To Mom . . . well done!

Holidays always bring Mom to mind. She created plenty of food for seven of us, plus hired men all year long, but really outdid herself on holidays. Entertaining meant a lot to her, and she put forth a mind-boggling amount of effort to produce perfect turkey, dressing, gravy, homeland rolls and pies . . . the works.

We have it pretty easy now, in comparison. Mom’s old gas oven threatened to blow every time she squatted down to light the burners. I definitely remember that “poof!” For her, progressing to an electric one must have seemed like heaven.

At age nineteen, setting up housekeeping in a stark little frame farmhouse couldn’t have been easy, especially since she grew up in poverty and probably didn’t know a lot about stocking a kitchen. But she managed, and people eventually raved about her culinary skills. Oh, the pies . . . luscious crusts, enticing raspberry and peach and apple fillings. My cousin recalls FOOD as being a highlight when visiting us on the farm.

Tthat was due to Mom’s willingness to pour herself into cooking and baking. In the photo, she’s on the left, at about five years old. In adulthood she always had something perking, and wasn’t afraid to try new recipes that came along, like Baked Alaska. For an Iowa homemaker in the fifties, that really says a lot about risk-taking.

Now, our daughter consistently comes up with new recipe ideas, and our granddaughter has grown up knowing her way around the kitchen. This would make Mom proud, because it’s a good share of her legacy.

The men may have battled the elements to produce a corn and soybean harvest, but Mom fought her own forays in the kitchen. Making do came naturally to her, having survived the Depression years and World War II rationing.

This morning, I needed to make deviled eggs and was out of mayo, so an old cookbook provided a recipe for making my own. Really not complicated, but requiring a double boiler which I rarely use. The main ingredients, STANDING and STIRRING, brought Mom to mind once again. How many hours did she spend standing at the stove, mixing and tasting and adding a bit more spice, waiting and hoping for a positive outcome?

My addiction to the WWII era began in her kitchen, because she hummed or whistled or sang those touching tunes as she worked. And she let me help, too. Drew me right into her world, like a skilled artisan.

No doubt about it, Mom’s creations qualified as ART. Her hopes and dreams and aspirations came out in those baking powder biscuits, beef pot roasts, homemade noodles and chicken, and a myriad of other comfort foods. Homemade banana pudding, custard pie that Dad loved, and meringue that peaked as high as anyone’s.

I have to say that noticing the mayonnaise begin to thicken brought a wave of satisfaction this morning. Just one heaping tablespoon of flour mixed with 4 eggs, 1/2 cup of cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 2 tsp mustard, and 1/2 cup of Xylitol somehow caused this reaction. This mixture was fast becoming a creation. (You can make it w/regular sugar, of course, and use GF flour if you wish.)

Who we are today goes way back, doesn’t it? Who we have become, rooted in what was, makes a good place to visit once in a while.

May your holidays exude a touch of the nostalgia that makes you into such a unique person in this world hungry for individuality and creativity! And may you find time to stand and stir.

Bringing the Book Baby Home

Nothing like welcoming a debut author with her new release! Cheri Dargan, an IOWA author, is offering a paperback copy of THE GIFT to a commenter. (It’s a WWII story…and the beginning of a saga…you’ll like it!)

Cherie, here you go!

I’ve been waiting for the past six months for my novel to be published. There’s no nursery to paint or stacks of onesies to wash and arrange neatly in a bureau. No need to stock the freezer, buy several boxes of disposable diapers, arrange stuffed animals in a room, or assemble a new crib. However, the experience feels familiar from two pregnancies. 

When I got the word that I could order books, I was excited, but it didn’t seem real. I developed several presentations to give at book talks and put together my first newsletter. I was running errands when the baby arrived on Oct. 21st. My husband sent me a text with a picture of four medium-sized boxes stacked up on our bench outside the front door. 

When I got home, I brought the boxes in and opened one, my heart beating fast. I lifted out a book and examined it, smiling. My husband took pictures of me holding the book. I sent them out to friends and family in a text and my sister said, “it’s beautiful!” I agreed. It’s a girl! The Gift, born October 21st at 8 ½ by 5 ½ inches and weighing 12.83 ounces. A week later, the hardbound edition arrived, and we admired its beautiful cover like adoring parents.  

One of my daughter’s friends read the book and posted a review. “I just finished reading your book and I just thought it was wonderful! I loved all the Iowa and Midwest references, and I really enjoyed the characters and the story. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series! Congratulations!”

And I thought, “She likes it! She likes our book baby. She wants to read Book Two!” Book Two is ready for Beta readers, and I have a few lined up. Then, as I juggle book events for book One, and get Book Two ready for publication, I need to get back to Book Three, which needs more development. 

Suddenly, I feel like a busy young mother, wiping her hands on the apron from doing dishes, checking on the baby, refereeing a squabble between the twins, and patting her pregnant belly. So far, I’ve written Books one through Five for the Grandmother’s Treasures series. It’s going to be fun to bring home all the babies!

Stay in touch with Cherie here:

Cherie Dargan  Author’s Site.

Measuring and mixing and stirring

A snowy day in Northern Iowa. When we needed to postpone our journey to Arizona for a couple of weeks, Lance coped by cleaning out the basement. A man of action…

I’m engaging in as much action as possible, too. Thankfully, writing historical fiction involves intense research and a lot of thinking and mixing, like the fabulous muffins I stirred up today. Might as well use up the ingredients in my cupboards…might as well make them healthy and attractive while I’m at it.

Might as well enjoy one piping hot from the oven and laced with melted butter, right?

For me, life’s small pleasures include steaming cups of tea whenever possible. Accompany those cups with heaping doses of reading, writing, baking, and as much exercise as my body can handle at any given time. I add this, of course, because in both of my recent falls, I was EXERCISING to stay healthy. Oh, the irony life hands us!

Anyway, today it hit me that baking and putting together a story have a lot in common. You amass ingredients, not sure which you’ll use in the long run, but at least this gives a general idea about what your character will endure…or enjoy…or simply meet along life’s path.

Here’s the basic mix, a conglomerate of

1/2 cup softened butter
scant 3/4 cup dry xylitol
2 large eggs
2 cups gluten-free flour mix 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup applesauce

And then I decided to include…. Famous last words. My mother-in-law used to marvel at my capacity to add and subtract ingredients at will. Well, it’s kind of like the taking-and-giving that come into our earthly lives. Win some, lose some, as they say.

It’s also quite like the way a story comes together for me. The character appears, I search out details about what his or her life might have been like, and the tale unfolds. Sometimes my proclivity for detail gets in the way, and I have to take out some scenes…too much can be too. much. Right now, with this particular story, I’m still in the adding phase. We’ll see how it goes.

For this afternoon’s baking, I merely added. Chopped sunflower seeds and almonds. Dried cranberries sweetened with fruit juice, not refined sugar), some raw unsweetened coconut–I love the texture this adds, not to mention the fiber. A few pinches of chia seeds provides a defining crunch.

And let’s see…is that it for this time? I might have chosen a little drained pineapple for tang, but that portion of the cupboard lies bare. When I have the leisure, I allow these decisions to develop over a reasonable time. I can bake in a hurry, thanks to my mom, who could, in a flash, whip up something to stave off hunger for several hired farm workers. I’m grateful for the way she instilled “kitchen confidence” in me.

But at times it’s nice to bake slowly. Today I started this recipe just after lunch and let it sit for awhile. The chia seeds occurred to me just before the oven reached the correct temperature. Yes, I do go with the prescribed temperature–changing that is usually a bridge too far, sort of like altering historical details in historical fiction. Nope.

Right now, the muffins, melding into my kind of tasty treat, are looking awfully good.

It won’t be long and my taste buds will be extra happy. Me gusto! Little-by little, I’m also studying the lovely Spanish language, perfect for this story set in Texas Hill Country, 1942. When I consider how much researching LAND THAT I LOVE taught me, I can’t help but be a little excited. So much to learn from the past–so many ways it instructs the present.

Okay, the count is in. YUM! And just in case you need it, bake these at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

Passage – Veterans’ Day/Thanksgiving

Around the turn of the century, my grandmother came to a tiny Iowa town to work in the grocery store. We have only a dark photo showing her inside the establishment, but it’s possible to imagine how things went the day my Grandpa, a local would-be farmer, walked in and met her.

With no scrapbooks dating that far back, the details have been left up to our imaginations. Still, the wedding photograph below reflects positivity, especially compared with some stern-faced one from this era. Knowing this couple in their later years, I can picture a not-so-instant falling-in-love.

By the time I hung around their farm as a teen, the opposite aspects of their personalities stood out. Invariably, Grandpa shivered and turned the thermostat up. Grandma promptly turned it down. Just one small but constant action taking place in their everyday lives each winter.

But they agreed on many points. Work hard and whatever you do, do NOT waste a penny. At the end of each long day, go to your rest with hope for the new day coming.

They had worked nonstop to make a life here, having lost a farm during the Great Depression and earned back the land through intense physical labor. Grandma knew work from the age of eleven, when her mother died and she hired out to clean other people’s houses. This couple also produced six children–five girls and my father.

During my youth, these aunts and uncles came ’round for the holidays and brought cousins to play with. By then, this farm family survived World War II as well, with their only son/brother serving four long years. So much for the “only son of a family farmer” exemption.

Across the nation, a similar story played out among family after family. But many of them lost the son or sons and daughters they sent off to war. As Veterans’ Day approached, and Thanksgiving, many an empty place was set at the table.

It’s that time of year. I’m pausing to remember and be grateful for the sacrifices made, and for all the good we enjoy today.


Susan Thogerson Maas joins us today with her two Middle-Grade Fiction novels. Growing up in the rainy, green state of Oregon, she loved to wander through the woods, discovering new wildflowers and birds. Her second favorite place was lying on the front lawn, lost in a book about nature or faraway lands. She still loves camping, hiking, and photography, as well as traveling to places she’s never seen before–life should always be an adventure!

Susan is offering a copy of each of her books, readers’ choice of paperback or e-book, to two different commenters.

Why Adults Can Enjoy Middle Grade Fiction

By Susan Thogerson Maas

What books did you most love as an elementary child? Older folks like me might remember classics like Anne of Green Gablesby L.M. Montgomery or The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis or perhaps A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. For me, that list would also include the complete list of Black Stallion books by Walter Farley—even though they are not exactly classics.

More recent books liable to become classics might be Wonder by R.J. Palacio, The Giver by Lois Lowry, or Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. While these books vary greatly in subject matter, they all have thought-provoking situations and themes that run deep. And that makes them just as meaningful for adults as for children.

Reasons to Read Middle Grade Books

Why not just stick to adult books? Why should adults bother to read middle grade (MG) novels? Here are a few reasons.

1. They are faster reads. Usually MG books are shorter than books meant for adults. Some can be read in a day or two, perfect for a short vacation, a long plane ride, or a couple of days in bed with the flu. And the language level will be a bit lower so you can understand it easily, even in a noisy airplane or with illness-induced brain fog. It won’t require as much concentrated effort as, say, a James Michener saga.

2. They can help you see things from a kid’s point of view. MG books cover a wide range of topics and issues. Divorce, sibling rivalry, bullying, low self-image, disabilities, conservation, war and peace—the list goes on. My first book, Picture Imperfect, is about a girl trying to find her God-given gift while dealing with a difficult aunt. And the heroine of Abbie’s Woods: Defending the Nest struggles against a bully and has parents who constantly bicker. Reading about such issues in a middle grade book may help parents (or grandparents) understand how children feel when caught up in difficult situations. 

3. They can make you feel like a kid again. Childhood has its problems, to be sure, but it is also a time of innocence and wonder. Remember what it felt like to lie on your back on the grass and watch the stars come out overhead? Or to catch the season’s first snowflakes on your tongue? Anne of Green Gables is a great example of a book with joy and wonder—mixed in with other emotions, of course. When you feel depressed and jaded from life, pick up a children’s book and return to that time in your mind. Reread your childhood favorites and try out some new children’s authors, as well.

Actually, writing Abbie’s Woods took me back to my childhood. Although the book is fiction, the woods are real. We lived next to them when I was growing up. There I learned to identify birds and wildflowers and came to appreciate the wonder of God’s creation. I hope I captured a little of that magic in the book.

4. They can take you to new worlds. MG books, especially today, are incredibly diverse. They cover every time period, including the future, as well as varied cultures and countries.  Books by Jacqueline  Woodson show what it’s like to be a black child growing up in America. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman shows an example of people from many cultures working together to improve their neighborhood. In All the Ways Home by Elsie Chapman, a boy is sent to live with his father in Japan and ponders the meaning of family. And of course, books like A Wrinkle in Time or the The Chronicles of Narnia take us to imaginary worlds—but with a Christian message.

5. They can rekindle hope. Books written for adults can sometimes be discouraging. They may have depressing or ambiguous endings. While that may be true to life—things certainly don’t always go as we would like, and our best-laid plans can fail—reading such a book may leave a bad taste in our mouth. Most middle grade books, however—even those that cover difficult subjects—end in hope. There will be a lesson learned, perhaps a new friend made, and a feeling that things will be okay. Bird, Horse, and Muffin by Susan D. Hill is an example of a book where everything possible goes wrong for the main character. And yet God works through her uncle to restore her faith and hope. 

My own books will always end in hope. In Picture Imperfect, JJ may not win the photo contest and her dream camera, but she begins to understand the faith of her great-grandmother and make it her own. In Abbie’s Woods, Abbie faces her parents’ possible divorce and the destruction in her wooded sanctuary. However, with the help of an older neighbor, she draws closer to God and learns the power of forgiveness.

So why not take a break from your usual genre and try something new—or revisit something from your childhood? Read some good middle grade books and share them with children you love. You will all be richer for the experience


Website: Adventures in Wonder:

Facebook author page:



Link to buy books:

Sign up for  Susan’s newsletter, with inspirational thoughts, nature photography, and activity ideas for kids/families. When you sign up, you receive a free pdf book entitled: “Hands On, Brains Active: Learning Adventures for Kids”. .

My Brother Javi

Tracy Stopler’s story brought up lots of questions for me. Dog lovers out there may have already thought these through, but ponder is good. Here, she shares with us her perspective on human-animal relationships. If you love animals, you will really enjoy this book!

And what a unique giveaway she’s offering–your puppy could become famous! Read all about it!

If you are a book reader, dog lover, and interested in reading about dogs, I can add your puppy (or someone else’s) to My Brother Javi before you purchase the book. If interested, please send me (via Facebook PM) your puppy’s headshot photo, name and age, I will add him/her to the updated Thanksgiving paperback edition of My Brother Javi. It also makes a great gift for someone else’s pup. ???

Have to add that Tracy’s a nutritionist…and here’s a photo of a cookie from her culinary creations.

The depth of “human” emotions in canines…do they have a sense of humor? I would swear that my dogs laugh. Only a dog parent would understand. I can throw my little Bella up in the air, catch her, and believe I hear her say, “More, more.” With Binah, a bit older and a bit heavier, I play, “tickle, tickle,” and again, I hear her saying something like, “Oh, Mommy, you are so silly, ha, ha, ha!”  
The degree to which a human-pet relationship can bring healing? I can share first-hand that Javi was my first dog, and since then I have learned to take life less seriously. I have laughed more and cried less. I now share space with Binah (who is a ten-year-old Havanese) and Bella (who is a rambunctious two-year-old Aussie doodle) and I no longer look for material things to bring me joy, unless it’s toys or treats for my fur-kids. 
What motivated you to write this story? When Javi passed away in 2011 I didn’t know how to channel my grief. At the time I was writing my debut novel, The Ropes That Bind  and decided to weave Javi into the story. Doing that actually empowered me. After that book was published in 2016, I immediately started writing My Brother Javi: A Dog’s Tale. I wanted to tell this story in Javi’s voice. By this time Binah had joined the family and it felt right. I absolutley loved being in their heads, or at least pretending to be. I’m smiling now just thinking about that writing process. I had so much fun. 
Any obstacles encountered along the way?  I don’t know if I would call them obstacles, but there was that difficult-to-write-section where I couldn’t stop crying and then the ending, oh, geez. But I truly feel that my emotions made the editing process better. It made me feel connected to Javi, and write with him rather than about him.  
Do you see Javi/Binah making a difference in this old hurting world?   Well, for starters, Binah was a gift from Java. The dream in the story was true, but what was too unbelievable to write was that someone (a stranger) brought Binah (her name was Oreo at the time) to my home asking if I can rescue her. She was black and white the way she appeared in my dream. I took that as a sign. I changed her name to Binah because Binah means understanding in Hebrew, and that was exactly what I had been searching for.

So, Binah provided some understanding and immediately changed my life. Soon after Binah made herself at home, the two of us started visiting senior citizens. Any dog lover will tell you that dogs have the gift of magically erasing lonliness. During COVID I was fostering Bella. It was supposed to be a foster, I mean I was actively seeking a home for her, but, I, huh, guess I failed.

That little one has kept me on my toes, not to mention, contributed to my torn ACL two years ago, and my broken toe two days ago. She is lucky that she is so cute. LOL! Everyone in the neighborhood loves them and, so yes, my girls, and dog (pets) in general are here to help people heal so people can become their best and make their contribution to beautify this world. 

TRACY STOPLER, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, with a Master of Science in Nutrition from New York University, and the nutrition director at NUTRITION E.T.C. in Plainview, Long Island. Tracy has been an adjunct nutrition professor at Adelphi University for 25 years and teaches workshops on Mind/Body Medicine. Tracy is the author of two award-winning novels: The Ropes that Bind and My Brother Javi: A Dogs Tale. Look for her next novel, We All Fall Down in 2023. 

To watch the one-minute book trailer for My Brother Javi: are invited to watch the two-minute book trailer for The Ropes That Bind
Tracy’s 14-minute TEDx talk

Connect with Tracy:

Tracy Stopler
Amazon Author Link


Facebook Author/Baker link

Tracy Stopler, M.S.,R.D.President, NUTRITION ETC, Inc. Plainview, New York
Nutrition Professor, Adelphi UniversityGarden City, New York
Award-winning author, The Ropes That

Award-winning author, My Brother Javi: A Dog’s Tale

<Javi Book Award Feathered Quill.jpg><Tracy and Binah.jpg>

Writing Reviews and Poems and Novels, oh MY!

Authors love receiving reviews, that’s for sure! During the past two weeks, we’ve been delighted that so many of our ARC readers really enjoyed our new HILL COUNTRY CHRISTMAS.

One of our reviewers, Cathy Fiorello, came to my attention through an online writers’ workshop last summer and we kept corresponding. Since then, I’ve read some of her work, and recently, Cathy’s review of A H ill Country Christmas/Hope for Hardscrabble Times caught my attention, perhaps because I can relate to being an “outsider” and finding Texas history so intriguing.

See what you think:

A Hill Country Christmas – Amazon review

I’m not a Texan, y’all. I’m an East Coast, New England, city girl. I’m not a history buff, and I never knew what a topsy-turvy doll was. But I was sent a copy of A Hill Country Christmas – Hope for Hardscrabble Times, with the possibility of writing a review of it. Here’s my personal opinion of this book: it’s lovely. It made me feel wistful for something I’ve never known.

Most of the stories were written about a simpler time when people worked harder than I do and went through more random sorrow than I’ve gone through. But there was a dignity to their lives, their faith, and the way they loved. 

The book contains seventeen stories about happenings in the great land of Texas, arranged chronologically from 1835 to 2021. Reading them gave me a respite from the disillusionment of the post-modern age of information I live in.  I said respite instead of escape because a respite can produce growth instead of numb avoidance. The book made me want to change – slow down, appreciate nature, my family, savor a slow cup of coffee. It made me want to really listen to people – something that doesn’t always happen in my break-neck life. 

Favorite stories: A Castroville Christmas Eve, The Made-over Christmas, Christmas Conundrum, The Deer Hunters’ Ball, and Lo Nuestro.Read it for Christmas, or when it’s hot out. It will help you lean into kindness and simplicity.

Putting extra thought into these phrases…wistful for something I’ve never known…lean into kindness and simplicity…shows a literary writer at work. That word “literary” means delving a bit deeper by seeking unique phrases to clarify or define one’s meaning, thus creating vivid images for the reader.

Cathy also writes novels and poetry–a traditional publisher recently requested the full manuscript of her debut novel. I expect we’ll soon be hearing more from this Northeastern girl!

Connect with Cathy on FaceBook or at


Recently someone asked what success looked iike to me. This was on a blog following an amazing book launch to Texas Hill Country, the setting of my latest work.

In the process of collecting Christmas stories from the Hill Country, an area where pioneers had to work extra hard to eke out a living, I met four other authors–or would-be ones. And this connection revealed the answer to the success question.

Success doesn’t mean entering a contest and winning, even one held by a large writing organization. Success doesn’t mean a huge check coming every month. Success means far more than either of these.

The satisfaction gleaned from two new authors thriled at seeing their names in print equals success. Honestly, this parallels the joy of releasing another novel.

Lynn Dean, who drove most of the way and toted a WHOLE lot of books, Dr. Gina Lister, a debut fiction author, moi, and Shannon McFarland, our other debut author, who carried boxes of books, drove through wild country, and cheered us all. SO GREAT to be together!

Here is the purchase link for A HILL COUNTRY CHRISTMAS/Hope for Hardscrabble Times:

Success is all about connecting with others and helping make their dreams come true. It’s about working together to produce a quality read that will encourage and delight and cheer readers, all the while showing what we can learn through the incredible history woven through these stories.

From the lady seated next to me on the flight to Texas to my seat mate on the way back, I found history lovers (: Now, back to this north country bedecked with autumn beauty! (Asters picked in our back yard.)

Challenges of Chronic Illness

A few weeks ago, I met Hannah Wingert at the Preston, MN library and learned that besides being a mother of four and working at the library, she’s written a book published last year. After reading this non-fiction wealth of encouragement for those navigating debilitating illnesses, especially during their parenting years, I’m astounded Hannah found the time and energy to devote to writing.

Her story and suggestions about living with the emotional and physical challenges of chronic illness most likely have something to say to just about any reader, whether in their parenting years or not. I know I could relate as someone in recovery from a couple of accidents.

I learned a new term… Spoonie. Have some of you already heard of this? (Notice the spoons on the cover.)

Hannah agreed to an interview and is offering a paperback copy of her book, Yet Will I Praise Him to a commenter here. Perhaps her perspective ignites questions for you–please feel free to ask her, and also please share this post widely, as she desires to help as many readers as possible. Thanks!


How is coping with a chronic disease different from other challenges you see people face?

It really isn’t. Most people face challenges at some point in their lives and the way we handle them boils down to “will I let this make me bitter or better?” The truths of God’s Word apply to all circumstances and struggles.

How did you decide your book would focus on moms?

After receiving my diagnosis of EDS, I decided to look for a book about being a mom with a chronic illness from a faith based perspective to help me deal with my new reality, but couldn’t find any. So, I decided to write one because I figured that if I was looking for something like that, other moms might be too.

What is the most practical, helpful daily advice you have been given along the way?

Honestly, I don’t even remember who told me this, but the most helpful advice I ever received was to take one step at a time and just get through the next thing in front of you. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and anxious about what’s coming, or the unknowns, or even how much I have on my to-do list and how little energy I have to accomplish it.

But if I focus on just getting through that difficult, pain-filled day, or that first thing on my to-do list, I can keep from falling apart. Shortly after someone gave me that advice, I happened to read Matthew 6 and the last verse in that chapter (verse 34) says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” It cemented for me how good that advice really was!     

What would you say to someone who has just discovered they have a long road ahead of dealing w/a chronic illness?  

Allow yourself to go through the stages of grief. Learn as much as you can about your condition because often patients have to be the experts when the doctors are not. Connect with others going through similar struggles for support and give yourself grace on those bad days. 


What is it about chai lattes that has you hooked?

I’ve never liked coffee so quite a few years ago, when I was at a coffee shop with my mom, she urged me to try a chai latte. I took one sip and was hooked! Some people have to have their coffee everyday, but for me it’s a chai latte. 

The link to purchase Hannah’s book:

Tough Times–Tough Folks!

First published in

Hope for Hardscrabble Times -A Hill Country Christmas FB page

I love introducing people–this old world has so many cool individuals. Today, please meet an extremely creative young person with ideas and art popping all of the time. How do I know this? She’s my grandaughter Cora Joy, known in our family for nearly seventeen years now as Cora Baby. And what a sweetheart she is!

Here’s her latest wall art, and she’s an athlete, too. At the opening volley game a couple of weeks ago, she tweaked her left knee—yep, this girl who has yearned for the beginning of the season, practiced all winter to hone her skills . . . I have been proud of her many, many times, but never more than now, when she’s come upon some hardscrabble times.

But like the heroes and heroines of the stories in our Hill Country Christmas Collection, she knows how to hang in there. To make do. To bring advantage out of disadvantage.

We can’t wait until she can play again, but going to her games still perks us up. She’s ALL THERE, regardless of adverse circumstances. Cheering her teammates on, greeting each member who comes off the floor, totally present in the moment. Reminds me of several of our characters, folks from various eras who faced war, pestilence, pandemic, and a host of other personal trials with spunk (to borrow a WWII term.)

So our family is cheering for Cora…and the authors of our Christmas Collecction are cheering right up to release day, October 1, too. May each of our tales brighten the homes of readers everywhere and provide examples of facing down obstacles with SPIRIT.

Who in your present or past knows how to look tough times in the eye and keep on movin’ ahead? Please share about one of them here!