Book Review: Marrying His Best Friend

Book Review: Marrying His Best Friend by Jennifer Gracen

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  There were times when I thought the next scene was obvious and was surprised at a twist with a new character and subplot I didn’t see coming.

Single mom Maura Callahan never anticipated that she’d be living with her mom in the suburbs at age 29, raising her young daughter, Chloe, and working a job that barely pays the bills. At least she still has her best friend Aidan, who makes her laugh, keeps her on her toes, and provides a shoulder to cry on when necessary. She’s never told him her true feelings though, fearing ridicule and rejection.

Aiden McKinnon, an executive at a high-profile social media company in the heart of Dublin, has longed to change his bestie status with Maura for years, but it seems Maura’s relegated him permanently to the friend zone. Still, she and Chloe are his world. But when Chloe’s father shows up out of the blue and demands shared custody when he’s never once met the little girl, Aidan sees a way to finally have what he secretly wants most while ensuring Maura and Chloe’s safety.

Will he be able protect Maura and her precious little girl? Will he ever be able to admit his love for Maura and, if he does, how will she react?

 

 

 

 

 

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Worship Music Brightened My Day

It was over a decade ago, but I still remember it well. I’d been in the hospital for a few months, recovering from complications of a surgery. I was getting better, but the hospital isn’t a good place to spend your days—especially for so long. I was surrounded by white walls, sterile air, and machines that beeped constantly every day. The environment only worsened how bad I already felt.

I’d been in acute care  for several weeks after surgery and had finally been transferred to rehab, where I was re-learning how to sit up, stand, and walk in physical therapy. The occupational therapist taught me to dress, shower, and groom myself again. I went through PT and OT every day, twice a day. It was exhausting.

One afternoon I got a wonderful surprise that brightened my mood for the rest of the day. Matt Rexford, the worship pastor at my church, came to pay me a visit.   I lit up immediately when he came in. It wasn’t part of his responsibilities at church and I don’t know if he was even on the clock. We talked for a bit and then the surprise got even better. Not only had he come to visit, he’d brought his guitar.

We sang familiar, uplifting worship songs. It made me forget myself for a bit and focus on the Lord.  It attracted staff and visitors to a least peek in the room as well. Others slowed their stride as they walked by. Matt was encouraging them, as well as ministering to me.

Nearly 15 years later, the memory of Matt’s visit still blesses me. We may never know what impact our seemingly small actions have on somebody. Our words and actions may matter more than we think.

Flowers and a Birthday Cake

It was July of 1985 and I was an exchange student in France that month.  I would turn 16 while I was there. I stayed with the Martinellos in a small village called Gap.  Doesn’t sound French, does it? But that truly was its name. It’s near Lyon, in the southeastern part of the country. Map of France--for blog post

The Martinellos owned a flower shop in town and they were there all day, every day.  Their mornings started about 7:00am and they didn’t return home till after 6:00pm.  Natasha (their daughter) and I had a good time wandering the streets, shopping and talking to other shop owners.  She knew many of them since her parents owned the flower shop. Many times I wandered around alone enjoying the sights and sounds, noting how it all compared to what I experienced at home.

We traveled to many different villages each week, setting up a booth to sell the flowers in the street. It was completely different from everything I’d ever seen, having grown up in the desert.

I did grow homesick after a few weeks there.  I missed my family and friends.  There were a couple times that I’d think about them, wishing I were back there. Especially as my birthday drew near.

On my birthday, I discovered Mom had snuck a present in my suitcase.  I opened it and smiled. It was costume jewelry—a colorful bracelet and necklace. I was still sad, though.

That evening, after the shop had closed, Mrs. Martinello served diBirthday Cake with Candlesnner and then came out with a surprise.  She’d bought me a birthday cake!! “Bon anniversaire Ellen”, they cried. Really? They remembered?  I smiled from ear to ear.

I was their guest for another week or so before returning home.  It was my first time overseas and I enjoyed it a lot.  Spending time with a family and being involved in their daily lives was eye-opening and holds fond memories for me. Celebrating my birthday was one of them.

Favorite Friday Fiction: The Charmer by C.J. Archer

By Ellen Andersen

The first paragraph drew me in immediately.

“Orlando Holt had never killed a woman before. He’d assassinated a bear tamer, a viscount, three French noblemen and two Spanish ones, a knight, a painter, a physician, an acrobat in Cathay, and five apothecaries . . . but Lady Lynden would be his first woman.”

She’s supposed to be a vicious murderess, but when Orlando begins to have doubts, he sets out to discover the identity of the person who hired him to kill her. What he learns will turn his world upside down, and propel him headlong into love with a woman who’s immune to his charms.

17292619[1] Twice widowed by the age of twenty-four, Lady Susanna Lynden has had enough of charming men. Her last husband knew all the right things to say to get her to yes to him, then made her life miserable. Money may be scarce and her house falling down around her, but the exotic fruit from her orange trees will keep poverty away. Except someone is thwarting her at every turn. Someone who may even want her dead.

Relationships between the characters develop well as the story unfolds and there are twists and turns that make the reader keep guessing as to what comes next. I enjoyed ride.

A word of warning, though. Many scenes in the book are sexually graphic. If that bothers you, you may want to skip this one.

An Unexpected Opportunity to Give

By Ellen Andersen

The sun shone brightly, providing a nice warm day to walk the neighborhood, finally. The clouds had loomed large and we’d had rain for the past week. So I took advantage of the warm weather and took Tommy for a walk. We headed down the street and about 6 houses down, I saw my neighbor, Jo. She spotted me and called out my name.Jo on Tradd

 

I stopped and looked to my right. Jo was standing there leaning on her walker, trying to unload her car of some groceries she’d just brought home.

She’s a sweet lady in her late 80s, and on the frail side. She’d been ill for a bit and this was the first time she’d gotten out of the house. She said it felt good to get out finally. But it made her tired.

“Can I help you with that, Jo?” I asked, seeing she was struggling a bit.

“Oh, yes. Please.” I had Tommy stop and sit, then helped Jo take her bags in the house. “I don’t want it to be too heavy for you,” she said. I picked it up and assured her it was fine. It was just a container of laundry detergent. It would probably have been too much for her, though.

After we got all her things in the house, she asked me to sit with her for a bit. I think she’s lonely, so I stayed. Tommy came in and laid down near us. After about 20 minutes or so, we left and continued our walk.

As Tommy and I headed home, we passed her house again. Jo called out to me. I waved and she said, “Come here. I have something for you.” Tommy and I made our way over and Jo said, “Do you like chocolate?”

“Of course,” I said. She handed me a plastic bag full of chocolate candies. “Thanks for helping me” she said.

“Of course. You’re welcome” I said. “Thanks for the chocolate. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.”

My afternoon walk with Tommy turned out to be more than just a nice way to get some exercise in the much-needed sun. It was an opportunity to help a neighbor who needed me.

You never know what may be in store in your day when you’re just going about your business. You may have the chance to care for someone who needs you if you keep your eyes and heart open.

Roses For No Reason

Half a Dozen Red Roses

Photo courtesy of pixabay

By Ellen Andersen

It was an ordinary day at work. I’d been in and out of patients’ rooms, developing discharge plans for them when they left the hospital and returned home. In the middle of the day, someone came to the office and asked for me. When I answered, he came in with a bouquet of half a dozen red roses.

 

Shocked, I wondered what they were for. The card attached said they were from my boyfriend, Doug. It wasn’t Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t my birthday. It wasn’t an anniversary. Why in the world would he send me roses? I had no idea, and the card didn’t provide any clue either. It just said, Hi Ellen. Hope you’re having a good day. Love, Doug.

Doug was romantic, but he didn’t have a lot of money. I couldn’t figure out why he would just decide to send me roses. We’d been dating for about six months or so, but this was a lot.

“Wow! Is it your birthday?”

“No, I have no idea why he sent them.”

“Really? Is it your anniversary?”

“No. I really don’t know why he gave them to me.”

My husband’s never sent me roses”, my supervisor said. “You must be really special to him”

“I guess so…” I said, still puzzled.

The next time we saw each other, Doug asked me if I’d gotten them.

“Yes, I did. What made you do that?”

“I was just thinking about you and wanted to let you know”, he said.

“Wow. Thanks “I said. “That was really nice. It made me feel special. Everybody at work asked me why you’d sent them and I couldn’t tell them. It was funny because they didn’t believe me.” He just smiled.

It’s been nearly 20 years and I still have no idea why Doug sent flowers that day. But I think I’ll always remember it. It brightened my day and told me how much I meant to him.

Click to tweet: Small acts of kindess: Roses For No Reason by Ellen Andersen. #kindnessmatters #ValentinesDay

Favorite Friday Fiction: Don’t Look Back by Lynette Eason

By Ellen Andersen

I enjoy reading suspense novels. There’s something about getting into a fictional world that’s wrapped up in drama that pulls me in and, in this case, wouldn’t let me go.  Details woven throughout this riveting story ratchet up the tension in each scene. The characters were compelling, and with the twists and turns in the plot I couldn’t put the book down, even after having read for hours.


Don't Look Back Bookcover

Don’t Look Back

Twelve years ago, forensic anthropologist Jamie Cash survived a brutal kidnapping, torture, and rape. After years of therapy, she has made a life for herself–though one that is haunted by memories of her terrifying past. She finally lets herself get close to a man, FBI agent Dakota Richards, when signs start appearing that point to one frightening fact–her attacker is back and ready to finish the job he started all those year ago. Can she escape his grasp a second time? And will she ever be able to let down her guard enough to find true love?

 

It Doesn’t Take Much To Make a Difference

Toward the end of 2015, Jennifer asked if I’d be interested in writing for Small Acts of Kindness. I agreed and have enjoyed it ever since. It makes me step back and take notice of positive things I see or experience that I might otherwise overlook and take for granted. It also challenges me to move out of my comfort zone to reach out toward someone offering a kindness to them in some way.

I met up with someone a while ago to talk about something that had been on my mind. As we talked, they told me they’d been struggling lately and felt alone in it. Even though I knew no details, it was clear this person needed someone to come alongside them. God put it on my heart to pray for them daily and to send them a message of encouragement about once a week for several months.

It was simply a note to let them know they weren’t alone and that I was praying for them. IMG_1980 Sometimes I’d include a Bible verse, sometimes not. It was a simple gesture, but I’ve since learned that it made a difference and helped them through a tough time. Several months later, this person gave me a big hug. No words were said, but none were needed. We both knew it was because the encouragement meant so much. It didn’t take much, yet it meant a lot.
It may not seem significant to us, but even a small act of kindness can make a difference to someone else.

Help at an Airport Before Thanksgiving

By Ellen Andersen

We always fly to California for Thanksgiving since that’s where the majority of the family lives. This year we had a flight that didn’t leave at 6:00am, which was a nice change. It was a little before 10:00am, about an hour before our flight was to leave the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. We had arrived in plenty of time, since it’s such a small airport. Dad went to park the car while Mom and I took the luggage into the terminal. It weighed around 30 lbs, not much for a week’s worth of clothing, gifts, and miscellaneous. Still, it’s a lot for me to handle.

I lugged my suitcase up the curb and headed toward the door, Suitcase (800x600)but didn’t quite make it. There was a large black rug in front of the door. Unfortunately, I either didn’t see it, or I misgauged its height. Either way, I tripped on the threshold between the outside and the inside of the lobby. “Aaah” I cried, trying not to make a scene, but reacting to my impending fall. I let go of the suitcase and managed to catch myself so I didn’t hit my head. Only my hand and knee were scraped.

A gentleman I don’t know, and didn’t even get the chance to meet came from behind me, grabbed my suitcase, and brought it to me. I was so glad for his help. When he saw I wasn’t alone and Mom could take care of me from there, he left. “Thank you!” I said. I don’t know if he even heard me, but I hope so.
Mom later told me he was a tall man and was a bit hesitant, but decided he would help me. I don’t know what caused him to pause, and to take off without saying a word afterward. Maybe he feared I was hurt and he couldn’t help me. Maybe he didn’t want any recognition. I don’t know. I sure am glad he decided to do what he could though. It took him less than two minutes and it let me “recover” after being physically shaken and a little rattled mentally, before I checked my luggage and got on the plane.

Just a hand up and few minutes of his time made a difference for this traveler. Sometimes it doesn’t take much. When have you had the opportunity to reach out to someone who needed a hand? It may have made more of a difference than you know.

 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just a little over a week away. It’s a time when we look back over the past year and celebrate what we’re grateful for. One thing I’m most grateful for is my family. It’s changed over the years with the grandkids getting married and having kids. Now some of the great grandkids are married too.

We gather at someone’s home and have our annual feast. Turkey (of course), stuffing, cranberry sauce, both canned and homemade (there an on-going debate in my family as to which is the “real” kind), mashed potatoes, an appetizer, rolls, fruit salad, deviled eggs, and several pies. 2016 Thanksgiving

Festivities typically start around noon that day, with people arriving from all over. It’s a long way, but always worth it, as we only get to see the whole family once a year. The time becomes more and more significant as we get older too.

After a large meal, everyone goes for a walk even though it’s getting dark. The cool air helps counter the effects of the Tryptophan in the turkey. At least that’s what they say.

Charades is a family tradition after our evening walk each year. We form two teams (guys vs. girls) and each team comes up with movies, books, songs, and TV shows for someone on the other team to act out without saying anything or making any noises. Everyone has up to three minutes for their team to come up with the right answer. There’s always lots of laughter, teasing, and good-natured competitiveness. In recent years, we’ve added more games such as Fish Bowl and a Factoid Game. Whatever the details, it’s guaranteed to be fun.

So, how about you? What does Thanksgiving mean to you? How do you celebrate the holiday? Share it here.