Wednesday, February 28, 2024

February Library Lovers Month

I'm late to the party. That's not much of a surprise because I'm not much of a party animal anyway. And, I don't need a special month to celebrate libraries. Every day, as I open up a book to read, I'm thankful for the way libraries have enriched my entire life. But February IS Library Lover's Month, so maybe that's a good enough excuse for another book review blog post.

(me and Lisa in November 1959. Lisa always says I taught her to read. She was a year behind me in school, but she sat right beside me as I learned to read. By the time she was in first grade, she was an old pro.)

You know the old TV show, Cheers? In the theme song, Cheers is a place "where everybody knows your name." I don't have any bars that fit that description, but the Hutchinson Public Library front desk workers definitely know my name. I almost always have books "on hold" at the library.

My sister, Lisa, and I share some reading time

If I were independently wealthy, I might buy my favorite authors' books the minute they are published. But, alas, since I am not, I am a frequent flier at my library. I put the latest bestsellers and my favorite authors' books "on hold" and wait for my turn at the library.

I still use the book bag I won a couple of years ago in the Hutch library reading contest.

I can never remember a time when I wasn't a library patron. My mom took us to the library from the time we could toddle in on our own steam. My earliest memories include the library in the Pratt County Courthouse. When I was in grade school, Pratt built a new public library. It was where I discovered the Happy Hollisters, Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown before "graduating" from the children's room to the adult section.

While this is not my chart, I remember sticking the green stickers to similar certificates to record books as an elementary school summer library reader.

When I moved to Hutchinson to work as a reporter at The Hutchinson News back in 1979, the Hutchinson Public Library became my new library. Even though I quit my daily commute to Hutchinson after Brent was born, the Hutchinson library - with its vast collection and quick access to new releases - remained my "home" library - supplemented by trips to the Nora Larabee Memorial Library in Stafford.

While I get the majority of the books I read in Hutchinson, the Stafford library is a community treasure - not only for its book collection, but for the way it reaches out to the community with monthly events like First Friday/Nora's Gatherings and other community-minded activities. Just Monday, the Stafford library hosts CNA students who took patrons' blood pressures as a community service. (Plus, there were snacks!)

Story hour with Miss Gerry Ann at the Nora Larabee Memorial Library - June 2023

National Today had this blurb about libraries:

Do you know where the word ‘library’ came from? No prizes for guessing. It originates from Latin. The Latin word is ‘liber’ for ‘book’ or ‘document,’ which can be found in ‘libraria’ for ‘collection of books’ and ‘librarium’ for ‘container for books.’ It all started with the need to organize collections of documents. The earliest form of archiving began amidst the earliest forms of writing, which consisted of clay tablets, dating back to 2600 B.C. in Sumer.

Every time I recommend books, I lead with this caveat: Everyone has his/her own taste in books. I take photos of book covers and send them to Jill or to my sister, Lisa, thinking they'd like particular books. But I always find it a bit risky to recommend books to others. 

But here goes. Maybe someone else looks for recommendations from someone they actually know. If you like them, let me know. And, if you don't, that's OK, too. Everyone has different genres, authors or other preferences. So find one you like and read it. And be sure and tell me: I might like it, too. At my age, I've decided that if I don't like a book after I've given it a fair shot, I move onto the next.

I've given an Amazon link for each one. That's not to encourage you to buy it. I don't get a cut from sales. It just gives more of a synopsis than I've given. I'd encourage you to find the books at your local library. Or support a local bookstore and purchase locally. I occasionally buy secondhand books through the Thriftbooks website. I also enjoy going to Bookaholic for second-hand books when I'm in Wichita. But, the vast majority of books I read are from my public libraries, including all the books below. 
By Shelley Read
This is a book Lisa recommended. She used it as her most recent book club selection. The story centers around Victoria Nash, a 17-year-old who is the sole surviving female on the family's peach farm. She meets a young drifter, who changes her life and that of her family. The peach farm in located near the Gunnison River, and the government plans to build a reservoir which will flood their farm and those of neighbors. The book is loosely inspired by true events surrounding the destruction of the town of Iola, Colorado, in the 1960s. (It reminded me of farms and people displaced when the Tuttle Creek Reservoir went in around Manhattan, KS.) She was the author's debut novel, and I hope she will write additional books. 


By Ashley Elston

This was the author's first foray into writing for the adult fiction market. This was a a twisting and turning mystery that I devoured in a day. The main character is Evie Porter - or so we think, at least at first. Evie is just her name for this latest job for Mr. Smith. And while he's her boss, she doesn't know anything about him. She goes from town to town, job to job, posing as a different person each time. But this time, things are a bit different. Who else has secrets? Again, I'll look for the author's name among new releases. 

By Laurie Frankel
Unlike the two books above, Laurie Frankel has authored several other books, all of which I've liked. Her subject matter is not without controversy. Not everyone is going to like the character's lifestyle choices. But, my parents never censored my reading, and I believe it's valuable to read about our differences, too. 

India Allwood is now a famous actress. When she does a movie with adoption as its centerpiece theme, she has some real-life knowledge about the subject. And she tells a journalist her truth about how adoption is portrayed. But her viewpoint on adoption isn't popular with either pro-life or pro-choice proponents. How do you become family - really family (Family, Family)?


By Tess Gerritsen 

This one is another mystery/thriller - my favorite genre. Former spy settles in Purity, Maine, and raises chickens at her farm near on the coast. She's trying to leave the past behind, but then a body turns up in her driveway. Maggie isn't the only retired spy living in her small community. This group of friends help her investigate, all the while trying to appease the local police chief, who can't figure out how the "Martini Club" is investigating just as quickly as the police force. 


By Nita Prose
This is the second Molly the Maid book by Nita Prose, and I again enjoyed the capers and peculiarities of the offbeat character, Molly. She's now Head Maid at a five-star hotel. But there's another death at the hotel. This time, her new maid-in-training is on the lead detective's radar as a chief suspect. What are Molly's friend and the hotel's doorman hiding? Is there a tie-in to Molly's past? It's another quick-read caper with Molly and those she cares about in the crosshairs of Detective Stark's investigative radar. 
By Adam Plantinga
This one is another edge-of-your-seat thriller. However, it is pretty violent and graphic, so I offer that word of warning for those who are squeamish or prefer other things. A former Detroit cop is at loose ends after his wife dies of cancer. He gets sideways with a small town cop after he witnesses a young girl being dragged into an alley. Going up against the cop gets him beat up and sent to a maximum security prison. And it just so happens that the governor's daughter, Julie, in touring the prison when its systems fail. Kurt ends up trying to help Julie and others escape, while battling the most dangerous convicts in Missouri.  
By Elle Cosimano

Don't judge a book by its cover. Well, I did. I am probably the visitor that Barnes and Noble dreads seeing. On a recent trip to Kansas City, I browsed through the book store. But instead of purchasing the books, I had my library app open and I was putting books on hold at my library. This was one of those books. I had to chuckle when I read the blurb on the bottom of the page: "Most moms are ready to kill someone by eight thirty A.M. on any given morning ..."
Finlay Donovan is a struggling novelist and mom of two. She's behind on her book contract. And her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her. She is discussing the plot of her new novel with her agent while lunching at Panera and a customer mistakenly thinks she's a contract killer. That customer "hires" her for a job. How can she get out of this? 

I'll be checking out other of the Finlay Donovan books in the series.


By John Grisham

When I saw that a sequel to The Firm was coming out, I re-read the original book. I thoroughly enjoyed it again, and I was looking forward to reading The Exchange when my name got to the top of the "hold" list at the library. 

It was OK. Randy liked it much better than I did. In it, Mitch and Abby McDeere - the central characters from The Firm - are living in New York City. Mitch is now employed with a different high-power firm. A colleague in Rome asks him to look into a project in the Middle East. Of course, there's a sinister plot and Mitch is again in the middle of it all with friends and family in danger yet again.

As always, if you have books to recommend, please share them with me. I'm always looking for my next read!


Tuesday, February 20, 2024


Last Wednesday morning - Valentine's Day - I worked on a future blog post. It combined sunset photos and a few light-on-ice photos from Quivira National Wildlife Refuge that hadn't yet made it into the blog or my Facebook page. On that Ash Wednesday, the blog post also had a tie-in to the transfiguration of Jesus, which was the Scripture and theme for Pastor Benjamin's sermon the previous week. 

I was happy with it and thought it was a fitting beginning to the season of Lent in the Christian year. I hadn't written a devotional-type blog for awhile, and as I went upstairs to work on dinner prep, I thought that it would only take a re-read and a little polishing before I hit "publish" the next Tuesday. 

But then Wednesday afternoon happened. The senseless shooting in the midst of celebration of the Kansas City Chiefs victory parade - plus some personal stuff - had me tossing and turning that night. Eventually, I gave up and got out of bed, attempting to find a way to shut off my overactive brain. It was a short night. My well-articulated Thursday morning list was in disarray with other unexpected distractions. 

So much for planning ahead. So, why not do a little mindless Facebook skimming, right? I was behind anyway. And then I clicked on a link provided by an acquaintance from my days in K-State's Concert Choir. On her post, she shared that she'd linked this same choir piece to her Facebook page four years before, and unfortunately, it was relevant yet again. 

The piece is Let My Love Be Heard by Jake Runestad. It was performed by the Bob Cole Conservatory Chamber Choir as a tribute to one of their members killed in a mass shooting in Paris in 2015. (I actually wrote a blog post back in November 2015 about the Paris shooting, too, with a link to another song. (Click HERE for "God Bless Us Every One.")

The words to Jake Runestad's beautiful choral composition say:

Angels where you soar up to God's own light
Take my own lost bird on your hearts tonight
And as grief once more mounts to heaven and sings
Let my love be heard
Let my love be heard
Whispering in your ways
Let my love be heard. 
As I sat there with tears running down my face, I realized that perhaps my Facebook skimming wasn't so pointless after all. 
The simple - yet overwhelmingly powerful - words of that song preached a more powerful lesson than any blog post. Or any sermon. 

Let my love be heard.

I certainly try for that to happen. I spent the rest of the day on Thursday working on a meal for Core, a group works to help get people out of poverty. Our church is just one of the meal providers, taking our turn about once a quarter or so. While I was the planner and the cook, many congregation members contributed money for the ingredients to make it happen. 

And I remembered back to the Sunday before, when I'd taken a photo of the children at church, standing by a big pile of food donated for the local food bank as part of a Souper Food Drive on Super Bowl Sunday. 
Our little church collected 249 pounds of food, but we were just a tiny cog in a much larger effort for the church conference. Some 84 churches from the Great Plains UMC donated food to help Team KC collect 168,253.66 pounds of food during the Super Bowl drive. The California churches supporting the San Francisco 49ers collected 32,945 pounds. In all, 221 churches across the four conferences took part.
That's a victory for local food banks - no matter where the food was tallied. We couldn't accomplish that alone.

But I also had to acknowledge that I wasn't letting "my love be heard" when I commented to Randy about another acquaintance's Facebook post.

I can do better. We can all do better. 
I need to be part of the harmony so beautifully illustrated by that spectacular choir. 

I started writing. I changed 90 percent of what I had in the original blog post. But then I looked again at what I'd written to begin with. It included this quote on Jesus' transfiguration written by Scott Clark, a Presbyterian minister. 
Transfiguration brings us to the place where the words run out and invites us into the holy experience of silence. The silence between the words. The place where we meet God in ways that words simply cannot express.  

Another shooting? Yes, definitely the words had run out. 

Another email devotional included this prayer:

May our gifts reflect the warming light of your love in our lives. Just as Jesus was transfigured before them, may our hearts be transformed, and our actions reflect the love and truth Jesus embodies. Bless our giving and use it to bring your divine light to a world in need. In the name of Jesus, our Lord, we pray. Amen.

Looking for God in my today ... that seems like a good goal to me.


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Paparazzi Moments

With Taylor Swift's sudden interest in "football," security at certain football stadiums has had a corresponding uptick. A whole new breed of paparazzi is more interested in what's happening in a stadium suite than the action happening between the goal lines. 

Tye and Todd have to deal with their own influx of paparazzi these days. So far, security has not increased, and we are allowed to view and photograph the Class of 2024 with no impediments - as long as we shut the gates. 

While we aren't doing the day-to-day cattle chores any longer, we still own our mama cows. Tye and his dad, Todd, are the caretakers and calve out our mamas, along with their own herd. As I've said before, we are fortunate to have a liberal visitation policy in the neighborhood maternity ward. (Hopefully, they don't cringe every time they see our pickup.) We've already had "visiting hours" several times this winter.

Even though No. 2 doesn't have a yellow tag - so it's not our calf - I couldn't resist snapping its photo. Tye saw us out there and called to tell us to look for a calf with a white leg. It had already caught my eye - and the camera lens - before the phone call.


Mom looked me over rather sternly, but she was OK with the paparazzi moment, too. That spot on her forehead made it look like she was cocking her eyebrow at the unwanted attention for her baby.

I couldn't help but laugh at No. 956. From its perch on the wrong side of the electric fence, it looked like a defiant toddler with an attitude.

This one was at the salt block feeder. But there were no "lick-your-lips" moments, a photo I finally got during last calving season.

We noticed several calves with an RP on the tag. As Tye and Todd told Randy before, the initials indicate which bull was used for breeding the progeny. We couldn't resist another phone call to Tye, asking him if the RP stood for Royal Purple. 

Tye - who is as big a KU fan as we are K-State fans - assured us that no bull in their herd had anything to do with purple (our Wildcat colors).

I always like seeing the interaction between mothers and babies. 

During this Valentine's month, there's no shortage of love around - for bovines, too.


There might be some family resemblance among the mamas and babies.

This baby was receiving a little "spa" treatment in the shed.  

 It's definitely cuteness overload in the maternity ward.

I'm sure it won't be our last visit. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Will & Avery: Part of the Family Now


Back in November, I introduced you to the newest residents of The County Line. So, I figured it was time for an update. 

Will and Avery have made themselves at home, and they have been growing like proverbial weeds. My Facebook feed reminds me every so often of how quickly time marches on. Kinley's 12th birthday has come and gone, but my Facebook memory feed still offers glimpses of her first few weeks of life. It's hard to believe - whether we're talking human sisters or cat brothers. 


Before anyone thinks we are abusing the cats based on photos I took from their igloo during a snow storm, here's proof we are not:

I sent these to the kids, telling them it was the very definition of a "cat nap."

They take up a little more space in Randy's arms these days. (They were not particularly cooperative for this photo op. They are cats, after all.)

They still like their igloo - snow, rain or sunshine.

Our farm cats have also become accustomed to watching the 'Cats (K-State Wildcats) on TV with their favorite human. Just like Big Cat used to do, they know that the leopard print blanket is their spot. 

Sometimes, both come in for an evening cuddle. Just as often, it's only one brother. But last night, both came in to watch our 'Cats knock off the Jayhawks in an ESPN Big Monday game. If that's what it takes to win, maybe Randy will have to work harder to find both Will and Avery when the 'Cats are battling on the hardwood. They may be named in honor of K-State football players, but we'll take a little basketball magic, too.