Pieces of Me, Rescuing my Kidnapped Daughters by Lizabeth Meredith, Memoir – Review

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In 1994, Lizbeth Meredith said goodbye to her four- and six-year-old daughters for a visit with their non-custodial father—only to learn days later that they had been kidnapped and taken to their father’s home country of Greece.

Twenty-nine and just on the verge of making her dreams of financial independence for her and her daughters come true, Lizbeth now faced a $100,000 problem on a $10 an hour budget. For the next two years—fueled by memories of her own childhood kidnapping—Lizbeth traded in her small life for a life more public, traveling to the White House and Greece, and becoming a local media sensation in order to garner interest in her efforts. The generous community of Anchorage becomes Lizbeth’s makeshift family—one that is replicated by a growing number of Greeks and expats overseas who help Lizbeth navigate the turbulent path leading back to her daughters.

Lizbeth Meredith is a writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in psychology. She has worked as a domestic violence advocate and a child abuse investigator, and with at-risk teens as a juvenile probation supervisor. She blogs at www.lameredith.com, is a contributor to A Girls’ Guide To Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson, and is the author of When Push Comes to Shove: How to Help When Someone You Love Is Being Abused. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska near her two adult daughters.

My review

Pieces of Me is a book everyone should read. While some mothers should never have been mothers, I believe that the majority of mothers were born to be mothers. Lizbeth Meredith is one of those moms.

Going through a difficult and trying divorce didn’t break her, but when her ex-husband kidnapped her daughters and fled to Greece, the struggle to bring them home almost did.

As the author states in her book, no one can imagine or predict the effects such a trauma will have on children caught in this situation. Children want to love and please both parents, but when one of those parents manipulates them into believing one of their parents no longer loves them, it crosses the line into parental alienation. Too often, the alienated parent does not have the opportunity to correct the lies, and when they do it is often difficult because the people around the children (grandparents, uncles, aunts) also believe the lies and perpetuate them.

When parents come from different countries, retrieving the children is still not easy. There are proper channels and procedures that must be followed even when a non-custodial parent has abducted the children, and we all know the wheels of justice turn slowly when dealing with other countries. Lizbeth Meredith ran straight into this brick wall. But, it didn’t stop her; and she hit it many times.

Pieces of Me is a book about a mother’s determination to find and bring her children back home to the United States after her ex-husband abducted them and fled to his native country of Greece. It was a long struggle that costs Lizbeth and her children more than years of their lives and money. They paid the highest costs, love and piece of mind.

The children are now grown, but as so many victims of parental abduction and alienation will attest to, the nightmares still reign and life may never be normal again. Both the girls and Lizbeth struggle to this day with the after effects of the abduction. She was very brave to take the chance and speak out in order to educate others about their ordeal.

This book is worth the read. Just be prepared to have your heart broken.

-excerpt-

Lizbeth Meredith has been kind enough to provide an excerpt from the book. This is the final chapter.

2016

I wish I could say that we’ve gone on to live happily ever after, but real life is much more complicated. Healing from trauma has been a slow and steady process for my daughters, and for me. If you’d asked me a year or two after my daughters returned, in 1996, if they had (mostly) recovered from their experiences, I would have said yes. In my estimation, since I got them into therapy and provided a structured, safe home environment and we enjoyed a stable support network, they were on the perfect path to success. I assumed that the passage of time + counseling + a positive support system = a normal, healthy adult.

It turns out I was wrong. We made it through the initial health challenges: Meredith’s exposure to tuberculosis in Greece and Marianthi’s stomach problems that appeared to stem from anxiety.

Marianthi described her overall sense of guilt at not telling the flight attendants in 1994 that her father did not have permission to take her and her sister on a plane—at the ripe old age of six. The girls flourished in school almost immediately upon their return. They even got pets and eventually came to terms with not getting the little brother they’d requested. They excelled in soccer. One was a cheerleader. Both held jobs after school when they were old enough and helped pay for their extras.

On the other hand, the girls didn’t spare me a lick of pain and suffering in their teens. Both went through periods of experimental drug use. They became moody and defiant around age fifteen, and I felt as if I had very little influence. I, in turn, took it all very personally and responded in kind. When I told Meredith at sixteen that if she lived in my house, she’d have to follow my rules, she moved, renting an apartment with a coworker from Starbucks. It took six months of living on her own to realize she needed to change her ways to have the future she hoped for. Thanks to my older sister, who offered her a place to stay, Meredith relocated to her aunt’s and finished her senior year in high school in New Mexico, where she eventually completed college as well.

Marianthi went to college in Washington for a time. I didn’t notice it right away, but cracks started to develop in her psyche and then webbed out. She was terrified of my leaving her on campus. I told her that all kids are nervous when their parents leave them for the first time. It was only natural—a buck up, kid; you’ll be fine kind of deal.

But she wasn’t fine. By the time two semesters had passed, her anxiety had given way to full-blown mania, and the collateral damage that followed took years to repair. Meanwhile, Meredith became physically ill with heart-stopping, gut-exploding autoimmune conditions that worked against each other to keep her in chronic pain. And, as if that weren’t enough, Marianthi’s physical health also began to deteriorate, and then Meredith was swallowed by depression and anxiety and flashbacks.

I wish I’d been more tuned into the issues they faced. You might think I’d have empathized easily, since I, too, was a kidnapped child, but my experience was different from theirs. I found my father when I was a young adult, and it was a process I initiated. They were located as small children and abruptly brought back to the United states by me without warning.

It took a long time for me to wrap my mind around not only the aftermath of the girls’ kidnapping but also their difficult return home to their former lives. A child kidnapped by a family member is abruptly uprooted from her family life, her friends, her toys, her routines. There is no closure. All normalcy simply disappears. If she’s taken to another country, she loses her language and culture, too. And in order to survive, she mustn’t grieve but instead align with her abductor, who often works hard to replace the child’s positive memories of her left-behind parent with negative ones. Little by little. “Your dad tried to kill me,” my mom insisted over and over. “Your mom locked you in a room when you were little and left you alone,” Gregory told my daughters.

The abductor skillfully applies guilt to the child if the child demonstrates loss, and more guilt comes when the child learns she must lie to authorities about her life. “My mom is dead,” my daughter told her new Greek teacher. There is guilt for lying to new friends made, and guilt when the child realizes she is forgetting her left-behind parent. Identity is lost. The abducted child understands that there is no one to depend on because a parent she loved took her away from the other parent she loved. Childhood, and the feeling of safety that should accompany it, has ended.

I assumed things would bounce back to near-normal upon the girls’ return, but the recovery from abduction is more like a second abduction. Once again, the child loses all, without closure. My daughters lost their Greek friends, their Greek extended family, their teachers, their new culture, and their father. All the same losses, all over again. They were planted back with me, the woman who didn’t protect them from being kidnapped in the first place.

When people later heard of their kidnapping, their response was, “Oh. At least it was with your father,” minimizing, if not discounting altogether, the girls’ experiences. So then they felt self-conscious. Just get over it was the implied message, and I seconded the sentiment. I wanted them to be thrilled about being reunited with me and was crushed when they displayed emotions to the contrary.

Similarly, I acted as if their adult suffering were a personal affront, at least at first. Don’t I deserve some pleasant years, now that I’ve raised my kids on my own? Why do I have to do all of the clean-up, anyhow? Why doesn’t their father get to feel the brunt of his abuse of our daughters? All I want is to see them grow up and take flight so I can be proud and then reclaim some of my life for myself. I am driving home one day from work when I hear Dr. Bessel van der Kolk on the radio. I have read some of his works before. Dr. van der Kolk heads the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, and authored The Body Keeps the Score.

He speaks about the destructive impact early traumas have on a person over the course of a lifetime. When I was a young parent, I assumed that since I left my husband when my daughters were tiny, they wouldn’t feel the full effect of being exposed to domestic violence. Likewise, when they returned from Greece, they were still little girls, so I told myself that the damage would be less impactful.

Not so, according to Dr. van der Kolk, and other brain researchers agree. Prebirth experiences—things like domestic violence and stress from poverty—affect how well a child develops language, develops connections with others, and develops physically and mentally. Trauma after birth will likely compromise that little human’s physical and mental health and, if unaddressed, will shorten her life expectancy by up to twenty years.

A brutalized child develops an angry brain, Dr. van der Kolk says. “Children kept in a state of terror and fear get brains that are chronically afraid.” And if a child hasn’t been able to trust her parents to protect her early on, then her response to subsequent traumas is that much more magnified. The lens through which the traumatized child sees the world is changed and determines how our muscles and our stress hormones organize themselves.

The body keeps the score.

Dr. van der Kolk endorses treatment from both Eastern and Western cultures. “In the East, people move. Yoga, meditation, tai chi . . . They learn to calm their bodies.” This, he says, helps move trauma out of the body. “In the West, people learn to talk and to speak the truth.” Talk therapy is helpful, especially combined with movement, to help us learn to calm and nurture ourselves.

My daughters, now in their late twenties, embrace both talk and movement therapy, and I believe they will have long and meaningful lives. Meredith finished college and works as a financial analyst. She is a yoga fanatic and enjoys outdoor sports. Marianthi is working toward her degree in psychology and, like her sister, loves the outdoors. Both are smart and sassy tomboys at heart. I hope that they’ll be able to fully reconnect with their family all over the globe, including their father, from whom they remain estranged after a fleeting attempt to have a normal relationship with him tanked a few years ago.

As for me, I’ve slowly and steadily worked my way back from being a hot mess with my own flashbacks and periods of rage to being a contented woman with an increasingly healthy lifestyle. I started with talk therapy, followed by Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR); then I earned a graduate degree in psychology and found meaningful work in state government.

I also began reconnecting with family when the girls and I got strong enough, and thanks to social media, it’s been easy to stay in touch and to continue meeting more of my relatives. It’s also allowed the girls to remain in contact with their Greek cousins and provided a means for their little Greek sister, born fourteen years ago, to contact them and reach out for sibling support. In her pictures, she looks like a perfect hybrid of both of my daughters, who plan to meet her.

It took well over a decade for me to climb out of debt, and there’s not been a single day since when I’ve lost my feeling of gladness. I’ve found there is an upside to having survived much turbulence. My daughters and I don’t have strong attachments to things and prefer to spend our time and money on shared experiences. We’ve been the recipients of uncommon grace and have all made a point of paying it forward through volunteering.

Each of us is passionate about culture and language, which is a good thing, since there are more than one hundred languages spoken in Anchorage alone. And we’ve grown more in love with Alaska, for both the wildlife and the generous people here, who take care of one another as though we are all extended family.

My life isn’t perfect, but it’s turned out better than I could have imagined. And despite my best efforts not to let some of the worst circumstances define it, they have. Because from them, I’ve learned to love writing and storytelling. I’ve carved out meaningful work helping people affected by trauma. I’ve become addicted to the adrenaline rush I get when traveling alone across the globe. And I’ve come to know the joy of contentment and the beauty of watching my kids blossom into adults.

My daughters may tell their own stories one day, but this is what I want them to remember of mine: once upon a time, a young mother with only pocket change, a host of bad memories, and a whole lot of love traveled the world to fight for their return, all by herself, and with the help of everyone. And they lived together, happily enough ever after, and with the knowledge that they were much more than lucky.

 

 

Yep, I'm going there. Let's talk Politics

I am like most people I think, disgusted by what is playing out on television in the name of politics. Neither candidate is worth much as a person in some areas in my opinion. As a Christian, I can’t bring myself to end that sentence with “as a person” so as I said – some areas.

That aside, it is difficult to sometimes figure out where the candidates stand on issues with the bias reporting. For many people, the television news media is the only source of information, and to have such biases in their reporting is an injustice to those of us watching. There are several news anchors that I have enjoyed listening to the last few years. I think most people have a favorite station. But, watching them debunk the debates and listening to their clearly biased opinions has changed my mind about them. Like so many others, I am disappointed in the media. What right does the media have to determine what information is shared with the public and what is not relevant? When information about Trump comes to light, they hammer it home, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that the harder they hammer, the more they are trying to hide something about Hillary that balances the scales.

One friend had this to say and I agree with her: “We no longer have a democratic republic in this country. It is a dictatorship and the press is the dictator.”

One of the news anchors I am disappointed in is Savannah Guthrie. I loved watching her on the Today Show. But I’ve heard her animosity and watch the disgust on her face as she dissects Trump, not Clinton. She is like a dog with a bone (as many others are.) I used her as an example because when you watch someone on a live show, you get to know them, their voices, their faces, and you notice the change in their demeanor.

I am also tired of both candidates dancing around the issues. I’d like to hear specifics. Don’t tell me you are going to lower my taxes – tell me how. Don’t tell me you’ll create new jobs – tell me how.

I would have liked to submit a question to the candidates for the debate Sunday night. In Southern Louisiana, there are hundreds of boats tied up due to lack of work. Each out of work boat means out of work employees. Each out of work employee means a family is suffering. What exactly are you going to do to put the people of Southern Louisiana back to work?

Many trawlers in Southern Louisiana have tied up their boats and gone home. With the import of foreign shrimp, the catch will not pay for the fuel. Out of work boats mean out of work people. Out of work people means the families are suffering. What exactly are you going to do to put the people of Southern Louisiana back to work?

Truckers have parked their rigs. With the oilfield shutting down, there is no work. Parked rigs mean out of work truckers. Out of work truckers means no income. No income means families are suffering. What exactly are you going to do to put the people of Southern Louisiana back to work?

This is true for all of the Gulf States. Each of the fifty states has its own similar story. What exactly are you going to do to put the people of the United States back to work? I don’t want to hear your promises of “I’ll create jobs.” I want to know exactly what you will do.

There is an article at the end of my post from the New York Post about the unemployment in the Southern states.

And then, there are the Trump tapes. I do not condone anything Trump said on that tape. We all know he’s obnoxious and we should all know he’s mostly all talk and no action. Men talk “locker room” banter. It’s ugly. It’s obnoxious. It’s filthy. That’s what they do. So long it does not affect his work it is what it is. Now, before you crucify me for saying that, Hillary has spewed the same like filth. She’s made derogatory remarks and name-called the women her husband has been involved with. Same difference in my opinion. They are both in the wrong. If you want to crucify Trump, do equal time with Hillary. And, by the way, I could name friends who engage in locker room talk as well. Women are just as guilty. We just don’t tape each other.

I watched a documentary before the debates that ended up being a real eye-opener. It chronicled their childhood through present day. If I can find a link to the documentary, I’ll post it. It was a great prelude to the debate.

Hillary is all over Trump about the taxes he didn’t pay when in fact she has done the same thing. I don’t know about you, but that’s why we hire an accountant – to find the loopholes and help us get back what we can. It is what all business people do and Trump was smart to use the loopholes (that she failed to have closed as a Senator). To be honest about it, HE didn’t use the loopholes; his accountant found and used them. He still paid other taxes and kept people employed. Show me another businessman who hasn’t employed the same tax benefits.

Trump’s biggest problems seem to be his potty locker room mouth and his tax evasion, neither of which is against the law. On the other hand, Wikileaks has uncovered things that Hillary has done, but the media has ignored them. Hillary sold our uranium rights to Russia. She destroyed 33,000 emails, some of which were about Benghazi needing more security, which she ignored and look what happened. Look what she did to Bernie Sanders. She wants to tell the public one thing and Wall Street another. She has a vicious temper which has been documented. She treated the women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault like common criminals. Her own husband was barred from practicing law and was almost impeached. He disgraced the White House and our country. That may not have been her, but she was right there cleaning up his messes to further her own agenda. Hillary wants open borders, no more good ole USA.

We have serious vetting issues for people entering the United States. We do need to close our borders – to those who do not share our beliefs, to criminals, to those whose countries will not take them back. Trade agreements need to be renegotiated. When 14 out of 28 countries that the US has agreements with do not accept products from the US, there is something wrong. Trade agreements should be fair to all parties involved. It’s common sense.

Next up is her stance on abortion. That, for me, is an issue. I am a Catholic and against abortion. Your can comment with all of your reasons where you may feel abortion is acceptable. Don’t bother. To me, each child is a creation of God, and no reason is acceptable. To elect someone who wants to uphold Roe-V-Wade is unacceptable. She is pushing immorality on our country. She wants us to change our views and to pay for abortions. That would be dictatorship. Her choices for the Supreme Court are as liberal as you can get. In a time where our country has forgotten God, we need to bring God back into our lives, into our schools, into the lives of our young, who will one day be running this country.

Dr. Lance Wallnau said something today that was quite interesting. God has humbled Trump. We witnessed him apologize, something he has never done, and he apologized to the country. He had to acknowledge something unsavory that he did yet people have not looked at it this way. I didn’t until I heard this. It’s something to think about. I’ve yet to hear Hillary apologize for anything. Humbling is just that, being made humble. If you have ever been humbled, you know it changed you for the better. It was a blessing from God. Trump has never apologized to anyone for anything, yet look what he did. The media is all over the apology like white on rice, dissecting it. Why does the media accept Bill Clinton’s apology and not Trumps?

The media has been all over Trump’s demeanor at the debate. There are photos of menacing looks, which I find funny, and some media reported it looked like he was stalking Hillary. Is there nothing important that needs to be reported? The man has a serious face. The pictures posted today didn’t show any different a man than any other picture of him. But, the captions the media gave to them changed the perception of his seriousness. How sad. I noticed the media didn’t pick up on Hillary’s new fake smile and her little chuckle whenever Trump answers questions. If Trump is menacing, Hillary is evil.

I came across an interview with Ben Carson. He had this to say about the debate. “I’m not seeing anything that I didn’t totally expect,” Carson said Saturday during an interview with Newsmax. “The political class and the media has to make this about Donald Trump. They cannot make this about the issues.”

Carson said the fact the tape was leaked at the same time WikiLeaks exposed damaging comments made by Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton in closed-door speeches is more than a coincidence. “They’re getting desperate because they’re seeing the crowds that Trump is attracting. They see the enthusiasm gap between the candidates and they know how that’s going to translate on Election Day. Their goal is now is to dribble out all of these things like this tape,” said Carson, who added, “This won’t be the last thing, by the way.”

He said the flood of Republican denunciations since the tape came out shows the success of the tactic.

“They’ve been waiting to drop these things out periodically because for one thing, this Hillary open borders thing came out. This is obscuring that.”

Carson said the election is not a referendum on Trump or Clinton, but about the “direction of the country.”

“It’s about the elites and the status quo being desperate to maintain their position and this direction versus a change in direction that’s desperately needed,” he said.

From – http://www.westernjournalism.com/carson-dirty-trick-video-a-tactic-born-of-desperation-to-derail-trump/?utm_source=Email&utm_medium=PostUp&utm_campaign=ConservativeBrief&utm_content=2016-10-10

We have two unsavory characters running for the most important office in our country and we have no one to blame but ourselves. In the beginning, there were a few good candidates. Enough of us didn’t vote for those candidates. Now, it is up to us to choose who we think will bring back our country. I do agree with Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great again.” I think we can if we vote the issues and not the character of the candidates. If I thought it would work, I’d vote third party, but I think we all know that’s not going to work. For me, it boils down to mostly one thing, I cannot vote for someone whose platform is pro-abortion. At the end of my life, when I stand before God to be judged, voting for abortion will not be one of the sins on my list. Will it be one of yours?

This will be my one and only post on politics.

Wall Street Journal April 2015

In March, Lafayette, La., Houma-Thibodaux, La., and Odessa, Texas, had the largest year-over-year decreases in payroll jobs, losing nearly 20,000 jobs between them. The areas with the largest percentage decreases in employment were Casper, Wyo., Houma-Thibodaux, and Odessa, which each saw employment fall by 5.3% or more.

Nationwide, employment in mining and related support activities has fallen by 185,000 since its peak in September 2014 through March, according to the Labor Department.

Mr. Muro said the job loss was likely to continue. He pointed to research showing the correlation between actively operating oil rigs and employment. One study found that removing an active rig eliminates 28 jobs in the near-term, followed by another 171 jobs over the long run.

“The shutdown of rigs is a good predictor of job impacts, and that has really accelerated in the past couple of months,” he said. “We could anticipate further unemployment  in a bunch of markets in the energy patch.”

He also mentioned the slowdown in global trade as another factor depressing employment and causing layoffs in areas heavily reliant on manufacturing. In March, Gary, Ind.—famous for its steel mills—had the highest unemployment rate of any of 38 metropolitan divisions, at 7.5%. (A division is an area that essentially counts as its own employment center.) The manufacturing industry shed 47,000 jobs in February and March, according to the Labor Department.

That’s not to say things aren’t going swimmingly in some parts of the country. Ten areas still had 3% or lower jobless rates in March—although that’s a sharp fall from December’s 25 areas with 3% or lower unemployment.

Eat it Later – Mastering Self Control & The Slimming Power of Postponement by Michael Alvear

Pump Up Your Book is pleased to bring you EAT IT LATER by Michael Alvear on tour  November 16 – December 18 and January 4 – January 29!

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Title: Eat It Later
Author: Michael Alvear
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Woodpecker Media
Genre: Diet/Wellness
Format: Ebook/Paperback

“A wellness strategy that changes the way you think about food. Alvear’s writing style and the structure of his book make for an easy read and, more importantly, easy use in daily life.” – Kirkus Reviews

You Don’t Need A Diet. You Need An Eating Strategy.
Use these proven psychological methods to reduce cravings, eliminate overeating, “shrink” your stomach and help you eat in moderation–without feeling deprived.

• Cut Up To 90% Of Your Snacking Without Feeling Cheated. 
Use Habituation and Systematic Desensitization to dramatically cut how much you eat without feeling deprived. Psychologists use these treatments to get people off Vicodin and Xanax. Imagine how well they work on chips and cookies.

• Control Your Cravings With Delayed Gratification Techniques That Teach Discipline Without Suffering. 
Based on famed psychologist Walter Mischel’s “Marshmallow” experiments, they will painlessly help you master self-control.

• Eat Healthier Without Forcing Yourself To Eat What You Don’t Like. 
Use the “Nutrilicious” concept to make healthier choices without sacrificing taste or preferences.

This book is about how I lost 14 pounds and 2 waist sizes and kept it off for 25 years without ever going on a diet. Inspired by Walter Mischel’s iconic The Marshmallow Test, Eat It Later is a science-based, psychological approach to developing weight-reducing eating habits. It chronicles how I did it and lays out a plan for how you can too.

Learn Techniques For Eating Less Without Feeling Deprived. 
Today, I don’t eat three Oreos at a sitting and force myself from the table, biting my fist and longing for the 16 I used to eat. I am as satisfied with three as I used to be with 16. Habituation, desensitization and delayed gratification techniques stopped my mindless eating and painlessly “shrank” my stomach so that I could eat much smaller portions without feeling cheated or deprived.

Like most people, I thought, “eating in moderation” was code for “you’ll never feel full again.” I thought portion control meant pain management. I thought volume reduction meant perpetual dissatisfaction. I was wrong. If you make the kind of tiny, systematic reductions I show you in this book, your body will adapt to the new normal without any pain or suffering.

Learn The Keys To Self-Control. 
You are not going to get a list of foods to eat or avoid. Or recipes or meal suggestions. I am not going to ask you to count calories, fat, carbs or sugar. I am simply going to show you how to permanently change the amount of food you eat. And to do it with strategies identified by researchers and psychologists as the keys to self-control—habituation, systematic desensitization and delayed gratification techniques.

Ever Finish A Bagel And Say, “Why Did I Eat It–I Wasn’t That Hungry?” 
You do that because you don’t have an intuitive eating system that separates no/low cravings from high cravings. Eat It Later shows you mindful eating techniques that take about 3 seconds to separate low from medium and high cravings.

Say Goodbye To Will Power Fatigue. 
Diets force you to white-knuckle your way through 5-alarm cravingsand leave the table feeling hungry and deprived. But with habituation, desensitization and delayed gratification techniques you will never experience will power fatigue because there is nothing to be fatigued about—you will have what you like but through an intuitive eating mindset.

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I have been sick for about a month and far behind in my reading. I will be reviewing this book at a later date and hope you check back. Thanks.

What Happens With The Sisters, The Family O'Hara Book 1 by Pepper Lynne – Review

What do you get when you have a large, zany, pure Southern bred family? A family with eight children, all six daughters named after a flower, and “because we don’t hide our crazy,” an eccentric live-in Granny? Well, you get my family, the O’Hara’s.

While it’s not always easy being the second youngest O’Hara sister in this lively bunch, there is never a dull moment. In fact, more often than not, life within the O’Hara household is downright hilarious. From sitting down for Sunday dinners or heaven help us, listening to Granny B’s dating advice, the O’Hara family will not disappoint.

Better yet, what happens when my four outrageous older sisters join forces to take matters into their hands? Let me introduce you to Queen, Lily, Rose, and Violet, along with our illustrious Granny B, each having a colorful personality, dishing out their own ways of taking care of business, Southern Sister Style.

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Pepper Lynne

Pepper Lynne currently lives in Alabama with her husband, 3 dogs, (a 16 year old Pomeranian, 7 year old Golden Retriever and a 1 year old Pyrenees/Border Collie rescue that loves to photo bomb) and 3 children she lovingly refers to as “those people.” Growing up in a large family with 5 sisters and 2 brothers, there was always something to laugh about and is where Pepper attributes her sense of humor and inspiration. Pepper is an avid reader that also loves cooking, hanging out with her family, floating in the pool with friends, doing anything at the beach and watching college football.

We all know once you marry a man, they suddenly begin thinking they are our mommas. Trying to tell us what to do, what to say on the phone, listening and making comments to private conversations we attempt to have with others. And sometimes, they even have the nerve to tell us what to wear. They are always tending. Tending to our business. I don’t know why they do it; just that they do.  When our Momma says, ‘My momma said for me to…’ We know she’s talking about Daddy. I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve heard Momma telling Daddy or my sisters telling the men in their own lives, that they are n’not their Mommas’, they ‘have a momma and don’t need another one’, or else the men ‘can all go live with their mommas.’

I, one of the youngest of the eight siblings, am Daisy. Yes, I said Daisy. Momma named all us girls after flowers, always telling folks that we were her garden of lovelies. Believe me when I say our parents have a sense of humor. So there’s Queen, Lily, Parker (Lily’s twin brother), Rose Violet, Daisy (myself), Poppy, and Bubba. Yep, we have a Bubba. Living in the South, no matter how hard you fight it, sooner or later, one is going to crop up in every family. Trust me, I think it’s best if you get to pick who it’s going to be. Besides, he’s the baby, so in some odd way I guess that makes it okay.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that ‘In the South, we don’t hide our crazy; we put them out on the front porch, give them some sweet tea, and let them wave at everybody.’ Well in case you’ve never heard that or let alone see it, let me tell you about Beulah…

…we were hanging on every word between Mrs. Jones and Momma and at one point, Queen popped Parker on the back of the head, whispering, ‘Stop breathing so loud, we can’t hear… ‘Billy was doing what he could, at my request(Violet’s 6th grade teacher)  to inspire these children on what they could be if they so put their  minds to it. I must add, you would be proud to know that some of my students have great aspirations to go on and better themselves to be politicians, writers, and even the President of the United States. So, Mrs. O’Hara, you can only imagine my utter shock and embarrassment, when Billy asked Violet what she would like to be when she grew up and she answered ‘tawdry.’ (For those of you that don’t know, tawdry is southern for scandalous.) Now, we didn’t get to hear the rest of the conversation because Queen spewed her food across the table, hitting Lily right in the face…

My Review – 

Oh my goodness! If you read through the snippets just now, you know you are in for one heck of a good laugh when you read What Happens with the Sisters. It truly depicts our Southern roots and families and you will be entertained for hours with the stories in this book.

Honest to goodness, you will laugh until you cry so you had better sit down with the box of Kleenex tissues before you even begin reading! Being from the South and all too familiar with the eccentricities of Southern people, I can without a doubt tell you, the author has it going on. Pepper Lynne is from the South and she writes about the typical Southern family, Bubba and all.

I loved the book and if you love Southern humor, this is a good match for you. There were a few grammatical errors in the book, but they did not detract from the story. The writing is really good and funny.

I am rating What Happens with the Sisters five stars, but just know that What Happens with the Sisters is all for sharing in the South.

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My Life. One Story at a Time. is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee may be earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the link above. A free book may have been provided by the source in exchange for an honest review. Views expressed by authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of My Life. One Story at a Time. My opinions are my own. This provided in accordance with the FTC 16 CFR, Part 55. 

One Wish, A Thunder Point Novel by New York Times Bestselling Author Robyn Carr – Review

#1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr delivers another smart, funny, emotional novel about the complexities of life in the small Oregon town of Thunder Point

Grace Dillon was a champion figure skater until she moved to Thunder Point to escape the ruthless world of fame and competition. And though she’s proud of the quiet, self-sufficient life she’s created running a successful flower shop, she knows something is missing. Her life could use a little excitement.

In a community where there are few eligible singles, high school teacher Troy Headly appoints himself Grace’s fun coach. When he suggests a little companionship with no strings attached, Grace is eager to take him up on his offer, and the two enjoy…getting to know each other.

But things get complicated when Grace’s past catches up with her, and she knows that’s not what Troy signed up for. Faced with losing her, Troy realizes Grace is more than just a friend with benefits. He’s determined to help her fight for the life she always wished for but never believed she could have—and maybe they can find real love along the way.

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Thunder Point series (9 Book Series)

Author Robyn Carr is a RITA® Award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of almost fifty novels, including the critically acclaimed Virgin River series. Her highly anticipated new series, Thunder Point, will be released March 2013. Robyn and her husband live in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can visit Robyn Carr’s website at www.RobynCarr.com.

My Review –

As in each book in the Thunder Point series, Robyn Carr draws the reader into the little town and captivates with the residents living there. Her stories have you wanting to pull out map and mark the route there for a visit.

Each book builds on the previous one and you won’t want to miss any of them. The stories are heartwarming and fun to read.

I am not only giving One Wish five stars, but the entire series. It is one that I have enjoyed immensely, and I think you will too.

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Purchase the entire set here:

Thunder Point series (9 Book Series)

An Excerpt –

Grace Dillon’s flower shop was very quiet on the day after Christmas. She had no orders to fill, no deliveries to make, and she’d be very surprised if her shop phone rang at all. Most people were trying to recover from Christmas; many families were away for the holidays or had company to entertain.

Grace drove to North Bend to grab an early skate before the rink got busy. Figure skating classes were suspended over Christmas break and people, mostly kids who wanted to try out their new skates, would dominate the rink later in the day. Grace loved these secret early morning skates. She had a deal with Jake Galbraith, the rink owner. She could call him and if it was convenient, he’d let her skate for an hour or two while they were getting ready to open. He didn’t want to charge her, but she paid him fifty dollars an hour anyway. It was a point of pride.

He smiled at her when she came in and told her to have a good skate.

She stretched and then stepped onto the deserted ice, closely following the Zamboni ice resurfacer that had just finished. She warmed up with forward and backward crossovers, backward half swizzle pumps, figure eights, scratch spins and axels. She noticed Jake was watching, leaning his forearms on the boards. She performed a forward spiral and a leaning tower spiral. She executed a perfect sit spin next. She circled the ice a few times, adding a jump here and there. She had been famous for her straddle split jump, touching her toes with her fingers. When she looked for Jake again, he had disappeared.

Suddenly, the music started, filling the rink with the strains of “Rhapsody in Blue.” She glided into an arabesque, arms stretched, fingers pointed, wrists flexible. She saw that Jake had returned, was watching her every move. She went for a double axel and fell on her ass. She got up, laughing to herself. She glided around the rink a few times, tried the jump again and landed it, but it wasn’t pretty. The music changed to another Gershwin tune. She’d practiced to this music as a little girl; it was familiar and comfortable. Her earliest memories of skating always filled her with nostalgia and comfort. That was before the competition got really fierce.

She’d been on the ice for an hour when the music segued into Alicia Keys’s “Girl on Fire” and it lit her up. Her signature music. She was on fire! She skated like she was competing. When she was fifteen, stronger but lighter and more flexible, she could really catch the air. She noticed other people watching—a guy leaned on his broom and gazed at her, a couple of teenage girls who worked in the skate rental shop had stopped working to watch, the Zamboni driver leaned a shoulder against the rink glass, hands in his pockets. Two hours slid by effortlessly. She slowed and got off the ice when she heard the sounds of people arriving to skate.

“Beautiful,” Jake said. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you.”

“Holidays are busy at the shop,” she said. She tried to get to the rink on Sunday mornings, but the past month had been frantic—wreaths, centerpieces, two weddings and increased day-to-day traffic in the shop.

“You should spend more time on the ice. I have a long list of people looking for a good coach.”

She shook her head. “I don’t think I’d be a good coach. I don’t have time for one thing. And I’d never go back on the circuit, even with students. I left that world.”

“I thought the day would come that you might be interested in going back, maybe not in competition for yourself, but coaching. I think on name alone you’d make a fortune.”

“I left the name behind, too,” she reminded him with a smile. “We have an agreement.”

“I haven’t said a word. People ask me, who is that girl, but I just say you’re training and asked not to be identified. Some of them guess and would show up to watch you if they had any idea when you would be skating. The ice misses you. Watching you skate is like seeing music.”

“Nice try. I don’t train anymore. I spent as much time on my ass as on my blades. I look like crap.”

“Your worst is better than a lot of bests I see. I’ve missed you. Maybe you’ll have more time in the new year.”

“We’ll see.”

She took off her skates and pulled on her Ugg boots. Sometimes she questioned her decision to leave it all behind, because being on the ice made her so happy. Then she’d remind herself that while a couple of hours felt great, the difficult routine of a competitive figure skater was grueling, exhausting. As a coach she’d never be able to push young girls the way she’d been pushed.

She pulled out a hundred dollars in cash for her two hours alone on the rink. Jake had told her he put the money in a special scholarship fund for young wannabe Olympians who couldn’t otherwise afford lessons. She told him however he wanted to spend it was fine with her. As long as he didn’t sell her out.

As she left the rink she reflected that her life in Thunder Point was so much more peaceful than it had been in competition and her freedom was hard-won. She had friends now, even if they didn’t know who she had been before. At least no one thought of her as tragic or complicated or as one of the saddest yet most triumphant stories told on the competitive skating circuit. No one was threatened by her, hated her, feared or resented her. No one called her a rich bitch or a dirty liar.

Of course, the weight of her secrets sometimes wore on her. Jake Galbraith had recognized her at once. All she had to do was ask the cost of a private rink for a couple of hours and he knew immediately who she was. She hadn’t confided in anyone in Thunder Point.

When she got into the van she saw that she had a message on her cell phone. She listened to it before leaving the parking lot. It was Mikhail, her old coach. He still kept tabs on her. They stayed in touch. Often, they left each other a series of brief messages because he could be anywhere in the world. “I am wishing you happy Christmas,” the Russian said. “I think I am day late. If so, you will understand.”

Grace waited until she was back in her tiny apartment above the flower shop before returning the call. “I thought you had forgotten all about me,” she said to his voice mail. “It was a happy Christmas. I was a maid of honor for my friend Iris yesterday—that’s how I spent the day. I’ve never been in a wedding before. It was small and intimate, a beautiful experience. And this morning I went skating. I fell three times.” Then she mimicked his accent. “What can I say? I am clumsy oaf with no training.” Then she laughed, wished him the best New Year ever and said goodbye.

Grace’s beloved father and coach died rather suddenly when she was only fourteen and he was sixty. Her mother, once a competitive and professional figure skater, responded by hiring an even better coach, a very short Russian of huge reputation who could take Grace all the way. There was no time for grieving, they had work to do. Mikhail Petrov was a tough, brilliant coach and they were together for nine years. He had been very unhappy with her decision to leave competition and for a couple of years he pestered her to return to the sport. “Before you forget everything I taught you!”

Her mother, Winnie Dillon Banks, who had herself been a teenage skating wonder, was worse than devastated. She was furious. “If you quit now, after all I’ve invested in you, you are dead to me.” After the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Grace walked away from everything and everyone. All she’d ever wished for was to be like everyone else. To not be constantly judged every time she took a breath. She wanted to be normal.

In the afternoon, when Grace was just about to ruin her dinner with a big bowl of popcorn while looking through various online floral arrangements on her laptop, there was a light tapping at her back door. She pulled the curtain to peek out through the window in the door and was shocked to see Iris. She opened the door.

“Don’t newlyweds lay around in bed for several days after the wedding? Doing it until their parts give out?” Grace asked, only half teasing.

“Maybe when one of the newlyweds isn’t the town deputy,” Iris said. “We did eat breakfast in bed and Seth didn’t go to the office until about one. I cleaned the house, thawed something for dinner and…” She paused. “I called Troy to tell him.”

“You didn’t tell him before, huh?” Grace asked.

Iris shook her head.

Troy Headly, high school history teacher and the fantasy of all the high school girls, had had a very big crush on Iris. They had dated for only a few months last spring when Iris told him theirs would have to be a friendship-only relationship. She was the high school guidance counselor and before getting involved with a teacher in the same school, she had to be powerfully sure. And she hadn’t been. But Troy had pursued Iris right up until Seth was in the picture. Even then, it was pretty obvious he still had a serious thing for Iris and wouldn’t mind if Seth fell off the face of the earth.

“How’d he take it?” Grace asked.

“Like a man,” Iris said. “Is it too early for wine?”

“Certainly not!” Grace pulled a bottle of Napa Cellars sauvignon blanc from her little refrigerator and opened it. “Was it awful?”

“Nah, it was fine. Good, really. He was surprised we got married so soon, but then so was everyone. So were we, when you get down to it. He congratulated me and said he hoped I’d be very happy—all the right things. Then I asked him if he was going to be all right and he laughed, but he didn’t sound amused. He said he was surprised to find himself disappointed an old girlfriend got married. It’s hard for me to think of myself as his girlfriend—it was never that serious. Even Troy admits he’s not looking for a wife! Not now. He likes the single life.”

Grace poured the wine and put the bowl of popcorn between them. “A gourmet treat,” she said. “Or maybe dinner. So, is it different? Being married?”

My Life. One Story at a Time. is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee may be earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the link above. A free book may have been provided by the source in exchange for an honest review. Views expressed by authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of My Life. One Story at a Time. My opinions are my own. This provided in accordance with the FTC 16 CFR, Part 55. 

Evergreen Springs (Haven Point) by New York Times Bestselling Author RaeAnne Thayne – Review

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR RAEANNE THAYNE DELIVERS THE PERFECT WARMHEARTED TREAT FOR THE HOLIDAYS EVERGREEN SPRINGS October 2015

Celebrate the season with the expert of contemporary holiday romance, New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne and EVERGREEN SPRINGS, the third and final book in her Haven Point miniseries set near a rugged Idaho mountainside in a magical lakeside town that has a history of healing the most heartbroken of souls.

When Cole Barrett, a former wild boy rodeo star with a dangerous past, learns of his ex-wife’s sudden death, he knows life will never be the same again. After years of only getting the occasional visit with his son and daughter, aged six and eight, Cole suddenly finds himself with sole custody of these two troubled, hurting kids who have come to Evergreen Springs, his beautiful but isolated ranch, to live with him.

After just a few weeks of life as a full-time single dad, however, Cole knows he’s already in way over his head. With his kids running through housekeepers faster than he can hire them, and unable to take any more time away from his new horse-training business, Cole’s last hope is help from his sister, Tricia, who’s come home bearing her own marital problems. But when the very pregnant Tricia ends up being hospitalized with an ankle injury just before the holidays, a Cole who’s barely hanging on knows only an angel bestowing miracles could keep him from being overwhelmed.

Local family physician and former cancer survivor Dr. Devin Shaw has seen firsthand the miraculous curative powers that the mineral waters of Lake Haven possess…waters that extend to the private hot springs on Cole’s property. The springs would be ideal for treating her elderly patients but the privacy-obsessed Cole is unwilling to share them. So after learning about his situation from her old high school friend Tricia, Devin makes an offer to Cole—in exchange for use of his hot springs for her patients, she’ll help watch his kids and try to provide them with some actual seasonal fun.

But their arrangement becomes far more personal than either of them anticipated. Devin is irresistibly drawn to this troubled but wonderful little family, yearning for a life she fears she’ll never have due to her own scarred background. Meanwhile, Cole can’t keep his mind off the attractive doctor and her magical way with his kids, but he knows the last thing Devin needs is to get mixed up with a bad guy like him.

Cole and Devin both know they’re keeping secrets from each other—secrets that may keep them from finding real happiness for the first time in their lives. But if they’re looking for a holiday miracle to heal the wounds of their pasts, Evergreen Springs is the right place to start…

EVERGREEN SPRINGS is available wherever books are sold and at www.HQNBooks.com.

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne loves words. Her love affair started as soon as she learned to read, when she used to devour anything she could get her hands on: cereal boxes, encyclopedias, the phone book, you name it! She loves the way words sound, the way they look on the page and the amazing way they can be jumbled together in so many combinations to tell a story.

Her love of reading and writing those words led her to a fifteen-year career in journalism as a newspaper reporter and editor.

Through it all, she dreamed of writing the kind of stories she loved best. She sold her first book in 1995 and since then she’s published more than 40 titles. Her books have won many honors, including three RITA® Award nominations from the Romance Writers of America and a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews magazine.

RaeAnne finds inspiration in the rugged northern Utah mountains where she lives with her hero of a husband and their children. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.

My Assessment –

I loved the first two books in this series and was excited to review the third and final book, Evergreen Springs. This story tells Cole and Devin’s story.

In Evergreen Springs, RaeAnne Thayne weaves her romantic magic among the obstacles called life in Evergreen Springs. The scenery is beautiful and the characters lovable along with great writing. If you have already read Snow Angel Cove (Haven Point Book 1)and Redemption Bay (Haven Point)you will absolutely love the final book. I am giving Evergreen Springs five stars. Buy it and enjoy a romantic Christmas season!

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My Life. One Story at a Time. is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee may be earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the link above. A free book may have been provided by the source in exchange for an honest review. Views expressed by authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of My Life. One Story at a Time. My opinions are my own. This provided in accordance with the FTC 16 CFR, Part 55.