Monday Musing: Time as a Commodity

Since I’ve been working more hours, I have less time. A fact that seems to correlate perfectly.

But do I really have less time? I still have 24 hours in my day, same as always and same as everyone else.

Not my work. It’s labeled as licensed for noncommercial reuse, so I grabbed it to show as an example.

When I worked outside the home, I had time for reading and crafting. I loved to make handmade cards. I sewed. I quilted. I knitted. I read 80-100 books a year.

So what has really changed?

Well, it seems, a lot.

Social media.

Phones that double as communication and entertainment devices.

More sources of entertainment.

Now, instead of picking up the book I’m reading, when I sit in the recliner after dinner, I’m more likely to pull out my phone. I may play a game, check email, or look at Facebook or Instagram.

I still have the same number of hours in my day, but I’m feeling less productive than ever.

I’ve struggled to read even 80 books the last two years. Last year, I slipped in with 78 on December 31st.

In my ongoing quest to find more time, I deleted most games off my phone. I finished a year-long+ puzzle kind of game and deleted it. I took off several apps, including Facebook.

In an effort to become more social, I took some bridge lessons. Which by the way, can become a whole new obsession passion. I now own (and read) BRIDGE FOR DUMMIES and I actually know what Two No Trump means.

I managed to fit in the bridge lessons for one simple reason: I put them in my schedule and when the time arrived, I was in place and ready.

I have three quilt tops that are all pieced and are waiting for the backing and quilting. I have a quarter of a shawl knitted. I still have paper and (some) stamping/card making supplies, although I cleaned out a bunch of stamps in the past couple of years. Because I didn’t have “time,” anymore. fb

What a crock I fed myself.

And I know I’ve done it to myself. I can blame social media, Netflix, DirecTV, or Words With Friends.

But I need to turn off the device, open the book, or  pull out the crafting supplies. I know this in my head, but the recliner, TV remote and iPad are powerful magnets.




Even though I was sad to say good-bye to Fool’s Gold, I took comfort that Susan Mallery was still writing. And she was branching out from romance only to some compelling women’s fiction.

cover-million-little-thingsMallery’s Mischief Bay series is definitely less romance, more women’s fiction. Mischief Bay has many things in common with Fool’s Gold. The warmth and humor for starters. But there are some major differences too.

Mischief Bay has heart and sunshine, but no over-the-top characters like Eddie and Gladys from Fool’s Gold. There are still businesses with fun names, but no all-knowing Mayor Marsha.

A MILLION LITTLE THINGS has characters both new and familiar. We met Pam in THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY. She’s now been widowed for two years. Her daughter Jen is dealing with her eighteen-month-old son who won’t talk and she can’t get anyone to believe her that something is wrong. Jen and her best friend Zoe have been drifting apart since Jen’s been so wrapped up in Jack. Zoe’s recently single and alone. So alone that when she was accidentally locked in her attic, she was afraid she’d die up there and no one would find her body for weeks.

Zoe decides to make some changes in her life and, after a gentle nudge from Pam, begins dating Pam’s son and Jen’s brother, Brian. Jen’s anxiety worsens, not just about Jack’s speech. Her husband is a cop and she worries about him too. Pam is happy, but also intrigued and flattered when Zoe’s father expresses interest in her. She agrees to dinner, but tells him she doesn’t date. Which surprises him, since they are on a date.

I enjoyed this a lot. The characters are people I feel like I either know already or I would enjoy getting to know them. If you like small town women’s fiction with humor and romance, (and really–who doesn’t??) then I know you’ll love Mischief Bay and A MILLION LITTLE THINGS.

Each book in the Mischief Bay series can stand alone. Some characters have encores, but nothing in the new stories will spoil it if you go back and read an earlier book.

I love this series and highly recommend it and this book.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Done!



I’ve added a caveat for my list. I can’t include any authors I know well enough to call “friend.”

Because I know once I start naming some of my favorites, I’m afraid I’ll inadvertently leave off someone and I can’t bear the thought of missing someone or hurting their feelings. So this list has the ten best books by strangers, that I read in 2016. A few of the writers I would go so far as to call acquaintances, but we don’t have the kind of relationship that I could email and ask if we could stay with them when we’re passing through town. That’s what I mean by “knowing” them.

Now that that’s out of the way, back to the list.

In Mysteries:


JD Robb, CALCULATED IN DEATH. All of Robb’s In Death books are fabulous, well-crafted, and shining examples of excellent mysteries. I love them all, but CALCULATED IN DEATH stood out for me this year. The plot was exceptionally well done.


Margaret Maron’s books are often in my To Be Read piles or on my Top Ten lists. Butmaron-dd DESIGNATED DAUGHTERS was stellar in many ways. The mystery is well set up and executed. The red herrings were done so skillfully that I continued second-guessing myself all the way through.

In Non-Fiction:

EMPTY MANSIONS by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell is an amazing empty_mansions_paperback_cover_smalllook at a little known person in American history. William Clark was a U.S. Senator from Montana, he made a fortune in silver and copper mining, hung out with the Astors and Vanderbilts and Carnegies. Built huge homes. Amassed a collection of fine art to rival a museum. EMPTY MANSIONS covers Clark’s life, but is focused more narrowly on Clark’s youngest daughter, Hughette, who lived as a virtual recluse but maintained three homes she never visited, one she never even set foot into. It’s fascinating.


PRESENT OVER PERFECT is Shauna Niequist’s newest. I loved COLD TANGERINES, POP-coverBITTERSWEET, and BREAD AND WINE. PRESENT OVER PERFECT is a wonderful story of Shauna’s journey from stressed and overloaded to a simpler life with a focus on what’s important: God and family. I feel like I’m probably just a skoosh too old to fully appreciate all she has to say. I’ve already lived the stressed life (kids, work, social stuff, church obligations, the house — although admittedly not at her level. I wasn’t speaking in arenas). So the lessons were less revelatory to me than they would be to a mom in her thirties. But it was a good reminder and did provoke some though about how to slow down and enjoy life a bit more.

That’s enough for today. The rest of the Top Ten will post tomorrow. Thanks for reading!





Monday Musings: A New Year, A New Word

The last few years my “word of the year” has been an effort to make myself more sure, more confident, less … um … less me. I think I’m marginally better at being brave, at speaking up, at acting in spite of fear and doubts, I’m still fundamentally the same.

So, this year, instead of trying to convince myself I’m something I’m not (Brave, Fearless), I decided to return to something I used to be.


Somewhere in the last few years, I’ve lost my whimsy.

Stud Muffin has always been the master of the unexpected fun. He could turn a boring drive into a game. Sometimes it was the usual road trip games, but often he added a twist. He would instigate water balloon fights while I hollered to keep my hair dry. He could sense when mutiny was near and deflect it with a detour, a sightseeing stop, or ice-cream.

Thanks to him, we have memories of freeze outs (driving in winter with the windows down. First one to beg for the heater on and window up lost), Taco Bell bags of food gifted by a stranger at a hotel pool, and pizza for dinner the night before vacation.

Not to say I was a complete downer. I planned those vacations, the beach trips, the camping excursions, the field trips. I drove to the beach, the museum, the aquarium. A lot of our family fun and memories wouldn’t have happened if not for my superb planning and organizational skills.

But I used to take more pleasure in the planning and the execution. It was my idea to drive into the hills to watch the meteor showers in August. My idea to go to a taping of The Price is Right and The Biggest Loser, I bought the tickets to the Raffi concert, the PBR, The Lion King.

We have a “neighbor” (in the country, we use that term loosely, since this one lives about three miles away) who makes an elaborate scene with lights on the small hillside next to their home every year. We’ve seen some dramatic scenes, including Yosemite’s Half Dome and an homage to Egypt, complete with Sphinx. One night last week it occurred to me that we hadn’t driven to see their display in a couple of years. It was a bit after eight o’clock. I opened my mouth to suggest we grab the car keys and make the five minute drive to see what they had this year.

Whimsy, right?

But … Stud Muffin already had on his slippers and flannel pants. The garage door was closed. We were snug. So I skipped it.

No whimsy.

And I regret it. So what if we were in slippers? Eight o’clock is not two am. A quick “late night” drive to see some beautiful lights could be just what we needed.

EV003000A few days later, on New Year’s Day, we saw a woman in a wheelchair with an American flag attached. She wore a Happy New Year hat and waved a streamer wand. She buzzed around in her electric chair, waving her streamers and wishing everyone a Happy New Year. She looked … odd. Even crazy. But fun! She was having a blast. Some people (you know who you are), rolled their eyes. But most smiled and waved and called out to her a Happy New Year greeting.

And I wished I had worn my hat with the lights, to sparkle some happiness back at her.

That’s whimsy.

This past weekend it rained. A lot. Stud Muffin took the grand-girls on a walk and they had a leaf race, sending a leaf of their choice racing down the gutter in the rainwater. Proving he still has whimsy.

Just what I want more of in 2017.


Book Talk Tuesday: HUNT THE DAWN

I’m thrilled to welcome my friend and Dreamweaver sister to Book Talk Tuesday for a preview of her new book, HUNT THE DAWN!

In celebration of her new book, Abbie is having a giveaway. Scroll down to enter and good luck!

Hunt the Dawn by Abbie Roads

Series: Fatal Dreams #2
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publication Date: December 6, 2016

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Google | Indigo | BAM! | Indie Bound


Out of darkness and danger
You can’t hide your secrets from Lathan Montgomery-he can read your darkest memories. And while his special abilities are invaluable in the FBI’s hunt for a serial killer, he has no way to avoid the pain that brings him. Until he is drawn to courageous, down-on-her-luck Evanee Brown and finds himself able to offer her something he’s never offered another human being: himself.
Dawns a unique and powerful love
Nightmares are nothing new to Evanee Brown. But once she meets Lathan, they plummet into the realm of the macabre. Murder victims are reaching from beyond the grave to give Evanee evidence that could help Lathan bring a terrifying killer to justice. Together, they could forge an indomitable partnership to thwart violence, abuse, and death-if they survive the forces that seek to tear them apart.

Continue reading “Book Talk Tuesday: HUNT THE DAWN”

Monday Musings: Don’t Be Safe. Be Good.

In the aftermath of last week’s election, a “movement” has gathered momentum on the Internet and Facebook. It’s the safety pin. It’s supposed to signify that the person wearing the pin is “safe,” to approach and talk to. I guess about anything that’s upsetting you, but is meant especially for the non-white non-heterosexual crowds.




I can see why wearing the pin would be appealing.

But, please, don’t.

Just don’t.



Who would ever approach a stranger with the intention of baring their soul? Unless they were paying $125 an hour for the privilege?

No one.

No one, except a true bigot/racist/hate monger looking for a target for their hate.

Don’t be a target.

Being “safe” for someone means having a relationship with them. It means talking together, laughing and crying together, having coffee and sharing a blueberry scone together.

I’m reminded of the C.S. Lewis quote from THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. Susan asked Mr. Beaver about Aslan the lion: “Is he–quite safe?” Mr. Beaver replied, “Safe? … ‘course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

I guarantee there are enough hurting people in your home, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, in your community. You don’t have to go looking for someone to be safe to or to be a listening ear.

Instead, look around you. Find someone hurting. Take them to coffee. Be in their life. Love them.

Don’t be safe.

Be good.




Monday Musing: Quilting as a Metaphor

I first quilted 30+ years ago. I wasn’t very good. I was still in the “close is good enough” phase of my sewing. I had crooked seams, strips that resembled a weird trapezium more
than a rectangle. I still have one of my early efforts and to prove that I have basically no pride, I’ll post a picture.

quiltYeah. See that strip on the left.

Yep. I sewed that. And more egregiously, I left it!

Oy vey.

Fast forward a couple of decades and my sewing skills (and standards) were considerably higher and I decided to try another quilt.

But a small one. An easy one.

So I bought a kit for an expected grand-daughter. I planned to have it done before she was born. I think I had it to her before her second birthday. Give or take.


I really enjoy the process of piecing the quilt top. I’m less enamored of the actual quilting. I have several quilt tops done and ready for the backing and batting step. I have the batting and the backing fabric. I just can’t seem to bring myself to pin them together.

It’s a symptom, I’m afraid, of a larger problem. And I know I’m not alone. Finishing a project. I think I caught it from Stud Muffin. We have many home projects that are thisclose to be done. My office threshold was duct tape for nearly two years until I insisted he finish it. Friends often comment that they have the same problem.

Why is this? Anyone know??

The next few Mondays will be spent on quilting. I’ll try to get a picture of that baby quilt. It has one off square (free hint: do not try to piece satin or silky fabrics. They slide all over the place and are very difficult to work with).

The current stories I’m working on are set in Harts Leap, a fictional cross of Paso Robles, Stars Hollow, and Bass Lake, located where the real Bass Lake sits. In story number one, a local quilt shop, Pieces of My Heart, has a large role. I get to use some of my quilting knowledge in the story. And even more fun, every quilt is beautiful! No crooked seams!

Do you quilt? If yes, what do you love about quilting? If no, why not? And do you have a problem finishing projects? If yes, why do you think that’s so?