Thursday, October 31, 2013

Autumn ~ A is for Art, B is for Books, C is for Canvas (?)

Getting a little bit of a late start, but hoping to make it through the entire series for a change (Of course, comments on my posts will encourage me to keep going, and keep me accountable... hint, hint :) )

A is for Autumn ~

Art~

Youngest and I went on a "leaf walk" last week~ we found an amazing number of different leaves~ and thus was born an art project~ Just look at that incredible variety of leaves! 


Youngest traced around his with crayon, filled in the white spaces, and then water-colored the insides. Turned out quite well, I think.




I had hoped to have him use oil pastels and watercolors, like this sample I made, but it was a little too tricky for him~ he was afraid he would tear the leaves. I should have been more careful with my watercoloring, but I thought I'd have more time to do another before my leaves dried up... nope!

Books~
(Note: The pictures of the books are clickable affiliate links to Amazon~ I appreciate your support)

 If you want a fantastic story to read to your 4-8 year old, that relates to carving pumpkins, with an amazing picture of God's love and grace~ This is it! Now available on Kindle, in addition to hardcover and boardbook. 

One of my very favorite Autumn poems, illustrated for reading.  A delightful way to introduce the classic work of James Whitcomb Riley to your elementary-aged children. I like to pull this one out to read when we have our first hard frost. 

This is a beautiful book! 
It appears to be out of print, but you can still pick up used copies, or hopefully borrow it from your library. I'm glad that I own a copy...

Here's a possible stand-in for Autumn Leaves~ it looks lovely as well. I just discovered it, so don't own it myself, but it's on my short-list of Autumn books to check out.


Here's another I don't own yet, but I have the Summer version, and it is lovely! There are Acrostics for each letter of the alphabet. For instance:
Blankets and Umbrellas
Endless miles of sand
And the
Constant
Hum of wind and waves

Getting ready for Thanksgiving means pulling out one of my favorite Five In A Row titles...
A story of kindness and compassion, mixed in with a tiny bit of "elementary" mystery, ie don't judge a book by its cover. (I'll share more "Thanksgiving" books next week)



For a middle school read~ this isn't specifically "Autumn" but it has that "feel" about it. I think this is one of the best books, that doesn't deserve to live in obscurity... A lovely read about growth, love, and coming to terms with this thing we call life.

Canvas? (Well, officially just pictures, but it will work for "C" won't it?) 
  Acorns found underwater

Impressionistic reflections

And more trees, sky and water






Blessings~




Wednesday, October 30, 2013

VocabularySpellingCity Review


I was introduced to VocabularySpellingCity in 2009 and reviewed it in 2012. I was very pleased to be able to review the Premium Membership again. I planned to focus mostly on using their app with all of my kids (simply because computer use is at a premium in our home, as we are down to owning only one working computer at this point).

If you check out my review from last year, you can get a good feel for how things work in general, with screenshots and comparisons between the free and the premium memberships.

I was disappointed that Apple decided to come out with an update right around the time that we began working with VocabularySpellingCity again. You see, my son's iPod, even though it is only 4th generation (so not nearly as out-of-date as the gen2 iPod that we still have), is not able to update to iOS7, and unfortunately the VocabularySpellingCity app does not appear to be backwards compatible, so he was unable to access it. :/

However, my daughter's shiny iPod5 was updated to the latest iOS, and she was easily able to access the app. This was an excellent thing, with very good timing, because she was preparing to take the PSAT. One of the Premium Membership features is access to Vocabulary lists, exercises, and testing, and there are published lists of the 100 most common PSAT/SAT vocabulary words.

I promptly set up assignments for her using *all* of the available Vocabulary activities.
We just as promptly determined that perhaps *all* of the available Vocabulary activities was overkill... Because she was being very focused, and had to pack 10 weeks of lists into 5 or so weeks (the PSAT was mid-October), I whittled her activities down to those that I felt would be the most productive:
FlashCards (quick "traditional" task)
Practice Vocabulary Test 
(Eldest likes having a "pre-test" 
to see what she knows)


WhichWord? Sentences
(Eldest doesn't have her sound
on unless she is listening to music,
so she isn't pleased with the need
to wait for the *fanfare*
and sentence to be spoken
before moving on in this activity~
It slows it down too much in her opinion)
 
MatchIt Definitions
(Drawing lines to match up
words with Sentences.
Fun feature~ the colors
of the words and definitions/line
can be changed to a pleasing configuration. )
  
Vocabulary Test Me
Test before an answer is selected
The activities that I didn't include in her assignments (Due to time constraints, and duplication of style of activity) were:
  • MatchIt Sentences (Similar to Match-It Definitions)
  • WhichWord Definitions (Similar to WhichWord Sentences) 
  • Word-O-Rama (a "Game Show" activity that didn't entice her, but is great for elementary aged kids)
The final analysis is that the use of the lists found on VocabularySpellingCity, and the set of activities (all of which she was able to complete on her iPod~ which was fantastic, as they aren't *all* iPod compatible) were very useful in helping to boost her confidence before she took the PSAT. I am planning to continue using various SAT Word lists that I will enter myself, to help her prepare for the SAT's later next spring and fall of her senior year.

Things I mentioned in my previous review that I still wish were changed, but so far are not...  
  • I still didn't find many activities that weren't frustrating for my 6 year old, who is in CVC reading territory. 
  • I continue to wish that *any* activity, whether assigned or not would be given credit, particularly when a child is independently working beyond their assignments, and above grade level. 

VocabularySpellingCity is still one of my favorite resources to use for extra work for spelling and vocab work. I really wish that the app was able to be backwords compatible for the older versions of ipod/ipad that aren't upgraded or perhaps not even upgradeable, simply because I find the apps to be much more convenient, but the computer version is perfectly adequate, as illustrated in my review last fall. :) 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Blessings~



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Monday, October 28, 2013

Bridgeway English 1 and 2 (Grammar and Writing for Review/Remedial High School work)



As my daughter is heading towards her last year of high school next year, and my Middlest is starting next year, I have been wondering how we have done with our eclectic schooling when it comes to English skills. Because of this, I was pleased to be able to review Bridgeway Academy's English 1 (with a focus on grammar) with my 13 year old, and English 2 (focus on writing) with my Junior. 

ENGLISH 1

I had my 8th grader use English 1, to see how his grammar understanding is at this point. There were some "Technicalities" that we discovered were "holes," and were able to "Patch them up."


This is a consumable book, so I went through the first few units and assigned dates to the pages, so that he could see exactly what needed to be done on what day. This way if he slacked off a day or two (Which happens occasionally, especially if mom has a sick day or two), he knew precisely how far he had to go to "catch up." :)

The book is intended to be self-instructional, with very little input required from mom or dad, which *is* part of the desired outcome for my kids~ independent learners are what I'm aiming for. 

What is covered: subject and predicate, fours types of sentences, sentence fragments, run-on sentences, compound sentences, noun functions, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and prepositional phrases, conjunctions, interjections, and grammar review.
My Middlest said that he like the way that it was laid out, that he was learning things, without running into things that were *too* challenging. I like that it is a good solid review of basic grammar for him *before* he hits high school. 

General Comments
I have to say that these courses are meant to be review or remedial for High School. They are out in a very methodical mastery manner, with each skill building on the next.

The book is divided into “Section” and Paks. Each Section has skill/topic boxes with instruction, followed by some activities (Workbook-style). At the end of the section there is a review, which the student should complete (without looking back). If there are any trouble spots, the student is prompted to check the instruction for that skill, correct their mistakes, and then recheck their answers, before continue to the next section.  After 3 Sections, there is a Self-Test, and then a final test for that PAK. 

ENGLISH 2
The timing for our review worked out really well for my 11th grader, as she was preparing for the PSAT. While there is no actual "Writing" on the PSAT, there *are* questions pertaining to understanding writing. Using English 2 gave us a start in seeing exactly where she is in her writing skills/understanding the technicalities of grammatical composition. She isn't in need of remedial learning, but we have found this useful as a review/tool to assess where we are.
What is covered: clauses, sentence variety, subject/verb agreement, grammar and mechanics, writing skills, rules of capitalization, rules of punctuation, proofreading, editing, letter writing, business writing, study skills, critical thinking and reasoning, and learning about fact versus fiction. 

Eldest is appreciating this exercise, and she discovered a few little holes in her learning that have now been patched up. Again, I like the fact that this is mostly a self-paced, independent approach, which works well for her.

TEACHER ANSWER KEY
The Teacher answer key has the answers for *both* English 1 and 2. The pages are printed 2-up so that you open the book horizontally, rather than vertically. It is handy to have this to use as the teacher, saves a boatload of time. It is also suggested that the student might use the answer key on their own to find their mistakes in the Section Activities. At the same time, it is recommended that the teacher be the one to grade the tests. 

My only negative comment has to do with the correcting/scoring of the reviews and tests. The point system seemed to be rather haphazard, and somewhat more complicated than necessary. I am used to working from a total of 100 possible points. In this program, each section review and test seemed to have a random number of total possible points, with 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 points being assigned to "each answer." This in and of itself was confusing~ sometimes it said __ points for each blank, other times __ points for each answer, but sometimes there were multiple answers (a.b.c.d.) for each question... so I wasn't always entirely sure how to assign the points.  Clearly not a deal-breaker, but I would like to see this made more intuitive. 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
In general I feel that both books give a fairly thorough review of foundational English grammar and writing basics. The exercises don't take an inordinate amount of time, and are self-learner driven. I would suggest using it in 8th grade, if possible, in order to help your students prepare for the PSAT/SAT/ACT tests in the high school years. A strong foundation in grammar and writing skills will certainly help your students in their quest for a higher test score. 

  • Ages: 7th-12th (Review or Remedial) 
  • Price: $23.33 for each book
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about these materials as well as online courses that Bridgeway Academy offers. I understand that they were a hit with my fellow crew members.  As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Blessings~


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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Take a Chance on Me by Susan May Warren (Review)

In Take a Chance on Me (Christiansen Family Series) the first novel in a new series by Susan May Warren, we find themes of forgiveness and grace, love and redemption, courage, and healing.

Derek Christiansen's best friend, Jensen, betrayed and hurt him. He is responsible for Derek's wife's death. Ivy Madison helped Jensen gain his freedom, before she ever met Derek. So many obstacles to any of them gaining peace and finding love and acceptance.

Susan May Warren has created characters that I really cared about~ not just the main hero and heroine, but even the potential "Villain" is a character that I cared about. I love how she creates personalities that ring true... none of them are too good to be true, and none of them are beyond redemption.... excellent themes!

Author Q and A
Susan May Warren 
Take a Chance on Me
1. This is the first installment in a brand new six-book series. Can you give us a bit of background on this series?
I love stories about families – watching the members interact and grow together through 
challenges and victories – and I conceived this series as I watched my own children begin to grow up and deal with romance and career and futures. I love Deep Haven, and it’s the perfect setting for a resort, so I crafted a family, much like the families I know, who run a resort. They want to pass on their legacy to their children…but their children don’t know if they want it. It’s sort of a parallel theme to the legacy of faith we instill in our children. As they grow older, they need to decide whether it is their faith too. It’s a saga about family and faith and what happens when those collide with real life. 

2. This Christiansen Family series is set in Deep Haven, Minnesota. Tell us about this setting.
Deep Haven, Minnesota is based in a small vacation town in northern Minnesota where I spent my childhood. It’s located on Lake Superior, surrounded by pine and birch and the sense of small town and home. Populated by everyone from artists to lumberjacks, it’s Mitford, or perhaps Northern Exposure gone Minnesotan. Quaint, quirky and beautiful, it’s the perfect place to escape for a vacation.

3. What was your inspiration for this particular book and the main character Darek Christiansen?
As I started to put together this series, I began to think about our culture and our children today. I started to take a look at the big questions we are faced with as parents – and as young people; the issues that affect us as a culture, as well as personally. I wanted these books to go beyond family drama, beyond a great romance to raise bigger questions and stir truths that we might pass along to others. This story is about our propensity in our culture to blame others for what goes wrong in our lives – and how this alienates us from each other, and ultimately, God. Darek is the oldest brother in the family; the leader and a real hero. He’s a wildland firefighter and a widower who’s had to give up his job to come home and run the resort and care for his young son. Darek doesn’t realize he has a problem – he lives with anger on his shoulder, hating the man who killed his wife (his best friend). His real problem is that he can’t forgive himself. In this first story, readers meet the family, hang out at the resort and discover that God can redeem even a heart of stone, if we take a chance on Him. 

4. What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?
This book is for the person who feels they just can’t get past the anger they have for someone else to live in joy again. It’s for parents who see their children making bad choices and don’t know where to turn. It’s for people who believe that no one will ever really love them because of who they are, or the things they’ve done. It’s for people who need the courage to take a second chance on love and faith and family. I’m hoping readers walk away with a sense of how much God loves them, and that yes, He can heal the angry and broken-hearted.

5. How do you expect this new series to resonate with your audience? How do you want your books to make them feel?
Great question! I love a story that brings me on an emotional journey from anger to laughter to hope. But most of all, I want readers to be wrapped up in joy, that feeling we get when watch our football team win, or when we’re hands up in a convertible on a hot summer day, or digging our feet into a sandy beach, or hugging our loved one when they return home. Ah. The sense that, just for a moment, all is right in the world and everything tastes and feels delicious. I write romances, and in the end it’s worth the journey to the happily ever after. 

6. As a writer, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?
I loved Darek’s transformation. His relationship with his son is so precious, but when he truly lets go of his anger, he becomes the hero I always knew he could be. I love writing about broken heroes who find healing. 

7. What advice do you have for budding novelists?
Read! Then write the book you’d like to read. ~ But, along the way, learn the craft. In fact, a good writer never stops learning.

8. What is the best advice or encouragement that you have received?
Just keep writing. If you want to be a career novelist, you just have to keep writing. 

9. In your writing career, what are you most proud of?
After over forty novels, I’m always striving to keep the stories fresh and unique; so I guess I’m proud that every book is bathed in prayer, has a message singular to that story, and has unique characters and journeys. Every story is a new adventure for me, and the reader. 

Chapter 1 Excerpt
My dearest Darek,
     Even as I write this letter, I know I’ll tuck it away; the words on it are more of a prayer, meant for the Lord more than you. Or maybe, in the scribbling upon this journal page, the words might somehow find your heart, a cry that extends across the bond of mother and child.
     The firstborn child is always the one who solves the mystery of parenthood. Before I 
had you, I watched other mothers and wondered at the bond between a child and a parent, the strength of it, the power to mold a woman, making her put all hopes and wishes into this tiny bundle of life that she had the responsibility to raise.
    It’s an awe-filled, wonderful, terrifying act to have a child, for you suddenly wear your heart on the outside of your body. You risk a little more each day as he wanders from your arms into the world. You, Darek, were no protector of my heart. You were born with a willfulness, a courage, and a bent toward adventure that would bring me to the edge of my faith and keep me on my knees. The day I first saw you swinging from that too-enticing oak tree into the lake should have told me that I would be tested.
    Your brothers shortened your name to Dare, and you took it to heart. I was never so 
terrified as the day you came home from Montana, fresh from your first year as a hotshot, feeling your own strength. I knew your future would take you far from Evergreen Lake. I feared it would take you far, also, from your legacy of faith.
     Watching your son leave your arms has no comparison to watching him leave God’s. 
You never seemed to question the beliefs your father and I taught you. Perhaps that is 
what unsettled me the most, because without questioning, I wondered how there could be true understanding. I held my breath against the day when it would happen—life would shatter you and leave your faith bereft.
     And then it did.
     It brought you home, in presence if not soul. If it hadn’t been for your son, I might have done the unthinkable—stand in our gravel driveway and bar you from returning, from hiding.
     Because, my courageous, bold oldest son, that is what you are doing. Hiding. Bitter and dark, you have let guilt and regret destroy your foundation, imprison you, and steal your joy. You may believe you are building a future for your son, but without faith, you have nothing to build it on. Evergreen Resort is not just a place. It’s a legacy. A foundation. A belief.
     It’s the best of what I have to give you. That, and my unending prayers that somehow 
God will destroy those walls you’ve constructed around your heart. Darek, you have become a mystery to me again. I don’t know how to help free you. Or to restore all you’ve lost. But I believe that if you give God a chance, He will heal your heart. He will give you a future. He will truly lead you home.

Lovingly,
Your mother

(You can read the rest of Chapter 1 by downloading a pdf here)

Keep in touch with Susan May Warren via her Website, Twitter, and Facebook.


Blessings~
Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

One Way Love (Book Review and Giveaway)

Did you know that Billy Graham has a grandson following in his footsteps (I'm guessing more than one, but I haven't kept up with that clan beyond his children)? I kind of feel like I've been hiding under a rock somewhere (can I plead homeschooling? ;) ), as it seems that I should have known about W.G.Tullian Tchividjian's existence before now, but I didn't.

Tullian has just released a new book "One Way Love" on October 1, 2013.

 About the Author
William Graham Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) is the Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. A Florida native, Tullian is the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. He is a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a contributing editor to Leadership Journal. He is an ordained minister in Presbyterian Church of America. He is the author of six books; including the best seller, Jesus + Nothing = Everything  that won Christianity Today’s 2011 book of the year. He travels extensively, speaking at conferences throughout the U.S. 



About One Way Love
Real life is long on law and short on grace—the demands never stop, the failures pile up, and fear sets in. Life requires many things from us—a stable marriage, successful children, a certain quality of life. Anyone living inside the guilt, anxiety, and uncertainty of daily life knows that the weight of life is heavy. We are all in need of some relief.
Bestselling author Tullian Tchividjian is convinced our world needs a fresh encounter with grace.


One Way Love
Written by: Tullian Tchividjian
Publisher: David C Cook
Paperback:  240 pages 
$14.99
I haven't finished reading the book just yet, but there are some excellent "soundbites" that I am taking away. Tullian talks about "Performancism" which can be defined as equating our value and identity with our actions. Thankfully, God does not look at us from a Performancism point of view. Our value has nothing to do with what WE do, but rather what He has done.

Tullian also does a good job of walking the tightrope between "extravagant grace" and "consequences."  While agreeing that "consequences" are important and necessary, he points out that often, extending grace has a more lasting impact (ie The Prodigal Son).

A quote from the book:
Steve Brown once told me something I will never forget. He said, "Children will run from the law, and they'll run from grace. The ones who run from the law never come back. But the ones who run from grace always come back. Grace draws its own back home." 
I ran from grace. It drew me home. 

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this book, with its emphasis on the unconditional, One Way love of God.

Stay Connected: Website Twitter: @PastorTullian #OneWayLove

You have an opportunity to win your own copy here
(Please wait for the Rafflecopter to load). :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Blessings~



Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Sky Beneath My Feet by Lisa Samson

I have friends who rave about Lisa Samson and her writing, so I was pleased to be given the opportunity to read one of her books via a free e-book download from Booksneeze.

The Sky Beneath My Feet is a quirky read, with a cast of characters that could potentially be part of any neighborhood, because, let's face it, nobody is "normal."

Lisa doesn't sugar-coat her characters, and she allows them to show their real, human, flawed nature. Gone is the myth of the "perfect ministry couple."

Beth is a youth pastor's wife, striving to be her husband's helpmeet, but he makes it difficult, when he decides to hole up, like a hermit, in the back yard for 3 weeks during their vacation. Beth is confused (I would be too... I mean, really???), hurt, and trying to figure out what her role is supposed to be. Her son is experimenting with drugs. By and large, she is not living out the "perfect" life that many people assume comes with the job of "pastor," but rather struggling with all things common to humanity, set in our present age, and she learns to respond with grace and humility.

Publisher's Book Description:

Being married to a saint isn't what it's cracked up to be.

Beth's husband won't be joining the family on vacation at the beach this year. He's not even joining them in the house. Instead, Rick has holed up alone in the backyard shed. Nobody knows exactly what he's up to. Maybe he's immersing himself in prayer. Maybe he's lost his mind. Maybe he's even the modern-day prophet or the saint the neighborhood artist imagines him to be. But while "St. Rick" waits for an epiphany, Beth will have to figure out what to do with herself and their teenage sons, possibly for the rest of her life.
What happens next is both uproarious and bittersweet: a peace march turns violent, her son is caught with drugs, and she embarks on an ambitious road trip that turns into something nearly surreal. Will Beth rediscover the idealistic woman she used to be, once upon a time? Can her marriage survive Rick's backyard vigil? Will anything ever be the same? And should it be?
Truthful, comic, heartbreaking, and magical in the very best sense of the word, The Sky Beneath My Feetgently tears the veil off our egos and expectations to reveal the throbbing, redemptive, and achingly beautiful life beyond and within us.
You can purchase The Sky Beneath My Feet directly from Thomas Nelson, CBD, and other booksellers, including through my Amazon link below. It is available in paperback and Kindle versions.




Blessings~

Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the Booksneeze  Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Heirs of Rebellion by Vanessa Miller (FIRST)


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 (September 2, 2013)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Vanessa Miller is a best-selling author, playwright, and motivational speaker. Her romance series include Forsaken, Rain and Storm, and with Whitaker House, the Second Chance at Love series:  A Promise of Forever Love, Yesterday’s Promise, and A Love for Tomorrow. Her books, which often depict lost characters in need of redemption, have received countless favorable reviews and numerous awards. Vanessa holds a degree in organizational communication from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. She is a dedicated Christian and a devoted mother serves in her church as an ordained exhorter.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Heirs of Rebellion contains the first two of five stories chronicling the dramatic lives of Joel Morrison and his adult children. “The Blessed One” kicks off the saga in the Bahamas where Joel has gathered the family to go over changes to his will, but a turn of events sends shock waves through the Morrison family, altering Joel’s plans. “The Wild One,” revolves around daughter Dee Dee Morrison-Milner, a film star living life in the fast lane who adopts an African child -- only because she believes it will benefit her career. When a series of events leads to her adopted daughter’s kidnapping, Dee Dee turns to her estranged husband in hopes of finding the child whose kind nature has captured her heart.


Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Series: Morrison Family Secrets (Book 1)
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (September 2, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603749489
ISBN-13: 978-1603749480


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

“Mr. Morrison, I really need to discuss something with you before you leave today.”

Eric’s assistant, Karen, had come into his office just as he was leaning over his desk, putting some files in his briefcase, so he could head home. He straightened up, revealing his full six-foot-two, 178-pound physique. He straightened his buttercream-colored tie and looked at his watch. It was 7:30 pm. He’d promised Linda that he would be home by six. Well, he’d already broken that promise, so he might as well handle this business. He sat back down. “What can I do for you, Karen?”

“I would just like to state for the record,” Karen began as she handed him a stack of bills, “I had no clue that this much money was being spent since you put Mark in charge of marketing for your campaign.”

It was the Corporate America motto: “Cover yourself and blame the other guy.” In truth, Karen’s responsibilities included reviewing the finances of his campaign and letting him know if his contributions were insufficient to cover his spending. He flipped through the bills, and then, with a frustrated sigh, laid the stack on his desk. “Why are all these bills past due?”

Karen plopped down in the chair in front of his desk and let out a long sigh. “We haven’t received as much in contributions as I originally projected. The election is nine months away, and with nothing significant happening, we haven’t given the donors a reason to part with their money.”

Here he was, mayor of Cincinnati, fully intending to make the White House his home within the next decade, and he didn’t even have enough money to run for Governor of Ohio? What did that say about his chances at the presidency? Was he dead in the water before his presidential campaign even marinated in the delegates’ minds? Eric refused to believe that. His father had always told him that God was looking out for him and wanted to see him prosper.

Being the eldest child, Eric had always been called upon to solve problems, starting with his own siblings. If he heard someone say, “Give it back; I had it first,” Eric would suggest something along the lines of, “Why don’t you play with the truck first, Isaiah, and then, in a little while, you can let Shawn see it, okay?” or, “Look, Dee Dee, there’s a prettier doll on your bed. Why don’t you let Elaine have this old doll, so you can play with the prettier one?”

Problem solving was in his genes. So, before his pity party got started, Eric decided to search for a solution. He grabbed his calculator and began adding up his debts. He turned to Karen. “It looks like we owe almost five million for various items, including my radio and television ads. How much money do we have right now?”

Karen glanced at the spreadsheet in her hand. “We have about two million in liquid assets.”

His father could cover these bills without even blinking an eye. But Eric hadn’t asked his father for anything since he’d graduated from college. Sure, he gladly accepted the $50,000 his father sent through his accountant to each of his children every year. His father had also bought him and his siblings their first homes. Everyone but Elaine, that is; she was still too busy saving the world to plant roots anywhere. But Eric hadn’t asked his father for anything else since he’d bought the house for Linda and him. When their daughter was born, Eric sold that house and used the proceeds to buy the 6,000-square-foot home they now shared. He wanted to be his own man and make his father proud of his accomplishments. The last thing Eric wanted to do as he neared forty was to beg his father for money. Besides, his father knew that it took money to run for public office; and if he wasn’t offering, Eric wasn’t asking.

“Okay, then,” Eric finally said. “Call all of our creditors and offer them a third of what we owe, and then tell them we will pay the rest over the next three months.” Eric had no clue where the money would come from to pay the remaining balances. But in the political arena, you never knew—a scandal could develop surrounding his opponent, prompting more voters to want to oust the incumbent and perhaps even pledge money to Eric’s campaign. He hoped he wouldn’t have to hire investigators to dig up dirt on Governor McDaniel, but he wasn’t opposed to it if the need arose.

He finished his meeting and left the office. Linda was going to kill him. This was the third night this week that he’d arrived home after eight o’clock. She didn’t understand how much public service meant to him, how much joy he received from setting policies in place that would help communities for generations to come. Being in public service allowed him to use the peacemaking finesse and problem-solving skills he’d developed as a child. But Linda was always complaining that he was more dedicated to the City of Cincinnati than to his own family.

Eric didn’t understand his wife. She had everything a woman could want, and yet she was still unhappy. He had bought her a nice home, and she had a hefty clothing allowance. Yes, he was often late, but at least he came home to his wife every night. Not every woman could say that. But Eric Morrison, the next governor of the great state of Ohio, didn’t cheat on his wife. Mention the name Bill Clinton to any politician—enough said. No, sir. Eric wasn’t trying to build a legacy just to have it torn down by infidelity. His father had taught him that. Joel Morrison used to tell his sons every chance he got: A man’s name is only as good as his wife says it is.

Eric had met Linda after college, while he was serving as a lieutenant in the United States Air Force. Linda’s father was a colonel in the army, so she’d grown up as an army brat.

Now she’s just a brat, Eric thought as he pulled into the driveway. She was never satisfied, no matter what he did for her. And if she didn’t get her way, she fell apart.

He walked into the house, took off his hat and coat, and put them in the closet. “I’m home,” he yelled.

No one answered back. He looked at his watch and walked out of the foyer in search of his wife. He found her asleep in the living room, stretched out on their beige sofa with a half-empty bottle of scotch by her side. Eric rolled his eyes and turned to walk away. Then he noticed a letter typed on his father’s stationery, sitting on the coffee table. He crossed the room and sat down on the edge of the couch next to his wife, catching a whiff of her alcohol-laden breath as she snored.

Shaking his head, he picked up the letter and read.

Son,

I hope all is going well for you and your family. It has been way too long since I broke bread with you and your lovely wife. Just thinking about how much I miss my grandchildren brings tears to my eyes. So, I’ve decided to invite you all to our vacation home in the Bahamas for a week of fun and family.

I know you’ll need time to get things in order at your office, so I’ve scheduled the vacation for the end of the month. How about it? Can you bring your family to the Bahamas on March 25? I really hope you will be there, because I will be going over some changes to my will.

Love, your father,

Joel

Eric held his breath and leaned back on the sofa. What changes could his father be making to his will? As far back as he could remember, his father had said they would split his fortune five ways when he died. Had something changed?

***

“What did you say to me?” Dee Dee Morrison-Milner glared across the table at her Bible-toting husband. Actually, she preferred thinking of him as her soon-to-be ex-husband.

“I said I love you, Dee Dee. Please, let’s just go home and talk this over,” Drake Milner pleaded, his dark brown eyes filled with liquid sadness.

Dee Dee didn’t care. She rolled her eyes and turned to face her lawyer, who was seated on her left. She ran her fingers through her fifteen-hundred-dollar weave. “William, can you please tell Drake how much alimony he will receive from me when this is all over?”

While Dee Dee’s attorney flipped through his files, Drake said, “What if I don’t want alimony? What if I just want you?”

Drake’s attorney, Mark Winters, elbowed him and spoke up. “Actually, my client has given up a great deal for this three-year marriage. Alimony is the least Mrs. Milner can do.”

“Don’t call me that.” Dee Dee scowled. “I am Dee Dee Morrison. I insist that you refer to me in that manner during these proceedings.” Actually, her name was Dee Dee Morrison-Wilcox-Johnson-Sooner-Milner, but Dee Dee didn’t want to think about all her failed marriages. She’d rather just be Morrison again and start over. The only reason she’d even entered into marital mistake number four was because her father had thought Drake was a great catch. According to Joel Morrison, Mr. Drake Milner was one in a million. Well, her daddy didn’t have to live with Drake. He wasn’t around when Drake opened his Bible and dared to read it to her. He wasn’t dragged to Sunday morning worship service when all he wanted to do was sleep in. Dee Dee had been through all that madness when she’d lived with her father. That’s why she’d thought she could handle a clone of Joel Morrison. But she’d had enough.

“What did I do that was so wrong, Dee Dee?” Drake protested. “I didn’t cheat on you, didn’t abuse you. I honored the vows that I made to you.”

Dee Dee turned to William. “Can you please tell him how much I’m willing to give him in alimony?”

William cleared his throat and announced, “Ms. Morrison is willing to give you fifty thousand a year for the next three years.”

Mark laughed. “How generous you are, Mrs. Milner, but it’s going to take much more than Daddy’s annual allowance to help my client retain his standard of living.”

Glaring across the table at Drake again, Dee Dee said, “Did you tell him all my business?”

“The bottom line is this,” Mark began. “My client gave up his career to move to LA and become your houseboy.”

“I never told him he couldn’t work,” Dee Dee insisted.

“Oh, really? Is that why you got him fired from the last two jobs he acquired since moving here?” Mark asked.

Dee Dee harrumphed. “That’s a lie. Drake didn’t like any of those jobs. He wanted to travel with me. I did him a favor by calling his employers. If anything, he should be thanking me, rather than trying to extort more money.” She stood up and extended her manicured index finger in Drake’s direction. “You’re getting out of my house today. Do you hear me? Your days of freeloading are over.” She turned and stormed out of her attorney’s office, jumped in her red Ferrari 575M Maranello, and sped off. She had no time to waste. She intended to put Drake out of her ten-million-dollar Bel Air mansion that day. She lived thirty minutes away from her lawyer’s office. Nonetheless, in less than twenty minutes, she was punching in the access code to her gated home. She parked her car in front of the house and ran inside.

Dee Dee stood in the foyer for a moment with her back against the door. She detested the stale white walls, the white marble floor, and the circular staircase. It was all too calm and drab for her taste. She still didn’t understand why she had purchased this house. Maybe she had been on some kind of calm-and-drab kick the year she’d married Drake, but she was way over it now.

She went upstairs to Drake’s room, gathered a handful of his shoes and clothes, then opened his bedroom window and threw the stuff out onto the well-manicured lawn. On her third trip to the window, she saw her assistant, Marcia, coming up the walkway.

As Dee Dee dumped Drake’s underclothes on the lawn, Marcia waved some envelopes in the air with no acknowledgment of the garments. “I have your mail.”

“Just leave it on the table in the foyer. I’m busy right now.”

Marcia pulled one of the envelopes out of the stack. “This one is from your father.”

Dee Dee was tempted to continue with her work, but her daddy was a peculiar kind of man. You never knew when he might just add an extra check to one of his letters. And she could use some extra money right now. God only knew how much it was going to cost her to get rid of Drake, since he was telling everyone it was her fault he didn’t have a job.

She went downstairs, took the letter from Marcia, and opened it. As she read it, her world fell apart. Daddy’s changing his will? Was her father disinheriting her because of her four failed marriages? Could the old man really give away her birthright just because she didn’t measure up to his high standards? Dee Dee didn’t really know if this was bad news for her or not, but she knew one thing for sure. There was no way that she could go to the Bahamas without Drake. Not when her share of six hundred million was at stake.

I enjoyed reading this first in a series of stories. I felt that some of the characters could have been a little more fleshed out (although I will guess that their turn is coming in future books), but they were reasonable for a fun, quick read (there are 2 "books" encompassed in the 122 pages of story).

I appreciate the realistic portrayal of the family as a whole with children who are following God, and those who have made some less desirable choices. Even those who seem to have turned their backs on God are given opportunity to return, just like the prodigal.

Note: The "Short Book Description" above is in error, stating that the adopted daughter is kidnapped~ she is not, but rather, Dee-Dee and her daughter are running from a stalker.

Blessings~



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