Thursday, January 30, 2014

Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener (A joyful review)

“Find gratitude in the little things and your well of gratitude will never run dry.” 
― Antonia Montoya

I have definitely discovered that taking joy in the small things in life certainly does makes me happier and more thankful on a regular basis. This latest review is one of those little things that brings me joy. What is it, you may ask? A pencil sharpener... from Classroom Friendly Supplies.

Really? A pencil sharpener?? Well, yes!
You see, for years I have used:

  • Little manual twist sharpeners ~ They hurt my hands if I need to sharpen more than a few pencils at a time. I just checked, and it takes about 24 "twists" of the pencil, and about 1/2 a minute to sharpen a brand new pencil to a point. 
  • Electric sharpeners ~ That seldom last more than a few months, whether battery operated or plugged in... didn't seem to matter.
  • And what I had hoped would be the last sharpener I ever purchased, the old fashioned, wall mounted, multi-sized pencil sharpener that was similar to the one I used in grade school. 
    • However~ it had its own troubles~ I regularly nicked my right hand against the wall while turning the handle... OUCH! 
    • The receptacle would get knocked to the side, creating a mess, and guess who doesn't like pencil dust in her food??? (Since the only place we could mount it ended up being the only place we could store our dog food as well)
    • Often the receptacle would get knocked totally off, and if it was a little person, they might neglect to pick it up right away, at which point it would be "lost" behind the dog food container. BLECH! 
    • This particular sharpener was also difficult to "Clean out" if a pencil lead happened to break off inside. It also tended to EAT the pencils occasionally, which I assumed just went with the territory. 

Enter the Classroom Friendly Supply Pencil Sharpener... 

It takes only about 14-15 turns of the handle, and about 10-15 seconds to sharpen a brand new pencil, with no strain on my fingers, and no nicked knuckles! 



Here is a set of photos. One with colored pencils that were all sharpened with one of my other sharpener options, and a photo with a select few pencils that were sharpened with the Classroom Friendly Sharpener.... can you figure out which ones? (Leave your guess in the comments! ) 




I have to say that after a few months of pencil sharpening, my children and I still comment to one another almost every time we use our new shiny red pencil sharpener, how WONDERFUL it is, and how much we enjoy using it! 

A video of the Classroom Friendly Sharpener in use... 




There are tips and videos on the Classroom Friendly Supplies website showing how to troubleshoot the sharpener when lead gets stuck in the blades. Also, the handle can come off for cleaning purposes. It can easily be put back on after cleaning. Check out the videos on the website if needed on the photos and videos tab.



The Sharpeners retail for $24.99 each with free shipping.
Bundle rates:
Teacher Special 3 Classroom Friendly Sharpeners $53.97 ($17.99 each) 
School Special 36 Classroom Friendly Sharpeners $503.64 ($13.99 each)

The sharpeners come in  green (forest-ish), blue (royal), red, black and pink(bright!), and can be used free standing, clamped to a surface, or permanently mounted. We use ours free standing, and it moves from room to room, as well as taking a trip in a bag when traveling for longer than a day or two with my artsy kids. 

The Classroom Friendly Sharpener has a new option, for those with primary students and fat pencils~ currently only available in black. 

I'll leave you with one more quote about the small things in life... 

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” 
― Arthur Conan DoyleThe Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

When considering the frustrations of sharpening pencils on a regular basis, this can indeed be considered a little thing that is most important

Blessings~






Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Heart of Mercy (FIRST Wild Card Tour)


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 (January 1, 2014)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Award winning romance author, Sharlene MacLaren has released 13 novels since embarking on a writing career in 2007. After a career teaching second grade “Shar” says she asked God for a new mission “that would bring her as great a sense of purpose” as she’d felt teaching and raising her children. She tried her hand at inspirational romance, releasing Through Every Storm to critical and popular acclaim in 2007, and the rest, as they say, is history. She quickly became the top selling fiction author for Whitaker House, has accumulated multiple awards, and endeared herself to readers who can’t get enough of her long, luscious and often quirky tales – both historical and contemporary. Her novels include the contemporary romances Long Journey Home, and Tender Vow; and three historical series including Little Hickman Creek series (Loving Liza Jane; Sarah, My Beloved; and Courting Emma); The Daughters of Jacob Kane (Hannah Grace, Maggie Rose, and Abbie Ann) and River of Hope (Livvie’s Song, Ellie’s Haven, and Sofia’s Secret).

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

 Mercy Evans has known a great deal of heartache and hardship in her 26 years. She lost her mother at a young age and was only 16 when her father was killed in a brawl sparked by a feud with the Connors family that spans several generations. When a house fire claims the lives of her two best friends, Mercy is devastated, but finds comfort in caring for their two sons, who survived thanks to a heroic rescue by Sam Connors, blacksmith in the small town of Paris, Tennessee. Yet the judge is determined to grant custody only if Mercy is married. Mercy loves the boys as her own, and she’ll go to any lengths to keep them—but what if that means marrying the son of the man who killed her father?  Set in the 1880’s, Heart of Mercy is the first book in MacLaren’s new Tennessee Dreams series.


Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Series: Tennessee Dreams (Book 1)
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (January 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603749632
ISBN-13: 978-1603749633


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

1890
Paris, Tennessee
“Fire!”
The single word had the power to force a body to drop his knees and call out to his Maker for leniency. But most took time for neither, instead racing to the scene of terror with the bucket they kept stored close to the door, and joining the contingent of citizens determined to battle the flames of death and destruction. Such was the case tonight when, washing the dinner dishes in the kitchen sink, Mercy Evans heard the dreaded screams coming from all directions, even began to smell the sickening fumes of blazing timber seeping through her open windows. She ran through her house and burst through the screen door onto the front porch.
“Where’s the fire?” she shouted at the people running up Wood Street carrying buckets of water.
Without so much as a glance at her, one man hollered on the run, “Looks to be the Watson place over on Caldwell.”
Her heart thudded to a shattering halt. God, no! “Surely, you don’t mean Herb and Millie Watson!”
Mercy Evans and Millie Watson, formerly Gifford, had been fast friends at school and had stuck together like glue in the dimmest of circumstances, as well as the sweetest. Millie had walked with Mercy through the loss of both her parents, and Mercy had watched Millie fall wildly in love with Herb Watson in the twelfth grade. She’d been the maid of honor in their wedding the following summer.
But her voice was lost to the footsteps thundering past. Whirling on her heel, she ran back inside, hurried to extinguish all but one kerosene lamp, snatched her wrap from its hook by the door, and darted back outside and up the rutted street toward her best friends’ home, dodging horses and a stampede of citizens. “Lord, please don’t let it be,” she pleaded aloud. “Oh, God, keep them safe. Jesus, Jesus….” But her cries vanished in the scramble of bodies crowding her off the street as several made the turn onto Caldwell in their quest to reach the flaming house, which already looked beyond saving.
Tongues of fire shot like dragons’ breath out windows and up through a hole in the roof. Like hungry serpents, flames lapped up the sides of the house, eating walls and shattering panes, while men heaved their pathetic little buckets of water at the volcanic monster.
“Back off, everybody. Step back!” ordered Sheriff Phil Marshall. He and a couple of deputies on horseback spread their arms wide at the crowd, trying to push them to safety.
Ignoring his orders, Mercy pressed through the gathering mob until the heat so overwhelmed her that she had no choice but to stop. Besides, a giant arm reached out and stopped her progress. She shook it off. “Where are they?” she gasped, breathless. “Where’s the family?”
The sheriff moved his bald head from side to side, his sad, defeated eyes telling the story. “Don’t know, Miss Evans. No one’s seen ’em yet. We been scourin’ the crowd”—he gave another shake of the head—“and it don’t appear anybody got out of that inferno.”
“That can’t be.” A sob caught at the back of her throat and choked her next words. “They were at my place earlier. I made supper.”
“Sorry, miss.”
“Someone’s comin’ out!” A man’s ear-splitting shout rose above the crowd.
Dense smoke enveloped a large figure emerging—staggering rather like a drunkard—from the open door and onto the porch, his arms full with two wriggling bundles wrapped in blankets and screaming in terror. Mercy sucked in a cavernous breath and held it till weakness overtook her and she forced herself to let it out. Could it be? Had little John Roy and Joseph survived the fire thanks to this man?
“Who is it?” someone asked.
All stood in rapt silence as he passed through the cloud of smoke. “Looks to be Sam Connors, the blacksmith,” said the sheriff, scratching his head and stepping forward.
“Sure ’nough is,” someone confirmed.
Mercy stared in wonder as the man, looking dazed and almost ethereal, strode down the steps, then wavered and stumbled before falling flat on his face in a heap of dust and bringing the howling bundles with him.
Excited chatter erupted as Mercy and several others ran to their aid. Mercy yanked the blankets off the boys and heaved a sigh of relief to find them both alert and apparently unharmed, albeit still screeching louder than a couple of banshees. Through their avalanche of tears, they recognized her, and they hurled themselves into her arms, knocking her backward, so that she wound up on her back perpendicular to Mr. Connors, with both of the boys lying prone across her body. In all the chaos, she felt a hand grasp her arm and help her up to a sitting position.
“Come on, Miz. You bes’ git yo’self an’ them chillin’s out of the way o’ them flames fo’ you all gets burned.” She had the presence of mind to look up at Solomon Turner, a former slave now in the employ of Mrs. Iris Brockwell, a prominent Paris citizen who’d donated a good deal of money to the hospital fund.
Mercy took the man’s callused hand and allowed him to help her to a standing state. By the lines etched in his face from years of hard work in the sweltering sun, Mercy figured he had to be in his seventies, yet he lifted her with no apparent effort. “Thank you, Mr. Turner.”
Five-year-old John Roy stretched his arms upward, pleading with wet eyes to be held, while Joseph, six, took a fistful of her skirt and clung with all his might. “Come,” she said, hoisting John Roy up into her arms. “We best do as Mr. Turner says, honey. Follow me.”
“But…Mama and Papa….” Joseph turned and gave his perishing house a long perusal, tears still spilling down his face. John Roy buried his wrenching sobs in Mercy’s shoulder, and it was all she could do to keep from bolting into the house herself to search for Herb and Millie, even though she knew she’d never come out alive. If the fire and smoke didn’t kill her, the heat would. Besides, before her eyes, the flames had devoured the very sides of the house, leaving a skeletal frame with a staircase only somewhat intact and a freestanding brick fireplace looking like a graveyard monument. Her heart throbbed in her chest and thundered in her ears, and she wanted to scream, but the ever-thickening smoke and acrid fumes burned to the bottom of her lungs.
With her free hand, she hugged Joseph close to her. “I know, sweetheart, and I’m so, so sorry.” Her words drowned in her own sobs as the truth slammed against her. Millie and Herb, her most loyal friends. Gone.
Sheriff Marshall and his deputies ordered the crowd to move away from the blazing house, so she forced herself to obey, dragging a reluctant Joseph with her. At the same time, she observed three men carrying a yet unconscious Sam Connors across the street to a grassy patch of ground. Several others gathered around, trying to decide what sort of care he needed. Of course, he required medical attention, but Mercy felt too weak and dizzy to tend to him. Best to let the men put him on a cart and drive him over to Doc Trumble’s. Besides, she highly doubted he’d welcome her help. He was a Connors, after all, and she an Evans—two families who had been fighting since as far back as anyone could remember.
She’d heard only bits and pieces of how the feud had started, with a dispute between Cornelius Evans, Mercy’s grandfather, and Eustace Connors over property lines and livestock grazing in the early 1830s. There had been numerous thefts of horses and cattle, and incidents of barn burnings, committed by both families, until a judge had stepped in and defined the property lines—in favor of Eustace Connors. Mercy’s grandfather had gotten so agitated over the matter that his heart had given out. Mercy’s grandmother, Margaret, had blamed the Connors family, fueling the feud by passing her hatred for the entire clan on to her own children, and so the next generation had carried the grudge, mostly forgetting its origins but not the bad blood. The animosity had reached a peak six years ago, when Ernest Connors had killed Oscar Evans—Mercy’s father.
“That man’s a angel,” Joseph mumbled into her skirts.
“What, honey?”
“John Roy was wailin’ real loud, ’cause he saw somethin’ orange comin’ from upstairs, so he got in bed with me, and after a while that angel man comed in and took us out of ar’ bed.”
She set John Roy on the ground, then got down on her knees to meet Joseph’s eyes straight on. His were still red, his cheeks blotchy. She thought very carefully about her next words. “Where were your parents?”
Joseph sniffed. “They tucked us in and went upstairs to their bedroom. John Roy an’ me talked a long time about scary monsters an’ stuff, but then, after a while, he went to sleep, but I couldn’t, so I got up t’ get a drink o’ water, and that’s when I heard a noise upstairs. I looked around the corner, and I seed a big round ball o’ orange up there, and smoke comin’ out of it, and I thought it was a dragon come to eat us up. I runned back and jumped in bed with Joseph and tol’ him a mean monster was comin’ t’ get us, and I started cryin’ real loud.”
John Roy picked up the story from there. “And so we waited and waited for the monster to come after us, but instead the angel saved us. I think Mama and Papa is prolly still sleepin’. Do you think they waked up yet?”
Mercy’s throat burned as powerfully as if she’d swallowed a tablespoonful of acid. Her own eyes begged to cut loose a river of tears, but she warded them off with a shake of her head while gathering both boys tightly to her. “No, darlings, I don’t believe they woke up in bed. I believe with all my heart they awoke in heaven and are right now asking Jesus to keep you safe.”
“And so Jesus tol’ that angel to come in the house and get us?” Joseph pointed a shaky finger at Sam Connors. The big fellow lay motionless on his back, with several men bent over him, calling his name and fanning his face.
Mercy smiled. “He’s not an angel, my sweet, but that’s not to say that God didn’t have something to do with sending him in to rescue you.”
“Is he gonna die, like Mama and Papa?” John Roy asked between frantic sobs.
“Oh, honey, I don’t know.”
She overheard Lyle Phelps suggest they take him over to Doc Trumble’s house, but then Harold Crew said he’d spotted the doctor about an hour ago, driving out to the DeLass farm to deliver baby number seven.
A few sets of eyes glanced around until they landed on Mercy. She knew what folks were thinking. She worked for Doc Trumble, she had more medical training and experience than the average person, and her house was closest to the scene. But their gazes also indicated they understood the awkwardness of the situation, considering the ongoing feud between the two families. Although the idea of caring for him didn’t appeal, she’d taken an oath to always do her best to preserve life. Besides, the Lord commanded her to love her neighbor as herself, making it a sin to walk away from someone in need, regardless of his family name.
She dropped her shoulders, even as the boys snuggled close. “Put him on a cart and take him to my place,” she stated.
As if relieved that his care would fall to someone other than themselves, several men hurried to pick him up and carried him to Harold Crew’s nearby buggy.
“What about us?” Joseph asked.
The sheriff stepped forward and made a quick study of each boy. “You can stay out at my sister’s farm. She won’t mind adding a couple o’ more young’uns to her brood.”
Joseph burst into loud howls upon the sheriff’s announcement. Mercy hugged him and John Roy possessively. “Their parents were my closest friends, Sheriff Marshall. I’d like to assume their care.”
He frowned and scratched the back of his head. “Don’t know as that’s the best solution, you bein’ unwed an’ all.”
“That should have no bearing whatever on where they go. Their parents were my closest friends. They’re coming home with me.” She took both boys by the hands, turned, and led them back down Caldwell Street, away from the still-smoldering house and the sheriff’s disapproving gaze. Overhead, black smoke filled the skies, obliterating any hope of the night’s first stars or the crescent moon making an appearance.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
My Review (coming soon)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Blessings~



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Inspiration of Charlotte Mason (1)

Hello Friends~

I am going to start a new series (I hope... cheer me on, and hold me accountable, OK? :D) with inspirational quotes/images from Charlotte Mason. I hope you enjoy it, and please feel free to comment.


Blessings~






Linking up with
Circling Through This Life
And Holy Splendor's Blog Hop

Friday, January 24, 2014

Five Minute Friday ~ January 24, 2014 ~ Visit


Five Minute Friday
We write for five minutes flat. All on the same prompt that I post here at 1 minute past midnight EST ever Friday. And we connect on Twitter with the hashtag #FMFParty (It stands for Five Minute Friday Party).
No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.
Unscripted. Unedited. Real.
It started because I’d been thinking about writing and how often our perfectionism gets in the way of our words. And I figured, why not take 5 minutes and see what comes out: not a perfect post, not a profound post, just five minutes of focused writing.
So now on Fridays a group of people who love to throw caution to the wind and just write without worrying if it’s just right gather to share what five minutes buys them. Just five minutes.
Your words. This shared feast.
It’s easy to join in, just:
- See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday/#sthash.whcLYi36.dpuf
Every Friday~ the opportunity to join in flashmob of writers. All the information can be found by clicking the button above. The short version~ every Friday ~ a prompt ~ five minutes of unedited blogging shared ~

Now for this week's word: Visit

Visit

 ~ the word brings to mind something of short duration~ 
Visit a friend for the afternoon
Visit someone who is ill

A visit by a family member~ generally not of a long duration ~ often less time than hoped for, in some instances more depending on the circumstances.
Thankfully, visits for me fall into "not enough time... too brief" category.
(photo credit... MG)
(photo credit... MG)
A visit is a thing of wonder~ out of the ordinary day-to-day

As Larry Norman said "We're only visiting this planet"  which brings to mind Petra's "Not of This World"

If we only consider how fleeting our visits are~
 in the span of eternity they last less than the time it takes an individual snowflake to melt~

Make the most of your time, your visit here on Earth, 
Make the most of your time as you visit friends and family.

L  O  V  E
     I
      S
      I
      T

Five Minute Friday

::
So, here’s the skinny: every Friday for going on four years now hundreds of people have joined a kind of writing flash mob over here.
View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allume13
We write for five minutes flat. All on the same prompt that I post here at 1 minute past midnight EST ever Friday. And we connect on Twitter with the hashtag #FMFParty (It stands for Five Minute Friday Party).
No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.
Unscripted. Unedited. Real.
It started because I’d been thinking about writing and how often our perfectionism gets in the way of our words. And I figured, why not take 5 minutes and see what comes out: not a perfect post, not a profound post, just five minutes of focused writing.
So now on Fridays a group of people who love to throw caution to the wind and just write without worrying if it’s just right gather to share what five minutes buys them. Just five minutes.
Your words. This shared feast.
It’s easy to join in, just:
- See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday/#sthash.whcLYi36.dpuf

Thanks for taking a few minutes to visit with me~ if you'd like to visit with more Five Minute Friday Folks, click the button at the top of the blog.

*Pictures of snowflakes taken by my eldest~
Blessings~



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Call of the Prairie (FIRST Wild Card Tour)


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 (January 1, 2014)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

VickiMcDonoughHS2 Short Bio & Author Website: Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of 30 works and a founder of the Christian Fiction Historical Society (www.christianfictionhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com).  Book 1 in her Pioneer Promises series, Whispers on the Prairie, was chosen by Romantic Times as a top “recommended read” last summer. A member of ACFW, Vickie served as treasurer for three years and treasurer for her local chapter. She and her husband, Robert, live in Oklahoma and have four grown sons, one daughter-in-law, and a granddaughter. When she isn’t writing, Vickie enjoys reading, shopping for antiques, watching movies, and traveling. The final book in her Pioneer Promises series, Song of the Prairie, releases the summer of 2014.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In her 22 years, Sophie Davenport’s overprotective parents have taken every possible measure to keep her from exacerbating her asthma—she feels like a prisoner in her own house with her activities limited to reading and needlework. Yet Sophie longs for adventure and love, so when an aunt living in Windmill, Kansas, falls ill, she volunteers to travel from St. Louis to help out. Sophie’s new role brings her into contact with two children boarding at her aunt’s home, along with their handsome uncle, Josh Harper. Josh has worked for his family’s stagecoach stop on the Santa Fe Trail for most of his life, but he’s far more bookish than his brawny brothers. It’s his book smarts that recently landed him a job in Windmill managing his uncle’s bank. Josh also looks after his niece and nephew who are living in Windmill to attend school. Josh loves spending time with them, but yearns for a family of his own.


Product Details:
List Price: $12.99
Series: Pioneer Promises (Book 2)
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (January 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603749624
ISBN-13: 978-1603749626

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

April 1873
St. Louis, Missouri
Sophie Davenport held back the curtain and peered out the front window, her heart jolting as a handsome man exited the carriage. He paid the driver, then turned and studied her house. He was taller and nicer looking than she’d expected. She dropped the curtain and stepped back, hoping he hadn’t seen her spying. She pressed her hands together and tapped her index fingers against her lips, unable to hold back her grin. Blake had finally arrived!
A knock of confidence, not apprehension, sounded at the main entrance. Sophie hurried to her bedroom door, which opened onto the main entryway, then held her breath and listened. Blake stood on her porch, introducing himself to the butler. Sophie could barely hold back her giddiness. She bounced on her toes as Blake told the butler he had an appointment with her. His voice, deeper than she’d imagined, floated through the open transom window above her like a beautiful cello solo at the symphony.
She patted her hair, hoping the humidity of the warm day hadn’t sent it spiraling in rebellious curls. The swish of silk accompanied her as she hurried across the room to the full-length oval mirror that stood in one corner. Pressing a hand over her chest to calm her pounding heart, she surveyed her deep purple gown. Was the fabric too dark? She’d chosen the violet silk taffeta because her brightly colored day dresses made her appear younger, but today, she wanted to look the twenty-two-year-old woman she was. Turning sideways, she checked her bustle and bow, making sure they were straight. Everything was as orderly as it could be. Would Blake like what he saw? Would he think her too short? Her light brown hair too nondescript?
Flicking a piece of lint off her bodice, she turned and faced the door. She would know soon enough. After more than a year of correspondence, Blake knew everything about her, and he had adamantly insisted that none of it mattered. He’d fallen in love with her through her enchanting missives, and he wanted her for his wife.
A vicious knock rattled the glass in the transom, and Sophie jumped. The apprehension racing through her was less about meeting Blake and more about the fact that she hadn’t told her parents about him. They would have cut off her correspondence faster than their gardener could lop off the head of a snake. But it was too late now. She attempted to swallow the lump lodged in her throat, but it refused to move.
Her mother walked in, her whole face pinched like a prune, and quickly closed the door. She stood there facing it for a long moment, her head down, then heaved a loud, exaggerated sigh.
Not a good sign.
Finally, her mother turned. “You have a guest, Sophia—a male guest.” One eyebrow lifted. “Would you care to explain to me how you are acquainted with this man, especially since neither your father nor I have ever met him?”
Sophie pressed a hand to her throat. She knew this wouldn’t be easy. “His name is Blake Sheppard. He and I have been corresponding for over a year.”
Her mother’s brown eyes widened. “A year? But how? I’ve never seen a letter from him in the mail.”
Ducking her head, Sophie stilled her hands and held them in front of her. “Ruthie sent and received them for me. Blake is her cousin—and a gentleman.”
“A gentleman doesn’t go behind the backs of a young woman’s parents to contact her.” Maintaining her stiff stance, her mother puckered her lips. “So, you’ve been deceiving your father and me?”
Wincing, Sophie turned toward the front window. “Would you have allowed me to correspond with Blake if I’d told you about him?”
“Proper ladies don’t exchange letters with men they’ve never been introduced to, and certainly not without parental approval.”
Drawing a steadying breath, Sophie turned to face her mother. She’d known this would be a battle. “Mother, please. Blake is a good man. Ask me anything about him.”
“There’s no need. We will go out to the parlor, share a cup of tea, and then you’ll make excuses that will send him on his way. Is that clear?”
Sophie gasped. “But he’s traveled so far, and I’ve waited so long to meet him.” She despised the pleading in her voice. Why couldn’t her parents let her grow up like her sister? A wheeze squeaked out of her throat. She had to stay calm. The last thing she wanted was to have an attack in front of Blake.
Her mother moved closer, her expression softening. She took Sophie’s hand. “You know how things are, dear. You had no business getting that young man’s hopes up.”
“That young man is my fiancé, Mother.”
“Fiancé—why, that’s absurd! You know you can’t lead a normal life.”
Closing her eyes, Sophie fought back tears. Why did her parents seek to limit her? Given the chance, she was certain she could be a proper wife and mother, but her parents just wanted to coddle her and keep her close. “You have to face the fact that I’m grown up. I want to live a normal life.” She hurried past her mother and reached for the door handle.
“But you are not normal, dear. Your father and I only want to protect you. We couldn’t bear to lose you, and you know we’ve come close to doing that very thing on several occasions.”
Sophie shuddered at the declaration. Her mother’s words rang in her ears: You are not normal. Yes, she had a breathing problem; but, as she’d gotten older, the spells had happened less often. Maybe in time, they’d go away altogether. Her parents were afraid to let her live as her sister did. If she didn’t get away from them, she’d become a spinster—if she wasn’t one already. She stiffened her back and pasted on a smile, trying to ignore the pain of her mother’s chastisement. Blake was waiting.
She opened the door and stepped into the entryway, her gaze searching for the man she’d dreamed about so many times. Blake stood in front of the parlor sofa, speaking with her father. He hadn’t noticed her yet.
“I’m sorry you’ve wasted your time traveling all this way, Mr. Sheppard,” her father said. “But, as I’ve already stated, my daughter is not in the habit of receiving male visitors.”
Blake’s eyebrows drew together, his shoulders slumping, as he looked down at the carpet. Sophie blew out several breaths and tried to calm herself, then hurried through the entryway into the parlor, avoiding her father’s glare. Her gaze latched onto Blake’s, and she saw the confusion in his hazel eyes. He offered a tentative smile. “Miss Davenport, a pleasure to finally meet you.”
She smiled, her cheeks warming, as she curtsied. “I’ve looked forward to this moment for a very long time.” She waved a hand toward her father, and noticed that her mother had followed her into the room. “I apologize, but I failed to tell my parents about your arrival.” Because I knew just how they would respond. “I fear they are both a bit surprised.” An understatement of mammoth proportions, if ever there was one.
Sophie gathered her courage and turned to her father. “I see you’ve met Blake, Father.” Her throat tightened at his stern stare. Another wheeze squeaked out. “B-Blake is my fiancé.”
Her father’s eyes widened, and his mouth dropped open. A pomegranate color climbed up his neck, turning his ears red. He turned his fiery gaze on Blake. “You presume a lot, young man. Did Sophie not inform you that she is not fully well? She is not in a position to accept an offer of marriage.”
Blake cleared his throat and straightened, as if he wasn’t ready to give up the battle. “Yes, sir, she told me, but I thought—” His gaze captured Sophie’s, and then he glanced at the floor again. He shuffled his feet, as if he were trying to figure out a new dance step. “I thought Sophie—uh, Miss Davenport—was free to make her own decisions, sir. I’m sorry that she failed to inform you of my interest in her.”
“Inform me?” Her father puffed up like a tom turkey whose hens were in danger. “A daughter doesn’t ‘inform’ a father that she is planning to marry a stranger. A decent fellow seeks permission before approaching a man’s daughter.”
Blake swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing. “I’m sorry, sir.”
As if an angry fist clutched Sophie’s throat, she felt it closing. She expelled a wheeze, and Blake shot a glance in her direction. Her father’s tirade blended with the words her mother had uttered, causing an ache within her so painful, she didn’t know if she could bear it. She was losing Blake, and they’d only just met. Was she doomed to live with her overprotective parents the rest of her life?
No!
She wouldn’t.
She’d fight for Blake. He was worth it.
She opened her mouth to defend her fiancé, but the sound that came out more resembled the bleat of an ailing goat than her own voice. Humiliation blistered her cheeks.
Blake took a step backward, away from her, his handsome face drawn in a scowl.
“You see, Mr. Sheppard, the slightest excitement can set off one of my daughter’s attacks.” Father turned to Sophie’s mother. “Ring for some coffee, if you will. It seems to help our Sophie’s spells.”
Spells. Attacks. What would Blake think?
Sophie held out her hand to him. Instead of taking it, he cast another worried glanced at her father. She sucked in another wheezy breath, struggling to stay clam in the midst of such turmoil. The room tilted. Sophie closed her eyes until the spinning stopped. All was silent for several long moments, except for her screeching breaths.
When her eyelids fluttered open, Blake met her gaze with an apology in his eyes. She knew in that moment she’d lost him.
He sighed. “Perhaps I have been too hasty. I sincerely apologize, Miss Davenport, but I must withdraw my offer of marriage. I hope you and your parents can forgive me for troubling you so.”
Tears stung Sophie’s eyes. She held out her hand again, hoping—praying—he’d take hold of it. “No, please—”
He skirted around her as if she were a leper, nodded to her mother, then snatched his hat off the hall tree and rushed out the door.
Sophie collapsed in the nearest chair and watched her dreams march down the sidewalk and out of sight. Tears blurred her vision as all hope of a future with Blake died. How could her parents be so cruel as to not even allow Blake to express his interest in her? How could they embarrass her so?
Her father walked to her and leaned over. “Try to calm down, Sophia.”
She jumped up so fast, her head almost rammed his chin. He stumbled backward. The room swerved as she struggled for a decent breath. “How c-could you, Father?”
A wave of guilt washed over his face. “It’s for your own good, you know.”
She clutched the end table for support for a moment, then stumbled past him.
He took her arm. “Here, let me help you, precious.”
“No! Please.” She yanked away. “I can…take care of…myself. I’m a grown woman, and you both need to f-face that fact.” She inhaled a decent breath and then charged on, by pure willpower. “I’m twenty-two and not your little girl anymore. Stop sheltering me…let me live my life. It’s mine to live, not yours to stifle.”
The flash of pain in her father’s eyes only made her feel worse. Her shoes tapped across the entryway as she hurried back to her room—the former library, where her parents had relegated her, as if she were a pariah. She shut the door and collapsed on her bed, wanting to cry but knowing that doing so would only make breathing harder. She slammed her fist against her pillow. “Why, God? Why can’t my parents let me grow up?”
She’d had such hopes. Thought that when her parents met Blake, they’d see what a quality man he was. But they hadn’t even given him a chance. Could she have been mistaken about him? She smacked the bed, a futile outlet for her frustrations and disappointments. Blake hadn’t bothered to fight for her one bit; he’d fled out the door the first chance he’d gotten. She’d tried to prepare him—to warn him about her episodes—but she must have failed.
She barked a cough that sounded like a seal she’d once seen at the menagerie in New York City’s Central Park. Sophie pushed up into a sitting position, in order to breathe better. Blinking, she attempted to force away her tears, but new ones came like the spring rains that flooded the banks of the Mississippi River. Why had God cursed her with this hateful condition?
The door opened, and her mother entered, carrying a tray. Coffee. She despised the foul-tasting stuff, but it was thought to be helpful to people with asthma, as were garlic, whiskey, and a number of other nasty-tasting concoctions.
“How are you, dear?”
Sophie slid back down on the bed and turned to face the wall. She didn’t want to talk—couldn’t talk.
“Don’t be that way. You need to drink this coffee.”
She shook her head.
“Turn over, Sophia.” Her mother’s tone left no room for refusal.
She obeyed but didn’t look at her mother. Instead, she started counting the thin, blue lines in the wallpaper—all nine hundred sixteen of them—as she’d done a thousand other times. Focusing on the task would keep her from weeping and from lashing out in anger.
Her mother blew out a loud breath, then held out the coffee cup. “Drink this.”
Sophie shook her head. “Doesn’t help.” She sucked in a breath, thankful that this episode was a mild one and already beginning to pass, in spite of the day’s traumatic events.
Her mother set the cup back on the tray with a loud clatter and stared across the room. “Whatever made you do such a thing? Don’t you know that young man must have spent hard-earned money to come here? Taken time away from his job, assuming he has one? You gave him false hopes, Sophia, and now he’s wasted a year of his life pursuing a woman he can never have.”
Sophie clenched her eyes shut, losing count of the lines. Did her mother not care that her heart was breaking?
Guilt nibbled its way into her mind like a mouse in a sack of grain. She hadn’t thought how things would affect Blake if they turned sour. She’d been so certain everything would work out in their favor. So certain that she could persuade her parents to let them marry, that she hadn’t considered the negative side. But her mother was right about one thing. Blake had taken leave from his job as bookkeeper for a shoe factory in Chicago so that he could travel to St. Louis to meet her. He had wasted his time and money to come here.
And it was all her fault.
She sucked in a sob.
Her mother patted her shoulder. “There, there. Things will work out.”
Yes, her father would go back to running his company. Her mother would attend her social clubs and church functions. Her sister would continue as a happily married wife and soon-to-be mother, while Sophie would continue her boring existence as a lonely spinster living in her parents’ home.
The bed lifted on one side as her mother stood and quietly left the room. After the door closed, Sophie sat up and stared out the window, at the very place she’d first seen Blake. She hated feeling sorry for herself, and she normally didn’t, but today, her emotions were raw.
She rose from the bed and crossed the room to her desk, where her Bible lay. She picked it up and hugged it to her chest as she gazed out at the garden. Bright yellow butterflies flitted from flower to flower. A big bumblebee disappeared in a clump of pink azaleas. The beauty of God’s creation never failed to cheer her, even on the saddest of days.
Sophie blew out a loud sigh. “Forgive me, Lord, if I’ve been selfish.” She hugged the Bible tighter. “But please, Father, make a way for me to break free from my parents. To prove to them—and to myself—that I can stand on my own. That I can take care of myself. And please, Lord, if it be Your will, send me a man someday who will love me for the woman I am and overlook my…flaws.”
Tears pooled in her eyes, and her throat tightened. “But if it is Your will for me to remain in my parents’ home and to never marry, help me to accept that and to be content.”
If that was the Lord’s will, He certainly had a monumental task ahead.

~~~~~~~~~~
My Review:
"Call of the Prairie" is a sweet, romantic story, with main characters who are regular people, not an overblown hero or heroine. Both Sophie and Josh have inadequacies or mediocrities in their lives to overcome. There are bits of humor (with children as supporting characters, that must be a given, yes?), as well as some drama and excitement. I never like to tell much more about a story, so as not to spoil it for the reader. I will say that if you enjoy gentle historical fiction, this should suit you well. If you are looking for extremely complex characters and plots, this will seem a little mellow to you. It wasn't a gripping page turner, but it was a good evening read. 

Blessings~







Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January~ Wisdom~ and.. Switching Gears in High School? (HAH MeetingNotes)

Once in a while I like to share some of our local homeschool meeting notes~ particularly when there are resources that I think might be helpful to some of my readers. This month was one of those meetings~ Let me know if these are useful to you!

We started the meeting with a "devotional" blog post from Sally Clarkson  that focused on nurturing Biblical wisdom in our lives and homes. I particularly appreciated this verse: 


We touched on the topics of switching gears mid-year (Even in high school???) with alternatives to traditional textbooks~ Some sites to explore (Most of these have resources for all grades, so there is something for everyone, but I wanted to emphasize a couple of the options for high school students: 

  • ALEKS for math (I know a number of colleges use their program, so it has a great reputation!) I reviewed it 6 years ago, so I don't know if it has changed much, but we were very impressed back then! (Lis' ALEKS Review)
  • Khan Academy (Mostly for Math and/or Science, although there are other subjects here as well) 

The final resource that was mentioned~ Master Books, an Imprint of New Leaf Publishing ~ If your high school student has completed the 2 lab sciences required for graduation (And possibly even if they haven't~ I haven't fully researched the options here), and would like an alternative to the typical textbook Physics, etc... this might be of interest to you (there are also courses for younger children, but the focus tonight was on the high school student).

I'm very excited about the potential of some of these courses, particularly for high-schoolers not headed for a career in the sciences, and those who would enjoy the opportunity to include Apologetics in their Science Studies!

Check out some of their Creation Science Apologetics courses: 

Survey of Science Specialties Curriculum (1 credit)
Survey of Astronomy (1 credit ~ 1 year)
Paleontology: Living Fossils (1/2 credit ~ 1 year)

These look so interesting! Have any of you used these particular Master Books Curriculum? I would love to hear about your experiences and impressions if you have! 

Blessings~



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