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Brigham Tea Magazine

So Many Irons in the Fire…

My grandmother used to warn me about having too many irons in the fire. I do love to stay busy… I’ve been writing! I’ve been writing the next New Parish book, the next Brigham Tea Magazine, and another project I’ve been working on for almost two years now, The Grandparent’s Field Guide to Long Distance Grandparenting.

The next New Parish book, Home in New Parish, is about three fourths done. It offers a completely different side of the romantic comedy that always happens in New Parish.

The next Brigham Tea Magazine is full of so much rich history of the west, beautiful new pictures of the wild and wooly west, and even a buffalo hunt. The buffalo hunt was with cameras only, of course.

The Grandparent’s Field Guide to Long Distance Grandparenting has been a labor of love. It’s full of stories and games that I created for my own grandchildren, to share with other grandparents who might not live very near their little ones. Or even if they live near, they could still use this fun and engaging book.

So as for my grandmother’s warning, I don’t think I have too many, irons in the fire… I think there’s just the right amount to keep me busy and out of trouble. I can’t wait to share it all with everyone!

Merry Christmas from New Parish

I hope everyone has a most joyous and wonderful holiday season.

I’ve been working on Home in New Parish, book three in the New Parish series. It’s not finished yet, but I thought I would introduce you to Sarah and Hannah’s older sister, Brenda. She’s got a lot of challenges to face but she seems to find it a little bit easier to face them in New Parish. She’s uniquely different from Sarah and Hannah, but still a feisty Nichols sister.

She was almost devastated when her marriage didn’t work out, and ended in divorce. She’s facing life’s challenges now and holding it together, for her four children.

Below is the newsletter she wrote to share with her family who aren’t in New Parish for Christmas.

Opposite Direction

Have you ever had things planned out? You know, exactly what you’re going to do. Then something happens and you change your plans and go the opposite direction from what you were going to do… Opposite directions can be course corrections or life changing events that happen to direct the opposite directions to take place, whether these opposite directions are caused by positive things or negative things.

Opposite directions happen throughout our lives, sometimes they are small changes, other times they can be monumental. I ponder these events, the ones that send us in the opposite direction. In my writing, I often mix this sometimes annoying, sometimes revelatory phenomenon into the story.

So, when I write I’m always looking for a way for my story to parallel real life. This opposite direction thingy is one way to do that. I suppose some might call that a plot twist, but for me, it’s simply a way to make fiction more like reality.

As a writer, I strive to breathe life into not only my story, but into each character. Opposite directions are very good ways to do that. The thing is, when these opposite directions happen in the story, I have to make sure my characters react to them as they individually would react. All people have their own way of dealing with life, they react differently. So as a writer I have to make sure I know my characters well enough to know how they will deal with whatever happens to them in my story. Yes, I suppose, some would call that character development… I’m pretty sure I see things differently than other people do, and describe things differently than other people do, so I call it getting to know my characters and opposite directions. That’s just the way I am…

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Hannah’s Courage

In life we all have to face things we don’t necessarily want to face. Some of those things are more difficult than others, some can even destroy us, if we let them. In Return to New Parish, I chose to present a difficult thing that many women have had to face. Hannah faces all the emotions, fears, and heartbreak of this very difficult thing… Throughout her journey in Return to New Parish, she gains the courage to deal with this, and finds a way to move forward in her life. She has some great support in her sister, family, and Alex… but in the end, it’s all up to her to deal with what happened.


Excerpt from Return to New Parish:

Chapter 12 – Alex


“Have you talked to Uncle Alex?” Sarah asked.

            “We talk all the time,” Hannah avoided what she knew Sarah meant.

            “About Nathaniel?” Sarah probed.

            “No,” Hannah returned firmly.

            “You need to tell your husband about the man who nearly raped you,” Sarah insisted.

            “Who’s Nathaniel?” Alex asked from behind them. “What happened?”

            Hannah sighed and gave Sarah a disapproving frown, “I’d rather not talk about it.”

            “It’s too late for that,” Alex said gently. “I heard what Sarah said.”

            “Okay, but later,” Hannah pleaded, holding Annie close, almost like a little shield.

            “Yeah, but we will talk,” Alex nodded and returned to the paddock and the girls.

            “Grrrr,” Hannah growled softly at Sarah, so as not the scare Annie.

            “Growl all you want,” Sarah shrugged. “He’s got a right to know, especially since you’ve decided to not have a physical relationship. He is your husband after all.”

            Hannah sighed and tried not to think about the conversation she knew was inevitable. Holding Annie and watching the girls ride helped distract her mind, but not completely. She didn’t want to tell Alex but she knew Sarah was right, she knew she had to tell him, she sighed again.

            That night as Hannah finished tidying up her sitting room, she heard a knock on her door. She thought, “I have plans for spending the evening on the balcony, and then moving to the big tub before bed.”

            When she opened the door, she found Alex standing there.

            “It’s not my night to fix your dinner,” she said quickly and somewhat panicky, hoping she didn’t lose track of which night she was supposed to fix his dinner.

            “Nope,” Alex chuckled rubbing his tummy. “I’ve already had my dinner. Can we talk?”

            “Sure,” Hannah said, stepping aside so he could come in.

            Alex motioned for her to sit on the sofa and he joined her, “So, who’s Nathaniel? And, what happened?”     

            Hannah sighed heavily, feeling like all her emotions had just deflated and were filling back up with fear, dread, and anxiety. She looked out at the balcony she’d planned on spending the evening on, then back to Alex. “We’d been dating for a couple of months,” Hannah began. She watched his expressions as she spoke, “I’d just finished all my course work and passed my last exam. So, we went out for dinner to celebrate. We’d ordered our drinks, non alcoholic champagne, and we were ready to order our food. I was checking out the menu when the waitress told me that she saw Nathaniel put something in my drink. He denied it, but I could see a small pill dissolving quickly at the bottom of my glass,” Hannah paused to take a deep breath and try to settle herself.  “He laughed, like it was some kind of joke,” she took another deep breath to try and control her emotions. “It scared me so bad, I of course left the restaurant and went back to my apartment.

            Alex remained quiet listening to every word, as she answered his questions.

            “I’ve been scared ever since,” Hannah sighed. “I’ve never been intimate with a guy, I wanted that to be with my husband, the man I would spend forever with. He was going to take that from me, something that was mine to give to who I choose, not his to take,” Hannah knew there was anger in her voice now, but she couldn’t help it.

            Alex sighed softly and put his arms around her, he pulled her close and whispered, “You’re safe here sweetheart. If I ever meet Nathaniel, it’ll hurt.”

            Hannah sighed, she did feel safe in his arms, she put her arms around him not wanting him to let go. He caressed her face and gently brushed her hair aside, then gently kissed her forehead. He held her for a long time.

            A few tears escaped, but, Hannah thought, “It’s not fear, not anger, not even sadness.” She decided to analyze later, for now, she thought, “I’m going to just be glad I am where I am.”

            Things between her and Alex became easier, more comfortable, and exactly what Hannah needed them to be.

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Choices, Choices, and Choices…

We all have them, choices to make… Where we’re going to live, what career we’re going to pursue, who we’re going to marry… There’s always a myriad of choices that face us throughout our lives, and even on a daily basis. What movie are we going to watch tonight? What’s for dinner? In Return to New Parish, Hannah has many choices to make, some big, life changing ones, and some, all be it simple, still stressful ones.

Hope you’re enjoying her journey…

Excerpt from Return to New Parish:

Chapter 12 – Alex

“Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you that I have dinner with each of my wives on rotating evenings,” Alex grinned mischievously. “Tomorrow’s your turn.”

            “What?” Hannah felt like the proverbial deer in the headlights. “I’m not a very good cook,” she admitted honestly. 

            “I can eat just about anything,” Alex shrugged. “It’s just to talk and visit, really. To cover some ground.”

            “Okay,” Hannah sighed. “I make no promises on how dinner will turn out.”

            Alex smiled warmly, “Can’t be any worse than some of the stuff I had to eat when I was on trail rides.” He gave her a quick hug, and said, “I have to get out to the stables.”


Hannah sighed, hoping for good news and opened the email from Brenda.

     “Hi Han,

                        Congratulations. Yes, I’ve heard, at

times, very loudly about your marriage. I’m

glad you’re finally getting into cooking and

have friends that have inspired and encouraged

you. I’m attaching several recipes that should get

you by.

I’ll send some more soonish.

                        Love you too,



Just as she placed the last pan in the drainer, there was a knock on the door. She ran over to the French doors and closed them, and took a long, slow deep breath before she opened her apartment door.

            Alex was standing there with a curious, questioning look, holding a bouquet of flowers.

            Hannah smiled, not really wanting to explain anything, “Avoidance is best,” she thought.

            Alex cleared his throat and said, “These are for you.”

            “Thanks, come on in,” Hannah smiled, breathing in the wonderful aroma of the flowers. She filled a vase with water, placing the flowers in it, then set it in the center of the dining table, which was just past where the food and plates were.

            Alex pulled a chair out for Hannah and scooted it in for her when she sat. He sat at the head of the table and said a short prayer.

            Hannah thought, “A prayer is definitely needed for this meal.”

            “How was your day?” Alex asked, obviously trying not to laugh.

            “Fine,” Hannah replied, determined not to talk about the disaster she’d made of cooking.

            Alex smiled and dished up.

            Hannah did the same, hoping it wouldn’t be as bad as she feared it would be.

            “We have a new foal in stable three,” Alex informed her, taking a bite of Sheppard’s pie.

            “Oh, wow,” Hannah said excitedly. “Can I go visit tomorrow?” She felt guilty hearing the crunching sounds as Alex chewed. She knew shepherd’s pie wasn’t supposed to be crunchy.

            “Sure,” Alex nodded. “She’s not going anywhere. I have high hopes for that little girl.” Then he encouraged, “So, tell me what you did in school.”

            “Programming, networking, if it had anything to do with computer tech, I was in on it,” Hannah replied, taking her first bite of shepherd’s pie. “It’s not too bad,” she thought, breathing a sigh of relief. “I’m going to send Bren a, thank you, email tomorrow.”

            “So when’s your last day on the job?” Alex asked with one eye squinted a bit.

            Hannah smiled, she couldn’t help it, just about everything about him seemed charming to her now. “Next Tuesday,” she replied.

            “Good,” Alex nodded. “I’ll start showing you how things work here next week.”

            “Okay,” she said. Then a thought came to her, “How long have you been doing the girls trick riding team?”

            “Oh, since Lexie got interested when she was about six,” Alex smiled. “She used to like to go watch me ride in the rodeo and she saw groups of girls doing trick riding and wanted to learn.”

            “Wow, that’s really cool,” Hannah said with admiration.

            “Once she got started, some of her cousins wanted in, and before long I had a whole team,” Alex chuckled. “Those girls were very determined.”

            “The ones now are too!” Hannah smiled. “I love watching them.”

            “Maybe you’ll like going to the rodeo then?” Alex winked. “There’s usually another team that does the same circuit we do. Sometimes they get a little competitive, but it keeps my girls on their toes.”

            “Like a rival football team?” Hannah proffered.

            “Yep,” Alex replied.

            After they finished the salad and Sheppard’s pie Hannah retrieved the almost apple pie from the warmer. It was a little burnt around the edges, but the middle was all the way delicious. That made Hannah feel a little better.

            Alex helped Hannah with the dishes and told her about the rodeo schedule for the summer. The customary good night hug was given and, as Hannah closed the door, she breathed a sigh of relief.

            “It wasn’t a complete disaster,” she thought.


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Hannah’s Boy

This next week (8th & 9th), will start an ad campaign on for Return to New Parish ebook and a couple of give away days for Brigham Tea Magazine and New Parish. I hope you all get in on the free stuff and the advertising special!

In Return to New Parish Hannah not only makes new friends but falls in love with a little boy who’s a larger than life character. Liam is her boy, she had no hope of ever recovering from the love she had for him…


Excerpt from Return to New Parish:

Chapter 10 – Processing

“The next morning Hannah’s phone chimed as she was getting out of the shower. She saw it was from Cilla and touched the screen to see what it was about.

            “Taking Liam to the hospital!”

            “Crap,” Hannah groaned, wondering what had happened. She texted back, “What’s wrong?”

            Cilla returned, “High temp and crying with his head hurting.”

            Hannah quickly found out which hospital and told Cilla she’d be there soon.

            Hannah dressed in record speed and ran into the kitchen to find Sarah.

            “Cilla texted me that she’s taking Liam to the hospital, I’m going,” she hurriedly told Sarah.

            “Wait,” Sarah said, grabbing Hannah by the arm to slow her exit. “I’ll come with you.”

            “I’ll come too,” Max said getting up from the table. “That little Smith boy, Liam plays with is already in the hospital.”

            “Why? What’s wrong with him? Is it Wade?” Hannah asked in rapid fire succession.

            “Meningitis,” Max’s voice had an ominous tone. “Yeah, it’s Wade.”

            The room fell silent. Max, Sarah, and Hannah walked quickly to the front door.

            Hannah received texts from Cilla updating her all the way to the hospital, “The doctors admitted him straight away.” Next was, “Doing tests,” then a worrying, “He won’t wake up.”

            The fear engulfing Hannah seemed to have super powers, it was growing exponentially with each text.

            As Max parked the jeep, Hannah sent a text to Cilla, “We’re here. Where are you?”

            Cilla text back the room number and they rushed there. They found Cilla, Hope, and Patty all teary eyed, but Liam wasn’t in the room.

            “He’s out for some more tests,” Cilla told them as they entered.

            “Okay,” Hannah sighed, wishing she could see him and ease the pain that was hurting her inside.

            After hugs all around they heard someone sobbing loudly outside in the hallway. Sarah gave Hannah an “oh no” look and peeked out to see what was happening.

            “Oh, it’s Gwen!” Sarah told the others.

            Hannah watched as everyone went out to where the woman was openly crying. She followed feeling a bit surreal as the scene played out before her.

            “What’s happened?” Patty asked urgently, hugging the woman closely.

            An older man joined them, “It’s Wade,” he said with tears streaming down his face. “He’s gone. It just happened,” his voice sounded strained. “The doctors said there was nothing they could do. It was too fast.”

This wasn’t computing in Hannah’s mind, “Wade, Liam’s friend was dead. No,” she thought. “That can’t be right.” She watched Wade’s parents crying over their loss and the others trying to comfort them. “He’s really dead,” her thoughts turned to Liam and terror ripped through her soul, “No, no, no,” kept repeating in her mind.

             Hannah listened as Cilla was telling Wade’s parents what was happening with Liam.

            “That’s exactly what happened to Wade,” Gwen said, through difficult sobs.

            A nurse approached the group, “I’m sorry,” she spoke to Wade’s parents, “but, we need to make some arrangements for your son now. If that’s okay?”

            Hannah watched as Wade’s parents walked away. Cilla grabbed her wrist and said, “There they come. They’re bringing him back.”

            Hannah could see the worry in Cilla’s expression, she could also feel it building more intensely in herself.

            Seeing Liam lying in that bed was a moment in time Hannah wanted to escape. His body was lifeless, on a bed that was much too big for the smallness of her little cowboy. This was more than she could stand. She wanted so much for him to open his eyes, smile at her, and say “Hey, Miss Hannah.” She needed that more than she’d ever needed anything in her life.

            The nurses parked his bed in its place and checked the monitors and IVs. After everything was sorted, one of the nurses said, “The doctor will be in to talk to you in a little while.”

            “Thank you,” Cilla nodded, stroking Liam’s hair.

            Hannah’s mind was coming to a standstill, “This is wrong,” she thought. “Just very wrong,” she reached down to touch his hand, it felt very warm. Her eyes followed the IV tube up to where it connected to the bags that were hanging. There were three bags, one large and two small, all plugged into the tube that was inserted into Liam. Again she thought, “This is wrong.”

            Max’s voice broke the silence that had settled in the room, “How long till Uncle Alex gets here?”

            “He took off from Durango when I left for the hospital, so that’s been about two hours,” Cilla responded.

            “Okay,” Max nodded.

            “So, how long is that? Till he gets here?” Hannah asked urgently, feeling that if Alex were here things would be better. She didn’t even try to push those feelings aside. They gave her a sliver of hope, that she needed to cling to.

            Max shrugged, “Any time, really.”

            The vice grip of fear that had gripped her eased a bit with that information. Hannah looked at the monitors and thought of the monitors she’d watched just a few days ago that showed Annie’s progress toward birth. “This is the opposite, the opposite of excitement, the opposite of happiness… This is wrong,” she thought again.

            The heart rate monitor seemed to be working overtime, she watched as Liam’s heart beat raced across the small screen. She watched Liam’s breathing which seemed to be trying to keep up with the heart rate on the monitor. All she could do was watch helplessly as this horror played out.

            As she continued to watch, things almost magically began to slow, “Maybe the medicine is starting to work,” she thought feeling for any relief she could find.

            “Oh, dear,” Cilla said and pressed the nurse call button.

            Hannah could see why as she followed Cilla’s gaze. Liam’s arm, where the IV was inserted had begun to swell.

             The nurse came in and removed the IV and after looking at Liam’s veins, said she’d send in someone to replace it. In just a few minutes a man wearing green scrubs came in and looked very closely at Liam’s veins, both his arms and legs. The man sighed and said, “I’ll check with the doctor. He’ll be in to talk to you soon.”

            Cilla nodded, looking as though she were hearing, but not understanding, as the man left the room.

            Hannah moved back to her position next to Liam after the flurry of nurse and technician. She squeezed his warm little hand in hers and went back to watching the monitors. Liam’s heart rate had slowed way down now and so had his breathing, “That can’t be good,” she thought. An extra surge of fear went through her.

            The door to the room opened and a short man with short black hair, wearing faded blue scrubs and a white lab jacket walked in. He didn’t smile, he had a serious, somber expression.

            Cilla asked him with obvious concern in her voice, “Doctor, what have you found?”

            The doctor cleared his throat and began, “The blood work showed a high wbc, white blood cell count, so as you know we went on with the spinal tap. The sample from the tap looked cloudy under the microscope so I asked the pathologist to read it right away,” he took a breath as if he were preparing to step into deep water. Then he continued, “Your son has bacterial meningitis, it has progressed very rapidly. I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do to help him. He’s not stable enough to do the surgery we’d need to do to replace the IV, so we’re not going to attempt it. His heart rate will slowly decrease, and then, he’ll be gone. I’m very sorry,” the doctor repeated. “I’m sorry.” He bowed his head and turned to leave the room, but stopped mid step.

            There was a tall cowboy standing in the doorway of the room. Wearing a black cowboy hat with the brim pulled low so that you could just barely see his eyes. The doctor stood there and seemed in shock.

            “I’m the boy’s father,” Alex James drawled slowly.

            “I’m sorry, sir, there’s nothing we can do for your son,” the doctor began.

            Alex cut him off abruptly, “Maybe there is nothing you can do,” he said firmly. “Get out of my way. There’s something I can do.”

            The doctor stammered something inaudible and Alex repeated in a low growl, “Get out.”

            “Yes, sir,” he mumbled and hastily left the room.

            “Max, clear the room, take care of your mothers,” Alex ordered.

            Hannah hadn’t moved or even barely breathed since the doctor had entered the room. When Sarah put her arm around her shoulders and began guiding her out of the room it brought everything from a blurred unprocessed state to a full on focused reality. Everything the doctor had said crashed in on her. The pain of it all gushed out of her in torrents of tears.

            She looked back into the room, and before Max closed the door, she saw Alex take off his hat, grasp Liam’s hand and kneel down beside the bed.

            Seconds turned into decades, as she stood in the hallway fighting her heart’s longing to go back into the room and be near her little cowboy. She looked at Patty, Hope, and Cilla, there were tears, but there was a strength in their eyes that Hannah couldn’t understand. She was falling apart, and they were holding onto something she couldn’t fathom.

            To not run back into Liam’s room, was taking all her efforts. Her thoughts turned to what she’d seen as Sarah led her out of his room, “Why couldn’t we stay in there? He’s just praying.” She pondered that for a moment to distract herself, then the need to run back into Liam’s room returned to torture her once again. The doctor’s voice began to haunt her thoughts, “Nothing we can do… his heart will slow… he’ll be gone… No!” she shut down the haunt.

            A nurse approached the door to Liam’s room, where Max was standing sentinel and said, “Excuse me, I need to check on him.”

            “Can you wait a few minutes?” Max asked her politely. “His father’s just gotten here and asked for some time alone with the boy.”

            “Sure,” the nurse nodded. “I’ll be back in a bit.”

            Hannah watched Max, “He looks like he’s standing guard,” she thought. Then she thought she must be losing it all together because she thought she heard Liam laughing. She looked at Sarah questioningly and asked, “Did you hear that? It sounded like it was coming from Liam’s room.”

            Sarah shrugged and smiled at her.

            She looked back at Max, he was smiling too, she thought she saw a tear roll down his cheek.

            The door behind Max opened, he turned and moved aside. Alex walked out of the room carrying Liam, who had both arms and legs wrapped around him, giggling. Everyone rushed to them, everyone except Hannah. She was so shocked she couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

            “You’re hugging me to death!” Liam giggled as Cilla, Hope, and Patty were all busy squeezing him with tears freely streaming down their faces.

            That moment would be indelibly imprinted in Hannah’s memory for the rest of her life. How it had happened, she didn’t know, but she was more grateful than she’d ever been.

            Hannah finally snapped out of it and took her turn at hugging the little cowboy.

            “Miss Hannah,” Liam drawled, “I ain’t wore a diaper in years. I hope you don’t think I’m a baby or something.”

            Hannah smiled, “No way, Dude, you’re the coolest kid I know.” She hugged him again full of joy to have him back.”


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Happy New Year from New Parish!

I hope everyone has lots of great goals, dreams, and happiness planned for this next year! I always say, you never know what’s just around the corner… So I have high hopes for 2020. I just finished another chapter in my next book in the New Parish series. From Sarah’s journey, to Hannah’s journey, things were very different, now for big sister Brenda things are completely different too… I’m so excited to share their stories with you all, this next year.

I hope everyone notices the unique bond between Sarah and her sisters, it play out with each sister and in each book of the series. Below is a little sister talk from Sarah and Hannah.

Excerpt from Return to New Parish:

Chapter 3 – Palominos

“Once inside the house Hannah felt the need to talk to Sarah, so she headed up to her room – she knocked and waited. She didn’t want to walk in on something, so the old tap and enter from when they were kids was not an option.

            She heard Sarah say, “Come in.” So she opened the door and seeing the mess and disorder shook her head and laughed.

            “Hey,” she said, looking around the room. “Did you get more stuff or is this just the other stuff shifted around again?” she teased her sister.

            “I got more stuff,” Sarah said defensively. Then she chuckled as she looked over the mess of her sitting room that was going to be her nursery.

            “So, there was a thing while I was out riding,” Hannah tentatively began her exposition.

            “What thing?” Sarah asked with eyebrows raised as she reached for her chiming cell phone. After quickly reading the text she looked at Hannah with worry in her expression, “Okay, what happened? Max just text me wanting to know if you’re okay and if you got home okay.”

            Hannah could see Sarah replying to Max’s text and insisted, “I’m fine, I’m fine,” it was her turn to be defensive.

            “He’s saying that you almost rode into the sinkhole! And that Uncle Alex caught you just in time to stop you,” Sarah looked at Hannah accusingly.

            “Okay,” Hannah said, trying to play the events of her ride down, “So, this is what happened.” She plopped down on part of a sofa that wasn’t full of baby stuff, sighed, and continued. “I was riding near the stream and heard a tapping sound coming from the fence line that was just beyond the creek.” She waved her hands to show the direction of the fence, “I looked to see what it was and saw a big beautiful palomino standing on the other side of the fence, like a statue, then that guy came around the horse to put stuff in his saddle bags,” Hannah paused to make a face of disapproval and blow out a big sigh then continued. “I didn’t want to talk to him so I took off in the opposite direction and before I knew what was happening, he was jumping on his horse, jumping the fence, and chasing after me!” Hannah threw her hands in the air for effect and gave Sarah a “what the heck” look. “So I go faster not knowing what he was up to, he catches me and grabs my reins!”

            Sarah interrupted her with, “You didn’t punch him did you?” there was a pleading sort of begging tone to Sarah’s voice.

            “I tried!” Hannah defended her actions. “But he’s pretty quick for an old guy. Sheesh!”

            “Hannah!” Sarah shouted at her in exasperation.

            “I missed!” Hannah shouted back still trying to defend herself.

            “Hannah! He was saving your life!” Sarah shouted back.

            “I didn’t know that’s what he wanted to do!” Hannah shouted, “For all I knew he was going to do something else out there, with no one else around,” her voice trailed off. Quickly thinking of a way to refocus the conversation she asked, “Besides, if he’s so rich why is he out mending fences anyways? Can’t he afford to hire people for that?”

            “He’s a cowboy,” Sarah answered, with exasperation in her voice. “He’s always doing cowboy things. Yeah, he’s rich, but he’s very hands on.”

            “He’s very annoying,” Hannah shared her opinion of the old cowboy.

            Sighing out a long groaning sigh, Sarah said, “He’s a really great guy! He married Max’s mom and raised him as his son. He helps people all the time. You don’t know him, yet.”

            “I know enough to know I don’t want to know any more about him,” Hannah replied holding her hands up dismissively.

            “He saved your life!” Sarah reminded her.

            “He wouldn’t have had too, if he hadn’t chased after me,” Hannah replied, again trying to defend herself.

            “Please try and be nice to him tomorrow,” Sarah begged. “We’re going to be over there almost all day helping out with the party prep.”

            “I’ll do my best,” Hannah promised, with a shrug and a smile. “He’s really annoying, I don’t know why he gets under my skin so much, but he really does.”

Sarah plopped down on the other sofa looking tired, “He likes to joke around, the first time I met him, he looked me up and down and said something about me being a pretty filly. That’s just the way he is. So I looked him up and down and told him he wasn’t too bad himself. We hit it off, he’s a lot of fun, really.”

            “I guess I’m just not up for his kind of fun,” Hannah acceded.

            “I do understand,” Sarah gave Hannah a look of “You know what I mean. Just because Nathanial was low enough to do what he did, doesn’t mean every other guy is like that,” Sarah tried to explain Hannah to Hannah. 

            “I know,” Hannah sighed, “I’ll try to do better tomorrow, promise.””


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Christmas in New Parish – Part 3

Christmas is full of traditions. Traditions that have been cherished, loved, and observed over the many generations in each family. In Return to New Parish Hannah learns about a wonderful cowboy tradition, that has been handed down from generation to generation in the James family.

I hope you enjoy Max’s rendition of the Cowboy Good Samaritan Story!


Excerpt from Return to New Parish:

Chapter 6 – Things Change

       “Come on, Dad, you have to tell it,” Johnny said.

       “Yeah, Dad, it wouldn’t be right without it,” Joseph and Jake chimed in.

       Max smiled, “Alright then,” he stood and returned to the fireplace.

       Hannah’s seat mates looked like they were thrilled and got a little wiggly, but soon settled back down when their dad began to speak.

       “Long, long ago, on Christmas Eve,” he started, “a group of cowboys were herding cattle on the trail from the south to the north. They’d been out on the trail with the herd for a good long while and they were all tired and worn from the work. It was cold, but the snows hadn’t come yet,” Max paused for a moment looking into the fire. “It’s said that this story can only be told around the campfire, so I guess our fireplace will have to do. The cowboys say this day on the trail was long and hard even if they ran out of daylight early. The cowboys had found a stream that had some patchy grass for the herd to feed off of and had decided to make camp there for the night. It was Christmas Eve after all and they were hankering to stop work for the day and get some much needed food and rest.

       As one cowboy rode into camp, he fell off his horse, his saddle cinch had broken, it was worn into from age and use.

       The other cowboys all laughed at him and taunted him saying, “You should’ve bought a new one last time we were home.” And, “That needed replaced long ago.” Another one accused, “I know you had the money to get a new one.” Then another one blamed, “Yeah, if he hadn’t of given it all away to his sister.”

       The cowboy shrugged and replied, “She needed it, her family’s having a hard time.”

       “Yep, and now you’re having a hard time. Herding cattle without a saddle isn’t going to be easy,” they laughed at him again.

       “I think I can fix it,” he said, looking over the worn frayed leather.

       “It’s your own fault that you’re in this mess,” they scoffed.

       When dinner was done, they each got their portion of the stew from the pot and sat down to eat. It was about that time when a stranger walked into camp. The stranger said he’d been traveling far and that he’d been robbed, and that the robbers had taken his horse, his money, and all his possessions. He told them he was tired, hungry, and cold. He asked if they could share their supper with him.

       One cowboy turned his back to the stranger and murmured, “Pathetic.”

       Another one shouted at him, “Git outta here, we don’t want your problems!”

       One cowboy looked at him in disgust and asked, “Can you pay for the food?”

       Another one called him, “Liar! Where’s your proof? I know a pan handler when I see one. This ain’t no charity camp.”

       The cowboy with the broken saddle invited, “Come over here, sir, I have plenty for us both.” He gave the stranger a blanket to warm himself in and later when dinner was done, he gave him his bedroll to sleep in.

       You see he just couldn’t stand to see the old fella cold and hungry like that. Even though he was tired and hungry from all the days of being on the trail, he cared more for others than for himself. I digress,” Max excused himself and continued with his story.

       “Well, the next morning when they woke the stranger was gone. The other cowboys started looking around, angrily, to see if he’d stolen their possessions. All their stuff was still there, nothing was out of place,” Max paused, looking around the room, then continued, “As the cowboy gathered up his things he noticed in place of his old worn out saddle there was a new one. It was much nicer than any saddle he’d ever seen before, it had a shape that resembled a Sheppard’s staff carved deep into the side of the saddle skirting.

       The cowboy looked around again to see if he could find the stranger, but he didn’t even see any tracks where he left the camp. The other cowboys were impatient and wanted to get the herd moving. So he saddled up and went to work. He told that story each Christmas Eve for the rest of his life. He took good care of that saddle and gave it to his son when he was ready to leave this world. It’s said that each man who received the saddle passed it on to the next generation and always told the story at Christmas time.

       Over time the cowboy community named that cowboy the Good Samaritan Cowboy, this is his story. I heard it long ago at Christmas time and promised I’d always tell his story and follow his example. I hope you’ll all do the same. The Good Samaritan Cowboy story was told to me when I was about five years old, and I’ve heard it every year since,” Max told them. “Uncle Alex was the one that told me and he taught me to live by the same standards that the Good Samaritan Cowboy lived by. Always share what you have with those in need, no matter if it’s a blanket and a bit of stew. He also taught me not to look for rewards here, but to look for ‘em to be saved in a storehouse in Heaven for you.””


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Christmas in New Parish – Part 2

Is your shopping done? Have you sent your long distance gifts off? Living away from my dear ones, I have to be organized and get things mailed off early. That’s just the way things are in New Parish for Christmas. Sarah and Hannah live a good distance away from their family so they have to think about how to still show their love… In Return to New Parish, Hannah spends her first Christmas there with Sarah and her family. She gets a little more of the culture, lifestyle, and love the family has for each other and for Christmas… She also gets to know Max’s extended family, (one of them, a little more than she wanted to know).

Hope you still have some of that hot cocoa for this week’s post…


Excerpt from Return to New Parish:

Chapter 5 – Christmas Party

“… With guests arriving Hannah and the others were busy filling the tables with finished goodies as quickly as possible. Hannah saw Hope stick her finger in her mouth to hide the icing that had found its way there when she sat the last of the cupcakes in order for the Christmas tree cupcake cake. Hope winked at her, smiled, and hurried back to the kitchen.

       There was lots of laughter and smiling faces as people began to flow into the Fancy Room, some Hannah recognized from the day before. Mary and some of her mothers came in requiring hugs, Hannah didn’t mind so much anymore, she was getting used to it. She heard Bing Crosby begin singing White Christmas faintly in the background, smiling, she thought, “Perfect.”

       Sarah came up behind Hannah quickly grabbing her arm as a man with dark graying hair, came through the door. Hannah noticed him immediately, his presence seemed to command attention even though he wasn’t doing anything to draw it. Hannah figured he was around six feet tall, just a bit shorter than Max. Sarah was pulling her toward this man shouting softly, “Brother Michael! Brother Michael, this is my sister Hannah.”

       “Oh, hello, Hannah,” he smiled warmly at her.

       “Hi,” Hannah smiled back, noticing that he had piercing blue eyes, which reminded her of Max and his uncle. “So you’re the man in charge here?” she teased.

       Brother Michael winked at her and replied, “Yes, but I deny any responsibility.”

       They all laughed at his deniability clause. Hannah felt instantly at ease with Brother Michael. She liked everything about him, the way he easily smiled, the way his eyes seemed to look into her soul in a way that made her feel like he knew her and who she was. “This man is amazing,” she thought to herself.

       “We’re glad you’ve come to our little town,” Brother Michael welcomed her. “Sarah tells me you want to stay,” he said, almost asking.

       “Yes,” said Hannah firmly. “I do want to stay. Sarah’s found happiness here,” she shrugged, “and, I’d like to do the same.”

       “Sounds good to me,” Brother Michael smiled at her.

       “So what do I do first?” she asked.

       “Oh, well, you have to talk to the church leader about baptism, then set an appointment to talk to him about the matching system and marriage,” Brother Michael thoughtfully explained, holding up a finger for each thing she had to do.

       “Okay, aren’t you the church leader?” she asked a little confused by this information.

       “Why, yes, yes I am. Oh, would you like an appointment with me?” he asked smiling.

       Hannah caught the tease now and understood. “Yes, sir, I would like an appointment,” she smiled. Sarah was having a small giggle fit next to her and Hannah gave her a “thanks for that” look.

       “How about this next Wednesday, around 10:30 in the morning? I’m off for Christmas holidays, then so we’ll have plenty of time to talk about the gospel and everything we need to talk about.” He said, smoothing his hair down, as a gust of wind blew through their conversation when more guests came through the front door.

       “Sure, that’ll be great,” Hannah replied, “Where?”

       “My house,” Brother Michael winked. “Sarah knows where.”

       “Okay,” Hannah smiled, feeling energized at the prospects of this new beginning.

       “Oh, hey! Hannah you didn’t meet Karen and Marla yesterday,” Sarah said. Then, proceeded to introduce her to the ladies that had entered the room, with the previous gust of wind.

       They were warm, friendly, and welcoming like so many people here had been. Hannah felt like she’d found a place to belong and to be happy, maybe… There was also another feeling floating around inside her. She couldn’t put her finger on this new feeling yet, but it was helping with regaining her inner calm. She felt like the battle for peace in her life was gaining ground.

       After meeting Brother Michael and his other two wives, Hannah felt like the party really got underway. Things shifted from Bing singing to Alex James returning home. He entered wearing a maroon colored cowboy shirt like the one he had on the previous day, denims, and black cowboy boots. Hannah growled at herself inside for noticing, but he kept haunting her dreams, so she tried to excuse her inventory of him based on that. He was smiling and shaking hands with people and evoking laughter, as he made his way to the piano. She couldn’t hear what he was saying, but, her experience with him taught her that he was always joking around so she just considered herself lucky not to be in his line of fire.

       He began to play and the guests were either singing or dancing to the music. Mary came over to her, grabbed her by the arm, and pulling her toward the area that had been cleared for dancing said, “Come on, dance with me. Sarah’s nauseous again and she volunteered you.”

       “What?” Hannah asked in confusion.

       “It’s a line dance,” Mary said, as if that explained everything.

       “I don’t know how,” Hannah protested.

       “Neither do I,” Mary laughed.

       They joined the line of people dancing and did their best to imitate their movements. Hannah laughed so much during the dance that her stomach muscles were getting sore. When the dance was over, she and Mary went to get something to drink and ended up near the Christmas tree. The music stopped and Hope came over to the piano, nodded to Alex and he began to play “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Hope sang the song beautifully, Hannah was so entranced by her voice, it was as though she couldn’t see or hear anything else.

       When the song was over Hannah whispered, “Wow, she’s got an amazing voice.”

       “Oh, yeah,” Mary nodded agreement.

       As they stood there talking, Hannah heard a thud and crash sound behind her. She turned just in time to see the bottom of Alex James’ stool speeding toward the other side of the room. Alex was lying on the floor in front of the piano looking confused. She quickly surmised that for some weird reason the top of the stool had detached from the bottom and they had gone their separate ways.

       The bottom of the stool was on a trajectory that was heading straight for Cilla who was bringing in the cake they had painstakingly made earlier that day. Cilla was carrying the cake gingerly in front of her when she saw the stool bottom coming for her, she quickly sidestepped to avoid the imminent collision. When she did this she bumped, hard, into a rather large rotund man, which caused her to lose the cake. It wasn’t just lost, it was airborne. Hannah could see it sailing through the air almost in slow motion. The cake was soaring towards her, she reached out for it, trying with all her might to catch it. She might have done just that, but Alex James was still on the floor – she tripped over his feet and legs landing on top of him. What happened after that was something that would replay over and over in Hannah’s mind for the rest of her life.

       Hannah could feel herself falling and landing awkwardly on top of Alex James. She could feel him trying to catch her and keep her from hurting herself or him. It was where he caught her that was the problem. One hand on her side as she came down, that was okay, it was where the other hand went that had infuriated her – his comment didn’t help either.

       Alex James’ right hand was firmly grasping her left breast. As their eyes met and he said, “Well, these girls are real.”

       A flurry of movement happened next as Hannah threw a punch with her right fist, then her left. Alex caught both before they landed. Hannah then reverted to using her knees…

       As they rolled over and over on the floor in an all out effort from Hannah to cause injury to Alex he shouted, “Whoa, calm down little lady!”

       Hannah didn’t calm down, she continued her efforts to punch him or knee him in the groin. He tried to stay on top of her to defend himself, but she managed to throw him off and regain the advantage. There were many grunts, groans, and exasperated growls that passed between them during the roll.

       Everyone around them moved quickly out of the way, giving them room to roll. The room filled with laughter.

       In a panic, Sarah shook Max’s arm, “Pull her off him! She’s in nonstop battle mode! She won’t stop!”

       “No, ma’am,” Max refused smiling, “I always let other men deal with their own women troubles.”

       “You’re enjoying this!” she accused him.

       “Yes, ma’am,” he chuckled.

       “Brother Michael,” Sarah implored him for help, “Please pull her off him, she won’t stop!”

       Brother Michael laughed so hard that champagne came out his nose, but didn’t move to help his brother.

       There was a mixture of laughter, some were simply chuckling, but most were laughing so hard they were in need of holding on to something or someone to remain standing.

       A shout of, “The eight seconds are up Alex, you can jump off now,” sounded from near the Christmas tree.”


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