Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review of "The Governess of Highland Hall"

Julia Foster has spent the last twelve years in India. Because of her father’s health, she and her parents are forced to return to England. Because of a need for money Julia is forced to find work as a governess. While she enjoys her work, not everything at Highland Hall is as it should be. The Baronet William Ramsey has some financial difficulties of his own. Will Julia be a help or a hindrance?

Readers who enjoy period books set in England, especially those by Lawana Blackwell, will enjoy this one as it has a similar style and feel.

I really enjoyed reading this story. One of the things I enjoyed was the characters, their differences, and how they worked them out. They were realistic and there were just the right number to keep up with. Another aspect I appreciated was that it was a truly clean read. It seems that lately I pick up a book that is labeled as Christian fiction only to be disappointed by inappropriate scenes and language. I don’t want to see or hear situations like that in real life let alone in what I’m reading.

A special thanks goes out to Carrie Turansky for sending me a copy of her book! I love getting to read books before other people! This book has earned a permanent place on my bookshelf.

This book will be out October 15th. You can click below to pre-order a kindle or a print copy on Amazon.

   Kindle            Print

Watch the trailer:


Born and raised in Oregon, my heart longs for tall evergreens, the rugged Oregon Coast, and the pristine Cascade Mountains. . but I presently live in beautiful, but very flat, central New Jersey. This is the Garden State, so we enjoy shopping at our local farmers’ market for sweet corn and juicy tomatoes or picking strawberries, blueberries, and peaches at local farms. We are close to Princeton University, Philadelphia, and New York City, so we sometimes take day trips in and enjoy museums, plays, and touring around.

I am married to Scott and we have five great kids, two lovely daughters-in-law, a wonderful son-in-law, and three adorable grandchildren. My roles of wife, mother, and grandma are very rewarding and fulfilling for me. Scott and I partner in ministry at Calvary Chapel Living Hope, a church we helped plant along with a team of hardworking, Jesus-following friends. Our ministry at Calvary has been very gratifying and exciting for us. We feel blessed to have the privilege of serving the Lord with these dear friends. If you would like to know more about Calvary Chapel Living Hope you may visit our website at http://www.takejesushome.com.

My husband is the author of several great parenting books filled with practical insight and godly wisdom. We invite you to visit our ministry website for parenting tips, articles, resources and much more. That web site is http://www.biblicalparenting.org.

I have been writing since 1999 and have published several articles, short stories, devotions, and essays. Writing fiction is my passion, and I thank the Lord for all the creative ideas and characters He puts in my mind and heart. I am very thankful for friends and family who have believed in me and encouraged me on my writing journey.

When I’m not writing you will find me enjoying time with my family, working outside in my flower gardens, cooking healthy meals for family and friends, or walking around the lake near our home.

You can connect with Carrie and order her books on her website at http://carrieturansky.com/index.php/books/.

Running Through Raindrops

 I have a special guest today. Please welcome author Lori Elliot. I was able to ask Lori a few questions about her family and her writing life.

Tell us about your book

Running Through the Raindrops … Finding Joy in the Chaos of Raising Kids is a collection of stories about my four children, Drew, Caleb, Ethan and Emma. They are stories that tell the challenges and struggles my husband, Dwight, and I have faced while parenting twins, a special needs child and a teenager. The stories are entertaining and relatable to not only moms, but to dads, grandparents and even those without children. They are stories that look at life through the eyes of a child and show you how to appreciate the humor, joy and excitement that can be found in the daily chaos.

What made you decide to write it?

I had several friends and family that encouraged me to publish a book but I think the thing that made me seriously consider publishing was when my blog, www.playdoughintheparsonage.com was recognized as "freshly pressed" on Wordpress.com. This recognition really generated a lot of traffic to my blog (almost 2,000 visitors in one day) and helped me to realize that even those who didn't know our family really enjoyed reading the stories I posted on my blog. Running Through the Raindrops is a compilation of "best of" stories from both of my blogs.

Did you learn anything from writing it?
I never realized all the work it takes to make your writing into “a real live book” (as my kids call it). But anything in life that’s worth doing takes time, energy and patience. When you are done, and you see the final product, it is an awesome feeling and it makes it all worthwhile. I also learned that it is important to have a good editor to help you proofread, organize and format your book.

What books have most influenced your life most?

I’d have to say the most obvious book would be the Bible. It is a book that I have been reading all my life. Other books that have influenced my writing have been books written by mothers like Choosing to SEE, by Mary Beth Chapman, humorous books by Christian writers like Anita Renfroe and Patsy Clairmont and I really enjoyed The Desperate Pastors’ Wives series by Ginger Kolbaba.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I think I would consider Anita Renfroe a mentor and someone who inspired me to start writing and speaking in public. She was also a pastor’s wife and the first time I saw her at a Women of Faith conference I laughed so hard and related to so much of what she said about motherhood. I read all her books and I just loved her honesty and humor. It inspired me to start writing and that’s around the time I started my first blog, www.playdoughintheparsonage.com

What are your current projects?

I am working on my next book due out in 2014. It focuses on our middle son, Caleb, who has autism and is non-verbal. The book details our journey over the past ten years since Caleb was diagnosed with autism and the battles we have had to fight with the insurance companies, school systems and other obstacles facing parents of special needs children.

 Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I never really thought I was a good writer. I am a horrible speller and I had never really written much until four or five years ago. I joined Facebook to catch up with some old friends from high school and I started posting funny things my kids would say or do. It enjoyed hearing responses from others on Facebook and I had lots of encouragement to write more. I started my first blog, Playdough in the Parsonage (www.playdoughintheparsonage.com) in 2010 as a therapeutic outlet and to connect with other moms. I would write about motherhood with honesty and humor and try to point out ways to find joy in the chaos of raising kids. I was surprised to find out that I not only had moms reading my blog, but also dads and grandparents too. In 2011, I started my second blog, Caleb's Voice (www.calebsvoice.com). It focuses on raising a child with special needs and celebrating the progress in communication that Caleb has made over the past few years. I have been able to connect with other parents of special needs children through calebsvoice.com and it has been a great support system in our journey in raising Caleb. If you would have told me five years ago that I would be publishing a book and doing public speaking engagements to raise awareness of autism, I would have told you that you were crazy. I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined I’d be where I am today. By following God’s leading and plan for my life I have discovered new talents and gifts I never knew I had.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I have trouble just writing freestyle and putting all my thoughts down on paper. I tend to want to re-read and edit each paragraph as I go along instead of writing everything out and then going back over what I have written and editing. The result of this is that I am a very slow writer. It can take me hours to write one blog post. I really enjoy writing though so I don’t mind spending the time – I just need more hours in a day!

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

One of the most challenging aspects for me was picking a title and picking the cover art. There were a lot of good options and it was hard to decide on which one would be best. I had an awesome editor to work with and she helped tremendously. I could have never done it without her!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Parenting is hard and sometimes you feel like you are “doing it wrong” because you look around at other mother’s and they seem to have it all together while you feel like you are up to your eyeballs in dirty dishes and unfolded laundry. I wrote this book to help mothers find the humor in the chaos of motherhood and to realize they are not alone. I hope the "takeaway" from Running Through the Raindrops is that although life doesn't always go the way we've planned it, that is not necessarily a bad thing. God knows was is best for us and if we follow his path and listen for his guidance, we will be surprised at how he will bless us in ways we could never have imagined.

Lori's Blogs: www.playdoughintheparsonage.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/playdoughintheparsonage

Paperback books can be purchased on Amazon. Ebooks available for Nook, Kobo or Kindle (soon to be available as iBook)

Author bio -
Lori Elliott and her husband, Dwight, were high school sweethearts. They just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary last month and both share the same sense of humor and love of chocolate. Although she and Dwight planned on having three children, God had a different plan, and were blessed with four children, three boys and one girl. There is a 12-year-old son, Caleb, who has autism and is non-verbal. Then there are the twins, Emma and Ethan, who are 10. They act like an old married couple, and are often referred to as "Fred and Ethel". The oldest son, Drew, just turned 16 last month and is driving now, which has been a very "interesting" experience in parenting! "As you can see, my life has not gone the way I planned it - God had a different plan for our family. It’s been an overwhelming and chaotic few years, but the joy we have found makes all the craziness seem worthwhile. My new motto is 'Laugh more, worry less, and remember that God has everything under control.'"

Author bio

Lori Elliott and her husband, Dwight, were high school sweethearts. They just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary last month and share the same sense of humor and love of chocolate. Although she and Dwight planned on having three children, God had a different plan, and were blessed with four children, three boys and one girl. There is 12-year-old son, Caleb, who has autism and is non-verbal. Then there are twins, Emma and Ethan, who are 10. They act like an old married couple and are lovingly referred to as "Fred& Ethel". The oldest son, Drew, just turned 16 last month and is driving now, which has been a very "interesting" experience in parenting! Her life has not gone the way she planned it - God had a different plan for her family. "It’s been an overwhelming and chaotic few years, but the joy we have found makes all the craziness seem worthwhile. My new motto is 'Laugh more, worry less, and remember that God has everything under control.'"

Monday, July 15, 2013

Southern Fried Sushi

Book Club Monday

Starting today, every second Wednesday of the month will be Book Club Wednesday. I belong to a book club at my church and read a lot of really good books that I want to share with you. Reading is relaxing. It takes you to another world, if you’re looking to escape the one you’re in.  Reading is also educational, even for us adults. I can’t tell you the number of things I learn just from reading books.
We read a lot of Christian fiction so that is what most of the Book Club blogs will focus on.
The first Book Club book to be on the blog is Southern Fried Sushi by Jennifer Rogers Spinola. I have to admit, I started this one I had to stop and read a review book. The plots started out very similar and I thought I was going to surely get them mixed up. But after finishing them both I didn’t. While there were a couple of things I wish Spinola had researched a little more for accuracy, I am probably just being picky. No one else may notice.
Here is a summary of the book from Amazon – “Ride the rollercoaster of Shiloh Jacobs’s life as her dreams derail, sending her on a downward spiral from the heights of an AP job in Tokyo to penniless in rural Virginia. Trapped in a world so foreign to her sensibilities and surrounded by a quirky group of friends, will she break through her hardened prejudices before she loses those who want to help her? Can she find the key to what changed her estranged mother’s life so powerfully before her death that she became a different woman—and can it help Shiloh too?”
I did really enjoy the book. I especially enjoy the fact that God was throughout the book and not just plopped in in places so it could be categorized as Christian fiction. This is a great summer read if you’re looking for something with a little bit of meat, but not so deep that it hurts your brain.
Click on the link below to purchase directly from Amazon.


Friday, July 12, 2013

The Purple Party

Flashback Friday
Adding to the lazy, hazy days of my childhood summers was my brother’s birthday. This post is in honor of him as he celebrates yet another birthday this month.
I know that during Bible times purple was the color of royalty, but I don’t think there was anything royal about my brother’s birthday party one year. Usually kids’ birthday parties have a theme, however, it isn’t often that the theme of a boy’s party is the color purple.  But that is just what happened one year for Billy.  There was purple Kool-Aid and purple ice cream. Mom thought that black raspberry ice cream was a good idea.  It was very tasty and very purple!
Most of Billy’s friend from the neighborhood came.  There was Greg, who when I was about eight years old, had a crush on.  I did my best to get his attention.  I wore my “Hug a kid today” and “Loveable” t-shirts, hoping he would do as the t-shirts told him to.  He paid me attention all right.  He would tie my pigtails in knots!
Another of Billy’s guests was Matt.  Matt had many amazing talents.  It was during that purple party when Matt was showing off one of his more impressive talents; shoving his whole fist in his mouth.  His prominent buckteeth allowed more room for more of his hand.  He was proud of the fact that he could fit his hand all the way up to his wrist!  When food was being served in our house, he always seemed to show up and hope there was extra for him.  I guess that’s one of the setbacks of having a mother who is a good cook.  Mom used to joke about the fact that every time she cracked ice cubes for her iced tea, Matt would show up in about two minutes. 
Apparently, Matt being able to shove his fist in his mouth was humorous to the other boys because one of them started laughing so hard he laughed his purple Kool-Aid right out of his nose, adding purple snot to the party decorations. 

After the purple snot, Mom sent everyone outside so she could clean up the mess before Billy opened his presents.  While the boys were outside, they all decided it was time for Billy’s birthday spanking.  He was not a willing participant at all.  While one of the boys went across the street to get a board from the dilapidated barn to use as a paddle, the other boys chased Billy, caught him and held him down.
While most of the boys held Billy on the ground, the others took turns spanking.  I don’t remember exactly how old he was that year, but I do remember the boys weren’t all that nice about the spanking.  Who needs enemies with friends like that?  
Billy survived that party and many others to come. I hope this year’s birthday can be just as memorable.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Victory Song

Victory Song is available for the next three days on Amazon for FREE! Who doesn’t like free? Here are a few reviews I wanted to share with you. You will also find the first chapter below. Feel free to read and be enticed to read the rest of the book.

For those who are worried, it is neither pro-north or pro-south. It is just a story of young boys leaving on what they think is an adventure when in reality they are leaving behind childhood for manhood.


"Victory Song" is a wonderfully researched historical novel that brings the Civil War to life. It focuses on the thoughts and feelings of a group of enlisted boys, dealing with their hopes, prejudices and fears.

The main character, Andy Richardson, enlists in the military (against his parents' wishes) to get away from the farm. Andy leaves as a selfish and self-centered teen and over the next few years, he grown into a man that has grown physically, mentally and spiritually.

Victory Song is a wonderfully researched historical novel that brings the Civil War to life. It focuses on the thoughts and feelings of a group of enlisted boys, dealing with their hopes, prejudices and fears.

The main character, Andy Richardson, enlists in the military (against his parents' wishes) to get away from the farm. Andy leaves as a selfish and self-centered teen and over the next few years, he grown into a man that has grown physically, mentally and spiritually.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the way that Mrs. Doner pulls the reader into the story. She focuses on the personal side of war, and creates characters that will stay with you long after you put the book down.

This is a fantastic book that would work well with the older home school student as well as anyone that is interested in historical fiction.

This was a great little book about the Civil War. The author demonstrated that she had done considerable research on this topic. I enjoyed the story of Andy and his struggles as a Yankee soldier. I live in Georgia and don't know a lot of the southern history (I'm a Yankee born and bred!). However, I recognized a lot of the sites mentioned in this book. I live in a town full of historical markers for various points during the war. It helped me to appreciate a different side of the story from the...more This was a great little book about the Civil War. The author demonstrated that she had done considerable research on this topic. I enjoyed the story of Andy and his struggles as a Yankee soldier. I live in Georgia and don't know a lot of the southern history (I'm a Yankee born and bred!). However, I recognized a lot of the sites mentioned in this book. I live in a town full of historical markers for various points during the war. It helped me to appreciate a different side of the story from the reading of this book

My daughter and I were at the Trinity re-enactment in May and met you. We both bought your book Victory Song. I finished it and wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. Well, I honestly couldn’t put it down once I started reading. It was easy to follow and I found myself believing I was right there in the field with those soldiers. This is about the best Civil War book I’ve ever read and finding this book was the best part of being at the re-enactment. 

At 19, Andy Richardson, longed to escape the family farm, its responsibilities, and above-all, the control of his parents and the intricacies of family-relationships. And so, with his father's consent, but not approval, he joined the Union Army and headed off to Syracuse to join the 149th New York Infantry Regiment. He quickly finds that the Army, war, friendships, and faith are not as straight-forward and simple as he had once believed. As the war drags on, Andy rediscovers his faith and grows in his relationships with himself, his fellow soldiers, and his family.

Jeri Doner's knowledge of the Civil War era is remarkable. Her reader is masterfully drawn into the world of the young men who joined the Union and Confederate Armies, promises of adventure fresh in their minds, and the families who prayed daily for their safety. While at times, I felt as though the history pulled the story, Ms. Doner's simple, relaxed writing style and likable characters kept me reading and wanting to learn more.

History masquerading as fiction.
And now, the first chapter...

Chapter One

It was not a good time to be leaving that was certain. His mother said so often enough. She never missed a chance to remind him of the harvest, that it was a monumental task at best. It would be almost too much for one aging farmer and a sixteen-year-old boy. He half listened. There was always too much work, and that was not going to change. He knew his father was not getting any younger, and his brother, Peter, was not doing well in school. He knew that his mother’s work had increased since his big sister, Lydia, had married and moved to her husband’s home.
Andy had always been the bright one, the strong one, and the reliable one. He was tired of it. He had listened eagerly to the army recruiters, and read all the patriotic articles in the newspapers. They had promised much in the way of adventure, glory, and victory. They had called for the people to sacrifice for the good of the country. While the war might seem remote and irrelevant to the rest of the Richardson family, it was very real to Andy. He wanted a part in it. He had heard all the colorful words until they circled continually in his mind. Adventure. Glory. Victory. Sacrifice. He admitted only to himself that the most prominent and appealing word of all was none of those. It was the word that had become the theme of his existence, his prayer and constant desire. Escape.
He did not feel guilty about leaving the milking chores on this last day of boyhood. His father did not approve of his enlisting in the army, but he had given permission for him to have this time for himself. If they could get by without him tomorrow, they could just as easily begin managing today, the old man had said. It was his stern way of expressing that, though he disapproved, he was trying to understand.
Andy wandered along the windbreak at the edge of a field, enjoying for the last time the peacefulness of the land, which had been his lifelong home. He let the slope of the ground carry him down toward the brook where cattle were watered. Many a summer day had been spent fishing in that stream. Through a tangle of brush, he located the well-worn path, which led to the swimming hole. A stout rope was still suspended from an overhanging branch. It had been the most important thing in his world the year he and his best friend, Eddie, had hung it there. The water was still now, for Eddie had moved away to distant Auburn, and Andy had grown up. Not many splashes were heard in the old swimming hole these days. This summer of 1862 had been an uncommonly dry one, and the water level was low.
Childhood was a thing of the past, Andy told himself. Only one day separated him from manhood and a life of his own. In the morning he was leaving for Syracuse to be mustered into the 149th New York Infantry Regiment, and the farm boy life would be over. For now he could afford to stop resenting the confines of the farm, the dullness of life here, and the everlasting chores. He could simply meander about enjoying his surroundings.
There were things to enjoy here. September in Central New York was a brightly busy time. The heat of summer was, for the most part, past. Though there was still an occasional hot day or two, the air more often than not held a chill that warned of winter’s inevitable approach. The southwest breeze blew about industrious honeybees as they salvaged the last useful specks from brilliant goldenrod blossoms. Gray squirrels that had been summer-sleek were now fall-fluffy, romping with their abundance of hickory nuts and black walnuts. The stately maples had not yet reached their peak of color, but lacy sumac fairly blazed from every neglected hedgerow and patch of wasteland. Fruit trees were heavy with spring promises kept. Pale Queen-Anne’s lace and blue chicory cushioned the fall of ripening apples, pears, and plums. The hills lay in gentle folds, no longer green, but gold and brown awaiting the scythe.
Andy had circled back toward the house, and could see a horse saddled and hitched to the fence in the side yard. He felt a sudden excitement upon recognizing it as his Aunt Jen’s. She was one of the few people he would miss. As he neared the door, he mentally braced himself, anticipating that because of Aunt Jen’s presence he was about to walk into a roomful of tension.
He’s leaving, Callie, and there’s nothing more to be done about it. You’ll have to face the fact.” The voice was raspy with age, edged with impatience. 
Callie Richardson looked up from the pot of apple butter she had been stirring, and eyed her sister-in-law across the steamy summer kitchen. “I’m trying to make the most of this, Jen, and I don’t need you to tell me what I already know. I just can’t feel the way you do about it. I think he’s making a big mistake.”
“Don’t you read the papers, girl?” Jen asked. “There’s a war going on in this country. The worst kind of a war. Tearing the country apart. And your son is going for a soldier in Mr. Lincoln’s army. Can’t you be proud of him?”
“I am. In my own way. But he’s needed here at home. He never gave that a thought when he signed up.”
“Pete is sixteen. It’s time he did his share around here. Andy did at that age.”
“Pete is not Andy,” the mother replied. “He needs more time with his school work. He tries his best, but he can’t keep up like Andy did.”
“That’s not Andy’s fault,” Jen pointed out. “He’d be leaving home one of these days, no matter what. If it weren’t for the war it would be for something else. You know I’m right, Callie.”
Callie’s brow was moist, and so were her eyes. She wiped her face on her apron. “I know, Jen. But you really can’t understand. He’s not your son.”
“He’s my brother’s. And since I never had a family of my own, he’s as close to being mine as anyone can be. It’s not a secret Andy was always my favorite. I’ll miss him something awful, but I’d never try to keep him from going. He’s nineteen. He’s not a child.”
Callie decided the apple butter had cooked long enough, and lifted the heavy kettle from the stove. She moved to the wooden table in the middle of the room and set it down a little harder than necessary. “I suppose I wouldn’t mind so much if he just wasn’t going with that Henry Birch. That boy worries me.”
“Oh, they’ll be all right!” Jen tried to assure her. “I thought you liked Mrs. Birch. Don’t they go to your church?”
“They did years ago. They’ve been to all different churches since then. Never satisfied. I don’t see Henry’s mother any more. But hear plenty about him. He’s a wild one. I don’t like Andy with him.”
“It’s time you started trusting Andy. He’s a grown man, and your job of raising him is over. You’ve given him a proper Christian upbringing, and that’s all you can do. Besides, I hear that Captain Townsend that was recruiting in Elbridge was some kind of a preacher in civilian life. He was a chaplain in the cavalry before he resigned to raise a company for the Fourth Onondagas. That’s whose company they’ll be in, isn’t it?”
“Yes…that gives me some comfort,” Callie admitted. “But I still worry that he’ll turn out like that good-for-nothing Henry.”
“Or like me?” Jen asked.
Callie let the exasperation show on her face. Something was wrong here. She was a Godly woman, but it was Jen’s total honesty that made her the most uncomfortable. It was hard enough making polite conversation after all the differences they had suffered over the years. She did not know how to respond to this. Jen was the undisputed black sheep of the Richardson family, having rejected the strict moral standards of the rest of the clan. She was a painfully honest woman, and occasionally used some colorful language to tell her relatives what she thought of the way they pressured their children to conform. She was a true non-conformist, dressing as she pleased, coming and going bareheaded in the streets at all hours. She commonly hung laundry out on Sunday, read scandalous novels, and it was said she used alcohol to relieve a chronic cough. Callie wondered once or twice if the cough could have been the result of the use of tobacco, but that seemed rather outrageous, even for Jen. It was true she found it easy to disapprove of the old woman, and the more she gave voice to her disapproval, the more Andy seemed to admire his aunt. Perhaps he would turn out like her, a religious agnostic and a social outcast. There was nothing wrong with wanting more for him than that.
Before Callie had a chance to think of anything to say, the front door banged and loud footsteps came through the house toward the summer kitchen.
“What’s cooking?’ Andy’s voice called. “It smells great in here!”
Both mother and aunt turned toward the doorway as he entered. His gray-green eyes blinked as he tried to hurry the adjustment from outdoor sunlight to the dimness of the room.
“Aunt Jen! Glad you came over,” he said, looking with satisfaction at the old woman sitting near the table. “I figured on coming over to your place tonight to say good-bye.”
“You’re a fine one!” Jen scolded playfully. “I come visiting and you’re off someplace!”
“I just went for a walk in the woods and down by the old swimming hole. Wanted to see it once more before I leave. Water sure is low this year.” Having discovered the apple butter, he cut a generous slice of bread from a loaf on the sideboard and sat down on the edge of the table to dip it into the steaming kettle.
“Get out of there!” Callie chided, swatting him on the thigh with a dishtowel to remove him from the table. “You know better than that!”
“How come you’re making this stuff when it’s so hot out?” He asked with his mouth full. “Apples ‘ll keep till cold weather.”
“Because it’s your favorite, and what I made last year is all gone,” the mother replied.
“Mom, you didn’t have to do that.” He tried to sound grateful, but suspected that she was too busy or too tired to notice.
“When you were gone so long I thought you walked into Canton to say good-bye to somebody,” she said.
“I said all my farewells Sunday,” he told her. “And it’s Memphis, not Canton.”
It seemed he was forever correcting her about that. The nearest village was always called Canton, short for Canal Town, and that word best described the little settlement. A year ago, for some obscure reason, the name had been changed to Memphis. Andy had no trouble recalling the new name and thought his parents should have been able to keep it in mind too coming as it did from the Bible. He would never understand how older people could bring to mind lengthy passages from their favorite book, quoting chapter and verse without error, and not recall that they were members of the First Baptist Church of Memphis, not Canton. The inconsistency baffled him; if that was a characteristic of old age, he hoped never to reach it.
The door banged again, and a familiar voice called, “Mom, we’re finally here. Where do you want the pies?”
“I’ll take care of them,” Andy offered, bounding into the dining room where his sister Lydia was unpacking her contribution to dinner.
“Not a chance, little brother,” she said. “Somebody else might like a taste.”
It was a joke they shared, her calling him a little brother, for she said it looking up into his face as she had been doing for years. Not all Richardsons were tall; when it came to height, Lydia favored Callie, but Andy had inherited all his father’s considerable size and more. While many youngsters experienced a winter of illness sometime during their growing years resulting in a slowed growth rate, Andy had always enjoyed excellent health and an unimpaired appetite for the abundance of good food with which the family had always been blessed. Besides his long, muscular arms and legs, he received from his father a distinctive face, which was easily recognizable in the locality as belonging to a Richardson. The forehead was broad and high, the nose a bit longer than most would consider becoming. The cheekbones were prominent and deeply tanned from exposure to sun and wind. The mouth was the most distinctive feature of all, and the one Andy liked the least. It had a tendency to turn down at the corners, producing a look of immovable sternness on his father’s face. On Aunt Jen the look was one of impudence. On Lydia it was just plain pouty. Andy, when he thought of it, smiled a lot in hopes that the effort would make him look less like the rest of the family.
Callie came in from the summer kitchen to greet her only daughter. The oldest of the three children, Lydia had married the son of a neighboring farmer less than a year ago. She was still much in evidence about the homestead and especially on important occasions like today.
“Where’s Don?” Callie asked, referring to Lydia’s husband.
“He went down to the barn to meet Daddy and Pete,” the girl explained. “I hope they finish milking soon. I’m starved. Too bad SOME people don’t see fit to help with the chores anymore.” With that she nudged Andy in the ribs.
“Before you barged in I was trying to have a nice visit with Aunt Jen,” he said.
Lydia made a face at the mention of the aunt, but dutifully went to the doorway and called, “Hello, Aunt Jen. I hope you’re staying for supper.”
The old woman got to her feet and replied, “No, I got my own food at home. Just came over to see Andy before he goes off tomorrow. Now if you’ll walk me out to my horse, boy, I’ll be on my way and out from under foot.”
They all politely tried to convince her to stay, but she would not be persuaded. Callie and Lydia did not seem overly disappointed when she insisted upon leaving, but Andy was reluctant to walk out into the yard with her.
“I hoped I’d get to see you in your uniform,” Aunt Jen said when they were outside and the commotion left behind.
“We have to go to Syracuse to get all our stuff issued. I don’t know how quick the government can supply us. You’ll have to come to the camp at the fairgrounds to see us in uniform.”
“I ain’t traipsing all the way to Syracuse!” Aunt Jen informed him. “You send me a picture.”
“I’ll try. But I won’t be gone forever. I’ll be over to see you when I get back, and that’s a promise.”
She did not respond except to shake her head sadly. “It won’t be the same here with you gone.”
Andy nodded. “I can’t say I’ll miss everything here, but I sure will miss you, Aunt Jen.”
They had been close and he thought he knew her as well as anyone alive, but he was surprised when she did something uncharacteristic. She stretched to hug and kiss him. When he lifted her onto her horse she did something else he did not expect. She wept.
“Aunt Jen, I only enlisted for three years. And if we get the Rebels licked before then, I can come back earlier. Please don’t act as if it’s the end of everything.”
She wiped her eyes and cleared her throat as if to speak, but said nothing. She had the unladylike habit of riding astride, and had designed her skirts to accommodate the man’s saddle she used. Once sure of her seat, she slapped the horse on the withers and cantered off down the road.
Andy watched for a while after the dust settled. After a few moments he looked out across the field to see his father, Pete and Don leaving the barn. They were weary, but walked quickly toward the house, for supper would soon be ready. Andy thought of the same thing, but waited for them to catch up to him so they could all enter together.
The sun was beginning to fade when he turned back to the old house. It was painted barn red and looked dark in the shadows. It sat on a hillside protected from the ferocity of the north wind, its front yard sloping down toward the road, which ran south of it. Light spilled from the kitchen window along with mingled smells of roasting beef, fresh bread, and the apple butter. Behind the house the kitchen garden looked well used, offering the last of its beans and squash. The corn stalks were brown and dry, holding one another erect against the autumn winds. His eyes followed the road until it twisted out of sight among surrounding maples. It was edged by a split rail fence he had built with his father. Beyond that lay a field newly cultivated this year. Wrestling the stubborn sumac out of the ground had been an ordeal he would not soon forget. He came up to the house and pumped some fresh water up from the well he had helped to dig and keep clean. It was good water, and had proved sufficient for their needs. He took a last look around the place and sighed. While his parents took pride in the home and saw in it a testimony to achievement, Andy saw only backbreaking work—work that would never be done. It was not the sort of life he wanted for himself, and he was excited to think that his escape was only a day in the future.
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