miss.”

I rubbed the remaining horse’s flank and glanced around the mining site. My uncle continued to chat with the foreman close to the shack near the head of the sluices. Another section of the wooden troughs was raised from the ground further north at a different bank of earth. My curiosity increased. I walked to the sluice and stared down at the filth in the bottom. No glints of gold flecked the bits of rock and slag. I had no idea what quicksilver looked like either. This whole business seemed crazy, although Uncle Harrison disagreed.

In the distance, pines smudged the lower half of the Sierra’s tiny white-capped peaks. To the west, gray clouds threatened the pale blue sky. No doubt rain would soak everything again by morning. My uncle had mentioned how winter was wetter here than back home in Chicago, or even St. Louis. I hadn’t known what to expect for autumn in California. Now that it was close to October, the stands of golden aspen on a ridge high above sported various shades of green, gold and hues of orange.

Homesickness overwhelmed me. I longed to see the brilliant shades of orange, red and yellow oaks, the thick forest of elms and birches behind my father’s house in Evanston. To ride along the shoreline of Lake Michigan’s navy waters, and watch the snow falling fast on a chilly winter’s day. I wouldn’t even mind listening to Adele Mason’s endless chatter about the latest dinner parties she attended with her many beaus.

It seemed like an eternity since I’d crossed two thousand miles of prairie and mountains on the Union and Central Pacific railroad. Donner Lake had resembled a sapphire jewel nestled among pristine snow fields. Perhaps it was frozen already.

I shivered, remembering the darkness of Summit Tunnel. It also brought back the delicious memory of feeling safe, nestled in Ace’s strong arms. Feeling the sudden shock when his tongue sought my own…

“Miss? It’s dangerous standin’ that close to the sluice. Over yonder is best.”

Guilt flooded my heart. Nodding to the man, I twisted around and glanced in the direction he indicated. My uncle remained at the shack. “Will they ever stop talking business?”

“Doubt it.” The miner was the same one who’d offered me water earlier. He carried a roll of canvas slung over a shoulder. Shrugging, he swiped his muddy goatee and cheek against his burden’s nubby surface. “Reckon they’ll yammer on for a while more.”

“Thank you. I’ll be careful.”

“Sure thing, miss.”

He passed by and handed the canvas to a pair of men. They unrolled it and laid the fabric inside the wooden sluice. I walked across the shifting ground, trying to avoid the worst of the mud’s damp patches. One claimed my uncle’s shoe when we arrived that morning. I fought hard not to laugh aloud, watching Uncle Harrison hop about on one foot, so comical with his blustery red face. At last a worker retrieved his shoe, mud up to his elbow, half his face coated as well. My uncle had not thanked the man for the rescue, either.

On higher ground, two workers held long snaking hoses that spurted water at the high bank. Two others sprayed quicksilver over the sluice. It didn’t look like anything but dirty water. I sighed. This entire trip had been a waste of time. Uncle Harrison resented the questions I’d peppered the foreman with and ignored my opinions on how the operation damaged the countryside. Why had he suggested I tag along in the first place?

I should have stayed back in Sacramento. My sketchbook drawings needed work. I had yet to finish anything I’d glimpsed during the journey on the train. Etta had brought all my watercolor supplies from Evanston, and most of my books too.

But I didn’t want to read or paint. A deep melancholy robbed me of energy. Nightmares haunted my sleep, of the deep ravine and the lizard I’d caught, of the sandy slope I climbed on Mt. Diablo, desperate to escape my father’s killer. Of being trapped, with no way out, and facing death, and of seeing that shocked surprise… and hearing the gunshot.

Self-defense, as Ace claimed. My uncle and the sheriff agreed.

Poor Ace. He’d felt bad afterward, forced into a cowardly deed. I had never shot anything except a badger with Father’s Navy revolver. Missed, too. But I’d tried to protect my darling pet lizard’s clutch of eggs in the garden back home. The thought of shooting a human being turned my stomach. I suppose stabbing someone wasn’t any less of a sin. Heavy guilt weighed on me. Had it been self-defense? I shuddered at the memory.
As Mother used to say, it was ‘water under the bridge.’ Nothing I might say or do now would change the past. But I’d rather avoid making such a horrible choice again.
Instead I trudged toward the shack. The foreman held a large piece of blueprint paper between his hands while my uncle pointed at various sections. Two other men argued with them, their heated words carrying over the whooshing of hoses and creaks and jolts of skeleton wagons over the rutted ground. Most of their argument was peppered with technical jargon that didn’t make any sense. Even Chinese sounded more familiar.

“We haven’t made enough headway,” said a man in a tailored suit, whose gold watch chain glinted in the sun. “I say we dig out the ridge all the way.”

“You take that ridge down any more than we have and we’ll never get equipment to the furthest point of the claim, over here,” my uncle said and prodded the map. “That was Alvarez’s advice. He knows this land better than you, Williamson.”

“I agree, it’s too dangerous,” the foreman said.

 “I’m the engineer! Are you implying I don’t know my business?”

“I’m saying it’s stupid to undermine that ridge. You’re being a stubborn coot.”

“You’re a fine one to call me stubborn—”

Good heavens. I reversed direction and headed back toward the sluice. They were sure to argue for another few hours. I wanted to ride that horse, even if it meant hiking my skirts to my knees and baring my ankles. The poor animal looked like it a good run, or at least a trot over the rough ground. I had to do something productive or I’d go mad.

Steering around the same boggy patch of mud, I cut close to the sluice. A blood-curdling yell halted everyone. I whirled to see the entire bank of earth, a huge avalanche of mud, rocks and two large trees root-first, rushing straight for me. Someone grabbed me by the waist from behind. I found myself sprawling head-first in the wooden trough. Other men shouted. The mine whistle screeched in my ears, so loud my head throbbed.

Spitting mud and gravel, I struggled to my knees. The tidal wave of mud and rocks hit the trough, rocking me backwards, and then pushed it off its moorings. I screamed when the miner was swept off his feet. Reaching out, I grabbed for his hand—he lost his grip and vanished. A large boulder slammed into the trough and almost tipped me off my perch. I fought to keep my grip on the wooden edge. At last the massive mudslide halted.

Somehow I found myself staring up at a huge tree trunk that hovered over my head. The thing teetered in the wind. Terrified it would crush me, I held my breath. Several workers waded waist deep into the mud and threaded ropes over the tree’s boughs. Two dozen men scampered from all directions, pulling and tugging, until the huge trunk slid backwards a few inches.

“Hold still, miss! We’ll get you to safety quick as a wink.”

“There’s a man buried somewhere! Please try to save him first!”

The crew, grunting and panting, lugged the tree out of harm’s way. Two other men lifted me off the wooden sluice’s remnants. The younger one carried me up the slope toward the shack and set me on my feet. I sagged like a limp rag doll into Uncle Harrison’s arms. White-faced with shock, he stripped off my gloves and chafed my hands.

“Are you all right, Lily? Say something!”

“That worker was buried alive. He saved my life—”

“Hush. They’ll find him.”

Together we watched the workers dig and scrabble with bare hands at the massive runoff. Horrified, my body shaking, I prayed hard that they’d find him before it was too late. My uncle pushed me onto a camp stool. Once he thrust a clean handkerchief into my hands, he forced a drink down my throat from his silver flask. The brandy burned its way to my stomach. I almost retched, but it calmed my jangled nerves. Uncle Harrison wiped my face and neck before he departed. Shivering, wet and muddy, I glanced down at the cotton cloth in my hand. Brown grime stained it along with streaks of pale pink. Blood.

I mopped my neck again, aware now of the stinging pain below my earlobe, and scraped away tiny bits of gravel. My uncle had left his flask. I tipped it against a clean spot on the handkerchief and dabbed my flesh. That burned as well.

A worker pushed me back onto the stool when I stood. “Better rest, miss. You look ready to faint, and we ain’t got any clean clothes for you.”

“Have they found that poor man yet?”

“They will. One way or another,” he said, his tone mournful. “This ain’t the first accident we’ve had at the Early Bird.”

Mortified, I clenched a fist. “How many others have been hurt? Or killed?”

“I better not say.”

He stalked toward the crowd, who continued to clear rocks and a second tree trunk from the muddy runoff. I heard a shout. Five men jumped to assist a sixth who called for help. They lifted a prone figure between them. My heart quailed at the sight of a huge splinter of wood protruding from the man’s blood-soaked shirt. I turned away, tears blurring my vision. I could have suffered the same fate if not for his courage.

The poor soul. He’d been so kind, offering a drink of ginger water, even warning me away from the sluice. He’d given his life to save mine. How could something like this happen? And he had not been the only victim to this destructive mining practice.

Numb, I staggered to my feet and hunted down the foreman. “What was the man’s name, the one who died? Please tell me. Does he have any family?”

“Hank Matthews.” The worker swiped mud from his bearded cheek. “Wife and three kids from what little I know.”

I marched off to find my uncle, ignoring the itching from my stiff clothing. He was busy consulting with the engineer and three other men, supervisors no doubt, given their clean clothes. Uncle Harrison turned to me at last.

“We must send money to Mr. Matthews’ family,” I said, “for the funeral, and to care for his wife and children—”

“We will discuss the matter later.”

“I insist that we support his family! It’s the least we can do. He saved my life, you must see that—ow.” He’d snared my arm and pulled me aside, his voice lowering.

“We cannot support every family of all the men who’ve suffered accidents,” Uncle Harrison said. “They knew the risks. They chose to work at the Early Bird.”

“But—”

“Enough, Lily. I said we’ll discuss it later.”

He marched me back over the rough terrain to the small camp. Someone brought a real chair and placed it inside the “store,” a crude canvas tent shelter. Two wooden barrels covered with a plank served as a counter. Fifty pound burlap bags of flour, coffee beans, sugar, salt and dried navy beans covered the shelves, along with tins of pepper and saleratus. Another man brought a wooden bucket of clean water. I washed my face, hands and neck, weeping in silence over Hank Matthews’ death. He’d died in a horrible fashion. How many others had suffered similar fates or life-threatening injuries?

At last my uncle arrived to fetch me. I stood, exhausted, still filthy and depressed. “I’d like to find out where Mrs. Matthews lives—”

“That’s not important now. This landslide will set back production for a few weeks,” he said, “but that can’t be helped. Forget what happened, Lily.”

“I cannot forget what happened! I won’t forget.”

Uncle Harrison shrugged. “Suit yourself. It’s time to return home.”

Furious, I followed him toward the coach we’d hired in Folsom earlier that morning. My stiff skirts and jacket rustled with every move. I refused his help and climbed inside on my own. For the past month, my uncle refused to listen to reports in the newspapers about farmers who complained how their orchards and soil were ruined by silt and gravel from the hydraulic mining runoff. The Early Bird was only one of over a hundred or more sites in the high hills surrounding Sacramento. Now I’d seen the truth of the destruction first hand. Somehow I had to get through to Uncle Harrison. To him, this tragedy meant nothing.

I had to take matters into my own hands.

###

Etta flung the door wide. “Miss! What in the world happened—”

“A bath, please, as fast as you can prepare it.”

I pushed past her into the house. The ride to Folsom had been bad enough, along with the short trip to the railhead at Roseville. Uncle Harrison gave in when I rejected his offer to find a hotel and have my dress sponged. I’d borne the scrutiny of several late night passengers on the train to Sacramento with wounded pride, and in extreme discomfort. My skin crawled, my muscles ached to the point of agony. I wanted to scream with impatience.

Once upstairs in my bedroom, I stripped every bit of clothing off with a weary sigh and tied a wrapper around my waist. My whole head itched, as if plastered in place. I pulled several hairpins out and dislodged a hunk of dried mud. Ugh.

Etta knocked. “I’ve heated water. Let me have your clothes, miss.”

“There’s no use salvaging them.”

“Now, Miss Lily. Your uncle explained everything, and it’s not your fault what happened.” She bent to gather the filthy clothes. “I’ll get you something to eat.”

“Hot tea, with milk and sugar, thank you. I’m exhausted. I need to sleep.”

“You received a letter, miss. I left it on the dressing table.”

“I’ll read it tomorrow.”

Etta held out a small bowl with creamed paste. “Your favorite type—lavender, honey and a bit of oatmeal. Cover your face and hands with that, and I’ll mix some fresh beeswax with rose hips and almond oil when you’re done.”

I sank into the hot bath water in the screened alcove. Once I scrubbed all over, Etta washed my hair and brought fresh water to rinse all the dirt out. She poured a mixture of rose-scented mineral oil and massaged it into my curls. The room’s cold air sent shivers up my spine. I slipped into my nightdress, slathered my face and hands with cream and crawled into bed. It seemed the minute my head hit the feather pillow, I woke to tugging on my scalp. Etta sat beside me, comb in hand. Mid-morning sunlight streamed into the room.

“I’m sorry, Miss Lily. I couldn’t see all the tangles in your hair last night,” she said. “You’ll never grow it long again if I have to cut snarls out.”

Flexing my sore limbs, ignoring the pain, I yawned wide. “I don’t care—” Yawning again, I hunched down while she tugged and pulled. “Go ahead and cut it short.”

“That’s silly. Your future husband wouldn’t appreciate that.”

“I will never have a husband.”

“Didn’t Mr. Mason marry that young lady you met on the train?”

“Yes, Kate Kimball.” I hadn’t been surprised at that news when the telegram from San Francisco arrived last week. “She’s better suited to be his wife than I ever was.”

“That doesn’t mean you won’t find a suitable young man to marry.”

I didn’t bother to answer. Etta clucked to herself and left the room. I rolled onto my back, yawning again, too tired to rise. Disappointment lingered inside me when I recalled Kate and Charles’ news. They hadn’t asked me to witness their vows or invited me to a small celebration. Not that I’d expected them to host a lavish wedding. But I had lost the chance to share in their happiness. Perhaps they assumed I wouldn’t leave Sacramento, being in mourning for Father. They were wrong. Wearing black wouldn’t have stopped me. Friendship and loyalty meant far more than the customs of the day.

California wasn’t as exciting as I’d expected. I hadn’t made friends in the neighborhood. Most women here were either elderly or married with children, none my age. Uncle Harrison often missed meals, and only returned home to sleep. Thank goodness Etta had arrived from Evanston to keep me company.

I stretched, working out the soreness in my shoulders, back and limbs. Boredom had driven me to visit the mine yesterday. Now boredom struck again, harder than ever. Kate would be cooking breakfast for her new husband right now. To think a few months ago, Charles had wanted me to marry him and fund his mission trip to China. I snatched up the letter that Etta  brought last night and slit the envelope with a hairpin. Kate’s scrawled handwriting covered every inch of the paper, both sides. Father had often written letters to Mother during the War like this, the inked words smeared a little, and difficult to decipher.

Padding barefoot over the rug, I curled up on the window seat. Thick gray fog shrouded the city streets below, and a scent of mildewing leaves invaded the room. A horse-drawn milk wagon clopped over the cobblestones and halted, its outline faint. The driver scurried toward the porch with a wire rack of bottles. He walked back with the empties and vanished. At last I turned my attention to Kate’s letter.

Dearest Lily, I hope you are well…we are so happy, even though we haven’t a penny to our name. At first we had to accept the kindness of strangers, staying two days here and another elsewhere. But our ministry has grown here in San Francisco. We hope to build a permanent church in Rock Canyon. The poor come to us, and bring whatever they can to share a meal every Wednesday and Sunday. That’s when Charles preaches the Word. He is winning souls to the Lord’s work every day…

Charles? Preaching, when he never had the courage to speak to Father back in Evanston! Had he changed that much? To think I might have slept on the floor in a stranger’s house next to a husband—but no. My inheritance would have guaranteed a hotel room, a house, and passage to wherever Charles wanted to serve as a missionary. But that door had closed. I was thankful, too, because Kate proved a better choice for him.

She’d made no mention of Ace Diamond. What was he doing now?

I let out a long breath. He’d taken the three thousand dollars my uncle had given him and vanished. Had he forgotten me? Gone back east on the railroad to buy a ranch somewhere? I had no idea. I’d been curious enough to send Etta when she first arrived in Sacramento, inquiring at every hotel, steamer and ticket clerk for the Central Pacific. She failed to learn anything about the young Texan. That hurt far more than I expected.

Our last conversation in the Vallejo hotel hallway was clear in my memory. Ace’s fury, the gleam in his odd mismatched eyes—one blue, one blue-green—matched his determination to win me. But my uncle’s insults had been too much to bear.

Ever since, I’d engaged in daily shouting matches with Uncle Harrison over acting as my  guardian. He proved to be a dictator of my clothing and behavior, disregarded my opinion on the Early Bird mine or about social events, parties and dinners he insisted I attend. My resentment grew over being treated like a child. I cherished independence from a young age, since my parents had fostered that. Father had indulged me further after Mother’s death. Uncle Harrison wasn’t aware of that, however, and his iron-fisted control irritated me.

I sighed aloud and stretched once more. My black skirt and jacket were ruined after the trip to the Early Bird. I’d have to order new mourning attire or else give up my intention to observe the custom. Father would no doubt laugh if he stood here. He’d shake a finger and remind me about his wish to dandle a grandchild on his knee.

The only way to fulfill that was to marry. One man had sparked my interest, yet he was gone. I yearned to hear Ace’s drawl, see his face and that boyish grin again. I missed him. We’d spent so much time together on the train, and several pleasant hours on Mt. Diablo waiting for my uncle’s return with the sheriff. My heart quickened at the memory of sharing his hot kisses. And I hadn’t protested when his warm hands roamed my neck and shoulders. Or the sly way he’d tugged a few buttons free on my shirtwaist to kiss my bare skin. Along the curve of my bosom above my corset cover, and then…

Etta’s loud rap at the door scared me witless. She carried in a tray with a silver urn, cups and saucers plus a covered dish. “So you found the letter from San Francisco?”

“Yes. From Kate.”

“There’s another this morning. I hope you’re hungry. You missed dinner last night. Captain Granville told me about that poor man yesterday, who saved your life.”

“He did?” Surprised, I glanced up at Etta. She looked wary.

“He’s not keen on sending them any money like you suggested, miss.”

“I don’t understand. He was always generous in the past—”

“To you, maybe, because you’re family.”

I let out another long breath. As if a little money would help that family anyway. No amount could substitute for a man’s life. My resentment increased. I rubbed my forehead and temples, wishing my headache away. The delicious scent of coffee and bacon wafted over me.

“Where’s this other letter?”

Etta poured two cups of coffee and handed me one. “I didn’t recognize the handwriting on the envelope.” She drew it from her apron pocket.

I studied the spidery writing and then used the same hairpin to open the thin envelope. “Hmm. Mrs. Wycliffe says she wrote every word that Aunt Sylvia dictated. It’s postmarked from Sacramento, but I thought she was in a San Francisco hospital.”

“Could be your uncle brought her here to recover.” Etta perched on a chair. “What does it say, miss? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“Of course not.”

I crunched a rasher of bacon, ate the still warm eggs and then wiped my hands on a linen napkin. What did Aunt Sylvia want? She’d warned Uncle Harrison about Ace being a gambler. She’d cursed me, Ace, Uncle Harrison, and every one of the men who rescued her from the ravine that day at Mt. Diablo—worse than a miner—while they carried her on a makeshift litter to the buckboard wagon. Aunt Sylvia hadn’t stopped cursing on the journey back to Vallejo. She deserved every bit of such rough treatment for what I’d suffered at her hands.

After I flattened the letter, I started reading aloud. “‘The doctors say I have little time to live.’ That’s doubtful, I bet. ‘Gangrene has taken one leg, and another infection is spreading fast. Come and visit before it is too late. We have much to discuss.’”

“Gangrene is bad, Miss Lily. My father suffered terrible from that before he died. They cut off his leg that summer, but it spread past that point. Maybe you ought to go.”

“What could we possibly have to talk about? She hates me.”

“True enough,” Etta said bitterly, “but she is family. Remember that.”

“Father never wanted me to speak her name.”

“The colonel’s gone to his reward, miss, and is resting in peace. Along with your mother, God rest her soul.”

I didn’t reply to that, scanning the rest of the letter to myself. The words on the page blurred—words that cut me deep. Words my aunt knew would summon me to her deathbed. My mother’s favorite Scripture verse from Luke, and one word stood out.

‘…forgive…’

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When you are thinking of quitting homeschooling….

I would first ask yourself why you started homeschooling.

 

What are your goals for it?

How do you want your children educated? 

Then…how is the best way, for you, in your life circumstance, to do that?

Is there other options besides solely homeschooling or public school? Is there options in the homeschool community where people could step up along side you and help you out, if you want to continue? 

Are there any small private schools in the area that have a homeschool type atmosphere? 

http://simplehomeschool.net/the-worst-reason-to-homeschool/

If school work in books is not working well for you, take 1 week off…truly. If they are not learning, and you are fighting it, take the week off. 

Instead, for that one week, make a plan for learning that does not involve as much seat work. 
http://simplehomeschool.net/communityservice/

Go outside and write states in the sand

Practice writing words that you call off in the dirt, sand, gravel with a stick or finger

See if any local parks, rangers etc. will teach a class on survival in the woods or water cycles, conservation, animal behavior, etc. 

Pull a nature book from the library shelves and ask them to identify plants in your back yard. 

Double a batch of cookies….have them add the fractions and reduce them on a card before before making them or in the recipe book. 

Play card games with measurements like memory (make index cards with 2 cups and 1 pint on them, and have them find matches). 

Flash card drills, where if they get one right, they get to step forward like Simon says. 

Practice free writing…..everyday at 7 pm. everyone pulls out a notebook and has to write, draw or color something that tells what they did today. Age levels have different expectations. 

Write a letter to a relative, friend or stranger…..

Vist a zoo, aquarium, museum, library….

Assign reading for 15-30 minutes everyday…

Don’t skip school…just make it look so completely and totally different, they don’t realize they are learning for a short time and then go back to your books. 

Some articles…
http://www.theholistichomeschooler.com/2012/03/10-ways-to-ensure-homeschool-burnout.html

http://simplehomeschool.net/8-things/

http://simplehomeschool.net/for-when-you-want-to-quit-2/

http://simplehomeschool.net/10-ways-to-burnout-as-a-homeschooling-mother/

http://simplehomeschool.net/burnout-is-inevitable-so-plan-for-it/

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