Friday, April 30, 2010

Aspidistra - Cast Iron

I may have mentioned that I like the unusual common plant names such as lipstick plant, wax plant, closet plant, corn plant. Maidenhair fern just sounded pretty even though I wouldn't know if from a Boston Fern - there is a difference right?

so when I heard of one called the "cast iron plant" I was very intrigued. And when I heard that it is called cast iron because it is nearly impossible to kill (yet is not invasive), I wanted one. So I have been keeping my eye out for one but it is not as common now although it was a popular plant of the Victorian age.

So anyway, we went to a nursery today to look at the plants - I was not going to buy any. Then I saw the aspidistra.

Lovely and green.

And oddly familiar.

I am pretty sure we have a huge amount of aspidistra growing. Huge. It doesn't like full sun but it keeps spreading elsewhere. I had dug up a bunch a couple years ago and divided it out and then ran out of space for it all. I had even left a large amount in a bucket for over a year and then noticed it was still alive and doing well.

An empty bucket no dirt soil only rainwater. And it was a drought.

But it was doing well.

I thought "It has got to be cast iron plant." And it is!

A plant that I have been looking for in nurseries is in my yard - soon to be also in my house.

I love plants I can't kill.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

book review - Glaen

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:


The Barnabas Agency (February 14, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings - Senior Media Specialist - The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Maybe it’s because his dad was a lawyer and state legislator, or maybe it’s because he grew up in Alabama with something to prove, or maybe he just found a good use for his self-proclaimed ADHD, but whatever the cause, Fred Lybrand has become a careful thinker in a number of disciplines. If you are looking at a topic with Dr. Lybrand, then you are guaranteed to see things like you never have before. “I finally discovered that I’m one of those unfocused students that just likes to learn everything. I guess God made me to be a knowledge broker—I learn some hopefully useful information and then give it to others who need it,” Lybrand describes of his own love for learning and teaching.

Lybrand attended the University of Alabama and majored in English Literature, with a double-minor emphasis in speech communication and fiction writing. He went on to teach the introductory speech communications class while also attending law school at Alabama. A hunger to understand the Word of God, however, led him to withdraw in order to pursue theological studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. Lybrand graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1989 and received a doctorate from Phoenix Seminary, 2007.

In January 2010, Dr. Lybrand retired from a 24-year career as a pastor of two churches in Texas. At Midland Bible Church he helped build a church which has launched ministries in several continents (including successful church-planting efforts in Uganda), as well as serving as a founding board (and faculty) member for Midland Classical Academy, a Socratic-method based high school. The school provides a “classical education” focused on teaching students through the Socratic Method using classical books, interactive science and math, logic, fine arts, and the creative process—all built on the foundation of the Bible. At Northeast Bible Church (Evangelical Free Church) in the San Antonio area, Dr. Lybrand helped redesign the church to grow as a disciple-making center for promoting the grace of God. Teaching and counseling in the church context has been a long-term focus of Lybrand’s labors.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: The Barnabas Agency (February 14, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0578046520
ISBN-13: 978-0578046525


Mother called the week before I met Glaen Breuch.

“So, that's it?” I said with a tinge of anger.

“I'm afraid it is, dear,” a soft and matter-of-fact voice responded.

“Mom, you just want a divorce? You don't want to work at it or get some counseling or something?” I pleaded.

“No Annie, it's over. I've tried and tried, but your father just isn't what I want for the rest of my life. Can't you just be happy for me?” Mother asked.

Suddenly Annie found herself floating, feather-like, away from the phone and experiencing what most people think a drowning person experiences; a life full of joy and promise, in the last moments of gasping for air, she sees a replay of that life. Annie saw the day her baby sister came home from the hospital. Mom and Dad were so happy, and Annie as a little girl couldn't find her sister's feet; she kept looking under the baby-carrier instead of under the blanket. They all laughed for days.

Next, Annie remembered her granddaddy's death and how her mother was so kind to her dad, and how her dad praised mother to everyone in the small town where he grew up. Other memories flooded her mind, moving from ancient black-and-white scenes to vivid full-color images. Most recently she had been in church, seated between her parents, and basking in the wonder of family; hoping for a marriage like theirs. But Annie snapped awake.

“Be happy for you?” I said with amazement. “How can I be happy for you? You are running away to ruin your relationship with Dad and mess up our family forever. You seem happy enough. I don't think you need my help.”

“Annie, my relationship with your dad is already ruined. Honey, the one way I've failed you was to not really help you understand about love. You were always your Daddy's girl anyway, so I never could really tell you how I felt. I don't think I understand relationships, but I'm going to learn about them. Honey, I know you don't understand relationships; just look at what's happened with your boyfriends.”

“Boyfriends?” Annie thought to herself. There were just two; one in high school and one in college. Both of the boys were nice guys who doted, and spent, on Annie. She just wanted to have fun, and she did, for a while. In the same six month period with each guy, Rodney and Pierre, they both turned to the same serious conversation with her about “dating just each other.” Annie could still feel the panic as her stomach tightened and her lungs closed off from the air in the room. She had mysteriously decided she didn't like either of them; and in time she believed it deeply. The only hint she had that perhaps a mistake lived on, was that she saved the letter from Pierre in her dresser drawer back home. Both guys were married now, at least she had heard about their engagements. But now the thought of her past brought Annie back to the room, and to the moment. “Mother, what about your relationship with God? What about your marriage vow before Him?” I asked as a sincere question.

“God wants us happy, dear. I've been miserable for years. I love you children, and now that you're grown, I can follow my dreams. I felt dead, but now I feel alive. Annie, I know it is hard to understand, but I just know God is in this because I'm so wonderfully happy now.”

“Mom…I love you, but what you're doing can't be right. I'm not going to do this to my family,” I said.

“Well, good luck, Honey. I'm going out to dinner and I haven't finished dressing,” she said in a mother-knows-best way.

“Could I give you one piece of advice that would have changed all of this for me?”

“Sure Mom,” I said.

“Annie dear, be sure you marry the right person; don't stand in your wedding dress with doubts in your bouquet.”

We hung up, and I cried for a long time before I could pray. “God, my mother says she doesn't understand relationships, and she's my mom! Then she says I don't understand them either. Please help me to understand.”

Back then I had no idea that prayer was the sort of thing God took seriously.


Glaen Breuch was unusual, even for a college professor.

It was only two weeks before that I had signed up for his Masters class called, “Original Non-Fiction.” Jennah and I had been sitting at Polmier's Coffee Shoppe, a little place with hardwood floors full of serious students and a few silly girls. “What are you going to take for your last class?” Jennah asked. I was irritated. “Gee, Jennah, I just decided now to take classes at all.” She knew how upset I was about Mom and Dad's sudden divorce announcement, so she ignored it and asked again.

“I've prayed all week about it. I wish I could take a class on how relationships really work, but nothing in school is ever practical.” I still remember saying those words when Glaen walked in the Shoppe. He had striking white hair that made a great wave until it crashed above his right eye. Wire-rimmed glasses, herringbone jacket, too many books; all these made Glaen look like the ideal professor. He insisted on being called Glaen rather than “professor” or “mister,” but I didn't know why until months later.

Exactly fifteen years ago I saw Glaen in the Shoppe. Now I am about to see him again. I bet he hasn't changed a bit, but of course how could he?

That day in Polmier's, Glaen walked up to us as an answer to prayer. “Hi ladies,” he said. “I couldn't help overhearing your conversation about classes. I'm a new instructor here at St. Michael's, but I'm a bit late in arriving.” Suddenly his awkward grasp gave way and all of his books and papers clamored to the wood floor. Only one pink sheet remained in his hand. “Oh, here it is,” ignoring the pile at his feet. “I'm teaching this class over the next two semesters. If you're interested, just show up as it says here.” With that Glaen gathered his books and left the Shoppe, cluttered but unembarrassed. From that moment on, all I could think about was how curious both the class and the professor seemed. I was in!

“Welcome class. My name is Glaen, pronounced with a long 'a' as in 'gain.'” He started the Original Non-Fiction class, ONF101 as the flier labeled it, right on time. Without skipping a beat he handed out the syllabus and asked with eyes that swept the room, “Are there any questions before we begin?”

I looked around totally bewildered as I raised my hand. “Yes, and your name is Anne?” he asked. “Well, they call me Annie, but I do have a question,” I said.

“OK Annie, what's your question?” I was still in a self-absorbed mood, so I put a little “dumb blonde” in my voice. “Like…ah…I'm the only student in the room…and, ah…is the class going to make or something?” I wanted to ask why in heaven's name he was acting like the room was full, but it seemed like a dumb move on the first day.

“Well Annie, since it's a new class the powers-that-be have given me permission to teach it even if you're the only one. Ready to start?” he asked, taking my silence for a “yes.”

Glaen wrote the following on the board and asked, “What do you think?”


- Emmons

“Who's Emmons?” I said.

“Does it matter? What if I said it was written by Poe, or Shelley, or Whitman? Would it make a difference? Is it what is said or who said it?” suddenly Glaen had me thinking.

“I guess it doesn't matter,” I said.

“Then what do you think?” he returned.

“I think it sounds reasonable,” I admitted.

“Great!” Glaen took off with a quick lecture on the importance of words and their meanings. He finally got to the point.

“Annie, I've watched conflict for a long time. Seldom is there a conflict that can withstand agreed-to definitions. The reason is pretty simple: Truth still wins out. It's bad enough when two people disagree about what is expected in a relationship. It's even worse when they aren't using the same language. A dictionary or the question, 'What do you mean?' can do more to end conflict than almost anything else on the planet. One of my favorite authors once wrote, 'Truth is the lifeblood of real relationships.'”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, let me ask you a question. If you change your behavior from how you really are to what they want; is it you relating, or is it the character you're playing?”

With that Glaen started to put his books in a much-needed satchel.

“Is that it?” I asked.

“There's nothing else to know for today,” he said.

“Nothing else to know! What about non-fiction? What about writing? What's the assignment?” I said with a little contempt.

“Oh, that,” he said flatly.

“Well, you need to write an original work of non-fiction, offering original insights on a useful topic. It doesn't matter what the topic is, but I would suggest you write about something you care about, something you'd like to understand. I'll be in this room every week at this same moment. I'm available to help you when you want it.”

Glaen looked at me for a long time, staring right through me with his steady blue eyes, framed by his white hair and white button-down shirt.

“Annie,” he added. “Decide on your topic by next week and I'll show you the secret of good non-fiction. There's a book in your future, and I want to show it to you.” Glaen turned and moved out of the room with the grace of a ballet dancer. I just sat there for a long time before I left. The Coffee Shoppe was finally calling.


Truth is the lifeblood of real relationships.

My thoughts:

I thought the information presented was good and I love the idea of presenting it in a story format . . .  I just didn’t particularly enjoy this story. But you may love it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


You should know that Junior HATES hotdogs, I am not really fond of them myself so this isn't a big deal to me.

Junior is somewhat of a picky eater, he will eat what the rest of us eat but will complain This stuff (stroganoff) would be better without the sour cream and onions and why do you like mushrooms. Mushrooms are gross.

Today he is going to a birthday party where they are serving chili dogs and I had visions of him proclaiming loudly "I HATE HOTDOGS." I warned told him about the chilidogs and told him he could have just chili or chili on a bun but he didn't need to say that he didn't like them.

He was very thoughtful and said "I like corndogs* so I might like chilidogs. I think I will try one."


Hopefully he will like them and this will lead to more food experimenting.

* That he likes corndogs is amazing considering he hates cornbread and hotdogs but he is not always rational with his food dislikes.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is it the top half or bottom half?

In my family there are a couple of half siblings but they aren't really referred to that way - they are just brother and sister.

It is something I never really thought about much until I heard a conversation between Junior and one of his cousins.

Junior: Do you have a sister?

Cousin L: No but I have a half brother.

Junior with a look of complete confusion on his face: How do you have half of a brother?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

book review – Twilight Gospel

About the book:

The blockbuster Twilight Saga is being read by teenager and adult alike. These powerful novels are getting even more popular as the movies hit the theaters. Crisply written and with a gracious spirit, The Twilight Gospel will help teens, their parents, and their pastors discern what is good from what is unhealthy in the novels and equip them to be biblically literate readers.

From the back cover:

With these powerful novels getting even more popular as the movies hit the cinemas, the call for a Christian response is strong. What values and ideas do Meyer's novels promote? What is good about them, and what deserves closer inspection?
The spirituality and worldview of the Twilight Saga are fascinating, but they do not sit easily with orthodox Christianity. This book carefully and graciously assesses what is praiseworthy and what is less so. It helps the reader to think more clearly about issues to do with occult spirits, life after death, myths and legends, sexuality, personal spiritual power, the culture of glamour and the lure of materialism. All these subjects are woven into the fabric of the Twilight Saga.
The central point of the book is to help teens (and their parents) discern what is excellent from what is unhealthy, helping to create robust, shrewd, and literate young adults.

About the Author:

Dave Roberts is the author of the best-selling The Toronto Blessing and Red Moon Rising with joint sales in excess of 100,000. He is a former editor of Christianity and won awards for his work on Renewal magazine. He is a local church pastor and conference director for three major annual conferences on worship, children's ministry, and women's ministry.


My thoughts:

I was really excited about getting to read this book because I have really enjoyed reading the Twilight Saga. But the past couple of months have been emotionally hard and I just haven’t felt up to vampires and werewolves.


Or focusing on anything requiring much thought.


That said, Dave Robert has some interesting points and I did learn from this book. It isn’t completely bashing the Twilight series but does raise some interesting points for discussion especially if you have teenage daughters reading it.


I would recommend this book to anyone who has got teen daughters obsessed with Twilight.


I received this book free for review from LitFuse Publicity. I received no other compensation and these are my own words.

Friday, April 9, 2010

book review – Deadly Disclosures

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Deadly Disclosures

New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (February 15, 2010)

***Special thanks to Stacey Drake of New Leaf Press for sending me a review copy.***


Julie first heard a creation science speaker at her church when she was just 15, igniting her interest in creation science and sparking an enthusiasm for defending the Bible’s account of creation. She has obtained a degree in health science, and is currently completing a degree in law. Julie is married with one daughter and lives on the east coast of Australia.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (February 15, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0890515840
ISBN-13: 978-0890515846


Thomas Whitfield climbed out of the Lincoln Towncar and stood in the snappy, early morning fall air, breathing deeply. The temperature had fallen a few more degrees overnight, signaling that winter was truly on its way.

Thomas glanced up and down the wide street. There was nobody around at this early hour, and he took a moment to drink in the sights of his beloved city. The graceful willows, their branches arching over the street, were turning gold and red and, in the gentle yellow morning light, threw off highlights like burnished copper. This street was like many others in the center of DC — wide and tree-lined, with magnificent government buildings standing one after the other. That was another thing that Thomas found so delicious about this city — so much of it hinted at the enormous wealth and prosperity of the country, and yet only a few streets behind these world-famous landmarks, the seedier side of American poverty flourished. It was a city of contradictions, Thomas thought.

His gaze fell finally to the building right in front of him — the main complex of the Smithsonian Institution. Enormous stone pillars flanked the entryway into a marble lobby, and behind that were laid out the evidence of mankind’s brilliance. Everything about the institution was testament to the scientific and anthropological advances of man over the pages of history — the inventions, the discoveries, the deductions, the sheer radiance of a human being’s intelligence at its finest.

Thomas Whitfield had always been immensely proud of this place, and everything it showcased. He had boasted about it, defended it, nourished it, and protected it, the way a proud father would his prodigious child.

He was the secretary of the Smithsonian, after all, and he felt a strange kind of paternal relationship with the buildings and their contents.

He stood for a moment longer, a slender whippet of a man dressed immaculately, with highly polished shoes gleaming, thinning dark hair cut short, and a gray cashmere scarf to ward off the cold. Then he purposefully strode down the path and into the main building, scarf fluttering behind him.

To the malevolent eyes watching him through high-powered binoculars down the street in a non-descript Chevy, he presented a painfully easy target.

Thomas settled in his large office with the door shut, turned on the computer, and shut his eyes briefly as he contemplated what he would do next. The course of events he had planned for this day would change everything, and the impact would be felt right up to the president himself. Courage, Thomas, he told himself silently. What you are about to do is the right thing to do.

He began to type, slowly and decisively, feeling within himself a great sense of conviction and purpose. He was so lost in concentration that he was startled by the door suddenly swinging open.

“What are . . . ?” he exclaimed, almost jumping off his seat. Then he recognized his visitor and he glanced at his watch.

“What are you doing here?” Thomas asked. “It’s a little early for you, isn’t it?”

“I wanted to be sure I caught you,” his visitor replied, moving closer to the desk. “Without any interruptions.”

“I see. What can I do for you then?” Thomas asked, trying to hide his irritation. He hadn’t wanted to be interrupted during this most important task.

“What are you working on?” the unannounced guest asked, ignoring him and moving around the side of the desk and trying to look at Thomas’s computer screen.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Thomas answered with a falsely airy tone. “It’s just a family project. Nothing to do with work. Is there something I can help you with?”

Thomas was suddenly aware that his visitor was standing close by him. He felt uncomfortable, and tried to roll his chair away to maintain some space.

“You see,” his visitor said in a quiet voice, “there are people out there who don’t agree with you. They think the project you are working on could be very dangerous. In fact, I believe they have already tried to warn you about continuing with this project.”

Thomas now felt distinctly uncomfortable and a little afraid. He decided to assert his authority. “Listen here,” he said, in a voice that betrayed his anxiety. “What I am working on is none of your business. The subject is certainly not up for discussion with somebody like you. I suggest you leave my office immediately.”

The visitor managed to fuse sorrow and menace into his words as he said, “I’m afraid I can’t do that. You will have to come with me.”

Thomas retorted, “I’m not going anywhere with you. In fact, I. . . .” He broke off abruptly as he saw the small handgun in the visitor’s hand, pointing directly at him. There was no sorrow or pity on his face — only menace.

“Do I need to force you to come with me?” the visitor wondered, his tone like flint.

Thomas leapt to his feet, his eyes darting about wildly. He needed to get out of here, to try to get away from this situation that had so rapidly gotten out of hand. A hand shot out and grabbed Thomas by the collar with surprising strength. Thomas was shocked as he strained to get away from the man, who was intently staring at the computer screen.

“You traitor!” Thomas spat. “I should’ve known you were nothing more than a trained monkey!”

The visitor chuckled heartily. “That’s ironic, Thomas.”

The visitor, much younger and stronger than Thomas, began to drag him out of the room. Thomas was determined not to go down without a fight, and drove his heel backward into the visitor’s shin. There was a yelp of pain, but the unrelenting grip did not lessen around Thomas’s arm. Instead, a thick arm curled around Thomas’s throat and squeezed, applying pressure to the carotid artery. It took only a few seconds for Thomas to fall limply into the arms of his abductor as the blood supply to his brain was cut off.

That was the last anyone saw of the secretary of the Smithsonian Institute.

• • • •

Dinah Harris woke with a scream dying in her throat, the sheets twisted hopelessly around her legs. Her nightgown was damp with panicked sweat, her heart galloping like a runaway horse. She stared, blinking, at the pale dawn light streaming through the window, while the shadowy vestiges of her nightmare slithered from her memory.

As she lay in bed, joining the waking world from sleep, the familiar blanket of depression settled over her, dark and heavy as the Atlantic winter. The dread she felt at facing another day was almost palpable in the small bedroom. Dinah glanced across at her alarm clock, where the flashing numbers showed 6 a.m.

She threw aside the sheets and stumbled into the tiny bathroom, where she purposefully avoided looking at herself in the mirror. She was only in her mid-thirties and had once been relatively attractive. Certainly not beautiful, but with what her first boyfriend had once told her — a pleasant face and athletic body. Now her eyes were always underscored by dark bags, her skin pale and paper-thin, and the weight fell off her in slow degrees without ceasing. She dressed in her trademark dark pants suit, pulled her black hair from her face in a severe ponytail, and washed her face.

She made strong coffee and sat in the kitchen as she drank the bitter liquid. The dining alcove was still stacked with moving cartons, filled with books and music that she couldn’t face opening. The gray light of morning lent no color to the apartment, which suited Dinah just fine. Her world didn’t contain color anymore.

Though traffic often seemed at a standstill in the mornings, Dinah always arrived early to the J. Edgar Hoover building. She turned directly to the teaching wing, avoiding the eye contact and morning greetings of many she knew in the building. She knew what they whispered about during after-work drinks and at the water cooler. Her fall from grace would go down as one of the most spectacular in FBI history.

So she kept up the ice-cool veneer until she arrived at her desk, checking her e-mails and teaching schedule for the week.

She didn’t look up as an imposing shadow fell across her desk.

“Special Agent Harris, how are you?” boomed the voice of her former colleague, David Ferguson. He was a big man, six-four and two hundred pounds, with a loud, booming voice and a penchant for pork rinds. He stood above her, his hand resting easily on the holstered gun at his hip; the twin of a gun Dinah no longer wore but kept underneath her pillow.

“Ferguson,” she replied. “Fine, how are you?”

“Feel like a coffee?” he asked.

“Don’t you have a killer to catch?” Dinah asked, dryly.

He waved his hand dismissively. “Oh, they can wait. Come on.”

He took her to a tiny Italian café a block away from the FBI headquarters. While they ordered, Dinah wondered at his ulterior motive for bringing her here. It certainly isn’t for my sparkling wit and charm, she thought. Rumor had it that the freshman criminology classes were afraid of her.

“So I’m just wondering if I could get your opinion on something,” Ferguson began, tentatively testing the water.

She scowled at him. “You know I don’t get involved in cases.”

He held up his hands in mock surrender. “Okay, calm down, Harris. I just want your opinion. I know you’ve given up your real talents to teach some snotty freshmen.”

His comment stung her, but she narrowed her eyes at him and pretended she hadn’t even noticed. “So get on with it already.”

“I don’t remember you always being this prickly,” complained Ferguson, draining his macchiato. “Anyway. What would you say if I told you the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution had gone missing?”

“Missing?” Dinah raised her eyebrows and slurped her latte. “In what context?”

“As in, turned up for work at six this morning and disappeared off the face of the earth shortly thereafter.”

“How do you know he turned up for work at six?” Dinah asked.

“Security cameras have him arriving in the lobby and heading for his office. After that, who knows?”

“So he’s an adult, maybe he took a trip to get away from work stress or his wife has been giving him grief or his kid is in trouble.” Dinah frowned. “Why are we even involved at this early stage?”

Ferguson paused. “It’s due mostly to his rather prestigious position. It wouldn’t do for the secretary of the Smithsonian to simply disappear. Congress is rather anxious.”

Dinah knew of political influence that ran high in this city but didn’t press the issue. “Is there evidence of homicide?”

“Not really, although I haven’t been to his office yet.” Ferguson made it sound like a confession, and he looked at her sheepishly.

Dinah stared at him. “What do you really want, Ferguson?”

He gathered up his courage. “I need you to work this case with me, Harris.”

Dinah opened her mouth to respond indignantly, but Ferguson held up his hand and continued with a rush. “You know I’m not good with sensitive cases. I. . . .”

“Or complex ones,” interjected Dinah, bad-temperedly.

“I’m operating on a hunch that this is a bad case, that it involves people in the White House.” Ferguson must have needed her very badly to allow her comment to go unheeded.

“Well, I’m sorry, but I have a heavy teaching workload,” she said. “So I’ll have to limit my involvement to opinions only.”

Ferguson didn’t say anything but looked even guiltier.

“What have you done?” Dinah demanded.

“I may have cleared your schedule so you could work with me.” Ferguson examined his fingernails with great concentration.

Dinah waited for a beat. “I see. You’ve spoken to my superiors?”

He nodded. “They’ve agreed to lend you to me for as long as the case takes.”

Dinah stood abruptly. “Thanks for the coffee.” She walked angrily from the café.

Ferguson stared at her as she walked off, then slapped down some crumpled notes and heaved his bulk out of the chair. “Where are you going?” Ferguson asked, struggling to keep up with her.

She wheeled around and glared directly at him. “Who do you think you are? Do you think I’m lesser than you so you can sneak around behind my back?”

“Dinah, we really need you back in the field. You were — are — brilliant.” Ferguson spoke softly, hoping to calm her down.

“My field days are behind me, with very good reason,” snapped Dinah. I can’t see a dead body anymore. I can’t feel desire to catch the person who did it. I just want to lie down beside the body and feel the same endless peace of sleep.

“Please, I’m begging you. I need you back,” Ferguson said. Then it hit her. Dinah realized that this situation was very serious. Ferguson was the last person on the planet to beg anybody.

“I don’t really have a choice, do I?” she said dully. She knew that this case could break her.

Ferguson didn’t reply, and his answer was in his silence.

• • • •

The Smithsonian Institution was bustling with tourists and school kids as if nothing had gone wrong. Dinah and David strode into the main lobby, trying unsuccessfully to look casual. When they flashed their badges discreetly, they were allowed into the inner sanctum, where Thomas Whitfield’s personal assistant was fielding phone calls.

The secretary was young and pretty, with thick, dark hair waving gracefully to her shoulders, startlingly blue eyes, and a creamy olive complexion. Her only downfall was the thick eye makeup, applied to make her eyes stand out but which had the effect of making her look like a scared raccoon. “I’m afraid Mr. Whitfield simply cannot be interrupted at present,” she snapped into the phone. “I’ll have him call you back if you’d leave a message.”

She glanced up and saw the two agents standing at her desk. She gave them a wave to acknowledge their presence, repeated the details of the caller, scribbled furiously, and then hung up.

“Good morning,” she said, jumping to her feet. “If you caught the end of that conversation, you’ll know that Mr. Whitfield is in an extremely important meeting and. . . .”

“Save it,” interrupted Dinah, showing the secretary her badge. The young woman blushed. “We’re here to investigate the disappearance of Mr. Whitfield. What is your name?”

The secretary sat down hard, looking relieved. “I’m Lara Southall. I’m so worried about Mr. Whitfield.”

Ferguson flashed his partner a frown and took charge. “I’m Special Agent David Ferguson and this is Special Agent Dinah Harris. You’ll have to excuse her; she’s been out of the field for some time and has forgotten how to relate to people.”

Dinah opened her mouth to reply with outrage, but Ferguson continued, “Can you tell us about this morning?”

Lara Southall regarded Dinah with a mixture of amusement and fear, which Dinah filed away for future reference. “I got to work at eight o’clock as usual,” she replied. “Mr. Whitfield always arrives before me. I usually turn on my computer, get settled, and then get us both a coffee. When I opened his office door to give him the coffee, the room was empty.” As the girl spoke, she tapped perfectly manicured fingernails together absently. Dinah hated manicured fingernails: they reminded her of her distinctly unattractive, chewed-to-the-quick fingertips.

“Mr. Whitfield was due to give a presentation at eleven o’clock,” Lara continued. “So I didn’t really start worrying until about ten-thirty. He hates to be late, and he had to come back to get his presentation and make it uptown in less than half an hour. At eleven, I started to make some calls.”

“Has he ever been absent from the office before?” Ferguson asked.

“Sure, he often has meetings or goes out into the museum to talk to visitors. The thing is, I always know what he’s doing. That’s part of my job. He never goes anywhere during the day without letting me know.”

“So you started making calls at eleven. Who did you call?” Dinah asked impatiently.

Lara ticked off her fingers as she remembered. “I called his cell phone, and I called the other museums. I thought maybe he’d just forgotten to tell me he had a meeting. Nobody had seen him and his cell just rang out. So I called his home. His wife told me he’d left for work at about five-thirty and she hadn’t seen him since. Then I called some of the senior executives. I thought they might’ve had an emergency. But nobody had seen him.”

“Did the people you called — his wife, the executives — seem concerned about his whereabouts?” Ferguson asked.

“Yes, they did. It’s so unusual for Mr. Whitfield to act this way that everyone I spoke to was concerned. I think his wife is actually here somewhere at the moment.”

“So then you called the police?” Dinah said.

“No, one of the directors came over to look at the security tapes. She specifically told me not to call anyone until she’d viewed the footage. I thought that Mr. Whitfield might’ve had an accident on the way to work. Mrs. Whitfield was calling the hospitals when Ms. Biscelli — the director — came back from security.”

“What did the tapes show?” Dinah asked.

“They showed him arriving at six-thirty or so. That’s all I know.”

“Did any of the tapes show him leaving?”

“Not as far as I know.”

“Right. So what then?”

“I called the police.”

Ferguson nodded. “What did they tell you?”

“Basically they won’t do anything until he’s been missing 24 hours.” Lara stopped clicking her nails together and started twisting her hair with one finger. “So I told Ms. Biscelli, and she wasn’t happy with that. I think she must’ve pulled some strings, because here you are.”

Dinah and Ferguson both raised their eyebrows at her in confusion.

“The FBI,” explained Lara. “You guys wouldn’t normally get involved, would you?” She may have been a very pretty secretary, but Lara Southall was an intelligent girl. She’d asked the very question Dinah had been mulling over all morning.

“We’re going to look in his office,” Ferguson said, ignoring the question. He handed her his card. “Please call me if you think of anything else that might be helpful.”

She nodded and picked up the ringing phone. “No,” she said, sounding very weary. “Mr. Whitfield is in a meeting at the moment and can’t be disturbed.”

• • • •

Ferguson opened the door to the office while Dinah waited to get the log-on details for Thomas Whitfield’s computer. Dinah stood in the doorway, looking into the impressive room, and felt the thrill of the chase wash over her like a wave. It had been a long time since she had felt anything.

The office was furnished with heavy cedar furniture that consisted of a large desk, a leather-bound chair, a couch, and two armchairs grouped around a glass-topped coffee table and one entire wall of built-in bookcases. The floor was covered with thick burgundy carpet, and the drapes at the picture window were also burgundy. The walls contained portraits of several great scientists and inventors — Dinah recognized Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, and the Wright Brothers — as well as photos of the secretary with the president, the queen of England, and other dignitaries. The room itself was clean and uncluttered, likely symbolic of the man himself, Dinah thought.

Ferguson was moving around the room, muttering to himself, as was his habit. Dinah had forgotten how intensely annoying she found this habit. She preferred silence so that she could concentrate.

Having received the log-on details from Lara, Dinah strode to the desk and pulled on her latex gloves. The top of the desk was shiny and would be a great medium to obtain fingerprints. She was careful not to allow herself to touch the desktop while she turned on the laptop.

“By the way, Harris,” Ferguson said from the wall of bookcases, “I forgot to mention that if something has happened to Mr. Whitfield, the media scrutiny is likely to be intense.”

Dinah scowled at the screen of the laptop. She hated the media, and it was a long-term grudge she held from the last case she’d been involved in. “You can handle it,” she said. “I want nothing to do with those vultures.”

Ferguson glanced over at her. “Of course I’ll handle it. But I can’t guarantee that they’ll leave you alone.”

Dinah tapped her foot against the leg of the desk impatiently as the laptop struggled to come to life. “Sticks and stones, Ferguson,” she said tightly. “Words can never hurt me.”

She could see that Ferguson didn’t buy the lie, but he’d decided to let it go. He at least knew not to push too far.

“This whole office is giving me a weird vibe,” he said after a moment. “It’s too . . . organized.”

Dinah logged onto the laptop. “I’m listening.”

“Look at the desk,” Ferguson mused. “No files or paperwork. Not even a pen or a Post-It note. No diary.”

“Maybe he’s just really neat,” Dinah said, opening Outlook on the laptop.

Ferguson went back to his muttering as he continued drifting around the room. Dinah frowned as she clicked through the folders in Outlook. Then she opened the other programs on the computer and looked through the folders there.

“That’s odd,” she commented at last. Ferguson looked up and came over to her.

She clicked through the inbox, sent items, and calendar of the e-mail program. There were no entries in any of them. “They’re completely clean,” she said. “The calendar is the strangest. You’d think the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution would have at least a couple of meetings a week.”

“Maybe he uses a paper diary,” suggested Ferguson.

“Certainly a possibility,” agreed Dinah. “But couple the empty calendar with the fact that he’s neither received nor sent an e-mail from this computer and something isn’t right.”

Ferguson opened the desk drawers and started looking through them.

“Also,” added Dinah, “there is not one single saved document in any other program — no letters, articles, presentations, anything. The entire computer is as if it’s never been used.”

Ferguson sat back on his heels. “You think someone has wiped his computer?”

“Well, the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question is: did Thomas Whitfield wipe his own computer before disappearing or did someone else wipe his computer before abducting him?” Dinah began to shut down the programs. “After all, there is no evidence to suggest that he has been abducted. There’s no sign of a struggle in here or blood stains, is there?”

Ferguson shook his head. “No, there isn’t. But there is something off about this office. Nobody, least of all a man in his position, can get through a working day without sending an e-mail or doing paperwork of some kind.” He gestured at the desk drawers. “There’s absolutely nothing in them.”

“I agree,” Dinah said. She closed the laptop and picked it up. “I’m going to have the lab look at the hard drive. What else?”

“I’ll call in crime scene to lift some fingerprints and check for blood.” Ferguson paused, thinking. “I’d like to talk to Ms. Biscelli, and I’d like to talk to his wife.”

Dinah nodded. “If Mr. Whitfield has been abducted, what do you suppose is the motive?”

Ferguson considered. “I don’t know. Money? Fame? Half the time I think these loonies go around killing people just so they can get their name in the news.”

Dinah stared at him. “Do you think Thomas Whitfield is dead?”

He shrugged. “Right now, Harris, I know nine-tenths of absolutely nothing. Let’s talk to Ms. Biscelli. Maybe she’ll know what happened and we can solve this case before dinner time and I’ll get a decent night’s sleep.”

Flippancy, Dinah remembered, was just Ferguson’s way of dealing with the intensity of this job and the horror they’d witnessed over the years.


My thoughts:

This book reminded me of some of the popular mainstream authors except for the lack of curse words and gratuitous explicit sex.  I have to say, I didn’t miss those elements at all.


The story line was fast moving and enjoyable. I am really looking forward to the next books in the series.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My goal is to have a slightly green thumb

My great-grandmother could make anything grow – she had a very green thumb.


I have a black thumb. I touch plants and they die.


It is sad really.  But I am turning over a new leaf (HA) and am bound and determined to keep some plants alive. Hopefully the internet will be my friend and tell me how to care for them. I think the ones I have are all fairly easy to grow, if I don’t over water.  I have a Peace Lily (I have managed these before for a long time), a Bromeliad, a Hoya, a Schefflera and a Philodendron. We also have a Aloe Vera that we have kept alive for a few months – Hubby tried to drown it but I rescued it.


I also have an African Violet in an African Violet pot which should keep it alive. Supposedly those pots make it idiot-proof. I’ll let you know.


And there are some other plants I have, both indoors and and out, and others I want to try. I like the absurd names of some of them, a Corn Stalk Plant had my brother-in-law and husband confused. Both of them country boys, said that the plant didn’t look a thing like corn stalk – I suggested it was a city boy’s idea of corn.


I think a Lipstick Plant would be cool because it is a fun name but I don’t know if I am there yet.


Any plants you think I should try? Either fun names or idiot-proof – or fun name and idiot-proof would be good.

how things are going

This has been really hard on us. Daddy’s death was hard but we knew it was coming sooner rather than later. We knew he was ready to be pain-free and as much as we may want him alive, we wouldn’t ask for him to keep living in that pain.


With my husband’s mom though, we thought she would be getting better.


We thought she would get back to normal. And we had plans, nothing specific but things that we wanted to do.



In some ways it is much worse with both of us grieving our parents at the same time but there are some positives. Since we are both going through it we understand each other better. Before my husbands mother passed, I felt like he couldn’t get it –after all he still had 2 parents. It wasn’t that he said or did anything wrong, just that he hadn’t gone through it so he couldn’t possibly understand. 


I know he gets it now. I wish he didn’t have to go through this but I know he gets it. So we are our own grief counseling group.




The gall of some people amaze me. I have gotten email from people wanting something from me on my blogs – like a link exchange or a mention on a post.


Maybe they didn’t bother to look to see what the most recent post was because they are too busy.


Which makes me think I wouldn’t want to work with them anyway.




We adults completely forgot Easter – well, the bunny part of Easter.  Junior woke up Sunday morning and asked if the next day was Easter. I said nope, it was that day.


He said “Did the Easter bunny come?”


My first thought was “oh, crap!” I just said, while panicking, that he was coming later. 


So we decided to celebrate Easter on the 11th because I had so many plans I wanted to do: dye eggs, make empty tomb cookies, etc. I could put it all off until next year but I just feel like we need to do this.


As an added bonus, all of the Easter basket stuff was 1/2 price.




My daughter used air quotes when talking about Santa. I think she knows.




It is a week after Meme’s death and we are still in shock. With my dad, we suspected/knew that the end was coming and so we were more prepared – if one can ever really be prepared. We knew that without a miracle, he would not be cured.


We thought she would get better. We really did.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

book review – Songbird Under a German Moon

songbird ABOUT THE BOOK:
The year is 1945. The war is over and 21-year-old Betty Lake has been invited to Europe to sing in a USO tour for American soldiers who now occupy Hitler's Germany. The first nights performance is a hit. Betty becomes enthralled with the applause, the former Nazi-held mansion they're housed in and the attention of Frank Witt, the US Army Signal Corp Photographer. Yet the next night this songbird is ready to fly the coop when Betty's dear friend, Kat, turns up missing. Betty soon realizes Franks photographs could be the key to finding Kat. Betty and Frank team up against post-war Nazi influences and the two lovebirds' hearts may find the each other.
But will they have a chance for their romance to sing? The truth will be revealed under a German moon.

Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions.  She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana. Find out more about her and her books at

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed this book. The history buff part of me loved the history included, the musical part loved all of the info about Wagner, and the reader in me loved the storyline.

This is a great book for a beach day or a rainy day. You ought to put it on your summer reading list.

I received this book free for review from LitFuse Publicity. I received no other compensation and these are my own words.