You know the saying, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”? Well, I feel like my middle name should be freaking Super Girl after undergoing the year of hell that I have. It all happened two years ago when, out of the blue, the hubs had a mole removed from the back of his knee. That was the day my world was turned upside down. The usual procedures that happen every time you have a mole removed was done, but this time the doctors came back and uttered the C word to us. I remember this like it was yesterday and still carry the same fear with me today that I was blanketed with then.
The surgery was much harder than you would think necessary to remove a mole and so we thought we were in the clear. The surgeon initially thought it was benign stating he had seen similar moles like this before. When the pathology came back and the mole was found to be cancerous, there was now cause for concern. A CAT scan showed that the cancer was not necessarily in the body, but the surgeon stated that he needed to remove a few lymph nodes to determine if the cancer had spread further.
The news following the next surgery was not what we wanted to hear at all. I was out of town at the time and had decided to take the kids to a children’s museum to pass the time. I had a friend take the older kids to another part of the museum, when she recognized that I was going to need a little time alone. I took the one-year-old Mister Monster to the ball pit and sat and cried. I’m pretty sure I scared off the other parents that day! All I could think to do was to call my mom because that is what you do when you are sad, scared, and unsure of what you should do next. Even at thirty-nine years old, this made me feel better. I was out of town and wasn’t sure how I was going to break this news to the hubs since the doctor had called me instead of him.
After removing all the targeted lymph nodes, the hubs started an anti-viral protocol that is standard with a diagnosis of melanoma. It was not traditional chemotherapy, but it is a tough treatment all the same.
This was my reality. All too soon, I had become the wife of a cancer patient. I was not the first one that was scared to death of losing her husband and unfortunately I won’t be the last either.
This whole thing made me think about having to grow old without the man I married. It made me think further, “Will my husband be there to walk our three girls down the aisle? Will he be there to teach our son how to play baseball?” The idea of my children not having their father in their lives was more than I could take.
Our first trip to the oncologist was a nightmare. We sat there in disbelief as the doctor informed us of our options. None of them seemed all that great and I was stunned to hear that his cancer had been diagnosed at stage three. The doctor continued to shatter our world when he said that, in all likelihood, it wasn’t uncommon that even with treatment, cancer like this had a good chance of coming back.
After all, your skin is your largest organ. It isn’t possible that a cancer like this can be cut out and life can go back to normal. Melanoma is one of the deadliest cancers out there. I soon learned more than I ever wanted to know about skin cancer. Melanoma is just as serious as any other cancer. People think it is just a topical cancer. It can be “cut” out, but it is still one of the leading killers in the world of cancers. Not only that, once it gets into the blood stream, it metastasizes quickly. The doctor said once it was in the blood, it was hard to cure.
My husband was prescribed a month’s worth of this drug and had to take it every day. It drained him and made him feel as if he had the flu. On top of that, he also had to receive shots from me (Yes, I gave him shots!) three times a week.
It was probably one of the hardest times in my life seeing my strong husband weak and struggling like he was. I felt like a single parent for that year, as he was down and out. On top of raising the kids and taking care of the house, I was also responsible for all of his care. Please know I am not complaining, but rather painting a picture of how bad it truly was. (Anyone that watched me through that year knew I was a certifiable nut job!)
I have learned over the past two years we must live in the here and now and treasure what we are given. I urge anyone who is reading this to protect your skin. Protect your children’s skin. Be careful in the sun. Please go to your dermatologist for scheduled skin checks.
My husband was just forty when he was diagnosed with this and thankfully has had successful results from the treatments. This last year has taught me to live without regret. We are never guaranteed tomorrow, but we can prepare to expect it.
The Professor (McMurtrie and Drake Legal Thriller Book 1)
By Robert Baily
This is certainly a must read for anyone with a love for Alabama Football or the University in general. Thomas McMurtrie was a graduate of both the University of Alabama and the Alabama Law School while also playing football for the famous Bear Bryant. After only a few years out of law school, Coach Bryant, referred to as the Man by McMurtrie, recruited the young lawyer back to the University to work as a law professor. Feeling honored by the request, Tom readily accepted the offer as a personal favor to his old coach.
Forty years later, Tom still works as a professor at the University and has written a highly respected book concerning evidence. This is a book nearly every lawyer has used in case evidence at one time or another throughout their career. When a new Dean of Law decides to set his sights on the older professors, Professor McMurtrie, by now known as simply the Professor, finds himself on the Dean’s list of potential targets.
The Dean’s confidence is first bolstered by an altercation he witnesses between the Professor and one of his students. When it is caught on video and uploaded to You Tube, the Dean finally feels he has the evidence he needs to push McMurtrie into retirement. The Dean enlists one of the Professor’s former students as lead council to force the Professor out of the University for good.
Feeling as if he caused the young law student, Rick Drake, whom he’d had the altercation with to lose out on several lucrative offers; Tom reaches out to Drake to give him a case. An old friend has asked Tom personally to take this wrong death case but for health reasons, Tom refers the case to Rick Drake. After the Professor promises to stay our of Rick’s way, Tom soon realizes what Rick is really up against and secretly sends his former assistant, Dawn, to assist Rick in any way she can.
As the case takes off it becomes one that incorporates dangerous elements and threatens both Rick and Dawn. Before long Rick comes face to face with the former famous lawyer who had stabbed the Professor in the back and was working alongside the Dean to force the Professor out of his job at the University. Rick is in the case of his life and working against the best attorney in the state of Alabama and operating with only a fraction of the resources he needs.
If you like a suspenseful thriller with a tender-hearted edge to it, this is a great choice to add to your reading list. This book showcases that second chances sometimes become the stuff that dreams are made of.
This is only the first book in the series and the second book, Between Black and White, works to expand the story further by taking a minor character from Robert Baily’s first book and giving him the spotlight. I enjoyed The Professor quite a bit. It was well written and used easy to understand legal jargon that made it sound very official and kept me guessing throughout the entire story.
Things Boys Should Know About a Girl’s Body Image
One of my daughters was the recent target of a bully. Dealing with bullies is one of those tough things that all kids have to work through, though it can be a major challenge for even the most confident individual. In my daughter’s case, this person used one of those horrid words to describe my little girl and it hurt her deeply.
As a mother, I immediately wanted to comfort my daughter and reassure her that everything would be ok. At the same moment, I wanted the little brat that hurt my girl to pay.
While my actions may be limited to a phone call to the school or a visit to the boy’s parents and a lot of comforting words for my crying child, I can still make this sad moment a lesson capable of improving the future for my children. What I realized was that this was the perfect moment to teach my own son about girls.
I think it is entirely appropriate for me to begin by saying that a woman’s self-image can be a very delicate subject. So much emphasis is put on physical beauty that anyone who looks a bit off can become an instant target for all the bullies of the world. And this doesn’t just apply to all the kids who are still going through those awkward growth spurts and that dreaded puberty. It applies just as much to adults too.
As a woman, we compare ourselves to others every time we look in the mirror. Sadly, many of us are never quite happy or satisfied with what we see staring back at us.
This is a list I have created to share with my son as we teach him how to become a gentleman who always treats women with respect.
“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.” There has never been a more untrue phrase than this. I can’t stress how deeply words can wound another person. Just as words can lift a person up, they can easily tear them back down.
Whenever I look at pictures of celebrities from the 1960’s, I am struck by how different they appear compared with the celebrities today. Celebrities today all fit into a near cookie cutter image of one another. Everyone is a size two with perfect hair and incredible makeup. This is not real life. Women come in all different shapes and sizes. The celebrities of years gone by showcased a wide range of differences, and that is what made many of them into celebrities. It is our differences that make us special and unique. We forget that at times.
It is easy to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that is just untrue. If hurtful words are said in front of others, embarrassment almost follows. Self-esteem impacts every portion of a person’s life and hurtful words can damage a person’s confidence in ways that can last long into the future.
Teaching your son to be gentleman around women is one of the most valuable lessons they should learn, no matter their age! My son has several older sisters and a mama who all expect him to be a gentleman at all times of the day. Even at his young age, he knows the importance of this. Respect is something that everyone deserves.
These are just a couple small areas of emphasis I will continue to place on my son as he gets older. The list will probably become larger as my daughters are exposed to the hurt of others. Simple common decency can go along way in life whether you are a male or female. Showing other people respect is never bad advice and something we all should strive to teach our children.
I would love to hear if you can expand on this list. Be sure to comment below if you have something you feel a boy should know about how girls perceive themselves.
The Mountain Story
The Mountain Story is one of my all time favorite books. Told in alternating time periods by the narrator who is also the protagonist of this novel: Wolf is a young man determined to end his life. The book begins as a letter to Wolf’s now grown son as Wolf tells him that he has a story to tell; one he has not yet shared with his own wife. Moving back in time eighteen years from the letter, Wolf is a young man on the cusp of adult hood but is consumed with guilt from an accident that takes his best friend Byrd, from everyone who loves him. The guilt that consumes Wolf along with the family dysfunction that over runs him, forces him up to the mountain to end his life.
The story begins to unfold when his path crosses with three very different women. Wolf comes face to face with these women that will ultimately change his life. The women all know one another but their true relationships are revealed little by little throughout the first couple chapters of this book, keeping the reader engaged. As the foursome become desperately lost on the mountain, the wilderness soon takes its toll on them all as they are just trying to find their way home.
Given that this novel is not in the specific genre of mystery, it has more twists and turns than a roller coaster. Without giving too much away, because the ending is one that left me awe struck at many different points, this book is worth the adventure it takes the reader on.
With the intricate weaving of past events from Wolf’s life that makes him the young man he was when his plan was to end his life on the mountain coincide with bits and pieces the three women share with him about their past life, the reader is given the big picture of how this book is brilliantly constructed.
Redemption is one of the themes I took away from the book. Here is the main character, Wolf; who most people had written off. However, I think that a person who has struggled with life in a way this character is portrayed can take advantage of knowing that second chances are real. Although this book is a work of fiction, it is inspirational in a world tied down by devastating news stories.
This is a heart-warming story of endurance and perseverance that hits right at the soul of anyone that has faced the most difficult circumstances. Always written in a fast pace voice, as the reader, I was always on the edge of my seat to as how this beautiful story would conclude.
The Dinner By Herman Koch
Upon completion of The Dinner, I had to ask myself if my cultural differences interfered with my interpretation. To clarify, I felt the book was very well written, but the content made me shake my head at times. All in all, this book could make the most dysfunctional family look normal.
Let’s start from the beginning. The novel is set in Holland and follows Paul Lohman, the narrator of this novel. At first, you are given a picture of two brothers and their wives sitting down for dinner at a well-known upscale restaurant. It seems as ordinary as anything else in life for these brothers to enjoy a night out together. As you delve into the book, you see there are deeper issues with this family and the brother’s relationship. Paul doesn’t seem as if he likes his brother too much. We have all been there. Family is given to us; we don’t choose them. It is natural to assume that in some cases we would never have selected them as friends if not related. The author taps into this issue. However, that is family at the core. They are part of us, and because of that we put up with our family’s idiosyncrasies. The same is true as it is depicted within The Dinner.
In the beginning, we see Paul walking to the restaurant with his wife, Claire. As he narrates, he gives history that is important to the basis of the story, weaving the past with the present. His brother is the supposed shoe-in for prime minister of Holland and Paul sees everyone one fall at the feet of Serge Lohman. It is safe to say Paul doesn’t view his brother in the same light.
As the dinner progresses with Serge and his wife, Babette, we are introduced to both the couple’s children. It is further revealed through their conversations that the purpose of this dinner is to discuss a serious issue that involves their sons.
Beyond this point, too many spoilers would be exposed. Needless to say, this story numbs the very fiber of one’s moral being. We are left with the simple question, “What the hell?”
As previously mentioned, I wondered at first if my shock over the story was due to a cultural difference, since the writer is from Holland. It might be akin to when those not from the United States looks at us Americans and say, “Ah, that’s those Yankee’s for you…”
After careful consideration and reflecting on other reader’s reactions to this book, I don’t particularly think that culture was the deciding factor in the decline of the characters’ judgments. This book taps into the very nature of human beings and the harsh reality that some people are just not good. When concessions are made in order to cover up bad choices, it can lead to a series of regretful decisions, as shown in this book.
As far as the novel itself, I felt it was masterfully crafted and engaging. This story is fast paced and I couldn’t wait to find out how it had concluded. In the end, although it was upsetting, this story showed the reality of the sometimes very ugly human spirit.
**All book reviews can be found on the book review tab on thismamawritesandreads.com for easier navigation
A Simple Tool I Use
I am here to confess that I have an obsession with Amazon. Everything started five years ago with unexpected news that our fourth child was on his way. Given that I thought our family was already completed with our three girls, we had already given everything baby related away.
I initially started a list on Amazon to help get my thoughts straight and to keep everything organized. I soon realized how simple Amazon made the whole process. Back then I was not a prime member (oh-the horror), and instead opted to get my items shipped free of charge by waiting an extended time. The normal wait time was usually a week or sometimes two. I was only six months pregnant at that point and had the patience to wait out the time for my Amazon gratification.
Then when Mister Monster was a year old, I started using Amazon to do my Christmas shopping. I used the same process as before and kept detailed lists that were organized and easy to understand. During this time, I was heavily involved in my master’s program while also doing my very best to raise our four children. I just didn’t have the time to navigate the stores. Oh, it was heaven being able to utilize Amazon in that way.
A week before my nephew’s birthday, I was on a search for something very specific. Two of his greatest loves were the Seattle Seahawks (this was the year they won the Super Bowl) and zombies. Thanks to Amazon, I found a Seattle Seahawks Zombie figurine and just knew it would be a huge hit. It is hard enough to find a gift for a fourteen-year-old boy, but I had done it! The trouble with this purchase was that the standard wait time would get him his gift well after his birthday. A little research showed me that signing up for Amazon Prime would ensure his gift was delivered in time while I still received my cool aunt props.
I signed up for Amazon Prime’s free thirty day trial with the intention of canceling it after that time had elapsed. Needless to say, I never parted from Amazon Prime and we have been best friends ever since. While I was already a tremendous fan of Amazon, the Prime option changed the game completely! In essence, I have my nephew and a zombie figurine to thank for my continued love for Amazon.
This is the item that started it all!
But let me clarify, ninety-eight percent of what I buy on Amazon is stuff I would generally go to Wal-Mart and search the aisles for. This helps me to save time and money. If my kids get a birthday invitation, I am the first to text the mom (I love technology for those sort of things) and find out what the birthday boy or girl may like. I log onto Amazon (though for us Amazon savvy people, we have the app on our phone) and sit with my child and together we pick out the perfect present. Best of all is that it is delivered in two days. This also leaves me free from having to pack up my crew and brave the stores with everyone in toe, and that in itself is worth the Amazon Prime payment.
What are the things I buy most often from Amazon? It would be easier to answer what I don’t buy. Here are my essentials that I shop for most often:
I shop for nearly every present for all occasions on Amazon. You can really find some great gems on there. With Amazon Prime, I ship directly to the person if they are out of state. At first I thought it was impersonal to do this, but I do take my time to really select the right present for each person. In the end, they are getting their gift hand delivered to them. I call that a win/win for everyone!
The fact that I can consistently find some great quality clothes that I happen to love on Amazon is huge. They have about every style out there, and they are of amazing quality. Jeans are my go to item for this site. Also, I can’t forget the three other females that reside in my house with the same love for clothes as their mother.
Again, I have girls. They each love their shoes as much as any other female. Thankfully, Amazon makes it easy. Returns are easy and the styles and sizes available there outmatch anything in this area.
This is a necessity with the amount of estrogen in our house. Shampoo and conditioner are items we go through quite often. It is an easy order to place when we are in need. If I run out of eyeliner or something else and don’t want to trek to the store with kids, I can place an order instantly.
I presently need a new toaster and have it in my cart, along with other items that fall in this category. I can review all similar items with the reviews and make an educated choice. It is just that simple.
When we lived a good thirty minutes from a Wal-Mart, I used it for essential pantry items like rice, pasta, tuna fish and any other needed items that don’t have to be refrigerated.
I am an avid reader. Need I say more?
I have access to more books with this program than I could ever hope to read. Considering the price of buying paperbacks, the $10 I spend on this makes it a real bargain. Not all books fall in this category but it is nice to have this option anyway.
We have the Alexa and several Kindles. We have bought televisions, radios, and pretty much anything else we may have a need for. Again, we can purchase it on line after looking at the reviews and make a better decision without the clatter of little voices distracting us in the store.
For some reason, I thought white dining room chairs were a great idea. Anyway, over the years, you can imagine what they look like now. I finally decided enough was enough and bought nice sturdy red metal chairs. They are stylish and easy to wipe off. I have also gotten throw pillows, comforters, pictures, seasonal décor, outdoor furniture, and the list goes on. I am always able to find different items that you wouldn’t find in the store.
I have this mentality about purses. I love them, but I don’t want to be stuck with one forever because I paid so much for it. I find that I date my purses but I never want to marry them. (With Coach or Kate Spade, I would be married to that purse for ten years). I found a couple brands of purses on the site and when I’m ready to break up with a purse, I can go to my old trusted brands and start dating another purse again.
I am an earring wearing woman. I love them and can always find great deals on them. They may not always be a Prime item but I can wait a couple weeks for a good deal.
The choice of items available on Amazon is so diverse and I find that I get a lot of compliments on the pieces I buy. Anyone who knows me understands that when they ask me where I got it, nine times out of ten I will say Amazon.
Now, there are some pretty funny Amazon stories that have cracked people up throughout the years. I am known for buying an item and being surprised by its size when it comes in and I swear to my husband, “I looked at the measurements and in my mind it was larger.”
There was the time my son, only two years old, grabbed my phone and clicked on my Amazon app without me knowing. Two days later, I had a new bra delivered to my doorstep! I was stumped at first as to how that had happened until I remembered him having my phone. My husband came home that day and laughed, “Sure, he accidently bought you a bra. Why couldn’t he have accidently bought me a Play Station 4?”
A few times, I’d forgotten to change the address on my shipment. One day I received a weird call from a friend asking, “Did you mean to send me dining room chairs?”
Then just recently, I received a text from my bank that a large deduction was taken out of my account from Amazon and I thought to myself, what did I do? Looking at my orders, I realized I bought a red couch, something the hubs would have hated. I was able to cancel the order before it landed on my porch, which was a good thing. I am pretty sure if the hubs came home to find a red couch, he would have rescinded my Amazon Prime membership immediately. But in all seriousness, Amazon truly is a godsend for this busy mama.
Grief: Close Up
Losing someone you love dearly is one of the greatest tragedies we all eventually face. In my case, this loss represents a gaping hole in my life that simply will never be filled again.
A couple months ago, I was unfortunate enough to lose my mother. This loss has put me through a gambit of emotions. I doubt there are even names for each of the emotions I have found myself wading through. Even though I was fortunate enough to have my mom for forty-one years of my life, I simply feel too young to be motherless.
This is the one true piece of reality I keep traveling back to. Being a mother myself, I feel robbed of my inability to share the magical moments with her that she shared with me. I find it a hard pill to swallow honestly. Existing in a world where the eternal and unconditional love of my mom is no longer a part of my daily life seems slightly hollower than it once did. I can recognize that I was able to have my mother be a part of my life far longer than other friends and I can look back now with gratitude at all the time I was able to share with her.
Coupled with this understanding is the fact that I still have my dad in my life. Many of my friends, both younger and older, have lost both set of parents by this stage in their life. To add to that blessing, that father of mine is as wonderful as they come and I adore him beyond measure. I know I must be grateful for what I have, but it doesn’t lessen my desire to have my mother’s love back in my life once more.
This is what I have learned so far on my short journey through grief. This road will continue to become a longer and longer one to navigate as the first year without my mom will soon turn into two, and then five and ten and so on.
I had a great relationship with my mother. It was not always perfect because at times I could be a real pain the ass, but our bond transformed into one of friendship. As I got older and a little more mature, I realized the importance of being less self-absorbed. It was then that our relationship turned into a connection from which I have very few regrets. In talking to friends who have lost their parents, I have come to realize something very important. Regardless of the relationship you share with your mother and whether you spoke to her daily (like me) or once a year, the loss you feel over her death is not invalidated. It is a real entity and you are entitled to grieve.
The first milestones without her have felt as if I am missing a major part of my body. I have already been through the first Mother’s Day without her. I dreaded this day and was full of sadness as I watched it grow closer on the calendar, though I knew I couldn’t just wallow in my own feelings of loss and remorse. Just like her, I am a mother as well and I knew that I had children who were counting on their mother that day. So what did I do? I got my rear in gear and looked after their wellbeing. That is what being a mom is all about. You put your kids before yourself. Always.
What I didn’t expect to affect me so awful was the first of my children’s birthday without her. It was something I always shared with my mom. She was there with me for each one of them and without thinking, we would always drift back and reminisces about each of my children’s births. After all, my children along with my sister’s children were her pride and joy.
I am not the only one missing her. I have children that miss her immensely every day. Even though geography was against us, my kids saw their grandmother quite often considering the distance between us. My children also knew that whenever they wanted to talk to Grandma, she was just a phone call away. My sister misses her too. So do her kids. My dad misses her most of all. I can’t even begin to explain how he feels. The list doesn’t just stop there either. There are countless others whose lives she touched and who miss her as well. I mean, for crying out loud, it was standing room only at her funeral! Many people loved her! I need to remember that I am not the only one grieving.
The process of grief is as diverse as each individual who experiences it. I remember the day of the funeral and my sister and dad being so overcome with emotions of loss and sadness. I barely shed a tear, which is odd considering I am someone who is extremely emotional in my own right. But we all process grief differently. I thought something was wrong with me, as if I didn’t miss her as much as my sister did. I’ve learned as time has gone by that it has become far harder for me than it was when I was in the midst the funeral. Regardless of the how you grieve, grief is grief and it sucks rotten eggs.
It doesn’t matter if your mom has been gone one day or ten years, you will inadvertently pick up the phone to call her or say something along the lines of, “Oh, mom would get a kick out of this.” I remember as we were preparing for her funeral, my sister was after a specific picture of the three of us together at the beach. It was my mom’s favorite place on this earth. My sister was down stairs looking for it, and in her mind she immediately thought, Oh, I will just go up and ask mom, she will know where it is. She shared that with me later on and I confessed that I too had similar moments that overwhelmed me without warning. I was always one to pick up the phone when my kids did something outlandish. My mom and I would laugh over even the littlest things concerning her grandkids. I miss that, more than I thought I would. There are going to be triggers and moments that bring back painful memories. I keep telling myself to be prepared for them, but unless you have gone through this yourself, you simply can’t fathom the emotional distress that will fill you when they occur.
You can’t help but feel a degree of despair when you see other adult children and mothers out spending time with one another. It fills me with both jealousy and thankfulness. Obviously, the jealousy part is self-explanatory. I want my mom here with me doing the things those other people are. The thankfulness part is two fold. First, it made thankful and blessed to have had my mom as long as I had. But on top of that, I am glad for those friends that still have their moms because I know how much I miss mine. For my friends that still have their moms on this earth, I am glad they haven’t had to feel the pain of loss I have.
The last thing I can share concerns those that still have their moms with them in this world along with anyone who has recently lost their mother. I was thankful my friends reached out to me, cried with me, and sat vigil with me as I spent her final days on Earth by her bedside. As much as my friends who sill have their moms hurt for me, they don’t fully understand the extent of my mourning because they simply have not traveled this same road. I was fortunate enough to have some friends who were able to pick me up emotionally and helped carry me through the process of loss. They themselves had already experienced the heartache I was so new to. One day, I will be that steady hand for a friend who has recently lost their mom. I know it will be in this moment that I will understand that all this pain was not in vain and I can help comfort those that are totally lost in their grief.
Maybe not all these ideas pertain to you. If you indeed have joined the same club I never wanted to belong in, you will find a tall list of absolutes that come with a loss so deep. In closing, I will leave you with one memory I have of my mom pertaining to her death. As a child, we attended a funeral where a mom was saying good-bye to her child for the very last time. It is an image I will never forget and it made a lasting impact on my mother as well. Shortly after, she sat my sister and I down and told us that no mother should ever have to bury a child. Being a mother now, I agree whole-heartedly with that statement. She continued to explain to the two of us that there was a natural progression to life and, although I hate this natural progression, I know this is what she would have wanted. She would have wanted her children to out live her. She would want us to carry on and keep her memory alive. I know she would have been proud to know that we are still trying like hell to make that happen.
Above is my mom with my kids at various times in their lives. She was certainly one that took picutes of everything and I am thankful now to have those memories.
Pictured above is one of the last pictures I have with my mom. Being from the Pacific Northwest, this sign amused her.
Below, in the first image, my father and I sprinkling her ashes in the ocean as was her desire. Although we are smiling, it was a hard day for us. But this is what she wanted and in that way, it made us happy. The next picture is the last family picture we had taken together. Again, I am so thankful my mom insisted on this picture. I miss you Mom!
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